Sunday, August 14, 2011

Summer Pop Culture Round-up: July+

Why, hello there!

What's that you say? Where have you been, Catfish?

The short answer: Seattle. The short answer part deux: Very, very busy.

I've been meaning to do the "July Pop Culture Round-up" for a couple of weeks, but as time went on, it became more and more ridiculous to say that this round-up has anything to do with July. Think of it as: Things Catfish has liked between June and Now.

(Beware... there may be spoilers - nothing too serious)

Yes. It's Maroon 5. Get over it. "Moves like Jagger", by Maroon 5 ft. Christina Aguilera
This song was originally performed on The Voice in June, but it's perfect for the hottest days of summer; it's a sexy, propulsive earworm. I've always intellectually realized the charm of Maroon 5 without being moved by any of their songs. However, summer is the time to throw your musical prejudices out the window and listen to whatever beat goes best with sweat and mojitos.

A box full of cocaine. Charlie Day and Colin Farrell in Horrible Bosses.
I cannot stand heart-warmingness (heart-warmth?) in a movie. There's nothing worse than an hilarious, raunchy comedy that ends with a sappy story of redemption or true love (OK, there are things that are worse, like famine and poverty, but sappy comedies are pretty bad). Judd Apatow has made such comedies into cash cows and now they seem to be popping up everywhere. Luckily, the makers of Horrible Bosses did not have redemption on the brain. Instead, they were obsessed with straight up comedy. Even if you're not someone who normally watches "dumb" comedies, this one's message-free plot won me over. In particular, Charlie Day and Colin Farrell stood out in goofy, go-for-broke performances that both involved a big box of coke and shag carpet.

Captain Jack is back. Torchwood: Miracle Day.
There was a moment in the premiere of Torchwood: Miracle Day in which some stuff blew up, and Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) looked at each other and just grinned at the pure joy of living on the edge. While Torchwood's first season in America has been a bit uneven at times, it continues to play with fevered versions of the ethical dilemmas we face in our media-saturated world. And despite Gwen's weirdly-tight pants throughout this season, she remains one of the most kickass babes on television.

Eric gets amnesia. True Blood.
Amnesia. Was there ever a plot device so trite? Unless you happen to have a 6 foot four Swede who can make us believe that both a goofy sense of childlike wonder and a penchant for revenge can exist in the same perfectly-sculpted body. Alexander Skarsgard (his acting, people) has always been one of the best things about True Blood, and this season has given him a challenge he can (cough! cough!) sink his teeth into. Props also go to Deborah Ann Woll and Ryan Kwanten for making the most of every second they are on screen, and to Steven Moyer for not being boring this season - which I now realize was probably never his fault.

Men. Crazy, Stupid Love and Falling Skies
Allow me a short digression. I used to be a birthday party hostess at an "indoor playground" and I made balloon animals for all the kiddos. Around the age of 4, every single little boy wanted a pink balloon. I don't know why. They just did. If dad was present, just watch out. He would cajole, convince, and command his son to choose another color. And my heart would sink. That was years ago, but in this Tea Party-palooza era, traditional visions of manhood continue to go strong.

So, it's with relief that I've noticed that pop culture is quietly showing us another vision of what it means to "be a man." In Crazy, Stupid Love Ryan Gosling tries to turn Steve Carrell into a playboy, but both men end up discovering the beauty of friendship (aww!). While the female characters were a bit underwritten (bummer!), it was lovely to see a bromance that had more depth than bonding over beer. And in Falling Skies, aliens are the main attraction, but I'm not as interested in them as I am with the complicated relationship between Noah Wyle's Tom Mason and his three sons.

Good-bye, Harry. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2.
I really don't know what to say about the end of this era. It was sad and exhilarating to see the battle for Hogwarts, Neville's heroism, the return of Dumbledore. But best of all is the knowledge that Harry won't die; kids will discover the books and get obsessed over and over again as long as stories exist.

Dance with Dragons, by George R.R. Martin
And when those kids graduate into adult books, we can only hope that they fall into the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Perhaps the best thing about HBO's Game of Thrones is that it has introduced lots of people - including me - to Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series. In July, the latest book of the series came out and many of us retreated into caves to power through its thousand-plus pages. Martin's best quality is that you truly can't rely on your fantasy schema to predict what will happen; he'll undermine your expectations at every turn.

Creepy, creepy video. Lovely, lovely song. Go Outside, the Cults


Anonymous said...

I 2nd your recommendation for Horrible Bosses. Loved it!

I've been reading the Fire and Ice Series too, but I'm only on Book 3. It is incredible how he can set up expectations and then smash them to bits when he goes in a completely different direction.

Catfish said...

Yeah - I didn't think Horrible Bosses could be good and then it turned out to be awesome.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back!

Catfish said...

Thanks, @ifbyyes! It's so funny how you can miss a little community of folks you've mostly never met!