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PopCult July 2019 Digest

Features
Spider-Man Movies Ranked
What To Watch After Stranger Things
Most Underrated Disney Films
Nintendo Switch Review
Best of the 2010s: My Favorite Films of 2014

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Movie Review – Beast

Beast (2017)
Written & Directed by Michael Pearce

Everything Beast is predicated on could become cliche so quickly in the hands of a lazy filmmaker. A serial killer is targeting teenage girls on the island of Jersey, England. The movie could be an investigative procedural, but it isn’t. There’s a dark romance between protagonist Moll and local poacher Pascal that could be something Twilight adjacent, but the director refuses to go there, though he will hint at it. What Beast ultimately reveals itself as is a dark psychological profile about a young woman coming into her own, shaking off the repressive elements of her middle-class upbringing and her label as a “damaged woman.”

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Short Film Showcase #1

He Took His Skin Off For Me (2014)
Written by Maria Hummer and Ben Ashton
Directed by Ben Ashton

He Took His Skin Off For Me walks that line between grotesque and beautiful, a contemporary fairy tale with relationship dysfunctions working underneath. The story is told entirely in voice-over from the unnamed female protagonist. She explains that she asked her male partner to take his skin off for her, a move that is never questioned and makes sense in the magical realist logic of the narrative. He does so but immediately encounters problems. There are bloodstains everywhere, sanguine footprints and crimson smears on the floors and furniture. His job is public-facing, and he tells her clients are pulling their business because of their discomfort with the man’s appearance. The woman tries to look on the bright side of all these setbacks, but her partner is withdrawing. During a dinner party, he answers in monosyllabic single word responses, a behavior that is very unlike him.

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TV Review – Best of All in the Family Part 2

Edith’s Accident (Original airdate: November 6, 1971)
Written by Tom & Helen August, Michael Ross, and Bernie West
Directed by Tom Rich

On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a very significant episode and feels more like your typical sitcom fare. Edith is late getting home from the grocery store, and when she finally does arrive, she reveals her responsibility for causing damage to another customer’s car with her cart. It’s only when Archie learns that she left a slip of paper with an apology and their home address that he blows his lid. It continues the portrayal of Archie as an old skinflint. Archie explains his frustration and paranoia as an expectation that whoever the owner is will show up asking for an inflated estimate on repairs. Edith holds fast in her view that humanity is inherently good and that they will not be taken advantage of.

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Movie Review – Foxtrot

Foxtrot (2017)
Written & Directed by Samuel Maoz

The foxtrot is a dance where you’re always coming back to where you started, walking a rectangular path. This cyclical movement can be seen in our contemporary history as the once thought dead specter of fascism has frighteningly reared its head. One of the great foxtrots of our time has been the Israel-Palestine conflict that has been going on since the late 1940s. After decades of war, it seemed in the 1970s that there might be some movement towards positive progress only for the Netanyahu regime to make this strife a key platform. The Israelis still send their young men and women into compulsory service as part of this conflict and, like so many cultures in the West, find a way to justify spilling gallons of their children’s blood for the demands of old men.

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Movie Review – Ash is Purest White

Ash is Purest White (2018)
Written & Directed by Zhangke Jia

To have a love that is so devoted, you would give up your freedom for your partner to be free is rare. Qiao has that love for Bin, her boyfriend, and the organized crime boss of rural Datong, a small industrial town in northern China. Qiao takes full advantage of her place of power, thoroughly enjoying the nightlife of Datong and making sure people know who her man is. It becomes clear there is another faction making a move, and Qiao tries to persuade Bin to leave this place and start over somewhere with more opportunity. They don’t get a chance as one night their car is surrounded by motorcyclists out to kill Bin.

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Movie Review – The Souvenir

The Souvenir (2019)
Written & Directed by Joanna Hogg

She meets him during a party. He works for the foreign office, is older, and exudes that overwhelming sense of mystery and sophistication. They stumble through the first steps of a thing they haven’t entirely defined yet. She’s caught up in developing her first feature film, a story about a declining English city. He’s always bounding about for work. Then his secret comes out, divulged by a dinner guest and every single thing in her life goes spiraling. This is a semi-autobiographical film from Joanna Hogg which follows the character of Julie in the early 1980s as she sinks into the quicksand of a destructive relationship.

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TV Review – The Best of All in the Family Part 1

Meet the Bunkers (Original Airdate: January 12, 1971)
Written by Norman Lear
Directed by John Rich

It began as Til Death Do Us Part, a British sitcom. The premise is nearly identical with the main difference being moving the setting from the East End of London to the borough of Queens in New York City. Norman Lear came across an article on the British series, and he was reminded of the relationship between his own mother and father. The arrival of All in the Family on CBS marked a significant shift in the tone of programming. Previously the network was peppered with shows like Andy Griffith and The Beverly Hillbillies. All in the Family was not a show that made you feel cozy, and it intentionally challenged small-minded viewers confronting them with a different side of the argument than they were used to being exposed to. 

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