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

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.

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

Hamlet: Metadrama, Hamlet’s Mid-Terms, and SP’s Final

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

Zombieland, Double Tap: It’s basically Oceans 12, but actually good this time.

Warning: Spoilers!!!!!! I remember watching the film, Oceans 12 (2004). I don’t mean to say I remember the plot, because I don’t except for the laser dance guy scene. (Btw, the laser dance guy scene is just as cool as it ever was. It’s basically the one redeeming part of the film.) But what I do remember is being disappointed after watching the film. I … Continue reading Zombieland, Double Tap: It’s basically Oceans 12, but actually good this time.

What’s New is Old is New Again: The DUFF and Teen Angst Film

Warning: Spoilers! The genre of teen films, which I call teen angst, has slowly evolved over time. There’s classics like American Graffiti (1973), Grease (1978), and The Last Picture Show (1971), but there’s a way in which these films look at teenagers more than looking out from amongst them. Many of these films depict teen life, sometimes with great nuance, but there’s no sense that the … Continue reading What’s New is Old is New Again: The DUFF and Teen Angst Film