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

 
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Friday, Sep 19, 2014
Instead of playing with the anticipated and the preconceived, Kevin Smith takes a intriguing premise and circumvents our expectations.

It was the moment every fan was waiting for. After turning their previous work into a multi-million unit selling classic, the announcement of new material was met with the typical pop culture pandemonium. There was even something called “a video” to support the song, a chance to see the band actually recording the tune with help from USC’s marching band.


Yes, 35 years ago, Fleetwood Mac unleashed the title track to their album, Tusk, to a bemused and confused audience. Those expecting the crystal clear commercial appeal of the group’s Rumors, were instead stuck by a strange, surreal bit of primal percussion matched by writer Lindsey Buckingham’s menacing vocals. It was unlike anything the band had done before.


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Friday, Sep 19, 2014
The Maze Runner reminds us that an interesting idea, told well, can trump any number of artistic or aesthetic issues.

Fans of the book are going to be flummoxed. Instead of a faithful adaptation of James Dashner’s successful 2009 novel, the makers of The Maze Runner have decided to par away the wheat from the shaft, creating a compelling dystopian “what if?” that may not answer every question it proposes, but certainly gets significant mileage out of the premise presented.


There’s a lot to digest initially, with sci-fi babble names for certain elements and a real revisionist Lord of the Flies vibe to the ambiguous adolescent male community being carved out of this unusual circumstance. But once first time feature filmmaker Wes Ball dispenses with all the set-up, we are left with an inherently intriguing idea, to wit—what’s behind those massive walls, what is “the maze”, who created it, and what are those awful noises the kids hear howling through the night.


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Friday, Sep 19, 2014
This is one of the best films about the lingering effects of dysfunction that's been made.

There’s a line in the terrific new film, The Skeleton Twins, where Kristin Wiig’s melancholy Maggie tells her suicidal sibling Milo, played by Bill Hader, that life isn’t about success. “Few people are stars,” she suggests, “The rest of us are just walking around wondering how our lives got so bad.”


For these mentally unbalanced offspring, each attracted to both the danger and the depression of living outside the lines, there’s no need to speculate. He blames her for something that happened back in high school. She argues that his lack of support, and their distant, distracted mother, has brought about an obvious discomfort about who she is.


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Monday, Sep 15, 2014
It's quite a long buildup before we get to know the realities of Bob Saginowski's past. Once delivered, however, it's too little, way too late.

You know it’s going to happen; you’re just not sure when. You can sense the story building up to it. So does the performance, measured out in ever increasing indications of suppressed violence. Still, he’s a decent guy. Soft spoken. Kind to animals. Not afraid to be loyal when necessary, while always happy to point out potential pitfalls in other’s knee-jerk reactions and schemes.


And there’s the inferences, the hints at secrets from the past being concealed and realities no longer discussed. This is Bob Saginowski, bartender at a local Brooklyn dive known as Cousin Marv’s. He is played by Tom Hardy, who is the only reason to give the otherwise ordinary crime thriller The Drop a look. The rest of the movie hopes to use the reputation of its writer to lure in the audience, but it won’t work.


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Monday, Sep 15, 2014
Dolphin Tales is one instance where, despite the famous words of W.C. Fields, working with children and animals actually pays off.

W.C. Fields said it best: “Never work with children or animals.” The legendary comedian, who built his entire commercial reputation on a cranky, curmudgeon persona doused generously in various inebriations, understood implicitly that, once you bring a kid or a critter into the mix, you’re no longer the center of attention. Instead, our worship of youth and nature surpasses any desire to pay attention to an adult, or more mature subject matter.


Brats and beasts are scene stealers, and this is clearly the driving force behind the family film Dolphin Tale 2. Granted, this obvious sequel was spurred on by the success of the original 2011 effort, getting a great deal out mileage (and wholesome entertainment) out of Fields’ admonishments. The movie’s desire to confront the darker aspects of the story’s situation makes it more than just another cynical cash grab.


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