All posts filed under: Popular Culture

notelected-04

DVD PREVIEW: “He’s A Bully, Charlie Brown”

Once again, the fine folks at Warner Bros. Home Entertainment are preparing to release another collection of Peanuts specials, but in this case, the message and the subject matter is quite timely and serious. He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown will be available October 6, 2015. This collection brings together two Peanuts specials that are paired with an episode of The Charlie Brown & Snoopy Show, that have been brilliantly remastered in all-new 4K Ultra HD transfers to DVD. In this must-own compilation, Charlie Brown is called upon to stand up for one of his pals, who is taken advantage of by a bully at summer camp. Most saliently, this DVD set will be released in time for National Bullying Prevention Month, which takes place in October. In It was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown, which is also featured on this release, it’s a hilarious battle of boys against girls, withSnoopy having to get in the middle of it all.  At summer camp, the Peanuts gang put up with poor food and the girls winning all …

th

THEATRE REVIEW: “Fish In The Dark”, Cort Theatre, New York, NY

You can make a lot of arguments as to whether or not Larry David’s acerbic wit could play successfully on Broadway.  Sure, being the mastermind behind Seinfeld (which I always disliked) and Curb Your Enthusiasm (which I do find funny) may work in short doses on television.  But will people accept his brand of humor on Broadway?  WHO CARES?  The answer is “yes”.  Certainly from the audience response and my own reaction. Being that I always knew/remember David from his days on Fridays (especially “Matzoi!” – “live and be well…” – look it up), I think he’s funny.  And a lot of what he does, as teeth-gnashing as his character can sometimes be on Curb…, I get it.  The thing is, I went into this with no pre-conceived notion of what this play may be.  The bottom line – it’s goddamned funny.  Simple premise:  neurotic Jewish family becomes even more unhinged when the patriarch dies – hilarity ensues.  Now, whether or not you get the Jewish humor, it’s a universal theme.  And this is one …

HeatherAugustyn20101105C

BOOK REVIEW: Heather Augustyn, “Songbirds: Pioneering Women In Jamaican Music”

I was fortunate enough to receive and read Heather Augustyn’s last two books; one on the history of ska and the other, a painstakingly researched biography of the late Jamaican trombonist, Don Drummond.  Both were thoroughly enjoyable reads; both gave me a knowledge that I didn’t have before.  Which is the sign of a good author and historian. Once again, Ms. Augustyn has, without question, hit it out of the park with her latest work, Songbirds: Pioneering Women In Jamaican Music.  It is clear that Heather Augustyn has a tremendous, deep love and respect for the music she writes about as she manages to research, in the finest detail, the stories of women who helped to shape and develop Jamaican music over the last five decades, but aside from perhaps two or three, have never had their names known outside the island nation.  Yes, there is a lengthy piece on Millie Small and a fair amount on Althea and Donna and The I-Threes, but the meat is in the stories of Enid Cumberland, Cherry Green, …

Temp_CustomLogoDesign_

Crowdfunding Helps Web Series Build A ‘Rogues’ Nation

Rogues of L.A., a web series launching today here on Popdose and at roguesofla.com, features a cadre of snarky-yet-idealistic young people stepping into sticky situations and solving problems for complete strangers. The show’s creator, the veteran character actor Markus Flanagan, says its principal theme – bettering a community on the sly, one person at a time – has been floating around in his head for years. But on another level, Rogues can be seen as the culmination of similar themes that Flanagan has been pursuing throughout his career. Like many other actors and other industry pros, Flanagan – a familiar face from films such as Biloxi Blues and Life As We Know It, as well as guest spots on TV series ranging from Seinfeld and Friends to NCIS and Major Crimes — has eyed the internet as an outlet for pursuing passion projects, for experimenting with new roles (in front of and behind the camera), and for extending his career. Rogues of L.A., whose premiere episode debuts today, is allowing him to attempt all of these. …

1974_march_17

ALBUM REVIEW: Elvis Presley, “Elvis – Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis (Legacy Edition)”

I grew up in a household where the name “Elvis Presley” was worshiped and revered (as was “McCartney”, “Lennon”, “Townshend”, “Beck” and “Everly”, but that’s a whole different story).  My mother made it her business to have every Elvis album as it was released – right down to the “budget” releases RCA Camden used to put out.  Thus, Elvis – Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis was no exception.  We had it; I listened to it several times – and I do believe this was the album that introduced me to the track that completely turned me off The King for a long, long time – the excruciating “American Trilogy”.  Nonetheless, I was 9 when this album came out – I was 12 when he died.  And at 49, I’m as much of an Elvis fan as ever (see my story on our trip to Memphis a few years ago).  So when I heard this was being re-released and expanded by the good folks at RCA Legacy, I knew I had to revisit it. First …

readingrainbow

You’re Dead to Us…The Miniseries

In which we look at once common curiosities of pop culture that don’t exist anymore, be it because of changing tastes, the fragmentation of culture, or merely the fickle nature of fads. “This week our regular programming will be pre-empted so that we may bring you a special television event.” Such was how you knew you were in for something big in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s – a sweeping epic harkening back to the days of grand movie experiences like Gone With the Wind or Doctor Zhivago, except even longer, and on your TV screen, but for free, and with way, way higher production values, budgets, and star power than the usual fare of CHiPs and One Day at a Time. And you simply had to tune in, because it was event television, and events happen and then fade into history and you can’t catch them again because VCRs weren’t invented yet (or they cost $2,000, same difference) and everyone at work would be talking about it, and maybe even at school, because …

eagles

You’re Dead to Us…Blockbuster Greatest Hits Albums

In which we look at once common curiosities of pop culture that don’t exist anymore, be it because of changing tastes, the fragmentation of culture, or merely the fickle nature of fads.  In the ‘50s and early ‘60s, the singles market and the albums market were two separate entities and rarely did they meet. Logically, singles (or 45s) were cheap, and directed at teenagers, because teenagers don’t have much money. Albums cost more, and directed at adults. That’s why Elvis Presley had #1 hit after #1 hit, while Harry Belafonte and Broadway cast albums dominated the album chart. Today, singles essentially serve as a taste of an album – they’re promotional tools. Like the single you heard on the radio, or YouTube, or Spotify? Then you’ll love the rest of the album, which will have that leadoff single on it. That wasn’t a universal in the middle of the 20th century. An artist released singles, and then they released albums of completely different material. In 1958, some evil genius at Columbia Records had a brilliant …

BBT

You’re Dead To Us…Wacky and Explicitly Descriptive TV Theme Songs

In which we look at once common curiosities of pop culture that don’t exist anymore, be it because of changing tastes, the fragmentation of culture, or merely the fickle nature of fads.  Like most people who have taste and are also pretentious, I loathe The Big Bang Theory. There’s so much innovative comedy going right now, so much breathtaking work—30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, Veep, Girls, Family Tree, Arrested Development—and yet this show with the broad characters and the easy jokes and the braying laugh track is the most popular comedy on TV, by far, is The Big Bang Theory. Even two-hour blocks of repeats on cable bring in more viewers than Parks and Recreation. In my city, reruns come on after The Simpsons every night. Whenever my son and I watch that, he always wants to stay on for the first few minutes of The Big Bang Theory. I was worried he actually liked the show (but at least he’s seven – what’s your excuse, AMERICA?). He doesn’t. He just really likes the theme …

starson45

You’re Dead To Us…Medleys

In which we look at once common curiosities of pop culture that don’t exist anymore, be it because of changing tastes, the fragmentation of culture, or merely the fickle nature of fads.  In the late ’70s in the Netherlands, most disco music came in bootlegged medleys on 45, in which popular dance songs were strung together with a cohesive beat, or the music of one band, say, the Beatles, was remixed with a generic 1-2 drum beat and some synthetic hand claps. Dutch music publisher Willem Van Kooten got wind of this trend when he heard a mix that included a danced-up version of “Venus,” of which he owned the copyright. He decided to record a legit dancebeat-assisted disco medley, using “Venus” as well as some Beatles songs as recorded by studio musicians who he thought sounded like John Lennon and Paul McCartney. (They didn’t.) Because of copyright reasons with the Beatles’ songs, Van Kooten and Stars on 45 had to list the name of every song in the medley in the song’s title: “Intro”/“Venus”/“Sugar, …

cobra

You’re Dead To Us…Cop Movies

The other day on the Popdose email thread, as one is wont to do, we started spouting off old cop movie cliches for some reason—”I don’t play by the rules!” “Chief is gonna have your ass!” “Turn in your badge and gun!” That sort of thing. These are extremely familiar, instantly recognizable cultural touchstones, so much so that The Simpsons was able to milk it for years with its series of fake McBain movie clips. But you know what we don’t really have any more? Cop movies. These used to be a common, subgenre at the movie theater. More or less B-movies, they were predictable and formulaic, usually invovled a super-evil drug dealer, were shot in an especially seedy or dirty looking part of Los Angeles or New York, had a synth-heavy dramatic soundtrack, cops dressed in bad suits, and lots and lots and lots of superfluous, bloody violence and property-damaging car chases. A bunch of these came out every year as quick and easy vehicles for action stars, many of whom spoke poor English, …

Angela-Lansbury-as-Jessica-Fletcher-murder-she-wrote-18947249-240-300

You’re Dead to Us…TV Shows For and Starring Old People

In which we look at once common curiosities of pop culture that don’t exist anymore, be it because of changing tastes, the fragmentation of culture, or merely the fickle nature of fads Old people fucking love television. I mean, what are they going to do, go out at night, and mingle amongst the young people, and the minorities, and the young minorities people? No thank you, says America’s olds, clutching their change purses and hiking up their pants, settling in for an evening of terrifying crime-dramas on CBS. Nielsen measures TV ratings according to several different metrics, but the most widely reported ones measure total audience, and the 18-to-49 demographic, which is the age group most lucrative and attractive to advertisers. They don’t care what the old people buy so much, because they don’t have as much disposal income. This is why it’s very, very easy to tell what the intended audience is for Wheel of Fortune or the nightly network news, because all the ads are for back pills, heating pads, adult diapers, and …

crossroads

You’re Dead to Us…Movies Starring Pop Stars

In which we look at once common curiosities of pop culture that don’t exist anymore, be it because of changing tastes, the fragmentation of culture, or merely the fickle nature of fads.  Teen idols come and go, but the concept never leaves us, because there will always be hormonally crazed young people with questionable taste in music. Sometimes the pop star breaks free of their teen idol years and becomes a legitimate artist (Frank Sinatra, Ricky Nelson, Justin Timberlake); the rest are temporary, ephemeral, and cheesy: Fabian, Andy Gibb, the DeFranco Family, Rick Astley, Philip Glass, etc. Right now, we’ve got quite a few, and a solid 25 percent of social networks would appear to be teenagers just saying that they enjoy the music and/or appearance of, variously, One Direction, the Wanted, Justin Bieber, Cody Simpson, three more that have become popular between when I wrote this article yesterday and it published this morning. And these pop stars, up until the moment in which they choke under the pressure of fame and their souls, minds, …

human-highway

10 Movies…Directed By Rock and Pop Stars (To Prepare You for Rob Zombie’s ‘The Lords of Salem’)

Lots of musicians decide they are famous and attractive enough to act, but it takes a special kind of hubris to take a break from making music to direct a movie. Sometimes it works out, as with the fruitful horror filmmaking career of Rob Zombie, whose The Lords of Salem comes out this week. Here are some others who gave it a shot. The Education of Charlie Banks The guy who got an Oscar nomination for The Social Network was once directed by Fred Durst, the guy who wrote the line “gimme somethin’ to break / how ‘bout your fuckin’ face.” But he does know what it’s like to be a violent thug, so there’s that. Yentl Streisand has one of the greatest voices ever, and she’s a good actress, too. And then there’s this literal vanity project, in which the 41-year-old Streisand directs her own performance as a teenager, who disguises herself as a boy to attend a yeshiva. Falling From Grace Ol’ John Cougar made himself up a movie-film real good like, with …

You’re Dead To Us…Russia As a Scary Place Full of Scary People

A series in which we look at once common curiosities of pop culture that don’t exist anymore, be it because of changing tastes, the fragmentation of culture, or merely the fickle nature of fads. In about 1987 or so, I was in line at the grocery store with my grandma when I noticed a Time or Newsweek on the racks with the headline “Inside the Real Soviet Union,” or something to that effect. It definitely had the R in one of the words backward, so as to look super-Russian. The picture was a spooky, darkened image of the Kremlin. “Grandma,” I asked, “how come in Russia they put all the Rs backward?” The two people in front of us turned around and gave me a condescending glance. I looked up, and realized they were the most stereotypically Soviet figures possible, both with huge wool hats, thick winter coats, stern expressions, and Russian writing on their jackets. Grandma was mortified with embarrassment. I was mortified because those people were obviously Russians, and they were going to …

shining

10 Movies…That Are Remakes of Classic Horror Films

Horror movies derive most of their power and enjoyment (you sicko) from a combination of novelty and surprise.The novelty: how the filmmakers will have this particular bad guy stalk and kill the good guys. The surprise: OHMYGODLOOKOUTBEHINDYOUDREWBARRYMORE! Nevertheless, because horror movies are eternally popular, Hollywood remakes the biggest ones, as they would any genre of film. However, horror movies also boast extremely devoted and defensive cult bases, so time will tell if this weekend’s Evil Dead reboot is as good as Sam Raimi’s original 1981 classic, despite Sam Raimi’s seal of approval and active involvement. Here then are 10 more notable horror remakes. Friday the 13th (2009) There was once a rumor that they were going to eventually make 13 Friday the 13th movies. But after sending camp drowning victim/supernatural hockey mask-wearing murderer Jason Vorhees to space, hell, and Freddy Krueger, the franchise ran out of steam at 11 movies. So in 2009 they rebooted the franchise by remaking the original 1980 film, set at the proven horror setting of a summer camp full of …

10 Movies Starring…People Who Are Famous For Being Famous (To Prepare You For ‘Tyler Perry’s Temptation,’ With Kim Kardashian)

Eventually the tabloid fixtures, the celebutantes, the people that are famous for being famous, heck, even the D-list “legitimate” celebrities yearn for real fame, which is to say launder their fame with a role or two in what will likely be very bad movies. Tyler Perry’s Tyler Perry’s Temptation opens this week, by the way, and the cast includes Kim Kardashian. Never trust a big butt and a smile, or most of these films and their hollow celebrity co-stars. Butterfly (1982) Pia Zadora was a child actress on Broadway and in the weirdest movie of all time Santa Claus Conquers the Martians in 1964. Her career stalled until she met a shady businessman three times her age named Meshulam Riklis and married him in 1972. He financed the 1982 film Butterfly, which, apropos of nothing, is a romantic movie about daddy-daughter incest. Riklis may or may not have paid off the ever-sketchy Golden Globes voters who named Zadora Best New Star for Butterfly, which was both box office and critical poison. Riklis definitely funded a …

mytwodads

You’re Dead to Us…Broadly Appealing Network Situation Comedies

A series in which we look at once common curiosities of pop culture that don’t exist anymore, be it because of changing tastes, the fragmentation of culture, or merely the fickle nature of fads. In the 1987-88 season there were 47 live-action comedy shows in primetime amidst the 3.5 broadcast networks (Fox was new and part-time). In the 2012-13 fall season, the current season, there were 26. By and large they fall into two styles: • Single camera, narrative crafted like that of a movie or serial drama. (30 Rock, The Middle, Parks and Recreation) • Multi-camera, setup-setup-joke, traditional sitcom formula. (Two and a Half Men, Whitney, 2 Broke Girls) When there were four networks dominating TV into the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, there weren’t just a lot more sitcoms, there were a lot more kinds of sitcoms. Networks were broadcasters and wanted to appeal to as many different kinds of people as possible, across economics, race, and age. Sometimes that meant bland comedy to appeal to the common denominator, but there was also …

guysanddolls92_pb

You’re Dead to Us…Broadway Musicals As an Important Cultural Force

A series in which we look at once common curiosities of pop culture that don’t exist anymore, be it because of changing tastes, the fragmentation of culture, or merely the fickle nature of fads. The Great White Way. The Boards. Ol’ Stagey. Sondheim’s Grand Temple. Gershwin Alley. The Street Made of Songs and Dreams and Songs. These are among the many nicknames for Broadway with which, as an average American in the middle of the 20th century, you would be familiar. Except for the ones I just made up of course, but you probably wouldn’t even know that, because who cares about the day-to-day of Broadway except for those intolerable kids in high school who were obsessed with Rent? But a few decades ago, you, average American, would have known and loved “Some Enchanted Evening,” “You’re the Top,” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” and also known that they came from South Pacific, Anything Goes, and Carousel. The plays, but more so, the musicals of Broadway, up until the 1970s or so, were a major influence and …

kenny

You’re Dead to Us…Hit Songs By Older Adults, Made for Older Adults

A new series in which we look at once common curiosities of pop culture that don’t exist anymore, be it because of changing tastes, the fragmentation of culture, or merely the fickle nature of fads. My first memories of pop music are around 1981, 1982, age three or so. That dovetailed with the time my parents’ reached that point that most parents reach—when they stop actively paying attention to and keeping up with current pop music. Thus, American pop music began with “Islands in the Stream” and “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” for me, and ended with “Islands in the Stream” and “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” for my parents. Since then it’s been nothing but The Big Chill soundtrack and church music. This conscious shift into ignorance or semi-ignorance of current chart hits has happened to me, too. I’ve got a kid and a job and a novel I’m never going to finish to tackle, so there’s less time for music. Every day for a few hours while I work I take some time to listen …

jan

An Open Letter to Manti Te’o, from Jan Brady

Hi, Manti Te’o. It’s me, Jan Brady! I’m a sophomore at Westdale High School in California. I live with my three brothers, two sisters, and parents. Oh, and Alice! Don’t forget Alice! (She’s our maid, but she’s more like one of the family.) We’re a real bunch. A “Brady bunch!” Ha-ha-ha-ha! I think it’s really neato that you play sports. My favorite sports people are Don Drysdale and Joe Namath, and it’s too bad that you didn’t win the big championship game, but I bet you’ll still be the Big Man on Campus until you graduate. But that doesn’t mean that you can go around and tell people that you have a girlfriend who isn’t real, and that she died. Lying is wrong, Manti. And you shouldn’t lie to people to try to get them to like you. If you have to pretend for them, do you really want them to be your friends? But we Bradys don’t judge, Manti. Also, I understand. Even me, the great Jan Brady, lied about having a boyfriend! I …

et-the-extra-terrestrial-990476l

He Came to Me: Remembering “E.T.,” 30 Years On

On this day, three decades ago, Universal Pictures released E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the then-latest film from super director Steven Spielberg. It’s a date I’ve had committed to memory for years – a moment in time where everything changed for filmmakers, sci-fi enthusiasts, dreamers, and me. And like nearly everything I’ve ever waxed nostalgic on for Popdose, it’s kind of an extreme thing to laud, as the release date predated my own birth by five years. But before I allowed myself to be consumed by outdated cultural touchstones from Duran Duran to Indiana Jones, E.T. was the subject of a brilliant singular focus in my young life. I remember finding the videocassette of the film in my grandparents’ house one evening, and pestering the family to watch it. The first six minutes were pure nightmare fuel – for me, the shrieking of our title character as he attempts in vain to chase after his departing spaceship was far worse than anything else anyone has ever feared about the film – but I eventually warmed up to …