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New Escapist Video! On “Justice League” and the Triumph of Art Over Content…

So, as I have mentioned before, I am launching a new video series as a companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch with every second Monday article, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel the following week. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film channel – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

This week, following the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at the theatrical release of Justice League. In particular, the differences between the two cuts and the way in which the theatrical cut was a cynical plot to erase any distinct identity from the film and reduce it to empty superhero “content.”

226. Zack Snyder’s Justice League (#86)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Graham Day, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Zack Snyder’s Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

Following the death of Superman, Batman sets about putting together a team of superheroes to fight a threat that is charging at Earth from across the cosmos.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 86th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On the Horror of Joss Whedon’s “Justice League”…

I published a new column at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League this week, it seemed like an appropriate opportunity to take a look at the original theatrical cut of Justice League, which remains one of the worst blockbusters of the past decade.

What makes the theatrical cut of Justice League such an insidious film isn’t just what it is, although it is terrible on its own terms. It’s what the film represents. It’s a very conscious and very deliberate erasure of a distinct vision of an expensive creative project, in the hope of serving reheated nostalgic leftovers that fans might gorge themselves upon. It’s pure, empty, vacuous content – a pale imitation of what other companies do better, without a single unique perspective of its own.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Video! On “Mad Max: Fury Road” and the Arbitrary Lines Between High and Low Culture…

So, as I have mentioned before, I am launching a new video series as a companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch with the Monday article, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel the following week. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film channel – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

This week, with the renewed and ongoing debate between “high” and “low” culture, between “art” and “content”, it seemed like a good time to take a look at one of the more fascinating films to straddle that line. Mad Max: Fury Road is the fourth entry in a long-running franchise, a film essentially built around a long car chase and explosions. However it’s also as pure a piece of cinema that has ever been made. It demonstrates the fungibility of those perceived boundaries.

New Escapist Column! On “Mad Max: Fury Road”, and the Elastic Boundaries Between “High” and “Low” Culture…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. There’s been a lot of debate recently about the boundaries between “art” and “content”, which can frequently sound like a debate about “high” and “low” culture, so I thought it was worth taking a look at how porous those boundaries can be.

On paper, Mad Max: Fury Road should be a standard franchise film. It’s the fourth film in the Mad Max franchise, serving as a vague sequel or even reboot to one of Australia’s most successful movie franchises. It cost a lot of money. It features a lot of special effects. It has very little dialogue. However, in spire of that, it is arguably as pure an expression of cinema as an artform as has every existed, and demonstrates how elastic and how illusory arguments about “high” and “low” culture truly are.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On Understanding “Twin Peaks” Emotionally, Rather than Intellectually…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine yesterday. With the thirtieth anniversary of Twin Peaks, I got to talk a little bit about the show and David Lynch.

Lynch has a reputation as a “difficult” artist for audiences, a filmmaker whose art is challenging and provocative. It’s easy to see why. On a simple mechanical level, it can be very difficult to explain what happens during a David Lynch film or television show. More to the point, two different audience members might provide two very different descriptions. However, that’s always been what I admired about Lynch. As a critic, he forces me to engage emotionally with his work because an intellectual understanding is never enough. I feel Lynch’s work, even if I don’t comprehend it.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Non-Review Review: The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch is bizarre misfire, lurking somewhere within the uncanny valley of prestige awards fare.

The film looks just enough like a standard end-of-year prestige piece to convince at a distance. John Crowley knows how to frame a shot and how to edit a sequence, particularly when setting it to music. The production values are impressive. The presence of actors like Jeffrey Wright or Nicole Kidman help to sell the illusion. The film itself is built around a variety of familiar awards-friendly tropes, charting the struggles of an orphan who drifts through the social strata twenty-first century American while struggling with his emotions and his drug addiction.

The Goldfinch is decidedly artless.

However, there’s also just enough wrong with The Goldfinch to push it into some weird liminal space. No three members of the cast seem to believe that they are in the same movie. The film decides to spend two hours as a reflective mood piece, before cramming a fairly generic thriller into the next twenty minutes, and wraps up by having a secondary character explain an ending that happened entirely off-screen. Large passages of the movie consist of time-lapse montages of characters staring into middle distance as overwrought monologues discuss concepts of grief and guilt.

Most of The Goldfinch is dull and lifeless, but there are moments when the film swerves wildly into surreality. Those moments aren’t necessarily good, but they are at least more interesting than the hollow prestige trappings that surround them.

I sense a laboured metaphor.

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Escapist Column! “Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance” as an Ode to Craft…

And it’s time for another In the Frame column from Escapist Magazine.

This one is taking a look at the recent Netflix streaming series Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance, skillfully and beautifully created the Jim Henson workshop. It’s a fascinating series, in large part because so much of its appeal goes beyond the (relatively simple) story being told. So I took a look at The Age of Resistance as a technical showcase, a celebration of the artistry involve.

You can read the article here, or click the picture below.

The X-Files: Season 10 (IDW) #10 – More Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man

This June, we’re going to be taking a look at the current run of The X-Files, beginning with the IDW comic book revival and perhaps taking some detours along the way. Check back daily for the latest review.

More Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man is certainly an ambitious story.

As the title suggests, writer Joe Harris and artist menton3 position this one-shot as a spiritual sequel to Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man, the controversial fourth season episode written by Glen Morgan and directed by James Wong. Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man offered a window into the past of the Cigarette-Smoking Man, a possible glimpse of who he had been and how he had come to be. It was also one of the most consciously stylised and ambiguous episodes in the entire nine-year run of the show.

Wheels within wheels.

Wheels within wheels.

Writing a spiritual sequel to that classic episode is a bold decision from the creative team. As with a lot of the big creative decisions concerning The X-Files: Season 10, More Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man seems too focused on the past. There is a sense that the monthly series is a little too beholden to what came before, too rooted in continuity, too dedicated to revisiting the iconography of the series. Writing a single-issue standalone story positioned as a sequel to on of the most unique episodes of the original run only emphasises this unease.

And, yet, in spite of these legitimate concerns, More Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man works reasonably well. It is indulgent and obsessive, but it is also rich and mysterious. It is disjointed and uneven, but that feels like the point. In keeping with the spirit of Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man, it feels like More Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man is a reflection on the comic book itself. This is a comic book contemplating its own identity and purpose, even as it finds itself being made redundant.

X marks the spot.

X marks the spot.

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Non-Review Review: Shoulder the Lion

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2015.

Shoulder the Lion is a visual sumptuous documentary from the creative team of Erinnisse and Patryk Rebisz.

The duo have a long history behind the scenes. Patryk is an accomplished cinematographer and Erinnisse is a veteran editor. However, barring a short film written and produced by Patryk a decade ago, Shoulder the Lion is the first time that the duo have taken complete charge of a film. The result is visually stunning. Shoulder the Lion is a documentary that divides its focus among three subjects – each dealing with a debilitating condition. However, the key is in how Shoulder the Lion attempts to relate to its subjects.

shoulderthelion2

Shoulder the Lion attempts to convey to the audience – visually and aurally – what it must be like to see the world through the perspective of its three subjects. There are any number of striking compositions and sequences in the film, as the Rebiszes invite the audience to experience even some small segment of what day-to-day life must be like for its three central individuals. As Alice Wingwall describes her deteriorating vision, the camera filters out the colours. As Fergal Sharpe describes the agony of tinnitus, a painful electronic buzz builds.

There are structural problems with Shoulder the Lion. Most obviously, the fact that it divides its attention between three subjects while devoting so much energy towards its visuals means that not all of the three central figures emerge fully-formed. Indeed, it could be argued that the film expends more time trying to replicate their disabilities than exploring their experiences beyond that. However, the result is a thought-provoking and well-constructed piece of film. It is a beautiful piece of work, if not quite as deep as it might have been.

shoulderthelion

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