The Cultural Gutter

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"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -- Oscar Wilde

“Johnny Depp: Where Did It All Go Wrong?”


At Multiglom, Anne Billson considers the career of Johnny Depp. “The watershed, of course, was Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Depp’s campy, flouncing Captain Jack Sparrow, modelled on Keith Richards, dismayed Disney executives, who thought he was ruining the film, but elevated a run-of-the-mill blockbuster into something deliciously off-kilter. Alas, […]

“How The Death Of The Mid-Budget Film Left A Generation Of Filmmakers MIA”


“While we weren’t looking, the mid-budget adult-oriented motion picture has all but disappeared. And the gifted directors behind them are in danger of disappearing as well. Movie wonks and box-office watchers have written and talked about the death of mid-budget filmmaking, but mostly in business terms—as opposed to personal ones, contemplating the phenomenon’s effect on […]

“It’s Time To Retire The Disney Death”


At The Dissolve, Tasha Robinson writes about the use and overuse of the “Disney Death” in both Disney and non-Disney animated films. “Still, no matter how ambitious, sophisticated, and elaborate American animated films become, the Disney Death still dominates. It’s spread outside Disney to all sorts of films, from cartoons to adult stories; it’s a […]

The De-Radicalization of American Girl Dolls


At The Atlantic, Amy Schiller writes about Mattel’s changes to American Girl Dolls line.  from teaching girls to understand thorny historical controversies and build political consciousness” to customizable accessories reflecting their owners’ own lives. Alexandra Petri writes “Even more terrible things are happening to the American Girl brand than you thought” at The Washington Post. […]

Fatality: Femmes Fatale, Disappointment, Expectations and Fatale

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Expectations can be a killer, at least for me. I really expected to love Fatale (Image, 2012-4). I had every reason to. Writer Ed Brubaker, artist Sean Phillips and colorist Dave Stewart have made some of my favorite comics together: Sleeper; Criminal; Incognito; and Velvet. Brubaker’s Catwoman brought me back to mainstream comics. And Fatale […]

An Open Letter to John Chu


“Is it so outrageous to think that someone my color would be rocking out in a girl band?” Lindsay Taylor reads an open letter to director John M. Chu, director of the upcoming live action film  Jem And The Holograms . Taylor talks about what the character Shana means to her as well as whitewashing, […]

Vengeful gods and other simulated
life failures

norn hatching

When it comes to raising a child who can use words and interact with other humans, so far I seem to be succeeding, but I have to admit that my track record prior to this was not exactly promising. Aside from managing to keep an egg safe for a week in middle school, my first […]

The Desire For Certainty In Film


“In the world of online film discourse, there’s a veritable cottage industry devoted to bringing certainty to ambiguity.” The Dissolve has more. Meanwhile, Film Critic Hulk writes about film logic, plot holes and “THE ONLY ANSWER THAT ACTUALLY MATTERS.”

Art, Guilt and Intellectual Insecurity


Jennifer Szalai and Adam Sternbergh argue for removing the guilt from “guilty pleasures.”  And in reading Eleanor Catton’s recent essay about the perception of literary elitism, Laura Miller considers intellectual insecurity in the literary world: “You can find it among fans of easy-to-read commercial fiction who insist (on very little evidence) that the higher-brow stuff […]

“Artists Respond To DC’s Harley Quinn Contest”


Here’s a gallery of artist responses to DC’s Harley Quinn contest. (Thanks, Mark!)

The Weinstein Company vs. Asian Cinema


At Daily Grindhouse, Ric Meyers writes about, “A History of Disrespect: The Weinstein Company’s War on Asian Cinema.” Meanwhile, at Flavorwire, Jason Bailey asks and answers. “Why Do Asian Films Have To Be Dumbed Down For An American Audience?”

Violence As A Cheap Conflict Drug


In discussing The Following, Todd VanDerWerff writes about violence & wanting “to be only cool moments”: “Violence becomes a kind of cheap conflict drug, and the show’s writers keep trying to get hit after hit. The effect wears thin, particularly for those familiar with horror movies, who will see every single twist coming.”

“Why Does Every Movie Released These Days Feel Exactly The Same?”


It turns out there’s a reason why movies are starting to feel the same: “Summer movies are often described as formulaic. But what few people know is that there is actually a formula—one that lays out, on a page-by-page basis, exactly what should happen when in a screenplay. It’s as if a mad scientist has […]

Under The Dome, Reviewed


Grady Hendrix reviews episodes of the tv adaptation of Stephen King’s Under The Dome for Science Fiction Editor Emeritus James wrote about the book here. They are both disappointed, but their disappointment is interesting and sometimes hilarious.

Writers and Readers

“I write because writing is necessary to me. I don’t do it for the money, or the fame, or the readers (although readers are great). I write because I want to, because I need to, and as such, readers’ opinions, welcome as they always are, won’t change a thing to what I do.” Author Joanne […]

“¡Viva, Comics Alliance!”

At The Comics Journal, Joe McCulloch speaks to the legacy of Comics Alliance. The Beat‘s Steve Morris writes about what Comics Alliance meant to him. ” If Comics Alliance was known for anything – aside from the much-needed essays on prejudice and progression, aside from discussion of Batman punching people with car parts, aside from […]

“Goodbye for Now, Wonder Woman”

Girls Gone Geek‘s Erika Peterman on why she’s no longer reading Wonder Woman. “At this point, it’s crystal clear that Brian Azzarello is not going to write the Wonder Woman comic I want to read. There’s a big disconnect between Cliff Chiang’s show-stopping, vibrant presentation of the character and the narrative, in which Wonder Woman […]

“The DC New 52 Timeline of Departures, Firings, and Bridge-Burnings”

Gutters and Panels has a convenient timeline of notable departures, firings and bridge-burnings at DC Entertainment since 2010.

Stepping Back with The Great And Powerful Oz

“With such a rich tapestry on and off the Oz page, it’s depressing that 2013 finds our return to Oz burdened with a reluctant hero (the dominant kind in the 21st century), and not one of Baum’s plucky young heroines. In a bitter reversal of Baum’s stories, ‘Great and Powerful’ casts the women as the […]

“The Circus of Fashion”

As Popshifter has pointed out, Suzy Menkes’ article about fashion, could apply to so many other cultural pursuits now: “It is great to see the commentaries from smart bloggers — especially those in countries like China or Russia, where there was, in the past, little possibility of sharing fashion thoughts and dreams[.] But two things […]

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  • Of Note Elsewhere

    At Bleeding Cool, Cap Blackard writes about the contested homeworld of Howard the Duck. “If you’ve seen the much maligned Howard the Duck film or read any Howard the Duck stories published since 1979, you’re probably familiar with the concept of Duckworld. You know, an alternate Earth where everyone is ducks and everything is duck-themed: Ducktor Strange, Bloomingducks, etc, etc. Sounds like a recipe for a finite barrel of bad jokes, right? It is, and it’s also not Howard’s real point of origin. During his landmark initial run, Howard’s creator Steve Gerber had the down-and-out duck hailing from a world of talking animals, but all that changed when Gerber was kicked off the book and Disney flashed a lawsuit. Now, after decades of backstory fumbling, Mark Waid has reinstated Howard’s point of origin in a one-shot issue of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (Thanks, Mark!)


    At The Village Voice, Jackson Connor writes about the making of The Warriors. Amid the refurbished boardwalk and laughter of children, it’s easy to forget that Coney Island was once a place where tourists did not venture. For much of the latter half of the twentieth century, street gangs dominated this neighborhood. They ran rampant through the area’s neglected housing projects, tearing along Surf and Neptune avenues toward West 8th Street. Those gangs, or gangs like them, and that incarnation of Coney Island would form the backbone of author Sol Yurick’s 1965 debut novel, The Warriors, about the young members of a street gang. More than a decade after the novel’s publication it would be optioned and, eventually, turned into a major motion picture of the same name.” (via @pulpcurry)


    Edith Garrud taught Suffragettes jiu-jitsu and formed Emmeline Pankhurst’s Bodyguard. “The first connection between the suffragettes and jiu-jitsu was made at a WSPU meeting. Garrud and her husband William, who ran a martial arts school in London’s Golden Square together, had been booked to attend. But William was ill, so she went alone. ‘Edith normally did the demonstrating, while William did the speaking,’ says Tony Wolf, writer of Suffrajitsu, a trilogy of graphic novels about this aspect of the suffragette movement. ‘But the story goes that the WSPU’s leader, Emmeline Pankhurst, encouraged Edith to do the talking for once, which she did.'”


    At Playboy, Jake Rossen writes about the story behind the filming and the restoration of Manos: The Hands of Fate. “For a long time no one wanted to see it unless it was accompanied by MST3K’s taunts. Then, in 2011, a collector of film prints uncovered the original negative of Manos and embarked on an inexplicable project to restore the film with all the white-glove attention archivists give to Hollywood classics. His efforts would incur the wrath of a mysterious man with a fake New Zealand accent named Rupert, as well as Joe Warren, Hal Warren’s embittered son, who intends to preserve the Manos legacy at all costs.” (Thanks, Ed!)


    At Die, Danger, Die, Die, Kill!, Todd reviews the two part Ghanian director Ninja’s film, 2016. “2016 is a movie that I am obligated to review by virtue of my having long ago joined the internet chorus of people trumpeting on about its insane trailer—and this despite the fact that all of you with any interest in seeing it have most likely tracked it down already. In that case, you already know that it is essentially a no-budget remake of Independence Day set in the suburbs of Ghana. And if that sounds like a massive over-reach to you, you obviously know very little about Ghanaian action cinema, and even less about the films of maverick multi-hyphenate Ninja.”

    Read about part one, here, and part two, here.


    Look, it’s the trailer for “The Abominable Snowman” a new episode of classic Thunderbirds. Huffington Post UK has more: “It’s exactly half a century since we heard the ominous tones of voice actor Peter Dyneley bringing us the Thunderbirds intro ‘5 -4 – 3 – 2 -1 Thunderbirds are go’, and to celebrate, the team are producing three brand new original episodes, based on audio-only recordings made in 1966, which means fans will get to enjoy the original voices, with some 21st century gadgetry thrown in on screen.” (Thanks, Todd!)


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