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Popfilter Versus: Christmas Movies

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In a very seasonal Bracketology the friends tackle the genre of Christmas movies, betting out and whittling down until there is only one ultimate Christmas movie. Will it be a timeless classic or a black-hearted new upstart? Listen and find out!

We’ll return with Versus in the new year, have a very happy holiday no matter which holiday you celebrate!

Kerri Battles the AFI’s Top 100 — #71: Saving Private Ryan

This week’s movie is one I’ve owed a viewing to for quite some time. During the many years I spent in film school, it became readily apparent that the first 10 or so minutes of Saving Private Ryan were important since I was shown this piece and this piece only in no less than six different courses. Unfortunately, not one of those professors found the remaining 159 or so minutes to be nearly as educational or important because they never bothered the screen the entire thing. I, on the other hand, was so horrified by the scenes at Normandy that I’ve just never taken it upon myself to push past that to the rest of the movie. This week was the week I righted that wrong.

This is in the first like 90 seconds.

Saving Private Ryan begins with the Allied Forces storming the beaches at Normandy and subsequently getting almost entirely blown to smithereens. Tom Hanks and his unit manage to survive and make a hole for the second wave, thus turning the tide of World War II. In the quiet of the aftermath, Hanks is asked to take seven men deeper in country to find a Private James Francis Ryan (Iowa), the only surviving Ryan out of four brothers sent to the front. Hanks collects six of his best men — Tom Sizemore, Ed Burns, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, Barry Pepper, and Chandler’s creepy-ass roommate from that one episode of Friends — and one translator who hasn’t held a gun since basic training — Daniel Faraday from Lost. Together, the eight of them head off on their mission to find “a needle in a stack of needles” and make sure a mother of four from Iowa isn’t forced to sacrifice all of her sons on the altar of freedom. Vin Diesel dies first from a sniper shot as he tries to save a crying child from a crumbling tenement. Giovanni Ribisi goes next as Hanks makes the arguably unnecessary call that the remaining seven take on a fortified machine gun. From this little skirmish, they leave one enemy survivor to wander off blindfolded, assuming Allied troops will pick him up as a POW. Ed Burns thinks it’s a really shitty idea, but lets it go when he finds out Hanks was a schoolteacher pre-war. They find Private James Ryan, but discover quickly that Nathan “Malcolm Reynolds” Fillion isn’t the James Ryan they’re looking for and continue on their way. The correct James Ryan — Matt Damon —  helps to save his remaining six rescuers by blowing up a tank. When Hanks tells Damon of their mission, he refuses to leave his small platoon even more short-handed in their mission to protect an important bridge. Unwilling to forgo his own orders to protect Private Ryan, Hanks orders his men to help with this bridge mission. When the Germans arrive on the scene, another battle ensues and everyone but Ed Burns,  Daniel Faraday, and Precious Ryan dies just before Allied relief arrives. With his last breaths, Hanks tells Ryan to earn the life they’ve all given theirs to secure for him.

This was basically my reaction to everything, too.

I always take notes as I watch the film of choice each week so I have something to refer back to when it comes time to write. Depending on the film, the length and depth of these notes will vary. This week, I only wrote down one thing: “Don’t shoot! Let ‘em burn!” This is a quote shouted by a random Allied soldier as Hanks and his crew set fire to an enemy bunker at Omaha Beach and flaming Nazis fall from its windows. It comes during the tail-end of the Normandy scene and, despite all of the blood and brains and explosions and guys carrying their own missing limbs, this line was the thing that struck me the hardest. I found it so telling of havok war can wreak on the human condition. At this point, I was further than I’d ever gotten before into the film, but still only scratching the surface. I had no idea what other darkness and weight lay in store just ahead. Spielberg has been praised by all for the level of accuracy and attention to detail he put into portraying the gruesome realities of World War II, even when he took artistic license for dramatic effect. From the violence and viscera to the bonds of brotherhood, Spielberg uncovers every last corner of what I presume it must be like for soldiers when the ravages of war replace the mundanity of daily life. And presume I must because, as far as I’m concerned, this movie is as close as this particular film nerd should ever get to real battle. Saving Private Ryan is engrossing and riveting. Spielberg and Kaminski did their damndest to make it impossible to look away. In doing so, they also made it incredibly hard to watch.

I am not exaggerating here.

I’ve been at this whole Watch All The Movies game for … ever. Somewhere in that span, I started creating my own categories for movies for when conventional genres just aren’t specific enough to work for me. For example, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Reservoir Dogs aren’t crime dramas or action flicks. They’re what I like to call Vice movies — flicks where the protagonists aren’t necessarily good guys. And Labyrinth and The Black Cauldron fall into the Deeply Disturb Your Children realm. There’s one category that, until this week, has only ever contained two titles: Kids and Requiem for a Dream. That category is So Good You Must Watch, But Just Once is Enough. Saving Private Ryan is now the third entrant to this elite club. The subject matter, technical expertise, and overall impact should make it required viewing for all. But it’s also that impact — that intellectual and emotional torment it creates that both keeps you watching and makes you want to turn away — that makes one viewing enough for most. That’s what caused me to take just a single note. It wasn’t because nothing else in the film was noteworthy, but rather because I realized I wasn’t going to forget anything I was watching for a very long time. Saving Private Ryan isn’t The Shawshank Redemption. It isn’t the movie we’ll all quote from Pop Culture Hive Mind Memory because we watch it every chance we get. It’s the movie that strives to depict the burden of sacrifice and heroism in the name of maybe the greatest of all Greater Goods. It’s the movie that puts us closer than we’ve ever wanted to be to all the worst parts of life. For that, it definitely deserves a spot here. — KSmith

The Tuesday Blues

THE

TUESDAY BLUES

12/16/14

 

THE SKELETON TWINS


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*** (out of ****)

The opening segment of The Skeleton Twins finds the suicide attempt of Maggie (Kristin Wiig) interupted by a phone call from a nurse who explains that Maggie’s twin brother Milo (Bill Hader) has survived his suicide attempt. This is one of the scariest scenes you can see, not because of the deathly serious topic of suicide, but because it’s a sign you’ve entered into Twee-Indie-Drama-Land. Twee-Indie-Drama-Land is a less than happy place that loves cleverness over truth. This puts a lot of pressure on whoever the actors are. Here we have two SNL-alums; one, a budding superstar still trying to figure out how to aim her shining light, and the other, a comedian not well known outside of SNL fans, and even to them he’s known as a master impressionist. The film is comedic, but not a comedy. This is the kind of opening scene that makes me scared about that actors won’t be able to pull this off, or whether the movie will even allow them. All of a sudden, I’m taken out of the movie, more worried about Kristin and Bill’s career than I am Maggie and Milo’s lives.

I soon find out that I’m an insane, untrusting asshole. After we spend some time getting to know Maggie and Milo separately, we get to see what their estranged relationship is like now. It’s their unhappiness with how far apart they are that gives the audience hope that these two will get past their bullshit and show off that rapport. It’s easy to imagine two other actors, who didn’t spend seven years on the same set writing and acting out skits, struggling to get the audience to believe that their relationship had crumbled, and now they are slowly building it back. The script would have had to rely on lines like “Our relationship has crumbled, and now we slowly are building it back.” With Wiig and Hader, you can just turn the camera on and let them figure the moments out together.

All of this relationship repairing has to take the mandatory dark turn. Just before that, however, we get the best example of Hader and Wiig overcoming the odds of this becoming a typical Indie drama. To cheer Wiig up, Hader begins to lip sync a song they must have liked when they were children. She mopes for as long as she can, but Hader breaks her down, and she jumps up to dance and once again enjoy the fact that she has a brother. On paper, it’s more schmaltzy than the opening, and more cliche. It’s the kind of scene that gets thrown into movies so the trailer for the film can have some action or music. And yet, despite all of that, it’s pure fucking delight, and a contender for the scene of the year.

Wiig’s Maggie is good, but in a lot of ways she’s just a less witty version of most of Wiig’s straight women. Hader is the revelation here, and not just because he at no point relies on his vocal talents. Hader is straight, and Milo is gay, and Milo has effeminate tendencies, and it’s hard to walk the line and make sure you stay true to the character. There’s no cringe inducing moments here, with Hader making his wrist go a little limper to get a harder laugh. The other scene-stealer, against all odds, is Maggie’s husband Lance, played by Luke Wilson. The character is set-up to be the douchiest of douches, one that Luke Wilson would fight against in movies of the early 2000’s. But as the film goes on, Wilson and the filmmakers don’t present Lance as a loud, “bro” screaming, asshole. Instead, Lance is a simple, uncomplicated guy who let Maggie trick him into thinking she was uncomplicated as well, just as she was tricking herself into thinking that she can be married to someone who is so uncomplicated. A two-hander with Wiig and Hader would have been good, but Wilson grounds the two, and gives the movie the dark edge it so clearly wants.

– Ryan Haley

PopFilter Podcast Episode 175

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Can you believe the friends have made it all the way to 175 episodes of the PopFilter Podcast? Neither can they!! To prove that they haven’t become too big for their pop culture britches, they present you with the very first episode of PopFilter 101, where they tackle a pop filter topic they have very little background in! Humble? You bet. Genius? Of course.

In this inaugural episode, the friends all discuss the much maligned, if not misunderstood genre of emo music. From the DC punks of yesteryear to the mascara-wearing cry babies of today, they dig into a genre that kind of made them who they are today.

Email us to get your opinion on the show: contact@yourpopfilter.com

Or call and leave a voicemail: 1-562 DRDJ POP

Review us on iTunes!

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Want to record your own podcast? Check out Phantom48 for all of your electronic and recording needs!

The Superhero Hour Hour 12/12

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It’s mid-season finale week, as Mike and Ryan try to catch their breath after the thrilling mid-clusions of SHIELD, Arrow, and The Flash. Also, there was an episode of Constantine that made them not lose their breath.

Pop Filter Versus: Character Actors

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It’s time for another Bracketology. In this edition, Ryan and Mike pit the top character actors against each other to determine who will be the next Steve Buscemi. Only one can move on and prove they have what it takes to make the jump from obscurely recognizable to full blown star. But who will it be?!?

 

Email us to get your opinion on the show: contact@yourpopfilter.com

Or call and leave a voicemail: 1-562 DRDJ POP

Review us on iTunes!

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Want to record your own podcast? Check out Phantom48 for all of your electronic and recording needs!

Kerri Battles the AFI’s Top 100 – #72: The Shawshank Redemption

This week’s battle is with an old favorite that, if you have even basic cable, you’ve already seen a thousand times (THANKS TNT). I know I have. I’ve watched it in edited bits and pieces — for content, to fit my screen, and to run in the time allotted — more times than I can count, but I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I watched The Shawshank Redemption unedited from titles to credits before this weekend. I’m sure that I have, but it may have been about 19 years ago, when it was first released on home video. That seems appropriate, anyway, since that’s about how long it took Andy Dufresne to tunnel out of his cell.

Andy Dufresne first enters Shawshank Penitentiary in 1937 after being (wrongfully) convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife and her golf pro lover. In 1939, he first speaks to Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding, a man who knows how to get things, and he likes Andy right from the start. Andy hopes Red can procure him a rock hammer, the sound of which makes Red lays eyes on the laughably small instrument. Andy Dufresne really does just want to make his own chess set out of obsidian and soap stone. Though Andy maintains his innocence at all times, he makes the best of his sentence. He succeeds in rebuilding the prison library and uses the experience of his former life as a fancy suit-wearing banker to get on the good side of the guards and, finally, the warden, who finds  Andy’s financial expertise quite useful in his massive money laundering scheme. When new fish Tommy Williams arrives with his greaser pompadour in 1965, Andy takes him under his wing and helps Tommy earn his high school equivalency.  When Red tells Tommy the story of woe that put Andy in Shawshank with the rest of them, Tommy looks sick. Finally, he explains — his former cell mate in another prison told him all about the murder of Andy’s wife because he committed it. Andy takes this information directly to the Warden, hoping for some assistance in getting a retrial. The Warden, more concerned with his off-the-books earnings than the fate of a wrongly accused man, has Tommy shot by a guard and reports it as a failed escape attempt. Andy tells Red, who has been denied parole twice, that when he does finally get out, he needs to head to a big field in a small town and locate a large piece of black volcanic glass under a giant oak tree. Andy tells Red there’s something buried there that he must see. When Red asks what it could possibly be, Andy tells him he has to dig it up to find out. Shortly thereafter, Andy escapes through the tunnel he’s spent decades digging out of his cell using only the laughably small rock hammer. He takes with him all the records of the laundered money and the phony identification for the phantom man he created on paper. Rather than face indictment, the Warden takes a bullet to the chin. When Red finally earns parole, he finds that tree, along with a note from Andy and hundreds of dollars. From there, he meets Andy in their tiny seaside dream town in Mexico.

This is the point in the weekly post formula where I usually start to explain what makes this week’s film stand out, for better or for worse. It’s where I’d start arguing for or against the AFI’s choice, hoping to sway you to seek out or avoid the film at all costs. I can’t do that with The Shawshank Redemption. I can’t tell you anything you don’t already know about this story of existentialism and the indomitable human spirit because, thanks to Ted Turner’s network and the otherwise entertainment-free-zone that is Saturday afternoon programming, every last one of you has seen it more times than you can count. You all know Brooks was here. You know Red was originally written as an aging, graying Irish ginger and Morgan Freeman, true to Morgan Freeman form, performed the shit out of that role anyway. You know [insert any other famous 90s leading man’s name here] turned down the role of Andy Dufresne and has been kicking himself ever since. Hell, I probably could have left out the summary paragraph this week and no one would have noticed because the story of Shawshank is so ingrained in our minds. But did you know that this tale of the triumph of hope in the face of all odds was actually a box office flop that never won a single major award and somehow went on to become the film darling of viewer hearts and minds everywhere?

META. AS. FUCK.

Between its initial limited release, official wide release, and Oscar-buzz-generated rerelease, The Shawshank Redemption brought in barely more than its total budget at the box office. It was nominated for seven Oscars, two Golden Globes, and two SAGs, but only cinematographer Roger Deakins brought home a statuette — the American Society of Cinematographers award for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography. That’s not exactly the type of awards show that gets red carpet coverage on E!. That’s also not exactly the type of results that any Hollywood studio in the business of making money would call a success. Yet, amid all of this ostensible failure, Warner Bros. shipped over 300,000 rental copies to video stores nationwide. Their gambit paid off and The Shawshank Redemption became one of the most highly rented videos of all time. Then, as previously mentioned, Ted Turner stepped in, worked some broadcast-rights-magic, and made it [probably] one of the most viewed films in the history of American cinema. If existentialism is all about rejecting preconceived philosophies and labels in order to determine or define your own meaning behind your existence, then The Shawshank Redemption provides examples of this in both fictional metaphors and the real world.

C’mon, you get it — salvation lies within!

I have only ever met one person on this planet whose official stance on The Shawshank Redemption was “overrated” and that dude was wearing skinny jeans as he uttered those words, so his opinion was already suspect at best. The rest of us have all accepted the film into our Pop Culture Hive Mind as one of the greatest of all time. And it’s not just because the broadcast copyright lapsed without anyone noticing and TV stations everywhere seized the opportunity to air it for free every Christmas (#20, I’m looking at you, you unfettered steaming piece of dung). It’s because of all the reasons you already know. It’s because, even on the surface as well as deep below, it’s a story that reminds us all why it’s important to find our own meaning and joy in life in spite of what hardships we might face. It’s because, in less than 2 and a half hours, you’re warmly reminded of the one simple fact of all life that Andy Dufresne states so succinctly. Get busy living or get busy dying. — KSmith

Popfilter Special Report: Watch a Movie for Social Justice

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If you’ve visited the website for longer than 2 seconds, you get that the tone ranges from semi-serious reviews to the out-and-out farcical. We do our best to shy away from political discussions of any kind, as they are mostly total bummers. We try to be entertainment about entertainment, and (because we refuse to do it ourselves) don’t try to inspire our audience to think-critically about the socio-political world that surrounds us.

 

That being said, I’m going to recommend that everyone in the country watch Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing. This film was released 25 years ago, but the news cycle as of late makes it incredibly topical and gives it a high cultural premium.

 

What is so profound about this film is the rate at which it portrays racially-charged tensions accelerating into violence. The first two thirds of the movie barely touch on racial tension, or handles it in an absurd way, but the third act explodes with it. Racial tension is represented as a super-charged thing that isn’t always visible, but is constantly boiling subdermally. It’s like a river of lava bubbling half a mile below the surface of the earth. It’s got several megatonnage of potential energy, and when the right amount of pressure is applied, all hell breaks loose.* The catalyst that initiates the violence is almost hard to nail down. Sure, the excessive and unnecessary use of deadly force by the police plays a major role, but it’s not the genesis of these catastrophic events. There’s a monster hiding under the bed of the community that’s responsible for what happens.

 

This movie is a quarter of a century old, yet it deals with issues we have barely begun to comprehend, and should stop pretending like its not happening. There has been so much discussion about what happened in Ferguson and now the tragedy of Eric Garner. This movie is a great example of how art holds a mirror up to society and shows the ugly truth we don’t always want to see. Do the Right Thing doesn’t have the answers, but it promotes understanding, something that’s so important for a society trying to wrap its head around its own demons. The truth is, we are all responsible for what happened to Eric Garner/Mike Brown/countless others; we’ve all got blood on our hands. And we’ve got to own the responsibility. This movie gives a voice to a fictional community where almost the exact circumstances of these incidents happened. The police, though major players in the injustice, are not the only problem and to stop with them doesn’t address the real problems. The poison has long been steeping in the tea kettle we all drink from. If we refuse to recognize the ways in which our society doesn’t work, how are we ever suppose to put an end to the violence?

 

*Scientifically speaking, this is not exactly how volcanoes work. I worded it that way for metaphor. See your local 6th grade science teacher for more information on volcanoes.
-Stephanie Rose

The Tuesday Blues

THE

TUESDAY BLUES

12/09/14

 

FRANK

FRANK

*** (out of ****)

Before the journey of Jon, the non-eponymous protagonist of Frank, officially begins, Jon asks Don, played by the increasingly reliable Scoot McNairy, what exactly Frank’s deal is. Don doesn’t think Jon is talking about Frank’s giant fake head, but instead about his brilliance, to which Don nods his head and confirms Frank’s brilliance. It’s a dangerous move for a movie to make, as we now know that at least one person in this world thinks another one is great before we’ve had an opportunity to decide for ourselves. Are we going to spend the rest of the movie’s run time realizing the same thing, or finding out that Don is an idiot and Frank is crazy?

Jon is a loser. He’s too old to live with his parents, but he’s too attached to his dream of being a songwriter to remedy the situation. He believes in himself…kind of, but doesn’t give us a reason to think that he’s any good. One day, while he’s out writing his songs/avoiding writing his songs, he stumbles upon a band called Soronprfbs, watching their keyboardist try to drown himself. Bada boom bada bing, Jon is replacing the keyboardist in the local show that night. The band is filled with the type of artists Jon isn’t, including Don, a psychopathic theremin player played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Frank, played by Michael Fassbender, the aforementioned musical genius, wears a giant fake head that he never takes off. He performs in it, he sleeps in it, he showers in it, and he drinks liquids through a straw that runs up it. Jon puts his dream of writing bland contemporary hits to the side to join what he believes are real musicians. Frank decides to make Jon the permanent keyboardist, just before the band moves to a cabin to record what they believe will become one of the greatest albums of all time. And this is where Jon, not to mention the audience, gets to determine if good ol’ Scoot was right about Frank or not.

If Jon is the wannabe hit machine, than Gyllenhaal is his polar opposite, an artist who wants nothing to do with fame and success and pleasing audiences. And then there’s Frank, who gently floats like a bubble between the two. Gyllenhaal obviously has some power over Frank, although we don’t know to what degree or why. Jon, whether he knows it or not, wants the same power, that same relationship with Frank. And whether or not Frank is the genius that Don purports no longer matters by the time Jon gets to know him. He’s infectious and honest and endearing, alternating between that being because of his head or despite his head until you almost forget that the head is fake. Frank is the tortured artist that Jon and Gyllenhaal long to be, but Jon has none of the torture, and Gyllenhaal has none of the artistry. They both need Frank to prop up their dreams and fears. They don’t take the time to consider why Frank needs to hide inside of his head, as long as they can hide behind it.

This might all sound like it adds up to a heavy story about artsy-fartsies, but it’s not even close. Director Lenny Abrahamson keeps everything light and bouncy, with a style and a score that makes this feel more like Rock Star than Sid and Nancy. And that’s a good thing. Maybe a dark, gritty version of the lead singer with a big paper mache head would have worked, but now we never have to find out. Instead, we get to focus on Michael Fassbender, who doesn’t let his face being covered up end the roll that he’s on right now. Instead of playing the sexy asshole we’ve all been jealous of over the last five years, he plays a nerdy Midwesterner, and, with just his hands and his voice, perfectly balances between lovable genius and off-putting weirdo. By the time we get to the final act, which could have been mired in TV movie bullshit, we’re ready for whatever Fassbender has to sell us.

ALSO RELEASED

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

If you’re anything like me, and not an asshole, than you’ve already seen this movie three times in theaters. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t ready for another run-through. Remember that time when Rocket gets really mad and kicks a weed to death? Or that time where Quill flies a space ship with a space ship? There are so many parts of this movie that didn’t get enough giggly, fanboy discussion, and now is their chance. Just so you know, you can get this in 2-D, 3-D, a Target exclusive 2-D, and five different versions of the cover, each with a member of the team. Buy them all. Don’t be an asshole.

 

SAFE

SAFE

Criterion anoints Safe into the canon this week, and it’s even more topical and striking today than it was twenty years ago. Julianne Moore plays a ditzy housewife, whose daily to-do list contains things like “be pretty” and “sit in a chair.” She gets very sick, and the illness might be an allergy to her environment. She goes to live with a self-help cult, but that doesn’t work either. Todd Haynes’ (I’m Not There) breakout film doesn’t offer any easy answers, and works as much like a quiet horror movie as it does an in-depth look at the banality of upper class life. Special features include two docs, a commentary, and Todd Haynes’ first short film, The Suicide. 

HEAVEN AND EARTH

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The third entry in the Oliver Stone Vietnam trilogy, after Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July, this is the one that nobody remembers, and rightfully so. It’s not that it’s awful. It just feels like Oliver Stone is trying to get his typical ‘Nam rocks off while addressing critics of his manly, souped-up style. This all adds up to a movie that does in fact feature a female protagonist, but one that still needs male character to rescue her and make her decisions. It’s a good try, but ultimately the movie feels too schmaltzy and pandering.

 

DIAMOND LUXE EDITIONS

(BATMAN, BEN HUR, THE GREEN MILE, GREMLINS, FORREST GUMP, NATURAL BORN KILLERS)

GREMLINS

 

What a bag of bullshit this is. This is the week Warner Bros. introduces the world to Diamond Luxe, a new way of packaging the movies you already own. If you are not a modern collector, please stop reading this immediately, as this does not apply to you. If you are a modern collector, and I have to assume you are from this point forward, you are in fucking luck.  The Diamond Luxe Blu-Rays, or D. Luxe, as it will probably be known on the streets soon, don’t necessarily have new features, but do offer slick packaging that brings the total width of your Blu-Ray, when closed, to a half inch. If you want to try this awesomeness, get Gremlins, which actually does have a bunch of new special features, and you probably don’t already own it. Plus it’s a Christmas movie in which one of the main character’s fathers dies stuck in a chimney dressed as Santa Claus. Classic.

 

– Ryan Haley

 

 

 

TOP TEN- BLAST FROM THE PAST

THE POP FILTER TOP TEN 

TV THEME SONGS

BLAST FROM THE PAST

10. THE MUPPET SHOW

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Sometimes the point of a theme song can be to introduce you to the characters, or to the premise of the show. Sometimes it can be nothing more than shit that plays just so the opening credits won’t be silent. And sometimes – not often, but sometimes – it serves to get you pumped the fuck up. The show’s theme song is introducing the show that the show is about, with all of the main characters getting ready to put on a show, which will be the main point of the show, which will show some of that in the show. This could be confusing if you had missed the theme song, or if a more generic theme song was used. But it wasn’t, so it’s not, and you will understand everything that’s going on the entire time. Or you’ll still be confused, but who gives a shit? You’ll be excited enough not to care. It’s time to play the music. It’s time to light the lights. – RH

9. THE OFFICE (US)

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Yes, it’s instrumental. Yes, it’s relatively short. Yes, it will get stuck in your head for days. And yes, this is the only part of the show that is completely better than the UK version. The Office (US) has a theme that goes from sounding like a pomp and circumstance to a rock n’ roll classic. I’m not sure why or how they made the transition in moods as smooth as they did, but it is ultra impressive every single time. I assume that this was written by Devo with God’s dick on paper made from the hides of cows that are so well kept that they make the cows that go to making Kobe beef look like dog shit that is trampled through the house on the shoe of an eight year old. Now I don’t know if that’s true, (it almost definitely is) but it seems like the only way that something this deceptively simple yet completely awesome could ever be remembered. Or they just used regular paper. – JRN
8. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES

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It’s only the catchiest, most reference tv theme song in the history of man. Back in the days of Alexander the Great they would describe the victors in battle as ‘heroes in a half-shell’.  Intercut with the amazing 80’s poprockness, the Turtles describe the show and themselves to the viewer. Are you looking to watch a group that’s really hip? You’re in luck my friend, within the first 3 seconds of the song they let you know that’s what you’re in for. While bombarding you with awesomeness you’ll be singing for eons to come, it’s also giving you the loose backstory you’ll need to be able to watch the show from any point. They’re Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, they’re green, they’re the world’s most fearsome fighting team, Splinter taught them. Most importantly, Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines, Raphael is cool but rude and Jason’s name is Jason Noble. Now you can watch the show.-MG
7. THE WONDER YEARS
I’m not a television insider but I bet it’s either considered bad form or a risky move to use an already existing song for your opening theme.  But if the shoe fits, make a cover of a  Beatles song your opening theme song because the Beatles are awesome.  A story is about to be told here, this theme song says, and it’s not wrong. –SB
6. X- MEN
I still get a little kid boner when I hear this song. X-Men mentally prepared me for the day every morning, and it’s what got me into comic books. None of that would’ve happened if the theme song hadn’t grabbed my childish brain with it’s driving forcefulness. This song means business, so much so that the show would use at the end of every episode in the climactic fight. Because, sure they could score the show with more music, but why when you have the most epic fight song already written? Most important, it’s literally the only instrumental theme song everyone knows the lyrics to. If you think you don’t, listen to it and you’ll know exactly where to put the words “Gambit, too!”-MG
5. SANFORD AND SONS
Bum-bum-bwan-up
Bum-bum-bwan-up bwan-up bwao
Bum-bum-bwan-up
Bum-bum-bwan-up bwan-up bwaoYou smiling right now? Yeah, I know you are. – RH

4. BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES


Quite possibly the most epic theme song for any show ever, let alone any cartoon. Right away it sets the tone of the show, letting you know this isn’t going to be some happy campy bullshit. It starts off eerie, and then kicks into high gear with an explosion.  The intro bleed noir, and gives an air of danger and violence rarely seen in cartoons even today with its gorgeous animation mixed with the haunting orchestra. This is a show where Batman gets real and fuck shit up, and he’s going to tie a batarang around your legs and drag you along for the ride, and you’re going to love it.-MG

3. THE SIMPSONS

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For over 500 episodes now the Simpsons theme has been steadily ingraining itself into all of our brains.  We have all now been programmed, almost as much as Homer is programmed to drool at the sight of a glorious donut, to expect some whim, fancy, delight, and satire for at least some of the following 24-30 minutes. Danny Elfman’s composition sets a tone of fun and folly which we expect from the series.  No matter what is going on in the world around us when we hear the opening chorus of singers, we can trust the city of Springfield to spring to life, with a predictable (and comforting) set of events inevitably following. Grocery checker scanning Maggie: check. Lisa sax solo: check. Bart scrawls topical joke on chalkboard: check. We’re ready to be whisked away to a word where no one ever ages and everyone’s hands only have 4 digits. Thanks, Simpson’s theme song. –LF

2. THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR

The only rap song that all of America knows every word of, the theme song from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air did something that’s kind of dated, but that I kind of miss: it told the origin story. Every single week, before we got to see exactly how the Will Smith, the pussiest street tough of all time, would torment the poor Banks family that took him in and tolerated him like he was one of their own, we would be re-told the story of how all of this came to be. Never would there be any confusion as to how this kid wound up in this house. We would always know exactly how his life both got flipped AND turned upside down, regardless of what else happened in the episode. The rap duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince had a few other hits to call their own, but nothing they ever created as a team would have the effect that this sixty second chart topper would have. – RH

1. CHEERS

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A good theme song can be hummed by someone who has never even seen the show, but someone who has never seen Cheers can do much more than hum it; they probably know the song word for word. Where Everybody Knows Your Name, written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart, feels much more like an actual song, as opposed to something that’s “just a theme song”, which is a lot of the reason that it was able to have crossover popularity and burn up the Billboard charts of 1982. When I recently burned through the entire run of Cheers, I didn’t skip the opening credits a single time, which is something I rarely do. I didn’t skip it because it really is a good song, but it also embodies the feeling and tone of a show more than any other theme song of all time. Any time you hear it, you don’t feel like your watching the show, you feel like you’re inside that fictional bar, and that’s impressive for any song to do, theme song or not. – RH

PopFilter Podcast Episode 174

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This week on the PopFilter Podcast, the friends discuss the new Smashing Pumpkins album “Monument to an Elegy” as well as Lisa Kudrow’s “Comeback”. They also build an incredible mountain to the four most iconic pop culture comebacks of all time. For the first time, they also let the world know what they need to settle down about. What does that mean?! Fucking listen to the show and find out! Jeez man…

Email us to get your opinion on the show: contact@yourpopfilter.com

Or call and leave a voicemail: 1-562 DRDJ POP

Review us on iTunes!

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Want to record your own podcast? Check out Phantom48 for all of your electronic and recording needs!

The Super Hero Hour Hour 12/5

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The show you have been waiting for is here, discussing the shows you were waiting for but have already seen, but haven’t heard Mike and Ryan discuss them! Mike and Ryan tackle the Flash/Arrow two part crossover, along with reviews of the latest episodes of Constantine, SHIELD, and The Walking Dead. Plus…Preacher update!

Mixtape: Ultimate Wedding

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To break up all of the holiday cheer that you’ll be inundated with over the next month or so, we decided to make an episode dedicated to a different kind of cheer- Wedding cheer! Now I know that might seem out of character for PopFilter, but we believe in love and all that gushy stuff, we just think it could be done better. So enjoy the top 15 tracks that will complete your wedding and make it better than your dumb friends’ and families’ that included the chicken dance. The goddamn chicken dance. Monsters. Enjoy!

 

 

Popfilter Special Report

The Little Mermaid: Feminist Horror Story or Trans Hero?

ariel_s_bubble_bath_by_redhood07-d7h28mh

Disney Princess movies have attracted some, albeit understandable, antagonism based on the messages of the stories. These criticisms are playfully reductionist views that are arrived at by boiling down what the hero’s journey was all about. They are probably best represented by a series of pithy memes that are all over the internet:article-2339722-1A439A44000005DC-410_634x1013

These criticisms highlight disturbing messages promoted by these princess movies that are so worshiped by impressionable little girls. And for the most part, they are pretty funny and accurate. Beauty and the Beast does feature a woman who falls in love with her abusive kidnapper. Snow White is useless and distressed damsel with no personal agency. But they are wrong about The Little Mermaid. They’ve got it all backwards about Ariel.honest-disney-mermaid

The idea is that Ariel trades in her fins and pretty much everything she knows about the world (including how gravity works; fish flop around like morons on land because they don’t understand what the ground is) for a pair of gams to live on dry land all so she can be with a man. Internet “critics” attribute her motivations somewhat retroactively. They assume the reason she made this change was to achieve what she couldn’t have known she was going to achieve.

dafuq-pd

Think of it this way, when a guy (let’s call him Joe) sees a woman (let’s call her Sally) in a short skirt and finds her attractive, Joe unconsciously assumes Sally’s reason for wearing the skirt was so that he would be attracted to her. There are a million other reasons why she might be wearing that skirt, none of which might be about Joe. This faulty logic comes from the way in with people constantly confuse cause and effect. Just because Ariel ended up marrying Prince Eric doesn’t mean the choices she made were designed to orchestrate exactly that outcome. So what were her motivations? Luckily there is an entire Oscar winning song dedicated to this very question:


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And not a single mention of Prince Eric. Her desire to be human is established long before that pretty boy waltzes his way into her merheart.

Ariel’s journey mirrors that of transgendered individuals in a number of ways. Not just the obvious stuff, like the fact that she identifies more with the culture of land people and doesn’t feel comfortable in her own fin. But take note of her extensive collection of crap. She gets that stuff from grave-robbing shipwrecks that have sunk to the bottom of the ocean, and sometimes almost gets ripped open and eaten by a shark for the privilege. She blows off trying to blend into a society she feels no connection to in favor of exploring something in which she does feel connected. Her voice in “Part of that World” is heartbreakingly pitched in a way that conveys a deep and total sense of longing. The sheer volume of artifacts suggests that she has been doing this for years, most likely since early puberty. This is not just some passing phase; this a girl figuring out who she really is. She is trying to express her identity the only way she knows how.  Ariel is trans; she identifies as a different species than the one she was born into. That makes her a transpecist.

 

Another area where Ariel’s hero’s journey is reminiscent of the transgender journey is the breakdown that happens between Ariel and her father. Unfortunately, this is a breakdown that is experienced by a lot of trans people when they come out (accidentally or on purpose) to their families. Consider Ariel’s father’s reaction when he rolls up on Ariel’s little treasure trove. He goes berserker and blows the living shit out of the place. He wants to erase, deny and control what’s going on with his daughter. Underneath that reaction is unmitigated fear: fear that she will reject the life he’s envisioned for her, fear of losing his child, and fear of this obsession he doesn’t understand. He represses her with all his rage, but he can’t control this. With the full weight of her father’s disapproval bearing down on her, Ariel still makes a deal with the devil and sells her voice for legs and goes all land or bust. Ariel gives up everything, not for a man, but to be who she really is, on the other side of being desperately unhappy.

This would have been a much better punishment from Ursula.

This would have been a much better punishment from Ursula.

Once on land with a body she feels truly reflects who she is on the inside, Ariel can pursue the life that she’s always wanted. It turns out that she wants a boy. She’s a 16 year old girl, for shit’s sake. That’s what they do. The important turn around is that ultimately her father does accept Ariel’s life as a person because he recognizes that his daughter is experiencing the joys of life, something she never could/did under the sea. No longer the mopey loner with no friends (other than fish) she is flourishing and happy. He restores her legs and gives her his blessing.

Say what you want about the motivations and weaknesses of Belle, Aurora, Snow White and Cinderella. Ariel gave up everything to be true to who she is. That’s pretty damn brave.

 

-Stephanie Brady

Kerri Battles the AFI’s Top 100 — #73: Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid

I don’t know if you’ve all noticed, but The List has been on a peak run of choices for the last month and a half or so that I just can’t seem to argue with. From The Apartment up until last week’s bout with The Silence of the Lambs, the AFI and I have been in agreement. I’d been secretly hoping at least one of these movies would drive me nuts because, personally, I find it much easier to rant about why something is horrifically terrible than I do to sing its praises. This week, though, I was sorely out of luck in that department. This week … well, let’s just say I may have to reorganize my own personal Top 100 to fit this one somewhere in the Top 10.

Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid is a mostly true story that follows the real outlaws from the height of their infamy to the moment the world presumed they were dead. After a long absence scouting potential robbery targets, Butch and Sundance return to Hole-In-The-Wall, Wyoming, to find that their gang has replaced Butch as the leader. The new leader challenges Butch to a knife fight over the throne, which Butch decisively wins by punching his opponent in the nuts. Butch retains leadership, but also agrees that his challenger had a good plan — to rob the Union Pacific’s Overland Flyer train on both legs of its round trip. The logic here is that the second robbery would be so unexpected by the railroad that it was actually bound to be far more lucrative than the first. The first robbery goes off without a hitch. The second, however, isn’t quite as smooth. E.H. Harriman, chairman of the railroad, has invested in a stronger, tougher safe. The gang overcomes this obstacle by using far too much dynamite and blowing the train car to bits. As they scramble to grab the bills fluttering from the sky, another, much smaller train approaches. This train contains the best Pinkertons money can buy, including a full blooded Native American known as Lord Baltimore who boasts the ability to track anyone and anything over any kind of terrain. The gang splits up in hopes of dividing the Pinkerton gang, as well, with Butch and Sundance riding off on their own. Knowing Butch and Sundance are the real brains and brawn behind the Hole-In-The-Wall operation, the Pinkertons remain on their tail and in perfect formation. Unable to shake them, Butch and Sundance grab Etta, Sundance’s girl, and make a run for New York on the way to Bolivia. Without the constant threat of arrest in sight behind them, Butch & Sundance return to their old bank robbing tricks, using Etta as a conspirator. When the Pinkertons show up in Bolivia waiting for an excuse to extradite, Butch & Sundance decide to go straight to deprive them of the pleasure. They become payroll guards for a mining outfit and are ambushed by robbers on their first job. After shooting the bandits (the first time Butch has ever killed a man), they realize the straight life isn’t for them and head right back to outlawing with a plan to rob the next payroll delivery. The Bolivian authorities, though, prove to be more than the boys bargained for and a gunfight ensues. Tired, injured, and running out of bullets, the film ends with a freeze frame of Butch and Sundance charging into a hail of gunfire.

Yep. Just like that.

First things first: I had never seen Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid before now. I’ve been on this planet for 33 years. I was raised by a family of film buffs, spent my formative years having marathon movie nights with friends, and spent too many years to mention earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Film. How does it work out that no one ever bothered to screen this movie for me? Whose fault is it exactly that I was deprived of the pure joy of this film until now?! I can only conclude that the system is broken and, somehow, The Man is to blame. There’s no other possible explanation that makes sense. Maybe Commie Pinkos. Otherwise, this flick genuinely has everything you need for a good story — action, drama, and comedy with just enough romance and mystery to keep it interesting.  You may be rooting for the criminals, but you’re definitely not rooting for bad guys. Butch and Sundance are the guys who crack off-color jokes at the most inappropriately pivotal times because they’re always thinking one step ahead and they know it. They’re the guys trying to convince Woodcock, the low-level-groveler in a cheap suit, that, while his job description might read, “Protect E.H. Harriman’s Money,” it probably wasn’t intended to include, “Get Blown Up by TNT.” When Woodcock still refuses to open the train car door, his safety is the first thing Butch thinks of … once the door is dynamited off its tracks, of course. These are two just well-intentioned outlaws trying to get by in a world where a (probably inherited) millionaire railroad tycoon is willing to spend way more on ensuring their capture and death than they ever actually stole from him in the first place. Who could be against that?

Dudes who get kicked in the nuts, that’s who.

 

Making criminals endearing on screen requires a lot of effort from a lot of different contributors. First and foremost, credit has to be given to the real Butch and Sundance for leading such colorful, memorable lives that required very little embellishment. From there, you have to move on to the writer, who found their story to tell, and the director and crew, who turned a fascinating tale into an accessible and visually stimulating tale. Everyone involved behind the scenes deserves a nod. But Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid would be nothing without Newman and Redford in the respective leads. A trivia factoid on IMDb purports that Jack Lemmon was offered the role of The Kid, but had to turn it down due to scheduling conflicts with The Odd Couple. If that’s true, then thank Jebus for small favors. Newman and Redford display a natural chemistry and sense of comedic timing that never crosses into ridiculous and continually reminds you that these “characters” were real men who would have reacted in real human ways. There are plenty of movies that attempt to tell the stories of Real American Folk (Anti)Heroes. When cast as well as possible, the product might be Tombstone. When casting is based solely upon whichever 20-something actor is box office gold that day, you get Young Guns instead. But only a perfect combination of talent, fateful galactic convergence, and blind stupid luck would  you ever get a dual performance as flawless as that of Redford and Newman gave here.

Look at these magnificent bastards. Who doesn’t want to watch ANY MOVIE with these two as the stars?

This film has a lot going for it — solid writing, quality directing, impeccable acting. A lot of the other films on The List have these qualities, too. This one, though, has a quality that hasn’t shown its face very often among the other 26 films I’ve made it through so far. Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid is fun. There’s really no other word for it. The other listees may have been good at action or drama or romance or even outright intentional comedy, but they can each be placed definitively in a single, broad genre. #73 on the list manages to be all of these at once without ever settling to finally rest at ia single category. It’s not often that a film can achieve that sort of delicate balancing act, but the ones that do are usually the ones we keep going back to watch, even decades after their release. Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid is no exception. The AFI chose well in naming it to the list, though #73 seems undeservingly low…. — KSmith

The Tuesday Blues

THE

TUESDAY BLUES

12/02/14

 

 

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

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Much has been said about the horrible hell that was the 2014 summer movie season. I think that’s a little short-sighted. The Transformers movie was allegedly not very good, but which Transformers movie ever has been? For every The Amazing Spider-Man 2, there was a X-Men: Days of Future Past, for every Tammy, there was a 22 Jump Street. All in all, I think we did OK this summer. But public perception means more than actual stats or opinions, and public perception is that the summer of 2014 was garbage. And this feeling, this need for something that was better than average, may have elevated Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to more of a modern classic than it actually deserves.

Three years later, I’m still shocked by how much I liked Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I wake up every morning, look at the poster of Caesar on my ceiling, and say “Damn. That movie was pretty good.” It’s not just a shock because it’s a prequel/sequel/reboot/remake, and the odds of those being good are pretty low, but also because it’s essentially a drama, a character piece covered in CGI and wrapped up with the third act of an action movie, which was thrilling, but unnecessary. There was a lot of talk about Andy Serkis, who plays the computer generated Caesar, getting one of those Supporting Actor nominations thrown his way, just to let him, and the world, know that we acknowledge his greatness. I’m not sure we need to go that far, but Serkis, and in turn Caesar, was definitely the star of the first movie, luring an unsuspecting nation into rooting for the humans to die as brutally as possible.

Serkis is still clearly the star here, but as the franchise switches genres, and goes from drama-with-action to full-blown-action, there’s much less for him to do. The stakes are higher on a global scale – the future of the human species is in question here – but the personal stakes, the coming of age tale and the act of self-discovery, get lost in yet another story about violence, and the differences between MLK and Malcolm X. The aforementioned X-Men film series gives us this in a clearer, if not better, way, and in the end, you wonder if even DOTPOT Apes knows what it’s trying to say, other than it knows it has to try and say something.

The human characters are so flat and inconsequential that they are barely worth mentioning, which I’m fine with. The roles and performances of Caesar and Koba, Caesar’s right hand man who eventually decides that Caesar is too chummy with the humans, are much richer, and much more fun to watch. Caesar allows humans into the Ape Village, because doing so will keep the two species from going to war. Koba doesn’t give a fuck. Humans jacked his face up, and now need to pay the price. Caesar’s main goal is to protect the apes at all costs. Koba’s is too, he just knows not to trust the humans. Killing them now means that, in the long run, more apes will be protected. Which one is right? It’s Caesar, for no other reason than he’s the main character. He’s the likable, scarless one, and he’s the one we all fell for in the first movie. The humans don’t give us any reason to think they are worth saving, particularly Gary Oldman’s character, the leader of the humans, whose first, last, and only idea is to kill all of the apes. Koba’s plan is the one that makes the most sense, but this eventually leads to Koba’s demise. See, Caesar isn’t anti-violence, he’s anti-violence that he doesn’t give the green light to. Maybe this is the case for all leaders. After all, the president is also the Commander in Chief. But it’s also a little confusing.

Every time DOTPOT Apes seems like they are about to dip more than just a toe into the confusing waters of dealing with war and violence, explosions and screaming fill the soundtrack, drowning out any hope of thinking. Sometimes, that war and violence is cool, and you’re not worried about a lack of thought. Most of the time, particularly toward the final third, it feels like action for action’s sake, forsaking the leisurely pace of the first movie to fit in better with the other action movies surrounding it. The story of Caesar is an interesting one, and if this movie mainly serves as the bridge between the first and third movies, it could have been worse. But here’s to hoping that the third movie takes a breath as deep as the first one did, and once again lets us get inside this compelling, revolutionary protagonist. Wait…I just found out that it will most likely be called War of the Planet of the Apes. Oh well.

 

ALSO RELEASED

 

JINGLE ALL THE WAY 2

JINGLE ALL THE WAY 2

I have only seen this seven times, which isn’t enough to properly dissect every subtextual deconstruction of today’s consumer society. Please give me a few more days to watch this a couple more times.

JUSTIFIED: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON

JUSTIFIED SEASON 5

***1/2 (out of ****)

Sometimes people get confused, and think that “worst season” means “bad season.” Mad Men had a worst season. So did The Wire and Breaking Bad. But I don’t think that means that you should just not watch it. I mean, we’re not talking Roseanne winning the lottery here. In it’s fifth and penultimate season, we find Superstar Deputy Marshall Raylen Givens going toe-to-toe against another white trash family, this time led by Michael Rappaport. It’s a long way off from the series highs of Margo Martindale in season 2, but no matter what, Raylen Motherfucking Givens is in every single episode, so how bad could it be? There might be a little too much Dewey, and there’s never going to be enough Boyd, but the whole thing comes together perfectly in the end, making the wait for season six seem like an eternity.

LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION

LOONEY TUNES BACK IN ACTION

**1/2 (out of ****)

Just seven years after the release of Space Jam, with the nation still trying to recover from its sheer delight, Warner Bros. tried to keep the franchise going with Looney Tunes: Back in Action. The country collectively didn’t give a fuck. I’m not here to argue that they were wrong, but I will say that today, with none of the pressure of being the Space Jam follow-up, Back in Action doesn’t totally basterdize everything we grow up loving. It’s too loud, too frenetic, too…2003-ish, but, it still has its moments, making you realize that mediocre Bugs and Daffy is still a lot better than the best Penguins or Minions.

 

MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON

75TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

MR SMITHGOES TO WASHINGTON

**** (out of ****)

I’d say that this is perfect timing, but I’m not sure there’s ever been a time since 1939 where the entire country didn’t need to sit down and watch this movie together. The Capra-esque values can still induce some eye rolls, but just like It’s a Wonderful Life, that other Capra/Stewart callabo, it’s a lot darker than you might remember, although no one in Mr. Smith slaps a kid in his bad ear until it bleeds (Hot Dog!). The movie, on Blu Ray for the first time, also includes five featurettes, a feature-length doc, and commentary from Frank Capra’s son, who constantly discusses the director’s love for hitting children in the ear.

 

THE SIMPSONS: THE SEVENTEENTH SEASON

THE SIMPSONS SEASON 17

I swear to God I’ve seen every single episode in this season. But looking through the list of episodes, I couldn’t find a single thing to talk about. How is the 17th season of The Simpsons different than the 16th or 18th? It’s a good question, but it’s probably a pretty safe bet that neither the 16th nor 18th season has an episode with this plot description: “After blowing Springfield’s chances for an NFL franchise, Grandpa goes to an assisted-suicide center, then becomes a bullfighter.” You’ll never stop The Simpsons, indeed.

THE STRAIN: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON

THE STRAIN SEASON ONE

I think there was a time in our recent lives when we were counting on The Strain to be good television. It was on a dependable network (FX), had movie people attached (Guillermo Del Toro), and it felt like we were on the verge of getting a great horror television show (although I think Hannibal definitely counts). Now that the first season is over, and we know that it’s not going to save television, much less horror television, The Strain can officially settle in as a pretty sweet way to kill a flu-riddled weekend. The hokey dialogue and cardboard characterization forced The Strain to buckle under the pressure, but not that it can be watched (or fast forwarded) in its entirety, its a good time to get caught up.

 – Ryan Haley

PopFilter Podcast Presents the 2014 Fall TV Challenge

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On this episode of the PopFilter Podcast, Jason sits down with Ryan and YourPopFilter superstar writer Stephanie to discuss the new crop of Fall TV shows. They also finally tell you who wins in a bar fight between Transparent and Jane the Virgin! It might not be who you think maybe!!

Email us to get your opinion on the show: contact@yourpopfilter.com

Or call and leave a voicemail: 1-562 DRDJ POP

Review us on iTunes!

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Want to record your own podcast? Check out Phantom48 for all of your electronic and recording needs!

The Super Hero Hour Hour 11/28

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The Walking Dead is back on the show, and better than ever. Ryan catches up with the entire season. Tune in to see if he thinks Mike, and the rest of the world, is correct when they say that The Walking Dead “isn’t that bad anymore.” Also, reviews of the newest episodes of Gotham, The Flash, and the not-long-for-this-world Constantine.

PopFilter vs Thankfulness

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Get ready to bring Jason and Ryan into your family’s Thanksgiving festivities, as they countdown the five things in pop culture that they are most thankful for. Do a shot of gravy every time they mention Chris Pratt.

Kerri Battles the AFI’s Top 100 — #74: The Silence of the Lambs

“Good evening, Clarice.” It’s one of the great misquoted movie lines of the 21st century. It’s right up there with, “No. I am your father.” But it exists within a movie I’ve seen far fewer times. In fact, before this weekend, I wasn’t certain that I’d ever actually seen The Silence of the Lambs in its entirety and in one sitting. When you’re as big a fan of Movies as I am, a question like that will nag at you, particularly with a movie so culturally pervasive as this one. Finally sitting down and removing all doubt is like finally being able to scratch that itch that started on the bottom of your pedal foot while you were driving on the highway. Satisfying doesn’t quite begin to describe it.

… No… that REALLY doesn’t describe it, either…

The Silence of the Lambs focuses on an ambitious young FBI Academy student, Clarice Starling, who is hoping to make a name for herself in the Behavioral Science Unit. When her teacher and BSU agent, Jack Crawford, asks her to interview infamous serial killer Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter, she jumps at the chance. Her goal is to consult the brilliant and beyond-insane Lecter on another case: Buffalo Bill, the guy who keeps killing chubby chicks and skinning their pieces. Clarice develops something of a rapport with Dr. Lecter and begins to suspect he knows Buffalo Bill personally. When Buffalo Bill abducts the daughter of a Senator, Clarice (per Crawford), offers Lecter a deal — if he gives them Buffalo Bill’s real name, the Senator will approve his transfer to a cell with a view. The deal’s a fake, but the Senator makes it real when she finds out her name was used without her knowledge. Finally, Lecter gives a name: Louis Friend. Clarice spots it immediately as a fake and works it out to be an anagram of Iron Sulfide. Fool’s Gold. Her visitation rights revoked, Clarice sneaks in to Lecter’s temporary holding area and begs for the name. As she’s dragged out by local cops, Lector gives back Bill’s file and tells her all the info she needs is inside. Ten minutes later, Lector brutally murders two of those cops, wears one of their faces like a mask, and escapes. Clarice discovers, with the help of Lecter’s cryptic notes, connections in Bill’s file that hadn’t been explored before. Through a wacky boy-is-my-face-red turn of events, she finds herself alone in the home of Buffalo “Makin’ a Woman Suit Out of Women” Bill without backup. Clarice almost dies, but kills Bill and saves the girl instead. When he calls to express his congratulations, Lecter tells Clarice he has no intention of coming after her and he would appreciate the same courtesy. Then he heads off into the sunset to eat the Smug Pompous Warden from Act I.

Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs is to the world of movies what The Beatles are to the world of modern music. Neither is particularly innovative or progressive. In fact, both are fairly simple and accessible to all audiences. But both take simple and accessible and do it masterfully, in a way that allows them all to continue to reach audiences long after their times. For The Beatles, it’s just the right harmonies and strategically placed “oooohs” or bass lines that keep modern bands listing them as an influence. For Demme, it’s the perfect extreme close up or the minute details the FBI consultants ensured were accurate. It’s his way of simply describing or showing reactions to gore so that the little bit of viscera he finally does show has real impact. It’s the way he builds the charming and beyond-classification-crazy Dr. Lector character, then yanks him away mid-movie, reminding us that — oh yeah! — we’re supposed to be finding that maniac who keeps dropping skinless women in rivers. And it’s the way he then builds the suspense all over again until Clarice is grasping around in a blackened basement while Buffalo Bill watches from inches away through night vision goggles. The Silence of the Lambs isn’t perfect, of course. No Pop Culture icon is flawless — even The Beatles had “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”  — and different groups seem to have pretty vocal opinions on which flaw is most in need of correction. We could debate the merit of these claims all day, but it would be nothing more than a distraction from the most disturbingly inaccurate portrayal of all.

SOTL Credit

Just … look at it.

The above photo is a screencap of the opening credits. For the first few minutes of the film, their appearance on screen at regular intervals dominates the view. They’re jarring, obscuring and distracting from the action occurring behind them. This specific title credit, though, is perhaps the most distracting, especially at the time of release. Think about it. It’s 1991. Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” video is basically playing on a loop on MTV. You know the one — that little black and white short featuring the musician himself rolling around on a beach with a topless Helena Christensen that causes men and women to stop, gasp, and stare. To see his name in bold and imposing letters on screen like this makes you think he’s going to have an important role in the film, if not a large one. Paul Lazar and Dan Butler, for example, play Pilcher and Rodin, the scientists who identify the rare moth from the poster for Clarice. They provide the only, much-needed comic relief in the film and are ultimately instrumental in the success of Clarice’s search for Buffalo Bill. They’re not major characters, but they are imperative to the progression of the plot. Chris Isaak, on the other hand, plays “SWAT Commander” and has about 4 lines in his maybe minute and a half of screen time. Aside from his very recognizable face, he’s almost indistinguishable from any other cop in the solitary scene in which he appears. He doesn’t even die gruesomely at the hands of an escaping Lecter! He appears on screen in a feeble moment of blatant stunt-casting, points at his eyes and makes some gestures with  his fist like SWAT guys are supposed to, then fucking disappears again for the rest of the film. There were easily hundreds of other actors in Hollywood in 1991 who would have seen that amount of face time in this movie as a pretty big break! So what the hell was Demme’s motivation behind giving it to a guy whose face was just pretty and famous enough to divert attention from the action and suspense at hand? The world may never know. I presume incriminating photos of some kind or another. — KSmith