10Sep
tom cruise

The Popcast Episode 56: Pop Culture What Ifs

In this week’s episode of The Popcast, Jamie and I dive deep into the alternate universes of pop culture where we discuss:

– What if John Travolta never accepted the sweet embrace of Scientology?

– What if Britney had never cheated on Justin?

– What if Oprah had never provoked Tom Cruise to outburst?

– What if John Hughes and Molly Ringwald had never had a falling out?

– What if OJ Simpson never became a murderer?

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9Sep
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Movie Trailer Tuesday: The Drop

I owe a debt of gratitude to James Gandolfini. Watching him as Tony Soprano kind of sent me into a personal tailspin as I tried to find other shows and characters who were as vivid and compelling as he was. As such, I was pretty much ride or die for anything he did after Sopranos so I’m sad that after his death, we’re coming to the end of his projects.

This truth, combined with how movies with hints of organized crime elements in them are basically my catnip, means that I’m definitely seeing The Drop. The question though is, will this be something I do as a monument of appreciation or because it’s just a good movie? Let’s break the trailer down and find out…

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5Sep
seven

7 Things I Think 9.5.14

1. I think my good friend Amanda wrote this post on Buzzfeed and that you should read it and be better for it.

2. I think I’ll never ever ever get tired of people reading mean tweets about themselves. Never.

3. I think I just don’t get GE’s “The Boy that Beeps” commercial.  I want to though. A for effort and everything, you guys, but just give me a little something else.

I watched it and felt like I’d just seen a PT Anderson movie, which is great I guess if you are film auteur or whatever, but these are the commercial streets, son. Ain’t no body got time for nuance and layers. Just give me Flo from Progressive and tell me what to do.

I like to think about what Jack Donaghy would say if this commercial had happened on his watch with GE.

dongahy

4. I think that this post from Nish Weiseth about depression…just whoa. I know she wrote it a few weeks ago, but go read it right now as it is violently impactful in both its beautiful simplicity and profound clarity. And if you’ve already read it? Read it again.

5. I think that we’ve been working on these over the past few months and they launch next week. We’re really hoping they don’t suck.

6. I think this is a real thing that seemed like a good idea. (thanks to Laura McClellan)
Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 11.58.29 PM

7. I think that apparently good ideas are really, really hard.
saving christmas

2Sep
skeleton

Movie Trailer Tuesday: The Skeleton Twins

I have the softest of soft spots for ex-SNLers. Have I seen MacGruber? Yeah, I guess I have. But do I have any regrets? Not one, my friend. Not one.

So you can imagine how I felt when I saw the trailer for The Skeleton Twins starring not one but TWO former SNLers. And it’s two good ones too as in not Horatio Sanz or Rachel Dratch (no offense Dratch and Sanz).

(SIDEBAR: Doesn’t “Dratch and Sanz” feel like a show? If we have Rizzoli and Isles and that’s meant to be a serious show ((I think. I’ve never actually seen it)) couldn’t we have Dratch and Sanz too and it be not serious? Like they are employees of the local pound and instead of them being bad guys hunting down innocent animals, they are actually the good guys hunting down a**hole animals that have been messing with people? You wouldn’t watch that? Ok, I probably wouldn’t either.)

Regardless, after watching the trailer, these are my feelings…

HOPEFUL: C’mon. Wasn’t Hader destined to play a gay character? This character feels like Stefon but in a strait jacket and that’s not a bad thing because what would even happen with 90 minutes of this:

HOPEFUL: And Ty Burrell! Weirdly, I totally buy him as a gay character. Also, I’m excited to see what he’s like outside the Modern Family universe. Is it more that he exists BECAUSE of Modern Family or does Modern Family exist more because of him?

NOT HOPEFUL: Did they get the right Wilson brother? Probably. Did they get the right person for this role? I don’t know.

I have no beef with Luke Wilson, you guys. I loved his work in the Royal Tenenbaums and he has a lifetime pass from me for Old School. THAT BEING SAID, I’m just not 1000% that he’s great here.

What would Eric Bana look like here? Or are they going for the thing where there’s so much happening between Hader and Wiig that they need the Luke Wilson character to just be there and not creep for your attention?

Come to think of it, is Luke Wilson the perfect complement when including kinetic, comedic types? It’s almost like he needs to exist in a world where something else (Wes Anderson films / setpieces) or someone else (Vince Vaughn / Will Ferrell) is doing all the heavy lifting.

HOPEFUL: the power of understatement. The common denominator with all the casting, seemingly, is that this is a film trading on understatement. Everyone is turned way down and we get to see what happens when Gilly, Stefon and Phil are told to go to their corners. And I love that.

Some of the Robin Williams stuff that was dredged up in the wake of his death reminded me of some of the nuanced genius he was capable of when asked. The problem with brilliant, over-the-top comedic actors is that there is a tendency to defer to that over-the-topness because it’s a known, accepted quantity. But ultimately, leaning on that too much is limiting. So I appreciate the potential of what is possible more than I want what has already made me laugh.

NOT HOPEFUL: The problem with understatement though is that it puts more emphasis on subtleties. Are we sure Wiig and Hader can do that? Wiig probably, but is there evidence that Hader can not get blown off the screen when he isn’t doing a bit?

HOPEFUL: But that lip-sync of Nothing’s Going To Stop Us Now though.

 

26Aug
gong

Movie Trailer Tuesday: Gone Girl

I’m not going to lie. I read Gone Girl and I was pretty ok with it. I know that’s not a super popular take but I judge books more leniently than movies. To me, the triumph is in my actually finishing it and I really could care less how the author resolves the thing.

It usually goes like “Oh that’s what he/she did? Seems strange but NO MATTER. Everyone! Internet! I just finished a real book! Adjust your perceptions of me accordingly!”

If LOST had just been a book, I think everyone would have been pretty ok with it.

Anyways, lets look at what all the trailer suggests in terms of hopeful vs. not hopefulness…

+ Hopeful

…. because Rosamund Pike seems pretty legit as Girl That Has Gone, right? She seems like she brings some oomph to the role.

…. Speaking of legit, Carrie Coon plays Affleck’s sister and I’m so in on her right now due to her run on The Leftovers.

…. Ben Affleck is just doing his Ben Affleck schtick. He’s like George Clooney-lite in roles like this and I’m completely ok with it. Batman vs. Superman will be a pretty huge test, but for me, if he just wanted to spend the rest of his life doing roles like, “Ben Affleck but as a CIA guy assigned to get people out of Iran” or “Ben Affleck but as a bank robber” then I would be fine with it.

…. Did you see that the author of the book, Gillian Floyd rewrote the ending for the movie? While I’m generally not a fan of that, I think that, given how this one ends, it was pretty needed.

…. We finally get the chance to see if NPH will translate to film. Something tells me that the answer is probably maybe not, but who cares. (Insert “Legendary” joke here) We will get to see.

…. There’s a Torkelson involved in this movie. Can you even understand that right now? Because I cannot.

+ Not Hopeful

…. Lets address the super wealthy and prolific purveyor of middling but super profitable movies in the room: Tyler Perry. I’m not saying having him in this automatically indicts the movie into being awful. But it’s pretty suggestive. In the same way that getting a butterfly tattoo on the small of your back could be a potentially great move, it’s usually just emblematic of a poor decision.

Tyler Perry as an actor is basically the equivalent to a tramp stamp is what I’m saying here.

…. I’m not super impressed with the accent the detective lady (as played by Kim Dickens) is rolling out. Guys. A southern accent is not something you can put on like a hat or obnoxious affectation. A southern accent requires the body, soul AND voice box.

What do you think? What did I miss either good or bad?

 

21Aug
ferg

On Ferguson, Musician / Actor Couples and the Ice Bucket Challenge

+ In this week’s episode, I talk with Jamie about the situation in Ferguson and our role within the controversy. Specifically, what is our obligation? What is pop culture’s obligation?

{Conversation #1: Ferguson}

+ We also talk about musician / actor couples. The ones that most often come to mind, the cliches about it and the weirdest ones that you probably never knew about.

{Conversation #2: Actor / Musician Couples}

+ Lastly, we hit our lights and recommendations for the week…

{Conversation #3: Our Lights and Recommendations}

– Buzzfeed’s $850 million valuation…

+ This post by Ann Voskamp about Christians and Suicide…

– Being ok with Ice Bucket Challenge fatigue…

– But then conversely, why you shouldn’t hate on the Ice Bucket Challenge

 {+ Bonus Conversation: Are Josh Duhamel and Fergie Equally Matched?}

– The incomparable Scarlett Johanssen’s angelic voice…

– This failed pilot that almost starred Alison Brie and Jennifer Lawrence…

+ This web series, High Maintenance…

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20Aug
Chris-Pratt2

Is Chris Pratt the Movie Star We Deserve?

So Guardians of the Galaxy came out recently. Evidently, it’s great. Like so great. Which is weird because having no context on this particular slice of the Marvel universe, the entire concept seemed like an overextension. You’ve got Vin Diesel and Chris Pratt running around along with an anthropomorphic raccoon. At a certain point, I’m hoping Marvel understands that there will be a disbelief we are unwilling to suspend.

It’s like, you got away with Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk. Let’s not tempt fate, you know?

But, again, the numbers and the responses indicate the movie is great and it’s full speed ahead for the Marvel movie-making machine.

The biggest narrative to come out of this movie though is the rise of Chris Pratt. Everything the light touches in the pop cultural landscape is his for the taking right now. But why?

The Appeal of Normal

In the lead-up to Guardians, stuff like this….

and this…

and this…

…all trickled out into the pop culture ether and it made us like him because, let me tell you, nothing gets normal people like you and I all hot and bothered like a celebrity acting non-celebish. We eat that up so hard and then lick the plate.

Jennifer Lawrence belly flopping on her way to accept an Oscar? EAT.

jennifer-lawrence-fall

Kristen Bell sobbing about a sloth? EAT.

kristen bell

We love feeling like the line between them and us isn’t quite so blurred, when deep down, we all super know that it is.

theyre-just-like-us

The Appeal of Familiar

In addition to his normalish appeal, part of his rise is also because he’s been a peripheral existence to most of us for a while now. Thus, this gives him some credibility but this credibility is nuanced, guys. That’s right. I’m about to explain the finer points on an intangible thing like it’s an art exhibit or something. My college tuition at work, Mom and Dad!

The following is self-evident: we like things we know, right? The barrier for entry on anything is easier if its familiar than if we’re flying blind. It’s why studios want known quantities in their shows / movies. It’s why brand names matter.

I know. I just realized it too. I’m explaining to you that brand names matter. Look at me here dispatching wisdom like the Dalai Lama of obviousness.

ANYWAYS, the point here is that we know Chris Pratt. We’ve seen him in movies and we’ve seen him on TV.

The corollary to this though is that it’s problematic if we know someone TOO well. Because then, that super-familiarity  colors the audience’s sense of the character and their response to the movie.

It’s why Lindsay Lohan can never be Cady Heron again. She’ll always bring the baggage of being insane, drug-addled and authorship of an actual bang list to every single role.

banglist

Understanding all this, Guardians clearly was the perfect storm for Chris Pratt. So the question  thenbecomes, what led to Chris Pratt being in this position?

If we consider the idea of market correction, then we can extend this notion to the movie industry in the sense that certain cultural climates demand certain types of content. And within this content, certain types of movie stars are sought after.

Let’s look at this in a more specific way and consider 1996 – 2006. For the most part, this period looked primed to be a Dark Ages as it relates to male superstardom. Tom Cruise had hit an artistic lull, Tom Hanks was trending down after an insane run and for all intents and purposes the throne had been abdicated in terms of dude superstars.

But the market can’t tolerate a world where no dude superstars exist. So, in the void left by Cruise and Hanks, someone filled it.

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 2.28.24 PM

Will Smith’s 96 – 06 run, featured a vast array of genre and type: franchise, Sci-Fi, Action, Drama, Animated, Biopic, Comedy and even TV.

In terms of the market, was Will Smith SUCH a movie star talent that he would have emerged regardless of what the leading man situation was? OR was Will Smith’s 10 year run a function of the leading man vacuum needing to be filled?

As interesting as that conversation may be, we’re here for Chris Pratt, you guys. Stay focused.

Contingency Plan for Who?

So understanding that the market demands certain types of characters, we can apply this idea to Chris Pratt and assume that he’s the contingency plan for a few other people. But who are these people? Who are these mystery actors that were going to be mostly supporting, mostly comedic, mostly white and charming but not TOO charming so as to step on the leading man’s charm dealings? I have some thoughts…

+ Guys Who Popped

Steve Carell and Bradley Cooper

Both unexpectedly became marketable as leading guys with charisma and charm in spades so they leveled up.

+ Guys Who Flopped

Jason Sudeikis, Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman

For me, the Jasons are better on TV. What they have hasn’t translated to movies…yet. This partly explains why I really didn’t like Horrible Bosses because to me, the entire cast aside from Colin Farrell all belong on TV.

Reynolds is different though. He’s the one that I think has most clearly Butterfly Effected Hollywood and has most clearly underachieved to the point that someone like Chris Pratt could get this movie. It’s almost like Reynolds is too handsome to be funny, but yet his humor doesn’t allow him to have enough presence to be “The Guy”. Further, he’s naturally funny to be serious, but yet there’s a part of him that stays serious enough to where he can’t entirely give himself over to comedy.

Regardless, Chris Pratt appears to be here to stay for a while and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or bad thing.

 

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