“Logan” is a Spaghetti Western for our Time

In the 1960s and 1970s, Americans flocked to spaghetti westerns like The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly and The Outlaw Josey Wales . These films subverted the morality of classical westerns by depicting vicious worlds that went without heroes. Compared to their predecessors in the genre, they were far more violent, with an amorality…

More Intelligence Needed in “Snowden”

Edward Snowden is director Oliver Stone’s kind of hero: a zealous patriot who becomes disillusioned about his beloved country, publicly criticizes it, is labeled a traitor, and eventually learns a more complex definition of what it means to be patriotic. Stone has been down this road before – with the young Vietnam-era soldiers of Platoon and Born…

The Subversive Optimism of “The BFG”

SPOILER ALERT: This post contains a discussion of the plot and ending of “The BFG.” Consider yourself warned. For ninety minutes, The BFG is one of the most intimate, apolitical movies Steven Spielberg has ever made. Despite his reputation as a popcorn auteur, Spielberg’s work has always carried at least a hint of politics, even…

A Dark Story Brought to Light in “The Innocents”

In the early decades of cinema, Catholics called the shots in Hollywood. All films were submitted to the Catholic Legion of Decency for approval, and, if they didn’t meet the agency’s standards of morality, there would be a boycott, and 20 million American Catholics would stay home. We’ve come a long way since then. In…

“Sing Street”, or Once More With Feeling

The boy in Sing Street doesn’t seem like anything special, not at first. It’s his first day at a new school, forced to switch in the middle of the year because his parents are trying to save money. He’s already had a run-in with the school bully, and it’s easy to imagine what his future will…

Reel Change on “Everybody”

I liked Richard Linklater’s “Everybody Wants Some!!” so much I wrote about it twice. First, there was my review in Washington City Paper. My editor challenged me to draw some connections between the film and “Born to be Blue,” a biopic of jazz trumpeter Chet Baker that was released the same day. I did my…