English 609 Research Notes

What is this?

I’m currently enrolled in an English 609 Class with the wonderful, amazing, and hopefully prone to flattery, Professor Holmes. As part of a project, we have to examine some writing, so I’ve created this page to take a look at it. I’m going to keep my notes and my information here.

This project is a study looking at the rhetorical nature of online writing by covering my favorite field: writing about pop culture. I’m following former AV Club and The Dissolve Writers: Nathan Rabin, Tasha Robinson, Keith Phipps, Genevieve Koski, and Scott Tobias. I chose Nathan because I like his work on My World/Year of Flops, as well his work over on his new Website Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place. Tasha is an excellent writer who responds frequently to her followers on Twitter and Facebook, and currently writes for the Verge. She brings in a personal touch to writing about pop culture I love. I love Scott Tobias’s sense of humor, but he does excellent work over at NPR. Genevieve was always one of my favorite writers at the Dissolve, and she’s one of the main reasons I read Vox. And Keith just has a way of discussing media that’s unique. Together, I really like listening to The Next Picture Show Podcast.

So… no need to worry, you’ll still get regular Bad Shakespeare updates. This is for my class. Everything I link to is obviously written by these writers all of whom I highly respect.

Research Notes.

March 26

I’ve taken few days off of my notes because i was working on getting my survey up, and working on getting some interviews for my research. Still not a lot of bites, but I’m trying a new strategy that might help soon.

Nathan Rabin is weighing in on the controversy around Facebook. I like this take on it, it’s an interesting look the work of a small-time website, and how it needs to get out of there. He doesn’t have a lot of avenues to advertise, so facebook is the way to get the word out there.

Tasha is responding to people about her recent SXSW trip to Westworld, but more importantly she’s joining a big conversation about Unsane, a movie known for being shot on an iPhone. Because of the new way it’s been shot, there’s a lot of conversation surrounding it. Is this a new world of cinematography?

Lastly the next picture pod is looking for a pairing with Isle of Dogs. Chicken Run? Who knows?

March 16

The past few days I’ve mostly been following Tasha’s twitter feed as she discusses the festival at South by Southwest (SXSW). She has an interesting take on it, mostly pointing out the “fun” to be had when watching a bunch of movies, but having to keep to a strict schedule.

March 15

I really like this post from Nathan Rabin about how difficult it is to write every day. Other than being a big fan of Nathan, I’m writing about him because he has his own shop… something I would like for my own website one day. I know that’s far off, but he does seem to be following his own path, and I want that. And it will be difficult to write that much. But that’s my goal one day. I know there’s a huge gap in Bad Shakespeare, and I’d like to make it better.

One of the more interesting things that I used to like about Summer and moves was the idea of Summer movie season. Todd VanDerWerff over at Vox posits that it’s over, that Summer movies come out all year. Genevive tweeted out a link. It’s interesting he’s doing this now, with the information about Avengers changing dates, and Ready Player One, a ready-made Summer movie, is about to come out.

And a great comment from Tasha to her Ready Player One review: “I enjoyed it a great deal while having problems with the characters and structure. I’m endlessly baffled by the online attitude that criticizing an aspect of something translates to loathing it, that enjoyment is an all-or-nothing prospect and there’s no room for nuance.”

March 13

Tasha as a review up on The Verge about Ready Player One. This is the review i’ve been waiting for, as she has expressed via twitter a lot of my concerns about the book. She seems to have liked it, which gives me hope, and I’m really glad to see that she’s gone in depth about not just the plot, but the nostalgia factor (Which is a big selling point of the book.)

The one column I really like from Nathan Rabin’s Website is the Big Whoop. It’s a column that looks into his world as a freelance blogger/writer/father/etc. I like this look, as  it is something I would like to do one day, if I had the following that he does. Today he’s talking about why he pushes himself so hard. I can relate.


March 11

This week was a new Next Picture Podcast featuring Annihilation and Stalker. It’s the first one since they finished up their Oscar movies, and it’s interesting, mostly in the pairing. It’s not a connection that I would originally make. But they tie them together in an interesting fashion. Wisecrack covered it as well in a special live edition. I’m not as big a fan of the live editions, but I like them enough to check it out.

Tasha reviews a Wrinkle in Time over at the Verge. She makes a connection that I felt during the movie, and I agree with her assessment: it’s not really for adults. She comments on to her followers. she also thinks that Ready Player one already has a lot of online vitriol, which is something I just wrote about for this website. This is done in a comment on a post that she hasn’t written, which is interesting.

Keith Phipps did a review of The Strangers Prey at Night for Uproxx. To be honest I have no interest in this movie, but his review is really interesting. Not enough for me to check it out.

March 5

Obviously the biggest thing focus for this particular group of writers were the Oscars last night. It was a lot of snark from Keith, Tasha, and Nathan. I really liked this piece that Tasha wrote for the Verge on the use of the Jet ski joke. It’ was a sort of long analysis that I’d like to start covering a little bit more on my own website where you take something seriously, but at the same time make it a little more amusing. Genivive, absent from the most recent podcast, looked at the Phantom thread nominee.

And… Nathan is expecting another child. I’m interested in seeing how this affect the website. He seems to think it won’t, but given his discussions of depression and financial hardships, I’d can’t imagine that it wouldn’t affect them in some way.


March 1

I’m going to branch out a little, because Nathan Rabin posted another article about his depression and the Next Picture Pod Crew does not have a podcast this week. But I do look forward to the next pairing, and what it will have to say in their comment section.

I do want to talk about AA Dowd’s review of the new Death Wish movie. These are the kinds of reviews that bother me a little bit about where the state of film criticism is going. Instead of reviewing the movie itself (which isn’t going to be good… let’s face it, it’s a remake that had a very specific stamp in it’s time and place, done by a director and actor who have their own specific stamps. I mean… seriously?) but the review is mostly set on the politics of the movie today, with gun violence. I haven’t seen the movie yet, and we certainly should discuss the violence, but where is the discussing of the movie itself? Why aren’t we discussing what the movie is about, and the filmmaking qualities. This movie review seems set only on the film’s politics, and over on twitter Dowd’s response is simply to say they’re intertwined. That’s fine, but there’s ZERO discussion of the film, and nothing but discussion of the politics. It’s not that it doesn’t matter, it’s that they matter together, and leaving one out just sounds like they will dislike any film that doesn’t match their politics.

this does concern me. We seem to wrapped up in what’s “wrong” politically with a film as opposed to filmmaking that challenges us.


Test Research Questions

Obviously, these will be updated, but this is just for now.

  1. With the large number of movies and television that we now have access to, how do you decide what you want to write about?
  2. How do you decide to engage in the people who comment on your articles?
  3. What makes you decide to engage with commenters on social media? How does that differ from the comments section?
  4. How do you feel about the political and social elements put into different movies and television now? Is it always as relevant as people try to make it?
  5. How much research do you do into source material for adaptations?
  6. What was the media you consumed that made you love the media you write about now?
  7. What is your philosophy on how we can best relate to media now?
  8. When is the best time to engage with your followers? Is there a specific cutoff?
  9. When do you decide to get angry at a comment? Is it worth it to return anger or “call someone out” when you feel they are crossing the line?
  10. How have think pieces changed the media landscape in the past 15 years?
  11. Is there any part of that media change that you wish would change back?
  12. What do we do about the contrarian think pieces that exist only to cause controversy without meaningful discussion?
  13. How has how we consume different types of media changed how we respond to it? (i.e. binging vs. the slow reveal, spoilers)
  14. What was your favorite piece of writing that failed to gain any traction?
  15. What controversy did you feel was overblown or that was erroneously exploited?
  16. What has been your least favorite trend to develop in the past few years?
  17. When do you ban someone?


February 28

I finally got an opportunity to listen to the Next Picture Podcast in which Tasha Robinson, Keith Phipps, and Scott Tobias discussed two movies, “Creature from the Black Lagoon” and “The Shape of the Water” and how they influenced each other. (Genevive had been “taken away by the creature from A black lagoon.” I thought it was interesting and relevant as the Oscars are this weekend, so looking at an important movie from the lens of how it was influenced by a movie from the past could help sell some familiar themes. This follows their trend of hitting up different Oscar movies, and it was nice to see them start to talk and think about movies that weren’t “The Black Panther” which, while good, is dominating this talk over the past few weeks. (How will this movie do? What is it going to do this week? Why was “Justice League” so bad?”)

Over on Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place, he seems to be a lot more activist, turning over much of his column to Donald Trump, away from his usual Weird Al/movie stuff. He does cover the old superhero comedy “Blankman” as part of his Patreon column: “Control Nathan Rabin” in which those who donate to his website can ask him to review a movie. It’s interesting because it does seem like a lot of these websites are moving towards a user-supported model as opposed to an add supported model. While places like Vox and Uproxx still use ads, some places like Cracked and Slate offer more for those who subscribe and donate.

I’ll be interested to see how things go this weekend with the release of “Death Wish” and the controversies surrounding that.

Scott Tobias covers “Did you ever wonder who fired the gun“. He really captures into the power of the documentary. I really like he uses it as an introduction to discuss some of our recent history. It’s a connection that’s easy to make, but one that is put together much more deftly by Tobias.


February 26

Today, Nathan Rabin did his usual column, chronicling the works of Weird Al. It’s an interesting look at all of his songs, and I’m enjoying the way that he goes through it. I’m mostly interested in his take on the guns in school, which goes more towards his personal takes instead of pop culture. It’s a risk.

Tasha takes a look at Fahrenheit 451 and the trailer. Again, an interesting look at a trailer, but mostly, it explores an actor that is pretty popular right now. She also explores the differences in the ending of Annihilation. I’m planning I’m seeing this so I’m not reading this yet, but it’s important to note that she is responding to people in the comments.


February 23rd

Keith Phipps keeps updating his usual 30 best movies on Netflix right now, ranked. I really have to give him props for the Life Aquatic, that one is underrated, I’m glad to see it get some love. Heathers is good, but sometimes gets a little to much love.

This week Wisecrack covered the Incredibles. It has a nice tie in to the idea of nostalgia AND everyone being special. (or why that’s a problem.) I never thought about the nostalgia angle before? This one really ties into my idea of timeliness, and I will be covering this section overall in the long run: It’s an older movie, but it’s making a specific point, one tied to time and place.

February 18/February 20

It’s a release week for “Your Next Picture Show” which is the podcast by Keith Phipps, Tasha Robinson, and Genevieve Koski. I have not had time to listen to it yet, but it is about a movie pairing of “Creature from the Black Lagoon/the Shape of the Water. Should be interesting!

February 20th

Nathan Rabin writing on his website Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place, has written an article that is critical of Dave Chappelle. However, in his comments he calls out a user who seems critical about this. The user seems to only comment on certain articles, and comments about his “dark-angry autobiographical stuff”. It’s weird because Nathan is very up front about his struggles, so it seems odd that someone would comment on them in this way. This commenter becomes the first “ban” of his website. He discusses it on social media, and it’s interesting to see that he is very torn on the idea of whether or not he should be doing it. (But he does.) I like the ethical dilemma that he covers on his own site: When to take it personally?

February 19th

Tasha Robinson has written an article on The Verge talking about the fake social media attacks at Black Panther Screenings. What’s interesting (other than the fact that people are posting fake stories) is that she is responding to people in the comments. She calls out one user who is “The actual case of real racial violence you cite is terrible, but also irrelevant to this article.”  I like how she handles it, as it’s an example of the conversation about what is going on in the article itself: it’s wrong to lie about attacks. That’s just sort of a given.

February 15th

One of Nathan’s regular features, the Big Whoop, is very interesting as it takes a break from his typical “this is what movies are about” and talks about his life. Something I do find interesting, as this is the type of writing that I’d like to do: A mixture of real life and entertainment. Here he is talking about his debt and escaping it. It’s an interesting read, particularly how he talks about his struggles with just getting his website off the ground.

Over on Wisecrack they’re discussing “Gattaca” an older movie but one that focuses on gene splicing and creating the perfect human. I’m really a big fan of their ideas of destiny, and what the movie seems to be saying about what we’re capable of. I’ll need a closer listen.

February 13th

Nathan is trying to do a trip to follow Weird Al on Tour. He has reached out to his fans via gofundme – which Weird Al himself has endorsed, as they’ve worked together on a book a few years ago. Should be interesting, as he’s a big fan and he is reviewing every Weird Al song for Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place.

February 7th

Tasha Robinson has a story about about the Cloverfield Paradox. It was already shooting before it was Cloverfielded. In the comments, she talks about how she felt it was a disappointment, and she is a big fan of 10 Cloverfield Lane in particular. It’s an interesting Q and A that discusses what it takes to make a movie, and but mostly what it takes to make a movie that suddenly fits this new storyline they just decided the movie was going to be about.


Prior to the start of this class, I heard a podcast from Wisecrack called “Show me The Meaning” that analyzed “The Boss Baby.” It got me thinking about how we analyze movies, particularly ones that might have some kind of statement. Their insights were amazing. I’m going to incorporate what they’re doing into this projected, with a focus on the Rhetorical concept of Kairos.