What To Watch After a Long Day of Homeschooling
Arts & Culture | Reviews

What To Watch After a Long Day of Homeschooling

Phineas and Ferb are two brothers on summer vacation. Finding themselves with copious amounts of time on their hands, they spend it by creating elaborate inventions, thwarting the machinations of the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz, and annoying their sister Candace. My kids may not be creating elaborate, James Bondian contraptions, but they sure do have a lot of time on their hands now, and this show that celebrates imagination and open-ended, unstructured play is the perfect inspiration for them.

Closing the Book on an Archetype
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Closing the Book on an Archetype

Earlier this year, I watched The Sopranos for the first time. Even though it ended more than a decade ago, it felt relevant in a way few other shows do. Likely you’ve noticed that the news is full of people who are, essentially, mobsters, and so watching this show about mobsters felt like seeing the origin story of our present moment. Mobsters, gangsters, the Mafia – these are archetypal figures in American culture, and at this moment, it is fair to say that Tony Soprano looms the largest out of them all.

Living After the End of the World
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Living After the End of the World

If, like me, you grew up in the evangelical culture of the 1990s, you heard about the Rapture an awful lot. Maybe you even read the Left Behind novels. All of it’s enough to make one wish to never hear the phrase “premillennial dispensation” ever again. But don’t let that baggage keep you from checking out The Leftovers, an affecting show about mystery and how one lives with it. In this show, the Rapture-like event is called the Sudden Departure. Two percent of the world’s population – 140 million people – vanish without trace or explanation.

Opting Out of Ambition
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Opting Out of Ambition

Since television shows began airing 60-odd years ago, there have been two main categories: comedy and drama. Plenty of aspects distinguish one from the other – laugh tracks, number of cameras – but perhaps the most important is length. Comedies, we’ve come to expect, are 30 minutes long (well, including commercials – remember those?) while dramas run for one hour. The assumption being, I suppose, that dramas need more time to be serious while comedies can resolve their silly little plots in the time the pizza guy to deliver your large with extra cheese and pepperoni.

Life is Like a Video Game
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Life is Like a Video Game

I loved video games as a kid. Zelda, Samus Aran, Yoshi; those were my icons. So imagine my excitement when the Super Mario Bros movie came out, starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as the titular brothers, then imagine my disappointment when I actually saw the movie.

Bringing It All Into View
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Bringing It All Into View

Cuarón’s new film, Roma, does employ long takes, though not as long as Children of Men or Gravity. It’s less show-offy than those stylized genre films, being a deeply personal story based on Cuarón’s own childhood. It takes place in Mexico City in the early 1970s, following an upper-middle-class family whose father is a doctor at the local hospital. But this isn’t a coming-of-age story where Cuarón depicts himself at a young age. The protagonist of the film (she’s in virtually in every scene, either in the center of the frame, or somewhere on the periphery) is Cleo, the family’s housekeeper. The travails of a family in crisis are filtered through this young woman who lives in a guest room in the backyard.

The Old Old West
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The Old Old West

The Western! That most American of genres. From the classic westerns of John Ford to the Spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone, to the revisionist western, the acid western – it’s a genre that artists of vastly different sensibilities can adapt to their own purposes. Now Joel and Ethan Coen have made their own take on the genre, and it’s a strange, often beautiful film. Superior, I think, to their earlier western, True Grit.

The World Outside the Home
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The World Outside the Home

Horror is a detail-oriented genre. So often the effect of frightening audiences is achieved through the smallest gestures: a swinging light bulb, a creaking floorboard. The film A Quiet Place is an ingenious riff on this phenomenon, turning every last sign and hum into an occasion for fear. The film opens on a familiar post-apocalyptic landscape.