My pop culture summer, part 1

Well folks, the eve of summer is upon us. To my mind, it has already passed. How was yours? Mine…wasn’t terriffic. I am looking forward to a new season and am determined to make fall fun. But whatever else I can say about the summer, I have to admit, it was pretty kick ass in terms of pop culture. I saw 4 shows (3 musicals, 1 play); saw my boys play in Chicago; discovered some new bands and podcasts; read great books; went to a great film festival; and even had time to watch (or re watch) some TV. So it wasn’t all bad.

Below is the first installment of my best of summer pop culture picks. Feel free to share yours in the comments!

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Countdown to Christmas (Part 4 of 4)


Happy Holidays! Here is the final addition to my countdown to Christmas. Between moving over the weekend, and being super busy at work, I haven’t gotten to celebrate the season as I normally do. No tree or Christmas cookie making for me this year. So instead, I decided to take a look back at some of my favorite holiday-themed TV and movies. We’ve come to the end, and I’ve saved the best for last: Here are the creme de creme, my favorite of the favorites.

From Love Actually: I actually love (see what I did there?) this whole movie, and if I could I would post the whole thing here. But…you people have lives. So instead here is the famous airport scene. Makes me cry every time.

From The Office: They’ve done a lot of Christmas-themed episodes, but for me, nothing can top season three’s “A Benihana Christmas”. This is The Office at its finest. Michael is heartbroken, but not over the top annoying about it, just enough to still be funny. Jim tries (and fails) to be more serious at work. And of course, the dueling Christmas parties. What’s better than that? My personal favorite part of the show is where everyone does karaoke, but that cannot be found on the Internets. So instead, here’s a music video someone made summarizing the episode.

“Are we taking this too far? You know what, I don’t think we’re taking this far enough.”
“I just got chills.”
Awesome. Totally awesome.

From Scrooge: This musical version of the classic Dickens tale doesn’t get its due. Sure, not everyone likes musicals. But Albert Finney’s performance alone should garner some attention. If you haven’t seen this film, and you like musicals, check it out. You won’t be disappointed. And you just might cry. I know I do. For example…

From Frasier: They also did a handful of Christmas episodes, but season six’s “Merry Christmas, Mrs. Moskawitz” is my favorite by a mile. I’ve talked about it at length on this blog before, but man. Seeing Niles as Jesus will never not make me laugh. Plus the end has duel pay offs both with Mrs. Moskawitz finding Niles and the Christmas tree in the bathroom, and Frasier and Martin attempting to air their grievances.

Oh, man. Always, always funny.

From When Harry Met Sally: Technically this is New Year’s Eve, but the season is right. I think you have to be made of stone not to love this scene. This also umm…never fails to make me cry. (Do you see a pattern here?)

“I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

Does it get any more romantic?

From The West Wing: Sorkin puts on a good Christmas show. We know this. I enjoy season four’s “Noel” quite a bit, but season one’s “In Excelsis Deo” remains my favorite West Wing episode to date. (But stay tuned; I haven’t finished the series yet). The part that really gets me is when poor Mrs. Landingham talks about missing her boys. But since that’s not online, here is the next best thing.

“Toby? I’d like to come” is almost as good.

And finally (drumroll please)…

From It’s A Wonderful Life: No man is a failure who has friends.

And that’s it! Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Countdown to Christmas (Part 2 of ?): BING!

Happy holiday season, Internet. If you read my last entry, you know that, due to a hectic winter schedule, I’ve found it hard to get into the holiday spirit this year. In an attempt to capture some of that magic, I am sharing some of my favorite holiday moments in moves and television.

This entry is all about Bing. Bing Crosby. I’m sure you’ve heard of him.

First up is the debut of the song White Christmas from the horribly racist  classic Holiday Inn.  

And while we’re at it, this has nothing at all to do with Christmas, but is my favorite dance in the horribly racist film.

Next up: White Christmas. (Which, FYI, is my favorite Christmas movie of all time. Yes, I am horribly cliched.) I basically love every song and performance in the film (with the exception of “Love You Didn’t Do Right By Me”, which I KNOW is supposed to be cheesy, but man alive, I just can’t take it), so it’s hard to narrow down my favorites. The whole movie is awesome, go watch it.

Since “Mandy” is not available on YouTube, here’s the next best dance number from the film:

So, remember what I said about hating “Love” because it was so cheesy? Well…forget I said that for the next 49 seconds while you watch the next clip. Y’all, I’ve seen this movie probably every year of my life and I STILL tear up at this part.* Every damn year. Even though it’s totally cheesy.

*Also every year, I get mad at Emma for spying on Bob and telling Betty. I’ve seen the movie enough times, I know it’s coming, and I know it all works out in the end, but I STILL get mad. Stupid Emma.

And finally, you can’t talk about Bing Crosby without talking about this scene. Which, now that I think about it, is also totally cheesy. But it’s Irving Berlin, guys. He produces good cheese. White Christmas is the cheddar of holiday movies.

How to make a movie trailer

I saw Inception over the weekend. Can’t really talk about it intelligently, so I will just say: HOLY SHIT THAT WAS AMAZING!  And yes, it does live up to all the hype. 

Not sure if the movie embedded below will. It has good credentials – written by Aaron Sorkin, directed by David “Fight Club” Fincher*, and starring Jesse Eisenberg (whom I loved in Adventureland). But telling the story of Facebook and how it changed the world is kind of a monumental task, no?

Anyway, before having my mind blown by Inception, we sat through a host of previews, including one for The Social Network. Guys, I have no idea how this movie will turn out, but this trailer? This trailer is golden. It should be a model for how to sell a movie, and proves how music can make anything seem better (or worse, depending on the song). I’d seen the 30 second commercials for the movie on TV, and was not impressed. But now? Now I’m itching to see this film. Hurry up, October 1st!

Am I right? Awesome, no?

*Also known as David “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” Fincher. Please let this be another Fight Club.

I hate myself for loving you

This dude DOES rule the freaking world. Go see Bill Cunningham New York, y'all.

I blame Bill Cunningham New York. It’s all Richard Press’s fault.

But let me back up.

Last month, I attended a screening of the aforementioned film, Bill Cunningham New York, at the Silverdocs Film Festival. Let me first say: Excellent movie. Excellent, excellent movie. I can’t say enough good things about it. The subject, Bill Cunningham, has a wonderful screen presence. I don’t know I’ve ever seen a better subject for a documentary film. I went into the film not caring a bit about fashion (save for Tim Gunn and Project Runway), and by the end, I appreciated what fashion does for the world, and in turn, what Mr. Cunningham does for fashion. So, go see the movie if you can. It’s screening at a film festival near you, and I’m sure it will get a distributor, if it hasn’t already.  

But that’s not the point of this post.

There’s a montage in the film that shows Mr. Cunningham at an event. I don’t remember which one (there are a lot in the film). It might be one in which he is honored. Anyway, the montage is of him at the event, snapping pictures every chance he can get, talking to people, snapping more pictures, rinse, repeat. At this point in the film, the audience knows that Bill has no ego, that he doesn’t really get how others view him, and doesn’t presume to think he’s any different or special than anyone else. (Which he is). Playing during the montage? Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida.”


Except that it works. It really, really works. It works so much I started to tear up.

And ever since then, I can’t get that song out of my head. When it comes on the radio, I turn it up. I’ve had it on repeat on YouTube all damn day.

What’s the problem?

Well obviously…I hate Coldplay. I mean…I HATE Coldplay. With a passion. With a vengeance. With the white hot intensity of a thousand suns.  I hate Coldplay…so much. Flames, flames on the side of my face.

Except I love this damn song. It’s so freaking catchy. It makes me want to dance. It gets my blood pumping.

But it’s fucking Coldplay.

In case you haven’t figured it out already, I hate Coldplay because they want to be U2. They think they are the next U2, only they’re not because there can be only one. And listen, I know this is not a new theory, but I figured out their plan years ago. I was an all-day festival senior year of high school and Coldplay came out and did a short set which included the now famous “Yellow.”  No one was really paying attention, because they hadn’t yet “made it”, but I watched and thought to myself, “They have the exact stage set up as U2. The lead singer is bouncing about like Bono. They want to be U2.”

And 12 years later…

That’s one of the main reasons I hate them, but not the only one. I actually came to terms with Coldplay in college. My friends dug their albums. I started listening. I kinda dug their albums, too. Might have even bought one or three.

Then one day,  years later, I’m driving to the beach, put on their third album, and thought to myself, “This is just like their first two albums. All the songs sound exactly the same. You know what, self? You’re done with Coldplay. Done.” The next time  pulled over, I threw their albums out. Seriously.

Ok, I will admit to still liking a few songs – “The Scientist” and “Warning Sign.” But only in the sense that they are on some mix CDs I made back in college, and sometimes still listen to.

But “Viva la Vida” is a whole different story. Yes, I know the album has been out for a couple of years. And yes, I was aware of this song. I don’t live in a cave. But it never really hit me until Bill Cunningham New York.

This is a really good fucking song. Not only that, it’s different from anything they’ve done on their previous albums. Does that mean their 4th album is different? Did they break out of their comfort zone? Might this actually be worth buying?

Ack! No! Even thinking such things makes my skin crawl. Do not support Chris Martin. DO NOT SUPPORT CHRIS MARTIN.

Except I might have to download this damn song off Itunes. It’s too damn catchy not to.

I hate myself.

Video of the Day: I’ve been listening to this song with the browser down. Before writing this post, I took a look at the actual video. My hatred increased tenfold. You look like a douchebag, Chris Martin. Stop dancing like that. My recommendation would be you press play and put your browser down. Just listen to the song. Don’t watch Chris try to be Bono. YOU’RE NOT BONO, CHRIS MARTIN. He’s the only one who can pull off those moves.

“She’s so refined. I think I’ll kill myself.”


Last night, my friend Liz and I went to the Comcast Outdoor Film Festival and saw Singin’ in the Rain. Outside. On a giant, inflatable screen. It was awesome.

We’d talked about going to one of the many summer outdoor film festivals in DC, but none were showing anything we wanted to see. (Well, anything I wanted to see, anyway.) Until now.

Singin’ in the Rain is my all-time favorite movie. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know the film and love it. My sister and I grew up watching Gene Kelly dance and fall in love with Debbie Reynolds. I know the film cold. I can recite all the dialogue. I know every beat of every dance.


So you know, I like it just a little bit.  

If you ever get a chance to see your favorite movie outdoors on a huge screen, do it. Of course, I’ve seen Singin’ in the Rain a million times. (No exaggeration.) But to see it on a huge screen with a captive audience was something else. We applauded after every number. We laughed when RF yanked Lena’s mic chord and she fell over screaming. We sat in awe at Cyd Charisse’s legs. (Okay, maybe that last one was just me. But seriously, the legs on that woman!)


One of my favorite parts of the evening was observing the two boys who sat in front of us. They couldn’t have been more than 12, and arrived just before the film started. Once they set up camp, I thought, “Oh, no. This is going to be bad.” But they sat, enchanted, throughout the whole film. It was adorable.

In case you haven’t gotten it by now, let me say again how cool it was to see Don Lockwood and Cosmo Brown on the big screen. The best part was watching the dance numbers all blown up. These two, in particular, were amazing to see.


“It’s gotta be a rose, cause it rhymes with Mose.”


When we were walking home, I said to Liz, “I could go watch that again right now. I love it that much.”

In the words of Barney Stinson: “De…wait for it….lightful! Delightful!”

And with that, I say goodbye for a few weeks. I’m going on vacation tomorrow, and will be back in September. I’ll leave you with what was undoubtedly the audience’s  favorite from last night: Ladies and gentleman, Mr. Donald O’Conner.

(500) Thoughts later…


… I am still not sure about (500) Days of Summer. I really, really wanted to like it. It’s got a drop dead gorgeous leading man and leading lady (Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt) It’s hip. It’s a contemporary film about single people my age. And, unlike a lot of romantic comedies out there (even though it is NOT A ROMANTIC COMEDY) it’s quirky, fresh, and something different.

There’s just one problem: I hated Summer.

I know that’s kind of the point of the film. (Or is it?) She’s supposed to be someone unattainable, someone that all the guys love and all the girls secretly hate. Someone with an ephemeral quality that cute, hipster boys seem to love so much. It’s not a love story; it’s a story about love. 

But I couldn’t help it. Summer is an amalgam of all the girls I’ve ever known and secretly hated. (And not just because she’s the kind of girl boys go for. It’s because she’s so…transparently fake.  I mean, really, who runs around IKEA pretending to be married? I bet she doesn’t watch TV either, because she thinks it’s a waste of time. Get the fuck over yourself, fictional character!)

Some background:

After I graduated college and moved to Chicago, my first job was crewing on a documentary about vampires. (No, really.) I was thrilled. The guy making the documentary was cool, and I was actually going to get paid to work on a film.  But all that changed after I met the other crew member. She was my very own version of Summer. My Summer dressed all hipstery, wore too much lip balm, and had that “I cut my hair at home because it’s too expensive to go to a salon, that’s why it’s all uneven, doesn’t it look GREAT?” ‘doo. My Summer had scrabble nights at her apartment. She didn’t DARE watch TV. And, to top it all off, she turned my cool, funny director into a total douche bag.

In short, I hated her.

So maybe this movie hit a little too close to home for me. Maybe I didn’t give Movie Summer a fair shot. After all, she does love The Boy With the Arab Strap, and so do I.

After the movie I was in a foul mood. It put a bad taste in my brain. So my immediate reaction was to not like (500) Days of Summer.

However, it’s 5 days later and I’m still thinking about the film. So, what does that mean? Was it just so unpleasant that it’s still there, lingering like bad Mexican food? Or did I secretly love it, and my brain is trying to process this surprise?

My immediate thought walking out of the theater was that I wouldn’t see the movie again. Once was enough. But now I’m thinking I need to revisit Tom and Summer’s relationship. I need to go in with a clean slate, and not equate Summer to the annoying girls in college and my post-college nemesis. Maybe I should watch the film and try to see things from her perspective.

Damn. Don’t you hate it when a film makes you think?

Video of the Day: Whether or not I end up liking (500) Days of Summer, I already know I love this. The song is called “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here” by She and Him – the “She” being Zooey Deschanel. The duo has one album thus far (Volume I),  and it’s delightful. If you haven’t gotten it yet, check it out here.

Vodpod videos no longer available.