A Conversation with Lindsay Ellis – Part II

by Kathryn Graham

Lindsay Ellis is an American video essayist and film critic with degrees in film from NYU and USC. She condenses complex critical thinking and academic theory into entertaining and humorous YouTube essays on everything from a Film Studies through the Lens of Transformers to Product Placement and Fair Use.  She is also the host and writer for PBS’s online short series It’s Lit! You can check out all of her content for free on YouTube!

For those who missed it, Part I is HERE

Where do you see the future of what you’re doing going?

L: I don’t know. YouTube is very splintered. In left leaning spaces, you’ll see more and more attention paid to things like quality of the picture and the framing devices. It’s leaning more artistic and expensive looking. It’s leaning towards highly researched videos. The consequences of that is people make fewer and fewer videos.

Meanwhile, YouTube doesn’t favor inconsistent output like that. It likes you to be like: Tuesdays, once a week, exactly 25 – 35 minutes, whatever your schedule is.

That works for the AM Talk Radio side of YouTube which is really consistent and releases a lot more often.

So there’s kind of an imbalance. There’s two cultures. One sub-culture wants to focus on higher quality and better research and use that to gain attention. The other side is just like… Cinema Sins (note from KG: a nit-picky and often inaccurate ‘movie review’ YouTube channel).

I just watched a whole video about Cinema Sins’s sins. Sustaining Stupidity by Bobvids.

L: Yes! I have made so many people watch that video. It’s not just about why Cinema Sins is bad. It’s a good microcosm for what kind of content gets consistent sustained views on YouTube. How it’s cultivated. Why it’s cultivated in bad faith. How this is bad for society at large. It breaks it down bullet point by bullet point.

Do you think a subscription service for what you do might work? Would there be enough demand?

L: I think there would be demand, but part of the deal is you want to reach new people. Ultimately, my goal is to get people to re-evaluate the way they consume media. The way they think critically and how critical thinking even works.

A lot of YouTube is really bad for critical thinking. A lot of it is very emotion driven. “Here’s what I thought about a movie, but I’m going to try to dress it up in objectivist rhetoric that doesn’t apply.” You cannot objectively review a movie.

There’s this kind of obsession with this kind of ‘pwnage’. Like “I need to crush the other side.” A lot of times ‘the other side’ is like Ghostbusters 2016.

Part of the rising tide of that is it needs an alternative. Those alternatives do exist, but they tend to release less frequently, and they tend to get way fewer views than Cinema Sins.

Another trend I’m not liking is, I talked about this in That Time Disney Remade Beauty and the Beast, where we have to over-explain everything. To preempt the objections. It’s like we’re making movies for Cinema Sins now.

A lot of stories, we do not need to know the logic of the universe. There are some universes like Harry Potter that operate on an elaborate internal clockwork. But there are other universes like Beauty and the Beast for example, where it’s a disservice to the story to try to apply strict logic to it.

People get so worked up now… I think of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and I just want to stand on a mountain going “It’s just a movie! Why is everything culture war?” Why does everything have to go to 11?

This is another thing I’m not sure I’m ever going to address. You see this phrase ‘objectively bad’. I’ve seen this phrase a lot more, especially in relation to The Last Jedi. That’s just because there’s a certain subset that has co-opted this phrase and is using it to justify their opinions. They have convinced themselves that there’s a quadratic formula for how to figure out if a movie is bad, but that’s not how it works.

I could make a good argument for contrived or poor structure. I have some issues with The Last Jedi. Mostly character arc related, but at the end of the day, there’s no such thing as objectivity. There’s some people out there who like structure-less stories. That doesn’t make them wrong. It just means they don’t like Hollywood movies.

There’s a lack of self-awareness where people can’t connect their intense reaction to some form of internal bias. They’re like “No! It’s objective! It’s bad!” If it was objective, I’d agree with you. If it was objective, everyone would agree with you.

With representation in film, do you see that getting any better or staying about the same or getting worse?

L: I see it getting better, but I think Hollywood is trailing culture. Not the other way around. The reason you see movies like Get Out and Wonder Woman is that people are open to it, and they want to see stuff like that in a way that they didn’t 10 years ago.

I think that the market is there. That’s the only reason it’s getting better on the whole.

Is there any advice you’d give to people who want to be on YouTube or start anything on Youtube?

L: The most important advice is: Do not ape other people’s voices. I think the worst thing people can do is: “I wanna be like this person!” There’s a ton of people that try to be like Red Letter Media. They’ll make the same jokes. They’ll have the same tone.

A lot of people will write me and be like: “How do I make this good?” I’m like: “Practice it. It’s your first one. It’s not going to be good.”

I think people need to learn to be okay with that. It’s a process. It’s like any skill. Most people will have a kernel of an idea of what their voice is going to be. This is a medium. It’s not the same as prose. It’s a process to find it.

A lot of people that I now consider peers had search a learning curve.
You need to figure out what you’re good at and what your voice is.

The best advice I ever saw was someone said: Don’t try to demand the attention of people who you admire. Try to elevate your peers, and rise up with them. Eventually, the people you admire will start to take notice.
That’s definitely been my experience.

Herbie J Pilato sees ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

Ladies and gentlemen, TVWriter™ is proud to present a classic TV critic in top form. Here’s how it’s done:

“Mary” Pops in “Returns”
by Herbie J Pilato

A remarkable plethora of talent is resplendent throughout, behind the camera and on screen for Mary Poppins Returns, the new Disney sequel to the studio’s 1964 motion picture classic.

The ghost of Walt Disney and Julie Andrew’s original interpretation of the mystical nanny is prevalent in all the right places and frames of this thoroughly modern magical mystical tour de force. Sharing the screenwriting credit with David Macgee and John DeLuca, Marshall is clearly a fan of the original Poppins, as he makes certain Returns adheres to the visual and storied mythology of the revered first take (helmed by Robert Stevenson).

Right smack in the middle of it all, new Poppins lead Emily Blunt had big knickers to fill in stepping into Andrews’ puss and boots, but the award-winning actress adds a fresh face to the character; Blunt (a name that works for the character!) brings her own special brand of demure to what could easily have turned into a theatrical mess in the hands of a less fêted performer.

Andrews rejected the idea of making even a cameo into the mix of this dear Poppins fresh dough, ray of sunshine and glee, because, allegedly, she did not want to steal the spotlight from Blunt. But it’s also been said that her agent demanded more “moola” for her to apply any new rouge for Returns.

Fortunately, other veteran performers like always-perfect Angela Lansbury (as the Balloon Lady, the character allegedly written for Andrews), Dick Van Dyke (who starred in the original Mary, and makes a remarkable screen return of his own at 93!), Colin Firth, David Warner, and Meryl Streep (to a lesser extent), each deliver the goods.

And while Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer as the adult Banks siblings are nothing less than Shakespearean supreme, Returns’ fresh batch of child actors, Joel Dawson, Nathanael Saleh, Pixie Davies, light up the screen with vibrancy and an enormous bag of Bojangles skill that boggles for their age. And while, too, shades of the superior quality of stupendous original Poppinssongs by the Sherman brothers Richard and Robert can be heard in Returns, the still-very-much-alive musical maestro Richard Sherman served as a consultant on the new film’s catchy tunes and score composed by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman (who wrote the lyrics with Shaiman)….

Read it all at Medium

When screenwriter Brian Helgeland talks about Screenwriting, we listen

Writer Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential, Mystic River) explains what it feels like to win an Oscar an a Razzie on the same weekend, why he thinks writer’s block is a myth, and reveals Clint Eastwood’s unique powers of persuasion.

Brought to us by BAFTA Guru, a service the British Academy of Film and Television Arts…for which TVWriter™ is mucho thankful!

John Ostrander: The Elseworlds

by John Ostrander

The CW has been doing annual crossovers of some or all of its DC shows each season to the point where the characters themselves are commenting on it. They like each other well enough but they know each situation is going to involve a BIG Bad and they’re not always keen on it. Kind of a funny, hip, self-aware thing.

In fact, there was a lot of humor in this year’s Crossover Event which was titled Elseworlds. It involved only the Big Three of the CW/DC shows – Supergirl, Arrow, and the Flash. Legends of Tomorrow (which has been a LOT of fun this year) and Black Lightning didn’t get to play which I can understand – by the time you get not only the main characters but significant amounts of the supporting casts it can get a little crowded and unwieldy, especially since they try to advance some of the subplots running in each series. 

One of the conceits of all the series is that the DC universe is actually a multiverse with different versions of Earth (numbered to tell them apart) with sometimes different versions of the same characters. Just like in the comics. For instance, on one Earth the Flash is played by John Wesley Shipp instead of Grant Gustin as he is on the regular series. Shipp starred as the Flash in a previous TV version and this acknowledges that which is seriously cool. Usually, Shipp plays Jay Garrick who was the Flash on Earth 2 and in the Golden Age BUT this time he said HIS name was Barry Allen. I really liked that because you could, if you wanted to, tie it to that older show. He wasn’t around long – just enough to get out some necessary info — but it was a tip of the hat not only to Shipp but the older Flash series.

The title Elseworlds was also a staple of DC comics – sort of a series that wasn’t a series in which alternate takes on the DC characters were created. One was Batman set in Victorian times and another had Batman as a vampire. DC stopped doing them a while ago and I’m sorry they did; I’d like to see more of them. Maybe do one or two myself.

This year’s crossover also brought in some new incarnations including Lois Lane and Batwoman. They already had their own Superman on Supergirl’s world, played by Tyler Hoechlin who I first saw when he was a boy in Road to Perdition. (An aside: I think Hoechlin makes a fine Superman and I prefer him to Henry Cavill. I do have one problem with his Superman which I’ll get back to in a minute.) There is talk of a Batwoman series on the CW and I’m all in favor of it.

The storyline kept faith with the concept of Elseworlds – different takes on established tropes. In this story, the Flash and Green Arrow get switched – the Flash becomes Green Arrow and Arrow becomes Flash. Hilarity ensues. Seriously. They have some real fun with it. So did I.

They also included a lot of elements from the classic DC crossover Crisis on Infinite Earths. There’s a character called the Monitor, there’s omnipresent red skies, and in the comic series both the Flash and Supergirl die in dramatic moments (they eventually get better) and the Elseworlds Crossover touches on that. There’s a moment at the climax where, if you know Crisis, you realize they’re setting it up to happen there.

Hoechlin is not only a really good Superman, he’s also called upon to play a nasty version of Supes and he’s convincing in that as well. My problem with the CW’s depiction of the Man of Steel is that they keep insisting that he isn’t quite as good as Supergirl. Okay, I get it – she has a series and he doesn’t but they’ve been setting up that she’s stronger and probably better in every way. They’ve done a great job with Supergirl but I don’t think the way you sell her is by downgrading her cousin. He doesn’t have to be lesser than her nor her to him; they’re different characters. And c’mon – he’s Superman.

Overall, I give high marks to this year’s CW/DC crossover event. There was a lot of humor and fun bantering in it but there’s also a possibility of lasting effects in all three series when they return (the event was the midseason finale). They’re getting very good at this and I credit that to producer Greg Berlanti who, IMO, is to the DC/CW what Kevin Feige is to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

One last thing – at the end of this event, CW/DC revealed the name of NEXT year’s event: Crisis on Infinite Earths. That’s going to be interesting considering how much they took from that storyline for THIS year’s events. The last lines of Elseworlds were the advertising slogan for Crisis when it came out: Worlds will live, worlds will die; nothing will ever be the same.

Cue the ominous music.

Still, if the powers that be with the CW/DC shows do want to shake things up, this would be the place. I wouldn’t bet against it. We’ll find out in about a year.

Same Batwoman time, same Batwoman channel.


John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. It’s been awhile since he’s been here, but now John’s back with a new column at a new blog, PopCultureSquad, where this piece first appeared (before Christmas even, but we’ve been on a break so you get to relive the holiday now). You can learn more about John and his many masterworks HERE

Read the Latest DOCTOR WHO Scripts for Free

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. BBC’s Writers Room is one of the interweb’s best places to go for behind-the-scenes info on BBC shows.

Of special interest to writers (and we’ve said this before too) is the Script Library, which keeps on adding to its collection of BBC TV, radio, and feature film scripts.

Here’s a sample of what’s available…and, yeppers, we’re especially excited to note the two Doctor Who Series 11 teleplays that have joined the fold: