Reviews & Analysis

Ghost Light

Ghost Light is a clever take on theatre superstitions. You must never say the name of Shakespeare’s haunting play Macbeth in a theatre because it holds a curse. Instead, refer to it as “The Scottish Play.” Also, you must always leave a light burning in an empty theatre—a “ghost light.” The idea of the Macbeth curse came from rumors that a coven of witches objected to Shakespeare using real incantations so they placed a hex on the play and every … Continue reading

The Issue With Elvis

The Issue With Elvis is another tale of an unlikely friendship between an adult and child. The gentle drama centers on Dr. Mercer, a scientist who lives alone in the mountains and comes across a boy named Elvis in the woods that lives in a rusty bus near an abandoned amusement park. Mercer brings the boy to his home and tries to help him. He has gotten used to his hermetic lifestyle, but there’s something about Elvis’ mysterious innocence that … Continue reading

Crabs!

Pierce Berolzheimer’s Crabs! is a rollicking creature feature that would make Ed Wood proud. It’s endearing to see a film completely revel in its lewd goofiness, which is immediately felt in the opening scene. A young couple has enthusiastic cowgirl-style sex on the beach before the boyfriend has his face eaten off by a giant horseshoe crab, Alien-style. We learn that these creatures have been mutated by a nuclear powerplant collapse. It’s up to Phillip (the charming Dylan Riley Snyder), … Continue reading

Three Corners of Deception

Dr. Meleeka Clary writes, directs, and stars in Three Corners of Deception, a true passion project The fiery film explores a whirlwind romance that descends into an acrimonious divorce and custody battle. Clary uses the cathartic medium of cinema to criticize her ex and the unfair Hamilton County legal system. As such, it’s difficult to discern what is factual and what is colored by Clary’s heated emotional state. Much of it appears to be Clary’s attempt to rewrite her own … Continue reading

Lust Life Love

Lust Life Love is a kinkier, modernized version of Sex and City that follows Veronica (Stephanie Sellers), a blogger who shares her exploits as a bisexual polyamorist who frequently participates in threesomes, BDSM, and sex parties. Although Veronica enjoys her lifestyle, she must navigate society’s expectations for monogamy and her own jealousies that make open relationships difficult — especially when she meets Daniel (an endearing Jake Choi), an aspiring chef who excitedly dives into polyamory for the first time while his … Continue reading

Killing the Shepherd

Ta Opre’s Killing the Shepherd is an illuminating glimpse into a remote Zambian community dealing with starvation, poverty, and loss of wildlife. Opre explains in his booming narration that the African country was once overflowing with leopards, elephants, lions, and more. The documentary observes how members of a small village participate in poaching—not because of a machiavellian desire to slaughter innocent animals, but out of desperation to feed their families. This is a perspective on the polarizing subject that is … Continue reading

Born on the Fourth of July: A Dangerous Mother

Born on the Fourth of July is an adaptation of Ron Kovic’s autobiography. Kovic begins as a patriotic high school wrestling superstar who enthusiastically enlists in the Marines. During his second tour in Vietnam, he accidentally kills a solider and later becomes permanently paralyzed from the waist down. The poor conditions of the Veterans Administration hospital and his recognition of the war’s futility lead him to become a prolific anti-war movement leader. The film’s roots in Ron Kovic’s memoirs leave … Continue reading

Jacknife: Playing House

Martha works as a schoolteacher and takes care of her Vietnam veteran brother. She functions as both his housewife and mother: cooking and cleaning, waking him from drunken stupors, fretting over his late-night bar crawls and morning drinking habits. Her alcoholic and unemployed brother David is psychologically disturbed by the death of his friend and fellow solider Bobby. Megs’ arrival functions as the catalyst to remove both from their passive states. Jacknife stages the siblings’ cyclical post-Vietnam existence and within … Continue reading

Port of Shadows: Behind the Beauty

Port of Shadows can be read as an allegory for France wavering on the edge of disaster. Much like the fog and imminent storm the barkeep’s fixed barometer represses, the threat of fascism lingered over pre-war France. Mussolini established a fascist dictatorship in Italy while both the Nazi Party and Communist groups were rising. Jean embodies the wounded spirit of pre-war France and the gangsters represent the emergent fascist powers. France longs to avoid the fearsome future of oppressive rule, … Continue reading

Gold Diggers of 1933: Cinema’s Great Escape

The economic catastrophe of The Great Depression compelled audiences to seek solace in the darkened theatre.  The opulence of the musical genre provided such a cultural salve with their bright musical numbers, witty jokes, and bow-tie endings of romantic unions.  However, I believe Gold Diggers of 1933 critiques cinematic fantastical escapism. The film rejects the passivism of its generic trends to expose, rather than repress, Depression-era realities for its spectators. Such critiques are found within the binaries of the “We’re … Continue reading

No Looking Back: Edward Burns and the Boss

No Looking Back is likely one of the strongest works in Edward Burns’ canon, yet it remains grossly underseen and was a massive box office failure. (Burns later said his friends nicknamed the film Nobody Saw It. After its poor commercial reception he did not write anything for two years.) Edward Burns is strong writer and director, and I highly recommend all of his works. While I may have a bias because I am a major Bruce Springsteen fan, I am particularly intrigued … Continue reading

The Local Stigmatic: Fame is the First Sin

The Local Stigmatic is a pet project of Al Pacino’s, a one-act play he had performed in the 1960s and turned into a film during the late 80s. It was never released theatrically and finally saw the light of day in a 2007 DVD version. Written by an eloquent, young talent Heathcote Williams during the late 60s, The Local Stigmatic is a disturbing and acidly funny study of psychosis, fame, obsession and jealousy. In a way, it is a precursor to Scorcese’s … Continue reading

Splendor in the Grass: Damaged Desire

The following will examine how the disparate gender lines are laid out within Elia Kazan’s melodrama Splendor in the Grass. Whether through objects in the mise-en-scene, dialogue, or characterization, the film clearly divides male and female ideologies, exposing their confines and limitations especially in terms of sexually repressing teenagers. The oil rig of Bud’s family serves as the phallic symbol of wealth and male power. It serves as a glaring reminder of the hyper-masculine and sexually potent image in which Bud’s … Continue reading

Lust, Caution: Losing the Self

(NSFW content)  In 2007, the Mill Valley Film Festival asked director Ang Lee what specific elements of Eileen Chang’s original short story he wanted to amplify through the film. Ang Lee answered, “Performance. Things about acting. Performance not only in a stage play and her parts but in general. A big part of life is about performance. Think about sex, how it’s about performance” Each sex scene in Lust, Caution enacts as a theatrical performance that subsumes Wong Chia Chi … Continue reading

Targets: The Horror of Reality

Targets (1968) draws binaries between cinema’s old horror and the new horror that was unfolding in 1960s America. Allusion, especially in terms of reworking the horror genre, is present throughout the film but thoroughly envisioned in the final confrontation. The killer looks up at the large, looming presence of Boris Karloff on screen in The Terror, cut to Karloff’s character making his way towards him. Karloff’s defeat of the sniper allows him to live out as a real-life hero who … Continue reading

Brooklyn: A Poetic Past

Films about immigration are imbued with a heaviness, from the epic family saga The Godfather Part II (1974) to the recent and aptly titled, The Immigrant (2013). In these, immigrating and assimilating is depicted as an enormous hurdle, a transition from a dark world to an even darker one. A transition that requires great strength to get to the light of the American Dream. Brooklyn (2015) is quite a different immigration tale. Eilis, a young woman brilliantly played by Saoirse … Continue reading

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