Month: December 2018

Film Review: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

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...

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It’s [Not] a Wonderful Life: How Capra’s Film Explains Trump’s Election

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...

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The Reason for the Season: Recognizing the Christ in Christmas

My old friend Nicholas wished me a “merry non-culturally-specific winter festival” on Facebook. I appreciate the gesture, and I happily returned the sentiment, but as I walked past the giant, light-up creche in front of my neighbour’s house last night, I reflected that this winter festival is very culturally-specific, indeed. There is a “reason for the season” that goes well beyond eggnog, giftwrap, and red-nosed reindeers, as the culture warriors at Fox News and subway preachers never tire of reminding us. Paula White, the prosperity pastor, and White House spiritual advisor, praised the President for “putting Christ back in...

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Eugene to Berkeley and The Last Bus on the Last Day of 2017 by Mary A. Elmahdy

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...

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Film Review: Mary, Queen of Scots

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...

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