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New Escapist Column! On Netflix’s Cancellation of “1899”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. This week, it was revealed that Netflix had cancelled 1899, their prestigious and high-profile mystery drama series. It’s especially notable because the announcement didn’t even come from Netflix, but fits a pattern for streaming services.

Streaming is not like regular television. It adheres to different rules and conventions. In particular, streaming shows don’t operate according the same real-time conveyor belt as conventional broadcast television, where it is possible for a network and a production team to react to audience response in real-time. As a result, the only space that these shows have to grow is in between seasons, and that becomes increasingly difficult in a climate where many streaming companies are cancelling these shows after just a single release.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Modesty of “Kaleidoscope”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. This weekend saw the release of Kaleidoscope, Netflix’s big interactive heist drama. The hook is that the viewer’s experience of the show is randomized, with different viewers watching in different orders.

It is a very modest experiment, particularly when compared to something like Bandersnatch from a few years back. Kaleidoscope is much more interesting on paper than it is in execution, a high concept that feels somewhat half-executed. There is something about streaming as a medium that lends itself to experiments like this, to viewing experiences that are truly singular and unique, where each viewer ultimately consumes their own version of the media in their own way, in a way that challenges the idea of mass media as a communal experience. Kaleidoscope isn’t quite that, but it hints at the possibility.

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

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 Escapist Column! On How “Glass Onion” Disrupts the Disruptors…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Glass Onion on Netflix, it seemed like a good opportunity to look at Rian Johnson’s latest murder mystery.

There is a sly and self-aware gag buried at the heart of Glass Onion, one of the two Knives Out sequels that Netflix paid almost half-a-billion dollars for. Johnson’s latest film is a satire of tech disruptors, focusing on fictional visionary Miles Bron and his company Alpha. However, the movie’s social satire has a particularly pointed edge. Johnson is parodying precisely the sort of reckless tech disruptors that upended the cinematic landscape. In its own weird way, Netflix is perhaps the villain of Glass Onion.

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

New Escapist Review! On “The Witcher: Blood Origin” as a Bloody Mess…

I published a new piece at The Escapist earlier in the week, a review of the upcoming Netflix show, The Witcher: Blood Origin. It is a live action four-episode miniseries spinning directly out from the streaming service’s fantasy hit, The Witcher.

Blood Origin has had a famously troubled production, with the show being cut down from six episodes to four in the editing bay, and undergoing fairly involved reshoots to work around this truncation. The results are as muddling and disheartening as this back story suggests. Blood Origin is a show that is filled with lore and backstory, but with no interest in its characters or their motivations. It’s a frustrating mess, a show that has clearly been hacked apart and reconstructed to hit a pre-determined runtime.

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

New Escapist Video! On How Streaming Relies on Theatrical Release…

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, with cinemas in something of a fallow period between with releases of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Avatar: The Way of Water, it seemed like a good time to take a look at the complicated relationship within Hollywood, between streaming and theatrical releases. It has become increasing clear in recent years that streaming is not a viable replacement for the theatrical release model, but is instead largely dependent on it.

New Escapist Column! On “Wednesday” and the “Superherofication” of Everything…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the massive success of Wednesday on Netflix, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the show in the context of larger pop culture trends.

Wednesday is an addition to the larger Addams Family franchise, focusing on the family’s eldest child. The show is built around the decision to send Wednesday to an elite private school for freaks and monsters, “Nevermore Academy.” The series obviously riffs on the genre conventions of young adult drama, particularly the high school show. However, it is also notable for leaning into another inescapable trend in contemporary pop culture. At its core, Wednesday is a superhero show.

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

New Escapist Column! On “1899” and the Problems of Abstraction…

I published a new piece at The Escapist over the weekend. Last week saw the release of Netflix’s 1899, a surreal mystery thriller from the creative minds behind Dark.

1899 is an impressive show in many ways, a multilingual series with a diverse cast, that is also the most expensive television show ever made in Germany. It is packed with big ideas, and grapples with heady themes, without ever stopping to apologise for itself or condescend to its audience. There’s undoubtedly something appealing in that. However, there’s a strange coldness to the show, a detachment that makes it very hard to emotionally invest in the series as anything more than an intellectual exercise.

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

New Escapist Column! On “The Sandman” and the Art of Adaptation…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist yesterday. It’s a big weekend for media releases, and one of those new releases was The Sandman from Netflix, an adaptation of the comic book series from Neil Gaiman.

The Sandman is a remarkably faithful adaptation of the source material, often lifting images and dialogue directly from the comic. However, it’s also an interesting illustration of the art of adaptation as it purtains to ten-episode seasons of streaming television shows. It’s interesting to see how the source material is tweaked and altered to make it fit that familiar template, and what the adaptational choices say about what the streaming service and the production studio want from the show.

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

New Escapist Video! “The Sandman is a Reminder of What Made the Comic So Beloved”

I’m thrilled to be launching movie reviews on The Escapist. Over the coming weeks and months, I will be joining a set of contributors in adding these reviews to the channel. For the moment, I’m honoured to contribute a three-minute television review of The Sandman, which is streaming on Netflix now.