Archive | April, 2016

Over/Underrated 2015 – Honorable Mentions

22 Apr

This is it, folks! I’ve finally made it to the top of my Everest and am posting my last over/underrated entry for the year 2015. It only took me three months longer than it should have, so thanks to those of you who have loyally kept up with my sporadic thoughts on the best/worst that 2015 pop culture had to offer.

Like I mentioned at the start of this series, 2015 was a good year. For that reason, I leave you with a few On Pointe honorable mentions. 2015 wouldn’t have been such a banner year without them.

On Pointe

Jon Snow

WARNING: This entry contains major spoilers about season five of Game of Thrones.

It wouldn’t seem right to discuss all that was right (and yet so wrong!) in 2015 pop culture without talking about the “death” of Jon Snow on the HBO series Game of Thrones. I say “death” and not death because I’m still in denial about it.

What’s most surprising about Snow’s death is that viewers (like me) were still surprised. Considering the source material, George R. R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons, was published all the way back in 2011, it’s shocking that flashing neon spoilers weren’t all over the internet in the days leading up to his murder on the show. Similar to the way they guarded the Red Wedding back in 2013 (see our entry on that here), it’s clear that fans of the GoT books are not about ruining the television experience.

Even if there hadn’t been spoilers only a novel away, you’d still think I’d have seen it coming, considering GoT had already killed off such notable characters as Ned Stark, Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark, and Joffrey Baratheon. Still, somehow in my mind, Snow was the one character that somehow would survive all the violence and be standing even after Winter had come and gone. Apparently, like him, I knew nothing.

Whether or not Snow’s character is actually dead dead remains to be seen. No amount of money I’ve set aside for therapy would be enough if he actually is. After all, the night is dark and full of terrors, and I’m not ready to face it without him.

Jon Snow

Better Call Saul

There was never a doubt in my mind that Better Call Saul was going to be amazing. How could it not be? After all, Breaking Bad was deemed Absolute Best Drama by my fair Bestie only a couple years ago. A spinoff show helmed by the same geniuses (Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould), and centered on one of the most beloved characters seemed almost too good to be true. Well it’s not too good, and it’s true.

The first season* of BCS brought us an intimate glimpse into Saul Goodman’s past, showing us the conflicted double life of Jimmy McGill (Saul’s birth name). McGill is striving to be a straight-laced lawyer, but unable to turn off his love of the con game. Bob Odenkirk is perfection as Jimmy McGill, bringing a much appreciated sense of humor and flair to the Breaking Bad universe. The show has not become as dark as Breaking Bad, yet, but the presence of the Mexican cartel (Tuco!) and everyone’s favorite gun-for-hire, Mike Ehrmantraut, are indicators that McGill is just one wrong client away from more than he can bargain for.

For viewers, the anticipation of waiting for McGill to truly embrace his Slippin’ Jimmy side and become the Saul we all know and love is almost a more delicious burn than watching Walter White become the one who knocks. There are some (*cough* my husband *cough*) who might argue that knowing the end result makes the journey there less intriguing. I couldn’t disagree more. Seeing where McGill begins makes him a more sympathetic character, and makes his ultimate undoing in Breaking Bad even more heartbreaking.

All plot aside, BCS would still be what the critics mean when they talk about good television. Once again the team of Gilligan and Gould have shown us that the magic is in the details, and that no single frame of a show should be without purpose. If that’s not reason enough to give BCS a try, then I don’t know what is.    

*This post was supposed to have been written way back in January, so for the purposes of this blog entry I am choosing to pretend that I haven’t already watched season two of BCS. After all, I need to save something for my 2016 lists.

BCS

Mad Men Finale

WARNING: This entry contains spoilers about the final episode of Mad Men.

Don Draper’s personal journey on Mad Men was a long one, and he played about every role you can think of along the way. War deserter to advertising genius. Philandering husband to doting father. Cutthroat partner to encouraging mentor. Confident jackass to lost and confused drunk. Still, in all seven seasons of Mad Men, I can honestly say I never expected to see Don Draper: Hippie.

The final season of Mad Men found many of the characters, not just Don, floundering to find self realization. Could Joan really be content working under men who saw her as nothing more than a pair of walking boobs? Could Peggy have both her career and love? Could Pete find a way to redeem himself in the eyes of his wife and daughter? Could the seemingly never satisfied Betty find a way to leave this earth content with the life she’s lived?

The answers to all of these questions arrived in the show’s series finale. Sure, to some extent the finale felt a little too neat, making sure that all the loose ends were tied up nice and tidy with a pretty bow on top. But despite those ends being tied up, they weren’t always what the fans necessarily wanted (Betty’s illness and Pete’s family reunion, to name a few).

What made the finale truly classic was the result of Don’s quest for self-actualization. Up until the final seconds of the finale, I was starting to doubt that we’d see that same kind of closure for our antihero as we’d been seeing for the rest of the characters. What on earth could his retreat to California have at all to do with the rest of the series? What did it all mean?! But, all it took was a Mona Lisa smile to appear on Don’s face and the singing of Coca-Cola’s most famous advertisement for me to get it. And just like that, the ending of Mad Men made its way into series finale history.  

MM

Over/Underrated 2015 – Part Ten

21 Apr

On Pointe

Gilmore Girls Revival

As a television fan, there’s nothing worse than when a show you love gets canceled too soon. Best case scenario and you’re provided with a quickly put together happy ending à la Studio 60 or Pushing Daisies. Worst case scenario and you’re simply left hanging, never to have an even hurried resolution (FlashForward, anyone?).

The ending of Gilmore Girls in 2007 was somewhere in between. When its original network, the WB, was merged with UPN to form the CW, creator/producers Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband Daniel Palladino could not come to a contract agreement with the network. Consequently, the last season of GG was executed under new showrunner David S. Rosenthal. Rosenthal did his best, but it just wasn’t the same, and the last season of GG left many fans frustrated and disappointed.

Talk of a GG movie had been floating around for years, but with varying levels of commitment and probability from its cast members. Then, in October of 2015, TVLine broke the news that a GG limited-series revival had been picked up by Netflix, and would be headed once again by Sherman-Palladino.  

Copper Boom!

Since the original announcement, exciting news and photos have been breaking almost daily, leaving fans more merry than if they’d had a whole bowl of Founders’ Day Punch. Nearly every cast member from the original series have been confirmed to appear in the revival, promising healthy doses of Stars Hollow locals (Sookie! Kirk!) and beloved “outsiders” (Paris! Doyle!) alike. If that weren’t exciting enough, the revival also hints at answers for burning questions about both Lorelai and Rory’s love lives, and promises that fans will finally hear the top secret four words that Sherman-Palladino said she intended to end the series with.

The anticipation of the revival is clouded only by the overwhelming absence of Edward Hermann (Richard Gilmore), who passed away in December of 2014. That and the fact that they couldn’t just write April Nardini off to boarding skill. Still, it’s the type of closure that fans of canceled shows can usually only dream about. Now if only it would get here sooner.

Gilmore

Off the Mark

“Honey I’m Good”

This particular Off the Mark entry was supposed to have been about Heroes Reborn. The fact that I gave up watching it after three episodes, and thus haven’t much to say about it, should speak volumes as to why it originally made this list. In lieu of writing about Heroes, I’ll instead rage write about the earworm of 2015, “Honey I’m Good” by Andy Grammer. (For the record, I do know that this song was originally released in November of 2014, but it didn’t take over the airwaves of U.S. radio until 2015.)

To clarify, “Honey I’m Good” has made the Off the Mark list not because it’s a “bad” song. Admittedly, it’s melody is beyond catchy, and it’s a song you can’t help but sing along to. It’s not the beat or the actual music that’s the issue. My problems with “Honey I’m Good” are strictly lyrical.

At first listen, one might be tempted to find this song to be sweet. It’s a man singing about his faithfulness to his significant other. What’s not romantic about that? When you listen to the rest of the lyrics, the answer is plenty.

Yes, the song is about a man’s desire to “remain true” to his girlfriend. But, in the same breath, he also says that if he’d give up his loyalties in a heartbeat if he had one more drink. While I understand the truth that people often make stupid decisions (like cheating) when they’re intoxicated, a truly committed adult man is not going to let one more drink lead him astray.

Furthermore, the man in question can’t stop talking about the, er, features of the temptress in the bar. Is waxing poetic about another girl’s legs and ass romantic? I think not.

And am I the only one out there wondering why the girl who’s got all of his love is sitting at home by herself while he’s out partying at the bar?

Honestly, if I were the man’s girlfriend, I’d be the one bidding him adieu. Let him take his wandering eyes and his sold-for-alcohol faithfulness and hit the road.

Again, I’ll admit that the song is quite a jam, but the lyrics should be insulting to anyone who’s ever truly been in love. If this is some sort of new-age take on monogamy, I’ll have to pass. [Honey] I’m good with the old fashioned way.

Over/Underrated 2015 – Part Nine

3 Apr

*Taps Mic* Is this thing on?

On Pointe

Jennifer Lawrence

It’s no secret that I love Jennifer Lawrence. (See 2013’s love letter here.) She’s talented, she’s hilariously personable, and she seems like an every-girl’s best friend despite her A-list celebrity status. This year, though, JLaw makes our on pointe list for a new trait: feminist.

In December of 2014, emails were leaked through the Sony hacking scandal that showed that Lawrence made less money for her role in American Hustle than her male costars. Rather than just roll over and accept this information, Lawrence wrote an open letter about pay equality for Lena Dunham’s website Lenny Letter. In the letter, she points out that qualities such as straight-forwardness and self-advocation are viewed as negatives when exuded by females, but yet these same qualities are applauded when coming from men.

Lawrence’s letter is short and to the point, but it speaks volumes to the issues that plague gender equality today. That an Academy Award-winning actress who has led two successful movie franchises still has fight for the paycheck she obviously deserves has severe implications to women everywhere who don’t have that kind of obvious bankability under their belts, but still do their jobs just as well as their male colleagues.

Since Lawrence’s letter was published, she has been praised by both male and female actors (Bradley Cooper, Emma Watson, Elizabeth Banks, and Mark Ruffalo, to name a few) for shedding light on the ongoing sexism prevalent in Hollywood. Hopefully, this light will eventually shine outward onto what is a worldwide, not just a Hollywood, issue. Someday, when people of the future look back on the factors that influenced the trend toward true gender equality, they’ll undoubtedly have Jennifer Lawrence on their list. At least I know I will.

JLaw

Off the Mark

Scott Bergstrom

If you’re like most people I know, you’re probably wondering, “Who the hell is Scott Bergstrom?” Let me answer that for you: he’s a tool. A tool of epic proportions. The (perhaps) more professional answer? He’s a young-adult (YA) author. Supposedly a talented one. Bergstrom’s debut-novel The Cruelty earned him a six-figure book deal and a movie adaptation. It seemed as though the career Gods were on his side. Until he opened his mouth.

In an interview with Publishers Weekly, Bergstrom attempted to explain why he originally chose to self-publish his novel. In short, he thought his book wouldn’t be embraced by YA publishers because of the issues of morality present within his writing.

In the interview, Bergstrom said, “The morality of the book is more complicated than a lot of YA…In a lot of YA, the conflict takes place inside a walled garden, set up by outside adult forces. If you think of those stories as a metaphor for high school, they start to make a lot more sense, but that was one thing I wanted to depart from.” (Read the full interview here.)

I’m sure, that is I hope, that Bergstrom thought he was highlighting what made his work different and worth a read when compared with his YA competition. What he actually did, however, was insult an entire genre of fiction and an entire cohort of fiction writers. Furthermore, his statement carries sexist undertones as he, a male, criticizes a genre dominated by female writers and characters.

To brush salt into the wound, an excerpt from Bergstrom’s novel shows the main character herself continuing to insult the genre.

“I pull a book out of my backpack and lean against the door as the train shoots through the tunnel under the river for Queens. It’s a novel with a teenage heroine set in a dystopian future. Which novel in particular doesn’t matter because they’re all the same. Poor teenage heroine, having to go to war when all you really want is to write in your diary about how you’re in love with two different guys and can’t decide between them. These novels are cheesy, I know, and I suck them down as easily as milk.”

The only logical explanation is that Bergstrom hasn’t actually ever read any YA novels. If he had, he’d know that many of them tackle real-world issues like war and disease, which are issues as morally complicated as it gets. Even those set within the context of high school frequently address topics like mental illness, homelessness, sexuality, and gender identification, which are, again, morally complicated issues in their own right.

A Tweet from YA Books Central summarized the root issue quite nicely:

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 5.47.27 PM

Both fans and writers of YA (V.E. Schwab, Victoria Aveyard, and Ally Carter to name a few) flocked to Twitter and the internet to defend the genre using the hashtag #MorallyComplicatedYA. If you don’t have time to scroll through them all, at least check out Patrick Ness’ Tweet about eating his morally simplistic Fruit Loops. Classic.

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 5.47.41 PM

Several websites such as Buzzfeed and Bustle have also dedicated pages to recommended #MorallyComplicatedYA.

His comment about the moral complexity of YA novels aside, the description of Bergstrom’s heroine has also been read as stereotypically sexist and, in the context of the same interview, hypocritical. The Publishers Weekly interview says that “Bergstrom’s heroine is Gwendolyn Bloom, a Jewish, slightly overweight 17-year-old, who is transformed into a ‘lean warrior with hair dyed fire-engine red,’ during her mission to rescue her father, a kidnapped diplomat.” If you read this like I do, it reads something like this: “Heroine is social misfit who needs to lose weight to be successful.” How very high school.

While his success in the industry may have appeared magically overnight, his staying power is questionable. However talented a writer he may be, he’s got a lot of backpedaling and ass kissing to do if he’s going to un-piss-off an entire industry and much of womankind. At best he’s an ignorant asshole. At worst, he’s just an asshole. Either way, count me out.

bergstrom