Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Let’s All Go To The Movies Edition

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You may have noticed that movie reviews lately have been few and far between on the blog. That’s because for some reason I just haven’t been going to the movies as often as I used to. There’s absolutely no good reason for this, other than the fact that up until recently there haven’t been a lot of movies that I have been all that psyched to see. Now there’s a bunch of movies that I’m looking forward to, but now I need to try and squeeze them all in before they disappear from the cinema. I’m woefully behind on my early Oscar Death Race prep; while most of the movies that are likely to be nominated haven’t been released yet, I should have been trying to get some of the potential foreign films and documentaries out of the way. Moonlight is a shoe-in for a bunch of nominations, but the showtimes have made it difficult for me to see. Thankfully most television shows wrap up their fall season next week (if they haven’t already), so I can fully commit to returning to the mulitplex on a more regular basis. I love going to the movies when I’m there, but sometimes getting myself to the theater is the larger battle. But I do love a challenge and I’ve never actually completed the Oscar Death Race of seeing ALL the nominees in every category, so that’s a motivator. So get ready for a barrage of movie reviews; that used to be the bread and butter of the blog so we’re going back to basics.  And now that it’s in writing, I can’t back out.

And now…..on to the weekly pop culture roundup……

Television

 

Movies

Trailers

  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2:

 

  • Sherlock series 4:

 

  • The Belko Experiment:

 

  • Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events:

 

  • The Circle:

 

  • Spectral:

 

  • Fist Fight:

 

  • Big Little Lies:

 

  • Office Christmas Party:

 

  • Sleight:

 

  • Death Stranding:

 

  • The Autopsy of Jane Doe:

 

  • Legion:

 

  • The Mummy:

 

  • Season 2 of Con Man:

 

  • Nashville season 5:

 

  • Transformers: The Last Knight:

 

  • Almost Paris:

 

  • Chasing Cameron:

 

  • Floyd Norman: An Animated Life:

 

Music

Theater

Books

Stand-Up

Odds and Ends

 

Mashups and Supercuts

  • What if Wes Anderson directed The Witch:

 

  • Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag” in the style of Janis Joplin:

 

  • Chance the Rapper’s favorite improvised noises:

 

  • A mashup of movies that were released in 2016:

 

  • The apocalypse, as told by movies:

 

  • A metal remix of “All I Want for Christmas is You”:

 

  • Literal Bohemian Rhapsody:

 

Some Thoughts on Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

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This Thanksgiving I was thankful for many things – my friends, my family, my health, my job, and that there would soon be new episodes of Gilmore Girls available. Forget turkey and all the fixings – this is what I was most excited about during my Thanksgiving break. The fact that I held off watching the new episodes until 3 pm on Friday is a testament to my willpower and my affection for my sister-in-law, as I was she was having a Gilmore Girls viewing party. I’m not going to lie – I was very tempted to watch the four new episodes before I went and then just watch them again with everyone else. Thankfully I was busy binging another show – more on that in a later post – so that kept me on the straight and narrow until it was time for the party. Distraction is a good thing. Though it was a late-ish start, we still managed to get through all 6 hours of new programming. We are hard core.

Overall, I have to say that I really enjoyed the new episodes; unlike other revivals of some of my favorite shows, Gilmore Girls: A Year In the Life was not a disappointment. It wasn’t perfect – it was definitely a little uneven and messy in part and some of the cameos felt too shoehorned in – but when I heard the famous final four words of the series, I was satisfied with the journey (random detours and all). It was just really nice to spend time with these characters again.

All the actors seamlessly stepped back into their roles and though many of them look a lot different than they did when we left them nine years ago (Miss Patty (Liz Torres) is now super skinny!), the spirit of their characters are alive and well. Lauren Graham (Lorelai) once proves that she may be the only creature on the planet that can flawlessly carry off the rapid-fire dialogue of Amy Sherman-Palladino and company, with Kelly Bishop (Emily) and Liza Weil (Paris) a close second. Scott Patterson is instantly Luke, gruff and loveable as always and I didn’t know it was possible but Kirk (Sean Gunn) has somehow gotten even weirder. It feels like these people have been playing these characters forever, not picking them back up after a long absence. The characters have evolved a bit, but the same through line that made these great characters when the show started is more than present. That doesn’t always mean that the characters are more likeable; I struggled with the likeability of Rory (Alexis Bledel) occasionally during the original run of the show and that is still the case in the new episodes; ultimately you root for her, but it’s hard to miss that she is a bit entitled and lost during the revival. I’m still solidly #TeamLogan (Matt Czuchry), but A Year In the Life softened me tremendously on Jess (Milo Ventimiglia). That character has really changed the most, for the better. I’m surprised as anyone that I kind of like Jess now.

The 90-minute run time per episode were both a blessing and a curse; on the one hand, the longer run time allowed them to cover a lot of ground and made the story feel more fleshed out and complete in a few number of episodes. I really liked the framing device of the revival focusing on the four seasons of one year. That concept permitted the writers the freedom to explore stories with longer arcs and show the change over time; this is especially apparent in how the show handles how various characters handle grief; one of the most compelling story lines follows how Emily adjusts to the new normal of her life after the death of her husband of 50 years. It’s beautifully done and because the four episodes cover an entire year, you can really see her transformation.

The downside of the long runtime is that sometimes the show indulges certain storylines for a bit too long. One glaring example of this is the musical about Stars Hollow that appears in the “Summer” episode; it’s a funny joke that goes on for about two minutes too long. The performances are great, but the writers’ indulgence ultimately hurts the overall effectiveness of the joke. I was charmed by it, but then I was bored with it. Because of the longer runtime, the episodes sometimes feel a bit unfocused or like they are filling time to justify the length. I would have preferred a slightly leaner and meaner set of Gilmore Girls episodes that had the occasional diversion but that kept the writing tight and that knew when to move on. Sometimes the 90 minutes felt a lot longer than 90 minutes. Of course, watching all the episodes back-to-back probably exasperated this issue, so that’s partially on me.

My other critique of the new episodes is how they handled the Sookie situation. I understand that the writers were in a pinch, not sure if Melissa McCarthy would reprise her role and how long she would be available if she did, but that uncertainty resulted in some very disjointed story telling. The initial explaining away of her absence didn’t make a ton of sense, especially since her husband Jackson (Jackson Douglas) appears to be in Stars Hollow. The idea that Sookie would be around and not an active part of Lorelai’s life is unbelievable at best and absurd once she does eventually turn up only to disappear again. It was certainly a difficult situation to write around, but the execution ultimately didn’t work at all.

As for the final four words – which I won’t reveal – I was satisfied with them, though I think that they would have worked a little better if they had been used when the show ended its original run in 2007. There is certainly room for more Gilmore Girls episodes down the road, but I’m content with how A Year In the Life ended despite the fact that it didn’t wrap everything up. I wouldn’t turn my nose up at more episodes, but I don’t need them for any sense of closure. A Year in the Life succeeded in undoing a lot of the damage of the final season of the original episodes and paying tribute to the death of Edward Hermann. I’ll admit that we had a big reaction to hearing the final four words and it was initially kind of surprising that was how Amy Sherman-Palladino wanted to end the show, but the more I thought about it the more I liked it and thought it was fitting finale for the series.

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life will make most fans of the original run of the series happy. It can be messy and uneven, but when it really hits its stride it rivals the best moment of the series. A Year in the Life does not feel like a reasonable facsimile of Gilmore Girls; this is not imitation or going through the motions, but it truly feels like going home again. If this is really it, I’m totally OK with that. I’m just glad that I got another six hours with these actors and characters and that Amy Sherman-Palladino got to wrap things up on her own terms. Where she leads, I will follow…if that’s another Gilmore Girls revival, I’m in. If not, I am more than happy with the state of affairs in Stars Hollow.

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is currently streaming on Netflix.

Operation Gilmore Girls

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Old TV shows never die; they get revivals.

As you may have heard, new episodes of Gilmore Girls are coming to Netflix on November 25th, more than eight years after the original end of the series. The fast-talking, pop culture-obsessed, coffee-guzzling, quirky mother daughter duo of Lorelai and Rory GIlmore will return, along with most of the original Stars Hollow gang. Revisiting a TV series or movie is always a dicey proposition, but when news of this revival was revealed I was delighted; creator Amy Sherman-Palladino was back at the helm after being fired for the show’s seventh season and would be able to end her series on her own terms; it’s been speculated for years what the final four words of the series would be and know we’ll likely finally find out. Of course, there is a chance that they won’t be able to recapture the same magic of the initial run, but I’m cautiously optimistic. Spending more time with these characters is something that I didn’t expect, so I’m grateful for the new episodes, even if they aren’t as good. Really, my only disappointment is that they weren’t able to pull this off while Edward Herrmann was still alive; the absence of Richard Gilmore will cast a long shadow over the new episodes.

The return of the show, however, has put me in something of a bind; as much as I loved Gilmore Girls when it was originally on, I never actually finished the series. I bailed out around the time that the show introduced the character of April, which for me was just one step too far. In all honestly, it wasn’t April per se that was the problem – though she was clearly a plot contrivance just to add drama – but it was how the characters on the show reacted to her introduction. For me. It was just too far a departure from what we would expect from these characters. After pining away for Lorelai for the previous six years. It was unfathomable that Luke would not only postpone their wedding but would jeopardize his entire relationship with her. Lorelai, on the other hand, was never one to hold her tongue, so the idea that she wouldn’t clearly communicate how she was feeling was also something of a betrayal. These weren’t the characters that I loved anymore and I was tired of the show finding ways to keep Luke and Lorelai apart. I had some other issues with the show as well – I always thought Lane deserved better than the plotline that they saddled her with – so somewhere around the sixth season, I just stopped watching and never looked back. I’ve watched the first five season multiple times thanks to re-runs, but whenever April pops up, I know it’s time for me to bid adieu.

However, I am a completest by nature and even though I vaguely know what happened in the remaining episodes – thanks Wikipedia – I wanted to watch what I had skipped before the new episodes debuted. Unfortunately time really got away from me thanks to work, the election and life in general; I suddenly realized that Thanksgiving was next week. I think part of me was putting it off since I kind of dreaded having to revisit these episodes. I do love a challenge, though, so this didn’t change my resolve. Instead, I started on a Gilmore Girls crash course binge watching plan; because I’m a nerd, I even scheduled out how many episodes I would have to get through every day to make sure that I was ready for our Gilmore Girls viewing party on Friday. I wasn’t sure exactly when I stopped watching so I decided to pick up when April made her first appearance, which was much earlier in the show than I remembered – she pops up in the ninth episode of the sixth season. I’d kind of been banking on her showing up closer to the end of the sixth season. So I had a little over a week to get through 36 episodes. A bit daunting, but still doable. In fact, at this point I’m even ahead of schedule; one of the perks of not being able to sleep is that I can power through more episodes in a night than I had planned on. I knocked out 11 episodes in two days; the nice thing about Gilmore Girls is that it isn’t a complex show. There aren’t a lot of plot twists and the show doesn’t require your undivided attention, so I can do other things while moving though the episodes pretty quickly.

These still aren’t my favorite episodes, but despite my previously stated issues with the later part of the series there are still moments that I enjoy. As someone who is #teamLogan, I’m in a stretch where he’s less likable, but my allegiance has not wavered. Really, at this point of the show a lot of these characters are in their least likable incarnations, but the occasionally goofy glimpses of what the show used to be show through and make it worthwhile. That’s mostly thanks to the strong bench of supporting characters that the show has; Lorelai and Rory many be insufferable on occasion, but the good people of Stars Hollow are there to pick up the slack.

Jimmy Fallon is apparently doing his own Gilmore Girls binge, though he is way further behind than I am.

 

I’ve been thinking about his #GilmoreGirlsTop4 as I’ve been working my through my marathon. Even without the caveat that Lorelai and Rory can’t be considered as the four best characters, I don’t think that they would have cracked my list, which is kind of impressive since they are the stars of the show. I’ve gone back and forth, but my #GIlmoreGirlsTop4 would look like this:

  1. Babette

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Babette isn’t a main character – she usually has a few minutes of screen time – but she lights up every scene that she’s in. She has some great one-liners, is partners in crime with Miss Patty, eats oatmeal, and calls everyone “sugar.” What else do you need? I’d watch a spin-off series that tells the origin story of her relationship with her husband Morey.

 

  1. Paris Geller

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When Paris debuted as Rory’s nemesis at Chilton Prep School, there wasn’t much to indicate that she would become a fan favorite. Paris is difficult and a little crazy, but she owns who she is and she does not suffer fools gladly; she has some of the best insults.  She’s a good foil for Rory and though they are often at odds or exasperated with each other, they do care for each other quite a bit.

 

  1. Emily Gilmore

All hail the Queen! It’s a testament to the writing and the wonderful skill of national treasure Kelly Bishop that Emily is more than just a caricature. She’s often the heavy and the bad guy, but there is a method to her madness. Her relationship with daughter Lorelai is fascinating to watch over the series and while she was what Lorelai was rebelling against, it’s clear that they both have more in common then they think. Emily is wickedly funny and she can eviscerate another person without breaking a sweat; one of the highlights of the entire series was her brutal takedown of Logan’s mother. It will be heartbreaking to watch her in the new episodes without her beloved Richard.

  1. Luke Danes

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What can I say – as a girl of the 90s, I love a guy in a plaid shirt. He is easily the greatest guy in the entire series and Lorelai frankly doesn’t really deserve him. He can come off as grumpy and gruff, but there’s a heart of gold underneath it all. It helps that he also has the same life philosophy as me:

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He is the voice of reason in a town that desperately needs a voice of reason, yet for all his grumbling he still cares a lot about his friends and neighbors. He is a secret romantic who carried around a horoscope in his wallet for eight years while he patiently waited for Lorelai to realize that he was the one.  He took in his idiot nephew and tried to put him on the right track without much gratitude (one of the many reasons I am not #teamJess). He’s handy, he can cook, he’s loyal – he’s just a solid guy. Luke is the best.

For what it’s worth, if I was doing a #GilmoreGirlsWorst4, it would look like this:

4. Dean

3.  April

2. Christopher

1. Christopher

(That’s not a typo – I just really hate Christopher.)

So who would make your #GilmoreGirlsTop4? Why am I nuts to be #teamLogan? Sound off in the comments.