Book Review: Cindy Sherman’s “Office Killer”: Another Kind of Monster

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Watching Office Killer (1997) is a curious experience. Despite its impressive pedigree as the only movie directed by Cindy Sherman, one can be forgiven for not being aware of the film, about a mousey copyeditor (Carol Kane) turned serial killer: boxofficemojo figures suggest it barely scraped $76k at the US box office (an office killer in more ways than one, then). But whether one goes into a first viewing knowing about the existence of the film or not, the experience is likely to be much the same; an unsettling 82 mins that raises far more questions than it answers and leaves one feeling oddly perturbed about the status of what one has just watched (what’s meant to be funny here? Why does it all feel so out of joint, and out of time? What the hell are Molly Ringwald and Jeanne Tripplehorn doing in it?). Continue reading

On The (Recent) Long Take

Popular conversations around prestige films often orbit around their well-rounded achievements, in which excellence in performance and excellence in filmmaking go hand-in-hand. If the annual Academy Awards serves as any kind of metric, recent nominated works demonstrate that top-tier nominations (for Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay) are typically accompanied by nominations in various performance categories. Among other nominated works, the stylish aesthetic of American Hustle, the purposeful excesses of The Wolf of Wall Street, and the understated dramatic momentums of Philomena and Nebraska all succeed in large part because of strong performances that compliment each film’s achievements in writing and directing.

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Book Review: “Superhero Synergies: Comic Book Characters Go Digital”

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Although this is my first contribution to the Mediascape blog, I have been involved with the Mediascape journal for several years. I served as co-editor for Reviews and then as co-editor for Meta while I was in the Cinema and Media Studies (CMS) M.A. program at UCLA. Having just finished my first year as a CMS PhD student, I am currently the editor of Columns.

While my own work throughout this time has largely focused on video games, I have also researched the superhero film genre for several seminar and conference papers. The challenge of writing on this subject has stemmed from the surprisingly sparse amount of scholarly publications on the genre. Over the past decade, more has been written on the superhero in comics than in films (for instance, Peter Coogan’s Superhero: The Secret Origin of a Genre and Angela Ndalianis’s edited collection The Contemporary Comic Book Superhero). Continue reading

The 60s Are Back … Sort Of: Recent Political Films Tap Countercultural Roots

Gary Ross’s 1998 dramedy Pleasantville begins with a satirical montage tailored to Gen-X angst. Three high school teachers address their seniors’ post-graduation prospects: the first describes a woeful job market; the second, the STD epidemic; the third, global warming-induced environmental catastrophe. Just as quickly as the film raises these very real issues, however, it drops them in favor of a back-to-the-future fantasy set in the late 50s/early 60s, from which the sibling-twin protagonists emerge with renewed appreciation of how far American society has come since those more overtly racist, sexist, sexually repressive times.   Continue reading

“The Rover” – Envisioning the Neo-Liberal Apocalypse

The Rover premiered at this year’s Cannes film festival in the out-of-competition program, occupying a midnight slot. I viewed the film a day later, mid-afternoon, in the Salle Debussy, a makeshift screening room situated outside of the Palais du Festival, close to the French Riviera. It was a cloudy day and the Mediterranean wind hammered against the walls of the theater, creating a quite unsettling extra-textual soundscape that, oddly, mixed fairly well with the film’s sparse sound design. What follows is a short review of David Michôd’s sophomore effort which, in my opinion, proved one of the strongest films at the Côte d’Azur this year. Many of the writings from established publications highlighted the film’s acting which, admittedly, is tremendous, with Pearce and Pattinson delivering two of the most notable performances of the year. But The Rover further highlights Michôd’s directorial skills, establishing him as a radical genre auteur with a proclivity for textual revisionism. Continue reading

“Edge of Tomorrow,” Ceaselessness of Yesterday

In Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise plays Major Cane, an officer who is accidentally given the ability to relive over and over and over the day before a failed military invasion aimed at wiping out an alien race, dying in the battle every day before learning little by little how to turn the tide of humanity’s impending defeat. The failed invasion comes after these aliens—arriving via a meteor that crash-lands in Germany—have taken over and decimated Europe. The invasion bases itself from England, and joins fronts in Asia and in Italy in what humanity is calling Operation Downfall. If you haven’t already caught on, the set-up is a sci-fi inversion of Operation Overlord (note the wordplay), and there’s a sustained playing and replaying of the beach landing that recalls—sometimes extremely directly—Steven Spielberg’s recreation of the Normandy Landing in 1998’s Saving Private Ryan. This extended and recurring passage—Edge of Tomorrow’s central (perhaps pervasive) action sequence—is the most discomforting repurposing of history since last summer’s Man of Steel leveled Metropolis and confronted us with harrowing 9/11-esque imagery for nearly 45 excruciating minutes. Continue reading