Heather’s Favorite Pop Culture of 2015

2015-Year-in-Review

I think all bloggers are contractually obligated to do some sort of year end post and New Year’s Eve is as good a day as any to pause to take a moment and reflect on the pop culture that I consumed in 2015 (and I consumed a lot). Overall, I think that pop culture 2015 was pretty strong; there were lots of great movies, TV shows, concerts and Broadway shows out there if you knew where to look. I’ve developed a pretty good sense of what I’m going to like – and what I’m not – so while there were fewer pop culture items in 2015 that just blew me away, what I did consume was consistently enjoyable.

So in a year when I watched, listened and experienced a lot, these were my personal highlights for 2015.

Top movies of 2015 (in no particular order):

Mad Max: Fury Road

 

I had no previous experience with the Mad Max franchise, so I was slow to get around to seeing this. I’m sorry that I waited so long, as I really dug this movie. It was smarter and more enjoyable than I expected and I was a big fan of the film’s feminist tone. Most important – I couldn’t take my eye off the action. Plus how many other movies this year featured a guy shredding a guitar that spit out flames?

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That’s reason alone to crack my best of list.

Ex Machina

 

This one was another pleasant surprise that I didn’t get around to seeing until it was available on demand. I’m a little skiddish when it comes to the sci-fi genre and more often than not, I just don’t like movies of this ilk. So I was a little wary when I read the description of Ex Machina as robots and artificial intelligence aren’t necessarily in my wheelhouse. But despite the sci-fi elements, Ex Machina was grounded enough in reality that I was instantly drawn in. Excellent performances from Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander kept me fully invested and the film took me in an unexpected direction. The dance sequence is just the icing on the cake:

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Spotlight

 

This film about the team that uncovered the sex abuse scandal of the archdiocese of Boston boasts an incredible ensemble that created a story that stayed with me long after the movie was over. Even though everyone knows the ultimate outcome of their investigation, they told it in such a compelling way that you are totally invested. An emotional and important movie.

 

Creed

 

Thanks to fantastic performances from Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone, Creed completely reinvigorated the Rocky franchise. Smart writing and directing found interesting new facets to what could have been a retread of previous movies. Even though we’ve seen elements of Creed before, it somehow felt completely new and fresh.

 

The Hateful Eight

 

I plan to post a full review of the latest Quentin Tarantino film next week, but suffice to say that since I’ve seen it I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s perhaps his most violent and profane movie, yet also his simplest and most constrained. It clocks in at just under three hours, yet I can’t wait to watch it again.

 

Honorable mention: The Big Short, Brooklyn

 

Top Television Picks

Mad Men

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All good things must come to an end and this year we said goodbye to Donald Draper and company in memorable fashion. I could have spent time with these characters for the rest of my life and probably wouldn’t have tired of them, but Matthew Weiner brought his series to an end in a fitting and satisfying manner. I’m sad that I don’t have Jon Hamm as a part of my life on a regular basis, but that’s what the DVDs are far. Easily one of the best shows not only this year, but in the history of television. Plus it gave us what is easily the greatest GIF of the year:

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#Likeaboss

 

Inside Amy Schumer

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There’s no doubt that 2015 was Schumer’s year, but while the success of Trainwreck has certainly dominated the narrative I think her Comedy Central sketch show really found its stride in its third season. The show is not only hilarious but offers some pretty spot on social commentary. The standalone episode that is a parody of 12 Angry Men is nothing short of brilliant and was a risk to undertake. I’m guessing the days of this show are numbered, given the success she’s enjoyed on the big screen, but I’ll savor this show while we have it. So smart and so freaking funny at the same time.

 

Jessica Jones

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I never got around to blogging about Netflix’s newest Marvel inspired show when I watched it, but I may still write about it as there was just so much about this series that I loved. This is easily the most adult treatment of Marvel characters that I’ve seen to date and it has a distinctively noir vibe. Jessica Jones dealt with some interesting issues, such as PTSD after domestic abuse. This is a superhero show for people who don’t really care about superheroes; Krysten Ritter is amazing and David Tennant’s Kilgrave is easily the most charismatic and terrifying villain to date in any Marvel property. And not for nothing – it’s nice to see women in the leads of these shows. Jessica Jones also did a nice job or piquing my interest for the forthcoming Luke Cage.

 

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

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John Oliver and his staff continue to put out one of the most intelligent comedy shows about current events. Because his show is only once week, rather than daily, they have the luxury of deliberating on news stories rather than quickly reacting to them. The show’s decision to focus on one issue in depth per episode has also been a smart one; this show has provided a public service in education its viewers on issues that are often overlooked by the mainstream news – especially issues that involve criminal justice reform – while also making you laugh. That’s a powerful combination and John Oliver is doing very strong work.

 

Game of Thrones

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The fastest ten weeks of the year are when Game of Thrones is on; waiting for the show to return is excruciating.

Making a Murderer

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If you know me personally and have run into me in the last two weeks, you are more than aware that I’m obsessed with this Netflix docu-series. Like, I won’t shut up about it until you promise to watch it. This investigation of a man who was wrongly convicted for a crime he didn’t commit, only to be accused of murder under questionable circumstances shortly after his release is compelling and infuriating. I devoured all ten episodes in two days and then hounded everyone I knew to watch it so we could talk about it. If you’re a fan of Serial, this is right up your alley; Making a Murderer raises a lot of important questions about a criminal justice system that is obviously flawed. I consider this a must-watch series. Netflix brought their A-game this year.

Honorable mention: Mr. Robot, Master of None, The Americans, Spotless

 

Top Pop Culture Experiences

Hamilton

If I did nothing else this year but see Hamilton on Broadway, I think I still would have been happy. This has transformed what I thought a Broadway show could be and is easily the best pop culture moment that I had all year. I am so glad that I opted to tackle New York City with my sprained ankle to be able to see this show – and I can’t wait to see it again in 2016.

 

Madame Tussauds

Sometimes it is fun to do some cheesy touristy stuff and I had a blast spending the afternoon at the famous wax museum in New York City. Once you embrace the silliness of the whole endeavor, getting your picture taken with replicas of famous people is actually a fun way to kill some time. Plus it’s pretty amusing to see the figures that don’t quite do justice to the person that they are representing.

 

Comics Come Home XXI

Being on crutches knocked me out of commission for six long weeks; the only thing remotely fun that I attempted was the road trip to Boston to see Comics Come Home and it was totally worth all the anxiety that I had about it. A great night of comedy for a great cause; it’s now officially an annual tradition.

 

Foo Fighters Concert

Dave Grohl and I were finally breathing the same air. Enough said.

 

Seinfeld pop-up apartment

You wouldn’t think seeing the replica of a TV set would have been such an amazing day, but when you are as big a Seinfeld fan as I am it was sort of a spiritual experience. I fulfilled a dream that I didn’t even know I had. And I got to meet the Soup Nazi!

What are your picks for the best of 2015? Sound off in the comments below…..and best wishes for a happy and healthy 2016!

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Baby It’s Cold Outside Edition

I was lucky enough to have a three day weekend last weekend and I spent almost all of it, with the exception of one hour, in my apartment because the thought of going outside was too much for me to handle. With the temperature dipping into the negative and the wind chill adding insult to injury, it seemed easier to just hibernate for as long as possible. Even the thought of going to the movies to continue my Oscar death race seemed like too much trouble. My DVR had filled up during my vacation, so I curled up on the couch and powered through 8 hours of The Tonight Show while listening to the heat running non-stop for 72 hours. Thank the dear Lord that I don’t live in Boston – not only would I  be surrounded by  Sox and Pats fans *shudder* but I do not think I could handle all the snow that they have. Boston Strong has taken on a whole new meaning. I tip my winter hat to New England – you are better people than I (only when it comes to weather).

Being under self-imposed house arrest also allowed me plenty of time to seek out pop culture nuggets for this week’s roundup. There’s something in here for everyone, so warm yourself with the pop culture goodness that I’ve uncovered.

  • Well Jessica Williams has dashed my hopes that she’d take over for Jon Stewart:

 

  • The SNL 40 after-party sounds crazy (I’m assuming my invite got lost in the mail):

 

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  • Watch Beyonce’s killer tribute to Stevie Wonder:

 

Time for some trailers:

  • Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone in Aloha:

 

  • Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer in The Man from U.N.C.L.E:

 

  • A red band trailer for Amy Schumer’s movie, Trainwreck:

 

  • Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara in Hot Pursuit:

 

  • A new trailer for House of Cards:

 

  • Tom Hiddleston in Crimson Peak:

 

  • Insurgent:

 

  • A teaser for Justin Bieber’s Comedy Central roast:

 

  • A trailer for Bjork’s MOMA exhibit:

 

  • A trailer for the new season of Keeping Up With The Kardashians:

 

  • Emma Watson and Ethan Hawke in Regression:

 

  • A teaser for Ryan Murphy’s Scream Queens:

 

  • Billy Crystal and Josh Gad in The Comedians:

 

  • To celebrate his first year as host of The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon is getting a new Ben and Jerry’s flavor:

 

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  • Rob Lowe will star in Fox’s comedy The Grinder. I assume they don’t mean the app, though that would be an interesting show.
  • There is a conspiracy theory about The Simpsons involving Homer being in a coma the last 20 years:

 

  • Scarface as an 8-bit video game:

 

  • Jimmy Kimmel fires Cookie Monster:

 

  • Weird Al videobombed Gwen Stefani on the Grammy red carpet:

View this post on Instagram

Gwen Stefani videobomb

A post shared by “Weird Al” Yankovic (@alfredyankovic) on

 

  • Terry Crews dropped by Sesame Street:

 

  • Jimmy Fallon shares a photo of new daughter Franny:

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Franny Fallon wishes you a happy Tuesday!

A post shared by Jimmy Fallon (@jimmyfallon) on

 

  • Leslie Gore, singer of “It’s My Party” and “You Don’t Own Me” has died.

As always we end with the supercuts and mashups…

  • Here’s a supercut of Daffy Duck laughing:

 

  • All the kills from the Keanu Reeves movie John Wick:

 

  • Y’all knew it was going to happen – Beck mashed up with Kanye:

 

  • And just to round things out – Beck mashed up with Beyoncé:

 

  • A reggae Whiplash parody:

 

  • Spider-Man and The Avengers hang out in this mashup:

 

  • Sam Smith’s “I’m Not The Only One” mashed up with Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud”

 

  • A supercut of the early roles of 2015 Oscar nominees:

 

  • Every “Kane” from Citizen Kane:

 

  • Dr. Phil with just the reaction shots:

 

  • And finally, in honor of The Breakfast Club’s 30th anniversary, a montage of 80s teen movies:

 

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Jimmy Took Over The Tonight Show Edition

It finally happened – Jay Leno (hopefully) went off into the sunset and blog favorite Jimmy Fallon took over the reins of The Tonight Show. I’ve only been able to see one show so far, but I’ve been pleased with what I’ve seen. He seems to be keeping the same general show that he had when he was doing Late Night, which I think is a good thing. I’ll just be happy when he finally takes over his real time slot – starting the show at midnight to accommodate the Olympics is just late enough that I can’t justify staying up to watch it live. I cannot tell you how nervous I was watching the first show of his Tonight Show tenure; I think I would have been less nervous if I was up there telling jokes.

But the succession in late night isn’t the only thing that has been going on in the world of pop culture; despite the long shadow that the Olympics has shined over the landscape, a lot has been happening in the last two weeks. While you’ve been busy watching curling, I’ve been compiling all the links that you might have missed. So here’s your biweekly cheat sheet on some of the stories that you might have missed:

  • In honor of the man of the hour, here are 39 facts about Fallon. Please note the mention of College of St. Rose, which I drive by every day on my way to work.
  • See a 17 year old Jimmy in his first stand up performance:

 

  • Here’s Jimmy’s Saturday Night Live audition:

 

  • What does Conan think of all this? Classy as always:

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  • Stephen Colbert is now the First Lady of France:

 

His logic is flawless.

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  • There will be a mini-Seinfeld reunion on TV Land’s Kirstie, which is still not enough to get me to watch Kirstie.

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  • Check out Walter White’s Facebook Look Back video:

 

  • There is just so much to love in the Kraft mac and cheese ad:

 

Vanilla Ice as a stock boy? TOTALLY believable.

 

  • If you enjoyed the movie as much as I did, you’ll get a kick out of The LEGO Movie “blooper” reel:

 

  • See Will Arnett read school closings as Batman:

 

  • Scrubs may also head to Broadway. TV shows aren’t cancelled – they just become fodder for musicals.
  • A visual guide to who owns the movie rights to various Marvel characters:

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  • The star of the National Geographic reality show, Snake Salvation, died from a snake bite. That’s some M. Night Shyamalan stuff right there – who saw THAT coming?
  • A full list of the BAFTA winners (aka the British Oscars).
  • See Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Ryu from Street Fighter in this clip from The Pete Holmes Show:

 

  • Channing Tatum has a bust of Matthew McConaughey. I absolutely need one of these for my living room.

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  • Check out this Parenthood/Friday Night Lights crossover on this NBC webseries:

 

  • While I’m still very bummed about Derek Jeter’s retirement, you have to admit that his dating history is pretty dang impressive:

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  • Even I am not immune to the charms of the Jamaican bobsled team and their theme song.

Trailers:

  • The first Guardians of the Galaxy trailer debuted last night:

 

  • Jake Gyllenhaal has a dual role in The Double:

 

  • A teaser for the 2nd season of Inside Amy Schumer:

 

  • Tom Hardy in Locke:

 

  • Christopher Meloni in Surviving Jack, a new sitcom at FOX:

 

  • A trailer for the second season of Orange is the New Black. I can’t wait!!

 

  • John Cusack in Drive Hard

 

  • Nicolas Cage in Joe:

 

  • An extended trailer for the Spanish language version of Breaking Bad:

I’d watch that.

 

  • The Purge: Anarchy:

 

  • A teaser trailer for the new season of Veep:

 

As always, we wrap up with the mashups and supercuts

  • The same goes for Sesame Street’s answer to Flappy Birds – Flappy Bert.
  • I love this New Orleans style cover of Guns N Roses “Sweet Child O’ Mine”

 

  • This couple breaks up – using 154 movie titles:

 

  • A supercut of hit songs from 2000, which appears to have been a very dark time for music:

 

  • A supercut of cats in movies:

 

  • As a former Greek, I was amused by this The Wolf of Wall Street parody, The Wolf of Phi Psi:

 

  • And finally, Billy Ray Cyrus has redone Achy Breaky Heart as a hip-hop jam. For reals, people: