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

 
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Tuesday, Jul 17, 2012
No matter who you celebrate -- Burton, Schumacher or Nolan -- the Batman franchise has been fascinating to watch. Before he Rises, here's our ranking of the seven previous Batman movies.

Which side do you come down on? Are you a purist, pushing for a version of the comic book hero yet unseen by audience eyes? Do you prefer the animated efforts, highly praised takes on the character and his caped crusade? Perhaps you enjoy the clean camp comedy of the ‘60s incarnation, or the gleeful Goth gloom of one Tim Burton. No matter who you celebrate—Schumacher or Nolan—the Batman franchise has been fascinating to watch. While many are unaware of the seminal serial version of the character from a time when movie used to pack in the added value, almost everyone remembers Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, and now Christian Bale. These are the Batmen within our frame of reference, Bruce Wayne as a tightly wound tycoon using his money and influence to fight crime (and later on, more than a few inner demons).


But where, exactly, do you come down on the whole cinematic interpretations debate? Are you in the late ‘80s camp, or the actual Peace Decade literalization of same? Is the grounded, more realistic Bat your bag, or do you long for the days when Adam West would don the cowl and do the Batusi? With time, the attempts at bringing this otherwise ordinary man with a boatload of cash and a vendetta the size of Saturn has been both supremely satisfying and awkwardly unrewarding. With the last installment of Nolan’s Knight about to hit theaters, let’s assess the delights… and the damage, shall we. Let’s rank the main Batman movies (sorry, no serials or cartoon adaptations will be addressed) to see just how these divergent offerings stand up. A few choices may surprise you, while the usual suspects slink toward the bottom, beginning with the obvious:


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Tuesday, Jul 10, 2012
With a staggering 62 entries between them, these are the 10 unnecessary cinematic series that need to go away, ASAP.

They’re not the franchises we look forward to. They’re not the latest from Christopher Nolan or the Marvel comic universe. Instead, they’re the flukes, the unfathomable continuing series that make no sense cinematically or artistically. The only reason they exist, aside from the desire by audiences to see what the latest installment has in store, is that all powerful predictor of success and support: money. Indeed, what makes any franchise a viable business model is the notion that name alone will guarantee good box office (or in the case of direct to video variables, continuing rentals and sell-throughs). And it’s not just on the home front. Many members of this corrupt collective get by because non-English speaking countries just can’t get enough of their action oriented/brightly colored creativity.


Still, you will notice a bit of a pattern here. Among the ten listings, half are oriented around the wee ones. Kids, it seems, are the primary cause of an unnecessary franchise. Just give them moving objects, brightly tinted caricatures, and just enough interest to keep their already lax attention span in check, and the results reap profits. Of the other five, three are horror an two cater to tweens—again, demographics that eat up almost everything put in front of them. While here are many more entries we could offer, we’ve chosen to avoid those based on other source material (sorry potential #1 Twilight) or with certain successes among their failures (aka the Burton/Schumacher Batman films). No, these are the 10 continuing legacies that should have been stopped before they could aesthetically procreate again, beginning with one of Full Moon’s most memorable:


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Tuesday, Jul 3, 2012
He's chronicled both war and peace, politics and passion. Here's the ten best films in this controversial writer/director's intriguing canon.

Frankly, film has missed Oliver Stone. The original button pushing infant terrible, the caustic controversy causer who loved to stir things up as well as entertain and engage, has been creatively MIA for far too long. It’s been only two years since his last film (the vastly mediocreWall Street sequel) and yet it seems like he’s been out of the cinematic limelight for twice as long, if not longer. Granted, he may have misfired through most of the Aughts, choices like Alexander and World Trade Center arguing for a man missing his main muse, but when you consider how brightly his contentious star burned throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, a little post-millennial malaise can be expected. In fact, to believe that Stone will ever be as creatively powerful as 1986 through 1996 is an aesthetic fool’s paradise.


With the opening of his latest work as co-writer/director, Savages, it’s time to look back at a motion picture catalog so dense and yet so diverse. Stone seems to have favorite subject matters—war and remembrance, crime and (the lack of legitimate) punishment, the conspiracy behind the veil of social reality—and when he stays within those limits, he’s luminous. It’s only when he strays from his considered comfort zone—pro football, ancient history, talk radio—that he falters, sometimes fatally. With this in mind, we have decided to pick through the 28 films he’s been responsible for either at the typewriter, behind the lens, or both, and pick our favorite ten. For the most part, the usual suspects are present, but as with the man who we’re celebrating here, surprises are par for the course, beginning with:


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Tuesday, Jun 26, 2012
Love him or fail to legitimize him, but Tyler Perry is the most powerful man in Hollywood. Here are 10 telling reasons why.

It may seem like an oxymoron, but Tyler Perry has made some good movies. Not GREAT movies, mind you, but perfectly acceptable examples of near mainstream entertainment that have the added benefit of bringing disenfranchised and forgotten viewers of color back to the cinema to celebrate their own. While still growing, he’s gained significant commercial status. Still, he’s a divisive character, a creator who loves to languish in the old school style known as melodrama while invoking an even more marginal device, the drag act, to generate laughs. Indeed, when decked out in full Madea Simmons garb, giving the young one’s what for while quoting soul classics from a bygone era, he’s the ultimate entertainment gimmick. Even if you find his films flawed beyond repair, the iconic gun-toting, pot smoking granny with a pantry of personal advice to ladle out like pans full of hot grits is a near guarantee of… good. 


So why don’t more movie lovers “get” Perry? Well, it could be a lack of previous experience. He got his start on the stage, offering inspirational plays and musical variety shows to churches throughout the South. He then stretched to the more urban areas for the country. By the time his first film, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, hit theaters, he was an established part of the poorly named “Chitlin’ Circuit”. Since then, he’s tried to expand his scope to include other aspects of the American experience while always keeping his cause squarely situated in faith and the minorities who rely on it for hope/help. With yet another entry in his growing oeuvre hitting theaters this week (Madea’s Witness Protection Program, 29 June), it’s time to look back at what’s he has accomplished and highlight the decent. Perhaps, with a little open-mindedness, this list will inspire you to check out his sunny, often soul-uplifting efforts, beginning with:


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Tuesday, Jun 19, 2012
Movie and music are inseparable. Here are 10 examples of how the two can come together to create a classic moment of cine-magic.

Don’t let the concept fool you: Hollywood has made a mint mining popular culture for music to squeeze into their productions. Even back in the days when actors frequently broke into song for no good reason, the latest selections on the hit parade were wedged in for some necessary commercial cross promotion. Many of the most memorable tunes from the past found their purchase in the cinema of the time, and up until the ‘50s, there was little change. Then directors hit upon a more intriguing idea. Instead of just using same as a marketing tool, why not give the material meaning? As a result, we’ve seen a steady increase in the use of popular songs and genres—rock, country, soul—as a viable motion picture backdrop. Some filmmakers have become so good at the concurrence of sight and sound that their reputation rests on it.


As a result, this is our list of the 10 Best Uses of Popular Music in Post Modern Cinema (yes, we are skipping several decades previous - there’s just no time or space). First off, however, some ground rules. We have PURPOSEFULLY tried to avoid the obvious choices. You won’t see “Layla” from Goodfellas, “In Dreams” from Blue Velvet, or “Sister Christian” from Boogie Nights (we have another, better selection for that film). In fact, many of the so called “most memorable” moments from the use of music in movies are AWOL here. Why? Well, it’s far more fun to discuss new traditions that to trod down the paths previously proposed. Even better, songs and sounds are personal things. One individuals love of George Thorogood can lead to the widespread use (and abuse) of his “Bad to the Bone”.


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