I definitely meant to have this post written a couple of weeks ago, but with so much to say about the things I'm watching, I'm learning that it takes me much longer to write these than expected. This means that there are some things I watched in between my last pop culture post and this one (I'm looking at you, "Orange is the New Black," which I watched right after I finished the last post), but I'm coming to terms with the fact that I get wrapped up in far too much pop culture for me to ever be able to include everything. So while I may have left out the fact that I finally watched all of "True Detective" (but you've heard enough about that show already) and I'll have to save my love for Marc Maron for the next post, there's still plenty that I've watched and listened to recently that deserve your attention. So, fellow pop culture lovers, read on to see what I spent the past month doing rather than having a real social life. As usual, if you want more information on any of these or if you have recommendations for me, feel free to comment below, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet me at @elanakatz. As you might have figured, I could talk about pop culture for far longer than you'll ever want to hear.
I gave you a tiny preview of my thoughts on the movie "Boyhood" in a post last week, and if you couldn't tell, it's the bit of pop culture that's most excited me recently. It's the movie that made me feel the most and think that, despite the abundance of sequels in CGI, we really are living in a special age of cinema. As a refresher, "Boyhood" is a film (quite literally) like no other. Director and writer Richard Linklater ("Dazed and Confused," "Before Sunrise") filmed it over the course of 12 years, filming for about four days each year. He cast Ellar Coltrane, an unknown child actor, his daughter, Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Patricia Arquette as a family (Hawke and Arquette play divorced parents), and as they grew older and changed in real life, so did their characters. Linklater, famous for his informal approach to directing, wrote the film as they went, and there are more than a few moments in the movie that he took directly from the actors. What we're left with is the experience of not only watching characters grow up over 12 years, but watching the actors grow up as well.
Technically speaking, "Boyhood" defies conventions, but it does so in narrative as well. There's no exact plot, but rather the film follows Coltrane's character, Mason, at different moments of his life. It's a snapshot of an American childhood in the early 2000s, and it's almost breathtaking how well the film captures adolescence in this era. One of the most striking details is that it often skips past what are considered "cinematic moments." Rather than showing a breakup, first sexual experience, graduation, or what have you, instead, the film focuses on the moments surrounding these events that actually take up most of our time — the conversations and the every day life that follow them. There are multiple times when one might expect big moments, but these kind of dramatic moments that happen in movies and rarely in real life aren't what interest Linklater.
While I think the sheer innovation and achievements of the film are enough to interest anyone, it was especially gratifying for me to watch as someone only a few years older than Mason and around the same age as his sister. I experienced childhood at the same time as these characters, and it was impossible not to recognize it as similar to my own while watching scenes shot in 2002 and so on. I remember waiting in line for the newest "Harry Potter" book, singing Brittany Spears, and playing "Oregon Trail" in school. In the same sense, I'm sure the film is special to parents who were raising children at this time as well. I'd be interested to know what someone a little older than me (who maybe was a teenage when I was a kid) feels when watching the movie. No matter what the viewer's age, though, the film is a true experience — and more than just a film — like no other. I can't say I'm in any rush to see it a second time for fear that it won't be the same as experiencing it the first time, but it's an experience that I truly will forever cherish.
Onto a still serious subject, but done in a more lighthearted way, I'm completely hooked on John Oliver's HBO weekly news show, "Last Week Tonight." I've been a fan of Oliver's stand-up and his work on "The Daily Show" (not to mention "Community") for some time now, but I wasn't really sure what to expect of his news show initially. He did a stellar job filling in for Jon Stewart last summer, but I feared that his show would end up looking like a cheap "Daily Show" knock-off. Well, I was so, so very wrong. While it might have felt similar in the fist episode (it's hard for any satirical news show format not to evoke thoughts of "The Daily Show"), Oliver quickly established himself as an extremely unique voice on television. While it's not labeled as one, be warned that the show definitely takes a liberal approach (you know, if that's not the sort of thing you're into), but Oliver is less concerned with taking a political stance as he is with calling people out on their bullshit, pointing out how ridiculous most media outlets are (left-wing ones included), and educating America on current events and issues that no one else is taking the time to talk about. Of course, he does it all with his signature wit and style, and it's seriously funny. If you want a taste, my favorite (and most educational) segment is his one on net neutrality.
Speaking of liberal views, I really am not trying to scare anyone off by talking about a movie (a comedy no less) about abortion, but "Obvious Child" is worth the risk. Jenny Slate stars in this very funny film about a stand-up comedienne who gets pregnant after a one night stand and spends most of the movie trying to avoid telling the dude that he knocked her up and she's getting an abortion. Despite just being extremely funny, this movie is so much more important than it's been given credit for, mostly in the fact that it's one of the most feminist movies I've ever seen (without being labeled as a feminist movie). For one, Slate's character does stand-up and tells crude jokes that most women never get the chance to tell in movies. Then, there's the fact that it completely nails real female friendship (we can also talk about how to the two main female characters dress have killer wardrobes that most women would love, but most men would hate). Most importantly, "Obvious Child" deals with abortion in a way that no movie ever has before. The movie is so blunt and honest about such a sensitive subject, rather than talking around it. There aren't many "are you sure you want to do this?" speeches, but rather, it shows an adult woman making a decision that she feels is right for her and dealing with whatever the consequences may be without being condemned by the people around her. It's a strong statement on modern feminism and women's rights disguised as a rom-com. And did I mention it's funny? Because it really is. Note, however, that the movie is in no way "pro abortion" or in any way promotes it. It doesn't have an agenda to encourage people to get abortions, nor is it something the character is proud of or anything, it's just what she feels is the right thing to do in her situation. (If you're not for watching Jenny Slate in a movie about abortion, but you prefer Jenny Slate as an adorable talking shell, check out Marcel the Shell with Shoes On if you've never seen it.)
"Hannibal" by Tracie Andrews
While "Hannibal" isn't currently airing and is in between its second and third season at the moment, I am taking this summer to finally watch NBC's take on the serial killer. Not normally one for NBC dramas, I honestly thought it looked bad for a long time, until I started realizing how much my favorite entertainment websites (namely Vulture and The A.V. Club) were praising it. When Vulture named it the best drama of the 2013-2014 season, I was more interested, and once I realized it was created by Brian Fuller ("Pushing Daisies"), I was sold. It's not without flaw, but it's so much more enthralling and visually stunning than I ever expected. Some of the minor characters are lacking (let's not get started on how much Alana Bloom sucks), but the show's characterization of Will Graham and Hannibal Lector, not to mention the acting behind them, is fantastic. Watching Hugh Dancy slowly spiral into insanity is completely fascinating to watch (and not just because I find Dancy incredibly attractive), and Mads Mikkelsen brings so much restraint to Hannibal. Mostly, though, it's just beautiful to watch, much like "Pushing Daisies" was. That said, I'm still halfway through season 2, so please don't spoil anything in the comments.Party Down."
This post is already far too long for anyone to actually want to read, so I'll keep this short. If you like making fun of stereotypical rom-coms like I do, if you like Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd (who doesn't?), and/or if you like director David Wain ("Wet Hot American Summer"), you want to see "They Came Together." The film is a satire on romantic comedy, and its brand of absurd humor is definitely not for everyone. However, if you like "Wet Hot American Summer" or shows like "Children's Hospital," the movie is hilarious and very quotable. And of course, in its own weird way, it's really sweet too.
As for music, I've been obsessed with the Irish band Little Green Cars lately. "The John Wayne" is amazing, and I've pretty much been listening to "Harper Lee" for the chorus nonstop the past week or so.