Monthly Archives: April 2015

Eyes Wide Shut (1999): The Ghost of Barry Lyndon

Stanley Kubricks’s costume drama Barry Lyndon, which dramatizes the rise and fall of a callow Irish social-climber, is a bit like a three hour tour through the Frick Collection. A meticulous recreation of the English ruling class during the Seven Years war, it is one of the most beautiful films ever made. However shallow and […]

Animal House (1978): If…’s Clever But Reactionary American Remake

While Jean Vigo’s Zero for Conduct and Linsday Anderson’s If… are both highly regarded by cinophiles and students of radical politics, neither film is well-known in the United States. If…’s American remake, on the other hand, is one of the most iconic films of the 1970s. It was also one of the most influential, laying […]

Zero for Conduct (1933) If…(1968)

While Lindsay Anderson’s film “If….”, the story of a violent rebellion at a fictional English boarding school, is usually considered a classic of the 1960s counterculture, it’s always left me feeling cold. As I wrote last year, I’m not English. I’ve never been to a “public” (that is private) school, and I’ve always hated Malcolm […]

High Fidelity (2000)

Back in the 1980s, when I was a senior in college, I had a classmate. Let’s call him Ray. Ray was popular with women, mainly for two reasons. He looked so much like the young Paul McCartney that girls would occasionally slip up and call him “Paul” instead of “Ray.” Ray also had the best […]

Reality Bites (1994)

There are times when I am convinced that Ethan Hawke has sold his soul to the devil. A mediocre actor with an unimpressive physical appearance and a limited emotional range, he has had a long, and successful career in Hollywood. He’s played the romantic lead to some of the most beautiful, and talented actresses of […]

Say Anything (1989)

Say anything is a beloved romantic comedy starring Ione Skye and the young John Cusack. I’m almost exactly the same age as John Cusack, so I was part of its targeted demographic back in the 1980s, but I missed it the first time around. Looking at it from the perspective of a middle-aged man writing […]

Dear White People (2014)

Dear White People, Justin Simien’s provocative film about race relations at a fictional Ivy League University, is at its best when it follows its own advice. When Colandrea “Coco” Conners, an aspiring TV actress asks a reality show producer about why he’s not interested in casting her, he tells her that she needs to be […]

Singles (1992)

Sometimes the lightest possible fluff can yield interesting thoughts. Singles, Cameron Crowe’s romantic comedy set in grunge era Seattle, is the lightest possible fluff. Anybody who’s taken a first year acting class knows the plot. It’s Lovers and Other Strangers for the 1990s, a loosely connected series of vignettes about young men and women trying […]

Tracks (2013) and Wild (2014): Two almost identical films that have almost nothing in common

Tracks and Wild have such similar plots, and were released so close to each other, that it makes me wonder if the United States and Australian film industries had some kind of a wager. “Who can make a better film about a young woman who attains literary success after a confrontation with the wilderness?” A […]

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (2013)

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, by the Iranian American Reza Aslan, is not only a brief, well-written introduction to the scholarly debate on the historical Jesus. It’s a polemic. Aslan, who converted to evangelical Christianity in his teens, but returned to Islam as an undergraduate, argues that far from being an […]