Movies as mythologically informed literature. Cinema Discourse looks at current and classic movies from a literary, and particularly a mythological, point of view.
We also have top movie reviews, current movie reviews, film ratings, movie blogs and movie history.
1st April 2013

On Room 237

Room 237

Reviewed by John David Ebert

Rodney Ascher’s documentary film about Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 masterpiece is an amusing, if insipid, attempt to make Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining “make sense.” He calls on the wits of five exegetes — whose faces we never see — to analyze the film as though they were giving Biblical commentary of chapter and verse. One exegete insists that the film is “really” about the Holocaust: this is “obvious” because of the repetition of the number “42″ in the film, the year that the Nazis began to apply the Final Solution. An extra is spotted wearing a shirt with the number 42 on it; Shelley Duvall is seen watching the film Summer of ‘42 on the television while Danny plays with his trucks; and of course, 2 x 3 x 7 = 42. Therefore, the film is really “about” the Holocaust. This is the sort of parody of the hermeneutical process which the film routinely takes for granted as somehow “illuminating.”

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27th December 2012

On Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit

The Hobbit

Reviewed by John David Ebert

I saw this movie in IMAX 3D, and while watching it realized that the drive-in movie hasn’t disappeared at all, it has actually been placed inside of the movie theater auditorium and crossed with the stadium-style seating of the old dramatic theater houses. But instead of being gathered around in tiers like the Greeks gazing out at their own fellow citizens reenacting their ancient myths, in the IMAX theater, we contemporary citizens of the electronic state have gathered to watch ourselves perform an updating of the myth of Plato’s cave, in which to be means to be an electronic phantom on a screen somewhere. McLuhan’s insight that the movie screen shares in common with the old printed page the phenomenon of light on a surface rather than the self-illuminated light through of the electronic screen seems to have been obsolesced by this new medium of light in, in which the 3D effects open up a fissure into Being and shed light down into the crevice below, in which two-dimensional phantoms live and breathe in another parallel universe that attempts to engulf the viewer inside of it. One has the impression, while watching an IMAX 3D film, of actually falling horizontally — sliding, that is to say — into the image.

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5th December 2012

On The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead

Reviewed by John David Ebert

As I have pointed out elsewhere, television is now the great new medium that is taking over the role once occupied by cinema, especially the role of miniaturizing ancient and long forgotten cosmologies. And so, from now on, I will be including reviews of television shows on this site, along with contemporary films. Frank Darabont’s television show, The Walking Dead, based on a series of graphic novels, is one of the best of these new shows and I want to say a few words about it here.

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16th November 2012

The Evolving American Myth, Part 2: Clint Eastwood

In my discussion of The Chronicles of Riddick on this site (which I have retitled The Evolving American Myth, Part 1: The Chronicles of Riddick), I refer to the story of Percival, one of the Arthurian Romances, and to the vision of an inner moral sense in each individual. I trace this inner moral sense through The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Stage Coach, The Natural, Wanted, Contagion, etc., and then Raymond Chandler’s “The Simple Art of Murder:”  Read the rest of this entry »

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26th October 2012

Babette’s Feast: revisited

by John Lobell

As we await Cloud Atlas, let’s look at a more modest spiritual movie from the past, Babette’s Feast, a 1987 Danish movie directed by Gabriel Axel, staring Stéphane Audran as Babette, and based on a story by Isak Dinesen.

Babette’s Feast looks at the dual nature of out existence. In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu writes:

“Ever desiring, one can see the manifestation. Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.” Read the rest of this entry »

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22nd September 2012

Midnight in Paris

by John Lobell

Have you noticed that quite a few recent movies use non-linear layered time? In 50 First Dates, a man romantically pursues a woman who has suffered a brain injury affecting her long-term memory. Each night she loses all of the memories of the day, and wakes up the next morning thinking it is the morning of the day, years ago, that she sustained her injury. The problem for them is how to have a relationship under the circumstances of her condition. In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, star-crossed lovers each engage a service that selectively erases memories to rid them of recollections of the other. During the procedures layers of their individual and joint experiences are wrenched out of chronology as parts of them struggle to retain some of the memories. In Vanilla Sky, there are too many possible layers of what happens to even describe.

In Woody Allen’s romantic comedy, Midnight in Paris, Gil, played by Owen Wilson, and Inez, played by Rachel McAdams, are in Paris, vacationing with family and friends before their wedding. Read the rest of this entry »

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4th September 2012

Groundhog Day, revisited

Groundhog Day is one of those movies that I will watch any time I come across it on TV. I have been thinking about why.

Groundhog Day is a 1993 romantic comedy directed by Harold Ramis and staring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. It was well received on release, but as is often the case with significant movies, it took a while to sink in. The movie critic, Roger Ebert, has raised his estimation of Groundhog Day; the literary critic, Stanley Fish, includes it as one of only two movies since 1958 on his top ten list; and spiritual leaders in several traditions use the movie in their teaching. Read the rest of this entry »

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4th August 2012

The Evolving American Myth, Part 1: The Chronicles of Riddick

by John Lobell

The Chronicles of Riddick, directed in 2004 by David Twohy and staring Vin Diesel, has always been a favorite of mine. It had a poor critical reception and its gross did not make back its production, marketing, and distribution costs. However it has since seen success on DVD and television broadcasts.

While the movie was set up for a sequel, its poor reception precluded the possibility. Until now. “Shock Till You Drop” posts on IMDB regarding the soon to come sequel: “Betrayed by his own kind and left for dead on a desolate planet, Riddick fights for survival against alien predators and becomes more powerful and dangerous than ever before. Soon bounty hunters from throughout the galaxy descend on Riddick only to find themselves pawns in his greater scheme for revenge. With his enemies right where he wants them, Riddick unleashes a vicious attack of vengeance before returning to his home planet of Furya to save it from destruction.”

So what was Chronicles about and why did I like it? Read the rest of this entry »

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26th July 2012

More thoughts on Prometheus

by John Lobell

An expedition goes to a remote planet where there was an outpost of beings from another world called the Engineers. The members of the expedition piece together that the Engineers had created life on earth, and that those on this outpost had created a vicious bio-weapon (the aliens of the Alien movies) for the purpose of destroying human life on earth, but their bio-weapon got out of control and killed the Engineers on the outpost. The movie ends with the emergence of the first of the aliens that we saw in the older movies, and with our sole-surviving intrepid female expeditioner taking off for the Engineers’ home plant to solve the mystery of why they created us and why they want to destroy is. Both of which we will presumably find out in the sequels to come.

What to make of all of this? And, why we will take Alien over Prometheus as the more philosophically mature movie. Read the rest of this entry »

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22nd April 2012

On The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games

Reviewed by John Lobell

First, this is a discussion of the movie; I have not read the books. Second, I am going to exercise some laziness and, for those not familiar with the story line, quote from Wikipedia to get us up to speed:

“The story takes place in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future in the nation of Panem, which consists of a wealthy capitol surrounded by 12 less affluent districts. As punishment for a past rebellion against the government, the Capitol initiated the Hunger Games—a televised annual event in which one boy and one girl from each of the 12 districts are selected in a lottery as “tributes” and are required to fight to the death in an arena until there is one remaining victor. When the protagonist Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) hears her younger sister’s name called as the female tribute for their district, she volunteers to take her place in order to save her from having to participate. Joined by her district’s male tribute Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson), Katniss travels to the Capitol to train for the Hunger Games under the guidance of former victor Haymitch Abernathy (Harrelson), expressing resentment for both the Capitol and its populace for forcing her and her fellow tributes to fight to the death for their own amusement.” Read the rest of this entry »

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