the falcon and the winter soldier clips

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything.)

Over the last few years, an incredibly, disturbingly common refrain has arisen from the cast and crew working on a slew of big new TV series, from Big Little Lies to Stranger Things – “It’s really a 6-hour movie”. (Feel free to fill in a larger number to account for shows that have eight or nine episodes per season instead of six.) The war of film and television feels especially foolish to fight as we wind down from a pandemic that kept so many of us away from movie theaters, essentially turning everything into television whether it was intended that way or not.

Marvel’s latest show for Disney+, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, is no different, with star Anthony Mackie saying that the show would be like “a six- or eight-hour movie” last summer, and director Kari Skogland emphasizing it again during an interview with /Film. Leave aside any amount of eye-rolling you might muster at seeing that comment again. Maybe a six-hour Falcon movie appeals to you. That appeal would be more intriguing if Disney+ was treating The Falcon and the Winter Soldier like a movie, instead of…well, a weekly television show.

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wandavision finale

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything.)

WandaVision, in a word, is about grief.

You’re probably well-aware of this if you’ve spent any time at all following the week-to-week conversation surrounding the popular series, with social media downright inundated with this truism. That’s not to say it’s an inaccurate claim, to be clear, as even the most casual viewer could likely anticipate that Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) losing Vision (Paul Bettany) in Avengers: Infinity War would somehow figure into this idiosyncratic blend of superheroes and sitcom pastiche. If anything, that so much of the audience was on the same page about the show’s overarching theme only reinforces the notion that the writing team was telling precisely the story that needed to be told.

This post contains spoilers for WandaVision and its finale.

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WandaVision and the Mandalorian

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This post contains spoilers for The Mandalorian and the latest episode of WandaVision.

For better or worse, the debuts of The Mandalorian and WandaVision on Disney+ within just 14 months of each other represent something of a game-changer in this Streaming Era. Amid so many different shows all competing for the same spotlight in a post-Game of Thrones vacuum, here comes the unstoppable might of Disney’s Star Wars and Marvel brands to break through the clutter of our current “Peak TV” reality. Achieving pop culture relevance as these two shows have is no small feat, to be sure, but it’s even more notable to do so while expanding from dominating cinemas to taking over our living rooms on a weekly basis.

Because of these factors, it’s difficult to compartmentalize one smash-hit series from the other – as divergent as their goals and intentions may be – when evaluating the ripple effect they both will have (and have already had) on the trajectory of their respective franchises… and most significantly, on how we as viewers engage with them. Weirdly enough, the stories of a lone bounty hunter looking after his orphan sidekick and a grief-stricken superhero cocooning herself in a television fantasy have become a bellwether for studying the volatile dynamic between pop culture entertainment and audiences on a large scale.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the many eerie similarities between these two shows: from misplaced complaints about “filler episodes” throughout both seasons of The Mandalorian and the first few episodes of WandaVision, to their gradual prioritization of shared universe connections over self-contained narratives.

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(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything.)

When I looked at my top 10 list this year, something jumped out at me: half the movies I picked were documentaries. That may be in part a reality of supply in 2020 as many high-profile narrative films opted to delay … and delay … and delay their releases. Documentaries, which have enjoyed a renaissance over the past decade thanks to newfound demand on streaming platforms, were more than willing to help make up what was lost in both quantity and quality.

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(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything.)

Hearing the gentle opening notes of Johnny Mandel’s folk anthem “Suicide is Painless” transports a person back to the Korean War and the combat medics of the 4077th.

As the pandemic crushes spirits and keeps people home longer and longer thanks to the bungled response of our elected leaders, I sought somewhere—anywhere—to be. And the place I landed was M*A*S*H. The show has been part of the cultural consciousness for so long, its ubiquity is taken for granted. I know I took it for granted, at least. It was just always around. I’d watched episodes as a child with my grandfather, who watched it whenever it was on TV. By the time I was aware of it, it was long over, but the reruns are still going strong.

It felt like a comfortable place to revisit chronologically, with the eyes of an adult and the discerning gaze of a critic. And what I found was more incredible than I remembered.

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Director Aneesh Chaganty, co-writer Sev Ohanian, and producer Natalie Qasabian previously brought us the 2018 nail-biter Searching. Now, they have given audiences an exciting new thriller featuring a paraplegic lead. Kicking off the first night of Nightstream, a collaborative virtual film festival from the organizers of Boston Underground, Brooklyn Horror, North Bend, Overlook and Popcorn Frights Festival, Run tells the story of a teenage girl who uses a wheelchair and her overprotective mother.

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Kingdom Series

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Kingdom, one of Netflix’s original South Korean dramas, couldn’t be streaming at a more apt time. 

The drama is, on the surface, a zombie show. It’s intriguing in how it puts the classic zombie trope into a historical drama format—the zombie outbreak has occurred during the Joseon Dynasty. But despite its classic zombie horror trappings and lush historical sets and costumes, Kingdom is a story about how a disordered society—one focused more on greed and status rather than the good of all people—can cause a pandemic to quickly grow out of control. 

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da 5 bloods vietnam

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Da 5 Bloods is a ghost story. It’s about the ghosts that exist in the minds of Vietnam War veterans — played here with stunning ferocity and pain by Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, and Isiah Whitlock Jr. — haunted by the deeds they committed fighting a war that was not theirs. It’s about the ghosts of racism and imperialism that continue to thrive in contemporary society. But the most terrifying ghost in Da 5 Bloods is the ghost of the Vietnam War itself, which continues to haunt the American conscience to this day. In American minds, and in the Hollywood movies through which they process their guilt, the Vietnam War still stands as the great American failure — the war that represented the downfall of the U.S. as the shining beacon of democracy.

But with Da 5 Bloods, Spike Lee repurposes the typical Vietnam War movie narrative, which has long been an ode to the last gasps of traditional American masculinity, to instead examine Black trauma and reckon with the devastating consequences that American violence has wrought upon the world and its own citizens. Lee interweaves the familiar war narrative and iconography with the modern-day context of Black Lives Matter and America’s inherited racism (given form by Donald Trump’s “MAGA” movement), which in turn act in concert with the lingering effects of French imperialism in Vietnam. The oppression that Black people suffered at the hands of their own government, Lee suggests, is analogous to the oppression that the Vietnamese people suffered at the hands of American soldiers. The war is always being waged, Da 5 Bloods implies, whether it’s a war against white supremacy or a war against racism.

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(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything.)

It’s difficult to place into words the impact Italian Neorealism has personally had on me. The genre speaks to me on a visceral level. The old Italian films, born out of desperation, still hold up against the blockbusters of today. In an age where authoritarianism is making a comeback, we are witnessing a subconscious reemergence of the formerly communist left-supported Italian Neorealism movement. A genre “reboot,” so-to-speak, passionately defiant of the Donald Trumps, the Boris Johnsons, the Kim Jong-Uns, the Rodrigo Dutertes, paralleling the recent wave of democratic socialism and a greater societal readiness to accept left politics.

In order to contextualize the circumstances surrounding its reemergence, one must revisit the circumstances out of which Italian Neorealism was born. By drawing modern parallels to classics of the genre with recent films such as Roma, The Florida Project, Tangerine, Support the Girls, Cold War, American Honey, and Winter’s Bone, the sociopolitical and stylistic similarities between Italian Neorealism’s “reboot” and its cinematic predecessor succinctly emerge.

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the lodge trailer new

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything.)

This article contains major spoilers for The Lodge. It also contains discussion of self-harm.

Horror movies often rely on physical violence and cruelty to horrify their audiences. That’s fair; we all have bodies, and we’re afraid of them getting damaged. Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s The Lodge, however, isn’t particularly violent. It isn’t particularly bloody. There are no monsters, and barely any “scares.” Yet it hits harder, conjuring dread on a deeper level, than any conventional horror film of late. An intimate and emotional nightmare, the film wrings audiences into stunned submission, proving that psychological cruelty can hurt far worse than the physical.

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