The Oberlin Review

‘Hail, Caesar!’ a Joyride through the ’50s

Christian Bolles, Columnist

February 19, 2016

Filed under ARTS, Theater & Film

Few feelings are more satisfying than those incited when viewing a piece of entertainment that pays tribute to its own medium. Films like Hugo, books like Inkheart and games like The Beginner’s Guide occupy a special place in the annals of their respective crafts because they represent a purpose that steps outside of pure spectacle, referencing the basis on which they’re built to say something unique about the nature of their existence. Hail, Caesar! is one of these pieces, placing the viewer in the shoes of a ’50s movie mogul bent on finishing the titular film no matter what. Yet the basis for Hail goes deeper, for at its absolute core, this is a Coen Brothers movie. It bears the same tone, flies the same narra...

‘Anomalisa’ Comments on Gender Politics in Romance

‘Anomalisa’ Comments on Gender Politics in Romance

February 5, 2016

Very few filmmakers are capable of confronting the contradictory selfishness of love with the heartbreaking honesty of Charlie Kaufman. After toying with the idea of a procedure that can render one’s previous relationships forgotten in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Kaufman explores the other side of the coin in Anomalisa, telling the story of a man who seems unaware of his own doomed cycle of infatuation and disinterest. Simultaneously a fable about what it means to grow older and a pitch...

Jurassic Junk: Newest Pixar Film Falls Flat

Jurassic Junk: Newest Pixar Film Falls Flat

December 4, 2015

In an era where remarkable animation can be summoned with the flick of a well-funded wrist, animated films can’t get by on pure spectacle. Before cutting-edge visuals were even possible, Pixar was making movies that cut to the heart of basic human truths; as technology caught up to their ambition, they used beauty to enhance these stories, not to replace them. Perhaps if masterpieces such as the Toy Story trilogy, Up and Ratatouille didn’t exist, The Good Dinosaur would be a very good movie. Bu...

Latest Bond Film Plagued by Inconsistent Script

Christian Bolles, Columnist

November 13, 2015

Filed under ARTS, Theater & Film

Looking into the eyes of the man who has plotted to ruin him at every stage of his recent life, James Bond dismisses his enemy with a cold stare and says, “I have better things to do.” The new entry in the beloved franchise, Spectre, looks at the obligations of a modern action film and seems to ask the same. When it was announced that Christoph Waltz would play Spectre’s main villain, fans rightly expected a movie dominated by his signature manic smile. The previous 007 installment, Skyfall, also directed by now-prominent filmmaker Sam Mendes, focused heavily on Javier Bardem’s unforgettable performance as a broken man with twisted dreams. Skyfall was everything a modern Bond film could be: It had nail-bit...

Narrative Complexity, Lush Visuals Set Crimson Peak Apart

Christian Bolles, Columnist

October 30, 2015

Filed under ARTS, Theater & Film

Between the reds and blues of love and tragedy, filmmaker Guillermo del Toro finds his stride. He fathoms horrifying beauty in the macabre landscapes of the human mind, weaving tales as rich in narrative complexity as they are in visual sumptuousness. His obsession with the dark nature of life led him to probe immortality in Cronos, where an old man is confronted with terrible power. In The Devil’s Backbone, he questioned the toll of power on the young, telling a tale about the ghosts left behind by war. Pan’s Labyrinth, his crowning masterpiece, addressed our need to escape from the evil of humanity, positing that even in the face of death, the fantastical transcends the human condition. Now, Crimson Peak takes de...

The Martian Gives Space a Human Face

Christian Bolles, Columnist

October 9, 2015

Filed under ARTS, Theater & Film

Humankind’s fascination with space has always existed on the boundary between two intellectual spheres. One conjures the image of a flag-toting pioneer standing on the edge of a vast cosmic horizon, ready to leap off the planetary surface into infinity. The other hits closer to home, focusing on the tangible landscapes of human accomplishment and innovation. Before we were able to leave Earth, literature and cinema painted space — sometimes literally, as with George Melies’ feverish lunar landscapes — as an untamed frontier ripe for exploration. We looked to the future with hope but, more importantly, with ambition, a mindset that ultimately landed Armstrong’s foot on the moon. The Martian, Ridley Scott’...

Slow-Burning Crime Thriller Captures Nuances of Cruelty

Christian Bolles, Columnist

September 25, 2015

Filed under ARTS, Theater & Film

Even though I was seated comfortably in a mostly empty theater for a late-night showing of Black Mass, there was little the silver screen could do to keep James Bulger’s steely blue eyes from piercing me straight to my core. The Boston crime drama, directed by Scott Cooper, puts its eggs in two baskets, using James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp), the infamous kingpin of the Winter Hill gang, and John Connolly ( Joel Edgerton), the FBI agent with whom Bulger formed an alliance, as points of ingress to a true story of desperation, manipulation and corruption. In the film’s slow unraveling of the poignant, yet subtle, threads that led to the rise and fall of one of Boston’s greatest criminals, Cooper finds pl...

Political Issues Weigh Down Action Film

Christian Bolles, Columnist

September 11, 2015

Filed under ARTS, Theater & Film

Content Warning: This review discusses violent and potentially offensive themes that may be disturbing to some readers. In order to properly instill fear in the audience, horror and action filmmakers exploit deep sources of paranoia and thrust them onto the screen. This leverage of the human psyche often manifests itself as a masked man with a knife or a bloodthirsty beast; the former plays on our knowledge of the potential cruelty of other humans and the latter on our wariness of the unknown. No Escape weighs both of these options and settles for a not-so-happy medium. This decision gives rise to one of the greatest narrative miscalculations in recent memory. Brothers John and Drew Dowdle, who wrote and directe...

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