Call for Feature Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

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Monday, Sep 24, 2012
The Adult Swim approach appears to be something different. It's the acknowledgement that your typical moviegoer is not sitting around on a typical weeknight watching your typical TV choices

Coming SoonPerhaps you didn’t know it was happening. Maybe you don’t follow the FOX friendly line-up littering the Cartoon Network’s airwaves from 9:00pm until… seven days a week. Whatever the situation is, Adult Swim remains one of the cable channel’s most effective programming blocks. Preferred demographics, usually relating to age groups between 14 and 45, make it a hotbed for potential advertisers. Thanks to the constant repetition of King of the Hill, American Dad, and Family Guy (No Simpsons, though they will soon add The Cleveland Show to the line-up), as well as their own unique blend of in-house, Williams-Street hits (Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Squidbillies, The Venture Brothers, Children’s Hospital), it remains a ratings and marketing given.

So it makes sense that Hollywood would hop on the ballyhoo bandwagon and use the block as a means of getting the word out. But unlike your standard, straightforward approach (clips, cut-down trailers), Adult Swim appears to be the beneficiary of content specifically molded toward its membership. Instead of giving viewers the typical “coming soon” pitch, the studios have come up with compelling, often clever ways of circumventing the standard preview. In their place have been mini-interview featurettes, strange animated sneaks, quirky takes on the tired old conventions, and in some cases, efforts that appear to have nothing to do with the film focused on.

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Friday, Aug 10, 2012
Like David Lynch's digital experiment...merged with a myriad of outside the box ideas, Packard plays fast and loose with reality in order to steer the audience toward ideas they might not otherwise embrace

Personality has always been an artistic element of cinema. At any given moment, how a character reacts to the circumstances they are in or changes the course of situations they are in charge of alters our perception of them and the narrative in general. More times than not, said transformations are exterior. They exist within places and because of things and can be viewed with the alert eye. Some filmmakers, however, have traveled this terrain in a more unclear, insular mode. The Double Life of Veronique, for example, explains its proposal from the title on down. There is something similar going on in many masterful films, from Hitchcock’s Vertigo to that Gwyneth Paltrow dud Sliding Doors.

For Damon Packard, maverick mainstay of the underground LA indie art cinema scene, such a strategy becomes the basis for an examination of time, place, and person entitled Foxfur. Not really a full length feature (it runs a scant 60 minutes), in nonetheless represents the first fully formed effort from the outsized auteur since his brilliant sci-fi scramble, SpaceDisco One. In between, there have been lots of false starts, a startling live-action take on Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and a few cameo appearances in fellow film freaks experiments (Caleb Emerson’s Frankie in Blunderland, The “Sweets” segment of The Theater Bizarre anthology). Driven by a dream few can comprehend and more than willing to place his unprocessed plans directly on film (or video), he stands as a singular visionary in a world made up, for the most part, of middling mainstream mediocrity.

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Monday, Jul 16, 2012
The obvious answer is... that Batman is us. Batman is a bigger than life adolescent dream. He's everything we wish we could be, including protector of the faith and righter of wrongs.

You can have your Avengers. You can moon over the various versions of Peter Parker’s Webslinger and clamor for more of his comic book buddies to bank on the big screen. But in a world of clearly commercial concerns, the Bat is where it’s at. Yes, Bruce Wayne, philanthropist and million/billionaire (depending on the era) raconteur and playboy has been the movie going publics fave rave for woe these last 40 years. He’s been the subject of a successful funny book run, reinvented by famed writers such as Frank Miller, reimagined as a ‘40s serials icon and a ‘60s camp champ. Yet it was the high concept ‘80s, and the even more micromanaged millennium, that turned the masked vigilante known as the Batman into a pure pop phenomenon.

It all started way back before blockbusters and boffo opening weekends. TV executives were looking for a companion piece to the popular ‘50s take on Clark Kent’s alter ego, aka The Adventures of Superman. That series, starring the George Reeves, was a huge hit among kids, and sensing a similar media splash, they figured the Bat would be best. Loathing the comics and going for a more potent pop art approach, ABC introduced Adam West as their wealthy warrior and Burt Ward as his faithful sidekick, Robin. With its plethora of guest stars as classic villains such as the Joker, the Penguin, and the Riddler, the show was an instant success. In fact, it was such a monster that it actually aired twice a week—the first episode setting up a cliffhanger that the next installment would resolve a few days later.

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Friday, Jul 13, 2012
In celebration of the day and date, here's an overview of the dozen or so films that make up the beloved slasher series.

He’s one of cinema’s most endearing ‘characters’, a figure of fear for nearly three decades. And yet he’s not some one-liner quipping child killer or hulking sinister ‘shape’. He doesn’t wield a chainsaw (usually) and didn’t make a pinheaded deal with the devil until sometime later in his creative canon. Indeed, Jason Voorhees and his Friday the 13th films have become the stuff of legitimate legend, forging a VCR fueled fanbase that takes every action of his hockey masked spree slayer and transforms it into the goriest of Gothic gospel. In deference to the date, we here at SE&L thought we would revisit every single movie in the Friday franchise - and sheepishly recognize that this means we indeed own all 12 - to see if the films themselves hold up to critical scrutiny. Even better, from 1980’s original slice and dice to the current installment’s cruel carving, we can see how Jason evolved, how he grew, and in several cases, how he blew, beginning with:

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Thursday, Jul 12, 2012
That's right, Freddy vs. Jason is the movie Cabin in the Woods claims to be, a circular experience in celluloid dread dreamt up by two genre geeks who wanted nothing more than to see their favorite fiends battling each other in a rumble royale.

When it comes to horror, iconography is king. It’s the fear we remember, not the dread we forget as it creeps across our spine. From the widow’s peaked presence of Count Dracula, to the flat-topped bolt neck of Dr. Frankenstein’s creation, terror can turn on a visual, or a singular scary moment. As a matter of fact, the world of post-modern fright is drenched in the dynamic of placing images above ideas. When we are lucky enough to get both - the pea-soup superiority of an Exorcist, the backwoods bone-crushing shivers of a cannibal family and their chainsaw wielding, Leatherfaced finder of fresh meat - the shock stays with us.

The Cabin in the Woods understands this all too well. Made by men steeped in the traditions of the genre - as in Buffy‘s Joss Whedon and Lost‘s Drew Goddard - and referencing all the cinematic scares they could afford (rights issues, you know), the movie made a mint during the Spring of 2012 chiefly on the last act denouement revolving around the explanation of what is happening to our victim fodder, and perhaps most importantly, why.

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