“U2’s The Edge smashes his guitar while encased in an iPhone frame in Apple’s new commercial promoting the band’s album, ‘Songs of Innocence.’ Frame grab by author”
This article examines Apple’s decision to push U2’s album “Songs of Innocence” to all of its users through the iCloud. I consider this strategy of music distribution as an inversion of the notion of “on demand culture,” instead suggesting it functions more as “culture demanding on itself” through an intrusion into the everyday practice and devices of music listeners. This brief article calls for a better understanding of how individuals and corporations negotiate questions of taste culture and distribution amidst “ubiquitous access” to content and to devices. Continue reading “‘Click Remove Album’: Apple, U2, and Culture Demanding On Itself” »
Alfred Hitchcock may not have coined the phrase, but it seems only appropriate, given his sizeable girth, that it has become associated with him. “Refrigerator talk,” in Hitchcockian terms, is that which arises when we go to the fridge for a bite after seeing a movie—especially a suspense film or thriller—and are suddenly struck by glaring discrepancies in the film’s plot. “Now wait a minute, that doesn’t make sense!” “How could that have happened?” and similar qualms about narrative inconsistencies or contradictions come back to haunt us in ways the filmmakers likely didn’t intend. If such questions only occur at the refrigerator stage, Hitchcock contended, the film will be forgiven to the extent that it was otherwise entertaining. If the nagging doubts emerge during the screening, however, the film is in trouble. Continue reading “Film Review: Defrosting Refrigerator Talk from Woody Allen’s “Magic in the Moonlight”” »
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.
Continue reading “On The (Recent) Long Take” »
“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”” »
Among its myriad trans-media permutations—plays, songs, pageants, pinball games—four major American films were made of Helen Hunt Jackson’s famed 1884 novel Ramona. An international bestseller published one year before Jackson’s death, the epic saga, set in Southern California in the early American period, tells of a tragic romance between the half-Indian Ramona and the full-blooded Indian Alessandro, who is murdered by a white man at the end. Intended as a brief for the beleaguered American Indian, Jackson’s lavish description of the region’s Spanish Catholic past instead was used to promote Los Angles as an Anglo Protestant mecca and helped propel the city’s phenomenal population growth—from circa 15,000 at the time of Ramona’s publication to 324,000 by 1910. Continue reading “‘Ramona’ Resurrected: Long Lost 1928 Film Adaptation Resurfaces in L.A.” »
Editor’s Note: This essay was originally written in August 2013, and later revised in March 2014 for publication in Mediascape.
In an essay I wrote for my co-edited anthology Woody on Rye: Jewishness in the Films and Plays of Woody Allen (Brandeis Press, 2013), I argue that Allen’s films since the Mia Farrow/Soon Yi Previn scandal of 1992 all to some degree betray (if only unconsciously) the scandal’s lingering effects on the much acclaimed/much maligned writer-director. No film deals as overtly with Allen’s affair with his nineteen-year-old, quasi-step-daughter Soon Yi as his 2011 play Honeymoon Motel, in which a middle-aged New York Jew runs off to a motel with his stepson’s bride on the day of the wedding ceremony. But each film does employ, I suggest, one or more (sometimes overlapping) strategies for coping with the scandal’s (internal and external) fallout. Allen’s latest film, Blue Jasmine, which was released after my essay’s submission for publication, would have made an ideal capper. For besides being one of Allen’s stronger works (and worth seeing just for CateBlanchett’s stunning performance), it fits my post-scandal strategy thesis to a tee. Continue reading “Woody’s Revenge: The Farrow/Previn Scandal Lives! in “Blue Jasmine” »