The story on Serial began with a meditation on the malleability of the truth and ended with a much better-informed meditation on the malleability on the truth. The story of Serial began as a humble This American Life spinoff and ended as a phenomenon of iTunes sales, Slate thinkpieces and metapodcasts. In between, this unique marriage of TV crime drama tropes and investigative reporting instincts led listeners on a journey that plumbed the baffling depths of the American criminal justice system, exposed the blurry line between unbiased reporting and biased speculation, and asserted the audio podcast as a viable storytelling medium. Oh, and Mail Kimp exists.
“When’s he going to drink the milkshake?”
I spent most of the two-and-a-quarter hours leading up to the instantly iconic milkshake rant in Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2007 film There Will Be Blood asking myself that question. Even as I was paying attention to the extraordinary feats of performance and cinematography, marveling at Anderson’s command of the sprawling epic form and gaping at his horrific portrayal of early American industrialism, I found myself waiting for the scene I knew was coming.
Such is the experience of watching an acclaimed movie years after its cultural moment has passed. It’s happened to me recently with Bridesmaids and in the past with countless other movies.
At least since he became one of Hollywood’s Most Important Directors, Christopher Nolan has directed movies about ideas, not people. In Inception, he asked questions about the nature of dreams and the politics of intertwined narratives. In The Dark Knight, he challenged the nation’s attitudes about terrorism and urban corruption. In The Dark Knight Rises, he seized upon the prevailing notions of the inequality gap in the American rhetoric. And in Interstellar, he sets his sights outward, heading into the great beyond for the first time. He comes back with three hours of gorgeous imagery and solid performances tied together by a script that strives for emotional catharsis and falls far short.
The world gives us lots to be cynical about every day. But today’s Thanksgiving, so I want to take a brief pause from frustration, indifference and indignation to marvel at the treasures on our massive pop culture landscape. Here’s a look at some of the pop culture (and pop culture criticism) that I’m thankful for right now:
Last night, I watched all three hours of the 2014 American Music Awards. It wasn’t always a fun experience. Head over to The Eagle for my grades of each performance.
Missed an episode of my pop-culture podcast with Devin Mitchell? Catch up on every episode since July here.
Nov. 19 – “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” and “Serial”
Nov. 9 – Taylor Swift’s “1989” with special guests Kate Magill and Emma Williams
Nov. 4 – “Nightcrawler” with special guest Zach Ewell, “Kill the Messenger” and “Broad City”
Oct. 27 – “Saturday Night Live” with special guest Kate Magill and “How to Get Away with Murder” with special guest Tam Sackman
Oct. 13- Mulaney and The Affair
Oct. 7 – Gone Girl
Sept. 29 – Madam Secretary with guest Jonathan Connelly, Black-ish and The Skeleton Twins
Sept. 21 – The Mysteries of Laura and pop-culture confessions
Sept. 14 – Saturday Night Live,” Selfie and A to Z
Sept. 6 – Favorite summer movies, The Cosmpolitans, Red Oaks
Sept. 3 – Emmys, VMAs, Red Band Society
Aug. 25 – Breaking Bad
Aug. 3 – Boyhood and Orange is the New Black
July 16 – 2014 Emmy nominations
“Welcome to New York,” the first track on Taylor Swift’s new album 1989, is not about New York. If you’ve heard the song, you already know why. It’s about a magical place filled with wonder and delight. That place does not exist. But Taylor Swift does, and the song is about her.
“It’s been waiting for you,” she chants. She’s projecting, of course. We’ve been waiting for her.