Rabbis Get the Short End of the Shtick in “This Is Where I Leave You”

“This is 2014!” sister Wendy Altman (Tina Fey) admonishes brother Judd (Jason Bateman), when Judd thoughtlessly starts to light up in the car in the dramedy This Is Where I Leave You. A similar chronological admonition could be directed at Shawn Levy’s adaptation of Jonathan Tropper’s novel, whose conspicuously post-Jewish consciousness is betrayed by a rabbinic blind spot. Continue reading “Rabbis Get the Short End of the Shtick in “This Is Where I Leave You”” »

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

Superhero

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

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

“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 ““Edge of Tomorrow,” Ceaselessness of Yesterday” »

Discovery Docs: A New Wrinkle in Non-Fiction Film

From the first movies shown to theater audiences in 1895, such as the Lumiere brothers’ mundanely titled but no less thrilling (at the time) Workers Leaving the Factory and The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station, documentary film has had discovery on its mind. Though not commonly termed documentaries until the 1920s, most movies through the budding industry’s first decade were snippets of unvarnished reality that brought the everyday world, or exotic foreign lands, to startling, unprecedented life. Continue reading “Discovery Docs: A New Wrinkle in Non-Fiction Film” »

What’s in a Name? The Semantics of “Ida”

“What’s in a name?” Juliet asks Romeo, then offers an answer: “That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” Unfortunately, as Shakespeare knew, we take names all too seriously, and for Jews especially, the results have been anything but sweet. Starting with its title, the Polish film Ida (Pawel Pawlikowsky, 2014), about the eponymous novitiate nun’s confronting her newly discovered Jewishness in early 1960s Poland, asks us to ponder not only her name’s role in the narrative, but those of the film’s significant others as well. Continue reading “What’s in a Name? The Semantics of “Ida”” »