John Ford’s The Searchers is a Western about party of white settlers pursuing a Comanche band that has slaughtered a homesteading family’s males and adults and kidnapped the family’s two daughters. The film presents a question that has puzzled me for years: How is it that a film so glaringly flawed can be so powerful, so great? And it is great. In 2008, the American Film Institute named it the best Western ever made. The same year, Cahiers du Cinéma ranked the film the tenth best film ever made. In 2012, a Sight & Sound survey of international film critics ranked it the seventh best film of all time. Its influence has been noticed in and/or acknowledged by directors as different from one another as David Lean, Sam Peckinpah, Martin Scorsese, Sergio Leone, George Lucas, Jean-Luc Godard, Steven Spielberg, Wim Wenders, and Paul Schrader. It has been an object of intense analysis by numerous scholars. (Anyone interested in reading in-depth work on the film would do well by starting with Edward Buscombe’s monograph in the excellent British Film Institute series of slim but comprehensive, well-researched, and annotated volumes on individual films.) More… “Flawed Greatness”

D.B. Jones is a retired Drexel professor of film and the author of three books on Canadian documentary film.

There was an older man at a dinner party, relaying the history of his marriages. His first one, he told us, was a disaster. He was too young, she was too young. It lasted only a few years and then it ended angrily. He thought he’d never remarry, but then he decided he wanted to have a child. He married another woman, who turned out not to want children, but, he assured us, he eventually “wore her down.”

There are all sorts of struggles that take place within a marriage. Conflicting desires create situations without the possibility of compromise and so one partner tries to overpower the other’s will. Wives do this as well as husbands. But there was something about the way the story was told that caused the women at the table to immediately exchange worried looks and inhale deeply at the words “wore her down.” He wanted a child, but for that he needed a woman’s body. He procured a woman’s body, and when that body was not compliant, he forced compliance through manipulation and control. The man was a writer, and so I am making the assumption that he told this story with a particular intention and that that intention could be analyzed. I understand that this is probably unfair.

More… “No Giggling Ghost”

Jessa Crispin is editor and founder of She currently resides in Chicago.

When Les Misérables first lumbered onto the Broadway stage in 1987, my daughter had not yet been born, but its theatrical life was so robust that it was still running strong in the 1990s when she achieved sentiency. As soon as she did, she glommed onto it with the fervor only a pre-adolescent can have for things she loves. The songs were played endlessly in the house and in the car, and all manner of professional and amateur productions were attended. She would burst at unexpected moments into renditions of “Master of the House,” and “ Do You Hear the People Sing?” — the first with a perfect cockney accent imitated from the CD.

I had plowed through Victor Hugo’s novel, Les Misérables, in college — impressed by the panache with which Hugo concocted the plot in defiance of logic and common sense. I felt I understood the famous response of… More…

The first sentence of A Christmas Carol is “Marley was dead: to begin with.” It’s a terrible way to start a story about Christmas. But A Christmas Carol isn’t great because it’s a great story. In fact, A Christmas Carol is a flimsy story. The characters are mostly clichés. Scrooge is a parody of miserly behavior. He is not only against Christmas, he is against love. He is also against charity, kindness, and even heat, preferring to keep his coal locked up rather than warm the office with it. Scrooge lives in darkness and gloom. “The fog and frost so hung about the black old gateway of the house, that it seemed as if the Genius of the Weather sat in mournful meditation on the threshold.”

In contrast, Tiny Tim — the blessed little cripple and son of Scrooge’s employee — seems to bear no resentment to the world at all. His love for everyone knows no… More…