What The Supreme Court and The Jedi Council Have in Common


Adam Gopnik recently wrote about “Lessons for the Supreme Court from the Jedi Council.” In that article, he puts forward the idea that just as the denizens of the Star Wars universe “seem[] to have an undue cultural investment in the wisdom of the Jedi Council, even in the face of its ineptitude,” so to do Americans unduly venerate a Supreme Court whose inner workings appear “more like the manufacture of after-the-fact rationales designed to give the appearance of footnoted legalism to what are, in truth, the same ideological passions that have the rest of the country in their grip.” Gopnik disclaims the concept of textual interpretation, maintaining that our nation’s highest judicial body resembles its intergalactic counterpart in how it “seems to be functioning on guesswork and mutual hypnosis more than actual expertise.” Accordingly, he concludes that neither the Jedi Council nor the Supreme Court should be afforded nearly so much deference or respect.

The question becomes whether these two august bodies are enough alike to justify such a comparison or conclusion. There are certainly similarities between the two. In The Phantom Menace, the Jedi Council decides, after much deliberation, that Anakin Skywalker should not be trained in the ways of The Force. But Qui Gon Jin (and later Obi Wan Kenobi in his stead) defy that order and decide to teach the boy anyway. In the real world, after the Supreme Court held that same-sex marriage was a right under the Constitution, Texas’s Attorney General soon thereafter announced that despite that decision, under his interpretation Texas officials did not have to abide by the ruling. In both the Star Wars universe and our own, prominent officials have taken Gopnik’s advice to heart and feel free to ignore the high court’s decisions.

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Game of Thrones Explores the Symmetry of Westeros and its People in “No One”


For a several years now, Game of Thrones had a fairly reliable format for the structure of its episodes. We spend ten minutes in one location advancing one character’s story, ten minutes in another, and so forth and so on with little repetition beyond the possibility of some sort of coda for one of the stories at the end of the episode. But the show has been playing around with that format this season (with cold opens, longer segments, and other differences) and that trend continues in “No One.”

Instead of a semi-linear progression from place to place, there’s something approaching symmetry to the order in which we visit our heroes across Westeros and beyond. The episode begins with trips to Braavos, The Riverlands, and Meereen, and finishes by returning to these same places and stories in reverse order. The middle portion of the episode comes close to doing the same thing with stops in King’s Landing and Riverrun.

So why the symmetry?

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Ranking: Every Pixar Movie From Worst to Best


With the release of Finding Dory, Andrew Bloom joins Dominick Suzanne-Mayer, Allison Shoemaker, and Derrick Rossignol to rank all of Pixar’s feature films.

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Game of Thrones: The Broken People, Places, and Things in “Broken Man”


We don’t know who’s pulling the strings that tie the different corners of Westeros together. It may be the Old Gods; it may be The Seven; it may be the Drowned God; or it may be the Lord of Light. Septon Ray suggests they may all be different names for the same thing. But whoever has that power has left any number of those in Westeros and beyond in some sort of weakened state. They’ve taken away people’s strength, sapped them of their power and position, and left them, in a word, “broken.”

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How Daredevil’s Season 2 Finale Dragged the Whole Season Down


What is it, to be a cheesy voiceover montage in the last moments of a season finale? Do you have to try to sum up an entire season’s worth of themes using vague doublespeak and an army of cliches? Will you narrate over clips of our heroes looking vaguely sad or frustrated in the vain hope of wringing some pathos out of this big hunk of corn pone? Must you include strange or cryptic teases for future seasons or series? Or can you just speak in platitudes about heroism and strength and hope that somewhere in that stew of hokum you stumble onto some mild profundity?

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Game of Thrones: The Familial Bonds that Bolster and Break Us in “Blood of My Blood”


“Blood of My Blood.” The title gives it away. Though Game of Thrones is frequently centered on the idea of familial legacy, this episode in particular focuses on the bonds of family, the connections between parents and children and the other ties of kinship that can both pull us into place and break our hearts. These are the people who can save us, help us, make us stronger, but who also have a unique capacity to wound us, to frustrate us, and to unravel us.

Nowhere does “Blood of My Blood” explore the different sides of this idea more than in Sam’s return to his childhood home. Despite the smaller stakes and lack of major reveals as compared with the rest of the episode, Sam’s homecoming proved to be the best part “Blood of My Blood.” Game of Thrones spends most of its of time focused on the larger machinations of the plot in one form or another. Even when it’s not devoting time to the dragons or magic or other fantastical elements of Westeros, the show anchors itself around the titular game of thrones, as different players vie for power and an the existential threat comes from the north.

Despite this, Sam’s visit home has the feeling of something apart from the major story arc that drives the series. There’s no magic at play in Horn Hill. And while this brief stop is intended as a respite for Sam, Gilly, and Sam Jr. on the way to the Citadel, where Sam intends to earn his maester’s chain and ostensibly help Jon, there’s also little larger relevance to the detour when it comes to the show’s overarching plots. Instead, these scenes with Sam’s family offer a quiet character study, one whose chief purpose is to tell us more about who Sam is, where he came from, and what he’s become since he left home.

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Game of Thrones: “Hold the Door” — A Service Interruption


It’s easy to reduce “The Door” to its big reveal. For all of the mysteries and unanswered questions floating around in the background of Game of Thrones, sometimes the most moving reveals are the ones that fill in gaps you didn’t even realize were there, in surprising and unexpected ways.

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Game of Thrones: The Battle Lines Drawn Between the Old and the New in “Book of the Stranger”


The battle lines are being drawn in Game of Thrones, not between the Starks and the Lannisters, or between the good guys and the bad guys, but rather between the old and the new. The side of history, of tradition, of the way things have always been, stands poised against the onslaught of the novel and disruptive ideas that threaten to “break the wheel” and introduce a new order. “Book of the Stranger” sets up these conflicts between the past and the future as it darts across Westeros and beyond.

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How Sexism Ruins Ghostbusters for Everyone, Even the People Who Don’t Care


I’m not especially interested in the new Ghostbusters reboot. Comedy remakes and sequels are a dicey proposition at best. The trailer left me underwhelmed. And despite the fact that I think Kate McKinnon is amazing, the rest of the cast doesn’t really do it for me.

And yet I feel a strong impulse to not only see the film, but also to defend it in the face of the ridiculous backlash it’s received. It had the most “disliked” trailer ever on YouTube. It’s been the recipient of a terribly misogynistic response to the fact that the new film gender-flipped its predecessor. It’s been decried with the usual “destroying my childhood!” rhetoric for daring to remake a classic film with an extra X chromosome or two.

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Captain America: Civil War Brings the Superheroic Back Down to Earth


CAUTION: This review contains major spoilers for Captain America: Civil War.

Before Anthony and Joe Russo were directing superhero movies, they worked on a little show called Community about a group of misfits at a community college. The series, oddly enough, had a surprising amount in common with The Avengers. Both were about seven people from different backgrounds who bounced off one another in interesting ways, carried their own unique psychological baggage, and who would still, now and then, come together and do amazing things.

One of the most remarkable things about Community was its mastery of tone. The series was pitched as a comedy, and true to that billing, it was a funny, creative, and occasionally off-the-wall show. And yet it could just as easily shift into something quiet and personal, something unremittingly dark, or even something difficult and complex that lacked the sorts of easy answers seemingly required of all network sitcoms. The Russo brothers brought the same incredible ability to mesh different tones and characters to Captain America: Civil War and translated it onto a much bigger stage without missing a beat.

Because Civil War is hilarious, action-packed, and all kinds of fun. It’s has tons of inventive sequences and fights big and small that are filled with humor and imagination. But at the same time, Civil War is, in its own way, a very dark film about fear, regret, anger, a deep divide and a personal loss. It touches on big ideas like moral responsibility, individual guilt for broader actions, and the dangers of power without boundaries. The film, however, grounds these ideas in its well-developed characters, intimate individual moments, and personal relationships. It’s a smorgasbord of different scenes and settings and moods that can make you laugh, gasp, and feel the tragedy of a given moment, without letting these varying tones clash. And that is one hell of an achievement.

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