Pop Culture Roundup October 2013

empirestrikes2

1. J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan have replaced Michael Arndt as writers on Star Wars Episode VII. Normally, this would have totally upset me, because Arndt is one of the best screenwriters working today. He also proved with Toy Story 3 that he could freshen up a franchise while staying true to its spirit. However, this means Lawrence Kasdan—LAWRENCE FREAKIN’ KASDAN—who co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, is back writing in the Star Wars universe, baby! So I’m over it.

2. Disney then sent fans reeling by refusing Lucasfilm’s request to push Episode VII to 2016. Panic about the screenplay not being ready and production being rushed ensued. Accusations that Disney cares nothing for quality were hurled across the internet. Until someone pointed out that completion of The Empire Strikes Back screenplay actually finished with a shorter lead time into the production of the movie. Phew, I was worried for a minute there. (Not really, but a lot of people were.)

3. Hey, maybe those petitions worked, after all. Charlie Hunnam quit the role of Christian Grey in the movie version of Fifty Shades of Grey. About fifty different reasons were then offered for why he quit.

4. Hunnam was quickly replaced by Jamie Dornan. As I’m not a fan of the books, I have no dog in this hunt, but thought he was awesome during the first season of Once Upon a Time and was bummed when they killed off his character. Odd coincidence: one of the top fan choices for the role was Ian Sommerhalder—whose character Boone was killed off during the first season of Lost. Some of the writers of Lost are now the writers/creators of Once Upon a Time. (O.K., it’s not a HUGE coincidence, but I thought that was an interesting connection.)

WickedLogo6jpg5. The musical Wicked reached its 10 year milestone on Broadway. The story of Elphaba, who became The Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz and Galinda, who became Glinda the Good Witch, is at its heart about how friendships can profoundly change our lives. It’s also a sly political satire, a serious contemplation of female empowerment and a delightful comedy, with fun references to both the book and the 1939 movie version of The Wizard of Oz.

While I’d love to see the show run another 10 years, I’m getting a bit impatient to see a movie version. With the setting of Oz it’s a no-brainer for a screen adaptation. I get that they worry a film could cut into Broadway and national tour box office. Personally, if a movie version existed I would still want to see the show live again. So get on it, Hollywood.

6. An open letter to all those who have been writing open letters to Miley Cyrus:

Stop it. You’re playing right into her hands.

Seriously. Stop.

7. THIS is a much better response to the Miley thing:

8. Jessica Lange announced next season would be her last with American Horror Story. Which on the one hand is a crying shame, and on the other a marvelous opportunity for other 50 plus actresses. One of the best things about American Horror Story (it’s been even more the case with this season’s version, Coven) is how much Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk excel at writing for women, particularly women of a certain age. Maybe Michelle Pheiffer or Susan Sarandon could be persuaded to join the ever-expanding list of amazing actresses on this show, which now includes Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Frances Conroy, Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe, Emma Roberts, Taissa Farmiga and Gabourey Sidebe.

boardwalk-empire-michael-k-williams-chalky-white9. Boardwalk Empire’s fourth season is helping me get over missing Breaking Bad.

The show’s reconfiguration since last season has been nothing short of brilliant. The underused Michael Kenneth Williams (Chalky White) has finally been brought to the forefront, with a new occupation (owner/manager of The Onyx Club) and a big storyline.  The sublime Jeffrey Wright is this season’s sociopathic villain, his smooth and cool Dr. Narcisse the polar opposite of Bobby Carnavale’s hot-headed Gyp of last season. Van Alden (Michael Shannon) has been lost at sea for a while but they finally figured out what to do with him: make him a reluctant member of Capone’s gang.

Add to that a ruthless agent working for J. Edgar. Hoover, a surprisingly poignant death, the missing Margaret suddenly popping up and crossing paths with Arnold Rothstein, Nucky’s empire expanding to Florida, Richard reconnecting with his lady love Julia, Ron Livingston as Gillian’s new love interest, Eli’s son starting on a path disturbingly similar to Jimmy Darmody’s, and it’s a fine balm to sooth my Breaking Bad is Over Blues.

Rock and Roll Diary: 1967–1980
Rock and Roll Diary: 1967–1980 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

10. Marcia Wallace and Lou Reed passed away. She is better known today for voicing the character of Edna Krabapple on the animated series The Simpsons (her character will now be retired). But to me, she will always be Carol Kester, Bob Newhart’s kooky receptionist on The Bob Newhart show. Lou Reed was a rock musician who influenced no less than three generations of rockers. He’s probably best known for the songs “Walk on the Wild Side” and “Sweet Jane.”

11. On a personal note, I’m not participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but I’m doing this instead:

Project Reutsway Writing Competition

I still don’t get why the inventors of NaNoWriMo picked November—the start of the holiday season—with the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel. But I like this competition Reuts Publications is doing, where they issue a challenge per week to write a 2,500 – 5,000 word short story. You don’t have to participate in every challenge. The prize is inclusion in an anthology, with profits going to benefit a charity.

The overall theme and first challenge has already been announced. You can probably still sign up to participate. Click the link above for rules, prizes, information about the charity and the first challenge.

Good luck!

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