Three-Point Shot: “Dallas Buyers Club,” the Travels of Alexander Payne, and the JFK Assassination Movies

A lot of new followers this week, so I thought I would take this opportunity to welcome you all and share some of my latest work. Most of my work is now published elsewhere – this blog has become a place for the occasional post that doesn’t quite fit on other sites – but I will publish quite a few original posts here before the end of the year, i.e. year-end-lists, for-your-consideration pieces, etc. For now, here are links to the three articles I published this week at The Atlantic and Movie Mezzanine.

From Monday’s post at The Atlantic on Dallas Buyer’s Club:

And so it is that the true villain in Dallas Buyers Club is not the virus that destroys Woodruff’s body or even his homophobic friends who ostracize him as soon as they learn he is infected. No, the real bad guys here are the FDA, with their cozy, corrupt relationship to the pharmaceutical industry, and our medical system as a whole, personified by a greedy local doctor. These institutions are not discriminating against Woodruff because he’s gay (he isn’t), and they are not failing in their duties because of any specific Reagan administration policy (Reagan, in fact, is not mentioned in the film). Instead, the filmmakers depict the FDA as an inherently corrupt and failed bureaucracy that seems designed to stymie progress and prevent patients from getting the care they need. It’s an indictment of the very idea of that a centralized institution like the FDA can solve a crisis as large and as deadly as AIDS.

Matthew McConaughey

From Tuesday’s piece at Movie Mezzanine on the films of Alexander Payne:

For Payne’s next film, he began a journey across America that took over a decade. About Schmidt found his character leaving Nebraska for Colorado, where he planned to stop his daughter’s (Hope Davis) wedding to a trashy waterbed salesman (Dermot Mulroney). Two years later, he released Sideways, probably his funniest and most highly-regarded film to date. The characters played by Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church are not technically family; they are freshman year roommates who have stayed friends mostly because neither seems to have anyone else. But their dynamic feels fraternal. If these two met today, they would have nothing in common, but they are kind of stuck with each other.


Finally, my post at The Atlantic on the JFK assassination films of the last 50 years. I am quite proud of this one, and I encourage you to take a look:

Many filmmakers have tried to put their own mark on the Kennedy assassination, and each film reveals the scar tissue particular to its generation. In 1964, just one year after the assassination, B-movie director Larry Buchanan made The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald, which responded to the lingering questions over the assassination by giving Oswald the fair (albeit fictional) trial he never had. Buchanan’s film, however, is less of an immersive cinematic experience than a staged reading of eyewitness accounts. It offers no emotional impact and does not delve into the real mysteries of the assassination, but, of course, that’s where America was at the time; when the film was released in April of 1964, the Warren Commission had not yet even released its contentious findings.

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