Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pop Culture Round-Up: Autumn 2012

I realize that I did a pop-culture round up no long ago, but there is SO MUCH that I want to share with you, and so many great pop culture goodies. Because my list is long, I'm going with mini-reviews this time around. I hope these little tastes are enough to interest you in checking out these gems.

Movies: It's all meta, all the time in your cineplex this autumn. 

Looper: A near-future mob hit man kills targets sent from the future (no fuss, no muss, when the corpse didn't technically exist in your time). When his next target turns out to be his older self, things go off the rails. Joseph Gordon-Levitt once again proves he's pretty much the most interesting actor of his generation, and the snaky twists and turns keep you on the edge of your seat until the devastating ending.
Christopher Walken:
created one of my new
favorite film characters
in this movie.

Seven Psychopaths: Playwright Martin McDonagh and actor Colin Farrell teamed up a few years ago for the beautifully elegiac In Bruges. In Seven Psychopaths, they collaborate again in a story about writing movies, the efficacy of violence for solving problems, dog-napping, friendship, the treatment of women in film, and ... oh yeah, psychopaths. It's the kind of movie that makes me say things like: beautiful, wonderful, I just loved it. It's a move with heart for people who hate movies with heart.

Cloud Atlas: You've seen the ads, you don't know what it's about. Suffice to say, Cloud Atlas, based on David Mitchell's mind-bending novel, is the most ambitious film you'll see this year. While it may not be perfect, it's a balls-out attempt to weave together stories in a new way. With three directors and lead actors taking multiple roles, Cloud Atlas is nothing you've ever seen before.

TV: This TV season has brought us only a few real gems. Here's to mid-season!

Nashville: Nashville is a soap opera about country music. There. I said it. But despite that fact, I find that it's one of the first things I watch when it's on my DVR. With the first lady of TV, Connie Britton, suffusing the whole screen with a golden glow, as country music's reigning queen, Nashville never fails to engage. And there's great music to boot.

American Horror Story: Asylum: If you thought American Horror Story: Regular Flavor was scary, wait until you get committed to Briarcliff Mental Institution. So far: we've got a bloody-faced killer, aliens, exorcism - plus, the regular ol' garden variety terror of being locked up for no reason.

Books: Move aside Stephanie Meyer. There are some great new young adult novels out now, and they don't involve sparkly vampires.

Angelfall, by Susan Ee: Are angels the new vampires? Possibly, if Ee's young adult novel is any indication. However, Angelfall has something that Twilight doesn't: an utterly awesome heroine in Penryn. Penryn kicks ass (which is explained by years of martial arts training, rather than any cliched "chosen one" powers), she cares about her family, and she's funny. The fact that she hangs out with a beautiful angel who's lost his wings? That's just icing.

The Diviners, by Libba Bray: If you're easily creeped out, The Diviners is not for you. Telling the story of a group of young people with extra-sensory powers, as they try to stop a series of occult-related murders, The Diviners feels fresh in the world of YA fiction. From its setting (1920's Manhattan), to its roaming perspectives (we get inside the heads of many characters, as well as getting a birds-eye view of the larger American scene) The Diviners grips you from the very beginning. I could use with fewer 1920's references (you don't have to put all your research into your book), but a few exclamations of "bees' knees!" can be forgiven.

Music: Two girls with pretty voices, and a British rapper

Halcyon, Ellie Goulding: It took Americans an inexplicably long time to catch on to Ellie Goulding, and so by the time everyone was jumping up and down to the sounds of her hit dance number, "Lights", Ellie was about to release a new album. While there are a few dancehall rave-ups (sure to be made ravier in the re-mix phase), Halcyon is filled mostly with beautiful songs about broken hearts and re-finding oneself after those broken hearts. Plus, there's just a hint of weirdness to help Halcyon rise above your typical girl pop albums. It's been on near-constant repeat in my car this fall.

Pines, A Fine Frenzy: Let's get this out of the way: Pines is a concept album about a sentient tree. Allison Sudol, who is A Fine Frenzy, was inspired by the forests of my home state, Washington (as anyone would be) and created a lush, beautiful trip into the woods. Sudol has always included natural images in her lyrics, but Pines takes this a step further, bringing us inside the mind of the tree. It sounds a little kooky, but Sudol pulls it off. When I haven't been listening to Halcyon, I've been listening to Pines.

Ill Manors, Plan B: And now for something completely different... I love folk music (see above) AND I love hip-hop. A girl's gotta be diverse. I discovered Plan B on the "We Are Hunted" app for Spotify (highly recommend), sucked in by the gorgeous arrangements and the speedy, British-accented raps about life in the housing estates of the country that just hosted the Olympics but has trouble finding a place for the poor, immigrants, the young and the old. Ill Manors appeals both to the side of me that's built a career on social justice work, and to the side of me that loves a good beat. 

Live Entertainment: wait? You can still see LIVE entertainment?

Louis C.K. at Jones Hall, Houston TX: I know that I've mentioned Louis C.K. in a previous Pop Culture Round-Up, and I try not to repeat myself too often. However, I just have to bring up the sheer genius that Louis brought to the stage at Jones Hall. C.K. is a modern Mark Twain. Yes, he makes us laugh, but he's also holding a mirror up to our society by illuminating his own failings and flaws. 

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