Blog Archives

Bombast #111

If you read about movies enough, you will encounter certain stock phrases meant to explain historical and sociological forces at play in pop cultural movements. “Nuclear anxiety” is one. “Postwar disillusionment,” of which film noir is said to be symptomatic, is another. It’s worth exploring what, precisely, that term really means. To this end, a rather obscure 1946 film noir called The Chase is enormously informative.

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Viva Mabuse! #57: Black Betty Bam Ba Lam

The Betty Boop shorts are hugely, monstrously inappropriate for the narrow purpose of entertaining gradeschoolers over their Cheerios before they dash to the bus stop. They are in fact inappropriate for nearly any purpose that comes to mind. They may be the strangest films ever made in America.

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On the Couch: Concussion

Who doesn’t yearn for a second identity every once in a while? There’d probably be a lot more furtive prostitution in this world if none of us had day jobs. But even if you’re thinking of taking the plunge (maybe your wife and kids are boring, and you’d like a second set?) living a double life comes with very specific problems. Luckily, there are about five hundred films about this subject, and I’ve selected the five best to help you … Read More

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Docutopia: Death Comes to Camden

Films about death and dying don’t make for the cheeriest of movie-watching, but the impulse for filmmakers to capture, and for audiences to grapple with those universal life experiences remains strong. The topic may have felt at odds with the otherwise celebratory nature of this year’s Camden International Film Festival, but CIFF programmers nevertheless put together a world-class program of movies devoted to stories about people facing the end of their lives.

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Films vs. Movies #87: Brother vs. Brother

Only a “Dangerous Mind,” living “Far and Away” in some “Cocoon” would “Rush” to claim that Clint Howard is superior to Ron Howard in the battle of the Howard brothers. Jim has that mind.

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Here & Now & Then: 1988

Though often thought of as a pioneer of a garrulous American cinema focused on the neurotic misadventures of urbanites in realistic settings, Woody Allen is also the comparatively unsung creator of an elaborate cinematic dream world. Looking back over his staggering output, it’s clear that his is a movie landscape equally interested in the life of the unconscious mind as the quirks of everyday living, if not more so.

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Viva Mabuse! #56: Road to Dystopia

Maybe Suzanne Collins’s ideas of televised dystopian bloodsport and class warfare are too dated, and reality is too close to surpassing them. Maybe we’re there already, and The Hunger Games is just a hyperbolic and somewhat absurdly heroic footnote to the real-life socio-cultural engineering that surrounds us everyday.

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On the Couch: Thanks For Sharing

This weekend, all over America, people will go on third dates to see the new Mark Ruffalo/Gwyneth Paltrow romantic comedy Thanks For Sharing—a funny, sweetheart of a flick about adorable sex addicts and their twelve-step antics. Now, there’s nothing wrong with finding humor in grim topics, but I think we’ve had quite enough of heartwarming addiction comedies and hilarious rehab romances. When you’re ready to cleanse your palate of all that candy-coated twelve-step humor, start here.

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Docutopia: Inequality for All and the Economic Doc Glut

Since our spiraling fiscal mess continues to get worse, with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, these documentaries keep a spotlight on topics that remain hugely important to Americans. Economic inequality, corporate greed, stagnating wages—these are the defining issues of our times. But, alas, numbers crunching does not make for great cinema.

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