Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

Monthly Archive: February 2021

Saturday

27

February 2021

0

COMMENTS

Potato Head Discourse

Written by , Posted in Blog, Podcast

American civilization collapses as cancel culture claims its next victim, the valiant Mr. Potato Head. Except he isn’t going anywhere. Hasbro dropped the “Mr.” from its broader Potato Head branding. Mrs. Potato Head can serve at the altar of capitalism without the oppressive patriarchy creeping over her shoulder.

Ian breaks down all the Potato Head nonsense and what this whole saga is really about. LGBTQ families deserve to see themselves reflected in the corporate consumerist culture that rules over our society.

Potato head logo courtesy of Hasbro. 

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Thursday

25

February 2021

1

COMMENTS

Devil May Care finds humor and heart in the depths of hell

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture, TV Reviews

The past year has had a tendency to make one rethink the literal visualization of hell of earth. If hell was meant to evoke fear, the idea of a warm place larger than one’s living space might instead bring about some envy from a reasonably-minded individual. The hell crafted in SyFy’s new animated series Devil May Care looks like a pretty cool place to be.

The series follows Beans (Asif Ali), a millennial facing eternal damnation in a rosy-colored interpretation of hell. Beans finds work as the social media manager for Devil (Alan Tudyk), ever concerned with the public relations branch of his fire and brimstone empire. Beans’ coworkers in Devil’s office include Head Demon Gloria (Stephanie Beatriz) and President McKinley (Fred Tatasciore), who acts much like Devil’s personal valet.

Created by Robot Chicken head writer Douglas Goldstein, Devil May Care essentially functions as part workplace comedy, part social satire on modern America. There’s a lot of humor centered around social media’s effects on our psyche and Devil’s efforts to make his kingdom more hospitable for his constituents. Ali and Tudyk have great chemistry, elevating Beans beyond the function of the straight man at the heart of the narrative.

Goldstein pulls off an impressive feat for comedies with eleven-minute runtimes, a format that generally puts a fair bit of strain on the balance between jokes and character developments. The world-building is welcoming, a space where you want to spend time with the characters rather than merely laugh nonstop until the credits roll. There’s a relatable sense of found family to be had in this merry bunch of misfits.

Much of that dynamic is thanks to Devil, a heartfelt character with a lot of depth, perpetually enhanced by Tudyk’s range as a performer, delivering each line with a sinister sense of delight. The hell of Devil May Care isn’t for the evil, but rather the flawed and imperfect. The sinners aren’t just more fun than the saints, they’re the people you’d rather spend your time with.

Which isn’t to say that Devil May Care spends its time grappling with morality or life’s heavy questions. It is first and foremost a late-night comedy that exists to make you laugh. On that front, it succeeds quite well.

Laughter isn’t the only escape hatch that entertainment can seek to provide. There’s a sense of community sorely missing for too many this past year. It is easy to feel like we are living in hell, albeit a landscape that looks quite different than the palette put forth by Devil May Care. Created before the pandemic, the show rises up to a challenge that it wasn’t expected to face in providing a sense of relief to people who have had to lean on comedy quite a bit lately to give comfort where it cannot be found anywhere else.

Hilarious and thought-provoking, Devil May Care packs quite a punch with each episode. Night and day from Goldstein’s work on Robot Chicken, the show doesn’t necessarily swing for the fences with each line like the iconic Adult Swim staple, but each episode constantly challenges the confines of storytelling within the short-form medium. It might be a better binge than a week-to-week series, but animated comedy fans will find plenty to enjoy in this warm series.

Devil May Care airs 12:00 am Saturday nights/Sunday mornings as part of SYFY’s TZGZ block. 

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Thursday

25

February 2021

0

COMMENTS

Douglas Goldstein, creator of Devil May Care

Written by , Posted in Blog, Podcast

We are delighted to welcome Douglas Goldstein, creator of Devil May Care and head writer of Robot Chicken. Devil May Care is a new animated series starring Alan Tudyk & Asif Ali that offers a fresh perspective on hell. Douglas talks about his experiences crafting both shows, their differing styles of humor, and the challenges of packing humor and narrative into an eleven-minute runtime.

Devil May Care airs at 12:00 am Saturday night as part of SYFY’s TZGZ block. You can watch the first three episodes on NBC.com here: https://www.nbc.com/devil-may-care

Ian’s review of the series: https://ianthomasmalone.com/2021/02/devil-may-care-finds-humor-and-heart-in-the-depths-of-hell/

 

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All photos courtesy of SYFY 

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Tuesday

23

February 2021

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Man of Steel struggles to assemble its various pieces into a good movie

Written by , Posted in Blog, Movie Reviews, Pop Culture

The film that kicked off the DCEU remains its most perplexing entry. Following the massive success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, 2013’s Man of Steel essentially promised a grittier version of Kal-El than the ones seen either on television or through Christopher Reeves or Brandon Routh’s interpretations of the character. With Zack Snyder’s Justice League right around the corner, potentially bringing Henry Cavill’s time donning the red cape to close, a look at Man of Steel brings to light the highs and the lows of this complicated chapter in superhero filmmaking.

Zack Snyder’s biggest strength as a storyteller in Man of Steel lies in his ability to weave through the murky waters of the origin narrative. The world knows who Clark Kent is. Snyder’s Krypton is more about Jor-El and General Zod than the planet’s sole infant survivor. The adults fail to make sense of the complex politics, leaving the children to pick up the pieces.

With Snyder more interested in Kal-El’s past than his present, the director puts his star in a fairly untenable position. Henry Cavill may be the ostensible lead, but Man of Steel is not fully Superman’s movie. The film’s attentions are too preoccupied with everything happening around Clark that Cavill never really gets his moment to shine, the camera really only providing extended focus during the film’s many action sequences.

The acting is predictably top-notch given the A-list talent involved. Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, and Kevin Costner make the most of every scene they’re in, giving the film a great sense of depth out of place with its aimless script. While Cavill never really gets a chance to make the film his own, the quality of the performances are enough to salvage the film’s many shortcomings.

This dynamic is best on display through the underbaked relationship between Clark and Lois Lane. Cavill and Adams have great chemistry, leading one to wish that they’d been given a moment to breathe amidst all the chaos. There’s such a natural sense to their romance, carrying the inevitability that shapes their characters through decades of comic book stories, but Snyder steps on his messaging at practically every term.

Snyder remains perpetually at odds with the seminal motto, “The S stands for hope,” that defines Superman as a character. Snyder’s grim template doesn’t leave much room for hope. The bland color palette in the cinematography robs Superman of one of his best assets from the comics, bright blues and reds set against a bright and sunny Metropolis. Superman exudes optimism, a sentiment Snyder has little use for.

This conflict rears its head in two pivotal moments. The death of Jonathan Kent is beyond foolish, an unnecessary sequence that plays too hard for an unearned emotional response. The other more spoiler-heavy death remains deeply at odds with Superman’s core ethos. Snyder’s deviation carried little justification, an empty gesture that almost looks designed to troll longtime fans of the comics.

As much as he steps on himself at times, Snyder did manage to craft a pretty decent film. The action pieces are overwrought, but well-choreographed. As a director, he’s constantly bailed out by his actors. While later installments in the DCEU bury themselves in needlessly grim aesthetics, Man of Steel remains relatively lighthearted by comparison.

Almost a decade later, Snyder’s sixth directorial feature remains his most frustrating. Man of Steel could have been a great movie if it had picked a clear direction. It is a good movie, albeit a conclusion that requires one to add up all the various pieces to arrive at that destination. The experience should have been better, if Snyder merely got out of his own way.

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Tuesday

23

February 2021

0

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Slamdance Review: Bad Attitude: The Art of Spain Rodriguez

Written by , Posted in Blog

The counterculture movement of the 1960s produced some of the greatest comics ever crafted. Cities such as New York and San Francisco were home to countless underground magazines that put out work that forever changed the medium, moving comics away from children’s content toward more provocative messaging. The work of Manuel “Spain” Rodriguez stands out as among the most provocative and intellectually stimulating comics to come out of the underground movement.

The documentary Bad Attitude: The Art of Spain Rodriguez follows the life and career of the late artist, who passed away in 2012. Featuring interviews with many of the leading artists of the underground movement including Art Spiegelman, R. Crumb, and Trina Robbins, the film does a great job explaining the era and its role in shaping comics as a medium. Spain’s work is constantly shown on screen, giving the audience a wonderful introduction into his immense talent.

Directed by Spain’s widow Susan Stern, the film often struggles with an unclear thesis. The first twenty minutes are spent providing a history of the countercultural movement, often intertwined with biographical details of Spain’s early life. The audience is given a pretty good idea of where to place Spain’s work within the broader context of the 60s, but that sense of clarity is sorely missing once the documentary starts to move away from that era.

As the title suggests, Spain as a person is a bit rough around the edges. Extensive archival footage doesn’t necessarily show a man with a bad attitude, but rather more of a chauvinistic figure. Much of Spain’s art is a bit sexist, occasionally homophobic, in nature to say the least. Stern’s footage of him paints a similar picture.

Spain’s casual misogyny is a subject that the film spends much of its seventy-one minute runtime dancing around while never really turning to face head on. Early on, an interview with a friend of Spain states that he never “punched down,” focusing his art instead on critiquing people in power. This idea is contradicted time and time again throughout the documentary, in Spain’s art, his own words, and even the testimony of other interviewees.

Worst of all, his artistic brilliance is undercut by the surface-level approach to his work. While often described by interviewees as a great progressive political thinker, the film only presents a surface-level understanding of Marx’s theory of labor value, the kind of pontificating you might expect from a couple of college freshmen smoking pot in their dorm room. One can forgive a film for not wanting to dive too deep into progressive ideology,  but it hardly does a very good job elevating its subject in this regard.

Time and time again, Spain is presented as less of a countercultural figure than an edgelord looking to flip the bird at anyone and everyone. An early depiction of his time in a motorcycle gang depicts his clubhouse as flying a Nazi flag for no real reason other than to stoke controversy. His views on feminism paint him as more like a far-right cultural warrior than a progressive.

Plenty of testimonies from his family and friends suggest he didn’t believe a lot of this stuff, but for whatever reason, it’s still all presented in this rather short feature. Even at seventy-one minutes, the film feels way too long, a product of its uncertain direction. Worst of all, there’s not really a clear takeaway by the time the credits start to roll.

About halfway through the film, a narration from Stern poses a question about Spain’s complicated nature, wondering what this suggests about her for marrying him. The film signals its intentions to try and grapple with this concept, but it never really does. There are only so many times you can hear people say variations of “Spain said awful shit, but he was my friend,” before it starts to lose its impact.

Spain Rodriguez was a brilliant artist. Bad Attitude presents a murky picture of his life that’s bound to turn people off to his talents. Spain lived in a different era. One can look past his regressive sense of humor and misguided opinions, but after watching the film, it’s unclear who would want to. The film might have some value in its archival footage for fans of Spain, but it hardly makes a good case for why anyone else would want to dive into his work.

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Monday

15

February 2021

0

COMMENTS

Young Hearts

Written by , Posted in Blog, Podcast

Today we are joined by Sarah and Zachary Ray Sherman, directors of the film Young Hearts. One of Ian’s favorites from Slamdance 2020, the film follows two teens developing their first romantic relationship, learning the messy nature of love in a high school setting. Sarah and Zachary talk about their experiences making the film and its unique place amidst high school narratives.

Ian’s review of the film (originally titled Thunderbolt in Mine Eye): https://ianthomasmalone.com/2020/01/slamdance-review-thunderbolt-in-mine-eye/

Young Hearts is now available to rent via VOD from all major services including Amazon, Google, and Apple. 

Film poster courtesy of Blue Fox Entertainment

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Friday

12

February 2021

0

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Slamdance Review: Workhorse Queen

Written by , Posted in Blog, Movie Reviews, Pop Culture

Reality television produces tons of memorable personalities, figures who dominate internet discourse, if only for a moment. Ru Paul’s Drag Race is a bit of an anomaly in this regard. Stars of shows like Big Brother or Survivor shine bright and fade fast, but a queen can parlay their sashay into something bigger. Careers are made where others find mere minutes of fame.

Ed Popil has been a drag queen for a long time. His persona, Mrs. Kasha Davis, embodies the warm spirit of a 1950s housewife without any of the regressive views of the era. Based in Rochester, New York, Mrs. Kasha Davis fits right in with her small-town community, a stark contrast to the wild nature of the LGBTQ scene in places like Los Angeles or San Francisco.

After many years of audition tapes, Mrs. Kasha Davis competed in season seven of Drag Race. She finished 11th out of 14, hardly the kind of performance that leaves much of an impression in the crowded TV landscape. The film Workhorse Queen follows Davis’ career and life’s story, shedding some light on the unique power that Drag Race has to create lasting figures in American popular culture.

Director Angela Washko peels back the layers of Popil’s story alongside Mrs. Kasha Davis’ rise. There’s a powerful contrast on display between the family-style homophobia that too many gay people have had to face and the way in which Ru Paul’s Drag Race has made LGBTQ mainstream, bringing along with it a greater sense of acceptance. Families who once might have shunned gay children now watch Drag Race alongside them.

Popil makes for a compelling subject, warm and open about his struggles with alcohol and the challenges of igniting a career from the fleeting embers of reality television. Drag brings people together across all demographics and backgrounds, but staying power in the industry is challenging to maintain. Mrs. Kasha Davis has had plenty of bumps in the road, but there’s great power in her story of resiliency.

Washko also explores the contrast between the LGBTQ culture of Popil’s earlier life to the mainstream popularity enjoyed by our community in the present. Normalization is great for many reasons, except for the performers who proudly fly their freak flag. What was once underground is now fodder for dinner table conversations across the country.

Workhorse Queen also tackles the complex subject of ageism within the drag community, further shining a light on the stark contrast between past and future. For all the positive vibes that increased visibility brings, it’s still a bit disheartening to see pioneers who paved the way for LGBTQ acceptance cast aside for the next generation. There aren’t easy answers here, but Mrs. Kasha Davis inspires through her endless perseverance and charm, an entertaining entry into the LGBTQ film canon.

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Friday

12

February 2021

0

COMMENTS

Slamdance Series: Workhorse Queen

Written by , Posted in Blog, Podcast

Slamdance 2021 coverage continues! We are thrilled to welcome Angela Washko and Mrs. Kasha Davis, director and star of the new documentary Workhorse Queen. The film follows Mrs. Kasha Davis’ journey from small-town drag queen all the way to Ru Paul’s Drag Race, where she competed in season seven. Angela & Mrs. Kasha Davis (Ed Popil) talk about the evolution of drag, their experiences making the film, and what mainstream visibility means for the LGBTQ community. 

 

Ian’s review of the film: https://ianthomasmalone.com/2021/02/slamdance-series-workhorse-queen/

 

Slamdance tickets are on sale now for $10, which you can purchase here: https://slamdance.com/festival-passes/

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Poster and still courtesy of Situated Productions

 

 

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Thursday

11

February 2021

0

COMMENTS

Slamdance Series: The Little Broomstick Rider

Written by , Posted in Blog, Podcast

Our Slamdance 2021 coverage continues with a delightful entry in the Episodes section. The Little Broomstick Rider is a loose adaptation of Ludwig Bechstein’s The Little Pitchfork Rider, the series follows 9 year old Linhard, accused of witchcraft in 17th century Bavaria.

Director Matteo Bernardini shares some insights into his creative process. Made entirely using paper, pens, scissors, and glue, The Little Broomstick Rider is a crowning achievement of quarantine-inspired filmmaking. 

Slamdance tickets are on sale now for $10, which you can purchase here: https://slamdance.com/festival-passes/

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Poster and still courtesy of Matteo Bernardini

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Wednesday

10

February 2021

0

COMMENTS

Slamdance Series: Chef Giants

Written by , Posted in Blog, Podcast

Our Slamdance 2021 coverage kicks off! Delighted to welcome Ethan Dirks and Troy DeWinne to talk about their indie fantasy animation Chef Giants, which is premiering as part of the episodes block on February 12th. Chef Giants is the proof-of-concept for their full series Gobble, a delightfully strange musical odyssey that follows two goblins who want to be pop stars.

 

Troy and Ethan also illustrated all 145 Slamdance filmmakers for an animated virtual party, which you can check out here: https://chefgiants.com/party

 

Troy & Ethan talk about their creative process, the marginalization of goblins in popular culture,   and the importance of giving virtual festivals a sense of connective tissue. Ian really appreciates the way that Chef Giants helps emphasize the vital role of community in the filmmaking experience.

Slamdance tickets are on sale now for $10, which you can purchase here: https://slamdance.com/festival-passes/

You can follow Ethan on Instagram, @ethan_dirks, and Troy, @dewinnethepooh

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Images courtesy of Ethan Dirks and Troy DeWinne.

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