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New Escapist Column! On Critics as Curators in the Era of Peak Content…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Given Martin Scorsese’s recent comments about the reduction of film and television to “content”, it seemed like an opportunity to reflect on the challenges of navigating this new era – and the increased relevance of critics in this context.

There is a lot of entertainment out there. Despite the explosion in streaming services, a lot of it is harder to access – or at least harder to stumble across unless an audience member is actively looking for it. Film criticism seems to be stuck in a constant crisis of purpose and identity, but the truth is that critics are arguably more important now than ever. In an era with so much media out there, it is useful to have critics who understand the medium, its history and the breadth of possibilities that it offers.

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


New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2018) #24!

We should be back to something resembling a weekly release schedule with the Scannain podcast.

This week, it’s a rather intimate affair with myself, Grace Duffy, and Donnacha Coffey from Filmgrabber. However, the conversation is suitably wide-ranging, discussing everything from the audience-versus-critics conflicts over Hereditary and Gotti to the politics of David Lynch to the sad story of Johnny Depp to the latest surreal controversy involving Star Wars fandom. Along the way, we discuss the usual array of subjects, from the week in film news to the top ten to new releases including Sicario: Day of the Soldado, Dublin OldschoolTag, Escape Plan 2: Hades and Adrift.

Give it a listen at the link, or check it out below.

The Netflix Paradox: New Media and Old Methods…

Last night, Netflix released The Cloverfield Paradox.

The release of the film was announced in a Superbowl advertisement, promising audiences that the film would be available direct to them “after the game.” It was a striking move, particularly because so little was known about the film. It was, in many ways, an unexpected Christmas present, particularly as hyped and teased by director Ava DuVernay on Twitter. On the surface of it, this looked like a game-changing paradigm, a film released with only a few hours’ notice, directly bypassing critics and hype in a way that rendered it accessible to casual movie-goers.

Never too far a (Clover)field.

However, it also feels like a publicity coup for Netflix. The company has pulled off something truly remarkable with this release, in pulling off one of the oldest tricks in the film distribution playbook, while making it seem fresh and exciting. More than that, Netflix took a tactic that is traditionally associated with the release of bad films, and presented it as something revolutionary and democratic. Twitter commentators argued that this was the future of film releasing. Peeling back the layers on the release of The Cloverfield Paradox, it looked to be something quit different.

This was simply an old trick being cast in a new light.

#FilmTwitter right now.

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“You Shiver In Such An-tici-pation”: Upcoming Releases and the Waiting Game…

It’s a bit of a defunct popular witticism that the actual purpose of the internet is not to increase global communication or facilitate and encourage the development and spread of ideas, but exists solely for pornography. I don’t think that’s necessarily true (in fact, it only accounts for 1% of the internet). Instead, I’d argue that the internet exists primarily to provide spoilers, casting calls, plot summaries, set pictures and gossip around all the upcoming releases. In an era where even fictitious characters have facebook and twitter accounts, it sometimes feels like information overload, with constant updates about the status of a given project and director and cast.

All at sea?

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A Gilda Caged: Thoughts on the Movies We Label “Classic”…

I had the pleasure, a while back, of attending a screening of Gilda being hosted by the Irish Film Institute. The black-and-white forties noir-tinted thriller is somewhat warmly regarded among film historians, and one of those movies you label as a “classic” without any real hesitation. However, as I emerged from the cinema, I found myself wondering how such a film would be received were it released today. I honestly wonder what we would make of these “classics” if they didn’t have the word “classic” to hide behind.

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Harry Pottering On: Research & Reviews…

This evening, I will be lucky enough to attend a screening of Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part II, and have a chance to get my review on-line. However, I must concede that I am not a Harry Potter fanatic. I haven’t read the books. I’ve seen the films, enjoyed the majority for what they are, only found one to be an exercise in tedium, and have a genuine respect for what they’ve managed to accomplish in bringing to life a fairly iconic series of books in a manner that can please both the hardcore fans and the casual movie-goer. However, as I brace myself to attend the screening tonight, I wonder what a film critic owes their subject matter in terms of research. Do I owe the people who made the film, and – possibly – the fans that are going to see it, enough to dig into as much of the back ground as possible before the cinema lights go down?

Witch approach should I adopt?

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Critics Just Wanna Have Fun: Why I Dislike the “They Don’t Get It” Argument…

I like to think I am open minded. Just a few weeks ago, I published an article defending big budget blockbusters from their detractors. However, I find myself growing frequently frustrated when it comes to fans using the old “critics don’t like fun” argument to defend a given movie from any sort of meaningful debate and criticism. It happens a few times a year, most spectacularly with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen back in 2009, but also this year with Sucker Punch. The film has received a critical lambasting, but fans are always quick to rush to the internet to critique the critics, claiming things like “they don’t get it” and “they don’t understand” or nonsense like that.

And, you know what? That’s just plain wrong.

Movie for suckers?

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When Average Just Isn’t Good Enough: Do Better Directors Have Further to Fall?

I watched Cop Out at the weekend, and I have to admit it was just about okay. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t consistently funny. It had moments of wit, but they were separated by pointless and boring scenes. It had a talented cast, but didn’t do anything with them. I wouldn’t describe it as a bad film, but I wouldn’t advise you to rent it (or otherwise seek it out). However, there was a stronger and more bitter taste in the air. There was something especially disappointing about the film, because of its director. Cop Out was a Kevin Smith film, and it actually felt a bit worse than it arguably should have because I knew the director was capable of so much more. Am I the only one who tends to be more disappointed by an average film from a talented filmmaker than perhaps even a bad film from an untalented director?

Feels like a bit of a cop out...


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Sight Unseen: Killers and the Future of Film Criticism…

I remember it was only a few years ago that it was just really unapologetically bad movies with built-in audiences that refused (or simply couldn’t be bothered, knowing the inevitable trashing they’d receive) to be screened for critics. You know the films I’m talking about: horror remakes, horror sequels, horror in general. However, it seems that since G.I. Joe demonstrated that blockbusters can still bust blocks even without advanced critical presence. Perhaps it’s a side effect of the viral age we live in, but you don’t need a review in the Friday papers to put bums in seats. Anyway, apparently it looks like there’s more to come: Killers will not be screened for critics either.

Do we have a hit on our hands?

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The Film Critic is Dead… Again…

We’re coming into summer blockbuster season. Hell, one might suggest that Kick-Ass has heralded the start of it. If it hasn’t, Clash of the Titans has. That’s if you don’t believe Alice in Wonderland kicked it all into high gear. Anyway, you know what that means – spectacle, lots of it. Some of it incredible, some of it… not so much. The masses flock to the cinema to while away the long summer evenings and movie theatres are filled with the laughter of children (which can be quite irritating to the patrons). It also means that, like the spring lambs, the beautiful cycle of the life and death of film criticism must begin anew. Critics will begin to lament their increasing irrelevance as poor movies make huge sums of money, journalists will light a funeral pyre and some filmmakers like Kevin Smith will gladly join the mob chanting ‘critics are dead’. This fine annual tradition will ebb and flow like the box office fortunes of many an undeserving behemoth. And at the end of it, the critics will still be here.

Why so grim?

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