Tag: middlebrow

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. ACF Middlebrow #34: Die Hard Christmas

 

Friends, the ACF brings you Chris Wolfe for Christmas–we talk about Die Hard, the story of an unexpected redeemer coming to deliver us from temptation in winter’s peril. No, really–Chris argues that we should take Sgt. Al Powell as–well, ourselves, the audience, who root for John McClane, but are powerless to do anything ourselves, but yearn to help him–Sgt. Al redeems himself in the course of the movie, as is indeed America redeemed by withstanding the corruption foisted on us by elite institutions that arrogantly remove from us any self-government, all the while exposing us to violence and lawlessness…

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Cloudburst — only a paper cloud?

 

“Tell me, burnt earth: Is there no water? Is there only dust? Is there only the blood of bare-footed footsteps on the thorns?” “The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.”

Eric Whitacre is a conductor and composer with matinee-idol good looks, personal magnetism, a slick marketing strategy, and arguably common sense, too: he recommends young composers not waste time acquiring training in academic theory beyond what they need to write music that sounds good. Whitacre is beloved in the choral world, but also, sometimes, disdained — for being overrated (he is, although overrated can still be good), for being gimmicky (also true, though his gimmicks often land), and for writing music “suffused with a sense of easy spiritual uplift… Everything [is] maximally radiant and beautiful, and beautifully sung. And that [is] the problem.”

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. ACF Middlebrow #21: Brooklyn

 

Flagg Taylor and I bring you a movie fit for the festive season — a beautiful piece of selective nostalgia, a story devoid of anything sordid. A girl from Ireland is sent to America in the 1950s, to make something of herself, to find herself a future — to find her path to a decent happiness. You get to see her adventures in Brooklyn and it’s a perfectly Tocquevillian story of America’s many voluntary associations. It was a success and earned three important Oscar nominations, including protagonist Saoirse Ronan’s second actress nomination — she has earned a third meanwhile. I have an introductory essay over at The Federalist and, of course, the podcast for an in-depth, loving conversation about a wonderful movie.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. ACF Middlebrow #20: The Thing

 

Last week, my friend Scott Beauchamp and I talked about the Catholic horror, The Exorcist. This week, we turn to its antithetical double, the scientific horror, in this case, John Carpenter’s The Thing. We talk about body horror and its relation to nihilism, horror of life in its meaningless, destructive quest for reproduction. About science, the cold universe, and fire — the power behind technology. About post-Vietnam manliness retrieving the darkness of the noir detective or the cowboy who cannot live in the community he saves.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. ACF Middlebrow #19: The Exorcist

 

The podcast turns to horror, Catholic and scientific. I am joined by veteran and writer Scott Beauchamp to talk about William Friedkin and William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist and about Russell Kirk’s views on horror — having read his very humanistic essay on horror in Modern Age. We talk about body horror as a way of confronting evil, of raising existential questions: Is being human special, after all, or just another meaningless accident? Next week, we turn to the scientific horror for comparison–The Thing.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. ACF Critic Series #9: Paul Cantor

 

We’re adding a new critic to the ACF podcast: America’s eminent Shakespearian, Paul Cantor! He’s a writer I admire and from whom I have learned much on Shakespeare–much to my surprise and delight, he’s getting into film criticism in a big way and he’s in the mood to talk about it. We have a long interview to offer you, the first in a series of discussions about pop culture in America. We go from Godfather to Breaking Bad, we get to super-hero movies and ancient mythic heroes–to tragedy in Greece and in Shakespeare’s England–and lots of other things about TV and movies in-between. Also, we do more than a little talking about Mark Twain. Listen and share friends, join the conversation in the comments, and read more Cantor!

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. ACF Middlebrow #16: Jack Ryan

 

This week, James Lileks and I give you a mini-episode on Jack Ryan, then (The Hunt for Red October) and now (the Amazon series), Cold War and War on Terror, Boomers and Millennials, Soviets and the absent Chinese today, silly shadowy corporate conspiracies and stories of heroism in the national security bureaucracies, the redoubtable Tom Clancy and the rather wishy-washier Amazon, as well as a hilarious fantasy ending that involves a Jeff Bezos-Mark Zuckerberg war. So a Middlebrow conversation with all the fun and insight! Listen, enjoy, share!

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. ACF Middlebrow #15: Die Hard

 

My friend Pete Spiliakos and I are doing our 10th podcast and it’s about a movie on its 30th anniversary. Die Hard is well-loved and little talked about — we’re here to remedy that. We discuss the great everyman performance Bruce Willis put in and how director John McTiernan crafted the entire movie around him. With remarkable coherence, you get a view of the working class moral realism and virtues of American men and, from that perspective, of the arrogant incompetent of all sorts of institutions: Corporations, media, government, police, etc. We also talk at length about the social changes that have made action movies almost inconceivable and replaced working class heroes with oligarchs and mythical aristocrats, who alone seem to deserve our attention and billions of box office dollars… This is what our Middlebrow series is all about: How movies reflect society and also reflect on our ideas and beliefs.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. ACF Middlebrow #12: Comedy & Communism

 

The new Middlebrow podcast deals with comedy and communism, spurred by the recent movie The Death of Stalin, which Flagg Taylor (@FlaggTaylor) and I both wanted to succeed. Unfortunately, it is a failure. More on this on the podcast, as well as some talk about Milan Kundera, Ilf and Petrov, Solzhenitsyn and Leo Strauss, Vaclav Havel and Vaclav Benda, an English-translation book of whose essays Flagg has just edited, The Long Night of The Watchman. Flagg is also the co-editor, with our friend Carl Scott, of Totalitarianism on Screen, about the great movie The Lives of Others (won the Oscar for Best Foreign Picture in 2006), which dealt with the secret police in Communist East Germany, and which we discussed on the podcast last year. So now we match our conversation on tragedy and communism with one on comedy. Listen, share, and give us a rating/review!

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. ACF Middlebrow #10: The Last Jedi

 

New podcast, new ideas, new controversies! This week, Pete Spiliakos and I talk Star Wars. We pick apart The Last Jedi to show you what is expected of competent mediocrity; how hard it is to get plots, characters, their conflicts, and relationships right; and how important it is to do so. We talk about how the audience is supposed to react to various characters and developments, thus connecting emotions to ideas to develop themes about the education of a new generation of leaders. Properly done, TLJ would have been a good story reflecting the innocence and incompetence of Millennials and their confrontation with Boomers who are both mythical and catastrophic. This is what middlebrow art is like — if only we aspire to it…

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. ACF Middlebrow #8: A Quiet Place

 

The podcast’s back with something new. There’s a horror movie atop the American box office; it’s made more than $100 million. What’s rarer still is that it’s for adults. Rarest of all, it dramatizes American middle class parents’ terror of the uncertainty surrounding their kids’ lives and futures. John Krasinski stars and also directed this remarkable success; Scott Beck and Bryan Woods wrote the screenplay (with him) and produced; and Emily Blunt gives the kind of performance that wins Oscars, if the Academy had any judgment. So my friend Pete and I are here to show how the movie reflects on American society and the good that art can do, if but people pay attention to it!

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. ACF Middlebrow #7: Spielberg

 

The Middlebrow series of the ACF is back! James Lileks and I talk about Steven Spielberg, who’s bringing out a new movie which looks to be a big hit: Ready Player One. We’re qualifiedly in favor of one last burst of that old black magic Spielberg has treated us since the mid-70s! We talk Jaws and Close Encounters, Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park. (Second half of his career in a future podcast.) We talk about the return of fascination and childish wonder to the American audience, as well as the darkness in his movies; the bias in favor of children, especially endangered children, as well as the manly love of danger and disregard for civilization. Listen, comment, share, and review our podcast, folks!

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. ACF Middlebrow#1

 

James Lileks and I bring you a Thanksgiving surprise, the browsing rant and ranting browsing through middlebrow & midcentury America. We’ve got lots to offer:

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