Tag Archives: Pop Culture

Obsession of the Week: The Girls of “The Big Bang Theory” on CBS

“The Big Bang Theory” was already one of the funniest shows on television, but this season the producers, Bill Prady and Chuck Lorre (yes…of Charlie Sheen fame), added two female series regulars to their cast; Mayim Bialik (yes…“Blossom”) as the hilarious and Emmy-worthy “Amy Farrah Fowler” and the equally funny Melissa Rauch (think Georgette from “Mary Tyler Moore”) as “Bernadette Rostenkowski”. Pairing these two with the previous lone female regular, Kaley Cuoco, has been television gold this season and has launched the series into the classic sitcom stratosphere.

Cuoco, as the actress/waitress/girl-next-door, was the perfect “outsider” to the fantastic foursome of scientists/comic book reading/video-game loving nerds that lived and hung out across the hall. Cuoco was able to not only hold her own the first three seasons but managed to steal many of her scenes, particularly when paired with Emmy-winning Jim Parsons (Sheldon). With the addition of Bialik and Rauch this year, Cuoco has finally gotten her own posse and for the first time, the show has really struck a winning mix of both lovable male and female characters. The likes of which we haven’t seen since “Friends” went off the air. This is best evident in scenes where the entire regular cast is together and the chemistry among the actors comes alive.

The casting of Bialik in last season’s series finale and then this year really has been the catalyst for expanding the series into uncharted territory. Bailik’s character’s awkwardly inept social skills and sense of timing breathe new life in an already rock solid comic show. It is the one show that I laugh regularly out load at every week.

The show was already both a ratings and critical hit in its previous seasons. This led CBS  to move the show to the ever-popular Thursday night 8 pm slot (which was once the time slot of “Friends” on NBC – coincidence?). If you aren’t a fan yet, you really need to check it out. If you’re a fan already – you already know what I am talking about!

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“Obsession of the Week” (OTW) posts talk about some pop culture reference that has infiltrated my head for the week. I use “obsession” because aren’t we all little obsessive and fanatical about the things we like so much to the point that we saturate ourselves in it and make ourselves sick of it only to move on to something else.

Obsession of the Week: “Lemonade: The Movie”

 

“It’s not a pink skip, it’s a blank page.”

I watched this documentary a few months ago but ran across some quotes I had scribbled down from it just this morning that reminded me just how good it is. At a time when companies continue to do more with less and lay offs continue to plague our economy, this film offers an optimistic approach to getting that pink slip.

The film is about 16 creative professionals who used their layoff as an opportunity to launch into doing something they love. In today’s economy, there are hundreds of thousands unemployed who will for various reason (mostly related to age) not return into the traditional work force. Many will be forced to change careers and forge a new way of life and making a living.


“Lemonade” looks into the lives of these 16 professionals and how they found their way back to employment through untraditional means. I loved the optimism this film professes at a time when so many are discouraged. For all those people out there looking for a new job, a new opportunity, or something to change in your life, this film shows you how some people are cutting a new path in their careers and not waiting for the next job to fall in their lap.

Here is a quote I jotted down when first viewing it that I just love:

Don’t be a person out there looking for a job. Be a person who is out there doing something interesting. Put your energy into things you love. Put all the energy you can into those things and see what happens with them.

You can purchase the DVD of the film on the “Lemonade” website (http://www.lemonademovie.com/ ) and even watch other videos submitted to the site from those inspired by the film about their own lay off and redemption story. The film is also occasionally featured on The Documentary Channel (check their website for show times) which is where I first saw it. This film is a ray of sunshine in a world full of discouraging news. I urge you to check it out.

If you enjoyed this post…why not subscribe to this blog. It’s easy just look to the right and add your email address.

“Obsession of the Week” (OTW) posts talk about some pop culture reference that has infiltrated my head for the week. I use “obsession” because aren’t we all little obsessive and fanatical about the things we like so much to the point that we saturate ourselves in it and make ourselves sick of it only to move on to something else.

Obsession of the Week: “Inception” – The Best Picture of the Year

I’ve seen “The King’s Speech” and, yes, I really liked it, and, yes, it won the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay. It was a good film, maybe even great, but definitely not the best of the year. Sadly, the Academy got it wrong this year just like they did the year “How Green Was My Valley” won over “Citizen Kane” and “Forrest Gump” won over “Pulp Fiction”.

When history looks back at this year’s Oscar winner for Best Picture and sees “The King’s Speech” won out over “Inception”, it will be deemed a bad choice. Both “The King’s Speech” and “Inception” each won 4 Oscars. One thing was consistent on Oscar night (other than how bad the hosts were), one name came up more times than any other in acceptance speeches – Christopher Nolan, who as a director was not even nominated and as a writer lost out to “The King’s Speech”.

How an inventive and fresh screenplay like “Inception” doesn’t win the Oscar after winning the Writer’s Guild of America award for Best Original Screenplay (writers pick this one) is a tragedy. How a movie with such originality that takes you into the dream within the dream within the dream within the original dream isn’t counted as the best original screenplay, especially when compared to an insignificant English history lesson is beyond reality. The complexity, detail and multiple layers of “Inception” alone are worthy of being called the best screenplay.

When you look at the two films casts, certainly “The King’s Speech” had three gems of performances but when history looks back at “Inception” and the stars of that film, it will likely look back at an ensemble similar to that of the original “Godfather”. “Inception” offers a cast of international scale with some of the best young actors working today. While I don’t think Leonardo DiCaprio has done his best work in this film, you cannot overlook the ensemble Nolan assembled here that includes Japanese Ken Watanabe, French Marion Cotillard, Indian-American Dileep Rao and England’s Michael Caine and the late Pete Postlethwaite. Not to mention the up-and-covers Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy. The “Inception” cast, like all of Nolan’s films, is an integral part of the success and genius of the film and that shouldn’t have been overlooked.

Going beyond the acting and story, the visuals are stunning, like no film before it. Its Oscar-winning cinematography and visual effects will be studied for decades to come. Nolan’s attention to detail here is insurmountable. Nolan puts everything he’s got up on the screen so while the audience is watching, deep into the plot of the film, it’s amazed at everything it’s witnessing. From the visuals to the script, even the music in this film is multi-layered unlike any other film this year, blending a richly unique picture.

A great film stays with you. Makes you think. Makes you second guess what you think you saw and makes you want to see it all again to verify it. That’s part of the genius here with Nolan and “Inception”. The ending is one of the best ever, giving closure to those who want it and thought to those who crave it. Online there are “Inception” theories and discussions about what was real and what was a dream and what the ending was meant to be. Not since the TV series “Lost” (whose own ending was a cop-out) has there been so much chatter and theories about a fictional story. What makes “Inception” such a classic film goes beyond the story, the cast and the visuals, it’s the fact that the film makes you think and even second guess yourself about what you think about it. No one is out there debating the plot and ideas of “The King’s Speech” or even “The Social Network” for that matter. It’s all about “Inception” –  the best picture of the year.

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Obsession of the Week: Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” Grammy-Winning Album

Maybe you were like me on the night of the Grammys, in shock that the band Arcade Fire won the “Album of the Year”. Certainly, their Grammy night performance was nothing remotely inspiring and seemed overtly like it was trying too hard. Since that night and their huge upset, I’ve been listening to their “Album of the Year” again and again and again and I’ve become a huge fan.

What makes a truly great album is the connectivity of the songs to one another (think of “Rumours” by Fleetwood Mac among other “Album of the Year” winners). This album has it. Like the Beach Boys “Pet Sounds” (Yes, I’m making the connection to this classic album), the songs are unique and offer a unique variety of sounds. With sounds heavily influenced by the great sounds of the 70s of Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles (try “Rococo” and my favorite “Modern Man”) and the disco sounds of ABBA (“Sprawl” and “Sprawl II”), the album transcends a confined musical style or definition. The band’s influences include those from the 50s (Ray Orbison), the 60s (the Beatles), 80s (The Ramones) and 90s (REM). I think this album really has something for everyone. I challenge you to listen to it and not find an appreciate for the multiple of influences on this album.

With 16 tracks, I could name nearly every songs as some of the best. Try the title track, “Modern Man”, “Wasted Hours”, “Deep Blue”, “Suburban War”, “Empty Room” and “We Used to Wait” for starters (haha!). If, like me, you weren’t even familiar with Arcade Fire, I encourage you to give them a shot. The Suburbs is really an incredulous album and worthy of the Grammy for “Album of the Year” (sorry Eminem and Gaga fans).

“Obsession of the Week” (OTW) posts talk about some pop culture reference that has infiltrated my head for the week. I use the term obsession because we’re all obsessive and fanatical about things we like so much that we saturate ourselves in it until we make ourselves sick of it and then move on to something else.

Obsession of the Week: “James Ellroy’s LA: City of Demons”

Bizarre, baffling, and blistering is how best to describe this new television creation on the Investigation Discovery (ID) channel hosted by author James Ellroy, novelist of The Black Dahlia, LA Confidential, and Blood’s A Rover. The show with its “Twilight Zone” like theme and film noir styling is nothing like anything you have seen on television. While not for the faint at heart as the preceding warnings prompts, it is for anyone fascinated with true crime, unsolved mysteries, and police investigative dramas.

How to describe it? How about like an acid trip version of the crimes and events the show discusses. Part tabloid fodder and true crime reality show, Ellroy hosts, with his trademark alliteration, pulp speak and film noir wardrobe, discussing a plethora of odd LA crime stories, murders and Hollywood scandals. In case Ellroy himself, the graphics and music aren’t trippy enough for you, the show also includes “Barko” the computer-generated, corrupt, drug-addicted police dog who Ellroy converses with in a ‘Son of Sam’ homage (Barko was also the name of Ellroy’s first Bull Terrier and appears in several of his books). You truly have to witness the show for yourself to appreciate its oddities and original genius.

For all his profanity and pontification, at the heart Ellroy is a man who never go over the unsolved murder of his mother. His mother was murdered in 1958 and his book My Dark Places is his autobiography about his mother’s murder. The show takes a semi-autobiographic turn in each episode thus far as Ellroy discusses how other murders (including the ‘Black Dahlia’) affected his own life and obviously his writing.

 In this clip Ellroy discusses his mother’s murder on the show.

While Ellroy’s public persona is outlandish and seemingly obscene (he is a huge personality unlike anything we’ve seen in any author since Truman Capote), in person he is gracious and humble especially when one-on-one with his fans. I’ve heard him speak publicly on two different occasions in Los Angeles and on both occasions his public persona seems greatly exaggerated like a stage performance because immediately afterwards he’s quiet, approachable and considerate.

Ellroy has committed to six episodes for the series and I hope he will expand his commitment to the show. There are countless stories to be told from his legendary point of view. I am a huge fan.

“James Ellroy’s L.A.: City of Demons” (The show is on Investigation Discovery at 10 p.m. Wednesday. Click here for a link to the show’s website.

In this clip Ellroy discusses the show and its creation.

Obsession of the Week: “Little Mosque on the Prairie”

 

This series is a gem because it combines political and religious issues stereotypes in a humorous way. It’s unfortunate that our country, founded on religious freedom, didn’t produce this show first. Canadian CBC airs the hit sitcom “Little Mosque on the Prairie” now in its fourth season (episodes are currently available on Google Videos and YouTube). I recently read an article about the series and the delays in bringing to the United States and decided to check the series out for myself.

The series revolves around a tiny Muslim community living in a small Canadian prairie town. While the humor of the sitcom can be mild, the way the series deals with religious stereotypes is incredibly real and amusing. The show doesn’t shy away from finding humor in stereotypes which have become far too taboo in the politically correct climate in this country. It works for this series because the show’s seven Muslim characters offer a wide range of believers of the faith that include a sexist traditionalist and a white Canadian convert.

The show doesn’t shy away from dealing with non-Muslim stereotypes either.  The cast includes a local radio Rush Limbaugh-type who attacks the Mosque with stereotypical rhetoric and a local resident who always seems to hear something that could be construed as “terrorist chatter”. The show also succeeds in turning the religious stereotypes on its head as some of the Muslim characters make comments about those in the Christian faith in a similarly stereotypical way that Christians make about Muslims.

At the heart of the show is the relationship between the Islamic Imam and an Anglican Reverend who rents out part of his church to Muslims for their new mosque.  Both the show’s premise and ideology promote peace and understanding of a religion most Canadians and Americans don’t really understand.

To stereotype an entire religion as if the entire masses of the faithful is represented by a few extremists is morally wrong whether it be Christians generalizing about Muslims, Muslims generalizing about Christians, or even one race against another. This show uses humor to show its audience that no matter the stereotype, it’s better to get to know a people as individuals so you can better understand their perspective.