In Praise of a Lost Genre

High mountains towering over a lonely stagecoach; music and laughter drifting from a swinging-door saloon; the wind rustling a tumbleweed across a dusty main street.These scenes too seldom grace the big screen or the television set. At least they do now. They are the scenes of the Western film. Here I sing the praises of the Western. It is a genre that, though not extinct, unjustly lives on life-support.There is much to cherish about the Western film. On one level, Westerns can be wildly … [Read more...]

Podcast #57: Welcome to District 9

We assume that by now you've either seen District 9 or decided not to. District 9 crept up on all of us, suddenly becoming the must-see film of the summer, primarily as an antidote to the glut of really bad films that had discouraged so many film-goers over the summer. So what was so popular about this film? I've already addressed this to an extent, but in this podcast we explore the movie even more, touching on the satire, the action, the flaws and the violence.Every week, Richard Clark and … [Read more...]

Singing the "I'm the Center of My Universe" Blues

What do Julia Child’s life story and the Ramayana have in common? Very little, except that they are both pilfered and somewhat misused by contemporary writers who come across as far more concerned with “what the story means to me” than with what these other stories might have meant in their original contexts. Both Julie & Julia and Sita Sings the Blues, though enjoyable in many aspects, have a troubling approach to other people’s stories.Julie & Julia’s frame story feels very specific … [Read more...]

District 9: The Rare Artistic & Box Office Success

District 9 was a surprise to all of us. There was no major marketing blitz, at least when compared to this summer's other major blockbusters. All we knew of it was that Lord of the Rings director, Peter Jackson had something to do with it and that it had an incredible trailer and a fantastic website. One thing in particular caught my attention: it looked unusually smart compared to most summer movie fodder.Even more separated the film from typical summer fare: a cast that was unrecognizable, a … [Read more...]

Podcast #56: Sotomayor, Splosion Man, and Into the Wild

This Week: We were both relieved to get back to a normal show that didn't last just under an hour this week, so we spent our time talking about some fun things that are happening in pop culture! Like what? Sotomayor's confirmation, Splosion Man's Twisted Vision, and Into the Wild's lesson on community. All worthy topics. But just in case anyone thought "You know, they just don't do enough Top 5s anymore," you're crazy. But yeah, we did do a top five for you anyway: Top Five Movies We Like that … [Read more...]

How The Soloist Reminds Us Of a Duet

There is no denying that homelessness is an epidemic in our nation, and even more so all over the world. With the massive economic problems that have arisen in the last year homelessness has also been on the rise. More and more families and individuals have lost jobs and homes. In lieu of this reality many have returned to the important discussion of how to help the homeless. The Soloist is part of this discussion, and its contribution is a beautiful one.The Soloist is the story of Los Angeles … [Read more...]

Into the Wild to Find the Need for Community

"Happiness is only real if it is shared." So wrote Christopher McCandless after being isolated in the Alaskan wilderness for months. He had gone out there to escape from the evils of "society," and especially that particular part of society known as "mom and dad." It was these two in particular that he was most offended by, and most desirious to flee. But eventually upon realizing that his escape had become a prison, Chris senses that deep need we all have for community.Into the Wild is … [Read more...]

Supreme Dialogue: Sotomayor and the Place for National Discussion

The confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor is historically momentous but practically uninteresting. The first Hispanic nominee to the Supreme Court meets a senate whose makeup all but assures her confirmation. Yet even anti-climactic nominations provide a rare opportunity within American politics. The confirmation of a Supreme Court justice allows us to contemplate and debate the nature of our regime in ways that escape the day-to-day grind of C-SPAN, MSNBC and Fox News.Normally, our focus … [Read more...]

Podcast #55 – Part 1: Top 5, Top 5 and Top 5!

This Week: In an effort to celebrate an arbirtary hallmark, we figured we'd countdown our top 5 bunches of things, an idea that ended up taking a REALLY LONG TIME and requiring two parts - the first of which is something like 50 minutes - to do so. In this part you can look forward to hearing our top 5 Movies we Watch Over and Over Again, English Novels, and Movie Moments. Good times. Also, stay tuned to the end for our first ever blooper segment. (I keep my promises, Ben)Every week, Richard … [Read more...]

Bruno: A Failed Attempt At Satire

Satire can be a powerful communication device. By demonstrating the absurdities of certain behaviors, ideas, and actions the call for change can be advanced. But just because someone shows the extreme absurdities in something doesn't necessarily mean they've actually succeeded in their satire. In other words there is a difference between satire, technically speaking, and sheer extreme lewdness. Apparently writer/creator Sacha Baron Cohen didn't know this.Cohen has made a career out of using s … [Read more...]