Elbert Ventura

Elbert Ventura is the managing editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas. He has written forThe New York TimesThe New Republic, and Slate, among other outlets.

Recent Articles

The Magnificent Anderson

Yes, Wes Anderson’s films are hyper-stylized, but they’re rich in meaning too. None more so than The Grand Budapest Hotel

AP Images/Martin Scali
AP Images/Martin Scali W ho could’ve predicted, when Wes Anderson first surfaced in 1996 with the caper comedy Bottle Rocket , that he would become the most polarizing director of his generation? The movie seemed, on paper at least, an artifact of the post-Tarantino indie boom in smirking gunplay and logorrheic dudes. In fact it was the vessel for a new sensibility, dry yet earnest, ironic without being cynical (well, someone grasped its magnitude: Martin Scorsese put it on his decade’s-best list). Rushmore followed, then The Royal Tenenbaums , and suddenly the sensibility swallowed the culture. Its ubiquity enlarged an impassioned cult—and inspired a no less heated backlash. “It has become a popular critics’ drinking game to think of creative new ways to slag Wes Anderson,” wrote the critic Saul Austerlitz in Another Fine Mess , his 2010 history of American film comedy. What irks the detractors? Many things, really, but most can be grouped under a category called “The Wes Anderson...

Tired of TV's Golden Age?

Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color shows why we still need the movies.

Courtesy of erbp
Courtesy of erbp I t is a truth universally acknowledged that TV has surpassed the movies as the medium of choice for the discerning viewer. Since the evolutionary leap that was “The Sopranos,” episodic television—the grown-up kind, that is; the kind that’s not TV, but HBO (or Showtime, or AMC, etc.)—has raised its game with complex plots, high-quality production, morally ambiguous protagonists, and eager forays into R-rated territory. So, this weekend, the sixth-season premiere of “Mad Men” will suck up all the cultural oxygen. A couple million viewers will tune in, and tens of thousands of words will be written obsessing over every detail of Don Draper’s continuing journey from icon to relic. Director Shane Carruth’s new film, Upstream Color , meanwhile, will open in one theater in New York, kicking off a brief art-house rollout that, if he’s lucky, will win over a modest, devoted following. For the last nine years, the only thing on Carruth’s filmography was Primer (2004), a 77-...