Five Years of PopMatters: Film

For the last five years, PopMatters has provided smart, literate film reviews, informative interviews, and insightful features that combine a knowledge of film history, cultural issues, and a sense of film as both an art form and an entertainment industry.

As a medium, film remains one of our most captivating avenues for storytelling. Whether the story is a flight of fantasy, a harrowing account of fictionalized tragedy, or a real life document of the human condition, the story presented on celluloid is a confluence of narrative elements � visual, auditory, scripted, performed � that combine in such a way that film can entertain, engage, and educate all in the same breath. Beloved by audiences the world over, film retains a special reverence after a century of cinematic endeavor. Actors are stars, filmmakers are celebrated as genius, and films become part of international consciousness; discussed, debated, quoted, and alluded to, highlighting the medium's central role in cultural discourse.

For these reasons, the availability of intelligent, informed film criticism is vital to understanding and analyzing the individual contributions new releases make in that discourse. And for the last five years, PopMatters has provided just that: smart, literate film reviews, informative interviews, and insightful features that combine a knowledge of film history, cultural issues, and a sense of film as both an art form and an entertainment industry. Under the sure-handed guidance of editor Cynthia Fuchs, the PopMatters film section has been a source of illuminating perspective for readers looking for more than a "thumbs up / thumbs down" approach. Early on, the film section was recognized by other media for its consistently high-quality writing, and much of PopMatters' reputation was initially built on sources like Yahoo and picking up and linking our sharp film reviews. Since then, the section has expanded to include DVD and video releases as well, turning that same critical eye on home releases, while continuing to solidify its reputation for excellence.

The selections below highlight the variety of ways that film has been explored in the pages of PopMatters and confirm what our readers have already professed: PopMatters is one of the best sources around for informed and informative film analysis.

PopMatters Editors' Picks

Ocean's Eleven
Review by Cynthia Fuchs
This review conveys of how involved in all areas of media PopMatters writers are. Nothing goes unnoticed by Fuchs, and her critical eye on everything entertainment makes for good reading.

The Steamroller and the Violin
Review by Jocelyn Szczepaniak-Gillece
Szczepaniak-Gillece reviews a wide variety of films for PopMatters. The Steamroller and the Violin is an example of a movie outside of the mainstream, yet here it is, analyzed and explored in a dedicated and knowledgeable way.

"It's Customary for the Boy to Have His Father's Watch": Gregory Peck 1916-2003
Feature by Scott Thill
A Gregory Peck eulogy, focusing on the father metaphor. Thill ties Atticus Finch into his own life and the social context.

AI: Artificial Intelligence
Review by Cynthia Fuchs
Fuchs takes a rather problematic, and frankly mediocre movie, and says something interesting that isn't just derogatory. In her article, she discusses issues of narrative, character, form, and directorial philosophy, even while subtly getting across the message that, yes, this movie isn't very good. But even though she expresses her opinion, it is only in service of the topics her article addresses, rather than just knocking you over the head with a "2 Thumbs Down" or other simplistic expression.

The Emperor and the Gangster
Feature by Josh Jones
Jones's profile of Akira Kurosawa and his body of work is a fine example of the depth of knowledge our writers bring to PopMatters' readers.

Sundance Film Festival 2002
Feature by Shan Fowler
Going around the world to various festivals, PopMatters Film offers a look into both the industry and the art form by reporting on the upcoming movies to watch for and commenting on the major events of the festival circuit. Fowler's piece is an example of the insight such features offer readers.

Review by Mike Ward
Ward offers a thoughtful perspective on the casting of actors and the role archetypes they come to inhabit while commenting on this twisting, turning film. His prose is eloquent without being pretentious, giving readers a smart take that invites discussion.

American Psycho
Review by Todd R. Ramlow
Ramlow's analysis of this controversial film is both entertaining and academic, offering a complete review of both the film's elements and the socio-cultural implications of the film's themes.

Fate Wears a Fedora
Feature by David Sanjek
An excellent example of the background knowledge and experience that PopMatters writers bring to the table, Sanjek's piece on French director Jean Pierre Melville's film noir offers an outstanding historical perspective on a body of work.

Review by Cynthia Fuchs
Fuchs does a good job breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of the movie's plot, motifs, and politics. She mostly lays off the explicit politics to focus on the art of the film.





Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.


Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.


Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.


Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.


Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.


Sally Anne Morgan Invites Us Into a Metaphorical Safe Space on 'Thread'

With Thread, Sally Anne Morgan shows that traditional folk music is not to be smothered in revivalist praise. It's simply there as a seed with which to plant new gardens.


Godcaster Make the Psych/Funk/Hard Rock Debut of the Year

Godcaster's Long Haired Locusts is a swirling, sloppy mess of guitars, drums, flutes, synths, and apparently whatever else the band had on hand in their Philly basement. It's a highly entertaining and listenable album.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

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