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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! On How Streaming and the Algorithm are Shaping Modern Franchises…

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 be completely 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 a broader cultural trend: the way in which streaming services and the algorithms that drive them are reshaping modern franchise media in a way that makes them more aesthetically conservative. When the algorithm drives studios to push towards recycling familiar ideas and iconography, it discourages any attempt to do something new or interesting with these long-lasting properties. As a result, many of the larger franchises have become hollowed versions of their past glories.

288. 365 Dni: Ten Dzień (365 Days: This Day) (-#47)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Grace Duffy and Billie Jean Doheny, 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, Barbara Bialowas and Tomasz Mandes’ 365 Dni: Ten Dzień.

Having survived the attempt on her life at the end of the previous film, Laura is to be wed to local mafia boss Massimo. However, the couple soon find their relationship tested, particularly with the arrival of a sexy gardener named Nacho. Laura flees Massimo into Nacho’s waiting hands, but quickly discovers that there is a far more sinister game at foot, and that not all of the players have revealed themselves.

At time of recording, it was ranked 47th on the list of the worst movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and the New Age of Disposable Media…

I published a new piece at The Escapist yesterday. One of the big news stories of this week concerned the apparent (albeit accidental) censorship of an episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+.

While the matter was eventually resolved following news coverage and outcry on social media, there is something unsettling about how easily that mistake happened and how readily it could have been missed or overlooked. It underscores the risks of trusting companies like Disney to serve as the digital curators of their own legacy, particularly in a landscape where so much of film and television has alreayd been lost. In some ways, it suggests that the transition to streaming has rendered film and television truly disposable in a way that they haven’t really been in almost half a century.

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

New Escapist Column! On What the Netflix Marvel Shows Bring to Disney+…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the arrival of the Netflix Marvel streaming shows on Disney+ last week, it seemed like a good opportunity to take stock of where the service’s brand was at.

Disney has established a reputation as a family-friendly company, often outsourcing its more adult-oriented fare to distinct subsidiaries with their own identities. This is arguably less sustainable in the streaming age, as companies are consolidating and the key to a streaming service’s viability might lie in the variety of its content. So Disney+ finds itself at a crossroads, forced to chose between its long-term appeal to a diverse array of audiences and its parent company’s history of wholesome family entertainment. The arrival of the Netflix Marvel shows provide a challenge and an opportunity.

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

New Escapist Column! In Defense of Apple TV+…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist earlier this week. With the upcoming release of Severance on Apple TV+, it seemed like a good excuse to take a look at one of the most interesting players in the streaming wars.

Apple TV+ lacks many of the advantages shared by its competitors. It doesn’t have a deep library of back content and intellectual property like Disney+, HBO Max and Paramount+. It also lacks the reach of Netflix or Amazon Prime. However, slowly and surely, without the comfort of existing brands and established intellectual property, Apple TV+ has managed to carve out a unique and distinctive identity in the stremaing wars. Not everything on the service works, but there’s generally a sense that anything that made it to screen is there because somebody fought for it.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Peacemaker” and “MacGruber” as Reckonings with Reagan Era Action Heroes…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the recent release of MacGruber and Peacemaker, it seemed like an interesting opportunity to reflect on two comedy streaming shows that are very firmly anchored in a very particular nostalgia for a certain kind of eighties Reagan era action hero.

MacGruber and Peacemaker are essentially extended riffs on a very archetypal form of American heroism, a very militaristic and jingoistic expression of heroism. While both shows are reasonably affectionate and surprisingly sympathetic to its subjects, they are also quite aggressive in their desconstruction of this archetype. Both MacGruber and Peacemaker are shows about characters who are deeply unpleasant and incredibly juvenile, in what feels like an interesting interrogation of the action heroes of the era. It’s an interesting angle on this nostalgia, feeling at times like a tempered reflection.

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


New Escapist Column! On Marvel’s All-New, All-Different Streaming Villain Problem…

I published a new column at The Escapist yesterday. The penultimate episode of Hawkeye featured a major reveal of a significant villain for the show. This is very typical of how the Disney+ streaming shows have operated, so it seemed like a good opportunity to talk about Marvel’s streaming villain problem.

Marvel Studios have long been criticised for their fairly generic villains. However, in the transition from blockbuster releases to streaming series, the company has created a new sort of problem. Instead of generic and forgettable antagonists, these shows tend to feature puzzle boxes and references, clues and riddles. The identity of villains are often hidden and concealed, treated as late-in-the-story revelations that reward long-term fans at the expense of pacing and characterisation.

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

New Escapist Column! On The Genre Dissonance of “Hawkeye”…

I published a new column at The Escapist at the weekend. With the release of Hawkeye on streaming, it seemed worth an opportunity to take a look at the show.

In particular, there’s a fascinating genre dissonance between what Hawkeye is trying to be and what it actually is. The show positions itself as a feel-good holiday buddy comedy, but it also inherits the weight of a film noir. It is essentially a six-episode series rooted in the title character’s attempts to recover the one piece of evidence that links him to mass murder, but the show absolutely refuses to let any of these considerations get in the way of its desire to be “fun” and “chirpy.” The result is an interesting tonal clash between what Hawkeye wants to be, and what it actually is.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Ted Lasso” and How We Watch (and Discuss) Television…

I published a new column at The Escapist today. With the end of the second season of Ted Lasso, and with the ongoing discussion around the show, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at the evolving conversation around the series.

The discussion around Ted Lasso has followed an interesting arc. It premiered to lukewarm reviews, that seemed almost grudgingly positive. However, the first season seemed to find its audience in hindsight. Once it was completed, the season drew both serious consideration and enthusiastic praise from a variety of outlets. Many viewers came to the first season as a complete object, a collection of episodes that they could binge at their own pace. In contrast, this growing audience watched the second season week-on-week. It’s interesting to wonder if this shaped the more divisive response to the second season.

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