Month: December 2012

‘Break’-ing Up is Hard to Do: My Year of Pop Culture (2012)

I don’t’ want to get all sentimental on y’all, but 2012 has been a year of ups and downs and I can’t help but feel like this was ‘The Year of the Break-Up.’ Not only was there a real break-up involved, but I also had to say goodbye to living in London and the friends I made there, I wrote a dissertation, and now am settling into the Angelino lifestyle and getting used to the fact that grad school ends in six months. I won’t go into more detail (that’s what a Live Journal was for), but I can say that a lot of the pop culture I got into, and consumed myself in, sometimes made it easier, sometimes made it harder. However, I survived the year and am feeling pumped and ready to go for 2013. So here we go, let’s revisit the Year that Was!

Television

The Year of Mad Men and Breaking Bad

There’s nothing quite as sobering as watching an AMC series to make you realize that a break-up ranks pretty low on the scale of possible horrible things that can happen to you in your lifetime. My dissertation revolved around Mad Men, so I spent A LOT of time rewatching the entire series and transcribing episodes.

And then, over the summer, during my waves of melodramatic despair and the struggle to make myself write a dissertation, I decided to finally delve into the world of Breaking Bad. Wow, what a ride. Everything from the writing, directing, and acting is done so superbly on that show. I’m so anxious to see how it all ends.

Continuing on the dark themes, I also got obsessed with Homeland. I know the first season aired in the fall of 2011, but it aired this last spring in England. I patiently waited every week for the new episode. It was absolutely riveting. Season 2 didn’t pack quite as much punch, at least in the second half of the season, but it sure makes for a great hour of television. Not only am I obsessed with Damian Lewis and Rupert Friend, but Mandy Patikin too – Holla!

On a lighter note, my favorite comedies this year all, refreshingly, have strong, original female leads. I love me some funny ladies on the telly!  Girls was a honest and relatable series that I could get behind, with some truly great lines that, if I do say so myself, ‘speak of a generation.’

New Girl provides a great ensemble of people that I wish I were actually friends with and I would definitely call Jake Johnson’s Nick Miller my fantasy rebound man. Highlights this season were Jess’ costume as Zombie Woody Allen and Nick’s Bea Arthur (literally wore a shirt that said Arthur and Bumble Bee antennae – brills!), Nick’s zombie novel, and overall the ‘Menzies’ episode was just a masterpiece of real laugh-out-loud moments.

Parks & Recreation continues to give me hope. I love that this show involves a lot of heart. Ultimately, it’s a very positive and optimistic show, which is something that I think our media could use a lot more of. And I genuinely feel so happy for Leslie – I think Amy Poehler has been unfairly overlooked all these years.

Louis CK’s comedy special Chewed Up from 2008 is on Netflix. I watched it this summer and nearly died. The funniest hour of comedy I’ve seen in a long time.

Movies       

I’ve written quite a bit about the movies I’ve seen this past year, but a few really hit me in different ways, and it’s too soon to pick my top movies of the year without having seen all the Oscar contenders. Although The Descendents was on last year’s awards circuit, I find myself thinking about that movie a lot – and it kicked off a wave of listening to Hawaiian music. I lived in Hawaii when I was younger for a short period of time, so the movie and the music helped me get in touch with some of the things that happened during that period.

I also didn’t see The Muppets until this year when it came out in London, and I got to go to a sneak peak at the London Comedy Festival with a Q&A with director James Bobin. That movie put a wide smile on my face all the way through. It was nostalgic to the max.

I loved the indie charmer Safety Not Guaranteed. It was a great little gem with my man Jake Johnson, Aubrey Plaza, and Mark Duplass. A very unique and sweet semi-science fiction film.

I also finally saw Drive this summer. What a fantastic mix of artistry, music, and performance. The soundtrack is great, and Ryan Gosling is as enigmatic as ever.

Music

“Don’t Move” – Phantogram

My most played song this year. Such a great jam.

 

“Hold On”  – Alabama Shakes

Perfect song for the summer. And all other seasons. And great for a post-break-up confidence boost.

Anything by The Cars

Was trying to not listen to another great new wave band because it reminded me too much of a certain someone, so I became obsessed with The Cars instead. I think it was a good decision.

“Take Me Home Tonight” – Eddie Money

I became reacquainted with this song and realized how amazing it is. And so is this video. You’re welcome.

“Faith” – George Michael

Man, I love me some George Michael. These music videos are spectacular. Clearly I had a thing for the 80s this year. But I don’t expect that to change.

“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” – The Shirelles

This simple oldie says it all. And gets me every time. Love it.

“Cry to Me” – Soloman Burke

Maybe one of the sexiest songs. I can’t stop listening.

“If You Wanna” – The Vaccines

Breakup pitfall. “If you wanna come back, it’s all right, it’s all right.” Fun tune though!

“Genesis” – Grimes

This girl’s got swag. Such a cool and weird sound. The vid takes about a minute to get into it.

“Only Love” – Ben Howard

Gotta have some love for the Brits. Saw him live this year. This is also a very sexy song.

“Countdown” – Beyonce

You can always count on Beyonce to make a girl feel better. And to make you want to just dance!

On that note, I hope the countdown to your New Year is full of fun and in good company!

Cheers XX

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Home is Where the Hobbit Is…

Prior to seeing The Hobbit earlier this week, I had just finished re-watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy in anticipation for the prequel. And for anyone that may have had the (mis)fortune of reading this blog, you may have picked up on the fact that I’m a big LOTR fan. The Fellowship of the Ring came out during my freshman year of high school, so the movies were a part of some pivotal developmental years, which I would ultimately like to think was for the better. I saw each film at least five times in the theater. I went to the midnight showings. I fell in love with all of the characters. Especially Aragorn.

Needless to say, I was pumped to see the movie, because I have to admit that the previews alone weren’t getting me as excited as I would have wished, and after starting to re-read The Hobbit, I was suddenly reminded why I love LOTR so much more – there’s only one prominent dwarf character in the trilogy. That may seem a bit harsh, but I just don’t find the dwarves all that compelling. And they’re just too darn hard to keep track of.

Now, I did have a few problems with the movie. Again, not only were there thirteen dwarves, but their looks were inconsistent. Maybe this has to do with each individual storyline as to why some of them had elaborate braids and long hair, and others…looked like men. My theory on the latter is that LOTR had eye candy. And let’s be honest here, dwarves aren’t your typical eye candy. So, Peter Jackson & Co. decided to throw in some handsome lads. Not that Martin Freeman isn’t a handsome lad – but when you transform The Office’s Tim into Bilbo Baggins he loses a certain allure. Another problem I had was with the execution of the main orc villain and how cartoony he looked. And his scenes were far too long.

However, I highly enjoyed the film, mostly because it brought me back into a fantasy world that I adore and it was fun to see familiar faces (and landscapes) again and being in on the inside jokes and references to LOTR. Of course, the absolute highlight of the film, and this is no spoiler, is the scene when Bilbo meets Gollum for the first time. I only wish this scene, of all scenes, would have been twice as long as all the others. But the scene was electric. Even though some audience members of the theater I was in were chuckling here and there in prior scenes, the introduction of Gollum made the entire audience come alive. People were laughing. I could feel the energy in the room, and the audience was eating it up and loving it – this was the moment people were waiting for. And the movie became a better movie from that point on.

There were also some moments that made me very emotional. In light of recent real events, I couldn’t help but tear up when Gandalf mentioned that the small things, the little acts of courage and thoughtfulness that Bilbo exudes, gives him hope in a world that can be so full of darkness and fear. And even though Bilbo loves the comforts of his home, his hearth, and has spent his entire life living inside of a hole in the ground, in the end he doesn’t let his own fears, and even complacency, get in the way from letting others have the very same right of having a place to call home. That said, I think we can all learn a great deal from this hairy-footed halfing.

George Michael’s Impeccable Taste in Parkas

In light of the previous post, I will vouch that the best Christmas song is, without question, Wham!’s ‘Last Christmas.’ Heck, maybe even one of the best songs. No other song captures that longing for an old flame to see you better off with someone else, yet at the same time you yearn for them and what you miss. There is something about the way George Michael sings that pulls at my heartstrings. Maybe it helps that I feel like I’ve lived this song (well, I think that helps in making any song that much more relatable and powerful). The song is so bittersweet, which I’ve witnessed as I get older, is a more and more appropriate summation of the holidays. At least when you’re single, anyway. Huzza!

 

A few notes on the video:

-May be one of the best songs, but may be one of the most anticlimactic music videos?

-It defines the 80s. The hair. The fashion. Gondolas. Everything about it.

– Why would that lady give up Georgie’s irresistible good looks? Oh wait, right…

-I want to be a guest at that Apres Ski party! Who’s with me?!

SNL-ize your Holiday

In light of the holiday season now in full swing, I’ve finally re-checked all of the holiday songs on my iTunes library. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, I am a holiday music fiend. Yes, I’m one of those people. But I like a lot of the unconventional songs and the constant barrage of creating modern-day covers of classics. I also like me some good ol’ humorous fun. I grew up as an avid watcher of Saturday Night Live (I’ve been a night owl from an early age) and while there are many great classic sketches associated with the holidays (Dan Aykroyd’s ‘Consumer Probe’ and Alec Baldwin’s Schweddy balls in ‘Delicious Dish’ come to mind), I’ve also loved the silly and weird songs that have been produced over the years.

The recurring sketch of ‘Tarzan, Tonto, & Frankenstein’ and their ‘Seasons Greetings’ from the early 90s is just ridiculous. But something about this super short sketch, and the mix of Jon Lovitz, Kevin Nealon, and the late great Phil Hartman, makes me laugh. Maybe it’s Hartman’s grunting?

 

Of course, Adam Sandler’s Chanukah Song, which produced two sequels, has become a holiday mainstay, and is probably one of the only Chanukah-related songs that gets mainstream airtime on the radio. As far as I know, anyway. I love seeing the original version on Weekend Update, but I really love how much people get into the song during this HBO special.

 

I love the silliness of the ‘Season’s Greetings’ with Horatio Sanz, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Kattan, and Tracy Morgan. All four make me laugh at different points, but I think Morgan’s repetitive but completely serious swaying is what always does it for me. http://www.spike.com/video-clips/3ag6mo/snl-christmas-song

 

‘D*** In a Box’ is not only a holiday classic, but it goes down in SNL Hall of Fame. From 2006, it’s probably one of the most referential, memorable sketches in recent history. Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake have incredible chemistry, which has clearly been milked for further Digital Shorts, and I love Maya Rudolph’s and Kristen Wiig’s supporting roles – their expressions kill me every time.