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

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Monday, Mar 31, 2014
Can showing short and experimental films in real movie theaters be a sign of disrespect?

Bear with me, this will take some explaining…

I work for the motion picture, broadcast and recorded sound division of the Library of Congress. Inside our facility, located in Culpeper, Virginia, there is a specially-built, well-appointed, and beautiful theater that seats just over 200.  Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, we show, for free, “vintage” films pulled straight from our vaults. Last month alone we showed A Hard Day’s Night, Moonstruck, “and Harold and Maude.

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Thursday, Mar 13, 2014
Annie may indeed be black now, but that doesn't matter. Your reaction, on the other hand, is what's really important, and what it says about you, and the state of society, is even more telling.

It’s getting a bit old. As a matter of fact, with the way Messageboard Nation and its far more blunt 140 character cousin, Twitterville react, you’d swear it was Selma in the ‘60s. Racism has gone underground thanks to social media, the anonymous soapbox giving everyone and their bigoted 15 minutes the kind of fame you don’t necessarily want. This week’s subject was the upcoming Annie remake featuring an ethnically diverse cast including Jamie Foxx, Rose Byrne, Cameron Diaz, and in the role of the title orphan (now a more PC-friendly “foster kid”), Beast of the Southern Wild‘s Quvenzhané Wallis. When the trailer premiered last week, it elicited a mixed response from the various opinion-sharing outlets. While many agreed the actual update looked (and sounded, thanks to obvious use of autotune) awful, the biggest stink occurred when the typical intolerant tweets started making the rounds.

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Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014
Though he's never been legally convicted of a crime, the ongoing battle between Woody Allen and the court of public opinion will never end.

Let’s just suppose, for the moment, that Woody Allen is a raging pedophile. Let’s pretend that everything that the Farrow clan—Mia, Dylan, and possible Sinatra-son Ronan—accuses him of is more than true. Let’s say that, for decades, we the people of the United States of America laughed at jokes made by a man who secretly enjoys the sexual company of minors. Let’s say that the infamous case back in 1992 ended with him brought up on charges, tried in a court of law, and found guilty of the crime (or crimes) that so many in the media and in the moviegoing public believe he committed. Right now, the aging auteur would be no such thing. Instead, he would just be a forgotten name in film history whose previous efforts are now wholly marginalized by his uncontrollable desire to deflower children. He’d be a nobody. Or better still, he’d be Victor Salva.

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Monday, Nov 4, 2013
As we come to terms with our past and look forward toward a better tomorrow, situations like the one with Ender's Game will be seen as what they truly are: part of the growing process, an aside in our increased attempt at understanding

The film version of Ender’s Game, which just opened this past Friday to decent box office results, is based on a beloved, award winning science fiction novel by someone named Orson Scott Card. It tells the story of a young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin who becomes the savior of mankind. In the book, two major wars are fought against an alien race wanting to establish a colony on Earth. Convinced that a third battle will break out, the military create a cadet school for young children to train them in the art of defeating this extraterrestrial menace. Through many simulations of possible combat scenarios, Ender becomes the most brilliant candidate among the many, and ends up leading our high tech troops in proposed strategies against the “Buggers.” Of course, it turns out that (SPOILER ALERT) these were not practice drills, but actual skirmishes that end with thousands dead and a planet destroyed.

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Monday, Oct 28, 2013
Like discovering your Dad's stash of Playboys when you were young, the shady, antisocial nature of such disturbing imagery represents the heavy metal equivalent of movies, the raised fist anarchy that many horror fans long to embrace.

For dedicated horror fans, it’s the hideous Holy Grail, a cup runneth over with as much minced body parts and juiced marrow as possible. It’s the icing on a particularly nasty cake, a filling so foul in a pastry so vile that simply sampling its entrails-laced spice will send your palette to purgatory… forever! Since its popularity as a means of pushing the exploitation film into a new, non-nude dynamic, to its post-millennial pose as a redefining hardcore homage, gore has given the movie macabre its surreal, sacrilegious fascination. It’s also elevated the craftsmen behind the scenes—the make-up artists and effects technicians—to the level of gods, beings given over to unbelievably realistic interpretations of human death and dismemberment.

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