Author Archive

Obama-era Mythologies

12 Years a Slave at the Oscars No wonder Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave seems primed to take the big prize at this year’s Oscars. That anti-art institution serves the purpose of industry self-congratulation rather than expressive achievement. And McQueen’s movie cunningly conforms to Obama-era mythologies. McQueen’s prolonged sequences stretch out events or non-events...
Politically Compassionate

Politically Compassionate

Date and Switch prefers friendship to snarkasm Nicholas Braun is my favorite chinless actor. His zygote-like appearance gives visual form to an emotionally-sexually stunted generation of straight men. Fragile as a fetus, Braun’s snarkasm—and comic timing—always doubles as defense for insecurity.   True: Braun is less famous than the iconically chinless Michael Cera. Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim...
Executive Order Hype

Executive Order Hype

Netflix’s House of Cards insults democracy with sentimentality and cynicism Spoiler #1: Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) covers up the murderous tracks that took him from house majority whip to Vice President by throwing reporter Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) in front of a subway train. The scene’s shock tactic typifies how Season 2 of David Fincher/Netflix’s streaming...
Blood Is the Warmest Color

Blood Is the Warmest Color

 The grisly truth in bisexual bipartisan farce Nurse 3D  Introducing the latest graduates into the Nursing Corp, Kathleen Turner passes the baton from John Waters’ Serial Mom (1994) to Paz de la Huerta, star of Douglas Aarniokoski’s serial killer comedy Nurse 3D. Jejune in the Clinton era, Serial Mom meant to expose the hypocrisy of...
What's Up, Umbrellas?

What’s Up, Umbrellas?

Feckless screwball comedy in At Middleton  “How does it end?” asks George Hartman (Andy Garcia) about Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. “You know, French films are always complicated, aren’t they?” Edith (Vera Farmiga) answers while the two find themselves watching the 1964 film as they steal away into a projection booth on the Middleton...
Wounds of the Father

Wounds of the Father

A poet is born in Jamesy Boy  “Never back down” says the ad copy for Trevor White’s modest feature debut Jamesy Boy referencing the title of another (better) film about a white boy’s pain finding constructive focus in the masculine code provided to him by the mentorship of an older Black man. Indeed, as title...
Mean Queens

Mean Queens

Sensual and cinematic regression in G.B.F.  “In times of crisis, I turn to LiLo,” says flamboyantly gay high school student Bret Van Camp (Paul Iacono) when his best friend and secret crush Tanner (Michael J. Willett) inadvertently steals his high school “coming out” thunder. The accompanying image in G.B.F. shifts in focus from Iacono’s reflection...
“Hercules! Hercules!”

“Hercules! Hercules!”

Harlin’s The Legend of Hercules makes no myth-take  The perverse core of Renny Harlin’s Legend of Hercules reveals why this b-movie matters. The first display of Hercules’ superhuman strength occurs at the moment of his defeat (chained up between two stone pillars), his impotence (the murder of his teacher before his eyes), and his humbling (finally...
Best TV Narrative of 2013

Best TV Narrative of 2013

Why Blue’s webisodes rule   Countering hipster perversity, Blue is not the warmest color in Rodrigo Garcia’s series on the women-centered YouTube channel WIGS. “Blue” is the moniker Julia Stiles’ Francine—single-mother accountant by day/escort by night—demands that family, coworkers and clients use to address her. Indeed, the name signifies her detachment in the sex trade and...
The Least Gnostic Movie Ever Made

The Least Gnostic Movie Ever Made

Patrice Chereau’s Son frère “I am 19.” That’s the crushing revelation shared by Manuel, a beautiful (probably gay) hospital patient, after he lifts his shirt to reveal a fresh surgical scar running up his torso. Robinson Stevenin’s Manuel appears in only one scene in Son frère, the new film by filmmaker Patrice Chereau. Chereau makes...
Desire and the Tracks

Desire and the Tracks

Ten Best Albums of 2012 1. Sing the Delta, Iris DeMent – In the harrowing closing track, “Out of the Fire,” DeMent perfectly expresses the need for the pop catharsis and the deeper—salvific—yearning resident in this year’s best pop albums, the sources of which are explored on the previous 10 tracks of this gospel-based folk...
Two Lincolns

Two Lincolns

D.W. Griffith’s vision returns in tandem with Spielberg’s dream Nothing at the movies this year tops the still-revelatory prologue of D.W. Griffith’s 1930 Abraham Lincoln. Kino Classics finally restores on Blu-ray the complete MoMA print with its usually excised–suppressed–opening sequence. For the first time in American cinema–until Steven Spielberg’s Amistad (1997)–Griffith visualizes the slave trade’s...
DeMent Goes Home

DeMent Goes Home

Iris DeMent Sings the Delta During the last decade, Iris DeMent’s New York concerts featured an expanding repertoire of new folk songs uncannily attuned to the needs of the audience. This fall, she releases many of these songs on the studio album Sing the Delta. Earlier in the decade, DeMent expressed the sublimation of post-9/11...
Everything Means Something

Everything Means Something

Pet Shop Boys find Elysium on new CD With an ear bent toward eternity, British pop-duo Pet Shop Boys and L.A. producer Andrew Dawson find the sublime sound (minimalist yet California-warm) befitting Elysium–the mythical resting place of fallen heroes in classical Greek philosophy (a pre-Christian concept of Heaven). Closing the first half of the album titled Elysium,...
Stone Images, Part 5

Stone Images, Part 5

Savages – Interrogation Series: Week 5 Oliver Stone’s” Savages – Interrogation Series: Week 5″ provides thematic clarity to one of the feature film’s narrative tropes: the double-ending. Because Week 5 dropped onto YouTube after the film’s premiere on July 6, it is also the first set to be viewed from the perspective of hindsight. Consequently,...
Stone Images, Part 4

Stone Images, Part 4

Savages – Interrogation Series: Week 4 “I don’t read much. I haven’t seen no TV,” Lado (Benicio Del Toro) dismisses his off-screen interrogator (voiced by director Oliver Stone) in Week 4’s installment of Savages – Interrogation Series. Here, Lado literally refers to the debasement of media (newspapers, TV news): “It’s good fiction. It’s all fantasy.”...
Stone Images--Part 3

Stone Images–Part 3

Natural Born Capitalists Savages – Interrogation Series: Week 3 Still avoiding acknowledgement of his role as a gangland enforcer in Savages – Interrogation Series: Week 3, Lado (Benicio Del Toro) jokes, then confesses: “I am just a landscaper–a capitalist like everybody else.” Director Oliver Stone visualizes the landscaper/capitalist pun as a Mexican car ornament: the...
Stone Images--part 2

Stone Images–part 2

Parsing Oliver Stone’s New Media Experiment: Savages – Interrogation Series: Week 2 Interrogation Series: Week 2–Oliver Stone’s serial online primer for his labyrinthine new film Savages–introduces a new character. Marijuana-business partners (and two spokes of a ménage à trois) Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch) smirk when the off-screen interrogator (Stone himself) asks them...
Stone Images--part 1

Stone Images–part 1

Parsing Oliver Stone’s New Media Experiment: Savages – Interrogation Series: Week 1 First Penn Jillette’s passionate and principled radio attack on the racism and classism of Obama’s War on Drugs went viral, bringing politics to YouTube. Now, Oliver Stone uses the internet platform to bring art to advertising for Savages, his new dramatic film about...
Through the Eye of the Camp: Parsing Leonard Cohen’s ‘Old Ideas’

Through the Eye of the Camp: Parsing Leonard Cohen’s ‘Old Ideas’

Leonard Cohen bookends his new album Old Ideas with a song about mortality (“Going Home”) and a song about the divided culture (“Different Sides”). Throughout, Cohen refines the use of gospel-impulse female singers who added vitality to his own special, deep-toned gravity on the great 1992 The Future (remember the title track’s exhortations to “Repent!”)....
Stained-Glass Melodrama: Zhang’s ‘Flowers’ Blooms

Stained-Glass Melodrama: Zhang’s ‘Flowers’ Blooms

In The Flowers of War, filmmaker Zhang Yimou presents the Japanese occupation of Nanking in 1937 through the point of view of Chinese Catholic schoolgirl Shujuan (Xinyi Zhang). The rape of Nanking coincides with the development of Shujuan’s sexual identity as a woman, an experience that colors her memories of national trauma. To dramatize this,...