Musical Melancholy: Damien Chazelle’s La La Land

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Is there any genre that excites such undeserving scorn and hatred as the Musical? It seems that the very core of this hatred is nothing more than a revulsion to unceasing optimism and a complete refusal to suspend your disbelieve that normal people would burst out into song at random intervals.

I won’t say that La La Land solves this problem, nor that it is a problem.…

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Queerness and Narrative: Todd Haynes’s Carol

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This is one part in a series of short essays on Todd Haynes’s Carol (2015). This part is on narrative structure and the film’s relationship to an older film, David Lean’s Brief Encounter (1945).

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Seeing and Desire: Todd Haynes’s Carol

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This is one part in a series of short essays on Todd Haynes’s Carol (2015). This part is on aesthetics and including a close reading of Todd Haynes’s film in a tradition alongside Douglas Sirk and Vincente Minnelli.

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Meaning That Matters: George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road

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Mad Max: Fury Road is the best political film of 2015. The pleasure I take in saying that is more immense than I can explain coherently. My father raised me, cinematically speaking, on the masterpieces of the 1970s—All the President’s Men, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Dog Day Afternoon—and if nothing else, what is apparent in those films is a steadfast political atmosphere. Today, for better or worse, the films we see on screen are politically noncommittal. One either has to dig for any political subtext, or it exists as middle ground between two more devoted extremes. George Miller, the veteran filmmaker (of the previous Mad Max films, as well as both Happy Feet—fun fact), directs Fury Road, whether he admits it or not, fully aware of the feminist charge that electrifies the entire film.

The film begins with the eponymous hero, Max (Tom Hardy). He provides us with expository detail, and as soon as we understand the post-apocalyptic context, he is appropriately done away with—captured, branded, and turned into a human blood bag, used to energize the War Boys, who do the bidding of the savage patriarch Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne).…

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A Little More Consideration: James Ponsoldt’s The End of the Tour

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The character of David Foster Wallace in The End of the Tour is an overpowering presence. Director James Ponsoldt is a more than capable director, yet here his direction comes off as uneven, perhaps because of the charismatic enormity of Wallace as both a character and a thinker. …

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