Category Archives: film

The Wonder of Little Boys: Stranger Things

I have a particular fondness for little boys. Their humor, their antics, the orneriness. I love it when my dad talks about his boyhood antics. Never in a million years would this girl have thought about dropping a cherry bomb down a chimney or hopping on a train! I enjoy reading about Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn because Mark Twain knew what it was like to be a little boy. He wrote what he knew. He was, most probably, an ornery little kid. And the best fictional boys come from those who were ones. Continue reading

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Life in a Dark Room: Lydia Deetz of Beetlejuice

Sure, I loved Disney Princesses. I loved watching Aurora wander through the forest and talk to magical owls; I sang along with Ariel as she swam through her grotto; I flew on the magic carpet ride with Jasmine. Although I loved them, I aspired to be them; I never saw myself in them. The first character in whom I saw myself reflected was decidedly not a Disney Princess. Continue reading

Not a Fool: The Importance of Portraying Dr. Watson Correctly

All but four of the original sixty Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle (also known as the “canon”) are narrated by Dr. John Watson.

You know what that tells us?  Watson is not merely a sidekick.  He’s not an afterthought.  He’s not just the comic relief.  He’s not a cardboard cut-out for Holmes to bounce ideas off. Continue reading

Sherlock Holmes: A Canon of Friendship

Sherlock Holmes made an enormous impact on crime literature. His unusual methods (deductive reasoning, observation, and intuitive conclusions) were so different from the Penny Dreadfuls of the day, he became one of the most famous characters in history (only Bram Stoker’s Dracula has had as much fame). But what makes Holmes live on when history has forgotten many other fictional detectives? Continue reading

The Slumming Angel: Raymond Chandler

In his essay “The Simple Art of Murder,” Raymond Chandler explores detective fiction in general, but especially the hard-boiled kind he perfected. It includes my favorite bit of writing advice: “When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.” By which he meant, if you’re not sure what should happen next, make things worse in the most exciting way you can. Which is exactly how his books and stories work—everything goes from bad to worse to the worst imaginable… and then somehow turns out all right in the end.  Continue reading

The Dangers of Patriotic Zeal: Taras Bulba

The 1962 film Taras Bulba focuses on a revolution you might never have heard of if you’re not from eastern Europe. It tells the story of a 17th-century rebellion of the Zaporozhian Cossacks against their Polish overlords by focusing on a fictional family. It’s based on a book by Ukrainian author Nikolai Gogol, originally released as a short story in 1835. The Tsarist Russian authorities condemned that version as being “too Ukrainian.” Gogol later revised and expanded the story into a novel that pleased those in power. Continue reading

Kind Courage: The New Cinderella

“Have courage, and be kind,” our heroine’s mother tells Ella before she passes away.

The theme resonates through the story, as Ella is joyous amid her troubles—when banished to the attic by her wicked stepmother, she rearranges the scraps of furniture and shakes out a dusty blanket, before she tells the mice how much she enjoys solitude. Continue reading