In Defense of ‘The Lone Ranger’

Spoiler alert: plot details of the movie follow

Flawed films are often the most interesting, even—or especially—when they bomb at the box office or drive critics to distraction. Blade Runner, which neither the masses nor the pundits initially took to, has attained cult and classic film status since its release. Citizen Kane, which lost money in its original run, and the critical and financial flop Vertigo have long since entered the cinematic pantheon, with Vertigo last year knocking Kane off its perennial “greatest film” pedestal in British journal Sight & Sound’s decennial survey. This is not to suggest that Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger will be making anyone’s all-time top 10, or even top 100, list anytime soon. It is to suggest that the film deserves more credit—and more thoughtful analysis—than it generally has received.

The second major motion picture based on the 1950s television series targeting young and perpetually adolescent males (two 1950s B-movies were made with the TV cast), the latest Lone Ranger both acknowledges and attempts to transcend its boyish roots, with mixed but ultimately rewarding results. Continue reading “In Defense of ‘The Lone Ranger’” »

‘Breaking Bad’: Product Placement and “Quality” Television

“Layered, like nachos. Exponential growth. That’s success, with a capital S.” —Jesse Pinkman

Anyone who has been watching television lately, be it broadcast or cable, has probably noticed the growing trend of advertising through product placement. According to Nielsen Research, there were 4,896 instances of product placement on primetime broadcast television alone in 2009, and in 2010 that number rose to 9,227, which doesn’t even account for the increasing prevalence of product placement on basic cable.

Despite the rapid growth of product placement all over the dial, academic research on the subject has mostly been focused on reality television and other genres that have historically been dismissed as “low” forms of culture. Suspiciously absent from the conversation has been a look at product placement in so-called “quality” television, especially the sacred cow of serialized drama. 10 years ago, when most television being canonized as “quality” was on pay cable (where there generally isn’t product placement), this approach may have been tenable. Today, with basic cable channels like AMC, FX, and TNT a part of the conversation, this approach is in need of revision. Continue reading “‘Breaking Bad’: Product Placement and “Quality” Television” »

Grindr: A Different Type of “Social Networking”

Digital media and digital platforms have altered our interpersonal and social connections: instant messaging, Facebook, and texting have made face-to-face interactions a rare feat, and it was only a matter of time until relationships and sex also became digitized. Apps and websites such as OkCupid and eHarmony have capitalized on transforming virtual relationships into long-lasting, real-life relationships. However, Grindr, a gay and bisexual dating/hookup app, has taken a different approach. Grindr is notorious in the gay and bisexual community specifically because it looks to create fleeting virtual/real relationships. It openly promotes casual sex and hookups, endorsing physical attraction rather than emotional connection. Continue reading “Grindr: A Different Type of “Social Networking”” »

From Woody Allen to ‘What Maisie Knew’: Why the Recent Rash of Boomer Bashing—from the Left?

Hollywood long ago traded in perfect Father Knows Best-style parents for the grungier Married with Children variety. Divorce was granted pride of place some time ago as well, in 1979’s Oscar-winning Kramer vs. Kramer. But as dysfunctional as the parents of these shattered domestic idylls may have been, they still, if not smelled like roses, didn’t stink up the place either.

Recent films have begun giving older moms and pops especially a much rougher time. Viagra and increased longevity are partly to blame, as is Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. In this 2010 London-set comedy of ill manners, Anthony Hopkins’s sixtysomething husband and father parodies Allen himself by starting afresh with a twentysomething hottie (played by Lucy Punch), whom his sex pills give him at least the potential to satisfy.

Judd Apatow’s This Is 40 (2012) took Allen’s premise to its logical, more darkly comical conclusion, not with its midlife-crisising lead couple (Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann) but with their fathers (John Lithgow and Albert Brooks), both of whom have started second families with young wives and children, the latter younger even than their first-family grandchildren.

Continue reading “From Woody Allen to ‘What Maisie Knew’: Why the Recent Rash of Boomer Bashing—from the Left?” »