May 6th, 2012 06:52am

Dreams in Popular Culture, w/Molly McAshan

Much like the concept of time travel, the subject of dreams is a creative playground for filmmakers, both in terms of narrative as well as visuals — when you’re not bound by the laws of reality, you can go anywhere… and more importantly, be anyone. Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound and Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries broke new ground in presenting the world of dreams to mid-20th-century filmgoers, with the former enlisting the services of artist Salvador Dali for that very purpose. More recently, dreams have served as the stage for everything from the Nightmare on Elm Street horror franchise to Richard Linklater’s thought-provoking Waking Life, a series of vignettes discussing the nature of existence. Returning as my guest is mental-health professional and dedicated cinephile Molly McAshan (who shared my befuddlement at Christopher Nolan’s dream-within-a-dream [and then some] 2010 blockbuster Inception).

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December 21st, 2011 05:57pm

Crime Cinema, w/guest Leonard Pierce

It’s been over four years since the infamous “Cut to Black” finale of The Sopranos polarized America — while many vociferously protested the lack of closure, some argued that the ambiguous (or perhaps not?) closing was simply the last in a long line of masterful strokes from the paintbrush of creator David Chase. What can’t be debated is the show’s status as a landmark television achievement, one that has undoubtedly had a monumental impact on narrative TV storytelling in the 21st century. Returning as my guest to talk about the show as well as the “Century of Crime” that preceded it is Leonard Pierce, cultural critic and also author of the brand-new (and pretty spectacular!) book, If You Like The Sopranos: Here Are Over 150 Movies, TV Shows, and Other Oddities That You Will Love. Leonard’s writing can be found at .

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March 1st, 2011 12:16am

Late-Night Comedy and American Politics, w/guest Russell Peterson

How much of our political information is gathered through the filter of comedic shows? What does it mean when the writers for Saturday Night Live seemingly have a concrete impact on the way that our elected officials are being perceived?

No format in recent years seems to have had as important an impact on how we view the political and governmental scene as late-night comedy shows, from Jay Leno’s Tonight Show to Jon Stewart’s Daily Show and SNL. Presidential hopefuls, who once rarely strayed from Sunday morning talk shows, are now frequently seen on these sorts of shows — even occasionally poking fun at themselves. Not exactly the sort of thing we’d imagine our Founding Fathers would do, eh?

My guest is Russell Peterson, who is an adjunct assistant professor of American Studies at the University of Iowa, as well as author of the recent book Strange Bedfellows: How Late-Night Comedy Turns Democracy Into a Joke.

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August 6th, 2010 05:35am

Race and Visual Imagery, w/guest Maurice Berger

It’s long been said that perception becomes reality, and for much of our nation’s history, mass media has not been kind to minorities — in particular, the African-American community. From Birth of a Nation (where the Ku Klux Klan were portrayed as crusading heroes) to the bumbling, shiftless TV characters of Mantan Moreland and Stepin Fetchit, early film and television did much to portray black America as an underclass deserving of pity and ridicule. But images were also used as weapons to advance the cause of civil rights, as evidenced by the power of photos of the horrifically-beaten Emmit Till to news coverage of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in D.C.

We’ll be talking about landmark TV shows and films that have inspired discussions on race — from All in the Family to The Cosby Show to Spike Lee’s Bamboozled — as well as look at how race has been used in the political arena.

My guest is Maurice Berger, senior research scholar at the Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and senior fellow at the Vera List Center for Art and Politics of The New School. He’s also the author and curator of the new book and exhibit titled For All the World To See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights. You can access the online portion of the exhibit here, while the actual project is currently stationed at the International Center of Photography in New York City. (UPDATE — the exhibit is now in Chicago at the DuSable Museum! Catch it while it’s in town!)

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July 29th, 2010 09:42pm

Generation X in Cinema, w/guest Christina Lee

How has Generation X been defined in film over the past few decades, from the landmark John Hughes films of the ’80s through the “slacker” movies of the ’90s and beyond? What distinct qualities do Gen X films possess which differentiate them from those of previous (and later) generations? We’ll be discussing everything from Pretty in Pink to Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. My guest is Christina Lee, lecturer at the Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia, and the author of the recent book Screening Generation X: The Politics and Popular Memory of Youth in Contemporary Cinema.

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March 24th, 2010 04:20pm

The War on Terror and Popular Culture, w/guests Andrew Schopp and Matthew B. Hill

My new show on cinema, Split Reel, has debuted — for now, you can listen at CHIRP (Chicago Independent Radio Project), but you’ll also be able to access archives here as well as subscribe to the podcast.

What were the “flash points” which signified the “War on Terror” was having a concrete impact on popular culture? If the Hollywood norm over the past decade has been to showcase films that highlight the failures of American policy rather than champion it… then how does this fit within the framework of rah-rah patriotism that erupted in the wake of 9/11? And what sort of impact will the new strain of anti-government movements have in the wake of the Obama White House administration? My inaugural guests? Andrew Schopp and Matthew B. Hill, co-editors of the recent book The War on Terror and American Popular Culture: September 11 and Beyond.

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January 6th, 2010 11:19pm

Brand-New Website in 2010!

With the advent of a new year comes a brand-spankin’-new website, which currently houses many of the episodes from my now-defunct show Under Surveillance on WLUW, and will feature everything from new radio projects to pop-culture essays. Feel free to drop me a line via the links below if you are so inclined — I’m open to questions, suggestions, and/or dinner ideas.

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September 9th, 2009 05:50am

Romantic Comedy in Cinema, w/guest Stacey Abbott

How has the cinematic genre of romantic comedy been reflective of the evolution of the courtship process over the years? What do these sorts of movies say about the institution of marriage? And how have they depicted changing gender roles within relationships? We’ll examine a host of iconic romantic comedy films over the past few decades, from Annie Hall to When Harry Met Sally, to more recent films that feature male protagonists, such as Swingers and High Fidelity. My guest is Stacey Abbott, senior lecturer in film and television studies at Roehampton University in London, and the co-editor of the recent book Falling in Love Again: Romantic Comedy in Contemporary Cinema. [Originally broadcast on WLUW’s Under Surveillance in September 2009.]

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August 11th, 2009 10:58pm

Mad Men, w/guest Leonard Pierce

The AMC drama Mad Men will begin its third season within the coming week, and so it’s a pertinent time to turn our sights on this critically-acclaimed series. Mad Men focuses on the Sterling Cooper advertising agency, set against the backdrop of 1960s America, and creator Matt Weiner uses the show as a vehicle for social commentary on evolving social mores, gender roles, and the illusions of both personal identity and domestic relationships. Returning as my guest is freelance writer and pop-culture critic Leonard Pierce, who has written about film and television for numerous national publications, and also is a regular contributor to The Onion’s A/V club. (Information on Leonard’s projects can be found here.) WARNING: Numerous spoilers within! So if you haven’t yet seen the first two seasons of this show, be sure to watch before listening… [Originally broadcast on WLUW’s Under Surveillance in August 2009.]

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July 7th, 2009 10:56am

The American Action Movie, w/guest Eric Lichtenfeld

Summer has long been synonymous with action blockbusters as far as Hollywood is concerned, for better (Predator) and for worse (the new Michael Bay Transformers film). What cinema genres gave birth to the American action film? How have action movies evolved based on the changing social and political climates of each era? And what sorts of characteristics are hallmarks of standout action films?

From The Road Warrior to Cobra, we’ll tackle it all — my guest is Eric Lichtenfeld, a film scholar who has contributed commentary tracks to landmark action films such as Predator and Die Hard, lectured at Loyola Marymount University, and is the author of the recent book Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle, and the American Action Movie. [Originally broadcast on WLUW’s Under Surveillance in July 2009.]

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Kevin Fullam is a writer and researcher, with extensive experience in fields ranging from sports analytics to politics and cinema.

In addition, he has hosted two long-running radio series on film and culture, and taught mass media at Loyola University.

Episodes of his two shows, Split Reel and Under Surveillance, are archived on the Radio page.