The Falcon and Winter Soldier Episode 5 (2021) Written by Dalan Musson Directed by Kari Skogland
This episode was a bit of an improvement from the last couple, but the show is still far from being as good as it could be. One of the most glaring problems with the mini-series is how bloated the narrative has become with characters. In this one episode, we have scenes with Sam, Bucky, Isaiah Bradley, his grandson Elijah, John Walker, John Walker’s wife, Lamar’s family, Sam’s sister, and his nephews, Zemo, the Dora Milaje, Joaquin Torres, Batroc, Sharon Carter, Karli Morgenthau & the Flag Smashers. Plus, they introduce a new character, the Contessa de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). The Zemo narrative appears to be over as he’s taken into Wakandan custody, but I just don’t see a thoroughly satisfying conclusion to all these arcs next episode.
Fiddler on the Roof (1971) Written by Joseph Stein Directed by Norman Jewison
By this time in his career, Norman Jewison had become dismayed over the political climate in the United States. It was clear that the government was meeting the multiple cultural uprisings and movements with hostility and brutality. He decided to move his family to England, which is where his subsequent few productions were based. Having gained considerable clout for his work on In the Heat of the Night and The Thomas Crown Affair, Jewison was offered to direct a film adaptation of the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof. The themes of Fiddler seem right in Jewison’s wheelhouse, but it was his first musical, so that aspect of the film remained to be seen until its release. The result is one of Jewison’s best pictures.
I can’t say I have ever loved the work of Jon Favreau. I watched and moderately enjoyed his early career. I am one of those people who was confounded by the adverse reaction to Made. I think it was one of the few times I laughed at Vince Vaughn. His cringy dumb guy who thinks he is smart schtick made me laugh. I never found his studio pictures like Elf, Zathura, or Iron Man very remarkable. It could undoubtedly be an age thing when it comes to those pictures. So when Chef originally came out, it zoomed past my radar with zero interest in watching it. The world would keep spinning. However, my brother and patron Matt chose this for his April pick, so I sat down and watched the thing.
The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) Written by Alan Trustman Directed by Norman Jewison
In the late 1960s, filmmaking was undergoing a transformation. It was happening both in the counter-culture, becoming prominent in the content but also in technological changes. At Expo 67, the World’s Fair held in Montreal, a pair of films showed off the revolutionary split-screen technique pioneered by Christopher Chapman. Chapman was a Canadian-born cinematographer that created the multi-dynamic image technique or “the Brady Bunch effect.” This allowed him to composite multiple film images into grids of varying sizes. This allowed a single scene to be shown from various angles and character perspectives. After Norman Jewison saw the films in exhibition at Expo 67, he wanted to use it in his new movie The Thomas Crown Affair, seeing it as useful when showing the heist scenes.
In the Heat of the Night (1967) Written by Stirling Silliphant Directed by Norman Jewison
In the Heat of the Night was a huge film in terms of its pop-culture resonance for a few decades, yet it is almost forgotten in our current age. I was aware of the seven-season television sequel that premiered in 1988. I recently discovered Sidney Poitier continued to play the character of Virgil Tibbs in two sequels. There are also seven novels in the Tibbs series. Now I’m sure not all of this media is as great as this movie, but it’s so strange for a character to have been that prominent only to have entirely vanished from the cultural discourse. As presented in this film, the character is so compelling that I have to believe the following productions just didn’t live up to the bar set by In the Heat of the Night.
The second episode of the PopCult Podcast went up yesterday. I’m enjoying making these and already planning on tweaking the format a little on the next one. I think I’ll be cutting most of me talking solo and keep it more to a conversation with Ariana. I know I always enjoy podcasts more that are a back and forth. I was happy to see the first episode got 10 listeners, which is 10 more than I expected. Ariana picked the Top 5 list for the third episode, and we’ll be having a conversation about Them on Amazon Prime. Oh boy, that show is something. It should be an interesting talk.
Shiva Baby (2021) Written & Directed by Emma Seligman
As I get older, my personal definition of what makes a horror film both expands and retracts. The funhouse jumpscare-a-thons that have been accepted as what horror is in major theatrical releases misses the whole point of the genre for me. I think Ari Aster’s pictures are as close to popular horror that I enjoy. I think what’s missing from most of these movies is the building of atmosphere. There are tense strings on the soundtrack, and then a loud burst with something that might be related to the horror or not popping onto the screen. Shiva Baby feels like a personal horror movie to me, the story of a person whose decisions in life have caught up to her and play out almost in real-time. It has those same strings playing on the soundtrack, but they rarely give us the climax we’re expecting and just keep needling at the sanity of our protagonist. It’s one of the tensest movie-watching experiences I’ve had in 2021 so far.
The next episode of the PopCult Podcast has dropped.
I open things up by talking about my personal views on the future of movie theaters and film distribution in the wake of COVID-19. This leads to our Top 5 list with Ariana where we share our Top 5 Book Adaptations. Then I go over the highlights of DC’s new Infinite Frontier initiative. The episode wraps with Ariana & I sharing some books we’ve recently read.
Bad Trip (2020) Written by Dan Curry, Eric Andre, and Kitao Sakurai Directed by Kitao Sakurai
When you are watching a film like Bad Trip, a fictional narrative where unaware participants are being pranked and filmed, a certain balance has to be maintained. People have come to see the movie based on the pranks’ outrageousness and in anticipation of seeing how the bystanders react. This means, if you lean too far into the narrative, people are disappointed. But you certainly don’t want to just put a prank compilation in theaters because that doesn’t justify the ticket price. This balance is crucial for a movie like Bad Trip to work, and I am happy to say it’s probably one of the best in this subgenre I’ve ever seen. I had a clear understanding of every character and their motivation, and the pranks were fantastic.
The Falcon and Winter Soldier Episode 4 (Disney+) Written by Derek Kolstad Directed by Kari Skogland
With only two episodes left in this mini-series, it has gotten to the point where the story feels utterly bloated with characters and subplots that can’t possibly be resolved by the end. WandaVision had a tight focus on a single storyline; here, we have too many characters with a too complicated web of relationships. If this was a whole television season and characters were given spotlights, it could work. However, we’re getting established characters written to fit the plot (Sam Wilson), other characters having their arcs rushed (Zemo), and a bunch of other people not given room to breathe and showcase who they are in this narrative.