Time for Part Two of this year’s pop culture awards! Last week I concentrated exclusively on television. This week, I deal with movies, books, music and other entertainment topics.
1. The Complete Failure To Get The Point Award: The anonymous clowns who have approached Lionsgate Films about building a theme park based on The Hunger Games—and Lionsgate, for seriously considering the offers.
No, they’re not kidding.
Sure, there are people defending the idea. I even get where they’re coming from. It’s what I call the Cinematic Conundrum. When you’re safe in your theater seat (or at your video console or reading your book) war can seem really cool and fun. So the notion of a theme park can also seem safe and cool and fun.
Some bring up Harry Potter World, because didn’t the Harry Potter series have a war and a lot of deaths, etc.?
Yes, it did.
Here’s the major difference, though:
The Harry Potter universe is set in a good if flawed society that the characters are trying to keep from turning into a nightmarish dystopia.
The Hunger Games universe is set in a nightmarish dystopia that the characters are trying to turn into a good if flawed society.
It’s just a rotten idea. Reenacting children killing children for show? Living in desperate poverty? Stuffing yourself and then throwing up at a Capitol party?
Oh, boy, let’s have some fun trying to outrun flaming tree limbs heartless gamemakers are hurling at us!
If they tone all that down—then what’s the point?
I went to Harry Potter World and thought the butterbeer was kind of disgusting, but I bet it will turn out to be ambrosia compared to Greasy Sae’s dog bone soup at Hunger Games World.
2. The Thanks For Reminding Me Why I Fell In Love With Movies Award: Alfonso Cuaron
The last few years I’ve been suffering from a massive case of blockbuster fatigue.
Don’t get me wrong. I love big movies. Have no snobbery about action movies or special effects. However, the past few years, they have become a case of too much noise and spectacle, not enough story, character and heart.
This year’s Man of Steel is a case in point. I SO wanted to love that movie. Was SO open to the idea of a darker, more mature Superman movie. Was SO psyched by the terrific actors cast in the iconic roles. And basically all I remember about it is Superman and Zod crashing through what seemed like 5,000 buildings. Even my nephew, who loves over-the-top action, muttered “Enough already!” during the building crash-fest.
Sure, when it comes to story and character, television has been filling the gap admirably. But there are certain things you can only experience in a movie theater.
So what a joy it was to experience the movie Gravity. THIS is the kind of movie that made me love movies in the first place.
Director Cuaron used 3D technology, not in a gimmicky way, but as a way to pull you into the story. The movie is probably the closest most of us will ever get to experience what it is like to be in outer space. There’s no way that can be replicated on television.
He also did something that nowadays seems almost radical—he made a movie that was only a shade over 90 minutes long and packed it with almost unbearable suspense from the first few moments until the end. I spent almost the entire movie looking like Macaulay Caulkin in Home Alone, my hands plastered to the side of my face, crying from the purely visceral experience.
I hope more filmmakers will take Cuaron’s lead and give us movies that take us places only movies can take us, while telling us heart-stopping stories about characters we care about. And cut down on pointless building-crashing stuff.
This is the absolute truth: when I was little my mom used to tell me that she and my dad used to be Snow White and Prince Charming.
When I heard Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas, who play Snow White and Prince Charming on ABC’s Once Upon A Time, were getting married my first thought was, “They can tell their kids they were Snow White and Prince Charming—and it will be the TRUTH!”
Then soon after the engagement announcement came the announcement that this was going to happen a little bit faster, as Ginnifer is already expecting their first child.
Is this the biggest AWWWWWWW moment of the year, or what?
Come on, you know it is, cynics.
4. The Maybe More Bands Should Record Albums While They’re Breaking Up Award: The Civil Wars
Nothing has pleased me more than the folk revival that has been going on the last few years. I’m not really a fan of mainstream country music (once it gets twangy, it loses me) but there have been so many amazing folk bands—both in North America and the British Isles—to emerge lately that I sometimes feel like I’m behind the curve. The Civil Wars was one act that I discovered a bit late, only hearing of them because they appeared on the soundtrack for the first Hunger Games movie. I really liked their first full-length album, Barton Hollow, but nothing prepared me for the stunning beauty of their self-named follow-up album.
Sadly, the duo—Joy Williams and John Paul White—were in the midst of a bitter professional break up while the album was being recorded. It was so bad, White refused to do any publicity at all for it after it was finished.
The mystery surrounding the bust-up has fueled a ton of gossipy speculation (both are married to other people) but more likely it was the reason cited by Williams, that they have differing levels of ambition.
Personally, I couldn’t care less why they broke up. I just hope they work it out someday. It would be CRIMINAL if they never got together again to create more music. The album has so many instant classics, sung with so much truth and passion. Even their cover of The Smashing Pumpkins’ Disarm brings something new and haunting to a song that already has a creepy yet romantic edge to it.
As one commenter on YouTube said about one of their songs: “It’s so beautiful, it hurts.”
That pretty much sums up the entire album.
5. The I Guess They Mean The Title Ironically Now Award: People Magazine, The Sexiest Man Alive
O.K., O.K., Adam Levine fans—cool your jets. This is NOT a hit piece against your guy. He’s tres sexy. To a lot of people and to you.
To others and to me—maybe not as much. Which is O.K., because sexiness is very subjective.
That’s kind of the point. It is WAY past time for People Magazine to retire this idiotic title. It was stupid back in 1985 and it’s stupid now. Even though there have been recipients chosen who I think are very sexy. Because the only way the title makes sense is if all the predecessors are DEAD.
Change it to what it actually is: The Guy People Magazine Thinks Deserves The Most Media Attention During The Coming Year.
There, I fixed it for you, People.
(On second thought, that might not work, either, because then they would have to give it to Pope Francis. I’ll get back to you, People.)
6. The We Really Will Watch Michael Shannon Read Anything Award: Michael Shannon’s Funny or Die Sorority Rant
Last April an expletive-filled email sent by a University of Maryland student to her chapter of the Delta Gamma sorority ended up on the Gawker website and itself became a bit of an internet sensation. Then actor Michael Shannon did a dramatic reading of the letter for Funny or Die, and it’s one of the most terrifying and hilarious things, um, well—ever.
The only sad part: he’s WAY more terrifying here than he was as General Zod in Man of Steel. Maybe he should have played Zod like a pissed-off sorority sister.
When John Scalzi’s novel Redshirts won the Hugo Award this year, there was a bit of a controversy because some people thought it was too lightweight. Because, you know—funny can’t be, like, IMPORTANT, and stuff.
The truth is, comedy has one and only one obligation: to be funny. And anyone who thinks that’s easy to accomplish is not bright enough to decide what should and shouldn’t get an award.
Redshirts’ premise is based on something fans of Star Trek have noticed for decades: how come all those ensigns in the red shirts on away missions always seem to end up dead? The term redshirts has become a part of the lexicon now—the show Lost made references to Star Trek and fans referred to featured characters killed off on the show as “redshirts.”
Scalzi takes that seed of an idea and extrapolates it into a hilarious novel for everyone who loves space opera, spoofing not only that one trope, but the genre as a whole. I say set your lasers on stun for those who dare to put you down for liking this book.
Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls is the latest essay collection by David Sedaris. I love listening to the audio versions of his books and often end up laughing hysterically at his stories about his childhood growing up in a big eccentric family in the South, or living with his partner in France or England, or any number of what for most of us would be mundane experiences but are gems to be mined for humor by Sedaris.
My favorite essay in this collection by far was “The Happy Place,” his recounting of a certain invasive medical test middle-aged people are hectored by their doctors into taking—as I was this past year. This may be a bit TMI, but believe me when I tell you that Sedaris’ story helped me get over my fears of going through with it.
Now go to your happy place and enjoy this book.
Yep, I win this one.
When it was announced that actor Paul Walker was killed in an automobile accident, I had no idea who he was.
Not a clue. Pretty embarrassing to admit when I write a blog partially devoted to popular culture. And it’s not like he was so young that he was generationally off my radar. (Heck, I knew who Corey Monteith was.)
I was completely baffled by the outpour of emotion on social media, but was really stunned when the Twitter account for The Young and the Restless posted condolences and called him part of their extended family. I’ve watched the show fairly consistently over its 40 year run and still couldn’t place him. Me, the Queen of Soap Opera Trivia, who remembers Blair Underwood played a character named Bobby Blue on One Life to Live for three weeks over twenty years ago!
Not only was Walker clearly well-loved as an actor, it sounds as if he was one hell of a great human being. I’m truly sorry I wasn’t aware of him during his lifetime.
If anyone would care to make some movie recommendations, please feel free to leave them in the comments section.
9. Same as last year, I’m ending things with 2013’s version of The Sleepy Skunk’s Movie Trailer Mash-Up. Sleepy Skunk gets better and better at this each year! Enjoy!