Red Carpet Rundown: The 2018 Oscars
Red Carpet Rundown: The 2018 OscarsOnce again, the most high-stakes red carpet parade of all has come and gone.   As the broadcast (and the photo backdrop, and the ad bumpers) kept reminding us, this was the 90th anniversary of the Oscars. I actually watched all those things because I got talked into an in-person viewing party, which meant going through the whole business in real time.…
A Place of Darkness
A Place of DarknessThe camera is an instrument of suspense. Given a movie frame, you want to understand what’s happening in it — and what will happen next. That balance of wonder and dread is a fundamental draw of film, and a touchstone of the horror genre. The questions Kendall R. Phillips asks in A Place of Darkness: The Rhetoric of Horror in Early American Cinema are: How did we get from the nickelodeon special-effects “cinema of attractions” to understanding horror narratives as their own genre?…
Monster Portraits
Monster PortraitsThe fantastic bestiary is a time-honored speculative tradition. But some of the earliest ones didn’t even know they were speculative; early bestiaries routinely included dragons and unicorns alongside panthers and hyenas, creating pockets of the uncanny amid history. For those who have never seen the beasts they draw, it’s only possible to guess, and there’s always some element of dread in the unknown.…
Red Carpet Rundown: 2018 BAFTAS
Red Carpet Rundown: 2018 BAFTAS  It’s time for the BAFTAS, which are always sort of pleasantly transparent about the fact that the red carpet is Pretty Weird. (Turns out that Cirque du Soleil was there for a reason, and it was a Shape of Water aerial dance number, and you should probably see it, but it would have been just as fitting without the reason, somehow.…
Star Trek: Discovery, The Good Place, and Humanity in Hell
Star Trek: Discovery, The Good Place, and Humanity in HellIf there’s ever been a year that needed multiple shows about characters desperate to escape worst-case surroundings in the wreckage of a fake utopia while grappling with moral quagmires, it’s probably this one. Star Trek: Discovery just wrapped a first season that grapples with some implications of the wider Star Trek universe’s approach to the moral high ground.…
Travel as a Political Act
Travel as a Political ActIn any given episode of Rick Steves’ Europe, the world’s most unassuming man smiles his way through stunning cities. It’s a deeply comforting formula. We admire skylines and busy streets; Steves putters around historical monuments; he nods along as locals explain sausage or glassblowing; he signs off with a folksy “Keep on travelin’!” …[This book is] still the Rick Steves style — optimistic, peppered with slightly cheesy personal anecdotes and easing you into the fact that traveling makes you an outsider without making it scary.…