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New Escapist Video! “A Marvelous Escape” – What If – “… Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark & Thor Were An Only Child?”

With a slew of Marvel Studios productions coming to Disney+ over the next six months, The Escapist has launched a weekly show discussing these series

This week, I join KC Nwosu and Amy Campbell to talk about the sixth and seventh episodes of What If…?, streaming on Disney+.

New Escapist Video! “A Marvelous Escape” – What If – “… T’Challa Became a Star Lord?”

With a slew of Marvel Studios productions coming to Disney+ over the next six months, The Escapist has launched a weekly show discussing these series

This week, I join KC Nwosu and Amy Campbell to talk about the second episode of What If…?, streaming on Disney+.

New Escapist Column! On “Black Panther” and the Irreplaceable Chadwick Boseman…

I published a new piece at The Escapist today. With the announcement earlier in the week that Marvel Studios would not be replacing Chadwick Boseman in Black Panther 2, I took a look at why that was the right call.

The original Black Panther was a once-in-a-generation phenomenon, and Chadwick Boseman was a large part of that. The part T’Challa might eventually be recast in an alternate universe or in a reboot, but Boseman played the definitive version within the MCU. Replacing him would be equivalent to trying to replace Robert Downey Jr. or Chris Evans, both of whom were allowed to retire their characters at the end of Avengers: Endgame. Boseman deserves at least that respect.

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

New Escapist Video! On the Childish Wonder of “Black Panther”…

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.

With that in mind, here is last week’s episode, covering Ryan Coogler’s use of childish wonder in Black Panther. You can watch the pilot video here, and read the companion article here.

New Escapist Column! On “Black Panther” and Childlike Wonder…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman over a week ago, I have been thinking a lot about Black Panther. In particular, what makes it special.

It isn’t simply that Black Panther was the first superhero movie on this scale to feature a predominantly black cast from a black director. It was also the extent to which director Ryan Coogler understood the power of superheroes. Very few superhero movies are written with an understanding of what superheroes represent and why they are important, instead often falling into the trap of power fantasies rather than empowerment fantasies. Black Panther is the rare superhero movie that dares to see its world through the eyes of a child, and is more powerful for that.

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

New Escapist Column! On How “The Dark Knight” Changed the Oscars…

I published an In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine on Friday, to mark the occasion of the Oscars.

The Dark Knight was famously locked out of the Best Picture race. However, it still had a tremendous impact on the field. Eleven years later, the snub of The Dark Knight has profoundly reshaped what the Oscars actually looks like, causing the Academy to dramatically alter a couple of its core underlying assumptions. Most of these changes are for the better, sparking an expansion of the Best Picture field that looks to have broken its long-standing anchor to the Best Director category, encouraging the recruitment of a younger voting base, and even paving the way for populist films like Black Panther and Joker at the awards.

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

“Black Panther”, “Crazy Rich Asians”, and American Dreaming in 2018…

The silver screen is not just a window, it is occasionally a mirror as well.

The cinematic gaze reveals a lot. Not just about the object in focus, but about the filmmaker (and the audience) behind the gaze. Although independent and arthouse cinema is thriving in the twenty-first century, and though home media is fundamentally changing the way that people consume media, the cinema will always be a communal space. A group of people sitting in a room together, bathed in projected light. There are obviously debates to be had about to what extent cinema reflects culture as much as it acts upon it, but there is undoubtedly a symbiosis there.

Cinema reveals a lot about contemporary culture, and not just “worthy” cinema that tends to get cited by critics as “the most important” or “the most timely” media of its particular moment. Indeed, there is perhaps something more revealing in looking at media that doesn’t consciously invite these comparisons, that doesn’t trumpet the manner in which it speaks to a particular moment. Sometimes it is more revealing to look at the films that aren’t saying anything, or at least are not consciously or overtly saying anything, about the current political moment.

In fact, it’s often a lot easier to get a sense of what is bubbling through the popular consciousness (or even the popular subconscious) by looking at low-budget “disposable” fare like horror movies than it is be interrogating more respectable and self-conscious fare. It is no coincidence that the past decade has seen a resurgence in haunted house and home invasion horror like The Conjuring, The Strangers, The Purge or even Don’t Breathe, reflecting anxieties about the American home as a site of horror in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis.

Popular cinema is similarly a fascinating prism through which to examine contemporary American culture, to get a sense of how the United States sees both itself and its relationship with the rest of the world. It’s a glimpse into the nation’s psyche, offering a messy and dynamic dive beneath the polished exterior. It cuts through a lot of contemporary politics, foregoing accuracy in favour of a general aesthetic. It is a sketch more than a portrait, but that sketch can be instructive and revealing of itself.

In particular, the twin releases of Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians over the past year suggest something interesting about modern conceptions of the American Dream.

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Non-Review Review: Crazy Rich Asians

The romantic comedy is, by its nature, an aspirational genre.

At its core, the romantic comedy is built around the idea that love conquers all, that soul mates exist, that there is one person in a million for every other person and that they are destined to find one another. The romantic comedy is aspirational in its presentation of love: the idea that everybody lives happily ever after, that every obstacle can be navigated if two people love one another. Of course, reality doesn’t always work out like that. This is just one reason why we tell stories; not just to tell us how the world is, but to insist how it should be.

Crazy, stupid, rich love.

This is perhaps why the romantic comedy is so often wedded to other fantasies; consider the ostentatious wealth depicted in most romantic comedies, but especially in Nancy Meyers films like It’s Complicated or Home Again. Romantic comedies present an idealised depiction of family life, where all differences can be reconciled and where practical concerns need never even be articulated. Even romantic comedies that aren’t explicitly about wealthy families luxuriate in a fantasy of wealth; very few families could realistically afford even the starter pack romantic comedy wedding.

There is nothing inherently wrong with aspiration, to be clear. Action movies and superhero films tend to indulge in a similarly idealised fantasy of heroism and strength of will, imagining worlds where many of the complications of everyday life can be shuffled into the background or wrestled into submission. However, the aspirations baked into romantic comedies are more tangible and more immediate, more recognisable even in their outlandishness.

“I mean, I’m rich. But I’m not crazy rich.”

Very few people will find themselves liberating a soccer stadium from terrorism, but most audience members have romantic relationships and many have weddings and even families. Even those audience members who don’t have their own spouses and children would have grown up within something resembling a familial structure. As a result, even the most outlandish romantic comedy offers something that more closely approximates lived experience.

Crazy Rich Asians fundamentally understands this aspirational nature of romantic comedies, and takes a great deal of pleasure in its display (and even celebration) of absurd wealth. The film’s title is a bold statement of purpose. There is something exhilarating in that.

Love don’t rom (com).

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New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2018) #6!

Into the mouth of madness…

Discussing the latest in film news here and abroad, the Scannain podcast is a weekly podcast discussion of what we watched, what we watched, what is dominating and the box office, and what is lurking on the horizon film-wise. This week’s episode was recorded right before the premiere of Black ’47 at the launch of the eleven-day-long Audi Dublin Film Festival 2018, and covered everything from Black Panther to Galway cinema.

I’m thrilled to be part of a panel including returning host Niall Murphy and returning guests Ronan Doyle and Alex Towers. Give it a listen below.

CinÉireann – Issue 4 (February 2018)

The latest issue of CinÉireann has just been released.

I’m delighted to have contributed several pieces to the magazine, talking about the Oscars, about Netflix and about Black Panther and the IMDb. There is some fantastic talent involved, and it is an honour to be involved.

As ever, thanks to the fantastic Niall Murphy over at Scannain for letting me be a part of it.

You can read CinÉireann as a digital magazine directly. You can even subscribe and get future issues delivered to you directly. Or click the picture below.