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New Escapist Video! On How Christopher Nolan Became the Internet’s Villain…

So, as I have mentioned before, I am launching a new video series as a companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch with the Monday article, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel the following week. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film channel – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

There’s been an interesting shift in the past decade. Christopher Nolan was once a filmmaker who was generally well-liked by the internet, but in recent years has been increasingly vilified. This transition is interesting, in large part because of what it says about larger trends in pop culture and how audiences approach pop culture.

New Escapist Column! “Kong: Skull Island” and the Monster in All Human Hearts…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the announcement that all Warner Brothers films are going to HBO Max, I thought I’d take a look at one of the films related to that move, in particular Godzilla vs. Kong and one of the films leading into it, Kong: Skull Island.

Skull Island is easily the best of the films leading into Godzilla vs. Kong. It is appreciably stronger than either Godzilla or Godzilla: King of the Monsters. A large part of that is down to the fact that it actually has themes, using its central monster to construct an exploration of the idea of warfare. Indeed, one of the more interesting aspects of Skull Island is the way that it implicitly positions King Kong in parallel with Godzilla, turning the giant monkey into a metaphor for the American experience of warfare in the twentieth century.

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

New Escapist Video! “The Mandalorian – Chapter 13: The Jedi”

I’m thrilled to be launching 3-Minute Reviews on Escapist Movies. 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’ll be doing weekly reviews of The Mandalorian.

The review of the fifth episode of the second season, The Jedi, is available below.

New Escapist Video! On the Terrible “Terminator” Metaphor at the Heart of “Hillbilly Elegy”…

So, as I have mentioned before, I am launching a new video series as a companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch with the Monday article, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel the following week. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film channel – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

With that in mind, here is last week’s episode. With the release of the dead-on-arrival Oscar contender Hillbilly Elegy, a lot of very talented writers have examined and interrogated its exploration of rural white poverty in America. However, very few have directly engaged with the movie’s truly terrible Terminator analogy.

New Escapist Column! On How “Return of the Jedi” Reduced “Star Wars” to Formula…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special releasing tomorrow, I thought it was worth taking a look back at Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi.

In particular, the way in which Return of the Jedi sets an outer limit on what Star Wars can be. After the previous film in the series pushed the franchise outwards, the third film in the original trilogy folds the series back in on itself and sets a clear boundary on what Star Wars is and what Star Wars will forever be. It is a creative choice that has arguably hindered the franchise in the years since, restricting its capacity to push beyond that template and embrace new ideas and new concepts.

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

New Escapist Video! On “The Mandalorian” and “Star Wars'” Fallen World…

So, as I have mentioned before, I am launching a new video series as a companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch with the Monday article, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel the following week. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film channel – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

With that in mind, here is last week’s episode. To mark the season premiere of The Mandalorian, we took a look at the series’ exploration of a fallen world. In particular, the trope of the last survivors of a fallen world wandering through the ruins has become a common trope in contemporary mass media science-fiction like the third season of Star Trek: Discovery or the new series Raised by Wolves. So we thought it might be interesting to look at the trope, and how it differs from the conventional portrayal of the Star Wars universe.

It’s All About Meme Meme: The Perfect Timing of “The Wicker Man”…

The podcast that I co-host, The 250, marked Halloween with a look at Neil La Bute’s adaptation of The Wicker Man. It’s a fun, broad discussion. However, watching the film and talking about the film got me thinking about Nicolas Cage, meme culture and the perfect storm of timing involved.

It’s possible to break down Nicolas Cage’s career into two phases: before and after The Wicker Man.

Before The Wicker Man, Nicolas Cage was a respected actor. He had won the Best Actor Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas. He had become an blockbuster movie star thanks to films like The Rock and Con Air. He had worked with auteurs like David Lynch on Wild at Heart and the Coens in Raising Arizona. Indeed, at the turn of the millennium, Cage had settled into a respectable cinematic middle age. In the years leading up to The Wicker Man, he worked on fare like Andrew Niccol’s earnest Lord of War and Gore Verbinski’s decidedly middle brow The Weather Man.

And then The Wicker Man happened. Almost immediately, Cage’s career shifted gears. There were where still franchise films like Ghost Rider or National Treasure: Book of Secrets. There were still auteur collaborations like with Werner Herzog on Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. However, there were also movies like Bangkok Dangerous, Next and Knowing, which would lead on to films like Drive Angry, Seeking Justice and Trespass. Not all of these films were bad, but they were instrumental in establishing the Nicolas Cage audiences know today: “full Cage.”

To give Cage some credit here, his later work is often more interesting than his popular reputation would suggest. In particular, Cage works remarkably well in ensemble genre pieces like Kick-Ass or Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. More than that, Cage works remarkably well in the context of films that are pitched to match his fevered intensity as a performer like Mandy or The Colour Out of Space. Nevertheless, The Wicker Man was very much a watershed moment for Cage, like the flicking of a light switch.

Part of this is simply timing. The Wicker Man arrived at the perfect moment in popular culture, as a seismic shift was taking place. Discussions about the history of cinema often focus on the mechanics and the politics of the industry itself – the way in which movies are produced, funded and distributed. This makes a great deal of sense. However, it’s also important to consider how movies are discussed and how audiences engage with those films.

The Wicker Man arrived at a moment where the internet was primed to change the way that movies were watched, and the impact on Nicolas Cage’s career is perhaps a graphic illustration of that seismic shift.

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New Escapist Video! On the Snyder Cut and the Future of Pandemic Cinema…

So, as I have mentioned before, I am launching a new video series as a companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch with the Monday article, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel the following week. This month, it will be releasing on the Thursday.

With that in mind, here is last week’s episode, covering the long-looming release of The Snyder Cut of Justice League, and why this might represent an attractive model for studios desperately looking for new (and affordable) content in the midst of a pandemic.

New Escapist Video! On How the “Star Wars” Sequels Didn’t Need a Plan, “The Rise of Skywalker” Needed a Vision…

So, as I have mentioned before, I am launching a new video series as a companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch with the Monday article, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel the following week.

With that in mind, here is last week’s episode, covering the frequent argument that Disney needed a “plan” for the sequel trilogy, when in fact Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker just needed a vision. You can watch the pilot video here, and read the companion article here.

 

New Escapist Column! On the Joker’s Attempts to Hijack “The Dark Knight”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Because the Monday column is now published with a companion video, we thought it might be worth trying something a bit more visual than usual. Because TENET is still in wide release, we thought it might be interesting to try something visual that was related to Christopher Nolan.

The Dark Knight is an interesting film for a number of reasons. Interestingly, it is the rare Christopher Nolan movie that is almost entirely linear. Nolan’s other films tend to jump around a lot in time, but The Dark Knight progresses quite clearly from beginning to end. This is interesting, because it serves to provide an interesting and compelling contrast to the Joker. Because The Dark Knight is so linear, there’s an interesting tension as the Joker struggles to take control of the narrative and bend the view to his perspective. Sometimes in a very literal manner.

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