The Shawshank Redemption (1994, directed by Frank Darabont) was not a box office hit, it is now routinely near the top of many greatest movies lists. That’s a suitable result for a story that is in part about the redemptive possibilities of endurance and perseverance. And the film’s appeal lies partly in the hope that this idea inspires. It convincingly Continue Reading …
Wes has developed a new course called The Stoic Guide to Happiness, available from Himalaya Learning. Use promo code STOIC for a 14-day free trial: himalaya.com/stoic. Can Stoicism actually make us happier? Isn’t it just an injunction to ignore our emotional distress, develop a stiff upper lip, and relate to life as robotic, Spock-like logicians? The truth is, Ancient Greek Continue Reading …
Within and without the world of the film, can one consider Don Corleone a great man? Or does his moral code, like his favor, always hide a transaction? Wes & Erin give their analysis of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 film, “The Godfather.”
While Annie’s patient, quirky fatalism does not prevent her from outgrowing Alvy and leaving him behind, the nostalgic and wistful frame of Allen’s film does have something to say about what helps keep love alive, and people connected.
To what extent is every ambition an imaginative act—and perhaps a form of prophecy? Wes & Erin discuss the Scottish Play: Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy, “Macbeth.”
What explains the enduring appeal of Auden’s September 1, 1939? Was he right to repudiate it? Wes & Erin discuss.
Is suffering’s “human position” something that can be redeemed? Wes and Erin discuss Auden’s poem Musée des Beaux Arts.
Hedda Gabler is not a fan of specialization: not in the professor she has married, and his esoteric scholarly interests; not in domesticity, and the specialized affections required by marriage and motherhood; not in any lover’s infatuated specialization in her; and perhaps not in the form of specialization arguably required by life itself, with its finite and confining possibilities. Is there any way, short of suicide, to transcend such limits? Wes & Erin discuss Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler.
Bill Budd is a beautiful man. Not just good looking, but exquisitely good natured, something that costs him no effort and has required no instruction. And yet it is ultimately his beautiful soul and good nature that get Billy killed. Wes & Erin discuss Herman Melville’s final and unfinished work of fiction, and whether a good heart and good intentions are more important than obedience to authority and adherence to civilized norms.
What do we mean when we talk about the American Dream? Is it realistic? Wes & Erin discuss F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”
Like Benjamin, we wonder what the future can and should hold for us. Can it be free of the negative trappings of our society and culture, of our parents’ influence, of the past? Wes and Erin discuss Mike Nichols’ 1967 film “The Graduate.”
Wes and Erin continue their discussion of W.B. Yeats’ “The Second Coming.” In Part 1, they analyzed the first stanza of the poem, in particular Yeats’ use of “gyre”; the meaning of the phrases “things fall apart” and “the center cannot hold”; and the conflict between aristocratic and revolutionary values. In Part 2, they discuss — with a little help from Nietzsche — the anti-redemption of the second stanza, and the meaning of Yeats’ vision of a “rough beast” slouching towards Bethlehem.
In 1919, the world seemed to have descended into anarchy. World War I had killed millions and profoundly altered the international order. Four empires, along with their aristocracies, had disintegrated. Russia was in a state of civil war, and Ireland was on the verge of its own. It’s these events that helped inspire William Butler Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming,” which famously tells us that “things fall apart,” that “the center cannot hold,” and that a new historical epoch is upon us. Just what rough beast is it that slouches, as Yeats has it, toward Bethlehem? Wes & Erin discuss.
Do we owe parents our gratitude for our upbringing? What if they haven’t done such a great job? And anyway, perhaps we inevitably resent all the forces that have shaped the characters that confine and limit us. If so, the quest for filial gratitude is ultimately hopeless. It could even be a kind of madness: a foolish attempt to transcend the same formative forces that we resent in our parents, to be “unaccommodated,” free of the “plague of custom.” Wes and Erin discuss William Shakespeare’s King Lear.
What’s the connection between voyeurism and what Jefferies calls “the intelligent way to approach marriage”? Wes and Erin discuss Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 film Rear Window.
Wes and Erin discuss how it is that aesthetic judgments can communicate a kind of truth that is not strictly descriptive or factual.
Wes and Erin discuss Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, which seems to suggest that witty banter is more than just good fun, and has an important role to play in getting to know others.
When egotistical weatherman Phil Connors gets trapped in a time loop in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, he gets drunk, steals money, manipulates women, binges on breakfast food, plays God… and finally grows up. The story charts Phil’s development over the course of thousands of repeated February 2nds. Along the way, it raises questions about our own capacity for growth. How do we go about improving ourselves? How can we escape boredom? Achieve fulfillment? Wes and Erin discuss the 1993 film Groundhog Day.
How do we know if two people are well-suited to each other? What makes a successful match? Is Mr. Collins actually the perfect man? Wes and Erin discuss Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Why has this film done so well? It offers no spectacle, and good doesn’t triumph. It is psychologically true and expertly performed. The audience can enjoy tragedy and identify deeply with a social outcast and villain. The film successfully exploits the relationship between humor and violence, and comedy and tragedy.