Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

The life story of Louis Zamperini is fascinating and wide-ranging, and it shouldn’t even be possible to condense it into a movie as all-around misguided as Unbroken. But that’s what happens when you throw an enormous non-fiction bestseller at talentless check-cashing hacks like Joel & Ethan Coen. Or something. I suspect that the story of […]

There’s a nifty piece of advice for screenwriters trying to solve the apparently intractable problem of Strong Female Characters; I think it was originally said by Geena Davis. In a nutshell, the trick to writing a Strong Female Character is thus: write a Strong Male Character. Then give him a girl’s name and make him […]

Politics and commercial American cinema rarely have ever played together nicely. There was a long stretch during the Depression,* when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was adored in ways that no nationally significant politician has been since the Vietnam War started, and it was generally safe to make movies that openly talked about and engaged with Democratic […]

With 2011’s Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, we arrive at my favorite point in the life of a franchise: when everybody stopped caring and lost their goddamned minds. The chief failure of Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, made two years prior – and oh, how many different ways that film fails! it is an […]

There’s no dignity in spending all of one’s time complaining about how contemporary art isn’t as good as old art, which is why I do it a lot less than I’d like to. And while we are not, by any stretch of the imagination, living through a golden age of cinema right now (those of […]

There is blackness, to begin with. Impenetrable black, with unfocused electric guitar chords slicing through the nothing. And then comes the giggling, shrill and mad, the voice of some otherworldly hellspawn that has seen things that any living thing would pray to never see, to never imagine. And then the voice speaks, and its words […]

The question has been nagging at me for some weeks: six years later, is there any sort of value to be had in another white male critic lambasting the first Sex and the City movie? The good news, then, is that I’m not entirely inclined to do that. Not all of it, anyway. The trick, […]

Conventional wisdom holds that the eighth season of the undying television juggernaut The Simpsons was the last that regularly hit the highest peaks that the series was capable of summiting. And while I don’t know that conventional wisdom has necessarily decided which season exactly was the last one where the show was still predominately good, […]

The history of classical Hollywood film style, based in a characteristic form of continuity editing that dates back to the early 1920s, tells the story of making things easier and safer. This is the dominant theme that courses through every study of box office trends, every memoir of a director or actor’s career, every aesthetic […]

Transformers and its sequels are not very brainy films. I think that we can all agree on that, regardless of how we specifically feel about the films otherwise. They are, in fact, about as non-brainy as science fiction cinema gets. And this is typically held against them by people and critics who would like our […]

There was, to begin with, Braveheart. That film’s depiction of violent, manly battles in an undifferentiated Olden Days setting begat Gladiator, and between the two of them, the five Oscars each of them won (overlapping only on Best Picture – they didn’t even win the same Sound award), and the huge amount of money Gladiator […]

Pirate movies were dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. The pirate movie had died many times since its heyday, from the early-’20s through the mid-’50s. It had a very high-profile death in […]