Birdman: the Torture of Creative Integrity

Review of Birdman, Directed by Alejandro InarrituOscars are useful as cultural barometers. They say much about what we think is excellent--and, thus, about ourselves. While the Academy was crowning Alejandro Inarritu’s Birdman Best Picture of 2014, I was watching the film itself, suspecting it was about to win the laurels, wondering what its canonization said of its votaries.Birdman is a clever parable. It stars Michael Keaton as a washed-up old actor named Riggan who once played a famous s … [Read more...]

A Schaeffer’s Ghost Oscar Review Roundup

The Oscars air Febrary 22, 2015. Last year Schaeffer’s Ghost covered several of the eventual Oscar nominees, including multiple nominees in the Best Animated Film and Best Foreign Film categories.Catch up on what we thought of these nominees before the envelopes are opened Sunday night.BEST PICTURE / BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR / BEST EDITING / BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY / BEST SOUND MIXINGWhiplash (Christian Hamaker)The Imitation Game (Andrew Collins)The Imitation Game (Liz Wh … [Read more...]

Oscar Roundup

by Paul D. MillerIt's that time of year again. Time to ignore the actual quality of movies and instead watch an antiquated and unrepresentative cultural weathervane known as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences arbitrarily pick the winners and losers of 2013. Time for the Oscars.The frontrunner for Best Picture is 12 Years a Slave, directed by Steve McQueen. Christian Hamaker said of the American slavery drama that "It’s a harsh, at times brutal film, devoid of humor or other d … [Read more...]

Mary Poppins and Saving Mr. Banks: On Loving Imperfect Fathers

Review of Saving Mr. Banks, directed by John Lee Hancock, and Mary Poppins, Directed by Robert StevensonWhen I was a kid we owned the laserdisc of Mary Poppins (1964) and we would watch and rewatch our favorite tunes again and again. The songs are catchy, Dick van Dyke’s energy is infectious, and the movie has just the right amount of magic and whimsy to hold a kid’s attention. But I always got bored and slightly frightened near the end.Rewatching the movie again recently with my kids, I … [Read more...]

Searching for Sugar Man: Vindication is Sweet

Review of Searching for Sugar Man, Directed by Malik BendjelloulEven after winning the Academy Award for Documentary last year, Searching for Sugar Man remains an obscure film with a niche following. The movie’s journey parallels that of its main character, Sixto Rodriguez. As a 1970s artist, Rodriguez came out with a couple of albums, only to disappear into obscurity. But unbeknownst to him or the music industry in the United States, Rodriguez’s music inundated the South African music sc … [Read more...]

Christ on Kane: On the Meaning of Rosebud

Review of Citizen Kane, Directed by Orson WellesTo write about Citizen Kane is to invite scorn for one’s ignorance and presumption.  How can anything new be written about this film?  How can I presume to have something to say?  Don’t you know this is the greatest film ever made?According to the American Film Institute, it is indeed the greatest.  And it was the greatest on the British Film Institute’s decennial poll for 50 years, until unseated last year by Hitchcock’s Vertigo.  It stands … [Read more...]

The Schaeffer’s Ghost Oscar Roundup

BY PAUL D. MILLERThe Oscars are on Sunday.  Here is a wrap-up of coverage from Schaeffer’s Ghost on some of the nominees.For Best Picture, we reviewed seven of the nine nominees--all except Argo (the current favorite to win) and Silver Linings Playbook.Kendrick Kuo found Beasts of the Southern Wild, a coming-of-age story set in an impoverished Louisiana-coast slum, “a film of art that is to be savored and appreciated, more than to be enjoyed,” and judged that he “would not watch it ag … [Read more...]

Which Short Films Will Get Oscar’s Nod?

By CHRISTIAN HAMAKERIt’s a well-established truth that Oscar-nominated films in the Best Picture category are about Important Topics, and thus demand long running times. Sometimes those running times are justified, but it’s not unusual for a Best Picture nominee to wear out its welcome well before the final credits roll. This year, eight of the nine films nominated for Best Picture clock in at more than two hours.While the masses flock to see films in the major categories, film afi … [Read more...]