Death of the Critic

Criticism

The Noble Savage

Written by: Tom Blaich

As a follow-up to our discussion on “
The Other”, let’s look at a more idealized version of the same concept that is popular within literature, books, movies, and games to this day. The Noble Savage is the audience’s idea of an outsider. It is the romanticized depiction of a character untouched by the ills of modern society. They embody the traits that we idealize while at the same time being utterly foreign to us. Read More…
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The Other

Written by: Tom Blaich

We’ve talked about the Other and bothering before, but it is a topic that deserves further examination. The Other is all about setting up the relationship within a story, about creating conflict and division. And it can be used in multiple different ways. It is a rather simple idea as well. The other is different. They don’t belong. They are strange and don’t fit in for some reason. It could be any number of things: their race, gender, sexuality, nationality, religion, class, species. Anything that differentiates them from the norm as defined by the story and it’s protagonists.
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Explication – Holy Sonnet #10

Written by: Tom Blaich


Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou’art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy’or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Explication is one of the simplest ways that we can analyze a piece. Put simply, it is a close reading, a deep look into a text to see what surfaces. This can take on a number of different forms, depending on the media that is being analyzed, from a line by line reading of a poem or song (like the one that we are going to be looking at today), to detailed character analyses from a movie or book, to an examination of a particular chapter or section (like our ongoing
Anatomy of a Film) series. Today we are going to look at John Donne’s Holy Sonnet #10 and the themes of death and afterlife that it contains. Read More…
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The Tragic Hero

Written by: Tom Blaich

When we are looking at the construction of a character, it can help to understand some of the basic archetypes that many authors pull from. We recently talked about Shakespeare as a cultural touchstone, and if we look at many of his plays, we can find evidence of a “tragic hero”. The tragic hero is an age old character archetype describes by Aristotle as:

“A man not pre-eminently virtuous and just whose misfortune, however, is brought upon him not by vice and depravity but by some error of judgement, of the number of those in the enjoyment of great reputation and prosperity; e.g. Oedipus, Thyestes, and the men of similar families. The perfect Plot, accordingly, must have a single, and not (as some tell us) a double issue; the change in the hero’s fortunes must be not from misery to happiness, but on the contrary from happiness to misery; and the cause of it must lie not in any depravity, but in some great error on his part; the man himself being either such as we have described, or better, not worse, than that.” (The Aristotelian Concept of the Tragic Hero) Read More…
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Critical Touchstones

Written by: Tom Blaich

When reading a text,
it is important to build out your toolkit, your set of references for how you look at a work. And while every person’s is different, there are a few tool that everyone should have in their arsenal. Texts reference ideas that they expect the reader to be at least partly familiar with, as the goal is to have the audience understand. There are a few broad cultural touchstones that we keep looking back to for our works: the Bible, and Shakespeare. Read More…
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Psychoanalytic Theory

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s talk about schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused.
Read More…
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Postmodernist Theory

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s talk about schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused.
Read More…
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Post-Colonial Theory

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s talk about schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused. Read More…
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Marxist Theory

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s talk about schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused. Read More…
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Gender Theory

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s talk about schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused. Read More…
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Queer Theory

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s talk about schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused.
Read More…
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When Black is not Black Enough - Drake and Coding in Hip-Hop

Written by: Tom Blaich

There is a really big problem with gatekeeping in the hip-hop industry. We like to draw a sharp divide between “real” fans and most listeners, and that attitude frequently extends to the way we treat artists. This discussion is so often highly racially code. It is why Eminem is treated like a marvel, because he is the “one good white rapper.” There is a high barrier to entry to the industry and it is all about how “black” an artist can present themselves as.
Read More…
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Structuralism

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s talk about schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused. Read More…
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New Historicism

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s talk about schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused. Read More…
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New Criticism

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s talk about
schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused. Read More…
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Schools of Theory

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but starting this week we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.


Let’s talk about schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused. Read More…
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What is Criticism?

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but starting this week we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.


This begs the question: What exactly is criticism? Read More…
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The Hero's Journey

Written by: Tom Blaich

We try to give our audience as strong of a background in the themes and ideas that we talk about in our essays. As we look at media of all types, we can see so many common themes that run through our canon, our comprehensive body of work. The more media that you start to consume, the more common threads that you will begin to notice. Perhaps the most common is that of the "Hero's Journey". In essence, the Hero's Journey is a quest that a main character goes through to undergo some kind of personal growth. Harboring deep ties to Arthurian legend, you can see the same set of plot points and character archetypes instilled in so many of the stories that we tell.


You have your main character. Maybe they are a noble knight, or a chosen warrior, or some kid who doesn't quite know their place in the world. They have a specific goal: conquering a dungeon, defeating a dragon, or just talking to a pretty girl in gym class. All along the way they are faced with challenges that stimulate the growth of the character not only in strength of body, but also of character. It is the classic coming of age tale that is told in so many ways by so many different people. Read More…
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Anatomy of a Character - Pulp Fiction

Written by: Tom Blaich

Pulp_Fiction_Jules


Repetition is a powerful thing, and showing cycles can lead to powerful implications.


Pulp Fiction is one of my favorite movies of all time. There is something about the characters and dialogue that clicks together and works in a way that many films strive to achieve.it is a set of very strange people all caught up in some of the most eventful and important days of their lives. And in the center of this maelstrom, we have Jules, the fast-talking, bible-quoting, gun-toting hitman with a soft spot for cheeseburgers. In many ways, the entire movie revolves around the character arc of Jules and how he changes throughout the film.

Read More…
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Fetish on Film

Written by: Tom Blaich

I've written about sex for this site before, but today I want to talk about another oft-overlooked part about sex on screen: kink. It is an aspect of sex that most people try to ignore because it doesn't fit in their neat little box of what sex is and what it should be. A dirty deed that isn't to be talked about, done only between a man and his wife in their bedroom at night. If you want to show a character as really wild, you'll have them break one of these conventions in their sex. Maybe they'll have sex out of wedlock, or do it in a different room of the house.

When we see "abnormal" sex, sex that strays from these rigid moral guidelines, it is usually done to show us how "weird" a character is, how "non-normal" and different from the main character they are. Bad people are linked to kinky sex all too often in film, as if a predilection for whips and leather makes a person evil instead of simply kinky.
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LGBTQ Hip Hop: The Tantalizing Problem of Labeling

Written by: Tom Blaich

Historically speaking, rap music has always been a way for a marginalized group to express themselves creatively. And in the recent years of civil rights questions surrounding the GSM (Gender and Sexual Minority) community, we can see a surge in the number of rappers that identify in that way trying to take their feelings and reflect them onto the world through their music. Rappers like Zebra Katz, Contessa “Cunt Mafia” Stutto, Angel Haze, Big Dipper, Cakes da Killa, House of Ladosha, and others are leading the so-called “homo hop” or “queer rap” movement into the 21st century. But there are problems that are associated with taking this talented group and applying this label to them. Read More…
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Compulsory Heterosexuality in Film

Written by: Tom Blaich

When we look back at film, it is amazing to see how far we have come, but at the same time how far we have to go in the portrayal of characters on screen. Even now, epithets like “fag” are used as the butt of many jokes. Look, for example, at the 2007 film Superbad. In it, character Seth refers to another character as “Fagle” multiple times, and its intended to make the audience laugh. But what it does is it shows us the way in which heterosexuality has been accepted entirely as the norm, and that anything that exists outside of it is laughable in some way. If a character is not a heterosexual, or actively seen as a heterosexual, then they are weird, and need to be made fun of or fixed in some way. Read More…
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Movies and Games

Written by: Tom Blaich

Like many of my peer in the critical space, my interests follow a certain path of pop culture and pop media. I love everything from books, to music, to movies, to games, and more. And fortunately for myself, I was born at what is perhaps the most perfect time in the world to enjoy these mediums, as a huge growth of creativity is taking place, a veritable Cambrian explosion of creativity and tech for me to play with. Unfortunately, the one are in which this innovation is lacking is with movie tie-in games, a genre oft overlooked by fans, and for very good reason. Read More…
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Left 4 Dead - A Love Story

Written by: Tom Blaich

By now, every so-called "Hardcore Gamer" knows where the modern video game came from. Everything we know was spawned from the cultural phenomenon known as Dungeons and Dragons. It introduced us to the concept of the modern role-playing game. It gave us the idea of a persistent character and dungeon crawling epics. From there, the video game scene exploded. CRPGs flourished until the advent of the video arcades, which popularized the quarter crunching games of the eighties and nineties. Read More…
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Movies and Criticism

Written by: Tom Blaich

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I love movies. I always have. There is something inherently magical about the experience of watching a piece of film, old or new, and experiencing a story in front of you. For the longest time I have been fascinated by films. So I’ve consumed them. Studied them. Attacked them with a voracious appetite. I wanted to know more than I already did. They became a part of my life, something that became a part of traditions within my family. Something that I could turn to for comfort. There is something magical about re-watching a film, and remembering the first time that you watched it. What your experience was.

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Skyrim and Individual Experiences

Written by: Tom Blaich

I want to talk about Skyrim. Well, I guess not just Skyrim, but I recently dove back into the game and it really started to make me think. When I first played the game back in 2011, I had an experience similar to many others who picked up the game. I ran through the giant world, stealing everything I could lay my hands on, murdering everything in sight, and grabbing every piece of loot I could find before finally putting it down, 200 some odd hours later without ever having completed the title. Read More…
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On The Act of Killing

Written by: Tom Blaich

The-Act-Of-Killing


Death is one of the most significant events in our lives. It’s one of our only assurances. It is going to happen at some point. Whether you like it or not. Death will visit us, touching someone, somewhere, somehow. It’s an event that forever changes those who it touches. It has an impact that cannot be understated.

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Ramblings on Criticism

Written by: Tom Blaich

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Recently an interesting thought came to mind. I’m a critic, for better or for worse, and it makes me think about the media that I consume in an interesting way. I can’t help myself but look for symbolism and deeper meanings within work, and there is something amazing about discussing them with my friends.

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Lighten Up

Written by: Tom Blaich

Sometimes we are sad. Something happens. Big or small. And it just hits you. You yearn for the familiar comforts of home. A warm hug. A bowl of soup. Something familiar or happy.

Movies have always been an outlet of mine. Something that I can use to decompress. To enjoy myself. To occupy a space that needs to be filled. There is something comforting about having that presence of someone else there. Over the years I can think of dozens of films that have kept me company, and I fondly remember them.
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Let's Talk About Fallout 4

Written by: Tom Blaich

Let’s talk about Fallout 4. I’m a pretty big fan of the franchise, and while it might be sacrilege to some to mention, my favorite game of all time is Fallout 3. It really made me love games like none other, and it got me into this whole criticism thing. It’s the first game I ever marathoned, playing it for seven hours straight the first day I had it, as a weird thirteen-year-old sitting in my basement in front of my TV.
So when I heard that a sequel was coming out, I was a little bit excited, to say the least. From the announcement to the release I could barely contain myself, and when the day came I kicked my friends off of my TV so I could play my preloaded copy. And as I first dove into the game it was amazing. It controlled so much better, and I didn’t have to rely on the crutch of V.A.T.S to make my way through encounters anymore.
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Kentucky Route Zero

Written by: Tom Blaich

It’s hard to talk about video games without using references to games that have come before them. That’s why we have we call games “Roguelikes” or “Metroidvanias”. Because when we encounter a new experience, we look for ways we can relate it to something we are all familiar. Maybe it is an old game like Rogue, or a massively popular series like Metroid or Castlevania. But what do we do when we encounter a truly new experience? That is the question I found myself asking when I first picked up Kentucky Route Zero. While I could see elements of its predecessors within it, I found it hard to truly describe it to others outside of simply saying that it was different. Read More…
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Religious Rap

Written by: Tom Blaich

1463424161.8053_chance-the-rapper-coloring-book-2-chainz-lil-wayne-download-mixtape

Coloring Book, the newest “mixtape” from artist Chance the Rapper, highlights many interesting things about the rap music industry. It’s a mixtape with timed exclusivity on Apple Music, a free album that might put him in the running for album of the year, and exists as a heavily gospel influenced album in a realm where self-described “Christian music” is looked down upon. But by circumventing that label and refusing to categorize his album in that way, Chance has delivered a musical bombshell that has fans asking what they are really listening to.

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The Surprisingly Progressive Gender Politics of Some Like it Hot

Written by: Tom Blaich

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It is not always an uplifting experience to look back to the past and how we treated people differently. Unfortunately there is a history of treating marginalized groups poorly in the United States. Basically if you weren’t a straight white male, you got the short end of the stick in many cases. And this is very evident in looking at films. Film is, in essence, a snapshot of the time in which it was created. Looking back you can see the proliferation of ideas throughout American culture simply by looking at actors on screen or the actions they take and the statements that they make.

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Schlock - A Torrid Love Affair

Written by: Tom Blaich

For some reason, we love bad movies. Unlike any other form of media that we have, there is a fascination with truly awful movies. With the Sharknado’s and Troll 2’s of the world. To the point where there is an entire portion of the film industry focused on creating this D-level schlock. We don’t see this attitude in music or games. Terrible products are shunned in most industries but for some reason flourish in film. You can see a resemblance to the old, pulp paperbacks peddling in sleazy romance and smoky detective tales. Read More…
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Nostalgia

Written by: Tom Blaich

Memory is a powerful thing. Especially precious memories. Every one of us has a certain set of things that remain precious to us over the years. We remember fondly the time that we first experience them, and we always look back to them. Be it a particular book, movie, album, song, or game, nostalgia is a powerful force that shapes our opinions and our tastes.

That being said, it has no place in criticism.
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Showing Sex

Written by: Tom Blaich

It is really hard to write a “good” sex scene. It’s even harder to show one on screen. It is so easy to slip into the realm of heady, erotic fantasy as two lovers caress each other’s heaving bosom’s and dripping sexes. Bad sex scenes make you almost uncomfortable. I did not sign up for
50 Shades of Grey in my fiction. Moreover it feels like a teenager’s perception of what sex is like between two people: romantic, well lit, clean, and perfect. When, for the most part, sex is just sexy. Funny and awkward and so many other things. Actual sex is so far removed from what you will see in your average movie to the point where I almost wish it wasn’t included.

Rarely do I watch or read a sex scene and come away thinking, “Yeah, they got that entirely right.” It is almost never an actually significant part of the plot or character development, and they feel like they were included simply to titillate the audience. It has become a cop out to show how attracted two people are to each other to have them have sex, as opposed to actually showing a complex relationship through good acting and writing.
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The Makings of a Good Horror Movie Kill

Written by: Tom Blaich

Scream_Header


Ever since the advent of the slasher genre, horror movies have tried to become more and more inventive with the way they splatter their gallons of blood across the screen. We can only watch so many unstoppable murderers slash horny teens with machetes before we get bored. We want our mythical killers to be as ingenious as they are deadly. Our desire for the dastardly machinations of vengeful beasts is the whole reason that franchises like
Saw or Final Destination can not only continue to exist, but thrive. To see the wild and wacky ways that writers can invent to kill teenagers who stumbled into the wrong haunted graveyard.

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