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

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Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014
He's made bad taste a true art form. In light of his recent birthday, here's our choices for John Waters' 10 Best Films.

He was born to a pair of highly conservative parents. As a child, he spent hour after hour playing the fantasy gore game “car accident” and as a teen he tended to hang around the undesirable element in his ‘50s high school. By college age he was a first class shoplifter, a bohemian troublemaker, and a fledgling filmmaker. By the time he hit his twenties, he pooled his resources and his friends. Suddenly, Dreamland Studios was born, and John Waters was a director. Today, he’s the acknowledged Prince of Puke, a man whose humor has influenced countless generations of outsider artists. From There’s Something About Mary to the many faces of Apatow, he’s the inspiration for and the King of gross out gags.

So with his birthday this week, we thought we’d revisit the Waters canon, concentrating on his full length features. Granted, we have automatically removed one from consideration (we just don’t like Cecil B. Demented) and have avoided almost anything pre-Pink Flamingos (with an exception). Also, this is just a ranking of how we see the man’s career, not some universal declaration of good and bad. As a matter of fact, Waters has had one of the most consistent oeuvres of any recognizable auteurs. Because they are always built on his singular vision, his work remains instantly discernible…and accessible. You just have to have the stomach for it, even something as innocuous as the first title on our list:

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Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014
Serious science fiction often takes a backseat to the more pulpy, crowdpleasing genre entries. Here are 10 titles far better than any "dogfight in space" adventure.

At it’s very best, science fiction makes us think. It asks us to ponder the tough questions and consider the complicated consequences of messing with science, space, technology, and our own fragile grasp of same. It often contemplates ideas bigger than us, using a shape of things to come creativity that’s part warning, part welcome. Of course, Star Wars came and wrecked havoc on the genre, using its space operatics to turn quality science fiction into action adventure in the galaxy, but even within its movie serial designs are ideas that expand our concept of who we are, and who we might be. It’s an approach that’s often yielded uneven results, especially when the desire for eye candy and brain busting special effects take precedent over the one thing great speculative fiction cannot live without, ideas.

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Wednesday, Apr 9, 2014
In celebration of his 40th year as a published author, we present these five unfilmed, and five already available Stephen King books that are crying out for a cinematic (re)configuration.

Forty years ago, on 5 April to be exact, a book entitled Carrie was released to limited fanfare. Written by a then unknown scribe named Stephen King, while he was struggling, it was actually his fourth complete novel (but first to be published). With an initial run of 30,000 copies, few could imagine the cottage industry it would help fuel. While the hardcover was hardly a hit, the paperback sold over one million copies. King quit his job as a teacher to concentrate on his new career and the rest, as they say, is one of the greatest runs in horror prose history. The mild mannered man from Maine with a wealth of internal demons and a demented way of expressing them would go on to sell a staggering 350 million books, many of which have been adapted into successful (or in many cases, schlocky) movies. In fact, during the ‘80s and ‘90s, hardly a year went by when another King effort made it onto either the big or small screen.

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Thursday, Apr 3, 2014
When you think animation, do you automatically think Disney, Pixar, Anime, Miyazaki, Studio Ghilbi and/or stop motion. Here are ten terrific examples that will broaden your perspective.

Perhaps a better title here would be The Best Non-Disney, Non -Pixar, Non-Anime, Non-Miyazaki, Non-Studio Ghilbi, Non-Stop Motion Animated Films of All Time. Yes, believe it or not, there are other offerings out there in the history of the artform other than the pen and ink (now mostly CG) spectacle of the House of Mouse, its computer supported partner, the fascinating finesse of the Japanese, and the entire Nightmare Before the Fantastic Mr. Fox frame-by-frame conceit. We would never know it, however. The merchandising machine built by Uncle Walt and his workers more or less covers the globe with its glad tidings, and the other studios in the system—Fox, Dreamworks, Paramount, etc.—can’t help but play Ice Age/Madagascar/How I Shreked Your Dragon catch-up. That just leaves the outsiders, the foreign entries and the independent wannabes who desperately hope your don’t mind a lack of Mickey, Minnie, Buzz, Woody, my neighbor Totorro or Porco Rosso in your latest trip to the cineplex.

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Wednesday, Mar 26, 2014
He was the King of '80s/'90s action. Now, while attempting a comeback, we look at the 10 best films in Arnold Schwarzenegger's onscreen action legacy.

He’ll be back on the silver screen this weekend in an oddball amalgamation of drug cartel crime thriller and murder/mystery whodunit entitled Sabotage, but the fact is that Arnold Schwarzenegger never really went away. Even while serving two terms as Governor of California, his legacy shifted while staying most ingrained in moviegoer’s hearts. After vowing a return to his previous place in the pop culture lexicon, he’s tried teaming up with other past action heroes (The Expendables 2), doing a duo piece with an equally ‘relevant’ rival (Escape Plan with Sly Stallone) and even going back to his “one man vs. many” mainstay dynamic (see below). In each case, new generations have mostly ignored this once celebrated superstar, leaving those of us in the outskirts of the biz wondering why this former box office behemoth has lost his way. That got us looking back at his past catalog and, suddenly, it all became clear. When he was on, there was nobody better. But that was then, and this is now.

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