Category Archives: Pop Culture

My Year in Film: 2014

I know you’ve been waiting for this.

Once again, I’ve reviewed all the movies I saw this year. I always aim to see at least one new movie per month. This year I barely met my goal with 13 movies seen.

There were definitely a few that I really wanted to see but didn’t. Those neglected pieces of cinema include: Foxcatcher, Interstellar, Obvious Child and Whiplash.

Overall, I had a lot of fun at the theater this year (and, yeah, I know; I say that every year). There were a couple notable disappointments, but I’m quite satisfied with my experiences.

Also, You know (or should by now) how the Internet works. There are spoilers.

The Lego Movie

This is ostensibly a kids movie, but I know a hell of a lot of adults who loved it. Believe me, I was surprised. The Lego Movie might be the one exception to the rule when it comes to movies based on toys. That rule being they’re terrible.

I’m looking at you Battleship. 

The movie is bright and flashy and well animated. It also has an infectiously fun theme song performed by Tegan and Sara. On the surface, it’s a pretty easy sell to kids.  Honestly, that’s probably all that was expected of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (co-writers and directors).

But they didn’t stop there.

Instead, they got an incredibly talented and funny voice cast with the likes of Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Nick Offerman, etc…

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Poor Captain America.

This movie would have stuck with people more had Guardians of the Galaxy not been released the same year. With that in mind, this was a really solid entry for Marvel.

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The Future of Hollywood is Image Comics

To say that Hollywood has run out of ideas is not a particularly bold stance. People have been saying that for decades, although it seems especially relevant right now. Our theaters are being flooded with remakes and reboots such as Robocop, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Total Recall with little to no regard for audiences.

The only TMNT movie worth seeing.

Listen, I know it seems a bit ridiculous for an adult to care whether or not a movie about robot Jesus cop or personified reptiles who practice martial arts gets remade. I know that no one is taking the movies I know and love away from me. That being said, it still seems like a lot time, energy and money that could be going toward new stories.

Hollywood is desperately trying to hit reset (which is to say trying to shake down moviegoers nostalgic for their younger days) on movies that were as perfect as they could be in relation to their place and time in the cultural landscape. I’ve long believed that, if we are going to be subject to repetitive reboots, it would make more sense to try again on movies with interesting concepts that didn’t quite hit the mark.

So, what’s to be done in a sequel and reboot crazed market? Where shall we find these new and interesting stories you so desperately seek?

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The Top Simpsons Episodes

If you are now in your mid-20s to mid-30s that means you grew up, at least partially, in the 90s–you know, that decade Buzzfeed won’t let us forget about.

The 90s produced a lot of terrible things, but the decade did produce the best Simpsons episodes ever made. Believe me, I know it’s kind of hackey to rag on the show’s newer episodes. I’ve heard from people who say the newest episodes have improved, but I wouldn’t know. I stopped watching 10 years ago.

Maybe it makes me a curmudgeon or a snob, but I firmly believe of the Simpsons as seasons two through 10.  The first season was still working out some of the kinks and, for me, things just started to fall apart after season 10. But, in between, lie some of the cleverest TV ever broadcast.

WFLD, the Chicago FOX affliate, played The Simpsons three times a day–twice around dinner time and then a late episode around 10 p.m. As a kid, I saw pretty much every episode from the golden era…multiple times. It was difficult to choose, but here are my favorite episodes from each season.

Season 2 – “Lisa’s Substitute”

Initially, I was going to select another episode–possibly “The Way We Was,” “Simpson and Delilah,” “Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment” or “Three Men and A Comic Book”–because I laughed more. I thought about it and realized that, even though this episode has less laughs, it’s better overall. It also has possibly the best cameo of the series: Dustin Hoffman playing Mr. Bergstrom, the substitute.

When Miss Hoover gets Lyme disease, Mr. Bergstrom takes over the class. He’s engaging and interesting and basically the antithesis of all the other teachers at Springfield Elementary. Lisa is immediately taken with the new substitute. Shortly thereafter, she runs into him at a local museum and is embarrassed by Homer’s graceless behavior.

Miss Hoover’s Lyme disease turns out to be psychosomatic, and she comes back to class. Thus, Mr. Bergstrom will be leaving town. Lisa panics and rushes to the catch him before he leaves town for another job, admitting she won’t know what to do without him. Mr. Bergstrom writes her a note and tells her it’s all she’ll need if she’s feeling alone. The note simply says “You are Lisa Simpson.”

Upset by his departure, Lisa takes it out on Homer, calling him a baboon. Homer, in his own clumsy way, is able to console Lisa. He expresses, again clumsily, that he’s never lost anyone like Mr. Bergstrom because all the people he truly cares about and loves are living under the same roof as him.

This episode is great and unique because it doesn’t really follow the conventional path of a sitcom. The story arch is more like a drama with a few laughs thrown in here and there. It didn’t need a bunch of Homer or Bart’s shenanigans or goofball one-off characters to make a memorable TV. It was done in a way that only The Simpsons (or possibly Futurama) could have pulled off.

If you were exactly the right age to see this episode when it aired (pre-teen/teenager) or even in reruns, I can’t help but think it would be extremely comforting to see someone like Lisa–smart and resourceful but not necessarily popular–on  a popular TV show go through many of the same things you might be feeling.

Perhaps The Simpsons wasn’t the menace to society that talking heads in the media depicted it as.

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Songs That Should Be TV Themes

Even though it’s an unrealistic, even absurd, notion, sometimes I wonder what it would be like if I had my own TV show. I have no idea what it would be like–whether it would be a comedy or drama–but the dream remains. Naturally, I started thinking about what the theme song would be to my hypothetical show.

You see, the theme is an important, but often overlooked, component of a show. It sets the tone and gives the audience a taste of what they’re in for. Some shows opt for a wholly original theme like New Girl, and countless other sitcoms from the 70s, 80s and 90s, while others, like 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation and The Americans, opt for entirely instrumental themes.

I, however, would prefer an honest-to-goodness track from an artist.

Comedies 

“Stupid Kid” – Alkaline Trio

“Stupid Kid” would be perfect for a show kind of like Freaks and Geeks, a comedy with a strong point of view and value on reminiscence. It’s short, fast and almost everyone can relate to it.

“Trouble in River City” – The Ergs 

I want this to be a theme song strictly because its brevity will allow it to be heard in full.

“Fix My Brain” – The Marked Men

Whadya know? Another punk song! Anyway, I see this as an update to Weird Science, well,  a better update

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5 Things About Moving to the South

Over the last 27 years, I’ve lived in four different states. I made my most recent move a little more than a year ago when I moved from Kansas to North Carolina.

However, I was raised primarily in what author Colin Woodward calls “Yankeedom,” a portion of the upper Midwest (that also stretches into New England). As a (proud) Northerner, I was a little ambivalent about what I might experience in North Carolina.

Here’s what I’ve seen over the last year.

Author’s note: This post is based entirely on my experiences. Some of you might have had different experiences or disagree with my conclusions, and that’s great! But I can only speak to my own perceptions. Also, I think it goes without saying, but I will regardless, of course I’m biased. I admit that. I grew up in town northwest of Chicago for 18 years. For me, the South might as well have been a foreign country.

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