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

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Friday, Dec 20, 2013
Everyone was wrong when they tagged this Summer of 2013 entry a "bomb." Instead, it's a sorely misunderstood work of warped genius.

Was anyone really clamoring to revisit this knotty, nostalgia laden hero? Is the demographic who remembers the character from radio, or his lengthy run on ‘50s TV really anxious to see his masked persona and his faithful Indian companion ride high in the saddle again? Is the clarion call of “Hi Ho Silver!” still viable in 2013? After all, an attempted early ‘80s reboot failed miserably (perhaps best known for casting unknown model Klinton Spilsbury as the titular champion, only to have his dialogue eventually overdubbed by James Keach) and a 2003 TV movie didn’t deliver, ratings wise (thus the planned spin-off series was cancelled). In fact, the Western genre still walks on the wobbliest of cinematic legs, no longer enjoying the commercial cultural impact of the ‘30s through ‘60s.


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Wednesday, Sep 11, 2013
Kon-Tiki, a joint Norwegian and Hollywood venture, is the filmic version of the Millais painting. It’s romantic and hokey and about as subtle as a Norman Rockwell or a movie like Kick-Ass, but it’s a beautiful movie nonetheless.

“It can be done!” lisps the blonde, blue-eyed Thor Heyerdahl (Pål Hagen) to a skeptical academic geographer. It’s 1947, and the young Norwegian ethnographer has come to New York City to persuade The National Geographic Society that the Pacific Islands were settled by ancient peoples from South America who traveled across the ocean on balsa wood rafts. The prevailing theory, based on a variety of genetic, linguistic, and physical evidence, was that the settlers sailed in from Asia, but Heyerdahl is convinced otherwise.


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Wednesday, Aug 28, 2013
There is no denying the spell cast by The Muppet Movie. You just unconsciously smile while watching it.

At the time, they were riding high, the success of their UK based series showcasing their “beyond Sesame Street” viability and both mainstream entertainment and critical cult hit. For more than two decades Jim Henson had slowly developed a dedicated following, his puppeteering skills and unique characters creating a niche in both children’s programming and irreverent counter-culture comedy as well. In fact, it wasn’t unusual to see his celebrated “Muppets” as part of late night talk shows, weekly variety hours, and perhaps, most importantly, the first season of Saturday Night Live. Henson had that rare talent to target a specific audience, whether it was teaching young children the necessary educational lessons they would require, or getting a drug-addled young adult to giggle at his or her TV screen as monster’s mashed each other.


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Monday, Aug 26, 2013
A Boy and His Dog defies expectations because, with Ellison, you really can't have any.

Harlan Ellison is one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. You can argue with his attitude and his occasional lapses into tasteless self-aggrandizement, but when you look over his creative output - be it film, TV, short fiction, novels, or essays - his talent is above reproach. He is a thinker and a scholar, a wise elder statesman in the vanishing world of literacy. He’s also a notorious mixer, turning even the most mindless exercise into a debate worthy of a despotic tribunal. So it goes without saying that most of his work remains solely in the mind’s eye of the reader. Many of his most important pieces have gone without adaptation, mostly because Ellison is so meticulous about how his thoughts should come across to an audience (just ask Gene Roddenberry). He will not suffer fools, not even lightly, and last time anyone checked, Hollywood is a jester’s paradise.


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Friday, Aug 23, 2013
...stuck somewhere between fear and fallacy.

Not every approach from the past should be mimicked. Just because the musical made everyone’s desperate lives a bit less unlivable during the Great Depression doesn’t mean they have the same resonance to a greed-fueled Reagan era audience. Similarly, film noir made brilliant use of the artforms inherent limitations (i.e. color film was too damned expensive), turning what were basically B-movies into minor masterworks. Yet it’s hard to imagine such a hardboiled crime style succeeding today (unless your film is named Sin City, or Drive). And then there is what some would call the Amblin-fication of mainstream entertainment. Named after Steven Spielberg and his famed production company, it marks the moment when the man responsible for Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T. became the guiding force in subject matter and the aesthetic style when exploring same.


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