Twentieth Century Women (2016)

Twentieth Century Women (2016)
“Jimmy Carter’s Warning” Twentieth Century Women is an ambitious character study that uses American history to explore the relationship between a Depression-era mother, Dorothea (Annette Bening) and her son, Jamie. Director Mike Mills’ film is set in 1979, but it uses the traditions of film, music, literature, and sociology to explore the nature of American ...

Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Manchester by the Sea (2016)
“An Adagio for Cinema” One of the most moving pieces in the classical repertoire, Tomaso Albinoni’s “Adagio in G minor” lies at the center of an historical mystery. Albinoni biographer Remo Giazotto claimed to have found a fragment of a manuscript by the famous 18th century composer in Dresden soon after the end of World ...

Within Our Gates (1920)

Within Our Gates (1920)
“Getting Recognized More and More”: Donald Trump and Within Our Gates “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice.” These are the incredible words of the leader of the most powerful nation in the world. To compound the horror of it, President ...

Gold (2016)

Gold (2016)
“Way Out There in the Blue” At the ending “Requiem” of Arthur Miller’s The Death of a Salesman (1949), Willy Loman’s neighbor, Charley delivers one of the most iconic statements on the American Dream in all of literature: “Nobody dast blame this man. You don’t understand: Willy was a salesman. And for a salesman, there ...

Arrival (2016)

Arrival (2016)
“The Palindrome of Cinema” In his book, Seeing is Believing: How Hollywood taught us to stop worrying and love the fifties, Peter Biskind presents a four-pronged system for understanding the politics of post-war American cinema. Contrary to the conflict between the Right and the Left in Franklin Roosevelt’s 1930s, the Cold War consensus resulted in ...

Denial (2016)

Denial (2016)
“Canaries” Historian Deborah Lipstadt begins her 1994 book, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory with a methodological chapter she entitles, “Canaries in the Mine: Holocaust Denial and the Limited Power of Reason.” She worries about the 20% of Americans who, when surveyed about whether the Holocaust happened, answer in the negative. ...

“Clinton’s Daisy Chain”

“Clinton’s Daisy Chain” As Eric Barnouw taught us long ago, one astonishing thing about the 1964 Doyle Dane Bernbach ad campaign featuring “the daisy girl” is that it was produced at the moment Lyndon Johnson was planning the escalation of US fighting in Vietnam. In the one-minute spot, a young girl picks leaves off of ...

Cafe Society (2016)

Cafe Society (2016)
“Neither Café, Nor Society” After watching Woody Allen’s new film, I became obsessed with the title, Café Society (2016). At first, it was the opening word that bothered me. There’s nothing even close to a café in the film, at least in the sense that you’d imagine, a little French bistro where people sit around ...

Zootopia (2016)

Zootopia (2016)
“Gulls Gone Wild” At the heart of my study of the films made at Pixar Animation Studios is the figure of the trickster, a mythological figure who fights corrupt power with thievery and cunning. I derive this tradition in American animation from the works of Dr. Seuss, who used an autobiographical lad to express his ...