Review: Suffragette

Suffragette is a well made film, but might ultimately be the victim of the classic trap of hagiography: two-dimensional characters. The film’s strength— its successful depiction of an era and two of its most important political issues — is to some extent weakened by a somewhat flat characterization. The fiend who manages the women at […]

Review: Leviathan

If you appreciate dark foreign films, speaking thematically, you get it all in Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan (2014): the sense of fatalism, quixotic determination fueled by indignation and vodka, the mockery of people hoping that this time the system will work for them, the self-destructiveness of resistance, misogyny, the insecurity of daily life, rapacious governments, collaborationist […]

Confederate and other flags

By now nearly every American understands that it is way past time to take down the Confederate battle flag, whose appearance outside of museums should have ended when Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia surrendered April 10, 1865. Confederates lowered the flag then, and their spiritual descendants should accept that. That was the battle flag of […]

Review: The Wolfpack

New York City is loaded with oddities, and director Crystal Moselle has picked a doozie in making a documentary film about the Angulo family. The Wolfpack is an interesting and engaging documentary, intriguing in what it shows and intriguing in what it intimates. The Wolfpack is what six brothers name themselves, in homage to Marvel […]

Film review: Ex Machina

Ex Machina, the 2015 film written and directed by Alex Garland, is a wonderfully scripted and nicely paced thriller, with good acting and a fine, creepy sort of claustrophobia and menace. The film’s sci fi premise, scale, and CGI are relatively modest, as films go. The central story is not new: a brilliant Silicon Valley […]

Marco Rubio’s lunatic notion of war

Thank goodness presidents seldom get to put into effect all of their bold, insincere, and self-serving campaign promises. And thank goodness Sen. Marco Rubio is unlikely to ever be president. But if you like cool wars and exciting international crises, and if you wish we would spend lots more on the military than either political […]

The 40th Anniversary of the Fall of Saigon

On April 30, 2015, the fortieth anniversary of the fall of Saigon, Robert F. Turner published an op ed piece in The Wall Street Journal that purports to dispel myths about the war, but instead perpetuates myths, ignores quite a bit of history, and endorses a relatively recent claim that the Vietnam War was not […]

Film Review: Wild

I’m not sure what the fuss is about this film. Even without having read the book on which this is based, we can see that the film is hobbled by its effort to include the book’s journal-writing component, its essential lack of two-person scenes, and by reticence about the central character’s past failures and character […]

Review: Uncontested Grounds by William Conelly

These are fine, subtle, graceful, insightful poems, rich in imagery and insight. I’ve been reading them over and over for a month without tiring. Some of these poems are worth the price of the book by themselves, like “Intuition,” which seems to me to be one of the finest examples of dramatic irony since Robert […]

Review: The Homesman

In The Homesman, the central human dilemma is how the various characters form, avoid or break attachments with others, a primal matter in even the most benign of circumstances, let alone in the rough 1850s Nebraska territory. Caring too much for others brings misery, but not going along to get along also brings misery. Do […]