‘The Babadook’ Is About a Monster That’s Here to Stay

Spoiler alert: It’s hard to talk about this movie without revealing too much. For best results, see it before reading.

Is The Babadook a horror movie? Sort of. It’s certainly being billed as one: critic descriptions like “expertly unsettling” and “deeply disturbing” discouraged a few friends from seeing it with me recently. But calling the movie “horror” doesn’t seem quite right. The main characters are mother and son, giving The Babadook an obvious parent-centric interpretation, but what the premise turns out to be—what the horror actually is—is relatable enough to encompass what different viewers, parents or not, might bring to it. I think that’s why The Babadook doesn’t feel like a horror movie, exactly, to me. It’s so subjective and personal that how scary you find the movie may depend on how scary you find yourself.

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Film Review: The Imitation Game Attempts Feel-Good Tragedy

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Alan Turing’s incredible story of breaking the Nazi’s Enigma code remained a well-protected secret for decades. His story is one of great triumph and deep tragedy.  However, Turing’s victimization and subsequent death by cyanide-laced apple has been sugarcoated in the latest retelling, The Imitation Game. Like Turing himself, this film has been neutered on its way to mass market as a way to make a less enlightened majority feel more comfortable about a truly dark chapter of global history.

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Film Review: Nightcrawler is Capitalism: A Success Story

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“If you want to win the lottery you’ve got to make the money to buy a ticket.” It’s a phrase oft repeated by Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), the unblinking, laser-focused protagonist of Dan Gilroy’s Toronto International Film Festival hit Nightcrawler. Every generation a film comes along to reflect culture’s misplaced values or misunderstanding of where importance should lie. From Travis Bickle to Patrick Bateman, film audiences have regularly been introduced to characters that exist to exploit, intentionally or not, the holes in society. Regardless of their actions, often quite monstrous, these characters’ actions are championed as success stories.

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‘Interstellar’ Has Most of Christopher Nolan’s Worst Habits and Few of His Best Ones

Spoiler alert: If you haven’t seen Interstellar, you probably shouldn’t read this.

Christopher Nolan’s movies don’t have characters as much as they have tour guides. He’s a director whose strengths don’t include storytelling, so he tends to use his characters to lead the audience through the backlots of outer space, Gotham City, someone’s brain, wherever. By having his protagonists keep up a constant, repeating chatter of the rules and blueprints of the architecture he’s created, Nolan tries to distract the audience from noticing that his sets are facades, revealed as hollow once you walk behind them. For some people, the three-walls-and-a-ceiling structures are grand and dazzling enough. The rest of us wish he’d built the back wall, too. Continue reading

‘Her’ Revisited: Why Does an AI Need Love Anyway?


Something has been bothering me about Her for a while. When I put together my list of the 10 best movies of 2013, I called Her too speculative to be useful. (Her wasn’t on the list, but I mentioned it in relation to Before Midnight, another movie about love and relationships that did make the list. More on that later.) What I meant is that the movie feels hollow. Obviously Her isn’t really about a human dating an operating system. Obviously it’s using near-future technology to hold a mirror up to the present. Obviously its point is that, surprise, humans need other humans. But why? If all Her really adds up to is the last two minutes of Annie Hall, why bother making it? It’s a fresh coat of paint on a well-worn subject, but the most interesting thing about it—its premise—is abandoned at the end when the AIs leave. I wanted Her to really dig into that premise. Since it didn’t, let’s do so now. Continue reading

What’s Really Missing in “Gone Girl”

Judith Butler may have famously said that gender is performed, but what Gone Girl tackles so emphatically is that, these days, almost everything is performed, but most especially and most oppressively, femininity. It is not merely that modern day women are expected to look good, but that they are expected to be cupcake-baking, soccer-game-cheering mothers while also being suit-wearing, boardroom-leading businesswomen. Women are expected to do everything and look good doing it—and, worst of all, they are supposed to make it look easy. Continue reading