Monthly Archives: February 2014

Philomena (2013)

Anybody who thinks there’s much difference between fundamentalist Islam, the Jim Jones cult,and mainstream Christianity needs to watch Philomena, Steven Frears’s short, devastating film about the Sean Ross Abbey south of Roscrea in County Tipperary, Ireland. One scene in particular haunts me. A group of teenage girls who attend St Anne’s school, which doubles as […]

Before Midnight (2013)

Twenty years ago, back in 1994, Ethan Hawke starred in a movie called Reality Bites. He was Troy Dyer, a prototypical, angry young slacker with a high IQ, and without a job. The heroine of the film, an aspiring documentary filmmaker played by Winona Ryder, when she was still cute and didn’t shoplift, had a […]

Out of the Furnace (2013)

In their illustrated novel Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco talk about “economic sacrifice zones.” Camden, New Jersey, the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, McDowell County, West Virginia are pockets of poverty and despair so isolated and so cut off from the American mainstream they might as well be […]

Nebraska (2013)

“This is the way the world ends,” T.S. Eliot wrote in his poem “The Hollow Men, “not with a bang but a whimper.” Nebraska shows how it works in the United States. While the acclaimed new film by Bob Nelson and Alexander Payne presents itself as being an unvarnished, black and white, realistic, even hyper-realistic […]

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Dallas Buyers Club is a gritty little Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of a movie. A conservative, libertarian core inside a tasty chocolate wrapper of cultural liberalism, Dallas Buyers Club stars Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof, an intelligent, complex man inside the shell of a course, homophobic Texas redneck, who discovers that he is HIV positive […]

Ali (2001)

If Spike Lee’s Malcolm X is a good example of the right way to make a feature length drama about a well-known historical figure, then Michael Mann’s Ali is probably a good example of how the same kind of film can fail. Michael Mann who directed the cult classic Heat and Magnificent Last of the […]

Malcolm X (1992)

Spike Lee’s Malcolm X holds up surprisingly well after 22 years. Much of the credit should go to Denzel Washington, who puts on one of the great performances in the history of cinema. But, if this very long — over three hours — film has scarcely a boring moment, it has a lot to do […]

Exotica (1994)

If Atom Egoyan’s Exotica wasn’t quite as successful as it might have been, it probably has something to do with the deceptive advertising campaign Miramax Films used when it opened. I still remember the first time I became aware of this movie, from a poster in the window of a video rental store near the […]

The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006)

If you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organization of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial […]

Kes (1969)

While Kes, the second feature length film by the British director Ken Loach, has been acclaimed by the critics and ignored by the general public, it has little to do with a difficult plot, or a self-indulgent, experimental style. On the contrary, it’s a straightforward little narrative about a bullied 15-year-old boy that should have […]