The “Blackfish” Effect

I was back in The Atlantic today writing about the use of animals in film and television. Here’s an excerpt: Lately, though, the issue has been making headlines with surprising frequency. Last year, HBO’s Luck was canceled amid protests over the deaths of two horses on set. Similarly, Peter Jackson was criticized for the deaths of up to…

“Elysium” and the Continuing Quest for a Liberal Blockbuster

The prevailing storyline about the summer movies of 2013 has revolved around the seemingly endless series of high-profile flops. After Earth, White House Down, and The Lone Ranger were all certified failures, while Pacific Rim, Oblivion, and Pain and Gain also significantly underperformed. But the other consistent and somewhat surprising feature of this summer’s multiplex…

“The Newsroom” – Season 2, Episode 5

Despite my complaints, of which there are have been many, I just can’t quit The Newsroom. But it’s for episodes like this one that I’m glad I stick around. The simply titled “News Night with Will McAvoy” was easily the best episode of this second season, a self-contained masterpiece that juggled what seemed like dozens…

The Almost “Spectacular Now”

The danger in naming your movie The Spectacular Now is that it creates unreasonable expectations. If it falls flat, you’ve made the job of film critics everywhere all too easy: the headlines will read “Not so Spectacular” or “The Spectacular Not.” Thankfully for all involved, the film is certainly nowhere near bad enough to warrant…

Wait a Minute…Is 2013 A Great Year for Movies?

Let’s start with a list. Here are the movies currently playing at my local independent movie theater: Blue Jasmine, Before Midnight, The Attack, Fruitvale Station, and The Way, Way Back. Earlier this summer, it screened The Bling Ring, Frances Ha, and Much Ado About Nothing. Tastes may vary, but I saw most of those, and…

This is Not the “Newsroom” We Need Right Now

I’m not breaking any news when I say that there are a lot of folks who don’t like The Newsroom. Their criticism, however, comes from many places. Some are frustrated that the show seems to be just a vehicle for Sorkin to voice his liberal politics. Others have have pointed to its inaccuracies (“Embedded reporters…

“Blue Jasmine”: Woody Allen’s Feminist Masterpiece

Let’s get right to it: Blue Jasmine is one of Woody Allen’s most bleak and dreary films in years. It also happens to be one of his best, which says much about where the old filmmaker’s strengths now lie. It’s been quite a while since he made a good straight comedy. Anybody remember Scoop? Didn’t…