Media & Culture

Survivor’s Most Troubling, Yet Beautiful Moment Ever

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Still processing what happened on Survivor this past Wednesday. What happened transcended the game, and one castaway crossed a line that couldn’t be un-crossed, doing something awful that had nothing to do with gameplay: he outed someone as transgender that wasn’t wanting or asking to be outed. Sometimes Survivor brings out the worst in people, albeit usually within the confines of gameplay with the result of being entertaining TV for those watching (case in point: Johnny Fairplay’s lie about a dead grandma who wasn’t really dead! It was wickedly epic.). This was something different altogether. But then, as we see in the other tribemates’ reactions and Zeke’s courage and grace under unthinkable circumstances, Survivor brings out the best in people too. The Tribal Council was upsetting, repulsive, and moving all at once. There’s much to learn here about how such an act can hurt someone (and in some cases put them in physical danger or worse). Just as there are plenty of moral dilemmas that arise on whether CBS should have aired this in the first place. But I think they made the right choice—this is a real thing that happened, and it has consequences for real people. Props to Probst for handling this how he did and being an ally for Zeke. You can read Zeke’s powerful essay to get his perspective and learn how growing up watching Survivor, and now playing Survivor, has impacted his life for the better…and hopefully continues to do so!

Zeke in his own words: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/…/survivor-zeke-smith-oute…

Wednesday night’s Tribal Council: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BXqrOSNKn0

Resource for being a better ally of transgender people: http://www.glaad.org/transgender/allies

 

The Influence of David Bowie in Pop Culture

There’s no doubt that the late David Bowie was an innovative, influential, genre-bending artist. And who didn’t love him, at least in some capacity? From the casual listeners to the fanatics, Bowie had an impact on all of us thanks to his presence in the pop culture zeitgeist—and a unique presence at that. I grew up getting into movies and television at an early age—probably too early—thanks to my parents’ interests. But I can’t say the same for music. Music for me was something that I later had to discover for myself, and a lot of that started in middle and high school as I became more and more in tune with my personality and growing tastes. Movies and TV were a gateway for me in learning more about music, and I was certainly someone who loved buying movie soundtracks (I still have the Batman Forever soundtrack, on cassette tape, because…you know…”Kiss from a Rose”). I’m pretty sure I knew who David Bowie was, and was aware of this guy called Ziggy Stardust, as a young child, but it wasn’t until he started popping up on soundtracks of movies that I got into in middle school that I actually started listening to him. Below I’ve rounded up just a few of the movie scenes that either play his music or reference him in some way, plus television shows that either feature Bowie or are dedications to him. I’m sure there are plenty more that I’m forgetting here, or just am not aware of, but that just goes to show how influential he was, and will remain to be.

2001’s A Knight’s Tale has to the real first time I remember hearing a David Bowie song and thinking, “What song is this? I love it!” The characters of this medieval set piece dance to “Golden Years,” and it’s a funky and hypnotic affair. Plus, I always think of Heath Ledger dancing when I hear it now. And I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.

About a month after A Knight’s Tale was released, here comes Moulin Rouge (a movie I was certifiably obsessed with), which features three Bowie songs. You have his cover of “Nature Boy,” then Beck covers his “Diamond Dogs,” and then of course the Elephant Love Medley, which samples and adapts the lyrics of “Heroes.”

 

Adam Sandler must be a big Bowie fan, because at least two of his movies reference the songs “China Girl” and “Space Oddity.”

The Wedding Singer

Mr. Deeds

 

And maybe Drew Barrymore has a thing for him too, because in the sequel Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle we get a short scene of her character having an alter ego, Lady Insane, complete with Bowie’s Aladdin Sane makeup, at the :50 second mark. Get it??

 

This is so random, but I saw the movie Bandslam on a bus in South America. It was a very long ride, so I had no real choice but to watch it. I somehow remember the plot, that the teenage protagonist’s music idol was David Bowie. Here’s an awkward scene where he tries to make some moves on Vanessa Hudgens, while voice-overing a letter to Bowie.

Who can forget this scene in Inglourious Basterds, leading to the climactic burning down of the theater? You’ve got your lady in red, and set along to “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” this montage is moody and quintessentially Tarantino and Bowie.

I can’t find the right clip, but “Moonage Daydream” pops up in Guardians of the Galaxy, as our heroes travel through space. Perfectly fitting for our Ziggy.

Another one where the clip just isn’t out there, but I wrote in my post about my favorite pop culture moments of 2015 that I loved the montage in The Martian when “Starman” graces our ears. This fan-made video gives you the idea of how those iconic guitar riffs set to outer space, and the moving, human story of The Martian, gel together so well.

My favorite Kiwi folk duo are also Bowie super fans. The sixth episode of Flight of the Conchords, aptly named “Bowie,” features not only their own song in the style of Bowie, but also features Jemaine Clement doing several specific Bowie impersonations.

“Bowies in Space”

 

For some reason a couple of years ago, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly decided to remake, nearly word for word, the “Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy” video that featured David Bowie and Bing Crosby. It ends with a classic proclamation from Bowie (aka Ferrell), yelling, “I’m David fuckin’ Bowie!” Indeed.

And then there’s Bowie’s cameo on Extras. To think that Bowie himself did this speaks to his sense of humor. And it somehow turns the lyric “little fat man” into a catchy tune.

Why We Need Jon Stewart #JonVoyage

It’s not often that I’ve found myself yelling at the television, “Yes! That’s exactly it!” or joyously agreeing with flailing arms—except for when I’m watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Jon Stewart was always the guy you knew you could count on when you needed someone to be on your side. I’ll miss his brilliant way of mixing the serious with the lofty, poignancy with the idiosyncrasies, and ultimately how much gravitas he brought to a late night talk show on cable—often more gravitas to any real news program. And that’s why I’ll really miss him: he’s a voice we desperately need among the loud, yelling, convoluted chatter that unfortunately takes precedent in our news media. Jon, I hope you grace our television screens real soon, in some form or another, because you’ll truly be missed.

Media’s War on Carbon

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One of the many reasons why I studied media is to better understand its role in society, both at a macro and micro level. Media is made up of various discourses and within discourse there is power – power to influence, power to mold public perceptions. That said, this ‘war on carbon’ enrages me to no end because climate change is a real issue that is being politicized and manipulated by continually being referred to as ‘global warming’ (for starters) by unfortunate influencers like Donald Trump and all the ‘experts’ at Fox News (How do so many people not believe in science these days?!). By continuing to label climate change as global warming, it gives gatekeepers of news and information the opportunity to say it doesn’t exist, simply because of the record low temperatures this winter in some parts of the country (meanwhile there’s record heat in other parts of the country/world). This allows them to wag their fingers at scientists and science itself. It becomes a one-sided debate, usually of anchors on TV yelling at…someone? And this gives everyone at FOX News, and other outlets too, the upper hand in the public discourse. Ultimately, this not only puts their viewers at a disadvantage, but it also, unfortunately, pervades the attitudes of our politicians.

It is a disservice to all of us (read: humanity) to not appropriately and maturely address this issue. As with countess other issues, there is a need to un-politicize and course-correct the discourse. Once again, “The Daily Show” sums it up perfectly…and in a much more entertaining way than anything I just wrote! Watch the full segment here.

‘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

Will Ferrell & Zach Galifianakis: Talk Show Guest Gold (with a side of Hamm)

I took pleasure this last week in watching the multiple appearances of Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianikis on various late night talk shows since each night they managed to do something new. So many times actors who are promoting a film pop up on the talk show circuit and fall victim to repeating the same stories. Not Will and Zach. As comedians, they’ve kept the promotion of their upcoming film The Campaign light and fun. They both stopped by The Late Show, Zach swapped spots with Jimmy Fallon, and they both graced Jon Stewart with an interviewing intervention, with a little extra help. Will Ferrell has always been a particularly favorite guest of mine, ever since his sexy leprechaun appearance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Get a taste of their shticks below!

Monday: Will sports the controversial USA Olympic Team beret with Dave.

 

Tuesday: After an earlier stunt in which his suit gets drenched, Zach channels Paul Shaffer.

 

Wednesday: Zach and Jimmy Fallon get a case of trading places on Late Night

 

Thursday: Will and Zach don’t like lame interview questions from Jon Stewart

Watch here!

 

 

“Will you accept my hose?”

“In the real world, most men would be vilified for dating twenty women at once…but honey child, this ain’t the real world.”

If you have ever found yourself loving The Bachelor/Bachelorette, and hating yourself for it, then repent no more! All the painstaking and guilt-ridden hours spent watching the most dramatic rose ceremonies ever has now paid off because you will surely enjoy this incredibly spot on and hilarious web series parody, Burning Love. It stars familiar faces of The State fame, such as Ken Marino and Michael Ian Black, is written by Marino’s wife, Erica Omaya, and is full of some other popular comedians and actors. It nails all of the female archetypes, including three dental hygienists (one is retired – and 84!) and Black’s deadpan delivery a la Chris Harrison is eerily accurate. Episode 10 premieres tomorrow – you can watch it here.