I recently learned that a pun I came up with was already well established in the puniverse. You see, my pun went something like Frank Capricorn; it was going to involve a film director, someone born between December 21st and January 20th, a hot dog, and candy corn. But to my chagrin, the term capricorn has been around quite a while, and it refers to … Continue reading Abraham Lincoln, “a natural born piggy-backer”: Why “It Happened One Night” is a classic.
Warning: Spoilers!!!!!!!!!! Warning: Spoilers!!!!!!!!! Warning: Spoilers!!!!!!!! The 2019 film Parasite, directed by South Korean filmmaker, Bong Joon Ho, has provoked awe in audiences, both for it’s aesthetic construction and for its treatments of the themes of social inequality, fate, and chance. These two layers of the film–it’s artful construction and it’s provocative meaning–work in tandem to tell the story of the nearly destitute Kim family, … Continue reading Parasite: Aristotle and Arthur Miller, Tartuffe and Montgomery Cliff, and the Genre of the Ingénue Climber
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Writing a blog post about Hamlet (1990) reminds me of a story a professor of mine told me quite some time ago. The story was in service of helping us–his students–to prepare for an essay portion of an exam. Apparently, my professor as an undergraduate took several classes with the same professor. (We’ll call my professor SP, for student professor, to keep things clear.] The professor … Continue reading Hamlet: Metadrama, Hamlet’s Mid-Terms, and SP’s Final
A period film is mysticism masquerading as empiricism–it’s sorcery posing as a telescope and a microscope. It’s the sublime adorned in the devious costume of verisimilitude. A period film is like a hall of mirrors, reflecting back reality so many times that the viewer doesn’t necessarily know what is mirroring what. The further the viewer dives into the film, the more dizzy that viewer might … Continue reading Mimesis, The Mission, and the World We Have Made