Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Give Something Back Edition

I’m not really sure how this happened, but in a little over two weeks it’s Christmas. Maybe it’s because the unofficial Christmas season starts so darn early that it lapses me into a false sense of security and then suddenly – bam! – the holidays are here. I’m lucky in that Christmas is a pretty low stress holiday for me – I don’t have a ton of people to shop for and I’m already done – but getting myself into the Christmas spirit takes some effort. When there are no children in your family and you see your relatives on the reg, it takes a little more work to get me excited about this time of year. The fact that the arrival of the holiday season also means that winter is coming certainly doesn’t help.  I have some things up my sleeve to try and move things along, but one way that I plan to gin up some holiday yule (that doesn’t involve actual gin) is to make sure to give something back to others.

I try to be charitable throughout the year, but around the holidays a lot more opportunities present themselves. This is both a blessing and a curse, since it also means that there are a lot of worthwhile causes competing for your limited time and money. That’s what appealed to me about this local story about a little girl, the sole survivor of a fire that killed the rest of her family, who wants Christmas cards. Such a small and easy thing to do that will bring joy to someone who deserves to have a nice Christmas. I promised to help try and promote this, so anyone who wants to contribute by sending her a card, the address is in the linked story.

Another simple way I give back is the weekly pop culture roundup. Sure, I’m addressing the very first world problem of people falling behind on pop culture, but we all have to play to our strengths. As usual, I’ve searched the Internet high and low to find the best that the world of pop culture had to offer in the last seven days. The pop culture machine is beginning to slow down a little with the holiday season, but there’s still plenty of goodness to be found. So get yourself all caught up on the world of pop with this week’s roundup.

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Time for some trailers……

  • Game of Thrones, season 6 tease:

 

  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice:

 

  • Netflix’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny:

 

  • The Nice Guys:

 

  • Chelsea Does:

 

  • Season 11 of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia:

 

  • Eye in the Sky:

 

  • Zoolander 2:

 

  • HBO’s J. Cole Forest Hills Drive: Homecoming:

 

  • American Crime Story: The People v O.J. Simpson:

 

  • Jane Got a Gun:

 

  • Final Fantasy VII Remake:

 

  • Powers, season 2:

 

 

 

 

As always, we end with the supercuts and mashups……

  • A tribute to 2015 cinema:

 

  • A bluegrass cover of Macklemore’s “Downtown”:

 

  • Here’s Prince covering “Creep” at 2008 Coachella:

 

  • Notorious B.I.G. meets Star Wars:

 

  • Grand Theft Auto meets Mario Kart:

 

  • Sisters – The Farce Awakens:

 

  • “Hotline Blink” – Drake meets Blink-182:

 

  • What if Kevin Burns directed Captain America: Civil War?

 

  • Movie characters sing Adele:

 

  • And finally – ALF and Weezer, together at last:

 

 

 

Some Thoughts on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

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NBC’s loss is Netflix’s gain.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is the newest comedy from Tina Fey and was originally developed for NBC. The network passed on the pilot and Netflix was waiting in the wings to not only snatch up the series, but to give it an automatic two season pickup. It’s clear that Netflix wants to be a player in original programming and is willing to take some chances where networks are not. It is also clear that Netflix has a better eye for comedy than NBC (not that hard to do), since The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is really, really funny. I blazed through the whole first season in a day and can’t wait to spend more time in this world.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is definitely a quirky little show and that begins right with its premise: Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) and three other women are freed from a doomsday cult after 15 years of isolation from the rest of the world. When she and the other women are brought to New York City to appear on the Today Show, Kimmy decides to stay and make a life for herself, despite the fact that she is pretty ill-equipped to make it alone in the big city, given her naiveté and arrested development. Kimmy finds an unconventional support system in her roommate (the hilarious Titus Burgess), her landlady (the always fabulous Carol Kane) and her wealthy employer (Jane Krakowski). The show deals with Kimmy’s adjustment to life outside the cult, but is also a pretty sharp satire as well that deals with race, wealth and feminism in a way that is not preachy. The show is smart and silly; its shared DNA with 30 Rock is apparent in its comic beats and mix of absurdity and sharp observations. Perhaps that is what scared off NBC; though 30 Rock was a critical success, it never did particularly well in the ratings.

When the casting was announced, I was unsure if Ellie Kemper was going to be able to carry her own show. I enjoyed her a lot on The Office and in her supporting role in various movies (including Bridesmaids), but I didn’t know if she was capable of being the lead. Kemper is actually pretty great in this role – all her natural likability and sweetness only serves to make Kimmy Schmidt perhaps the nicest character on TV. You inherently root for Kimmy to make it, even when the odds are stacked against her, and you can’t help but admire her resiliency in the face of some many obstacles. Kemper handles the writing and odd situations very well; she really inhabit Kimmy and is so natural in the role that you’d be forgiven for forgetting that she’s acting. My initial concerns were completely unfounded – she’s a home run in this role and it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing Kimmy. The premise for the show is kind of dark, but Kemper just lights up the room and keeps things from getting depressing or sad. Kimmy’s life hasn’t been an easy one, but her ability to smile and still find happiness in little things buoys the show

The rest of the cast is simply outstanding as well – while I was very aware of Carol Kane and Jane Krakowski’s respective bodies of work, Titus Burgess was a newcomer to me and he almost steals every scene that he’s in. He’s just fantastic and fits into this odd little world perfectly. His character is completely over the top and gets some of the best lines, but Burgess is just reined in enough that it doesn’t become too cartoony or distracting. He and Kemper work very well together and they have nice chemistry. Perhaps one of my favorite moments of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is when Titus (the actor and character have the same name) makes a music video for a terrible song he wrote:

 

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt also boasts some wonderful guest stars over the course of the first season. Lots of familiar faces drop in, including Tina Fey herself. Perhaps the biggest reveal is who plays the cult leader that imprisoned Kimmy – I figured it out in the first episode because I immediately recognized the actor’s voice, but it’s still a trip to see this person turn up in this weird role later in the series. Tina Fey has a deep bench of friends to call on and I won’t be surprised if the guest appearances are just as strong in the second season. It will also be fun to see what Fey and company do in a second season that is not done for network TV; I think it will be freeing for them to be able to do the show that they want to do without the restrictions that come from doing a show for a major network. If Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt gets weirder in the process, I’m all for it.

Not only does the show boast a great cast and hilarious writing, but it may also have the best theme song of any recent TV show (and we all know how much I love a good TV theme song). This song (written by Tina Fey’s husband) is ridiculously catchy and a total earworm; unlike most shows were I tired of the opening credits after a while, I actually looked forward to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt theme every single time.

 

They’re right – Females ARE as strong as hell. Now good luck getting that out of your head for the rest of the day.

I had so much fun watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and I am really looking forward to what the second season has to offer. NBC was foolish to pass on this show – it’s the perfect mix of sweetness, silliness and cleverness. There were so many jokes flying in that first season that I may go back and watch the episodes all over again just to see what I may have missed. There are so many sight gags and quick one liners that it is very possible that my brain couldn’t process that much comedy at once. If you have Netflix, I strongly recommend giving Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt a chance, especially if you were a fan of 30 Rock. It is my favorite new comedy of the season.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is now streaming on Netflix.

Golden Globes 2015 Running Diary

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Another live event means another running diary, where I share with you my (hopefully) witty comments and other observations that I made while watching last night’s Golden Globes. This is the last year that Amy Poehler and Tina Fey are slated to host the awards ceremony, which is a real bummer as I think that they have done a stellar job. They will be a tough act to follow. As regular readers know, I don’t put a ton of stock in the actual awards, since the Hollywood Foregin Press is like 50 people and their taste is questionable at best. However, this is the awards show that brings television and film together and the ceremony that has the reputation for everyone being drunk, so it’s usually a fun watch. At the bare minimum, there should be some good jokes and some unusual moments. For a Sunday night in January, that’s good enough for me.

So without any further ado, here’s my 2015 Golden Globes running diary…..

8:00 pm – The Amy and Tina show has begun! Watch the full monologue here:

 

8:01 – Not a shocker – starting off with jokes about The Interview.

8:02 – “One of the Big Eyes paintings is here tonight…..”

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8:03 – The jokes are fast and furious, but a little uneven.

8:04 – “Boyhood proves that there are still great roles for women over 40, as long as you get hired when you’re under 40.”

8:06 – Tina and Amy drop some more feminism truth:

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8:08 – Tina Fey’s dress is weird – the black part comes up too high and it looks like part of her body is being censored.

8:09 – First Cosby joke –

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8:10 – They are not letting up on Cosby:

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8:10 – Jessica Chastain looks shocked by these jokes:

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8:11 – The first person to raise their hand gets to present with Jennifer Aniston:

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8:11 – So that was odd – did they really just start over? Was this really not rehearsed?

8:12 – Solid win for J.K. Simmons for Whiplash. He was indeed terrifying.

8:13 – About co-star Miles Teller “He inspired me every day to want to scream at him and hit him in the face.”

8:13 – Did Simmons just mistake Lorne Michaels for a camera man?

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8:14 – I hope these two (Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson) have more chemistry in Fifty Shades of Grey. They sound robotic.

8:15 – Anna Bates from Downton Abbey has her first Golden Globe. And a win over Kathy Bates no less.

 

8:22 – Holy hell – JLo is wearing quite the dress.

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8:22 – Whoo-hoo. Fargo for the win!

8:25 – Jeremy Renner says to J Lo – “You’ve got the globes too.” Stop being a creeper Hawkeye.

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8:25 – Billy Bob Thornton keeps it short and sweet with his acceptance speech for best actor in a mini-series. The bloom is apparently officially off the True Detective rose.

8:33 – Benedict Cumberbatch photobombing was the best bit of that awkward bit with the fake North Korean writer (Margaret Cho) and Meryl Streep. He’s going for MVP of the Golden Globes.

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8:34 – Dear cameraman/camerawoman, don’t cut to the audience when people are clearly not paying attention.

8:36 – Is Cumberbatch changing jackets? He was just wearing a white jacket and now he’s back in black. Is he doing costume changes all night?

8:37 – Cumberbatch mystery solved – not a white jacket, just his dress shirt. Sherlock is unfortunately not pulling off some elaborate Diana Ross-style wardrobe changes. That should have been pretty obvious, but I’ve had a few beers at this point.

8:37 – I have missed Bryan Cranston. Not sure what exactly Kerry Washington is wearing.

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8:37 – WTF??? This chick Gina Rodriguez from Jane the Virgin just beat Julia Louis-Dreyfus? HELLS NO. Signs she shouldn’t have won – she was apparently sitting in another freaking ballroom for the length of time it took her to get to the stage.

8:39 – OK. I’ve calmed down. Maybe I should be watching Jane the Virgin. She gave a nice speech: “Today is a great day, I can and I did.”

 

8:40 – Transparent wins for best comedy. Is that Amazon’s first Golden Globe win?

8:41 – These camerapeople suck; I love Cranston as much as the next person, but don’t waste camera time on him while the person who actually won the award is giving her speech.

8:46 – Not Melissa McCarthy’s best look. The bow on that dress is not working for me.

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8:47 – Isn’t it kind of weird that McCarthy is introducing her own movie?

8:48 – Vince Vaughn – I don’t get why I like him; I just do.

8:49 – The very alliterative Johann Johannsson wins best score for Theory of Everything.

8:50 – I legitimately thought that might be Amy Poehler in a costume when Prince walked out.

8:51 – What’s up with Prince’s cane/walking stick? How long has he been using that?

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8:52 – John Legend and Common win for best original song for Selma. Oprah is losing her sh*t. John Legend’s wife (Chrissy Tiegen) just became a meme:

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8:53 – They are being pretty liberal with the time for speeches, which means some poor schmoes are going to get played off pretty quickly later in the evening.

8:59 – Katie Holmes looks tired.

9:00 – Alan Cumming makes me laugh.

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9:01 – Controversial statement – I didn’t like The Normal Heart. The actors were good, including winner Matt Bomer; just thought it was too slow.

9:02 – I never remember what Clive Owen looks like. So I’m constantly surprised when he appears.

9:03 – Ricky Gervais time. Let’s see what happens. I appreciate he came up on stage with a drink.

9:04 – He didn’t butcher sweet Quvenzhané Wallis’ name, but he didn’t get it right either.

9:05 – Amy Adams wins for Big Eyes. She pretty clearly didn’t think she was going to win.

 

9:07 – That was a weird, long camera shot of Frances McDormand.

9:13 – Selma Hayek has no patience for Kevin Hart.

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9:15 – The LEGO Movie didn’t win best animated feature? That’s a big upset for How to Train Your Dragon 2.

9:17 – Jared Leto speaking French in a braid. Women across the nation swoon.

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9:18 – Keira Knightly is wearing a doily.

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9:19 – Patrica Arquette winning best supporting actress for Boyhood is a reminder that I still need to see Boyhood.

9:21 – We haven’t seen Amy and Tina for a while. Let’s remedy that soon.

9:25 – Someone must have heard me. But unfortunately they are doubling down with this Margaret Cho bit.

9:26 – Margaret Cho marching across the stage was weird enough to be amusing.

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9:28 – Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader are beating this joke into the ground, then flipping it over and beating it some more. Kind of like SNL.

9:30 – Birdman wins for best screenplay. Has anyone brought a fedora before to accept a Golden Globe? This is a night for firsts.

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9:32 – Everyone is shiny and sweaty. It’s not a good look. There must be a lot of drinking and coke use furnace issue.

9:34 – Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda – a mini-9 to 5 reunion!

9:34 – The Golden Globes are like one long infomercial; everyone is promoting something.

9:35 – Louis C.K. doesn’t like his chances in this category:

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9:35 – Yay! Jeffrey Tambor wins his first Golden Globe!

 

9:43 – Lupita Nyong’o is too damn beautiful. Her dress is on point.

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9:43 – I have seen none of these foreign language films. I’ve got some homework to do.

9:45 – Adrian Brody – another affinity I cannot explain.

9:46 – Maggie Gyllenhaal wins best actress in a miniseries, etc. for The Honorable Woman. Great show; definitely worth watching.

 

9:47 – I am fairly certain that Frances McDormand came in character from Olive Kitteridge. Either that or she’s the new Grumpy Cat.

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9:48 – I love that the Gyllenhaal siblings came as each other’s dates.

9:53 – Ha! “And I’m Blake Shelton.” Paul Rudd is adorable.

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9:54 – Apparently the cameraperson didn’t expect The Affair to win either.

9:55 – I don’t know if I would be thanking someone for being the inspiration for a show called The Affair.

9:56 – There is an upcoming comedy called Dad’s Army? That sounds dreadful.

9:58 – That right there was some awkward banter by Katherine Heigl.

9:59 – Heigl can’t figure out an envelope. I’m not super surprised.

10:00 – Kevin Spacey with a unsurprising win for House of Cards. Also not a shock – he used his Frank Underwood voice.

10:01 – What on Earth did Spacey just say to get bleeped and earn this reaction:

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10:07 – Julianna Margulies and Don Cheadle here for the Clooney fete.

10:08 – Clooney did not find that Monument Men joke funny.

10:08 – F.O.G. – Friend of George

10:09 – I’m going to be very disappointed if they don’t work in some Roseanne, Golden Girls and Facts of Life clips in this retrospective.

10:10 – The South Park clip was a surprise.

10:11 – Since the Golden Globes left them out, here you go……#neverforget

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10:15 – Clooney’s initial profession of love to his wife got a surprisingly tepid response. Is it possible that he thinks he’s getting this award for finally getting hitched again?

10:23 – Harrison Ford pretends to be interested in awarding best director.

10:24 – Richard Linklater wins for Boyhood and looks nothing like I imaged.

10:25 – What is up with the kid from Boyhood’s hair?

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10:26 – Adorable couple alert – Anna Farris and Chris Pratt.

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10:26 – Ruth Wilson wins for The Affair. I guess this is another show I should check out, though the reviews I’ve heard haven’t been great.

10:27 – Ruth Wilson’s voice and accent makes it sound like everything she’s saying is sarcastic.

 

10:28 – Dominic West’s butt gets a shout out. That’s the most love The Wire ever got at an award show.

10:33 – Michael Keaton wins for Birdman, but more importantly we got to see John Krasinski as Keaton walked to the stage.

 

10:34 – Keaton’s right – I like that the Golden Globes has a category just for comedies.

10:35 – Surprise twist – Michael Keaton’s name isn’t Michael Keaton. Also, he was born in a hallway. And he’s Batman. This is a man of many mysteries.

10:36 – I wonder if this speech is building to some sort of confession or announcement.

10:37 – Michael Keaton’s BFF, his son, is handsome.

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10:37 – Oprah’s on stage, so we must cut to a shot of Gail in the audience.

10:38 – I’d love to eavesdrop on whatever Ethan Hawke and Matthew McConaughey are discussing so animatedly.

10:43 – Someone screwed up – my broadcast came back mid-Channing Tatum. This is unacceptable.

10:44 – Connie Britton knows what’s up

 

10:45 – Grand Budapest Hotel wins for best comedy or musical. I’m not going to argue.

10:46 – The cast of Grand Budapest Hotel couldn’t decide whether to go up on stage or not.

10:46 – Wes Anderson’s speech is getting laughs, but I’m guessing it’s too insider baseball for most people watching (he’s naming the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press).

10:47 – If I move my blog to another country, can I be a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press? A notion worth exploring.

10:51 – I dig Tina Fey’s tuxedo outfit.

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10:51 – Matthew McConaughey seems extra Texas-y this evening.

10:52 – Julianne Moore wins for Just Alice; I just watched Carrie last night, so this is a weird juxtaposition.

10:53 –Gwyneth Paltrow here to announce best actor in a drama.

10:54 – Eddie Redmayne wins for The Theory of Everything. A bit of a surprise in a stacked category, but his transformation as Stephen Hawking is spectacular.

10:55 – I have to say – the speeches tonight have generally been very good and heartfelt.

10:59 – We all miss Tina and Amy, Meryl. We barely saw them all night.

11:01 – Boyhood wins for best drama. This is not a good night for Selma, Foxcatcher and The Imitation Game.

11:02 – That’s a wrap. The 72nd Golden Globes are in the books.

All in all, not a bad awards show. Not enough Tina and Amy, but that’s how these things generally work – after the monologue, you rarely see the hosts. Some surprise winners and some TV shows that I apparently have to start watching, but nothing all that buzzworthy or exciting happened. I thought most of the jokes went on just a beat or two too long; good ideas, but they should have been shorter.