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

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Wednesday, Apr 14, 2010
While the traditional comic book bad-ass with his x-ray vision and sonic speed gets relegated to a second slot in the cultural conversation, we keep cheering and cheering for the everyday masked vigilante (with exceptions) who look and talks like us - or how we wish we were.

Looking back over the last three decades of superhero movies, it’s interesting to note the successes and failures. Batman (both Burton and Nolan)? Your basic box office gangbusters. The Hulk and Superman? No so much. It seems like, more and more, audiences like to be able to identify with their caped crusader, be it brooding and darkly knighted, or spidery and adolescently geeked. While the traditional comic book bad-ass with his x-ray vision and sonic speed gets relegated to a second slot in the cultural conversation, we keep cheering and cheering for the everyday masked vigilante (with exceptions) who look and talks like us - or how we wish we were.

This week, Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of Kick-Ass will unveil yet another layer in this ongoing social saga. The story centers on a young comic nerd named Dave Lizewski who longs to be like his favorite pen and ink crusaders. Deciding that he will be the first “average guy” to actually emulate his obsession, he dons a line green wet suit and christens himself Kick-Ass. A popular MySpace page and one epic fail later, and he is teamed up with the vendetta-driven duo of Big Daddy and his daughter Hit-Girl. Both have taken the notion of homegrown interpersonal justice to decidedly deadly ends. The target of their secret ID wrath? The crime kingpin Frank D’Amico and his entire redolent racketeering organization.

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Monday, Apr 5, 2010
For some strange reason, there are many formerly famous movie names -- John Carpenter, John Landis, Bruce Robinson -- who've fallen off the prickly façade of fame.

Perhaps the reasons are personal. Maybe, outside of our tendency for know-it-all-ism and information overload, the explanations have remained private and kept close to the vest. Of course, it could all center around money, and the means of making more. Given their recent track record, that might explain their industry exile. Yet for some strange reason, there are many formerly famous movie names—John Carpenter, John Landis, Bruce Robinson—who’ve fallen off the prickly façade of fame. Call it lack of interest on both ends or something more sinister, but it ends up ruining the reputation of the artform. Granted, all three of the previously mentioned directors are behind the lens right now (with The Ward, Burke and Hare, and The Rum Diaries, respectively) giving renewed recognition and possible redemption a go. But for some, the outlook is not so bright. For them, it’s time to champion a creative comeback.

With the five names listed below, it’s important to set up some clear cut standards. First, we must acknowledge that all have done great-to-gratifying work at some point in their career. Without that, who cares if they ever work again. Second, we must recognize that, aside from a promised project or two in the future, they have presently been out of the filmmaking loop for far too long. Third, we have no real indication that they couldn’t make another trek into the always open talent pool, if given the opportunity to do so. For some, they swan in success for decades. Finally, the occasional commercial flop aside, there’s no understandable explanation for why they aren’t making movies right now. A couple even have Academy accolade to bolster their prospects. With that in mind—and with some personal perspective in tow - we offer five names that definitely deserve another chance at the Tinseltown brass ring, beginning with a highly unusual choice:

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Monday, Mar 29, 2010
I guess what I’m asking is "why don’t you make another movie?" Is it a matter of money? Is it really that hard for someone as undeniably gifted as you to find financing for your latest flights of fancy?

Dear God of Post-Modern Moviemaking:

Too much? Have I put you off already? If so, I’m sorry. It’s just hard imagining what I have to say, and how I have to say it. You see, I’ve loved you for a very long time. No, not your subversive Midwestern mentality that sees beauty in the most grotesque of worm-infested rotting meat mannerisms. Nor am I particularly enamored of your current concentration on Transcendental Meditation, though I can completely see where you’re coming from with the whole “free your mind” ideal. You see, I’ve loved your MOVIES for a very long time - since I first saw your “straight” drama The Elephant Man way back in 1980, and I’m here to say that I miss you, and need you back in my life terribly.

Wow - how weak-willed and whiny. I was hoping to come off a little more forceful than this. You see, I am a real movie maniac, someone who linked up with your Wild at Heart so significantly that I remember watching it over and over when it was finally released on VHS (I know, you HATE that. Sorry again). Several dozen viewings later and I can argue with anyone over the merits of your bizarro-world Wizard of Oz riff. I’m as Powermad as Sailor and Lula, hotter than Georgia asphalt and convinced that peaches do indeed spread diseases. Crazy old cousin “Jingle” Dell’s got nothing on me, and I can easily…dammit. There I go, rambling again. You have that effect on me, don’t you know.

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Wednesday, Mar 24, 2010

Granted, the characters are as cardboard as a Dominos Pizza crust (yes, even after the big overhaul - sorry, current sales team). The storyline is also so scattered, stupid, and silly that it can barely contain its own retarded ridiculousness. Almost all the actors are in it for the paycheck or the needed commercial profile (sadly, someone forgot to tell Chiwetel Ejiofor or Woody Harrelson) with a few barely able to keep a straight face through all the forced fear mayhem. Yet without a doubt, Roland Emmerich’s 2012 stands as the greatest disaster movie of all time if for one sequence and one sequence alone - the complete and utter annihilation of California.

As the film’s first major F/X set-piece, the German born genius of the mindless action apocalypse (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow) knew he had to craft a real showstopper, and for decades, pundits have been speculating that the next “great” quake would turn LA and its surrounding San Adreas fault line friends into a great big pile of Pacific floaters. Emmerich decided to run with that idea, creating one of the most mind-bloggling examples of CG chaos ever created, a sequence so sensational it raises goosebumps on your flesh as its systematically lowers your overall IQ. In fact, when viewed in the latest incarnation of the home video format - Blu-ray - one gains a deeper appreciation of the moviemaker’s warped vision, and how he turned it loose on our Left Coast cousins. 

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Thursday, Mar 11, 2010

Because, in a historical context, it’s destined not to be…

That’s the easy answer. Oscar may do a lot of good when it comes to the filmmaking community and its active membership, but picking the best movie of any given year is never its strong suit. A cursory glance across the decades sees choices both confounding (The Greatest Show on Earth, Around the World in ‘80s Days) and wholly debatable (Ordinary People vs. Raging Bull, Dances with Wolves vs. Goodfellas), while everyone has their individual sticking points (2001 for yours truly) and abominations (Crash? Really?).

Still, the situation with The Hurt Locker is different in two significant ways. First, it was part of a newly revamped system that opened up the competition to nine more possible spoilers. Shakespeare in Love only had to overcome Saving Private Ryan and two other terrible choices (Life is Beautiful, Elizabeth) that didn’t deserve to be considered. Kathryn Bigelow’s intense war thriller had to marginalize critic’s faves like Inglourious Basterds, Precious, and Up in the Air while thwarting the massive commercial clout of Avatar - and that still left five other films to figure out. That makes the win all the more sweet, right? Well, not really…

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