Fighting with My Family: Self-Portrayals, Body Slams and Rudy Goes to the Ball

Warning: Spoilers!!!!!!!!! Warning: Spoilers!!!!!!!!! Warning: Spoilers!!!!!!!!! In the mid-twentieth century, Gloria Swanson, an aging out-of-the-limelight former silent film star, played the part of Norma Desmond, a character who might be described as an aging out-of-the limelight former silent film star. This performance, in the film Sunset Blvd. (1950), demonstrated that the legendary Swanson, unlike Desmond, possessed self-awareness and an ability to poke fun at herself. … Continue reading Fighting with My Family: Self-Portrayals, Body Slams and Rudy Goes to the Ball

Get Out: Head Fakes, Zombies, and Big Macs in Paris

“And these kinds of head fake learning are absolutely important. And you should keep your eye out for them because they’re everywhere.” Randy Pausch, “The Last Lecture“ I’m not a big zombie movie fan. In fact, to be honest, and I don’t really care for the genre. It might have to do with the fact that they are a subset, or, at least, a close … Continue reading Get Out: Head Fakes, Zombies, and Big Macs in Paris

The Big Short: Edmund Burke and the Sublime in our Stars, our Stripes, and Our Stocks

Some time ago, I heard a quotation from Marshall McLuhan that I instantly recognized as true–and quite insightful: “Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn’t know the first thing about either.” As an educator, I know what he’s getting at. We’re more likely to learn, when we’re having fun, either in the formal setting of a school, ambling through nature, … Continue reading The Big Short: Edmund Burke and the Sublime in our Stars, our Stripes, and Our Stocks

Vertigo: Symmetries, Synchronicity, and an Appointment in Samarra

Warning: Spoilers!!! Warning: Spoilers!!! Warning: Spoilers!!! Warning: Spoilers!!! Warning: Spoilers!!! I first watched Vertigo (1958) probably about fourteen years ago. The film is one of the more unusual Alfred Hitchcock films of his oeuvre (alongside The Trouble with Harry (1955) and Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941). Upon re-watching it, all of my original impressions–the clever symmetrical plot line, the ominous mood, the off-brand character played … Continue reading Vertigo: Symmetries, Synchronicity, and an Appointment in Samarra

The Genre of Calvinball: American Hustle and the Art of Improvisation

In this sense, one of the key skills of Calvinball–perhaps, the central skill–is persuasion. Can you get others to accept your form of reality, and if so, for how long? Finally, there’s what you might call the Kipling rule, “If you can keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs and blaming it on you.” This sentiment is most clearly expressed in … Continue reading The Genre of Calvinball: American Hustle and the Art of Improvisation

Shrek: It’s like a Coen brothers film but without the ruthlessly dark depiction of life and humanity–also Smash Mouth

The films of Joel and Ethan Coen are always a treat to watch. One reason I love them so much is that they are simultaneously an homage to a genre, a parody, and a rightful addition to that genre, as well. Take, for instance, Miller’s Crossing (1991), one of their early films, which portrays a prohibition era fight between two crime bosses, Leo (Albert Finney) … Continue reading Shrek: It’s like a Coen brothers film but without the ruthlessly dark depiction of life and humanity–also Smash Mouth

Rocketman: Elton John, Superman, and the Costumes we wear

Warning: Spoilers!!! Warning: Spoilers!!! Warning: Spoilers!!! One of my favorite scenes from Tarantino’s films is towards the end of Kill Bill vol. 2 (2004), not long before our avenger Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman) and Bill (David Carradine) square off in a final death match. Beatrix has a theory about herself, that she’s not really a killer and that she needed to get their child away from … Continue reading Rocketman: Elton John, Superman, and the Costumes we wear

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: Metadrama, Spaghetti Westerns, and don’t forget about the flamethrower.

Warning: Spoilers!!!! Warning: Spoilers!!!! Warning: Spoilers!!! Everybody who’s heard of acclaimed director Quentin Tarantino knows about his signature style. Let’s play a game of word association. When I say Tarantino, what comes to mind?  I bet violence comes to mind. Practically all of his films include flamboyant portrayals of fight scenes, murders, stabbings, shootings, and people doing disturbing things with other people’s ears, to name … Continue reading Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: Metadrama, Spaghetti Westerns, and don’t forget about the flamethrower.

The 39 Steps: Style, The Mandela Effect, and Don’t Forget the Trains . . . never forget the trains.

Warning: Spoilers!!!!! Warning: Spoilers!!!! Warning: Spoilers!!! When I was a kid I found it fascinating how I could tell what decade a tv show was made within seconds of watching it. I didn’t need to know the plot or who the actors were, though that certainly helped. Costuming, hair, props, and things like cars and decor certainly factored in, but those weren’t necessary either. It … Continue reading The 39 Steps: Style, The Mandela Effect, and Don’t Forget the Trains . . . never forget the trains.

Us: It’s What Happens When Patty Duke meets Zombies and they take a trip to Metropolis

Warning: Spoilers!!!!!!!!! Warning: Spoilers!!!!!!!!! Warning: Spoilers!!!!!!!!! There’s something about twins that resonates with audiences of theater, fiction, television, and drama. Whether it’s Viola and Sebastian in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (1602), Spiderman, Susan and Sharon of The Parent Trap (1961), or those cousins, identical cousins, Patty and Cathy (The Patty Duke Show, 1963-1966), they keep reappearing in story after story. Many of these stories speak to … Continue reading Us: It’s What Happens When Patty Duke meets Zombies and they take a trip to Metropolis