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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Emmy Bubble




What came first - the critical acclaim or the personal adoration?

This is the kind of question that rolls around in your brain once you notice that all your favorite shows of the year continually get Emmy nominations, when apparently the masses of the world could care less.

Recently, Variety reported the results of a survey (posed to five hundred adults over the age of 18) which revealed that the majority of people have not seen or even heard of the shows nominated at this years Emmy's.

Is the The Handmaid's Tale really going to infiltrate the culture and lead to change? Well that change might come at a tad slower pace, because apparently only 5% of those polled had seen the show. [Hopefully when the show wins Best Drama tomorrow night, more people will tune in.]

In a result that surprised no one, out of all this year's nominees, Modern Family fared notably with 56% of the group reporting they had tuned in to the ABC hit.

The show that fared the worst in these results was Master Of None, where 76% of those surveyed had not even heard of the show. Here I was living my life thinking that delightful Aziz Ansari was a household name and everyone was hanging out with their friends debating the merits of the Thanksgiving episode of Master Of None vs the season opener that is inspired by The Bicycle Thieves.

Much like Jon Hamm in that classic episode of 30 Rock [Oh, wait, that's another show no one watched! Although, if you are actually reading this, odds are you get the reference.], or last year during the election, I have brutally come to the conclusion that I am in a bubble. This time though, it's an entertainment bubble - definitely a less harsh bubble to find yourself in once reality cruelly pops it. 

This gets back to the main question - do cultural-a-holics like myself indulge in critically acclaimed shows just to stay up to date on what will get award nominations or does this small group of the population actually enjoy the shows that gets nominated? The "are you just trying to be smart and cool?" question.

I can only speak for myself and the answer is, yes, I honestly am obsessed with nearly all of the shows that are nominated for Emmy's this year. It's just a coincidence that I've seen almost all of them and I don't simply tune in because other people tell me I should like it. Seriously.

So, what makes these critically acclaimed gems not as interesting to the masses?

The popularity of nominees like Modern Family and This Is Us prove that most people are still sticking to what is found airing on one of the four big networks (ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS). These are two shows that can be comforting, funny, sweet, and moving. If you've had a rough week and can only watch a few shows regularly, it totally makes sense that most people would gravitate towards this kind of entertainment.

But don't people know we are in the "Golden Age Of Television"? For those that are willing to trod off their usual paths, there are endless shows  to consume that might make you look at life a little differently. Some  may be deemed "quirky" or deal with intense subject matter, but for anyone who has extra time, it's worth expanding your viewing habits.

That's what I try to do - dabbling a little in the obscure and what is trending in the popular realm. I'm here to rave about Riverdale just as much as talk about how Feud: Bette and Joan is one of my favorite things to ever air on television.




I also don't want to be here to just hate on hits like This Is Us, because it is a perfectly fine show. And yet, I will always be bitter that it is getting the high ratings and critical acclaim that Parenthood, a much better crafted family drama, should have received. Each episode of This Is Us begins with the promise of something great, and while the acting is across the board terrific, the writing never fully delivers. I desperately want to see what others see in that show (including the crying every week!), but it continually disappointed in how the stories unfolded. Also, I'm a real serious crier at movies and tv, not just a casual crier, and I only teared up a couple times throughout. Yet another thing people promised me that didn't happen.

There is always going to be differing opinions, and really, with the expansion of new channels and streaming services, television has developed to look more like the music industry. There will always be something for you, whether you like Top 40 or are more into the underground indie music scene. Who can be angry with that?

This year's Emmy's did a solid job of including shows from all over that spectrum. With Game Of Thrones out of contention this year, there were slots open for other shows and people, and that might be the only reason that House Of Cards is still part of the mighty elite. Serious question: does anyone still consider that a delight to watch?

When it comes to specific nominees, like usual, I'm repping hard for Elisabeth Moss (nominated for The Handmaid's Tale), who between other shows like, Mad Men and Top Of The Lake, continually proves that she is one of the finest actors working today. I'm also rooting for Donald Glover (Atlanta), Judith Light (Transparent), Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), a win for Stranger Things, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, and Billy on the Street.

Also (feeling like a pattern year after year), can anyone breathe after reading the nominees in the Best Actress in a Movie/Miniseries category? Who could pick one? It's impossible and insane! All my favorites of the year are rounded up in that category:

Carrie Coon (Fargo), Felicity Huffman (American Crime), Nicole Kidman (Big Little Lies), Jessica Lange (Feud: Bette and Joan), Reese Witherspoon (Big Little Lies), and Susan Sarandon (Feud: Bette and Joan).

Carrie Coon should really be nominated for Best Actress from The Leftovers, but she definitely was also a highlight in this latest season of Fargo. It is also a bummer that American Crime was cancelled. That show is easily the most challenging and truthful examination of our culture being done by any form of entertainment today. It was really fantastic while it lasted.

For the full list of nominees, click here, and don't forget to watch tomorrow at 8 p.m Eastern/5 p.m. Pacific. Or tune in to E! sometime in the early afternoon and watch them struggle to fill a whole day of coverage with limited resources. 

Maybe one day I will crawl out of the bubble, but for now, shhhh, I have too many shows to watch.

Until next time.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Movie A Day...Might Keep The Box Office In Play?



 
Apparently nobody wanted to go out to the movies this weekend. In terms of money, it was the worst weekend in 16 years! This probably has to do with the fact that the movies released recently were, as I heard two local radio hosts put it, flicks no one had even heard of before.

At an average of $12 - $18 a pop at my local theaters, most people will probably want to buy tickets for something they were actually excited about seeing. These higher costs would lead less and less people to casually stop by the theaters and just go see whatever is playing. If these rates continue to decrease, movie chains will probably look to anything to help boost crowds coming to hang in front of their screens.

One company might have an idea of how to rectify the issue.

About a year ago I looked into a subscription service that could inspire more people to get off their couch and out into the movie theaters. This company, MoviePass, promises that for just a flat rate per month, you can have access to a ticket to one movie in the theater per day.

Such an opportunity instantly got my motor running, specifically because it feeds my two dearest passions – going to see movies in the theater and a good deal. However, there were two big catches - back then, the price was $40 a month and you would have to commit to a full year up front, not just paying at a month by month basis.

Even though the cost could easily be covered by just seeing one movie a week over a month, the year long commitment felt too much like moving in with a dude you just met. You really aren't confident about how this whole thing is going to work out and it would be better to have an easy out.

It became even more clear that this company should be avoided after reading endless criticisms about the company's less than stellar (aka garbage - allegedly) app that has to be used to purchase tickets.

Cut to last week and MoviePass made a big announcement that instantly led to their service being flooded with new members. It was reported that they are lowering their price to $9.95 per month - a price that  matches every other entertainment service that America has made essential in their lives. 

For some reason anything under $10 seems to be basically free. Something that's $11.99 at Target takes about an hour of extra thought before it ends up in my cart, but something that is merely $2 less seems like a no brainier. No question I will be buying that $9.99 clearance kitschy elephant tape dispenser. Do I even use tape? I mean, probably!

Of course my brain starts trying to work out how MoviePass can possibly make money with such a large drop in their pricing. One possibility is banking on laziness. Many people will sign up just for the cheap cost and then not use it. But for every careless person there will be an uber subscriber (aka me) who will take on this hot deal and utilize it to the max.

Odds are there could be a month where I would go to a movie every day just because I could! Check out that Emojii movie? Why not - bring it on! I basically already paid for it anyway!

In reality, I'm rooting for MoviePass to help revive a culture of people spending their nights out at the theater just seeing whatever is out there playing instead of glued to Netflix all the time. Watching movies and television at home is great and all, but it leads to distracted viewing with people wandering back and forth and pausing to take snack breaks.

Ultimately nothing compares to the completely immersive experience of going out to the movies. You can laugh with strangers and let go, crying unabashedly in the darkness. Sometimes you might even make new friends with other audience members. [Oh - is that just me?] Then everyone leaves once the lights come up, buzzing with either great or horrible stances on what you all just witnessed.

Sure, sometimes there will be that dude down the aisle texting for 15 minutes on his huge bright phone. Yet, giving him the side eye is all part of the experience. Interacting with others might be a lost art in the future, but hey, let's keep real life human interplay, both positive and negative, going for as long as we can. 

While championing the success of the movie theaters might not be for the masses, it should definitely be taken on by those who are brave. Try to at least partially fight off some of the advancements easing you towards never leaving your house. There is a whole world out there...for now.

Hopefully MoviePass can help hold the torch for this entertainment tradition, because, boy, oh boy, these institutions seem like they need all the help they can get.

Until next time. 


Monday, August 21, 2017

Total E-Clipse Of The Sun




T-shirt sales, marking up the price of special viewing glasses, and non-stop news coverage about the millions of people who will be taking to the highways causing traffic jams - these are all signs that point to a large scale event marked by the usual tinges of capitalism and American idealism.

It wouldn't be this country if we all didn't react in a big way and turn everything into a brouhaha. Although, a lot of it sounds negative, it is not all bad. There are just those things to be prepared for, like heading to any music festival where you will probably be spending $20 on a hamburger and fighting with people for a parking spot. We all want to be a part of history and if I don't get the t-shirt that says I was there, than hell, it probably didn't even happen!

Aside from that nonsense, there really is nothing I love more than an occasion that upsets the normal day to day activities. The enthusiasm behind people wanting to take the day off and just experience a natural phenomenon is thrilling. Those that are lucky to be able to do so, can just take the moment to relax and spend a second to think about (as Carl Sagan put it) how we are all just on a pale blue dot, "on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam."

We can get so caught up in the motions, so days like tomorrow can be a nice change of pace. I just wish we didn't have to fight over those viewing glasses. Shouldn't all the states in the path of the eclipse mail those out to everyone for free? [My future non-profit, “Fun For All - Like Seriously”, will be in charge of this by the next eclipse – count on it!]

National events seem to level the playing field as well, which we all could agree is something we need in our country's current upheaval. We are all here just trying to survive. That sameness will only be more evident tomorrow and will hopefully occur to many while looking up under the same sky.

Sure, these poetic ideals are not on everyone's mind. Many will just be trying to get that perfect #eclipselfie. Even I thought about live tweeting the event that I plan on catching while sitting on a Washington beach eating donuts. Tweet gems like, “It's allll happening!” and “It's allllll happening...a little more!!” seem really integral to send out into the world. But joking around and being involved in that social experience is all just part of the cultural phenomenon these days. I enjoy it as much as the next millennial or really adult/humans of all ages.

Although, I do want to offer the most obvious advice on the planet. Take that Snap of you watching the eclipse with bunny ears and tweet out that joke, and then just put the phone down. Step away from it. Just do it. Enjoy it all before the moment is lost. Only then will you truly be able to remember where you were when this event happened. People like my grandma remember where they were during the eclipse in the 1970s. She for sure was not occupied by technology.

Over the years our phones have made aspects of life more entertaining and the ability to share our experiences with people in all walks of life is extraordinary, but sometimes returning to more simple times, when we could leave the house without a phone glued to our hands, seems like the better answer.

I really do hope that only goodness is on people's minds as the sky goes dark tomorrow, and not the macabre. Other pop culture devotees have surely been thinking about instances of eclipses in books, movies, TV, and music in preparation for tomorrow's event. Stephenie Meyer seems to have a monopoly on our collective reaction to the word “eclipse”, or maybe many of you have escaped that connection, either way, there are more pop culture "eclipses" worth noting than just those revolving around fighting over a werewolf and vampire.

Having grown up in a family obsessed with Stephen King, the one example I have not been able to get out of my mind the last couple weeks is his intense masterpiece, Dolores Claiborne. Anyone who has read the book or caught the excellent film adaption starring bad-ass Kathy Bates, knows that a large plot point involves an eclipse falling over a town in Maine (of course). King delves into the idea of what can happen during the two minutes of darkness while everyone's attentions are focused on the sky...

I don't know if King found news articles about people doing bad things during solar eclipses or if that just came from his own wildly creative mind, but let's still keep our intentions good for tomorrow. Don't try to rob stores or cause a disturbance. Hopefully the worst thing you do tomorrow is fall over while trying to frame the perfect eclipse photo with your phone. While embarrassing, that is something we can all handle.

Soak up those dark rays, maybe blast Madonna's Ray of Light album, or tune in for Bonnie Tyler's performance of Total Eclipse Of The Heart (perfect pop culture moments of fun like this is why I love living!), and, most of all, just pay attention. After all, you may not be around the next time the moon falls between the earth and the sun. Celebrate in the bold and big way America does best. Also maybe think about sharing those viewing glasses with your neighbor.

Live that best Solar Eclipse Life.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Well That Was A Twist aka The Oscars Were Cuckoo


In an ending that maybe one risky gambler in Vegas predicted, both Moonlight and La La Land were named Best Picture last night. Although, it turns out it was not a tie or a joke, it was just one of the biggest flubs in live television history.

Once the mistake was noticed, the folks of La La Land welcomed (what turned out to be) the actual winners up on the stage - the talented group of people who made Moonlight.

So, how did this happen? That is the giant, smooth, gold man shaped question in the room.

After a night of wild speculation about rigged systems and conspiracies, a simple explanation was confirmed earlier today - there are multiple copies of every envelope (gasp!). Someone grabbed another Best Actress envelope off the "other" pile instead of the Best Picture envelope off the "no seriously, this is the real stack" pile. An honest mistake, but such a simplistic, seemingly lax system really breaks down the strict secrecy visage that led us all to believe that each envelope is held in a locked briefcase strapped to a body guard named Hank until the second the award is announced. Who would have known that there are extra award envelopes just falling all over the place backstage. Quite frankly, it is surprising that this has not happened every year.

Even if Warren Beatty had stopped the whole shenanigans and said into the mic, "Excuse me, this looks funny. Please God help me not look like an ass on TV," there still would have been quite the mystery to explain once a lady with a Britney Spears circa 2001 head mic ran out in a sweating panic to hand over the correct envelope.

Their names might be lighting up all the headlines today, but of course neither Beatty or his presenting partner, Bonnie GD Parker, aka Faye Dunaway, are to blame. After watching the clip for the millionth time (because the news could not stop replaying that shocker), it did seem like Beatty was trying to show the envelope to Dunaway to get a second opinion about its inaccuracy.

Now we know (Dunaway pay attention) the following: if someone is ever stalling and looks at you with an awkward smile and intense eyes, they are not making a joke, they are simply covering their panic and are looking for an out. Oh, and if someone hands you a card, always read what it says in your head before saying it out loud. Just some lessons you all can use the next time you present an award.

That twist ending could not have been more ironic for this awards season, a year which found people on Twitter early Sunday morning declaring their anger over La La Land winning Best Picture, hours before the ceremony even began. Now that the mystery behind that wrong envelope has been solved, everyone can move on and give it up to Moonlight for taking the top movie prize of the year! Who am I kidding - people are going to be talking about that mix up for the next century, but hopefully between all that bewilderment and gossip, more of this country will go soak up the stunning, emotional film watching experience that is the newly crowned Best Picture of the year. The last shot in the movie is so gorgeous it should be framed.

I am a huge fan of both movies that were called out as Best Picture last night, so all the immense (and I feel, totally unwarranted) hatred for La La Land was beginning to become infuriating. There was a deep passion behind wanting Moonlight to win (I was with you all), but why does another movie need to be cut down in the process? That negativity really bums me out, especially when 2016 was jam packed with movies sharing beautiful human stories about people from across this country and world.

All drama aside, I was thrilled that Moonlight was the real Best Picture. In the numerous years I have been trying to see all the Best Picture nominees before Oscar Sunday [A feat I finally accomplished! Stop, please, hold the applause!], no set of nominees have been more wonderful and memorable across the board than this year. Even Hacksaw Ridge, a movie I thought I would hate, was completely riveting in the last 45 minutes.

Going in knowing there was a grand assortment of flicks to choose from, it was honestly exciting to then see the awards nicely distributed between numerous movies. We all know it is annoying when a single movie wins all the awards (except for Titanic, because it is hard to deny that it is flawless). Six out of the nine best picture nominees won at least one award. Sorry Lion, Hidden Figures, and Hell Or High Water - you are still tremendous.

Specifically Kenneth Lonergan's win for Manchester By The Seas's screenplay had me cheering when it beat La La Land. After watching it two times through, it really sinks in how that movie's backbone is the strongly written witty, brilliant, and heartbreaking dialogue. All the characters feel simply natural, just like if they were your family, friends, or neighbors. 

We are also waking up in a world where Viola Davis finally has that statue in her hands. Her commitment on the highest level makes her a genuine welcome presence in anything. I get excited seeing her face pop up in those Vaseline commercials. In Fences she makes you feel the depths of her character's pain and happiness and is riveting the whole time she is on screen, even when she is simply crocheting and laughing out behind her house listening to her husband (Denzel Washington, in one of the finest roles I have ever seen him take on) tell stories . 

All of the winners are worth noting, but I can not leave this year behind without applauding Mahershala Ali's quietly powerful role playing a guiding light to a young boy, Emma Stone for winning in a role that leans on comedy more than the usually awarded intense drama, the beautiful, joyous, and invigorating music from La La Land, and Casey Affleck (albeit problematic in real life) who perfectly embodied the internal pain of, I will say it, the absolute saddest tragedy I have ever seen play out in a movie.

Aside from the honorees, the ceremony itself (hosted by Jimmy Kimmel) had some pretty enjoyable moments. One weird, yet delightful bit was the group of tourists that were grabbed off a tour bus and sent to parade past the front row of the auditorium and ended up getting enthusiastic hugs from Queen Meryl, among others. At first the lack of surprise on some of their faces made it all look staged, and then it all went on far too long to be actually planned.

I would rock ripped shorts, a light up fanny pack, and carry five selfie sticks on live TV if it meant I could get a hug from Meryl and Dev Patel. Nobody summed up all the shenanigans better than treasured NPR Podcast personality, Sam Sanders:


Now that the Academy Awards are over, this is the time when more of the movies will start being released for people to stream and rent in the comfort of their own home. Oh also, important message, the male cast members of Moonlight have become Calvin Klein models.

Okay, now I'm back after being extremely distracted. Anyway, I can not speak more highly about all the Best Picture nominees, even Hacksaw Ridge, which is far from a favorite, but it still has the story of an extraordinary real hero as its central focus. Some others, like Arrival, I'm still trying to unpack in my head after watching it several days ago.

From a musical to extreme drama and compelling coming of age story to sci-fi and a modern western - this year's nominees are a broad spectrum that represents many different movie genres. The package of each movie might look a little different, but at the heart of each one is a story about human life, dreams, and connection with others. Like Viola said in her acceptance speech, "So here's to August Wilson who exhumed and exalted the ordinary people." There are a lot of those ordinary stories left to tell.

In total, 62 movies were nominated for an Academy Award this year. I saw 20 before the awards yesterday - lets see how many more I can tackle next year. Here's to kicking off (hopefully) another wonderful year at the movies

Until next time!


Other nominee recommendations: The scene where Channing Tatum dances in a sailor suit in Hail, Caesar! (or watch the whole movie - although it is not a Coen best), Kubo and the Two Strings, The Lobster (!), Florence Forster Jenkins (Meryl + Hugh Grant are a delight), and Captain Fantastic (partial to those Pacific Northwest sights).


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