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

 
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Friday, Jul 18, 2014
A long time ago, Disney wanted to bring a bit of excitement into a kid's entertainment world. Planes: Fire and Rescue revisits that idea, and succeeds.

There was a time, at least 50 years ago, when Disney took as much care with its live action films as its did with its animation. While these titles could never live up to the breathtaking artistic breakthroughs being made by their pen and ink masterworks, Disney still managed to craft family entertainment without resorting to ridiculous contrivances or obvious audience pandering. It all began with an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Treasure Island, and flourished with efforts like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Swiss Family Robertson. There was even some unheralded excellence buried among the goofball comedies (The Shaggy Dog) and oddball entries (Greyfriar’s Bobby? Seriously).


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Friday, Jul 11, 2014
When coming of age movies are measured years from now, Boyhood will be the benchmark for artistic achievement and cinematic scope.

Our lives are made up of individual moments, parsed out over individual minutes over individual seconds which, in the end, always seem too short and sadly succinct. There’s no great story arc, just lots of little ones, each playing out among the various personality pros and cons we develop and scatter like so many dandelion seeds into the wind.


By the time we are old enough to realize it, we only remember the epics, the instances where things changed radically for better and worse. Births, deaths, degrees, achievements, jobs, kids, diseases, divorces—these are the buzzwords we use as we spin our time into something more meaningful. In the end, though, those individual moments fade, failing to resonate as powerfully as a performance or a passing, a problem or an epiphany.


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Wednesday, Jul 2, 2014
Like being locked in a narrative limbo with no realistic relief in sight, Tammy tries to get away with being bold and brazen

It would be easy to call Tammy a work of subversive genius. It would be rational to try and explain away its lack of laughs and overall condescending contempt for women of all makes and models as part of some screwball cinematic experiment gone wholly if horribly awry. Certainly Melissa McCarthy (our star and co-writer) and her hubby Ben Falcone (co-writer and director) didn’t mean to make a movie so clueless and incompetent that the rising star would suddenly see her considerable commercial cache come crashing back down to Earth?


Or did they? Perhaps this is all part of the plan: take a tired idea (the road movie), jazz it up with some Oscar level acting (Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates) and then bungle both the approach and the delivery. The result is a ridiculous excuse for entertainment that’s neither funny nor fun. But it sure is seditious, huh?


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Friday, Jun 27, 2014
This is what happens when the idea for a film must pitch itself to its audience over and over again until the audience is convinced.

Michael Bay doesn’t make movies. If there was a Department of Propaganda in the US, he’d be the nation’s number one visual jingoist. His imagery is all sun-dappled backdrops, waving fields of grain, and stark red, white, and blues against unholy inhuman mayhem.


His heroes are goofy and wholesome, his villains similarly styled but teeming with untold evil. He paints his single digit IQ plotlines in strokes so broad that newborn babies seem to understand them while simultaneously pushing his F/X wizards to the brink of individual madness with his desire for a photorealistic apocalypse.


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Friday, Jun 27, 2014
This is a terrific, dark dystopian nightmare mixed with flashes of Terry Gilliam-esque absurdity and the filmmaker's own fractured frame of reference.

The story behind Bong Joon-Ho‘s Snowpiercer is almost as exhilarating and as nail-biting as the movie itself. By now, the details are legend: the film was highly touted as the first major mainstream English language effort from the man responsible for Memories of Murder, Mother, and perhaps best known of all, the giant monster movie The Host. Adapted from a French graphic novel series Le Transperceneige, Oldboy‘s Park Chan-wook secured the rights to the property and gave it to his friend to direct.


After making a splash on the festival circuit, the Weinstein Company stepped in to distribute the movie in the West…and soon the trouble started. Scissorhanded suit Harvey Weinstein wanted a good “20 minutes” removed from the movie. He also demanded title cards, narration, and other ways to help an American audience “understand” the thriller. For him, it   just didn’t “play in Peoria”. Bong balked, and thus began a publicity war which saw both sides dig their heels in for a long battle.


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