Room (2015)

Room (2015)
“Into Darkness, Again” Irish filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson’s startling new film, Room (2015) begins with close-ups of material objects. The camera dwells on crumpled aluminum foil, and the rounded corners of a pinkish porcelain bathroom sink. The opening of the film is thus devoted to textures, the haptic realm that great cinema can sometimes approach, but ...

Anomalisa (2015)

Anomalisa (2015)
“Thigh Line (Liar) Triangular” There’s a remarkable moment early in Anomalisa, Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman’s new animated feature, which resonates with a lecture I give at the start of my course on the history of drama. In “Why Hamlet Doesn’t Go to the Bathroom,” I ponder the deflection of lived human experience entailed by ...

Dossier on Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015)

Dossier on Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015)
“Nighthawks of New York” By Simone Becque As Rhona Berenstein discusses in Lesbian Histories and Cultures, mainstream film representation of female desire was often alluded to or implied rather than shown, and when desire was made explicit it had a tendency to end in death (or falcons). The lack of which is what makes Carol, ...

The Hateful Eight (2015)

The Hateful Eight (2015)
“The Cabin in the Snow” In The Hateful Eight (2015), Quentin Tarantino uses the cinema’s ability to manipulate space in ways that harken back to the great baroque Westerns made during the late classical Hollywood period. The film’s opening sequence, a grandiose exploration of the snowy landscape of the American northwest, with a mountain looming ...

Ghostbusters (1984)

Ghostbusters (1984)
“Defrosting Reaganite Entertainment” A new cultural studies book series, “Object Lessons” provides an exciting opportunity for materializing media studies. Each book is devoted to the history and symbolic importance of an otherwise academically invisible everyday object. The early volumes in the series are devoted to such eclectic items as phone booths, hotels, golf balls, remote ...

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
“At what point is it no longer Star Wars?” The six Star Wars films produced and/or directed by George Lucas developed into one of the most beloved mythological expressions of human civilization of the modern era. I thought about this quite a bit as I sat relatively indifferent to J.J. Abrams very good new film, ...

Knick Knack (1989)

Knick Knack (1989)
“Snow Was General All Over the Globe” In stark contrast to the feature films made a decade and some later, the early Pixar shorts are obsessed with inanimate material objects brought to life. With the remarkable exception of the very first short, The Adventures of Andre and Wally B. (1984), the next four films—Luxo, Jr. ...

Fargo: Season Two (2015)

Fargo: Season Two (2015)
“Building an Empire State” The second season of Fargo (FX, 2015) is devoted to the fall of empire. In the season finale, “Palindrome” (12/14/2015), Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine) catches one of the Gerhardt’s lackeys pilfering from the family homestead now that almost everyone in the clan is dead. The irreverent gangster gloats at his new ...

Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

Trick 'r Treat (2007)
“My, What Big Eyes” Krampus director Michael Dougherty’s first feature, Trick ‘r Treat (2007) is another wonderful holiday film gone amuck, this time concerning Halloween. Both films have similar plots: in Krampus, young Max summons a demonic beast because he has lost his belief in Santa Claus. In Trick ‘r Treat, the demonic beast is ...

Chi-Raq (2015)

Chi-Raq (2015)
“An Immodest Proposal, Ruined” While a majority of mass media critics have supported Spike Lee’s new film, Chi-Raq, an ambitious adaptation of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata (411 B.C.E.), set in present-day south Chicago, a vocal minority has been particularly bitter about the film’s failures. In The Philadelphia Inquirer, Steven Rea argues the film is an “in-your-face polemic, ...