It’s that time of year again, dear readers. Awards season! Time for my third annual pop culture awards. YAY!
Once again, these are solely about my own personal preferences and are just for fun.
On to the first, highly coveted (not really) award:
1. The Television Episode That Kicked the Ass of Anything in the Movies Award:
VIII – Black Sails
It’s not that there weren’t many other great individual episodes of TV this year–maybe even some better ones. High on my list of favorites were “The Lion and the Rose” episode of Game of Thrones, “We Have Manners, We’re Polite” episode of Orange is the New Black, and Boardwalk Empire’s magnificent series finale, “El Dorado,” which I wrote about here. Not to mention pretty much every Season 2 episode of Orphan Black.
But when I think about this particular award, I look for the episode that outdid impressive action and/or suspense scenes in movies.
That’s why the Season 1 finale of Starz’s new pirate epic Black Sails takes it this year.
Black Sails, executive produced by film director Michael Bay, gave us a suspenseful, heart-thumping, AND shocking season finale for the fraction of the money that’s put into most mainstream movies.
Unlike most Michael Bay-directed movies (O.K., ALL Michael Bay-directed movies) Black Sails’ rousing and action-filled finale is firmly based in character. Captain Flint’s almost fanatical quest to run down the Spanish galleon Urca de Lima seems derailed by misinterpretation of information and the second mutiny against him since the season started. The action scenes are thrilling, the actions taken by Flint, John Silver and mutiny-leader Dufresne compelling, and in some instances, entirely surprising. It’s a Michael Bay production that put Michael Bay movies to shame.
2. The Best Dance Scene of the Year Award:
The clones get together and dance: Orphan Black
Season 2 of Orphan Black was another crazy roller coaster ride, with a game-changing twist in the finale. Anchoring the entire enterprise is Tatiana Maslany’s brilliant work as several characters–each an individual, complex human being.
Most of the time, the clones are separated. In the episode “By Means Which Have Never Been Tried” the main clones the story follows–Sara, Alison, Cosima, and Helena–finally all congregate for the first time at Felix’s apartment. Cosima, possibly dying, turns on some dance music and pulls the oxygen tube out of her nose. What follows is an alternately funny and poignant scene, as for a short space of time, the clones dance together and experience a moment that’s almost like being a family.
Sadly, it doesn’t last. But what a joy to behold while it did.
3. The Anti-Heroes Aren’t All THAT Award:
Phil Coulson, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Let me be clear: I love anti-hero stories. We’ve seen some great ones come to a close recently (Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire), some are going to go away soon (Mad Men, Sons of Anarchy) and we have new ones to fascinate us (Black Sails, True Detective, Fargo).
But there’s only so much dark angst I can take.
That’s why Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is such a refreshing change. On the surface, he’s about as unsexy a character as you can find on TV–the guy looks like a C.P.A., not an international spy who is involved with superhero and supernatural cases. Except when he’s behind the wheel of his flying car Lola–then he looks like a C.P.A. who borrowed a flying car from his way cooler spy friend.
Yet it’s his very conventional unsexiness and uncoolness that make him totally sexy and cool.
He’s a rare bird on TV these days: a principled, empathetic man who believes in fighting FOR good. I mean, REALLY believes in it. Not some world-weary guy who sees life as a sewer underneath its thin façade.
What’s even better, he is just as complex and nuanced as any anti-hero. He suffered a death experience and was brought back to life unwillingly, which marks him to this day. He has to make tough decisions that put his team in danger–and it truly affects him. He’s a man defined by love instead of hatred and resentment, which makes his life just as difficult as that of any anti-hero.
Even more amazing, HE GETS ALL THE BEST LINES. They actually let him be funny and sarcastic. I would watch the show for no other reason than to hear all the great Coulson lines.
Coulson proves that good guys can be just as compelling as any anti-hero. Something more movie and TV writers should take note of.
4. The Why Do You Live To Piss Off the Fan Base That Pays Your Mortgage? Award:
SIGH. This year was a very, very, VERY frustrating one for fans of The Hunger Games franchise. Lionsgate dragged its feet interminably when it came to releasing a trailer for Mockingjay Part 1. It became almost comical. Every time Lionsgate posted on Twitter about any subject, the answers would be peppered with annoyed Hunger Games fans asking when they would release the trailer.
To be fair, when the trailers and TV spots finally saw the light of day, they were excellent. But one has to wonder why they delayed so long. The movie is doing phenomenal business, both domestic and foreign, but its opening weekend take was lower than that of the previous movies. It might have been higher if they hadn’t waited and allowed more buzz for the movie to build.
But it wasn’t just the trailer fiasco that made fans hopping mad. Someone made the insane decision to allow 17 year old music artist Lorde “curate” the Mockingjay Part 1 soundtrack album. I guess I can get the reasoning behind it– the movie is about a 17 year old girl leading a revolution, after all. In spite of raves from the critics, the soundtrack album is tanking–because the songs have little to nothing to do with the movie’s story and characters, unlike the previous two soundtracks.
The beautiful irony of all this is that the haunting folk song sung by Jennifer Lawrence in the movie, The Hanging Tree, is burning up the music charts.
Except then some numbskull got the idea to do a DANCE REMIX, which Lionsgate is allowing to hit radio airwaves. A dance remix of a folk tune about the ghost of a hanged man urging his lover to kill herself, too.
5. The Movie I Least Wanted to See but I’m Still Thrilled Did Great at the Box Office Award:
I really disliked this book. I hated the privileged, whiny characters and pretty much guessed the story’s big twist by the end of the second chapter.
I did not see the movie and have no intention of seeing the movie, but I’m still very happy the movie was a huge success.
Because this is a very rare non-superhero/action/fantasy drama movie to become both a substantial box-office hit and enter the pop culture zeitgeist. It’s amazing to see a movie about real people (well, Hollywood versions of real people) without magic, massive CGI special effects, aliens, etc., do this well.
Of course, this could turn out to be a small blip, but I’m hoping more movies of this ilk–including some I actually want to see–hit movie screens in the near future.
6. The Best Dystopian Film of the Year Award:
The LEGO Movie
Thought I would name Mockingjay Part 1, or Snowpiercer, or Divergent?
Those were all, to varying degrees, good films. In fact, I unabashedly loved Mockingjay Part 1.
But for my money, when it comes to dystopian goodness, The LEGO Movie takes the prize.
First of all (and this is NOT a knock at these other movies) it’s a TRUE dystopian, in that the characters are completely unaware that they are living a dystopian nightmare. In fact, they think “Everything is Awesome!” That’s only part of the cleverness of this extremely clever movie.
The movie mercilessly parodies the hero’s journey but in the end also endorses it. It decries the very commercialism that allows a movie like it to exist. It both embraces the importance of individual creativity and the necessity of team work and structure.
And–unlike most dystopians–it has a hopeful message of redemption, even for the worst among us.
You can enjoy this movie totally on one level as a fun animated comedy–but there’s so much more here to think about. It would have been so simple to make a craptastic movie and hope to succeed just off the premise (coughBattleshipcough). Instead, they made something both fun AND smart.
Everything might not be awesome, but The LEGO Movie certainly is.
Once Upon a Time
As a fan of Frozen, I was pretty excited when they announced that Elsa, Anna and other characters from the movie would be featured in this season’s storyline.
The actors all chosen are close to perfect. The storyline itself–some of it works, some of it doesn’t. I’m a bit upset that they did not include even a brief appearance by everyone’s favorite snowman Olaf.
But my big beef is the wardrobe and hair departments at Once Upon a Time.
Elsa’s dress. Oh. My. God. There are bridesmaid dresses on the bargain rack that look more fashion forward. It’s beyond hideous.
Worse–she NEVER takes it off! Couldn’t Emma have loaned her a leather jacket, or something?
Yes, it’s an iconic part of the character, but then make it a stunner of a dress, not a cheap knockoff someone could have sewn in their junior high home ec class.
Is it too much to ask that they allow this man some dignity? He’s a new father, for heaven’s sake.
Apparently, they’re aware of the misstep, because they made a joke about it in a later episode. But, geez, really? You didn’t notice it was horrible AT THE TIME?
8. The Franchise We Mock That Mocks Us Right Back Award:
Sharknado 2: The Second One
I was going to write a full review of the movie last summer, but didn’t have the heart to do it because soon after it was broadcast came the news that Robin Williams had died.
Those who deride the Sharknado franchise (oh, yes, it’s a franchise now and it ain’t going away) really just don’t get it.
Unlike The LEGO Movie, which is obviously clever, the Sharknado movies are subversive in a far less obvious way.
Yeah, the story is ridiculous–but the point is, most Hollywood “A” movies these days are deeply ridiculous. We just ignore the ridiculousness in the name of entertainment. The Sharknado movies force us to face the fact that we like stupid movies.
This time out, the movie featured cameo appearances by the likes of Kelly Osbourne (playing the only flight attendant in the world with lavender hair), Judd Hirsh (as a taxi driver–of course), Matt Lauer (acting as douchey in his fictional version as his real-life version) and Al Roker, who reports the Sharknado doings with the same earnestness as he does the latest New York blizzard.
Then of course there are the sharks, which this time around include flaming sharks. Flaming sharks that can CLIMB STAIRS.
Can’t wait to see how they top that in Sharknado 3.
Yes, it’s fun and easy to mock Sharknado movies. The thing I like the most about them is the movies mock us right back.
9. Best Teaser Trailer of Maybe the Whole Century Award:
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Perfect. Just perfect. The right amount of what’s new. The right amount of what’s familiar. The crazy-ass new lightsaber, that had people debating and buzzing for days. Whetting everyone’s appetite for the new film a FULL YEAR AHEAD OF TIME.
That’s how it’s done.
(Pay heed, Lionsgate!)
10. As usual, I end with The Sleepy Skunk’s annual movie trailer mashup. Enjoy!