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New Escapist Column! On How Film Culture Became Online Culture…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the publication of the once-in-a-decade Sight & Sound poll last week, it seemed like a good opportunity to dig into the results and consider what they say about modern film culture.

The list has provoked some response online for being too modern and too recent, including films like Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Get Out, Moonlight and Parasite. However, it’s part of a rich tradition of updating and modernising the cinematic canon. The most interesting aspect of the list is the way in which it demonstrates how film culture is online, how so many of the films to appear and climb on the list did so by becoming more readily and available, and by being embraced by an internet-literate generation of film critics.

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

287. Top Gun: Maverick – This Just In (#50)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Luke Dunne and Joe Griffin, 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, Joseph Kosinski’s Top Gun: Maverick.

More than thirty years after graduating, top naval figther pilot Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell is summoned back to Top Gun. His assignment is to train a new generation of hotshot fighter pilots for a seemingly impossible mission. However, Maverick quickly discovers that what is past isn’t ever truly past.

At time of recording, it was ranked 50th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! “The Batman” as a Paranoid Conspiracy Thriller…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist yesterday evening. With The Batman releasing this weekend, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at Matt Reeves’ take on the Caped Crusader.

Reeves has discussed the influence of seventies cinema on The Batman. The film draws heavily from paranoid films of the era, movies like The French Connection, Klute and The Conversation. However, it is more than just nostalgia at play. The Batman finds an interesting thematic overlap between the seventies and the present day, particularly in its recurring fascination with voyeurism and surveillance. The Batman is many things, but it’s also a story about the importance of looking into the darkness, but realising that looking alone is not enough.

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

275. The Godfather (#2)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Philip Bagnall, 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, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather.

Michael Corleone has spent most of his life running away from his family connections, enlisting in the United States Marines to avoid the siren call of his father’s organised crime empire. However, when Michael returns home for his sister’s wedding, events conspire to draw the prodigal son back into the family business.

At time of recording, it was ranked 2nd on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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254. All About Eve (#134)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, with special guests Donald Clarke and John Maguire, 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, Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s All About Eve.

Late one evening, after a performance of Aged in Wood, Karen Richards find young Eve Harrington waiting outside the stage door. Taking pity on the young girl, Karen invites Eve backstage to meet her idol, the actor Margo Channing. Even very quickly insinuates herself into Margo’s life and it becomes clear that the young woman has ambitions that extend beyond mere fandom.

At time of recording, it was ranked 134th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On the Pandemic’s Failed Streaming Revolution…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With disappointing box office for Black Widow and Jungle Cruise, and pending lawsuits from actors like Scarlet Johansson, it seemed like a good time to dive back into the ongoing debate about streaming during the pandemic.

With cinemas closed and audiences trapped at home, the pandemic was the perfect testcase for the viability of streaming as a sustainable long-term business model for major Hollywood studios. Many of these studios had been pushing for something like this for decades, to effectively vertically integrate production and delivery. However, with a year of experimentation in the rear view mirror, it increasingly seems like the streaming revolution promised by the pandemic is a bit of a dud.

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

Non-Review Review: @zola

The opening line of @zola is inevitable.

“Y’all wanna hear a story about why me and this b!tch here fell out?” asks Aziah King, the “Zola” of the title. “It’s kind of long but full of suspense.” There was simply no other way that the film was going to start. The line was foregrounded in the movie’s first trailer, and of course it was the opening tweet of the viral twitter thread (#TheStory) that inspired this cinematic adaptation. To put it simply, there was never any way that @zola was going to open any other way.

#NoTimeForReflection

However, the opening line is also a statement of purpose and a key to the film’s central joke. @zola positions that opening salvo as an iocnic statement of itself, a millennial riff on “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” and “call me, Ishmael.” The central conceit of Janicza Bravo’s adaptation of the twitter thread is to treat the work like a piece of some modern literary canon, a snapshot of modern America filtered through the prism of art, captured 140 characters at a time. It’s a clever approach, and the best part of @zola is how eagerly it commits to that wry framing.

@zola is an impressive piece of craft, a collision of a very classical formalism with a more modern sensibility to create something that exists in a striking and imaginative space. However, there are times when @zola commits too heavily to studying its characters through the prism of social media, making them feel more like macabre exhibits in some twenty-first century freakshow than actual human beings. Still, @zola sets out to capture an extremely online aesthetic and it largely succeeds – for better and for worse.

#FreaksAndGeeks

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214. Citizen Kane – Christmas 2020 (#97)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Niall Murphy, 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, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane.

Following the death of Charles Foster Kane, reports of the magnate’s final word slip out to the press. Trying to parse a portrait of the public figure’s life and times, a reporter attempts to discern the meaning of the word, “Rosebud.”

At time of recording, it was ranked 97th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On How Christopher Nolan Became the Internet’s Villain…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Last week, the cinematic wold was shaken by the announcement that Warner Bros. would be releasing their entire cinematic slate day-and-date on HBO Max. This drew a lot of discussion and debate, but also demonstrating one of the internet’s weird cinematic fault lines: the strong hatred of director Christopher Nolan.

Nolan is one of the most interesting directors working the day. He is the last director who can approach a major studio with an original idea and secure hundreds of millions of dollars to realise it with minimal interference. In his early career, Nolan was a critical and internet darling, with a strong online following. However, since around 2012, Nolan has become a figure of a vocal and persistent derision online, much of which is anchored in the portrayal of the director as an old-fashioned auteur with a distinct sensibility.

This hatred of Nolan – which seems to bubble over in relation to anything from Anne Hathaway sharing chat show anecdotes about working with him to his reasonable critique of Warner Bros. failing to inform any of their directors or collaborators about the move to HBO Max – is interesting because it tied to other cultural trends that overlap. The internet’s passionate dislike of Nolan reflects broader shifts in the embrace of an intellectual-property- and corporate-identity-driven fandom. This hatred of Nolan often feels like a hatred of what he represents as a filmmaker.

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