Bait Taken: The 10 Essential Roles of Michelle Pfeiffer

There are many building blocks of the internet, but the cornerstones are think pieces, offhand lists, and other hollow provocations meant to stir arguments and, therefore, briefly redirect web traffic. Engaging such material is utterly pointless. Then again, it’s not like I have anything better to do. It was only a week ago that I found cause to revive the “Bait Taken” feature, and now here I am, all roiled up over another Vulture list. In my meek defense, the creative team behind New York magazine’s culture blog went ahead and crafted a list that is right in my proverbial wheelhouse. And … Continue reading Bait Taken: The 10 Essential Roles of Michelle Pfeiffer

From the Archive: Batman Returns

I suppose I should hold this in reserve until the Saturday that Ben Affleck’s directorial effort with the character arrives, but we’ll use this to draw a contrast between a time that I was actively excited at the prospect of a Tim Burton film rather than the current sad state that finds my preemptive exhausted at the thought of sitting through his latest exercise in whimsical gloom. And, hey, there’s a Donald Trump reference in here, too. So, you know, timely. This was written during the summer that my on-air colleague and I decided we would take a break from the weekly … Continue reading From the Archive: Batman Returns

Burton, Limon, Melfi, Segal, Tyldum

The Imitation Game (Morten Tyldum, 2014). One of the great frustrations of the Oscar season was watching Selma and, to a lesser degree, American Sniper battered by criticism over supposedly terrible transgressions in their depiction of historical record while The Imitation Game, the “true life” story receiving the phoniest treatment among the Oscar contenders, sailed along unperturbed. The story of Alan Turing’s secret, indispensable contributions to the Allied effort in World War II is fully deserving of big-screen veneration, just as his own government’s cruel retribution against him a decade later because his “lifestyle” was considered illegal is the stuff of … Continue reading Burton, Limon, Melfi, Segal, Tyldum

From the Archive: Edward Scissorhands

We started our movie review radio program, The Reel Thing, in the fall of 1990, which meant that we had to contend with the still expanding market of home video. That was how a significant number of people did their movie viewing, and the home video release of a film could be as important of a story as its first sojourn through theaters. Besides, doing home video reviews helped us fill a few more minutes in an hour-long show. Now, I wish we’d more often used the opportunity of another review a few months later to find a way to … Continue reading From the Archive: Edward Scissorhands

Burton, Keaton, Preminger, Trank, Vidor

Chronicle (Josh Trank, 2012). Chronicle is good enough to almost–almost–redeem the increasingly tired found footage subgenre. This is in part due to the especially clever use of the footage, drawing it from a variety of sources rather than relying on one dedicated amateur documentarian who keeps the camera running no matter what level of craziness is happening (although the film inevitably must rely on that conceit more than is ideal). Security cameras, police car dashboard cams and other fully believable devices provide all the material that’s stitched together into a narrative. If physics-defying mayhem were happening outside of a upper … Continue reading Burton, Keaton, Preminger, Trank, Vidor

The Unwatchables: Alice in Wonderland

No director is in more dire need of a change of pace than Tim Burton. He needs some little story with two, maybe three characters just sitting around a simple, largely unadorned room. They should talk to one another, quiet little chats about their place in the world. There should be no music score and no special effects. Maybe then, just maybe, he’d be able to find his way back to making a movie with an ounce of humanity in it again. Until then, it’s safe to presume that he’ll follow his worrisome trend of grabbing onto well-established properties and … Continue reading The Unwatchables: Alice in Wonderland

Top Fifty Films of the 90s — Number Twenty-Five

#25 — Ed Wood (Tim Burton, 1994) Movies are fun. It’s a simple truth that doesn’t get offered up enough. As much as I might expound upon the artistry of certain directors or eagerly try to plumb the nuances of deliberately obtuse French cinema, layering on a veneer of academic rumination to my reaction, the bottom line is that movies are a draw because of the more immediate responses they elicit: laughter, chills, jumps, gasps, the swelling of hearts and libidos. I had a friend who reduced every movie-going experience to the shrugged assessment, “It was fairly entertaining.” I used to … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 90s — Number Twenty-Five