West Wing 6×15: Freedonia


[Writer: Eli Attie | Director: Christopher Misiano | Aired: 2/16/2005]

“Let’s get back to Politics 101. The object is to beat the other guys.” – Josh

Which came first? The egg.

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What the End of “One Day at a Time” Says About the Future of Netflix

One Day At A Time

On Thursday, Netflix cancelled One Day at a Time, its delightful revival of Normal Lear’s 1970s family sitcom of the same name. In an apologetic Twitter statement, the streaming service stated that, despite their love for the show, “simply not enough people watched to justify another season.”

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“Captain Marvel” is the Okayest Film in the MCU


(The following review contains minor spoilers.)

The trailer for Captain Marvel came equipped with an emboldened tagline: “Discover What Makes a Hero.” It’s a generic line, as easily applied to most of the three dozen or so superhero origin films we’ve seen in the past decade. But there’s a catch – as displayed in the trailer, the words “A Hero” first appeared as “Her” before the other letters faded into view – underscoring how, after twenty films with men at the center, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was finally focusing one of its adventures on a woman.

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The Complete History of Shazam! and Captain Marvel (Part 2)


Welcome back to my unauthorized yet highly accurate history of Shazam! and Captain Marvel. Be sure to check out Part 1 if you haven’t already. Here’s Part 2, although I must warn you – this gets real complicated…

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2018: An Animated Retrospective


As frequent visitors of this website can attest, I love animation. Be it the sweeping vistas of Disney, the humanized stories of Pixar, or the hip smart-alecky humor of (insert name of any animation studio that’s not Disney or Pixar), a good animated film can appeal perfectly to young and old alike.

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And the Best Picture of 2018 Is…


It’s that time again – the time when film lovers everywhere stop debating each other and unite to complain about the Oscars. And there are so many problems to bring up. How bad are the nominations? How out-of-touch is the industry? Do some categories deserve to be banished to the commercial breaks? Lots of problems have plagued the Academy lately, but like any other year, we can at least pray that the host will offer some good laughs. (Oh, wait…)

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The Cracks in “Glass”


Where does Glass go wrong?

Not in ticket sales, certainly. M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film is thus far the highest-grossing American film of 2019. But despite the money it’s raking in, the film has generated a mixed reception – it currently stands at 37% of Rotten Tomatoes, with some reviews calling it one of the director’s biggest disappointments. And having now caught up with the film, I can understand why.

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“The Lego Movie 2”: Blocks Fit Together, But Never Quite Click


I can state without unwarranted cynicism that the idea for producing a “Lego Movie” probably did not stem from the need for artistic fulfillment. As with many cartoons that feature cute, kid-friendly, endlessly marketable leads, it was greenlit by a studio that wanted to sell toys. But it was thanks to the perfect team of thinkers and dreamers – led by the writing/directing duo of Phil Lord and Chris Miller – that 2014’s The Lego Movie turned out to be as excellent as it was, featuring terrific laughs and exploring poignant themes about imagination and growing up.

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The Complete History of Shazam! and Captain Marvel (Part 1)


Every year brings with it a new plethora of superhero films, and 2019 is no exception. At last count, studios have an estimated 827 comic-book movies (give or take) scheduled for release this year, and who can blame them? 2018 saw four superhero flicks – Black Panther, Aquaman, Incredibles 2 and Infinity War – make over a billion dollars each, which means that Hollywood will continue producing such films until the sun eats our planet for breakfast.

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How “Bolt” Revitalized the Disney Formula


It’s no secret that I love a good Disney discussion, and the Internet offers no shortage of opportunities. Yet despite the multiple debates about the studio’s animated adventures, some films are unfairly downplayed or even ignored. When discussing the new wave of great Disney Animation films, for instance, fans are quick to champion the virtues of subversive princess stories like Tangled and Frozen, or other genre-bending adventures like Wreck-It Ralph and Zootopia. All fine films, to be sure, and all deserving of their accolades. But few seem to mention the film which arguably kicked off the current “Disney Revival.”

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West Wing 6×14: The Wake-Up Call


[Writer: Josh Singer | Director: Laura Innes | Aired: 2/9/2005]

“The document is just the beginning.” – Lessig

I’m a sucker for titles with double-meanings, and “The Wake-Up Call” has a doozy. The name refers here to the late-night/early-morning call that the President receives during a national emergency. But it also refers to the recent metaphorical wake-up call – mapped out in the purposeful “365 Days” – to the Bartlet administration at large, which is now in its final year and must determine how to end on a high note.

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West Wing 6×13: King Corn


[Writer: John Wells | Director: Alex Graves | Aired: 1/26/2005]

“I lived the opposing arguments.” – Santos

It’s impossible to envy the position John Wells was put in during the summer of 2003. Not only had he been left to take charge of one of the most lauded and award-winning dramas of the era, but he’d had no direct involvement with the series beforehand. That the series didn’t immediately collapse into a pile of ash and broken dreams with the Season Five premiere was something of a miracle.

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The 10 Best TV Shows of 2018


In the introduction to last year’s installment of my annual “Best TV Shows” series, I lamented the fact that television had grown so voluminous in its content, and so fragmented in its appeal, that great shows no longer stood out the way they once did. Competitive-minded producers, sensing the need to stand out in an increasingly crowded field, have birthed countless shows designed to appeal to smaller and smaller demographics. And while some of these little-watched shows have been quite good, most of them… uh, no longer need to be.

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10 Great Pop-Culture Books of 2018


It’s that time of year again. The time when all the uppity and pretentious critics all hunch over their desks and type out their picks for the best films/shows/books/albums/games/celebrity pratfalls of the last 12 months. As a somewhat uppity and pretentious critic myself (albeit one who doesn’t hunch, for posture purposes), I’m all too eager to join the fray. I’ll be posting my “Best Films of 2018” piece next week, with a “Best TV Shows of 2018” article following shortly after.

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“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is the Best Animated Film of the Year


In the hallowed halls of Marvel Comics, past Thor’s hammer, behind Cap’s shield, and just to the left of Wolverine’s adamantium claws, sits the great Spider-Man vault. In it are contained the thousands of stories – both print and screen – centered on everyone’s friendly neighborhood wall-crawler. Spidey has starred in countless comic books, a dozen TV shows, and has had kicked off three different film franchises since the dawn of the new century. Forget market saturation – he’s webbed up the market like one of his arachnidan equivalents, and refuses to set it free.

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Why the Twitter Mob Keeps Winning


On Wednesday, the Academy announced that Kevin Hart would host the 2019 Oscars. On Thursday, Hart announced that he would not, in fact, be hosting.

What happened? Some folks had dug up some of Hart’s old tweets and stand-up bits (from around 2010, before his Hollywood breakout) in which he made some homophobic jokes. These tweets quickly spread across the Internet, and a backlash quickly grew against the Academy. Said Academy told Hart to apologize, and although he at first balked (saying that he’d come clean about these jokes in the past, and has changed his tune in the years since), increased pressure finally forced him to acquiesce, and he stepped down from his Oscar-hosting role.

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“Ralph Breaks the Internet” is a Sweet, Self-Mocking Success


The Internet is a fascinating and endlessly engrossing compendium of knowledge, allowing anyone to receive any sort of information at any time. There is no limit to the amount of eye-opening facts one can learn from surfing the web, and…

Wait. That’s not right.

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My Thoroughly Accurate Predictions for the 2018 Election


As I’m writing this, we’ve just come off Halloween, the second-scariest holiday of the year. Now it’s time to move on to the first: Election Day. Yes, as those of you who watch cable news, browse online media, or stare at any screen for more than eight seconds a day probably know, America’s next annual election will be held November 6th. It is a “midterm” election, a term I assume is designed to diminish the already low voter turnout of college students.

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Book vs. Film: Do Androids Dream of Blade Runner?


Note: I originally wrote the following as a thesis paper in May 2016. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, I’ve decided to share it on the main site, with slight modifications for clarity. The piece contains spoilers for both the novel and the first Blade Runner film. It does not contain any spoilers for Blade Runner 2049, which did not premiere until 2017.

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In Defense of the Disney Princess


On Wednesday, Keira Knightley (appearing on an episode of Ellen) mentioned that she forbade her daughter from watching certain Disney films. Cinderella was on the banned list, because, as Knightley explained it, the protagonist “waits around for a rich guy to rescue her.” The Little Mermaid was also frowned upon because of its purported message – as Knightley put it, “Do not give your voice up for a man.”

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“Smallfoot” is a Fake News Allegory, with Snow Monsters


Located in the deepest recesses of the Warner Bros. vault are ninety years’ worth of animated entertainment, just ripe for the plucking, the cherishing, and the repurposing. The Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts. The Hanna-Barbera TV library. Too many DC Comics adaptations to name. Outside of Disney, perhaps no corporation has as wide and diverse an array of animation as Warner does.

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2018 Emmys: The Revolution that Wasn’t


When it comes to the Emmy Awards, I’ve long held two mindsets. The Jekyll in me wants to root for the nominees I love, and cheer whenever a lesser-known gem takes home the gold. But the Hyde in me is urged to snark my way through the ceremony, mocking the self-important Hollywood types who’ve devoted a dry and often artless night to congratulating themselves.

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West Wing 6×12: 365 Days


[Writer: Mark Goffman | Director: Andrew Bernstein | Aired: 1/19/2005]

“Everyone’s walking around here like we’re finished.” – Leo

There are certain oddities and inconsistencies of The West Wing which must be accepted in order for us to appreciate the show’s finer aspects. The unexplained disappearance of many side characters (did Mandy just get lost on her way to the Sit Room?). The occasional character inconsistencies and continuity errors (pretty much everything involving Zoey Bartlet). The fact that election years are staggered two years against real-life elections (although if they occurred during leap years, as happens in reality, I suppose this episode would have been distractingly titled “366 Days”).

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West Wing 6×11: Opposition Research


[Writer: Eli Attie | Director: Chris Misiano | Aired: 1/12/2005 ]

“How do you wanna go broke? As the brown candidate, or as the American candidate?” – Josh

Politicians, despite what cable news may tell us, are not props. They are as human as you or I. They have hang-ups and flaws and quirks and foibles. They have favorite foods and favorite films and families they occasionally get to see.

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“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” is the Best Teen Film in Years


Teen films aren’t as popular as they used to be. The high school genre had its heyday once upon a time, with a renaissance kicked off by the infectiously enjoyable Clueless. Amy Heckerling’s witty comedy (which I reviewed a while back) set off a wave of teen-centered cinema that sparked turn-of-the-century films like Bring It On and 10 Things I Hate About You, before things climaxed in the genre-bending Mean Girls. But in the years since, widely-released teen films have fallen by the wayside, with only the occasional exception (Easy A, The Duff) to shake things up.

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