Sanjay’s Super Team (2015)

Sanjay's Super Team (2015)
“Pixar’s Super Themes” The pre-film content before The Good Dinosaur (2015) includes, not only the expected Pixar short, but a greeting by the film’s director, Peter Sohn. While a common occurrence now—filmmakers greet audiences in theaters to thank them for coming to see the movies on a big screen (and presumably for paying to do ...

The Night Before (2015)

The Night Before (2015)
“Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby, a Bromance” The Night Before (Jonathan Levine, 2015) is one of those wonderful Hollywood films where the low expectations established by the trailer mask its more challenging project, making its final impact all the greater. I went to the film anticipating the normal “bromance” shenanigans from the Seth Rogen crowd. ...

The Good Dinosaur (2015)

The Good Dinosaur (2015)
“That’ll Be The Day, 65 Million Years Ago” Like most Pixar films, The Good Dinosaur consists of a web of intertextual references. The most surprising of the film’s sources is the film Western. The genre about the 19th century American Southwest is most forcefully engaged in the middle of the new film, when the dinosaur ...

2012: A “Top Seven” List

2012: A
No Monologism, Not Now (full screen ahead, seven interpretations, seven intertexts) In reflecting upon the films of 2012, I thought I would deconstruct the idea of a top ten list, and try to build something very different. And, who better to consult than Jacques Derrida, the father of deconstruction. In his hilarious essay, “No Apocalypse, ...

Curb Your Enthusiasm: “Halloween” (2001)

Curb Your Enthusiasm:
“Judaism, Where Are You?” The influence of Richard Wagner on the cinema is usually presented as a mere musical exchange. Critical theorist Theodor Adorno states quite simply, “The Wagnerian leitmotif leads directly to cinema music” (34). This is, of course, quite true. One cannot imagine Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s score for 1938’s The Adventures of Robin ...

Ganja and Hess (1973)

Ganja and Hess (1973)
“Men Overtaken by Racism” The success of William Crain’s 1972 Blaxploitation film, Blacula resulted in a series of formulaic genre films, such as Blackenstein (1973) and Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976). The film that most forcefully resisted this moral simplicity was Bill Gunn’s Ganja and Hess (1973), an allegorical artwork about the nature of addiction. ...

What’s Opera, Doc? (1957)

What's Opera, Doc? (1957)
“It’s Wagner” The massive lengths of the operas of Richard Wagner have resulted in a narrow range of films capable of adapting them, and this in a medium, like opera, devoted to the elegant combination of sound and image. Hans-Jurgen Syberberg’s 1982 film of Parsifal runs well over four hours, limiting its commercial distribution to ...

Blazing Saddles (1973)

Blazing Saddles (1973)
The Western as Black Comedy Melvin Van Peebles’ Blaxploitation-era masterpiece, Sweet Sweetback’s Baaadasssss Song (1971), by reworking the traditions of the American Western, critiques how African-Americans must live under the yolk of white racism. In the middle of the film, a biker gang traps Sweetback. In a bizarre sequence, he engages in a duel with ...

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014)

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014)
“Da Return of Da Sweet Cinema of Spike Lee” Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012) devolves into the sleazy violence of the exploitation films he loves too much. Indeed, the disease of not knowing when enough is enough infects the work of many contemporary American filmmakers. Spike Lee’s Bamboozled (2000) also suffers as a film with ...

The Crowd (1928)

The Crowd (1928)
“American Dreaming” In the midst of this seemingly endless collapse of the American middle-class, it is worth looking back to great films that continue to inspire us to become better than seems possible. A case in point is King Vidor’s The Crowd, released in 1928 as one of the last great American silent films. Every ...