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Posts from the ‘Television and Movies’ Category

La La Land: You Should See It

You should see La La Land.  You should see it on the big screen.  As soon as the credits rolled, I said aloud, that film was better than I thought it was going to be.  The reason you should see it is not because it is a musical.  The reviews I have read or heard, like Anthony Lane’s in the New Yorker and the discussion of the movie on Slate’s Culture Podcast, talk about the movie as if it’s sole contribution is in being a musical.  I would say the musical element is both central to the film’s themes and incidental to what makes the film worth seeing. Read more


When I was in high school I read John Irving’s novel, A Prayer for Owen Meany.  The OA has the same structure of a story as that novel.  The structure of the story is the spoiler of the whole thing so really if you don’t want to be spoiled on the novel or The OA, do not read any further.   Read more

Satire and Self-Inoculating Insights

In January, I was blogging regularly about what is required to motivate change, a move from inaction to action, from one view to another, from not caring to caring.  I pointed out then that just telling someone their position is contradictory rarely moves them to change their position.

Today, I heard yet another podcast (see this one too) discuss Samantha Bee’s new show, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.  On this podcast, Stephen Metcalf of Slate says:

I may have reached my limit for “let them eat satire.”  The debasement of as culture, especially political culture, as raw material for the late night shows, and this is the kind of comedy placebo that I swallow on a nightly basis to wake up as a functionally sane human being.  I’ve kind of reached the end of it in a weird way, I’ve kind of, I want, I want rage and political action.  I don’t want to laugh, however on point the satire is.

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Day 10: Sicario and the Rule of Law

Last night I saw the film Sicario, directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Taylor Sheridan. All I knew about it was that it starred Josh Brolin, Benecio Del Toro and Emily Blunt. This film is the rare example of a film that you don’t really know what it is about until the last half hour, because you don’t really know what is motivating various decisions and what the goals of the various characters are. I mean you do kinda, but you don’t. You know it is about the American government’s effort to fight the drug cartels whose violence has spread into the United States. You know that they are trying to track down a particular head of a drug cartel. (Some spoilers ahead.) Read more

Day 5: Making of a Murderer and the End of the Symbolic Order

I’ve been watching the Making of a Murderer.  I’m on Episode 4.  If you haven’t started it yet, don’t worry, there are no spoilers here.  I think this is an unspoilable series because, well, you know everything when you start watching.  Not everything, but the gist, and that’s why you start watching.  The gist is that a man in Wisconsin was falsely convicted of sexual assault, spent 18  years in prison, was exonerated on the basis of DNA evidence, and then, was possibly framed by police when he sued the police department for wrongful conviction.  It was that last bit that motivated me to watch. Read more

“Divergent” Subjects: The Individual Against the Collective

Last weekend, I finally watched Divergent.  Last semester, I kept telling students in my Plato’s Republic seminar that someone needed to get on the film version of the dialogue.  It just seems so cinematically rich.  I mean, I know people have made films that are treatments of the cave analogy, but I want the thriller that is the dialogue as a whole.

Halfway through the semester a student told me I needed to see Divergent because it depicted Plato’s Republic.  Let’s just bracket that this film fails as a depiction because any successful film of the dialogue would have to find a way to perform the narrative encapsulation of the dialogue–Socrates narrating the story of the conversation that follows, the argumentative set up to the city in light of the question of whether justice is advantageous.  If Divergent depicts the Republic, it does so because it depicts a community in which people are divided into classes on the basis of their natures and these classes do the different tasks needed for the city to flourish.  Erudite seeks knowledge, Dauntless defends the city, Amity farm peacefully at the outskirts of the city, Candor speaks the truth, and Abnegation feed the poor and rule the city.  The film, which is based on the novel of the same name by Veronica Roth, gets traction from the problem that not everyone easily fits into one category, because you know, they’re divergent!  Like Hunger Games, a story that sets itself up as a revolutionary tale of resistance against oppression, Divergent ends up serving the same neoliberal practically Ayn-Randian celebration of individualism against collective action.  In this film, the collective becomes a problem because it attempts to limit and narrowly define individuals, while individuals succeed only when they work independently of the collective in order to resist it. Read more