Possessed Women, Haunted States: Cultural Tensions in Exorcism Cinema

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I am proud to announce the impending release of my first monograph (co-authored with Dr. CarrieLynn Reinhard of Dominican University), Possessed Women, Haunted States: Cultural Tensions in Exorcism Cinema. The book considers the various ways that the exorcism films produced since the release of The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973) either reflect, reinforce, or challenge prevailing sociocultural and historical anxieties relating to women, people of color, and the nonheteronormative.

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My first journal article

Just a quick post to share some big news: last week, I published my first peer-reviewed journal article! In addition, the article won the Fred E. H. Schroeder Paper Award at the Midwest Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association annual conference this past weekend! My (award-winning!) article “Shakespeare, Didgeridoos, and Samurai Cowboys: Remixing National and Cultural Identities in Sukiyaki Western Django” appears in the latest double issue of the Popular Culture Studies Journal, the official journal of the MPCA/ACA. If you want to read this article, you can download the issue (for free!) right here.

(please excuse the fact that I appear to have misspelled “didgeridoos” in the title of the article…I have no idea what happened there)

A collection of my recent podcast appearances

Over the past few weeks, I appeared as a guest on a couple of podcasts, and I thought it might be useful to collect those here for anyone who may have missed them. (it’s also a good excuse to post some new comment on this dusty ol’ blog of mine)

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The Pop Culture Lens: Episode 5 – Planet of the Apes (1968)

The Pop Culture Lens is a scholarly podcast hosted by myself and Dr. CarrieLynn Reinhard of Dominican University. In each episode, we seek to offer fresh perspectives on past media as we attempt to determine whether or not it holds any relevance to the contemporary sociocultural experience. We structure the podcast so the format loosely resembles an academic paper, but we present the information in a way that everyone can understand.

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The Pop Culture Lens: Episode 3 – Carnival of Souls (1962)

The Pop Culture Lens is a scholarly podcast hosted by myself and Dr. CarrieLynn Reinhard of Dominican University. In each episode, we seek to offer fresh perspectives on past media as we attempt to determine whether or not it holds any relevance to the contemporary sociocultural experience. We structure the podcast so the format loosely resembles an academic paper, but we present the information in a way that everyone can understand.

Continue reading “The Pop Culture Lens: Episode 3 – Carnival of Souls (1962)”

The Pop Culture Lens Podcast: Episode 2 – Freaks (1932)

The Pop Culture Lens is a scholarly podcast hosted by myself and Dr. CarrieLynn Reinhard of Dominican University. In each episode, we seek to offer fresh perspectives on past media as we attempt to determine whether or not it holds any relevance to the contemporary sociocultural experience. We structure the podcast so the format loosely resembles an academic paper, but we present the information in a way that everyone can understand.

Continue reading “The Pop Culture Lens Podcast: Episode 2 – Freaks (1932)”

Chris’s Cult Catalogue: No Way Out (1973)

In Cult Catalogue, I offer my thoughts on cult movies, and try to determine whether or not they are essential, forgettable, or somewhere in between. Throughout this series I will endeavor to focus primarily on cultish, lesser-known, or largely forgotten films, though in the age of the Internet, nothing is ever truly forgotten, so occasionally the movies may seem more familiar. These posts will be less academic, and more in the vein of straight up reviews or blog posts, though occasionally I will attempt to bring in some sort of scholarship or academic approach to these write ups whenever warranted. More than anything, these posts simply represent my attempt to put forth my thoughts on lesser known cult films and so-called “bad” movies. Anyway, I hope you enjoy. As always, I welcome your feedback, so please, let me know what you think of this entry in the comments after the article.

Similar to Voyage of the Rock Aliens, I had never heard of the 1973 Italian gangster film No Way Out (aka Big Guns aka Tony Arzenta) prior to purchasing a copy of Trailer War, the superb compilation of old grindhouse, horror, kung fu, and exploitation movie trailers released by Drafthouse Films. When I saw the trailer, however, I knew immediately that I had to see the full movie, which stars French New Wave heartthrob Alain Delon (perhaps most famous for his role as existential assassin Jef Costello in the classic Le Samouraï from 1967). Here he plays Tony Arzenta, a freelance contract killer who has grown tired of the business of death and wants nothing more than to retire and spend time with his loving wife and son. Of course, as countless movies and television shows have illustrated, quitting the mafia is never easy, and Arzenta’s bosses waste no time in ordering a hit on the hit man himself. They plant a bomb in his car, and then sit back and wait for the fireworks. Unfortunately, while the assassination attempt misses Arzenta, his wife and son are not so lucky, and they both die in the explosion. After burying his family, Arzenta immediately sets out to get revenge on his former employers, and manages to tear up most of Europe in the process.

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Chris’s Cult Catalogue: Voyage of the Rock Aliens (1984)

In Cult Catalogue, I offer my thoughts on cult movies, and try to determine whether or not they are essential, forgettable, or somewhere in between. Throughout this series I will endeavor to focus primarily on cultish, lesser-known, or largely forgotten films, though in the age of the Internet, nothing is ever truly forgotten, so occasionally the movies may seem more familiar. These posts will be less academic, and more in the vein of straight up reviews or blog posts, though occasionally I will attempt to bring in some sort of scholarship or academic approach to these write ups whenever warranted. More than anything, these posts simply represent my attempt to put forth my thoughts on lesser known cult films and so-called “bad” movies. Anyway, I hope you enjoy. As always, I welcome your feedback, so please, let me know what you think of this entry in the comments after the article.

Unlike the last entry in this series, I was quite sure that I had never seen Voyage of the Rock Aliens. In fact, I had never even heard of the movie prior to this year, and only became aware of its existence when I bought a copy of Trailer War, the fantastic and fun compilation of old grindhouse, exploitation, kung fu, and horror movie trailers released by Drafthouse Films. My complete ignorance of Voyage of the Rock Aliens most likely results from the fact that the film never received any sort of wide theatrical distribution anywhere in the world. In fact, according to the film’s IMDb trivia page, Voyage of the Rock Aliens only ever “played in extremely limited release in America and Europe and debuted on television in Canada.” Furthermore, the film only made its way to home video in a handful of places during the three decades following its initial release. As a result, it seemed as though Voyage of the Rock Aliens was one of those movies destined to fade into complete obscurity. Thanks to the efforts of an enterprising YouTube user who posts under the handle KingTaco7, however, the film has been unearthed for all the world to see, and I, for one, couldn’t be happier about that.

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Chris’s Cult Catalogue: Phase IV (1974)

This is the first entry in what I hope will be a new, semi-regular feature here at Seems Obvious to Me, in which I offer my thoughts on cult movies, and try to determine whether or not they are essential, forgettable, or somewhere in between. Throughout this series I will endeavor to focus primarily on cultish, lesser-known, or largely forgotten films, though in the age of the Internet, nothing is ever truly forgotten, so occasionally the movies may seem more familiar. These posts will be less academic, and more in the vein of straight up reviews or blog posts, though occasionally I will attempt to bring in some sort of scholarship or academic approach to these write ups whenever warranted. Anyway, I hope you enjoy. As always, I welcome your feedback, so please, let me know what you think of this entry in the comments after the article.

Phase IV, the sole directorial effort from noted graphic designer Saul Bass, was originally released in September of 1974, roughly five months after I was born. If memory serves, I first saw it (or at least parts of it) sometime in 1984, when I was nine or ten years old, and I’ve had a somewhat complicated relationship with the film ever since. For the longest time, I wasn’t even sure I had seen the entire movie, as I could barely remember anything about the actual plot or narrative (which I will get into shortly). Yet for the past 30 years or so, I have been haunted by the film’s unsettling imagery, such as a sequence of people staggering through a torrent of viscous yellow poison, or the shot of a young woman emerging from a sandy floor deep within the bowels of a massive ant hill. I think it’s safe to say Phase IV had an effect on me, even if the details weren’t always clear.

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