When I have been asked to name my favorite novel, I always answer Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.  Not because it is has the most riveting plot or the most pleasant story, but because it burrowed into my soul and built empathy into my being.  Never before had I felt so immersed in the mind of a protagonist, particularly one whose life experience was so different from my own.  While I can never know what it feels like to be an African-American, Ralph Ellison put me inside his head in ways that shoo … [Read more...]


Jack Black as Bernie

My favorite film of the summer just arrived on DVD.   Bernie is a kick; an eccentric, captivating, and thoroughly original comedy.   Jack Black gives his most complete and sympathetic performance yet as Bernie Tiede, an officious mortician who gets a little too close to a rich Texas widow.  Bernie is “an artist in the embalming room,” but his taste for the high life of Marjorie Nugent becomes quite costly.   Based on a 1996 true crime and trial, Bernie gets inside the small community of Carthage, … [Read more...]

The Hunger Games in China


As the father of two tweens, The Hunger Games movie was a hot topic in our house for months before its premiere.   My kids found Suzanne Collins’ trilogy exciting, smart, and intuitive (especially compared to the monotony of Twilight).   Katniss Everdeen struck them as a strong, intelligent young woman who sees that there’s more to life than sparkly boys.   Director Gary Ross makes movies with mass appeal that are timely and intelligent (like Big, Dave, Pleasantville, and Seabiscuit).    The Hung … [Read more...]

Chad Johnson and HBO’s School of Hard Knocks


The gap between news headlines and reality TV continues to shrink.  Just days after Miami Dolphins’ wide receiver Chad Johnson was arrested for domestic battery, HBO’s series Hard Knocks had inside footage of Johnson being released by Coach Joe Philbin.   While a high profile performer like Johnson is always bound to attract attention, never before have cameras caught the likely end of a Pro Bowl career.   A private moment of great sensitivity, awkwardness, and importance is broadcast just days a … [Read more...]



Are you planning to see The Bourne Legacy this weekend?  As much as I’d like to muster some enthusiasm to see the series Bourne Again, I find the trend to reboot movie franchises so dispiriting.    As a screenwriter, I recognize how rarely Hollywood now dares to shoot an original story idea.    The economics of the industry (and audiences’ viewing habits) mostly reward sequels.   I discussed this ongoing reality with the Vice-Chairman of Paramount Pictures, Rob Moore.   Here is a quick peek into … [Read more...]

London Olympics 2012: Women Rule


What has been your favorite Olympic moment?   How cool to see double amputee Oscar Pistorius compete in the 400 meters as South Africa's 'blade runner'.     Jamaicans celebrated the remarkable speed of Usain Bolt and the Brits rejoiced in the tennis grit of Andy Murray.    Americans can be so proud of our swimmers, our gymnasts, and our track and field athletes.  My favorite victory came from a woman who finished last in her event.   Why does Sarah Attar’s Olympic moment stand out?  Allow me to e … [Read more...]

Olympic Alternative: Ai Weiwei


Looking for an alternative to the ubiquitous Olympics coverage?   The riveting documentary, Ai Weiwei:  Never Sorry, slipped quietly into theaters as the 2012 Summer Olympics opened.  How appropriate for one of the most fervent advocates of democracy in China to present an alternative view of the People’s Republic.   Ai Weiwei:  Never Sorry is a celebration of a subversive artist and a bracing call to creative resistance.  Olympic viewers who care about equality and human rights are urged to enga … [Read more...]

Is Apple losing its mojo? Applefied Ads strike back


Do you find the new Apple "Genius" commercials blanketing the Olympics annoying?  They lack the simple, relaxed cool that characterized Apple for so long.   They seem to be trying to hard to please.   Is Apple losing its mojo?One of my sharpest students at Pepperdine, Bryan Evans, felt that Apple's white backgrounds on their print ads had fallen into cliche.   Too much of a good thing is still too much.  So he cooked his own series of Applefied Ads.   What if other companies adopted Apple's m … [Read more...]


Os Guinness Free People's Suicide

In a tumultuous American election year, social critic Os Guinness offers a bracing wake up call.   In A Free People’s Suicide, he calls upon Americans to defend their freedom from an unlikely foe:  too much freedom.   Born in China and educated at Oxford, Guinness writes as a concerned admirer, tracing the decline of empires across the centuries, drawing parallels to our current devolution.   While Americans once fought for freedom from the British in order to pursue excellence, Guinness laments … [Read more...]

The Dark Knight vs. Lord of the Rings: Best Trilogy?


When The Dark Knight premiered in 2008, I declared it the best film of the decade (with The Lord of the Rings as closest competition).  Now, with Christopher Nolan's trilogy drawing to a close, how will the complete Dark Knight saga compare to Peter Jackson's massive imagining of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic story?  I raised these questions in this review, first published at Purple State of Mind, in summer 2008.With The Dark Knight‘s claims to box-office pre-eminence secured, the spin cycle beg … [Read more...]

Does The Dark Knight Still Shine?


Four years ago, I raved about The Dark Knight.  My enthusiasm for Christopher Nolan's epic Batman saga was so boundless, it took two days of reviews to contain it.   I called The Dark Knight the best film of the decade.   But given some time and space, I wonder if Nolan (and the audience) fixate too much on The Joker.   Does Heath Ledger's galvanizing performance overwhelm the movie?   What do you think?  Does the film (and my review) hold up?The Dark Knight is the most ambitious and satisfyi … [Read more...]