At night in downtown Austin, the Paramount theater blade lights the storefronts between 7th and 8th on Congress Avenue, the street that leads north to the red granite state capitol and south to the Colorado River. The blade, erected in 1930, when the theater was still owned and operated by Paramount studios and ran only that studio’s films, simply spells the name of the theater in incandescent bulbs, and dims each letter in vertical succession in an endless loop—an animation that, when compared to the intricate animations one can see on an LED display today, might be characterized as authentic or quaint, depending on your outlook. The building, painted dark red with white wood shutters on the second story, looks like it might stand in an old-west movie, or reenactment town, not in the heart of one of America’s booming tech hubs. The one-screen theater claims to screen up to 100 films a year, the screenings are never more pivotal than the one week out of the year when Paramount and Stateside, it’s next-door sister theater, become the center of the indie film universe for SXSW Conference (formerly just SXSW, without the ‘conference,’ still known locally as just “South by”).
Recently the Princeton Buffer editors sat down with A. O. Scott, co-chief film critic (along with Manohla Dargis) at The New York Times. We asked him what it’s like at the Times, what a film critic does for fun, and what the future holds for him. Along the way we also discovered why our favorite movie reviewer prefers Spock to Kirk and why he thinks the job of a film critic is to be wrong.
In Part One of our interview, Scott talks about why he left graduate school, why he became a film critic, and why a new generation of film reviewers has given the profession new life. In Part Two Scott shares his personal likes and dislikes, his appreciation of cinema as a window on the world, and his secret to Better Living Through Criticism—the title of his new book coming out in February 2016.
In Part 2 of our interview with The New York Times film critic A. O. Scott, he answers some quick “lightening round” questions on his favorite (and not so favorite) characters and movies, before sharing with us his thoughts on the art of criticism. For more of our conversation, see Interview with A. O. Scott: Part 1.
Trey Stone and Matt Parker are now, without argument, American television’s foremost satirists. With Colbert gone the way of national late night and Stewart the way of retirement, we’re left with a crude cartoon about 4th graders to poke fun at an entire nation’s hypocrisy. Aptly, this season, the show’s 19th, is preoccupied with the function and relevance of its own genre: satire. With the national climate becoming growingly politically correct, the show asks: where does satire–thriving on the impolite or the outright offensive–fit in? And South Park, an equal-opportunity offender, answers with its unique brand of irreverent, sharp comedy.
15935 cases. 5689 deaths. No end in sight.
So far, the 2014 Ebola Outbreak is spiraling down the path of a Hollywood disaster movie, but without the happy ending. It makes me wonder then what cinema will make of this terrifying global epidemic. Can it resist adding Ebola to its list of new disaster plots, from financial ruin, terrorist attacks, and severe climate change? Doubtful. Which is why I believe it’s worth revisiting films that arose under similar conditions, films like Outbreak (1995) and Contagion (2011). These “epidemic films” are similar in premise: a deadly pathogen is spreading in susceptible populations, and a group is tasked to save humanity. But where does salvation lie? And what can we learn from cinema’s attempt to grapple with a very real and terrifying epidemic? Continue reading Viral: When Epidemics Hit Cinema
A veritable mountain of Redbull, Twizzlers, and Pop-Tarts awaits students as they file into Princeton Film Productions’ lecture hall. Students of all backgrounds and academic interests have come together to celebrate and undertake the art of filmmaking. After a quick orientation, the assignment of teams, and the distribution of film equipment, t-shirts, and caffeinated snacks, Princeton students scatter, blood pumping with excitement and inordinate amounts of sugar. Their only mission: to create a film…in twenty-four hours.
Why aren’t we seeing movies about growing up in the twenty first century? Has film lost its ability to convey a collective experience? How does film hold up in an age of television and Internet? Rebecca, Ryohei, and Parth ponder the fate of traditional coming-of-age films and where the genre might be headed in the future.
A new type of hyper-aware genre entertainment seems to be emerging of late. Call it “meta-genre,” or “meta-cine”: films, as well as television shows, that self-consciously invite us to reflect on the conventions of genre itself. Is it parody, or is it more? Paul Popescu and Dayton Martindale examine why it might be good to take our new meta-cine.
Our television schedules have always been packed with crazy characters, but recently there’s been an uptick in characters with diagnosed crazy. Television shows that feature mentally ill characters have recently been receiving a lot of positive attention from critics, experts, and audiences alike. Many have identified this growth in depictions of mentally ill characters, and most pieces on the topic have been congratulatory, and in some sense, rightly so: some of these shows have been doing an excellent job of portraying mental illness accurately. But for all the good that real, human portrayals of mental illness on TV can do, this trend is troubling on a whole different level. Looking at the array of mentally ill characters on TV right now and in recent years, it’s impossible not to notice that the majority of them are female.
We know we’re all media junkies, but what about Princeton’s fearless leaders? Does running a university keep them busy around-the-clock, or do they still have time to binge-watch the latest season of Breaking Bad?
The Buffer editors decided to find out and made a date with the Deans, inviting three university administrators to join us in a conversation about their film and television likes and dislikes: David Dobkin (Dean of the Faculty and Phillip Y. Goldman ’86 Professor of Computer Science), Valerie Smith (Dean of the College and the Woodrow Wilson Professor of Literature), and Tara Kinsey (Associate Dean at the Office of the Dean of the College and the Office of the Vice Presidentfor Campus Life). Their candid answers to our questions about their viewing habits may surprise you, as they did us!
While you were probably spending this Sunday night studying, I threw my thesis out the window and cozied up to the T.V. with a plate of greasy Chinese food to glamorously celebrate the year in film with a three and half hour marathon known as—The Oscars. So, here’s my cheat sheet as I break down the ten biggest lessons I “learned” from watching the 86th annual Academy Awards.
With the Oscars so close, the Buffer editors love nothing more than to debate the outcomes of each category. Here are our predictions for the winners of some of the top categories for this year’s Academy Awards.