(UN)POPULAR CULTURE

The home of writer & author A. J. BLACK

Hosted by author Duncan Barrett, Primitive Culture is a Star Trek history and culture podcast we co-created in 2017 on the Trek FM networking, looking at the 50+ year old franchise through the lens of our world today.

In this episode, Duncan and I discuss the Deep Space Nine episode Move Along Home and its comparisons with 1960’s cult TV series The Prisoner, which leads into a deeper conversation about games in Star Trek.

This one was great fun, one we’d noodled about with for a while, and if it gets people watching The Prisoner, then brilliant. Even if you have to stomach Move Along Home again in the bargain…

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Howdy, y’all.

Eagle eyed among you may have noticed my written output has been less precipitous this month as, in truth, I’ve been experiencing something of a block when it comes to my critical analysis & cultural commentary.

The words haven’t been flowing.

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Having cut his podcasting teeth on my X-Files show, Carl last year broke out to develop The Movie Palace, a podcast which looks every week at a brand new film from Classic Hollywood.

This week, Carl celebrated a year of The Movie Palace by inviting guests and contributors to recommend a classic movie from pre-1970 to share with the podcast world, and I am pleased to be amidst a host of talented folk discussing my choice, the British 1962 comedy The Fast Lady.

Not many people have heard of this genteel picture, directed by Ken Annakin and starring amongst others a young Julie Christie, but I’ve loved it since it popped up on British telly when I was a kid in the 80’s. It’s very of its time but has a great balance of action and comedy, fun performances and a host of cameos from old comedy stars. It’s a little gem.

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The so-called Conjuring Cinematic Universe confidently takes another key inspiration from Marvel’s all-dominant equivalent with Annabelle Comes Home by cementing the existence of the ‘horror movie superhero’.

Or, in this case, superheroes in the form of Ed and Lorraine Warren, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2 previously, both of whom neatly bookend this ‘interquel’, depicting the carnage wreaked inside their evil-containing fortress of a domestic home when pesky kids unleash the titular Annabelle and the entire contents of their terrifying basement. The Warren’s were, of course, real people – Lorraine died, indeed, earlier this year, and in The Conjuring they were portrayed much more handsomely and less eccentrically than in real life, but they remained nevertheless demonologist investigators in particularly that first movie; a married, far less dysfunctional Mulder & Scully if their focus were demons rather than aliens. This changes in Annabelle Comes Home. They begin to morph from the Mulder & Scully to the Steve Rogers & Natasha Romanoff of the Conjuring Cinematic Universe.

It may be left to the forthcoming The Conjuring 3 to hit that idea square on but Annabelle Comes Home certainly lays the foundations, exploring what happens when you remove those heroes from the narrative.

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Hosted by myself and a collection of X-Files fans, The X-Cast: An X-Files Podcast is a weekly series delving into each episode of The X-Files and exploring supplemental topics, alongside interviews with cast and crew and other special events.

In a break from Season 4 coverage, I’m joined by a collection of guests who attended the recent X-Fest II convention in Chicago to discuss the event and their hopes for the next one.

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You know when people say “don’t watch this one unless you’ve seen the last one”? Well, that statement may just peak with Spider-Man: Far From Home, particularly when it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The ‘one’ in particular isn’t even the previous solo Spider-Man film, 2017’s Homecoming, because the MCU has changed the game when it comes to how sequels work. Homecoming introduced the supporting characters in Peter Parker’s direct orbit but Jon Watts’ precious picture was neither Tom Holland’s first bow as the character, and Homecoming serves as an important part of the ongoing, overarching narrative in the first era of the MCU which concluded recently with the ‘one’ I am talking about – Avengers: Endgame. That’s the film you need to have seen before Far From Home as Watts’ Spider-Man film serves as an extended epilogue to the epic conclusion to the Infinity Saga, not to mention a coda to that first, decade-spanning era.

Far From Home is about the legacy of an era which reinvented exactly what the ‘superhero movie’ was. Marvel Studios, under Kevin Feige’s aegis, took the formula and tropes we had come to know and understand from the previous three decades since 1978’s seminal first Superman adaptation, through a legion of Batman movies and beyond, and subverted them pretty much from the get-go. Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man didn’t spend half a dozen films hiding his identity as Bruce Wayne did – he came out and told the world right at the end of his origin story. The MCU interweaved characters and narratives to develop the first ongoing, television-style serialised structure in cinematic history. Along the way it brewed up broad comedy, epic action, science-fiction and half a dozen other genres—often within the same films—inside which the traditional ‘superhero’ nestled.

What we have seen in previous Marvel pictures before Endgame, and which Far From Home makes abundantly clear, is that Marvel’s self-aware subversion of that formula has *become* their formula itself.

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If you listen to my podcast The X-Cast regularly, you’ll have heard the name Carl Sweeney.

Having cut his podcasting teeth on my X-Files show, Carl last year broke out to develop The Movie Palace, a podcast which looks every week at a brand new film from Classic Hollywood. This week, it was my turn to guest alongside classic film writer Gabriela Masson, talking 1964’s classic James Bond movie, Goldfinger.

This is among the few times I’ve actually discussed James Bond, my huge love of that franchise and the context around it in the 60’s, and it was a fun and engaging discussion with Carl and Gabriela. I discovered new aspects about Goldfinger–a film many of us will have seen plenty of times–that I hadn’t previously considered.

PSA: Contains terrible great Sean Connery impresshions…

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