Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Baghdad ER

(HBO, 2006)

Instead of the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, this is the Combat Army Surgical Hospital, C*A*S*H. They don’t operate in tents, but in clean and modern hospital rooms. But the medevacs keep arriving every day with the ruins of American boys and girls and Iraqis, most of them blown up by IEDs. Over 17,000 Americans at this writing. Some of those are simple shrapnel wounds, the guys are ... Read more »

Ball of Fire


I found this one while looking into Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I’d seen it many years ago, but hadn’t realized that the plot was loosely based on the fairy tale. Not exactly, as there are eight people living together, all scientists and scholars compiling a massive encyclopedia, but the Gary Cooper character is meant to be Prince ... Read more »

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs


I will not say that the Coen brothers never strike out (see—or rather, don’t see—The Ladykillers), but their batting average is just about the highest of anyone currently writing and directing films. This one is no exception, a long home run right out of the park. It’s an anthology film, said to be a collection of stories the Coens have ... Read more »

The Ballad of Cable Hogue

Right after the ultra-violent The Wild Bunch, Sam Peckinpah made this totally atypical elegy to the passing of the Old West. Well, in a way all his westerns were about the passing of the Old West, but this one is special. Peckinpah said this was his favorite of the films he directed. It’s a simple story. Jason Robards, Jr. is abandoned in the desert by his ... Read more »

The Ballad of Jack and Rose


Written and directed by Arthur Miller’s daughter, Rebecca. In 1986 a washed-up hippie and part-time ecowarrior with a bad heart and a teenage daughter live on a beautiful island, but development is encroaching. He decides she needs a family … so he sort of buys one, and they just turn up one day, a woman and her two boys by different fathers. Surprise! She doesn’t react well.
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The Balloonatic


A fairly minor two-reeler in the Buster Keaton canon. Which is to say, there are a lot of great sight gags, but not much in the way of characterization.

Balls of Fury


Imagine an alternate universe where ping-pong is as popular as professional wrestling, with all the screaming fans and outrageous costumes and antics for the players. Okay, I know it’s not easy, but try. It is very big in China, you know. So we have Randy Daytona, a twelve-year-old prodigy competing in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, and he disgraces himself. He ... Read more »



This movie contains some of the best animation Disney ever produced; hell, some of the best anyone has ever produced. Current CGI technology can make photo-real images of incredible complexity, but it takes an artistic hand, not a computer, to come up with the images, and no computer can by itself decide to use less detail, and few humans today would think of it. ... Read more »



Woody is showing a lot more control of his material here. There are no real slow spots, it just keeps barreling on, one insane situation to the next. From the opening credits, a catchy tune in Spanish accompanied by automatic gunfire, we’re off to the races. Woody is his usual schlemiel, but I hadn’t gotten tired of that role yet. He gets involved in a revolution in a Central American ... Read more »

The Bandwagon


Fred Astaire is a washed-up vaudeville and movie hoofer. Tula Finklea (the birth name of Cyd Charisse, and was there ever a more fortuitous name change?) is a much younger étoile de ballet. They are convinced to share the stage in a Broadway musical written by Nanette Fabray and Oscar Levant, to be directed by hot-shot Jack Buchanan. Jack decides to take the light-hearted script and turn ... Read more »