Every Friday, in this space, I’m going to be recapping the past weeks discoveries as a sort of incentive to myself, as well as a sort of menu for you guys. This’ll provide an easy navigation tool to what’s happened this past week, as well as providing me a oppurtunity to provide a little commentary in retrospect.
One week down here at “Things I’m Discovering…” a good time to look back and see what the first week of documenting pop culture discoveries has been like for me. Overall I’d say I’m happy with my take this week, though I would like to start going a little farther afield in my adventures, start going out of my way rather than padding myself by only finding what’s buried an inch down in my own backyard. Send me suggestions, what I should be unearthing, need to be unearthing, so that I can really begin to put myself on the hot seat in regards to mission of really discovering what pop culture means to me. That being said this week, my adventures included:
– Starting a blog. Big deal, that. After a pleasant experience with the first season of Buffy, I decided to lay it all out there, explaining where I come from (I love pop culture, but do I truly know it?) and setting a goal for myself to discover things like Buffy all the time.
– Finding YouTube band Pomplamoose through their inspired Angry Birds video, and falling for their cooler-than-me, populist, Internet vibe. I’m still listening to my Pomplamoose favorites. Their music is addictive.
– Watching, and being underwhelmed by, The Muppets Take Manhattan. If anything, my opinion on this film has hardened since earlier this week. The Muppets themselves are funny, but put them in an uninspired situation and stick them human straight men (or women) who seem to seem to be putting no effort into aiding the comedy chops of their puppet brethren, and you get a pretty flat, disappointing 80s movie with a few good lines. Muppets are still funny, but their legendary status doesn’t preclude them from failure. If anything, their gimmick (hey look, funny puppets!) makes them more prone to it. That was a busy day. I also made first contact with Garrison Keillor and MST3K.
– Sharing my thoughts on the first season of Buffy. Great characters, inconsistent plot, fun monsters, weak overarching story for the season, all of that outweighed by (it warrants bringing up again) truly great characters – sometimes you see right through a group of characters to the mythmaking that goes on behind them and you can’t help but stand in awe at the relatable, human story unfolding before you. Things are only getting better as I enter the second season and meet the delightful Spike (who has immediately made Angel more interesting through contrast) and his kooky sidekick Drusilla. Recap of that discovery to come soon.
– Lamenting the financial constraints which keep me from playing the brilliant looking L.A. Noire. I haven’t played a non-Rock Band/Super Smash game in, oh… a decade… Doesn’t matter. The concept of this game grabbed me by throat and brought me to the rediscovery of what it felt like as a kid watching Saturday Morning commercials for Madden or Pokemon (or this Super Smash commercial… Remember this? This was great…) and going, “Hey, need… now…” Fortunately, it looks like I may have a oppurtunity to play this game next week! Holla!
– Listening to the cast album for the new Broadway smash and 14-time Tony nominee, The Book of Mormon. Amazing. It’s odd to call something so dirty, profane, and controversial breath-taking or game-changing, but, that language and content is grounded in such unironic “BROADWAY!!!” (*jazz hands*) sentiment that, well, those are the most apt words to describe it. The Tony’s agree. It will win best musical… by a lot, and it deserves it considering it is, in fact, probably the best new musical in at least the past decade or so (yes, that means over In the Heights and Spring Awakening, which I love). I’m trying to slowly get my friends addicted to its charms as well. Listen to the album! It will bring you joy.
– Mourned the loss of Haley Reinhart, my last connection to this (in my view) overwhelmingly talent-laden but ultimately dissapointing season of American Idol. All the same, this is a time to celebrate what Haley did in her time on the show, and not cringe at the thought of how unappealing this vanilla finale will be. There lots of videos on the post of Haley’s best performances. She is someone I want making interesting albums for my consumption, stat!
This Week’s Bonus Discovery:
Every week, I’ll go back and briefly talk about something I skipped over because of time or because it seemed insignifigant at the time. If it’s still sticking with me a few days later, then it made its mark, and it deserves a little discussion in retrospect. Sometimes we don’t know something is valuable until a little later when we realize our find was a, well, a but more then we thought it was. This’ll be a space for looking back and reassesing something that I initially passed over, but which was a signifigant discovery all the same:
Two nights ago, by happenstance, I came across The Rocketeer on Syfy (ugh, I can’t believe you made me type that, Channel-formerly-known-as-SciFi). Two things about watching movies on cable channels like Syfy, Comedy Central, or TNT.
1) You rarely get through them all the way, either because you join them late while channel-surfing or because something else you have to do curtails you’re seeing the movie through to its end. I got lucky this time. I flipped the channel at the very second the title card popped up. This almost never happens. It ended promptly at 8, seconds before Glee started. Seconds more and I would have been decapitated for preventing the enjoyment of “Here’s what you missed on… Glee!” Perfect timing, then.
2) People very rarely respect thiese movies. Cable movies (both made-for-TVs and theatrical releases airing on cable), if they are not known entities, will not often get their due except as boredom killers. If not bored, people do not see the point in paying attention to any movie airing on SyFy. Most of the time, a very defensable position, but on this day I was interested in seeing this old-school artifact. Losing battle. Countless times, I had to reiterate to people that, even though it was on the channel which made such cable staples as Megashark famous, this had been a major theatrical release and was a legitimate, big budget movie with leanings toward high-minded symbolism and art.
I was surprised at how much of that there was in this film. Yes, if you know anything about these sorts of films, you know that this film, which was supposed to be part of a tentpole franchise, flopped miserably. That’s because this is a much smaller film then it was sold as at the time. Some of it, which doubles back on itself over and over again as it comments on old-school Hollywood (a Nazi spy lurks amongst the glitz and glamour!) is actually really high-minded and thought-provoking. In a day and age of overstuffed superhero fare, where your villain total determines your box office success, this tale about a sort of pre-superhero hero (I mean he’s a pilot in a pilot’s jacket with a jetpack, and he never pretends to be anything more then that) is simple and airy in a way that is delightful, like a piece of cotton candy. A lot of the movie floats by without too much substance, and half the people around me really seemed to not like it, but it had me really enjoying myself and reveling in its Art Deco charms and old-fashioned trappings. It’s a gorgeous movie (questionable flight effects aside) with an entertaining but very simple villain and a “Rah! Rah! America!” ending that the upcoming Captain America could probably steal a page from. Peter Travers made a point back in ’91 that I very much agree with: “The Rocketeer is more than one of the best films of the summer; it’s the kind of movie magic that we don’t see much anymore, the kind that charms us, rather than bullying us, into suspending disbelief.” This film is very much from a different superhero film era, one of motivated vigilantes in stark worlds that did not look like ours, and where everything was pretty clear-cut. The Shadow, Dick Tracy, Darkman, the Burton Batman‘s, and this film all came out in quick succession, and even the best of those film’s, Burton’s, are considered one-note and passe two decades later. All the same, looking back after ten years of Marvel domination, and with Christopher Nolan redefining the darkness and realism of the superhero world, it is both interesting and refreshing to look back and remember the simplicity of the wonder a city could have at a man flying through the sky, fightin’ Nazis.