Culture Crash 19-11: Do we all have the cultural taste of our 15 year-old selves?

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine what’s new and old in entertainment.

There’s an anecdote from a 2015 Hollywood Reporter profile on Lorne Michaels, the famed producer of Saturday Night Live, that has always stuck with me. Michaels has been the man in charge of SNL since its inception back in 1975, which means he’s overseen the iconic series through generations of new writers and performers and he’s heard time and again that his show just ain’t what it used to be. Michaels has seen this cycle often enough and in regards to so many different casts that he has reached a simple conclusion: Everyone says the show peaked when they were in high school.

One high school senior’s favorite cast is a disappointment to a bunch of 20-somethings.

This is a tale as old as time. Older generations lament younger generations’ taste in everything. Famously, this is true of music. Older generations despised the music of Elvis, then the Rolling Stones, and now, I guess, Kanye West. In fact, in a similar vein to Michael’s anecdotal discovery, data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz writes in his book Everybody Lies that Spotify data suggests our favorite music is what we grew up with. Specifically, he says women’s musical taste is formed between 11 and 14, while men’s taste is formed between 13 and 16. Stephens-Davidowitz says for instance, that “Creep” by Radiohead, is the 164th most popular song among men on the cusp of 40, but it doesn’t even rank in the top 300 of men nearing 30 or 50.

We like what we liked in high school. 

And I can add to the phenomenon: My favorite movie is Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. I’ve often said nothing will ever top the experience I had of going to the theater at midnight when I was 15 years old, tagging along with my brother and watching the comic book crime epic unfold and… it turns out, I’m probably right. It’s not necessarily because it’s the best movie of all-time, but it mattered to me the most when my receptors were at their height.

I appreciate new music and new books and new music, and I flock to see new movies. I often love them. Maybe I’ll even watch some Saturday Night Live highlights. But for me, those things all peaked in the late 2000s. For you, they probably peaked when you were 15. And of course, this is all fine. But let’s all get along about it. People can like different things, and we should probably try to keep these things in mind and cut younger generations some slack when they say some new movie or new song is their favorite ever. It’s just human nature.

For links to the Hollywood Reporter profile (on Lorne Michaels) and to purchase Seth Stephens-Davidowitz’s book (Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are) head to our site Viewpointsonline.net.

I’m Evan Rook. 

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Culture Crash 19-05: On Ethan Hawke and Oscar Snubs

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine what’s new and old in entertainment.

Every year when the Oscar nominations come out, there is a wave of backlash in regards to the people and the films that were snubbed. This year, one of those notable snubs was actor Ethan Hawke for his work in First Reformed. It would have been his fifth Oscar nomination and his third as an actor since he has two as a screenwriter, but it also really felt like it could have been his first Oscars win.

Now, First Reformed isn’t my favorite movie. It was good, it challenged me and made me think. But it just didn’t all click with me the way it has for others. What is definitely true, though, is that Ethan Hawke was great in that film. It’s frustrating to me, and others, that his work with this wholly original character is overshadowed by so many impersonations and imitations. What Christian Bale and Rami Malek did in embodying Dick Cheney and Freddie Mercury is impressive, but it still boils down to just being really good copy-cats. There is something magical about an actor you love becoming a new person you’ve never laid eyes on before, as they do in original fictional films. And for that, I do think Ethan Hawke was deserving of a nomination, if not an outright win.

But there’s something deeper at play, too. We feel for Ethan Hawke because we like Ethan Hawke. He’s been a working film actor for 34 years and he’s been in the spotlight since 1989’s Dead Poets Society. Through his subsequent roles in Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy and Boyhood, as well his work in other films like Gattaca, Training Day, Reality Bites, and countless others, Ethan Hawke has earned our affection.

It’s in Hawke’s collaborations with Richard Linklater that I and so many others really opened up a space in our hearts for Ethan Hawke, because he’s charming and honest, and because it really feels like he’s playing versions of himself. Hawke’s character in the Before movies went through a divorce right as Hawke was dealing with his own public divorce. Hawke’s character in Boyhood tells stories just like Hawke does on late-night programs. And he lights up the screen with Hawke’s natural combination of charisma and charm with philosophical meanderings and good comedic timing.

So yeah, many of us were hoping Ethan Hawke would win his first Oscar for First Reformed. Instead, he’s a notable snub. And that stinks, but to cheer ourselves up we have his whole catalog of great films to look back on. And his work in First Reformed didn’t go anywhere, it still exists. Awards don’t limit our capacity to like the things that we like.

I’m Evan Rook. 

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Culture Crash 19-03: Movies to Look Forward to in 2019

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine what’s new and old in entertainment.

With a new year always comes new things to look forward to, so let’s take a look at some of the movies people are anticipating the most in 2019. As a warning, there are a lot of them.

Of course, superhero tentpoles aren’t going anywhere. Marvel will release Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far From Home. While DC will release Shazam! And a cinematic universe-adjacent take on Batman’s archnemesis called Joker. Not to be outdone, the X-Men label will put out two films in 2019, Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants.

But it’s not all superhero movies, even if it feels that way. 2019 will also see Netflix release Velvet Buzzsaw, which will couple Jake Gyllenhaal back up with director Dan Gilroy after their last team-up, Nightcrawler, thrilled audiences. Director Richard Linklater will be back this year with an adaptation of the hit novel, Where’d You Go, Bernadette, starring Cate Blanchett. The Toy Story franchise will see a fourth installment hit theaters in June, Quentin Tarantino will debut his 1969-Manson-Family-era film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie and Al Pachino in July. Ang Lee returns with Gemini Man, a sci-fi thriller starring Will Smith, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Goldfinch’s adaptation comes out in October, starring Sarah Paulson, Nicole Kidman, Ansel Elgort, and Jeffrey Wright.

Is that all? No, not even close. Additionally, Stephen King fans will once again fill the theaters for Pet Sematary, coming in April, and IT: Chapter 2, which will conclude the Losers Club’s tale in September. And, buckle up: 2019 will mark the theatrical return of Downton Abbey, a re-imagination of The Addams Family, a reboot of Charlie’s Angels, and an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile. There will be a new Godzilla movie, a new Men in Black movie, and even a live-action/animation hybrid version of Sonic the Hedgehog. None of this is to even mention that Frozen 2 and Star Wars: Episode 9 will be released during 2019’s holiday season.

Phew! That’s a lot, and what’s crazy is there are still so many other titles coming out this year. For example, I can’t wait for the new James Grey sci-fi movie, Ad Astra. For years, experts have lamented the death of moviegoing and yet, 2018 marked the highest grossing movie year of all time. Clearly, with this 2019 slate of releases, the movie industry is looking to outdo itself once again.

I’m Evan Rook. 

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Culture Crash 19-01: Minding the Gap

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine what’s new and old in entertainment.

The year 2018 gave us a lot to love at the movies. Some of the highlights for me were Eighth Grade, Roma, A Quiet Place, and Blindspotting. Each of those films thrilled, entertained, and moved me. But to me, the best film of the year was Bing Liu’s incredibly personal documentary, Minding the Gap. It’s a film I saw back in August but it stuck with me more than anything I’ve seen in a long time.

Minding the Gap tells the story of Liu himself, and of his closest friends from his childhood in Rockford, Illinois. Each came from something of a broken home and turned to skateboarding and each other for an escape from their personal demons. What begins as a movie about kids skateboarding and hanging out becomes a searing look at childhood trauma, the bonds of friendship, and what effect our families can have on us, even as we age into adulthood.

Liu documents each of his subjects with the compassion of a true friend, but he’s not afraid to let his friends do and say bad things on camera, and allow the audience to judge their character for themselves. In a time when people like to make sweeping, grandiose statements about how our country got to this specific place politically, economically, and morally, Minding the Gap opts to focus instead on one specific group of friends– a group of kids who were beaten and neglected and ignored, and take a look at how and why they became the people they have become.

Minding the Gap is available in some theaters, but it’s available to watch everywhere on Hulu, and it’s worth the price of a month’s subscription on its own.

2018 was a rich year for cinema, but in my estimation, nothing topped Minding the Gap.

I’m Evan Rook. 

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Culture Crash 18-50: A look ahead at the movies set to dominate awards season

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture–what’s new and old in entertainment.

Awards season is officially upon us. The Golden Globes have already announced their nominees, which are as questionable as always. Year-end lists are being finalized, and Oscar buzz is reaching a roar for some contenders. But now is also the time when many of these movies are being released in the first place. So, here’s a guide of what to keep an eye out for to get ahead of the nominee pool.

A Star Is Born and First Man are two contenders that have already spent some time in theaters. While First Man has begun to fade a bit and failed to generate much interest from the Hollywood Foreign Press, it did grab a nom for Claire Foy. And, it would be a minor shock if she and Ryan Gosling were both shut out of the actor races at the Oscars, while the film is still strongly in the mix for Best Picture. Of course, A Star Is Born may be the centerpiece of this year’s field- with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga poised to each receive multiple nominations. Cooper for acting, writing, and directing; And Gaga for acting and songwriting.

Beyond those, Barry Jenkins has released his follow-up to Moonlight with If Beale Street Could Talk. A wonderful adaptation of the James Baldwin novel, the film expertly uses lighting and cinematography to celebrate black love… and to tell the heart-wrenching and familiar tale of a corrupt criminal justice system. The Favourite is another strong contender this year. Its trio of actresses- Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz have garnered a lot of attention for their roles in this comedic take on the royal period piece that’s unlike anything you’ve seen before. And Netflix’s big swing this year comes in the form of Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, a Spanish-language film that is inspired by Cuaron’s own childhood in Mexico City. Roma is in a limited number of theaters and is now streaming on Netflix.

Of course, there are other contenders as well. BlacKkKlansman and Eighth Grade are streaming on-demand. Black Panther is on Netflix. Adam McKay’s Vice will be released on Christmas, and other contenders like Widows, Can You Ever Forgive Me, and Green Book are all in theaters now.

It’s a busy time of year for all of us- and especially for the film community. The options are out there, and the time to stay in the loop for nomination season is now.

I’m Evan Rook. 

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Culture Crash 18-49: The disappointing Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture–what’s new and old in entertainment.

Last month, JK Rowling’s Wizarding World saw its latest installment, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald be met with a low score on Rotten Tomatoes and countless disappointed Harry Potter fans across the globe.

Count me among them. Not since 2009’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince film totally bungled its source material has a Wizarding World installment felt so misguided. Crimes of Grindelwald isn’t quite as bad as Half-Blood Prince, but it is poorly paced and difficult to follow, even for those who have spent their entire childhoods learning the universe forward and backward.

Again, the keys to the kingdom were handed over to director David Yates, who has now made six installments of the Wizarding World’s film series. And again, Yates proved he isn’t really up to the task. Fantastic Beasts 2 is divided in too many directions, it introduces characters and then forgets them, fails to flesh out the details of the prison break scene, which is the film’s only great set piece, and lingers for too long on characters we struggle to understand fully acting in ways we can’t make sense of in scenes that are poorly staged. Yates seems uninterested in doing anything but filming the script, adding none of the flair or subtleties that Alfonso Cuaron brought to the Prisoner of Azkaban adaptation. In all, Crimes of Grindelwald manages to make a story about magic pretty boring. And that’s before I even get to the final twist in Crimes of Grindelwald, which I won’t spoil, but is either an outright lie, which would be a poor way to end a film, or a new detail that not only fails to pass a logic test, but retroactively diminishes the ending of the Harry Potter saga.

I get no joy out of disliking this movie. I went to the theater expecting to leave exhilarated and excited for more. After all, for over 11 years now, we fans have been clamoring for more of the Potter universe. I still dream of a new novel that covers the story of the original Order of the Phoenix. But we only want more because we expect stories of a similar high quality to the original series. Stories much, much better than the one we got in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Three more Fantastic Beasts movies are on their way, and us lifelong fans will surely be seeing them, despite our new hesitations. Hopefully, the filmmakers find a way to conjure up some new magic, and fast.

I’m Evan Rook. 

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Culture Crash 18-46: Filling the Thanksgiving movie void with Stuck in Love

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture–what’s new and old in entertainment.

In the build-up to Halloween, many of us get in the spooky mood by watching horror movies like Nightmare on Elm Street or, naturally, Halloween. Before Christmas, seasonal cheer leads people to dig out their old copies of It’s a Wonderful Life or Elf. But there aren’t many Thanksgiving movies.

Of course, you can watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, but that’s only 30 minutes long. So what can be done to fill the void? Let me propose that you give the movie Stuck in Love a try. Before I get too deep into this, fair warning: the movie is sitting at a 58% on Rotten Tomatoes, but don’t let a formula tell you how to spend your holiday season.

The movie was directed by Josh Boone, who went on to direct The Fault in Our Stars and is currently making an X-Men movie, The New Mutants, so clearly there was something studios saw in the guy, even if critics didn’t click with his debut.

Stuck in Love is a melodrama slash romcom that follows a family over the course of a year, beginning and ending on Thanksgiving. It features young love, family strife, and several winning performances by Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Nat Wolff, Logan Lerman, and Kristen Bell. It’s in the same vein as Parenthood or This Is Us and, while it is dramatic, it culminates in a finale that celebrates the enduring love of a family, despite their many differences.

It’s not horrifying, like a Halloween movie, or bright and cheerful, like a Christmas movie, it’s dramatic and emotional which seems perfect for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Stuck In Love is available to rent on Amazon Prime or in the Google Play store.

I’m Evan Rook. 

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