12 Steps to Build Better Oscar Bait

Among film critics, “oscar-bait” is a derisive term applied to films that pander to Oscar voters. Now of course not all Oscar-nominated films have all these elements. Plenty of winners draw outside the lines. Films that break this mold are, in my opinion, the best of the crop. Bong Joon-ho’s wildly original, dystopian visions rightlyContinue reading “12 Steps to Build Better Oscar Bait”

Bergman’s Female Characters

When I first viewed Ingmar Bergman’s THE SEVENTH SEAL, I knew I had discovered one of my favorite filmmakers. Now, working my way through his oeuvre, I am deeply moved by the honesty of his female characters. The titular character in SUMMER WITH MONIKA (1953) is at first a high-spirited young woman (played by the sensuallyContinue reading “Bergman’s Female Characters”

Why “I’m Not a Rapist” Means Nothing

In Zen Buddhism, Ango is a three-month period of intensive study and practice. One aspect of Ango is that members of a Zen center study the precepts. These are guidelines for ethical conduct that have been passed on by ordained Buddhist priests across the millennia. My Zen center is headed by an ordained male priest,Continue reading “Why “I’m Not a Rapist” Means Nothing”

Of Stranger Things, Consumerism, and the Post-Credits Scene

SPOILERS! LOTS AND LOTS OF SPOILERS! And now back to our regularly scheduled programming, folks. So Netflix and the Duffer Brothers dropped Season 3 of Stranger Things just over a week ago. Like the fans we are, America gobbled it up, and now our conversations are about what’s next. This, to me, is the great tragedy ofContinue reading “Of Stranger Things, Consumerism, and the Post-Credits Scene”

What We Talk About When We Talk About Triggers

When survivors call a film “triggering,” we are paying it a compliment. Whether it’s a vet watching SAVING PRIVATE RYAN or a rape survivor watching HIGH LIFE, it makes no difference. If we say a movie was triggering, we are saying the director did their homework. They got it right. It means what you areContinue reading “What We Talk About When We Talk About Triggers”

“I Am Not an Easy Man” – More Anthropology Than Art

“I Am Not an Easy Man” (Je Ne Suis Pas Un Homme Facile) is a film I shouldn’t like—but do. Netflix’s first commissioned French-language film, it dives into the easy laugh every time: a little boy cast as Snow White, a male waxing scene, and men strapping on silicone breasts as they march for gender equality. Uneasily shiftingContinue reading ““I Am Not an Easy Man” – More Anthropology Than Art”

42 and the Truth about Racism

Many American films about the pre-Civil Rights era depict black Americans as noble and long-suffering with whites equally one-dimensional: either hateful bigots or supportive do-gooders. 42 is not one of those films. Brian Helgeland’s script traces Jackie Robinson’s first season with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, as the first black ballplayer in the Major Leagues.Continue reading “42 and the Truth about Racism”