The new film from Joel and Ethan Coen, called The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and available to stream on Netflix, is an anthology of six vignettes about life in the Old West. Each story stands alone—the only apparent link between them is that they are presented as the different parts of an antique compendium of the same name: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, and Other Tales of the American Frontier, with Color Plates. The film’s first shot is this worn volume, and each tale begins and ends with the camera’s fading back to the book, whose pages have been...Read More
Month: December 2018
Most people in the U.S. today know Frank Capra’s 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life mainly as a Christmas movie. If you haven’t seen Capra’s film recently or only know it by its association with the Christmas season, you may be surprised by how much the film is explicitly about economics. Equally surprising is the unhappiness of the economics, which is not entirely erased by the famous happy ending. In what follows, I will suggest that It’s a Wonderful Life can help us to understand the unhappiness of Donald Trump’s America. Since Trump’s election two years ago, one might...Read More
Installment 38 spans two different eras of the American road. *** EUGENE TO BERKELEY I can’t even remember his name, that self-proclaimed guru, shit-talking man. Me, being all infected with a bad case of chronic, wild-hare-up-my-ass, a hankering, a yearnin’, a yen, thought hiking down to Mexico on the back of a thumb sounded, really, like a whole bunch of fun. We got from Eugene to Berkeley alright. And I knew people, so we stopped for a night. But plans could change on a dime back then, and for less than a dime I was given a gift free...Read More
I saw the film Mary, Queen of Scots at a screening accompanied by a short panel discussion in which various scholars specializing in sixteenth-century political and feminist history discussed the film’s representation of its period and characters, namely the two famous women at its helm: Mary, Queen of Scots,and Queen Elizabeth I. Our crowd had a lot of questions, mostly concerning how/whether the cinematic renderings did justice to their real-life counterparts. I’m guessing they asked so much within this theme because they, too, were put off or perplexed by the obvious and gauche liberties the film takes. What’s interesting...Read More
For roughly the past 25 years or so, I’ve referred to ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ as the date rape song. The lyrics are creepy as all get out. And yes, I know the song was written in 1944. And I know that the lyrics actually reflect pop culture in the 1940s, including jokes about drinks being spiked (with alcohol) and young men and women were not allowed the kind of freedom depicted in the lyrics in 1944. And that the song was actually written by a married man so he and his wife could sing it at their housewarming...Read More
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