Mark Judge

Mark Judge is a journalist and filmmaker whose writings have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Daily Caller.

Meandering Malick

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What’s the difference between Terrence Malick and Zack Snyder?

Less than you might think.

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Camille Paglia’s Beat Goes On

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Reading the social critic Camille Paglia is like watching Keith Moon play the drums. Moon (1946-1978) was the manic drummer for the British rock band The Who. His playing was mercurial, brilliant, and unpredictable. Moon would play to the vocal instead of the beat, drift in and out of the proper time, do mind-boggling fills at odd moments, and yet through it all maintain a kind of swirling order in the chaos.

Like Moon, Paglia is manic, idiosyncratic, and sprawling. Yet at the core, her critique is chugging in a central direction. Free Women, Free Men: Sex, Gender and Feminism, Paglia’s new collection of essays, shows the pop culture polemicist recreating some of her greatest hits about sex, art, and feminism.

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Coopting James Baldwin

I Am Not Your Negro, a new documentary about the writer James Baldwin, is an example of sympathetic magic. More precisely, it’s an attempt at sympathetic magic. As explained by Sir James Frazier in his classic The Golden Bough, sympathetic magic is the effort to absorb the  attributes of something by contact. To gain the power of your enemy, you eat his heart. While the film’s subject is James Baldwin (1924-1987), it tries to give moral virtue to the modern Black Lives Matter movement by shoehorning footage of recent protests over police brutality with vintage footage of the New York novelist,…

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Telling the Story of the Holodomor

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In his great movies and Schindler’s List (1993) and Lincoln (2012), Steven Spielberg provided a good model for adapting tragic historic drama to celluloid. Instead of taking a sprawling subject like the Holocaust or the Civil War and trying to capture all of it, you narrowcast. Take one relatively small patch of time, such as Lincoln’s attempt to pass the Thirteenth Amendment, or a few years in the life of World War II hero Oskar Schindler, and focus on that. It sharpens the plot and suspense and intensifies the performance of the actors.

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Split and the Snowflake Generation

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Horror movies don’t get the respect of dramas, comedies, or even superhero movies, but in some ways they are the most daring kind of storytelling. Unlike romantic comedies or action movies, horror films are allowed to be unpredictable. Characters we’ve come to like bite the dust. Everybody knows that Spider-Man is not going to go down but in The Exorcist (1973), the leading character, a priest, does. In Drag Me to Hell (2009), a young woman who was heartless to a poor old woman gets sucked into the netherworld by demons. In Sinister (2012), one of my favorites, a writer played by Ethan Hawke realizes too late that his fascination with watching grisly movies he found in the attic of a new home is letting a sinister force into his house. That sort of thing won’t happen to Captain America.

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Would You Like Fries with that Sturm und Drang?

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Is it possible for a film’s musical score to undermine the film it supposedly serves? In the case of The Founder, the answer is yes.

The Founder stars Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, the Chicagoan who took a small hamburger stop called McDonald’s and turned it into a billion-dollar global brand. The film depicts Kroc as an unstoppable force of nature but also a ruthless and dishonest businessman. Keaton’s portrayal is fantastic, his character at once a spry, hyper-focused visionary and a heartless SOB.

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The Dark Night of Silence

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It’s just a formality, really. Very easy to do. Easier than walking.

These are the quiet solicitations of the Inquisitor, a character in Martin Scorsese’s new drama Silence. The Inquisitor, played by Issey Ogata, is in charge of persecuting Christians in 17th century Japan. Japan’s Edict of Expulsion of 1614 attempted to eradicate Christianity from its islands. The Inquisitor tortures and kills Christians, but also cajoles with cold ruthlessness. Presenting believers with a plaque with either Jesus or Mary on it, he places it on the ground and tells them: step on it to renounce your faith. It’s a very simple motion, he says. Just one step. Nothing to it.

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Camelot’s Punitive Liberalism

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Jackie, which tells the story of Jacqueline Kennedy and the immediate aftermath of President Kennedy’s assassination, is a moving and socially important film. It’s about grief, but also about how a pliant press allowed a grieving widow to create a powerful myth that was related to reality, but only tenuously. It’s about the media willingly succumbing to manipulation.

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Time Present and Time Past

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Arrival is a near-flawless film. Although billed as a science fiction movie, it is a deeply spiritual and humanistic meditation on life, death, love, and time.

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In the Moonlight

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Get ready to hear a lot about a new film called Moonlight. Written and directed by Barry Jenkins (2008’s Medicine for Melancholy), it is a beautifully directed and brilliantly acted portrait of a boy struggling to find his identity in a milieu of poverty, violence, and drugs. The reviews have been rapturous: a “masterpiece”; “even better than you’ve heard”; a “gem,” and “one of the best films of the year.”

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