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

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

The Top 10 Movies of 2013: Editors’ Picks

At the Mediascape Blog, we like to think the movie year ends with the Academy Awards. To mark this year’s Oscars, editors Matthias Stork and J.M. Olejarz present their Top 10 lists for 2013.


Matthias Stork:

10. American Hustle
High-caliber acting and tremendous production design, with smart dialogue and excellent close-up camerawork…it is too long, however, and moves at a slow, too deliberate pace.

9. Inside Llewyn Davis
With wonderful music and a star-making performance, the Coens craft yet another intricate character study about how we continuously process failure.

8. Upstream Color
I cannot fully explain it. In fact, I can hardly explain it. But it does evoke a legacy of mind-bending cinematic and literary exercises that cannot but fascinate. This is a film that made me reevaluate how I watch movies. Continue reading “The Top 10 Movies of 2013: Editors’ Picks” »

2013: The Year of Excess

I’m not counting the comic book-inspired, CGI-enhanced, video game-fueled, super-hero-driven, transnational mega-franchises that hogged cineplex screens and dominated the box-office last year as they have for the past several decades. Nor am I referring solely to the recent trend in more thematically ambitious films that equate bloated running times with high-mindedness. Earnest films about corporate greed such as Promised Land, The East, and Dallas Buyers Club also take a back seat because their very earnestness forced the excesses of content to trump those of style. Front and center from 2013 are a critical mass of “prestige” films—one adapted from a literary classic; the other three, Oscar contenders—whose content and style self-consciously reflected as they helped perpetuate a zeitgeist of excess.  Continue reading “2013: The Year of Excess” »

THE ACADEMY AWARD FOR BEST PICTURE: A SMALLER CIRCLE OR A BIGGER TENT?

Mark Harris, a magnificent awards season writer over at Grantland, raised a few hackles earlier this week by suggesting that the Academy Awards’ expanded Best Picture field, now five years old, has had the perverse effect of limiting Oscar voters’ imaginations and decimating the field of competition.  As his argument goes, voters now favor Best Picture frontrunners heavily across the board: as evidence, the number of films nominated this year in the “Top Eight” categories (Picture, Director, the four Acting awards, and the two Writing awards) has dwindled to only 12, the lowest in decades.  Apart from the nine Best Picture nominees, only Blue Jasmine, August: Osage County, and Before Midnight managed any nominations in the Big Eight categories. Continue reading “THE ACADEMY AWARD FOR BEST PICTURE: A SMALLER CIRCLE OR A BIGGER TENT?” »

The Mediascape Roundtable: Working at Film Festivals

Film festivals are a great way to see new and interesting movies from around the country and around the world, but what does it take to run a festival? To discuss film festivals in terms of their employment and behind-the-scenes job opportunities, the Mediascape Blog convened a roundtable of four film studies graduate students who have worked at festivals of various sizes. Their conversation can be read or listened to below, or downloaded in MP3 format.


[audio:http://www.tft.ucla.edu/mediascape/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/TheMediascapeRoundtable_WorkingAtFilmFestivals.mp3]

Click to download “TheMediascapeRoundtable_WorkingAtFilmFestivals.mp3” (60 minutes, 56.9 MB)

Moderator: J.M. Olejarz

Mediascape Blog: Hi, and welcome to the Mediascape Roundtable. My name is Josh Olejarz, and I’m coeditor of the Mediascape Blog. Today we’re going to be talking about film festivals. We have four people here with us today who have worked at festivals of various sizes, and they’re going to talk about their experiences. This is geared toward people who are interested in working at a festival but aren’t sure what that entails or how to go about getting a job at one, but also people who have maybe been to a festival and are interested in seeing behind the curtain, so to speak. I’ll have our experts here introduce themselves one at a time and then we’ll jump right in. Kim, can you start? Continue reading “The Mediascape Roundtable: Working at Film Festivals” »