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New Escapist Column! On “White Noise” and the Human Death Drive…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of White Noise on Netflix, it seemed like a good opportunity to discuss Noah Baumbach’s adaptation of Don DeLillo’s classic postmodern novel.

White Noise has long been considered unadaptable. However, Baumbach zeroes on a consistent throwline that guids his weird and eccentric adaptation through its various shifts and turns. White Noise is fundamentally a story about death. It is about the way in which so much culture – sex, media, consumerism – is designed as an effort to drown out the encroaching and inescapable sense of mortality. Baumbach presents a broad and cartoonish exploration of man’s inability to grapple with that universal certainty. In doing so, he tells a strangely moving story.

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

New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 8, Episode 14 (“This Is Not Happening”)

The X-Cast is covering the eighth season of The X-Files. This is one of my favourite seasons of television ever, in large part because it’s a season that manages to build a convincing narrative and character arc around a very challenging production reality, and in doing so forced the show itself to evolve and change. I’m thrilled to join Kurt North for a discussion of the episode that effectively closes out the second act of the larger season.

There is a solid argument to be made, at least in the context of the original television run of The X-Files, that This is Not Happening is the last truly great episode of The X-Files. The eighth season is unique in the show’s history for having a very clear three-act structure across its twenty-one episodes. This is Not Happening is positioned at the bridge between the second and third acts of the season, marking the return of David Duchovny as Mulder. It is a very elegiac and mournful episode of television, thoughtful and introspective, moving the season confidently into its endgame.

You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

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New Escapist Column! On The Rise of “the Fakeout Death”…

I published a new piece at The Escapist during the week. With the most recent seasons of both Stranger Things and Obi-Wan Kenobi playing the same familiar trick, it seemed like a good time to talk about one of my bugbears in modern pop culture.

In recent years, it has become customary for piece of popular culture to indulge in a phenomenon best summarized as “the fakeout death”: a beloved character dies, the audience feels sad, and then they are magically restored and resurrected. It has become ubiquitous in the past five or so years: Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker, The Book of Boba Fett, even the recent Scream movies. Pop culture feels incredibly reluctant to kill off any characters with any popularity, and the result is part of the reason so many of these franchises are stagnating.

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

New Escapist Column! On the “Doctor Strange” as a Film About Time and Death…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the upcoming release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at Scott Derrickson’s somewhat underrated contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Doctor Strange felt like an oddity when it was released, sandwiched between Captain America: Civil War and Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. It was a very conventional origin story, stripped of the legacy character attributes of Ant Man, the crossover baggage of Black Panther or the period piece nostalgia and narrative trickery of Captain Marvel. It was perhaps the most straightforward superhero origin story since the earliest days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, specifically recalling both Iron Man and Thor.

However, underneath the surface, there was something more interesting happening. Doctor Strange is a rare superhero movie that is about both the passage of time and inevitability of death, where the ultimate act of villainy is to pervert either flow. It’s a movie about accepting that change happens, and that sometimes a moment doesn’t last forever. It’s a theme that felt particularly relevant to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, given that it was going to lose two of its three lead characters in the very near future.

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

282. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (#67)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Jason Coyle and Aoife Martin, 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, Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

The unthinkable has happened. At the height of the Cold War, American bombers have been ordered to enter Russian airspace and deploy their ordinance at the order of General Jack D. Ripper. The President of the United States scrambles to stop the crisis from escalating further, but the situation becomes even bleaker when it is revealed that the Russians have just deployed a failsafe that could wipe out all life on Earth in case of a potential American attack. Powers on both sides of the Iron Curtain find themselves racing against time, with the fate of the world in their hands.

At time of recording, it was ranked 67th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Podcast! Enterprising Individuals – “That Which Survives”

I am always thrilled to get a chance to talk about Star Trek with other fans, so I was thrilled at the invitation to join the wonderful Aaron Coker on Enterprising Individuals to talk about That Which Survives.

The third season of Star Trek is an interesting season of television. It is largely dismissed and overlooked by many fans, who write it off as a season in clear decline. Certainly, the season contains no shortage of terrible episodes: And the Children Shall Lead, The Way to Eden, The Paradise Syndrome, Turnabout Intruder and many more. However, there’s an interesting atmosphere that pervades the season, the sense that the third season of Star Trek is drifting through a haunted and dead universe. That Which Survives is a pure example of this, like The Tholian Web or Spectre of the Gun or All Our Yesterdays.

You can listen to the episode here, back episodes of the podcast here, click the link below or even listen directly.

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251. Up (#123)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, this week with special guests Deirdre Molumby and Brian Lloyd, 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, marking the passing of Ed Asner, Pete Docter’s Up.

Carl Fredricksen is a widower who finds himself facing the end of a modest life in the small house that he once shared with the love of his life. When it looks like what little remains of that life migth be disturbed and destroyed, Carl decides to embark on the one last adventure that he never got to take with his beloved life: a trip to mysterious “Paradise Falls”, without leaving his home.

At time of recording, it was ranked 123rd on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On “Guardians of the Galaxy” as the MCU’s Best Exploration of Loss…

I published a new column at The Escapist yesterday. With all the talk about how so much of the modern Marvel Cinematic Universe is about “loss”, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at Guardians of the Galaxy.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is not a machine that is designed to deal with concepts like loss head on. After all, most of its major departures were down to contract negotiations rather than narrative priorities. Characters are often resurrected, and losses are often temporary. This is what makes Guardians of the Galaxy so compelling. Director James Gunn understands that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a space into which the audience and characters escape to avoid dealing with loss, even if it haunts them still.

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

221. Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country (#—)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a weekly journey through the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. And sometimes, because we can, a movie not on the list.

This week, to mark the passing Christopher Plummer, a special midweek bonus episode covering Nicholas Meyer’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

An explosion on the Klingon moon of Praxis sends the Klingon Empire into disarray, and forces the warrior race to consider an unlikely alliance with their old enemies in the Federation. The Enterprise is sent to meet the Klingon Chancellor, under the command of Captain James Tiberius Kirk. However, things do not go to plan.

At time of recording, it was not ranked the list of best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Podcast! The Time is Now – Season 3, Episode 12 (“The Sound of Snow”)

Last year, I was thrilled to spend a lot of time on The Time is Now discussing the second season of Millennium. Since the podcast has moved on to the third season, I have taken something of a step back as a guest. That said, I was flattered to get an invitation to discuss The Sound of Snow with the fantastic Kurt North and the wonderful Chris Knowles.

The Sound of Snow my favourite episode of the third season of Millennium, serving as a nice epilogue to the second season finale The Fourth Horseman and The Time is Now. It is an episode that is largely about grief and moving on, about coming to terms with loss and about working through it. In some ways, it feels like a necessary story for the third season of Millennium as a whole, and it is only a shame that it takes half a season for the show to reach the point where it can tell this story.

As ever, you can listen directly to the episode here, subscribe to the podcast here, or click the link below.

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