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New Escapist Column! On “Atlanta” as One of Television’s Great Liminal Spaces…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With Atlanta wrapping up its final season earlier this month, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at one of television’s great liminal spaces.

Creator and lead actor Donald Glover frequently compared the show to Twin Peaks and The Sopranos, two very interesting choices for a show that has the basic structure of a sitcom built around four central characters. However, over the course of its four season, Atlanta became a surrealist study of millennial Black life in the United States, in particular the constant sense of being stuck “between” places without a firm status quo. Atlanta is a show that largely unfolds in shopping centres, nightclubs and hotels, and parties and in altered states. It’s a show that often feels dreamlike, its characters drifting through a chaotic world.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Mythic Quest” as a Professional Relationship Comedy…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the third season of Mythic Quest launching last week, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at what is quietly one of the best sitcoms on television.

Mythic Quest is a comedy about the idea of creation as a collaborative process, the sense that very few things originate from one mind in particular. As such, the show’s sitcom structure bends around that idea in interesting ways. In particular, the show approaches relationships through the prism of professionalism. Most sitcoms lean into romantic tension between their leads, but Mythic Quest applies that relationship template to a more professional and creative environment, exploring how fulfilling professional relationships can be profoundly fulfilling.

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

New Escapist Column! On “The English” and the British Western…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist yesterday evening. With the release of The English on Amazon Prime in the United States and on BBC in the United Kingdom, it seemed like a good opportunity to talk about the peculiar phenomenon of the British western.

The western is a quintessentially American genre. It is a foundation myth for the nation. As such, it is an awkward fit for British pop culture, given Britain’s historical relationship to the United States and the fact that Britain’s frontiers have never looked like that. However, given the intricacies of Britain’s relationship to its former colony, it is no surprise that the western has long been the subject of fascination for the British, and that the nation has put its own slant on the genre.

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

New Escapist Video! On “Black Adam” and the Debate Over Superheroes Killing…

We’re thrilled to be launching a fortnightly video companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch every second Monday, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel. And the video will typically be separate from the written content. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film content – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

This week, we took a look at the debate over superheroes killing, which is a major thematic point in the recent blockbuster Black Adam. It’s an interesting point of discussion, but one that often overlooks and misses the larger trend within the superhero genre. That sort of debate doesn’t happen over other pulp heroes, like cowboys or gangsters or pirates, so what is it that makes superheroes a special case?

New Escapist Column! On How the Future of Streaming Looks a Lot Like Old-Fashioned Television…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the recent launch of Netflix’s ad-supported tier, it seemed as good a time as any to take a look at the larger trends in contemporary streaming.

Streaming services have moved away from the binge model. They have become more transparent in their ratings. They have begun scheduling the release of particular episodes across various days of the week. They have even begun releasing some episodes in prime time. The plotting on these shows has become a lot more reminiscent of turn of the millennium zeitgeisty mystery box shows than early streaming stories. All of this is to suggest that the future of streaming seems to look a lot like old-fashioned television.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Andor” as an Embrace of 1970s Retrofuturism…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist last week. With Andor continuring to be very good, it seemed as good an opportunity as any to talk about the show’s unique aesthetic, and how that relates to the original Star Wars.

Andor manages to thread a very fine line. It takes the audience to places that were largely unseen in the original trilogy, from prison planets to remote highlands to sprawling urban centres. However, it does this in a way that manages to feel faithful to the aesthetic of the original films. It does this by embracing the culture and aesthetics of the era around those movies, embracing a version of the science-fiction world that feels very much in step with seventies cinema. The result is something that manages to feel both part of the larger Star Wars universe and also something new to it, while remaining very contemporary.

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

New Escapist Video! On “The Rings of Power” and the Limits of the Franchise-Era Mystery Box…

We’re thrilled to be launching a fortnightly video companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch every second Monday, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel. And the video will typically be separate from the written content. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film content – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

This week, we took a look at The Rings of Power, the prequel series to The Lord of the Rings. In particular, the way that it is built around so many mystery boxes. It’s a problem facing a lot of modern franchise media, where these shows attempt to keep audiences hooked by building elaborate mystery boxes around established lore. The mystery box was a problem for early serialized television at the turn of the millennium, and it is a shame to see it return in the streaming age of franchise media, where the answer is always nostalgia.

New Escapist Column! On “Black Adam” as a Superhero Vanity Project…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist on Friday. The big release of the week was Black Adam, the superhero blockbuster starring Dwayne Johnson as the eponymous antihero.

Part of what makes Black Adam so fascinating is the sense in which it exists between two very different styles of big budget Hollywood production. Most obviously, it’s a big and bombastic superhero blockbuster, albeit one built around a less well-known character. However, it also feels like an old style of blockbuster. It feels very much like a superhero vanity project for Dwayne Johnson, an effort to tie his star power into its own high-profile intellectual property.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Scream 2” as the Perfect Slasher Sequel…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist last week. With the film’s 25th anniversary approaching and Halloween coming up, it seemed like a good time to talk about Scream 2, Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven’s underrated slasher sequel.

Scream 2 is in many ways the perfect sequel to a smash success like the original Scream, despite its rushed and troubled production. Scream 2 is a movie that manages to both double-down on what made Scream so compelling, while also honing in on the emotional heart of the story being told. It’s the rare sequel that manages to heighten an already heightened premise, without ever losing sight of the characters within the story. It’s clever, it’s funny, but it’s also very sharply observed.

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

New Escapist Video! On “Andor” as a Show About Loving “Star Wars”…

We’re thrilled to be launching a fortnightly video companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch every second Monday, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel. And the video will typically be separate from the written content. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film content – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

This week, we took a look at Andor, the new Star Wars streaming show. There are a lot of interesting things about Andor, including how good it is. However, the show also feels like a meditation on Star Wars as a cultural phenomenon. Showrunner Tony Gilroy has talked candidly about how he was never a particular fan of Star Wars, and ended up working on the franchise almost by accident. As such, Andor feels like it is, in some small way, about learning to love Star Wars and to understand what Star Wars is capable of.