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New Escapist Column! On “Andor” and the Ideology of Late Capitalist Empire…

I am doing weekly reviews of Andor at The Escapist. They’ll be dropping every Wednesday evening while the show is on, looking at the Rogue One prequel as it progresses from one episode to the next.

Following on from the bridge episode Announcement, Narkina 5 kicks off what looks to be another three-episode arc for the show. Written by Beau Willimon, the episodes digs deep into one of the recurring fascinations of Andor. The show is fascinated by the ideology of the Empire, but that extends beyond its imperialism and fascism. Indeed, like a lot of the work of showrunner Tony Gilroy, Andor suggests that the evils of this organization are a manifestation of late capitalism, and the way in which that ideology is designed to drive competition rather than collaboration.

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

290. Network (#219)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Ciara Moloney and Dean Buckley, The 250 is a weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released Saturdays at 6pm GMT.

So this week, Sidney Lumet and Paddy Chayefsky’s Network.

Howard Beale is a veteran newscaster on a struggling network. When he is given his two weeks’ notice, Beale threatens to shoot himself live on the air as his final broadcast. The television journeyman becomes a media storm and ratings sensation, as the network eagerly seeks to capitalise on what could be a once-in-a-generation phenomenon.

At time of recording, it was ranked 219th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On “Severance” and the Work/Life Imbalance…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the season finale of Severance last week, it seemed like an opportunity to take a look at one of the most interesting new shows on television.

Severance is a science-fiction show build around the fictional concept of “severance”, a medical procedure that allows a person to completely separate their professional and personal selves. However, beneath this high concept, Severance plays as a metaphor for a lot of the current anxieties about the work/life balance, and the intrusion of private enterprise into personal lifestyles.

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

Non-Review Review: House of Gucci

At its core, House of Gucci is the story of how the handbag is made.

Trying to convince his nephew Maurizio to take the reigns on the family business, Aldo Gucci explains that the cows that provide the leather for the company’s products are part of a long dynasty. Much like Aldo and his brother Rodolfo inherited the company from their own father Guccio Gucci, these cows are the direct descendents of the animals upon which the brand was established. To Aldo, Gucci is a fmaily business, right down to the cows that are fattened for slaughter. Aldo insists that the cows deserve praise for what they have given their owners. However, the cows still inevitably get skinned.

Where there’s smoke…

House of Gucci returns time and again to this animal imagery. “Gucci is a rare animal,” Domenico De Sole warns Patrizia Reggiani at one point, as the family consider how best to maintain the brand. “It must be protected.” It’s no coincidence that, towards the climax of the movie, the investors debating the future of the family’s ownership of the brand enjoy delicious cuts of steak. It’s rare, of course, the blood visible as they cut into it. The imagery is hardly subtle. Perhaps Aldo and his family have more in common with the cows than they’d like to acknowledge.

House of Gucci feels like something of a companion piece to two other recent Ridley Scott films, The Counsellor and All the Money in the World. Both feel like extrapolations of themes that have bubbled across the director’s filmography, from his earliest work on movies like Alien and Blade Runner. They are cautionary tales about the terrible things that people will do to one another for money, shaped by the ironic understanding that even after all these terrible things are done, nobody really wins. House of Gucci is not a particularly subtle movie, but it doesn’t need to be.

Glass act.

House of Gucci is similar to The Counsellor and All the Money in the World in other ways, as a movie that feels significantly less than the sum of its parts. Then again, what parts they are. House of Gucci doesn’t really hang together cohesively as a movie, often feeling like several smaller movies wrestling for control of the narrative. Every major member of the cast feels like they are the star of their own movie, but not necessarily an essential part of this movie. House of Gucci puts Howard Hawks’ “three great scenes” hypothesis to the test, compiling a number of compelling individual scenes that rarely add to something greater.

House of Gucci is an interesting, disjointed, uneven but strangely compelling study of what wealth does to people – particularly when it no longer needs them.

A familiar ring to it.

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259. Alien – Halloween 2021 (#52)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Doctor Bernice Murphy and Joey Keogh, The 250 is a weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released Saturdays at 6pm GMT.

So this week, a Halloween treat: Ridley Scott’s Alien.

A mysterious signal from deep space awakens the crew of the shipping vessel Nostromo. Following standing orders to respond, the crew find themselves drawn to a hostile and barren world. They track the signal to the wreckage of a strange and mysterious craft. However, there might just be something sinister stirring deep within that wreckage.

At time of recording, it was ranked 52nd on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On The Enduring Appeal of “Marvel Zombies”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist on Friday. With the release of What If… Zombies!?, What If…? finally brought the Marvel Zombies into the larger continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Marvel Zombies are an interesting piece of Marvel Comics lore, essentially imagining a world where all the superheroes have been transformed into flesh-eating monsters. While these sorts of alternate universe stories are common enough in comic books, Marvel Zombies have endured much longer than the zombie movie revival that likely inspired them. So why did the Marvel Zombies catch on? Why do they endure? Why are audiences so compelled by them?

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

“A Goya? In a Harrods Bag?” “TENET” and the Nightmares of Late Capitalism…

This week, the podcast that I co-host, The 250, celebrated its 250th episode with a conversation about Christopher Nolan’s TENET. I had some additional thoughts on the film.

TENET is a film about many things.

It is a movie about the idea that the future will not only judge us, it will condemn us. It is a movie about the importance of faith and mortality in a world that frequently seems to exist beyond basic human comprehension. It is a movie about time, and how there is no escaping or evading it. TENET is one of the most ambitious mainstream American blockbusters of the twenty-first century, with its fractured narrative reflecting the chaos of the time in which it was produced.

However, TENET is also a film about the nightmare of late capitalist excess. It is the story about wealth and power, and how things insulate and isolate those who hold it. It is something of a cliché to suggest that power and privilege protect the wealthy from the laws of men, from the consequences of their action – that civil and criminal laws bend to those with with enough money. TENET follows that idea to its logical conclusion, suggesting a world in which the laws of physics themselves bend to those with enough power.

TENET is a biting piece of social commentary that reflects a profoundly broken world.

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245. Tumbbad – This Just In (#250)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, with special guest Joey Keogh, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This time, Anand Gandhi, Rahi Anil Barve and Adesh Prasad’s Tumbbad.

In a remote Indian village, something ancient and evil is lurking beneath the surface. As the country moves towards independence, Vinayak Rao finds a way to exploit the mysteries of Tumbbad to his own advantage. However, nothing comes without a price.

At time of recording, it was ranked 250th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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240. Fargo (#176)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, with special guests Rioghnach Ní Ghrioghair and Stacy Grouden, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This time, Joel and Ethan Coen’s Fargo.

A routine kidnapping case spirals into something far more sinister and unsettling in an isolated corner of Minnesota. Arriving to the scene of a brutal roadside murder, Chief of Police Marge Gunderson finds herself embroiled in a complicated and chaotic story of greed and violence with horrific consequences.

At time of recording, it was ranked 176th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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235. Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away) – Ani-May 2021 (#28)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and with special guests Deirdre Molumby, Graham Day and Bríd Martin, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This year, we are proud to continue the tradition of Anime May, a fortnight looking at two of the animated Japanese films on the list. This year, we watched a double feature of the last two anime movies on the list, Hayao Miyazaki’s Mononoke-hime and Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi.

This week, the second part of the double bill, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, perhaps Miyazaki’s breakthrough to western audiences.

Chihiro is moving to a new town and a new school. Her parents take a detour down a dirt road and stumble across a mysterious abandoned theme park. Chihiro quickly finds herself trapped in a weird world of spirits, witches and dragons. She needs to learn to navigate this mysterious setting and maybe find a way home.

At time of recording, it was ranked 28th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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