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Tuesday, Sep 27, 2011
With the 3D Lion King currently the number one movie in America, it's time to look back at the 10 greatest films in the history of the House of Mouse.

In keeping with the controversial (the wounds from last week’s trilogy piece are still stinging), let’s now turn our sights to one of the most misunderstood—and uneven—oeuvres in all of modern moviemaking: The Disney Full Length Animated “Classic”. Considering the amount of unconditional love these House of Mouse favorites tend to generate, it would be foolhardy to try and pick 20, let alone an even tougher 10. But the truth is a bit more measured. Not everything that came out of Walt’s World, either before or after his death, wasn’t an apple of painted cell gold. Instead, just like any accomplished creator, he and his company had their good days and bad, their One Hundred and One Dalmatians and their Fun and Fancy Free, so to speak.

So, we are ready to hear the horrific cries of those who want any number of the following found below: Bambi, Dumbo, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, The Jungle Book, The Sword in the Stone, Aladdin and/or The Emperor’s New Groove. We get it, we are out of touch and wouldn’t know good cartooning if it jumped up and bit us in the pen and inks. This is particularly true of the more contemporary titles, since determining artistic longevity is more than just a sense of appreciation. However, we can literally defend every choice here, from the inclusion of one of the company’s most unusual efforts (a Greek God comedy???) to the obvious universally adored efforts. Still, you might find a few surprises along the way, especially when it comes to placement (as in a certain revered royalty that’s currently burning up the box office).

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Wednesday, Sep 21, 2011
With the high definition arrival of everyone's favorite (?) space sagas, now’s as good a time as any to countdown the all time greats of triangular tale-spinning.

It’s safe to say that, unless they are based on some similarly styled source material (book, play, etc.), the motion picture trilogy is a product of popularity. Though its narrative and cinematic symmetry can be breathtaking to behold, most three part films were not preplanned. Instead, they were forged out of a desire to please the audience mixed with a need to repay the cast/crew. George Lucas can argue all he wants to that his Star Wars saga—now finally out on Blu-ray—was always intended as three separate three-part projects (guess the crappy prequels destroyed that dream, right big G?) but Fox barely wanted to release the first film. So what fodder did he have for contemplating such a massive vision? The answer is obvious—he didn’t. Like most eventual franchises, box office gave Luke Skywalker’s real pappy a chance to dream, resulting in the genre’s first example of the law of diminishing returns.

There are a couple of factors inherent in determining the best trilogies of all time. First, the three films included have to be linked in some significant way. They can’t be a pure product of money-oriented moviemaking. Secondly, all three movies must be worth watching. A sloppy second act or atrocious third movement means the overall quality is compromised. A few can survive this kind of scrutiny—most cannot. Finally, there is a subjective element known as “completeness”. Do the films that make up this multi-faceted narrative really deliver on their designs, is there an all encompassing arc, or are we stuck seeing the same old story told over and over again? By answering these important questions, and taking into consideration other objective criteria like continuity and completeness, a final assessment can be reached.

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Tuesday, Sep 13, 2011
With Warrior arriving in theaters, it's time to take a look at the films it's trying to emulate and if it has a shot at taking the championship belt.

With Warrior getting staggering reviews out of the gate, now seems as good a time as any to release our list of the Best Fighting Movies ever made. The requisites for making the cut are as follows: the film must be able to be considered a boxing movie, a wrestling movie, or another form of officially sanctioned fighting. So don’t start ‘roiding out when you don’t see Enter the Dragon or Legend of Drunken Master. The same goes for Jean Claude Van Damme’s canon of films. While admittedly not an expert on the recent addition to The Expendables 2, I know enough about Bloodsport to know a martial arts tournament where people die is not justly regulated.

Also not included – movies with lots of fights. I know, I know. The title is a little misleading here, but most of those would fall under the action movie genre. Fights need to be in or around a ring or octagon to be considered here. Finally, in an effort to be fair to the other competitors, the Rocky series will be exempt from competition. What is clearly the best fighting franchise of all time doesn’t need to be mixing with what are comparative peons. Just know in your burning heart the films (other than Rocky V, of course) hold a place higher than the #1 seed on this list.

Got it? Good. Now touch gloves and read on. Who knows? Maybe by the time The Fighter 2 comes out and we republish this list, Warrior will have fought its way into the fray.

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Friday, Sep 9, 2011
With the stink of Apollo 18 still fresh, here are 10 examples of the first person POV subgenre that actually work.

With a weak opening of barely $9 million, Apollo 18 stunk up the September box office this past Labor Day Weekend. Few had much faith in a film that was jostled around the release schedule in such a random manner, and the lack of a significant press screening more or less sealed the deal. But there’s another factor involved in the flop that few have mentioned - the significant struggle required to make a good first person, POV, found footage film. The list of pretenders to the throne - The Poughkeepsie Tapes, The Zombie Diaries, The Last Horror Movie - are many, and for every classic take on the material, there are dozens of desperate wannabes who can’t seem to create compelling characters (Paranormal Activity) or a suspenseful storyline (The Last Exorcism).

In a nutshell, here’s the inherent problem with the category - the audience has to believe they are seeing something real. They have to believe that there’s a reason for a constantly filming camera (even in light of impending danger). They have to believe in the images captured. And they have to believe that the threat will continue to grow worse. The viewer should want to avert their eyes, not permanently close them in bored out of their brain tedium. It’s one of the most delicate and deceptive balancing acts in all of cinema. Perhaps this is why successful examples are so rare. In the case of the ten titles listed here, more than a few have flaws. In fact, only a couple are close to perfect. What they all have in common is the ability to deliver on their promise - and in the first person, POV, found footage arena, that’s a major accomplishment.

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Friday, Sep 2, 2011
Can we really go four weeks in a row without a bad movie in September? Like I say every season with the Cubs, this might be the year.

My parents go to the movies almost every week, God bless ‘em. Whether there’s a new Harrison Ford movie out or the best offering is a shudder Paul Walker movie, my folks will be sitting in the theater at least 20 minutes early, popcorn in hand, waiting for it to start—and yes, they were disappointed in Cowboys and Aliens, too. They, like most film fanatics, hate the down season. January through April are the months most chock full of schlock, and September usually comes in a close second because it’s too late for summer blockbusters and too early for Oscar contenders.

Last year, the closest we got to a Best Picture nominee was The Town, an admittedly deserving contender. In 2009, however, the best of month #9 was The Informant. 2008 gave us Burn After Reading. It was 2007 that came the closest to week-to-week quality with Eastern Promises, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and The Darjeeling Limited, but the last two were given limited releases keeping most Americans from seeing them until October or later.

This year actually has a shot at September perfection. That’s not to claim every film will be a 10 out of 10 or even get an Oscar nomination. After all, a pitcher doesn’t have to strike out every batter for a perfect game. Looking at the lineup, though, there’s at least one wide release each week deserving of your dollars. Here’s hoping Mr. and Mrs. Travers agree come October.

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