News Reel & Blog

Written by Jack Hopkins on 17th December 2018

Arguably the most successful and renown animated television shows ever, The Simpsons is still going strong. Along the way its been criticised and applauded, banned and re-booted, but the fact it is still going and it has been for 29 years to the day really does explain the seismic impact its had on the world. We’re going to look at why its been so successful and the legacy it has left in its unprecedented wake.

The show is so relatable, which is one of its main selling points to a whole host of demographics and age ranges. It follows similar comedic tropes to other sitcoms and soaps, following seemingly normal characters in a normal/mundane environment, just with added nonsense from weird and wonderful storylines.

The idea for the show was conceived in 1987, when  James L. Brooks wanted to include small animated sketches before and after the adverts on The Tracy Ullman Show. This lead Matt Groening to create The Simpsons, basing the characters after his own family members, swapping "Bart" for his own name, which is also fittingly an anagram of the word "brat".

There have been a few controversial points raised about the show over the years, occasionally being removed and banned from television screens in some countries. China banned it to protect its own dwindling animation industry, and  Venezuela barred the show as it was deemed "unsuitable for children". Bart's rebellious nature could be seen as one of the causes of this, pretty much getting away with anything ‘bad’ he does.

It’s this mixture of the ordinary with the extraordinary which makes The Simpsons so impactful, and the attention to detail and uniqueness of the characters is what makes it stand out above the rest. The fact that “D'oh” has been added to the dictionary and FOX owns the rights to the show until 2082 shows just how well the show has been accepted into contemporary culture.

And its legacy continues to create and adapt to remain current, with games, feature films and biblical amounts of merchandise ensuring that everyone still gets their Springfield fix. And if The Simpsons no longer quenches your appetite for animation, then shows like Futurama and Disenchantment offer similar tropes but in different universes.

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Written by Jack Hopkins on 11th December 2018

In true Coen Brothers fashion, another narratively spectacular movie has hit the headlines – this time though, it’s arrived primarily on the small screen.  The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is their first directorial outing since Hail Cesar (2016) and it’s received mixed reviews from critics and viewers alike. In this week’s blog we’re going to look at the positives and negatives taken from the film, the format in which it was released and what it really tells us about what life was like in the wild West.

The Coen Brothers are kings of character building and narrative progression, often implanting and dissecting societal problems into an overlapping fictional world.  They’ve won several awards over the years as a pair; including Academy Awards for the epics, Fargo (1996), No Country For Old Men (2008) and Bridge of Spies (2015), and it’s hard to see anything but a continuing trend in terms of accolades with The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.

One factor that heavily contributes to their filmic successes is the level of on-screen talent they seem to attract. They’ve established long-lasting relationships with some top talent including Frances McDormand, Jeff Bridges and George Clooney. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs follows in the same vein, with James Franco, Liam Neeson and Brendan Gleeson all holding major roles within the film.

The film itself is a collection of six individual short stories, all exploring a different aspect of the wild West. One questionable aspect of the film is the fact that none of the stories are connected in any way, but each story contributes to give an overarching portrayal of what the West was and the myth it continues to be. The 3 stand-out stories from our perspective were ‘All Gold Canyon’, ‘Near Algodones’ and ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ itself, portraying 3 of the main aspects of the wild West that remain ripe in contemporary portrayals, namely gold-digging, duelling and bank-robbing.

Some have argued that it doesn’t really work as a film due to the randomness of the stories and how they aren’t directly connected, but maybe this is possibly a pretentious way of describing the conditions of the West and how volatile and unpredictable the lifestyle was. It was previously reported that it would be released as a series, which could have possibly worked a bit better due to Netflix creating copious amounts of content that ensures audience retention. Equally, it could be a message about the binge nature that surrounds Netflix and the way its content is consumed. 

Either way, definitely watch The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and see if the format works for you!

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