THE OA: REBIRTH OF WONDER

THE OA:  REBIRTH OF WONDER

The two-season Netflix series, The OA, created by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij is an extraordinary meditation on the glory and turmoil of an America, still dealing with patriarchal conformism and “wonder shock.”

Read More

VERONICA MARS, Season Four: Love is Gone Ballerina, Gone

VERONICA MARS, Season Four: Love is Gone Ballerina, Gone

I can see and smell the smoke billowing out of Rob Thomas’ ears as I type this strongly worded condemnation of his show. After all, in response to the general public dismay expressed about his fourth season narrative choices, he and Kristin Bell have been quoted as saying, more or less, that Thomas did it for our own good.

Read More

The Portrait of a Lady: Everyone Loves Isabel

The Portrait of a Lady:  Everyone Loves Isabel

We have heard much questioning about if and in what ways women directors add something new to filmmaking. The Portrait of a Lady seems to me to be exhibit A for contending that some do. However, in revising Henry James’s novel as no man would or could, Campion demonstrates more than the changes that have taken place since 1881; she demonstrates the changes that have not taken place. In thoroughly missing the organic relationship of Isabel’s fantasy life to the plot, earlier critics just assumed Campion was flamboyantly showing off her directorial chops, or sensationalizing James. We failed to see that she was giving the audience a piercing, feminist insight into what happens, at least in some cases, on the road to gender equality. But hang in there, Isabel. Many of us are not running anymore.

Read More

HOMECOMING: Mirror, Mirror

HOMECOMING: Mirror, Mirror

Historically, thrillers have softened the blow of their depictions of helplessness and confusion by etching clear distinctions between the good, vulnerable, but nevertheless conquering heroes with whom we identify and the powerful, evil villains onto whom we can project our anxieties. More recent thrillers, however, have become more challenging, demanding that we recognize that the world is not that easy to read. Homecoming (2018), an Amazon Studios streamed series created by Micah Bloomberg and Eli Horowitz, is such an evolved thriller, or at least it is in its auspicious first season. As it peels away the layers of appearances toward its big reveal, it makes us feel that too often good is sleepwalking and evil is not easy to comprehend, let alone battle.

Read More

BLONDIE JOHNSON: A Fresh Dame

BLONDIE JOHNSON: A Fresh Dame

Blondie Johnson (Dir. Ray Enright, 1933) is the only American gangster film ever made in which a woman, the eponymous Blondie (Joan Blondell), travels the road of Paul Muni, James Cagney, and Edward G. Robinson, from destitute nobody to affluent somebody by becoming a mob boss.

Read More

RUSSIAN DOLL: The Epic of A Sweet Birthday Baby

RUSSIAN DOLL: The Epic of A Sweet Birthday Baby

Stories about journeys made by men in which women play supporting roles as inspirations, antagonists, and helpers have been the foundation of Western Civilization. The old Bards stuck to narratives in which the old heroes explained the patriarchal cosmos through their exploits as they conquered death in one way or another. Options are now more various. The new, gloriously audacious Netflix series, Russian Doll), gives the ancient male quest a modern, feminist twist as Nadia Vulvokov (Natasha Lyonne), whose name emphasizes her femininity, finds herself on a woman’s voyage for more modern purposes in a female inflected universe.

Read More

INSPECTOR LEWIS: Crime, Art, Imagination, and Fantasy

INSPECTOR LEWIS:  Crime, Art, Imagination, and Fantasy

Dialogue between imagination and fantasy happens. It happens both in the mass media and in high culture, and, as might be expected, the home team has the advantage. When great works of the imagination explore fantasy, they express a high culture perspective on fantasy as intense and dangerous, likely to run amok, as for example in Blake’s epics, Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the works of David Lynch, Alfred Hitchcock, and Orson Welles. When fantasy looks at art, it serves an opposing impulse, a low culture, leveling urge to cast itself as more genuine and delicious than what it points to as dry, high-fallutin’ art.

Read More

Movie Review: ROMA, Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking

Movie Review: ROMA, Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking

The very ephemeral nature of moments in which life and death come to a head unweaves the old neo-realist assurances of the powerful weightiness of the least of us. Rather, Cuaron distances us from any pretensions to human importance as he opens the door to his vision of how fleeting, brief, and weightless human life is. This is a realism that is harsh medicine to the individualist American and to all cultures that are Americanized.

Read More

Media Review: ESCAPE AT DANNEMORA, The World as Prison

Media Review: ESCAPE AT DANNEMORA, The World as Prison

Ultimately, this show about brief, ambiguous escapes is reminiscent of the fatalism of the early 20th century American naturalist novels in which the plight of trapped characters becomes a microcosm of the American macrocosm, a culture depicted gloomily as the habitation of beings with no real place either in nature or culture, no core identity, no coherence outside of the deadening rules and conventions society has invented. This is a vision that is too bleak for my taste, but I respect it because it goes well beyond being the same old familiar jailbreak story. It has a perspective.

Read More

Movie Review: VICE: You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, but there’s nothin’ aplenty

Movie Review: VICE: You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, but there’s nothin’ aplenty

Vice is a film about Dick Cheney and his partner in crime Lynne, to be sure, but it’s also about the way we talk about history, how we know what we know, how we fill in the gaps in our partial knowledge with our own fictions, and who has a voice in creating historical narratives.

Read More