(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: one writer has a bad feeling about The Rise of Skywalker…)
The Star Wars: Episode IX trailer just blew up the internet, revealing some kick-ass action scenes, a stunning visual aesthetic, and a somewhat clunky title (Rise of Skywalker). The trailer as a whole was wonderful…until the end. At the tail end of all the exciting footage, a very familiar laugh was heard: that of Emperor Palpatine. And in case there was some doubt about what you heard, Palpatine himself – Ian McDiarmid – came out on stage during the Star Wars Celebration, and asked to roll the trailer again in his Emperor voice. The crowd went wild. Everyone seems to be okay with this idea!
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(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: Shazam! is a delightful movie about finding your ideal self – but it fails in one key way.)
Shazam! continues the onscreen DC Universe’s pivot to brighter, more joyful entertainment and it does it with a big, goofy grin on its face. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie that felt more genetically engineered to become the new favorite movie for every 12-year old in the audience. It’s funny and exciting and inspiring and just scary enough, recalling the studio films from eras when filmmakers realized that kids like to be tested, to have their bravery proven, at the movies. I am not the target audience for Shazam!, a movie made with kids in mind first, and that’s perfectly fine. Me enjoying it a great deal is just a warm and fuzzy side-effect.
But beyond being a thrilling superhero movie, Shazam! is blessed with a giant heart, one that it wears on its sleeve. Like any movie with a big heart, it has a message it wants to share. Unfortunately, Shazam!‘s message is one that is hindered by a single choice, one that will not matter to most people in the audience, but stuck out in a way that I have not been able to shake since I saw it. In the middle of one of the most upbeat, positive, and inspiring comic book movies I’ve ever seen is a single detail that reads not only false, but is genuinely dispiriting.
Naturally, this post contains major spoilers for Shazam! We have to journey deep into the third act to talk about this.
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(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: film festivals treat disabled attendees as an afterthought – and that needs to change.)
When it comes to the state of disability access, one thing is for certain: we are an afterthought. It’s remarkable to think that with all the ingenuity in architecture and discussions about representation that disability continuously falls through the cracks. I’ve lived as a wheelchair user my whole life and never felt limited until I started working as a film critic.
No, the nature of writing and seeing movies isn’t a problem. But as any writer will tell you, a key component of this job is going to film festivals. Festivals aren’t purely a means of seeing a hot new release months in advance, but present networking opportunities and greater access to events and people that help us do our job. When I first seriously started writing I knew festivals would be great to attend, but they come with a wealth of problems for me.
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(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: the current state of J.K. Rowling’s beloved universe is…unsteady.)
Earlier this year, J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world went to shit. Literally. The Pottermore Twitter account resurfaced an innocuous piece of trivia that described the wizarding world before it had discovered indoor plumbing, in which witches and wizards would use a vanishing spell after they had, ahem, done their business. The Harry Potter fandom went wild at the prospect of wizards shitting their pants for hundreds of years. It was exactly the kind of world-building misstep for which Rowling had become infamous in recent years: constantly revising the enchanting world she had created until it felt like the entire series was just built out of trivia.
Worse yet, it’s trivia that revises her previously white, previously heterosexual world into one that feels performatively “woke” — as was the case with her most recent egregious piece of trivia: that Dumbledore and Grindelwald had an “intense” sexual relationship, which of course we’ll never get to see onscreen. It’s like if Michaelangelo had kept returning to the Sistine Chapel to layer on more inches of oil paint until his masterpiece became an unrecognizable mess.
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Posted on Wednesday, February 20th, 2019 by Andrew Todd
(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: it’s time for the Academy to create a Stunts and Choreography award.)
It’s Oscar season, which means all the annual traditions and reheated previously-hot takes are in full effect. The Academy as an institution has many faults, and it’s worth criticising them even as it attempts to improve (with mixed success).
One of the most popular criticisms, amongst popular and genre audiences in particular, is the ongoing absence of an Academy Award for stunts. The need for a stunt Oscar has been expounded upon at length elsewhere, but it doesn’t take much to see that stunt teams put an enormous amount of work into entertaining us. They literally risk their lives, at times, and many of cinema’s greatest films wouldn’t be what they are without those highly-skilled craftspeople.
The Academy, though, is seemingly unwilling to dedicate a statue to stunts, but I’ve got another idea. I assume, given the Academy’s desire to award individuals rather than teams, that any hypothetical stunt Oscar would go to the winning films’ stunt coordinator(s) – and there’s another, related craft whose own coordinators have long needed recognition. Here’s a proposal that might be a little bit more palatable for the Academy:
Why not institute an Oscar for Best Dance & Stunt Choreography?
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(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: Vice and The Report are among the first films to truly look back at the Bush years with a severe and critical eye..)
Adam McKay‘s Vice and Scott Z. Burns‘ Sundance film The Report both hold a microscope up to the actions of the Bush Administration, in very different ways. But both The Report and Vice arrive at the same conclusion: we’re doomed to repeat our mistakes, even after we’ve studied them. Read More »
(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: “Bandersnatch” is the worst episode of Black Mirror and does nothing video games haven’t been doing better for years.)
Netflix’s latest bit of interactive entertainment has certainly lit the internet on fire. The first piece of such content for grown-ups (following Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale for kids and Minecraft: Story Mode for families), it’s a typically well-produced episode of Black Mirror entitled “Bandersnatch,” and it uses interactivity in a number of ways. Through a series of binary choices, the viewer guides its young game-developer character through the process of making their game – meeting game-design legends, facing family trauma, and possibly dealing with a cosmic conspiracy along the way.
Just as “Bandersnatch” splits into multiple paths and endings, so too has its audience split with regards to their opinions on it. From my observations, those opinions tend to split down two particular lines, both of which offer intriguing insights into the piece.
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(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: here’s how movie theaters can win back audiences.)
If you have even a passing interest in the business of movies, you’ll know movie theaters aren’t doing too great. Attendance by movie-goers in the United States and Canada hit record lows last year. Countless think pieces have been written about how streaming services and increased theater ticket prices (not to mention the concession stand extortion) are killing cinema. To hear some analysts talk, the end of cinema is nigh.
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(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: they finally made a Transformers movie that doesn’t suck.)
Bumblebee is good. There is now a Transformers movie that doesn’t suck.
That would have seemed shocking a couple of years ago, when the five-film series boasted not a single legitimately decent entry, but did have multiple compelling candidates for Worst Blockbuster Ever. But Paramount made some great decisions, coming out of the Michael Bay years. Bumblebee is a testament to the power of hiring good talent – in this case, talent who turned in a movie 180 degrees removed from Bay’s quintet of incoherent, sociopathic disasters.
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(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: why have people embraced the troubled musician in A Star is Born, but not the troubled musician in Vox Lux?)
The story goes like this: A world-famous musician who can’t get out from under their traumatic past struggles with an addiction that threatens to destroy their relationships. Their narcissism and recklessness are crudely exacerbated by drugs and alcohol. They are perhaps only, as the narration might inform us, marginally talented, and yet they endure. That unnamable something – the “it” factor, that sparkle, that je ne sais quois – has kept their fans adoring long past a reasonable expiration date.
That description could be attributed to prominent characters in two films released this year; while one of them has drawn near-consistent praise, the other has been criticized as being aggressively unlikable. The biggest difference between the two is, perhaps unsurprisingly, their gender.
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