Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Three Day Weekend Edition

I am taking this Friday off from work, which will be my 3rd vacation day of the year and my first since May. So this week, I am firmly embracing the philosophy of Stanley from The Office:

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Honestly, all I’m trying to do is survive this week. I don’t even care that it’s my birthday – my eyes are on the prize, and that prize is walking out of the office for a three day weekend.

So while I figure out how to run out the next 48 hours, kick back and get yourself caught up on all the pop culture that you might have missed with this week’s installment of the roundup.

Television

Movies

Trailers

  • The Shape of Water:

 

  • Better Watch Out:

 

  • All I See Is You:

 

  • Gilbert:

 

  • Coco:

 

  • The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson:

 

  • Tragedy Girls:

 

  • Jack Ryan:

 

  • Cook Off!:

 

  • All The Money in the World:

 

  • Breathe:

 

  • Just Getting Started:

 

  • Search Party, season 2:

 

  • Five Foot Two:

 

  • Tomb Raider:

 

  • Parts Unknown:

 

  • Tokyo Project:

 

  • Tales From the Tour Bus:

 

  • Gotham, season 4:

 

  • Dealt:

Music

Books

Theater

Odds and Ends

Mashups and Supercuts

  • Lil Wayne covered the Friends theme song for the NFL:

 

  • Pennywise dropped by Grand Theft Auto V:

 

  • A glam rock cover of Nine Inch Nail’s “Hurt”:

 

  • Chris Pine singing “I Will Survive”:

 

  • Miley Cyrus does a grown-up cover of her Hannah Montana-era songs:

 

  • Thor: Ragnarok gets an 80s trailer edit:

 

  • And if anyone makes this for my birthday, I will kill them:

Some Thoughts on Super Bowl LI

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I’ll be truthful that this year I wasn’t really feeling the Super Bowl. I just wasn’t that excited for the game and part of me just wanted to stay home and watch a new episode of The Young Pope (I am seriously obsessed with that show). Part of the problem was that I wasn’t feeling all that great and other than going to brunch on Saturday I had spent most of the weekend watching Black-ish on Hulu. I am also most definitely not a Patriots fan; you can put me in the category of “hater.” Now I come by my dislike of the team honestly, as they are in the Bills division and have been beating them on the regular for the last sixteen years, usually in humiliating fashion. So while the fact that they win a lot and the Trump connection didn’t really help matters, I was decidedly anti-Patriots. That made me tentatively pro-Atlanta, but that didn’t really gin up much enthusiasm for the game. But as attractive as the idea was of staying home and going to bed early, I have an image to uphold so I made the trek out to watch the game at my usual football watching spot.

The game itself was pretty exciting, despite it not being the outcome that I was hoping for; I’m pretty happy that I held off on sending some snarky text that would have been appropriate after the first half, but would have come back to bite me. I don’t know what it is about Boston teams that make them love a dramatic comeback. Last night’s Patriots recovery from a 28-3 deficit was historic and I’ve heard something about a Red Sox comeback in 2004, but I’m a little fuzzy on those details. But football is really only a portion of what makes the Super Bowl exciting. Even not-sports fans tune in for the Super Bowl to see the spectacle. Between the halftime show, the commercials, and the tacit agreement that calories don’t count during the Super Bowl, there’s a lot to enjoy even in years when the game is kind of a snoozefest. And since this is a pop culture blog and not a sports blog, I thought I’d weigh in on some of the non-football related highlights of the night:

  • I really enjoyed Renee Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo, and Jasmine Cephas Jones, aka the original Schuyler sisters from the Broadway show Hamilton, and their rendition of “God Bless America.”

They looked and sounded amazing and I appreciated their addition of “and sisterhood” to the lyrics. And not surprisingly, there is not necessarily a huge overlap between football fans and Hamilton fans, as I had to explain who these women were to a lot of people at the bar (though even the clueless football fans thought they were great).  It also led to one of the first funny moments of the night, as the camera cut from their flawless performance to a stone-faced Bill Belichick, who I don’t think is impressed by anything:

  • I was less impressed with Luke Bryan’s rendition of the National Anthem. It was fine, but it didn’t blow me away, though admittedly every performance of this song at the Super Bowl (and everywhere else, really) will forever live in the shadow of Whitney Houston’s 1991 powerhouse version. That’s pretty much the gold standard; they should just play a recording of that at all events and be done with it (unless Adele wants to take a crack at it).

Lady Gaga’s halftime performance was fantastic. Beyoncé straight up killed it last year (even if it was officially Coldplay’s halftime show) so my expectations were high. I knew Gaga is incredibly talented, but I wasn’t sure if she could make her performance more mainstream for the general Super Bowl audience; one of the things I love about her is her willingness to take artistic chances and push the envelope, which doesn’t always work well with Middle America’s sensibilities. I was also interested to see how political she would get; given a national stage, I was sure that she would make some commentary on the current political climate. How far she’d go with that was a whole other question.

 

What she pulled off was absolutely perfect; it was an energetic and exciting performance that was covertly political without being totally in your face. Her juxtaposition of “God Bless America” with “This Land Is Your Land” might have seemed innocuous unless you know the history and context of the latter. Woody Gutherie’s 1940s tune is a protest song that was actually recorded in response to the omnipresence of “God Bless America.” It was a subtle choice that a lot of people wouldn’t have picked up on, but the message was there. Slightly more obvious was her inclusion of her song “Born This Way,” which celebrates people’s differences and has become something of a LGBT rights anthem.  I knew that her performance was going to feature hundreds of drones, but they wound up being a non-factor in her political statement.

Politics aside, it was a really memorable performance. When she started the set on top of the NRG Stadium with a harness on, I knew that she was going to do something dramatic, but it still was something of a shock when she just casually jumped off the edge to lower herself down to the stage. You’ve got to have some real trust in the stunt coordinators (and the strength of the wires) to pull that off. But Gaga did it like it was no big thing. She was flipping all over the place like she was Pink (spoiler alert – turns out that segment was per-recorded. Everything is a lie). Once she hit the ground, her dancing was on point. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Lady Gaga put on such a physical performance and she nailed it. Even the people at the bar who were pretty meh about Gaga beforehand had to admit that she was really great.  No surprise that she announced a major tour in the wake of this appearance. I’d pretty much decided to take 2017 off from concerts, but I may have to go check her out.

  • The commercials overall were not that impressive this year. Not surprisingly the ads were slightly more political this year than in previous years, if you consider tolerance, immigration, and equal pay to be controversial subjects. While I wholeheartedly appreciate the sentiment, that didn’t result in very many memorable commercials. Usually companies release some banger advertisements during the Super Bowl, but most of the ads this year left my consciousness almost as soon as they ended. The only commercials that received any sort of audible reaction from the crowd were Kia’s ad featuring Melissa McCarthy and the newly sexualized Mr. Clean, which honestly kind of made everyone uncomfortable.

 

I did chuckle at Snoop and Martha’s T-Mobile ad and the 10 Haircare spot, but they didn’t get a huge reaction otherwise. Someone helpfully made a compilation of all the ads that ran during this year’s Super Bowl, in case you missed some during a bathroom break or when you were grabbing some snacks:

 

  • A surprising number of people have no idea what Stranger Things is. When that commercial aired, people were very confused, thinking that there was a new Ghostbusters reboot featuring children. LOL – it’s a good reminder that people aren’t necessarily as obsessed with pop culture as I am.

So another Super Bowl is in the books. For once, the game was actually what most people are talking about, which is a good thing even if, like me, your rooting interests took the L. I’ve only heard universal praise for Lady Gaga’s halftime performance, though my sample size is probably not statistically significant. I weirdly have collected a lot of Pats fans as friends over the years (I need a better screening process), so I am happy for them that they got to see their team win another championship. Sigh – Tom Brady has to retire eventually, right?

 

Heather Watches the 2016 Grammys

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I was solely in this for Hamilton.

I normally have little to no interest in the Grammys. Part of it is just sheer awards show fatigue; there are just so many awards show this time of year, including the granddaddy of them all, the Oscars, so it’s easy to get burnt out on watching people thanking their managers. It doesn’t help that I’m just not as into music as I am into movies and television. I of course enjoy music, but the who wins the Grammys means very little to me. I like who I like and I don’t get too bent out of shape if the artists I dig fail to get formal recognition for their work. Plus the Grammys are a very performance heavy ceremony that sporadically gives out awards, and usually the performers are either people that I’ve seen perform many times or people I’ve never heard of. So there isn’t much incentive for me to tune in.

This year, however, the Grammys were going to feature a live performance by the cast of Hamilton, which was enough to lure me in. Sure, I’ve seen Hamilton already (and will be going to see it again later this year), but I love this musical so much that I could watch the talented cast perform 1000 times and I wouldn’t tire of it. The Grammys new what they were doing – since it’s basically impossible to get tickets to the show (unless you are me 🙂 ), there was a very high chance that people would tune in to see what all the hubbub is about. Most years, the best musical theater album isn’t even given out during telecast, so this was clearly a calculated attempt to cash in on Hamilton‘s popularity. It totally worked, since here I am, giving up my Monday evening for an awards show I normally would have skipped. So well played Grammys. Well played.

8 pm – Wasting no time by kicking things off with Taylor Swift. Is she doing a song from Into the Woods? That’s what the set looks like. (Watch her performance here).

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 15: Recording artist Taylor Swift performs onstage during The 58th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 15, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/WireImage)

(Photo by Kevin Winter/WireImage)

8 pm – Oh wait….this song is called “Out of the Woods?” This makes more sense. I clearly need to bone up on my T. Swift knowledge.

8:01 – Not a big fan of this outfit she’s wearing. It kind of looks like they forgot to but sequence down the side.

8:02 – It will never happen, but it would be pretty awesome if she somehow took a shot at Kanye during this performance.

8:03 – It appears she has abandoned the extensive choreography, for which we can all be thankful. Dancing is not her strong suit.

8:04 – Kind of weird to show LL Cool J walking in from the control booth.

8:05 – I think he thought that line about the power of music was going to get more applause than it did. The silence was deafening.

8:06 – I don’t really think people were that impressed with Imagine Dragons and Kendrick Lamar last year. Probably best not to bring that up again.

8:09 – Kicking things off with best rap album. Ice Cube and his son are here to present what I assume has to go to Kendrick Lamar.

8:11 – As I expected. To Pimp A Butterfly is an amazing album.

8:12 – Anquan Boldin and Von Miller introduce Carrie Underwood and Sam Hunt, which is a little odd but whatever.

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8:14 – This song has kind of been ruined for me by Tim Tebow doing it on Lip Sync Battle.

8:16 – Both Taylor and Carrie are rocking shorter dos. Is it possible that I’m actually on trend?

8:17 – That performance was fine, but boring.

8:23 – Arianna Grande – singing a terrible joke won’t make it better. Go home now.

8:24 – I really like this song by The Weeknd, but I feel like it’s been out forever.

8:25 – I guess they heard me; he abruptly left his box of light to sing a different song.

weeknd

8:30 – So far there have been three performances that have all been unexciting. I think I’ve become spoiled the insanity that is the MTV Music Awards. Someone has to do a more fun or upbeat song soon or I’ll fall asleep.

8:34 – Selene Gomez introducing Ellie Goulding and Andra Day, which means more not very exciting music.

8:37 – Is black and white the color scheme of the evening? I feel like everyone performing has worn this so far.

8:38 – I do dig Andra Day’s barrettes though.

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8:39 – Obligatory shout-out to the troops from Lt. Dan (aka Gary Sinese).

8:40 – Apparently this Cam person did not get the black and white memo – that is a very yellow dress. They’re here present best country album.

8:41 – Justin Timberlake’s pal Chris Stapleton wins (and we’re back to the black motif). I would have gone for Kacey Musgraves, but I’m biased.

8:47 – LL Cool J brings out James Corden to introduce the celebration of  Lionel Richie.

8:47 – Well this is a motley crew to perform: John Legend, Meghan Trainor, Demi Lovato, Meghan Trainor, Luke Bryan, and Tyrese. Watch the performance here.

8:48 – I’m hit or miss with John Legend, but he’s doing a great version of “Easy Like Sunday Morning.”

8:50 – Sometime you forget that Demi Lovato can really sing.

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8:51 – This song just sounds weird being sung by Luke Bryan. I didn’t even recognize it right away.

8:52 – First time seeing Meghan Trainor as a brunette. I like it. But she needs to stop adding “heys” to this song.

8:53 – Tyrese sings? Did I know this?

8:55 – The man of the hour takes the stage.

8:55 – I wonder if Robin Thicke actually new that woman whose ear he was singing into or if he was just being a creeper.

8:56 – It is weird to see Dave Grohl singing along with “All Night Long,” red solo cup in hand.

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8:57 – New life goal – to have my name and face lit up on a stage.

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9:02 – Honorary Grammy board chair, Ryan Seacrest? Doesn’t he do enough already?

9:03 – Little Big Town to perform “Girl Crush” which was of course a song embraced by the country music industry *sarcasm* (and which isn’t even about what people assumed it was about).

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9:04 – This is a cool arrangement with the orchestra, but this isn’t all that electrifying either. So far Lionel Richie has been bringing the enthusiasm. That’s not a good thing.

9:07 – Stevie Wonder and Pentatonix pay tribute to from Maurice White from Earth, Wind and Fire. Watch the performance here.

9:08 – Are the members of Pentatonix always the same? Because the girl looks different from who I’ve seen perform previously. Maybe it’s the hair.

9:09 – Now Pentatonix introduce Song of the Year, presumably the Kendrick Lamar/Taylor Swift showdown.

9:11 – Stevie Wonder teases that he’s the only one who can read the winner because it’s in braille.

Braille

9:12 – Moderate surprising – Ed Sheeran wins. Less surprising, they have shown more reaction shots of Taylor Swift than of Ed Sheeran.

9:13 – Someone messed up there. First they cut that poor lady off and then they cut off the video introduction. Stevie Wonder must have taken up too much time with his jokes.

9:14 – The Eagles and Jackson Browne pay tribute to Glenn Frey. This isn’t going to be high energy either. Watch the performance here.

9:22 – Anna Kendrick introduces Tori Kelly and James Bay (both wearing black and playing acoustic guitar). I will go back to my coma.

9:28 – THANK GOODNESS…..finally Hamilton!!

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9:38 – Don Cheadle to introduce Kendrick Lamar, who I guarantee will do something interesting. Watch his performance here.

9:40 – Coming out in shackles? Yup, that will liven things up.

9:41 – The stage is literally flames for Kendrick Lamar.

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9:42 – Finally – someone with some energy and something to say. Loved it!

9:47 – Seth MacFarland to give out the Hamilton award (officially known as the best musical theater album).

9:47 – Lin-Manuel Miranda knows how to give an acceptance speech!

 

9:53 – Miguel performs. We’re back to the snoozefest.

9:54 – Wait – why is there a video of Michael Jackson in the background?

9:55 – Oh – that was a Michael Jackson song. Shows how much I know.

9:56 – Tepid applause for mention of Spike Lee.

9:56 – Best Rock Performance – here’s to hoping for the Foo Fighters, though I actually like everyone in this category.

9:57 – Eh – Alabama Shakes wins. Can’t really argue with that.

9:58 – Bruno Mars introduces Adele. That seem about right.

9:58 – I’m intrigued that Bruno Mars and Adele area pals. Like, what does that friendship look like?

9:59 – WHAT? You cannot screw up the sound during Adele. Someone should get fired immediately! (Watch her performance here)

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10:04 – All hail Queen Adele. Is it September yet? I cannot wait to see her live.

10:10 – Kaley Cuoco here to introduce Justin Bieber, Skrillex and Diplo. Watch the performance here.

10:11 – Bieber can play guitar?

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10:12 – Man, it kills me to admit this, but I like Bieber’s new album.

10:16 – LL Cool J is back. We haven’t seen him in a while.

10:17 – Sam Smith to present Best New Artist.

10:18 – And the Grammy goes to….Meghan Trainor, which isn’t super surprising.

10:19 – Probably the most emotional speech of the night, which isn’t saying too much.

10:25 – Lady Gaga’s tribute to David Bowie. This should be interesting. Watch the whole performance here.

Bowie

10:26 – She has certainly committed to the Bowie look.

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10:28 – I’m honestly surprised that there haven’t been more costume changes.

10:30 – And that, ladies and gentleman, is how you do a freaking tribute to Bowie.

10:35 – I just realized this foolishness goes until 11:30. Sorry Grammys – at this point, you’ve blown your best material.

10:37 – No offense to the great Bonnie Raitt. Always glad to see her on my TV screen.

10:38 – It seems like so long ago that B.B. King passed away.

10:39 – Raitt is joined on stage by Chris Stapleton and Gary Clark Jr. Watch the performance here.

10:42 – Fitting tribute to a music legend.

10:50 – An Alabama Shakes performance is always a good thing. Watch it here.

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10:54 – Everyone’s favorite rock star, Dave Grohl, is here to pay tribute to Lemmy and introduce The Hollywood Vampires, a band that has great potential to be either amazing or a train wreck.

10:56 – This camera work is making me dizzy. Is Johnny Depp even out there? (Watch the performance here)

10:57 – Oh there he is! He looks like Captain Jack Sparrow joined a band.

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11:07 – This kid is 12 years old and playing at the Grammys. Kind of makes you feel like you aren’t living up to your full potential.

11:11 – That was a weird transition from the business of the music industry to the In Memorium segment.

11:12 – They didn’t save David Bowie or Glenn Frey for the final person. That’s surprising.

11:14 – Ah – Natalie Cole gets the power position. I guess that makes sense since they didn’t do a tribute to her during the broadcast.

11:19 – At this point, I’m only still here because they promised me a Beyoncé appearance.

11:20 – Members of Earth, Wind and Fire to present album of the year.

11:21 – Taylor Swift wins. Can’t say I’m surprised by that, but her dress is not what I expected her to be wearing.

11:22 – Oh snap! She’s calling out Kanye! That was a boring version of this:

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11:24 – Bow down – it’s Queen Bey to present Record of the Year.

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11:25 – How in the hell is “Uptown Funk” still eligible? That’s been out for YEARS. Like shouldn’t that have won last year? I do not understand the Grammy timeline.

11:26 – I can’t believe they opted to cut off Bruno Mars for Pitbull. Watch the performance here.

11:27 – This song will be all the rage in zumba in a few weeks.

11:28 – Wait – that really is Sofia Vergara. She should be home with Joe, not participating in this foolishness.

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11:29 – I don’t know that the addition of Robin Thicke and Travis Barker makes this performance legendary. Nice try, Pitbull.

11:30 – They are running the credits over this performance. I wonder if they’ll cut away from it in progress. That would be something.

11:31 – Hot damn! That’s finally over!!

 

Man… that was a snoozefest. There were a few standout performances – Kendrick Lamar, Lady Gaga, Adele – but overall this was a very low energy Grammy award ceremony. It was way too long and since the overall mood of the show was kind of low key, it only made the whole thing feel even longer. I much prefer the train wreck that is the MTV music awards; it may be messy, but at least it was memorable. There was very little reason to tune into the Grammys. It definitely wasn’t worth me being tired this morning. I’m curious to see if/when Kanye refers to Taylor Swift in their reignited feud, but otherwise the 2016 Grammys were fairly forgettable. At least Hamilton was great; if that had led off the show, I might not have watched the whole ceremony.