Quick: Name America’s most popular silent film. No, it’s not anything by Charlie Chaplin. Not Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd either. Film students might answer The Birth of a Nation, but if we judge by ticket sales, that’s wrong too. Mickey, a film starring comedian Mabel Normand, was by far the most-seen and most popular [...]
New York City’s Liberty Theater in 1935

D. W. Griffith’s evil, racist film The Birth of a Nation is widely regarded as the most popular silent movie ever made. I believe this reputation is based on a misinterpretation of its box office records. The Birth of a Nation indeed made an awful lot of money. It had an estimated $18 million gross [...]

It’s long been understood that Stanley Kubrick’s oeuvre tells stories of violence. But what often gets lost is that Kubrick’s focus is not on violence in general, but on violence that is particularly male in nature. Take Dr. Strangelove as an example: In the twisted logic of the film, violence feeds on itself, begetting more [...]
Otto Dix (1891–1969) . Storm troopers advancing under a gas attack from the portfolio War 1924.

World War I’s impact on modern art and philosophy are well documented. The Victorian Age took human progress for granted. The Enlightenment idea that rationality would continuously improve and perfect civilization ruled. That view of the world died, along with 16 million people. The universe seemed broken, and death reigned. Otto Dix (1891–1969) . Storm [...]

The Sci-Fi Channel’s Battlestar Galactica is 15 years old this year, and it’s still making news. A new film from Universal is in the works, a podcast about the show is underway, and a retrospective is on bookstore shelves. One of the secrets of Battlestar Galactica’s success is the moral complexity shown both by its [...]
Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man

I'm a fan of superhero films. But the genre has gotten mired in a disturbing trend that needs to be discussed. Ten years ago, I had the opportunity to tour the Vatican Museums. The collections were displayed in chronological order, and they told a fascinating story as I walked from room to room. The art [...]
Fitzcarraldo

Fitzcarraldo (1982) dir. Werner Herzog The production of Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo, in which several people lost their lives or had their bodies mutilated, is often held up as an example of courageous art on the part of the director. It is no such thing, and it's long past time the filimic community cast a more [...]