The M&M Report, Episode 22: Wrong Side of the Tracks

House of Cards

Listen to Episode 22 of The M&M Report here.

This week on The M&M Report, Devin and I welcomed a very special guest: self-described “House of Cards enthusiast” Leah Doolittle. Leah and Devin kicked off the podcast with an in-depth discussion of the best and worst of season 2, from the twist in the premiere to the shockers later.

After Devin and Leah’s discussion, I offered my thoughts (okay, a rant) on the subject of pop-culture shaming in the first installment of Mark Occasionally Doesn’t Like Things. Why is it acceptable for people to tell me that I have to watch House of Cards just because they watch it and think it’s cool? It’s not.

Finally, Devin and I offered some brief thoughts on Jimmy Fallon‘s first week as host of The Tonight Show. So far, Jay hasn’t breathed a word in dissent, but there’s still time.

Next week, we’ll be doing something special. Instead of doing another preview of the Oscars and then talking about the show a week later, when you’ll have already forgotten about it, Devin and I will press “Record” immediately after the telecast ends on Sunday night, and you can listen to it by Monday morning. We’ll talk best and worst moments, biggest surprises and much more.

Until next time…thanks for listening!

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The M&M Report, Episode 21: Existentialism, Man

True Detective

Listen to Episode 21 of The M&M Report here.

This week on The M&M Report, Devin and I looked at the two shows that serve as bookends for Girls on HBO’s Sunday night lineup. True Detective and Looking are both worth your time if you’re looking for relatively new shows to start watching, and we discussed their merits as well some of the criticisms that have been leveled against each.

After that, we went to the movies to discuss Philomena, perhaps the most obscure of this year’s nine nominees for Best Picture at the Oscars. We both liked the film with some reservations, but we enjoyed discussing it nonetheless.

Next week, we’ll be tackling the subject that has had people at AU and around the nation buzzing with enthusiasm: the Netflix drama House of Cards. Special guest Leah Dolittle will join us to discuss what the show does right and wrong, and why it’s become so popular in such a short amount of time. Devin and I will also review the first week of Jimmy Fallon’s stint as host of The Tonight Show.

Until next time…thanks for listening!

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Upheaval in Late-Night, Part 2: Nice Guys Finish First

Fallon

On Monday night at 11:35pm on NBC, Jimmy Fallon will reverse the long-held truism that you have to sell out to get ahead.

Five years ago, Jimmy Fallon took over for Conan O’Brien as host of Late Night. O’Brien went on to host The Tonight Show for nine months, until a complicated and unfortunate series of circumstances forced him to abandon his post, collect a tidy sum of money and hightail it to TBS, where his show has hummed along at a consistently acceptable ratings pace.

Meanwhile, Fallon kept his mouth shut. He claimed he was just happy to be where he was. He did what Leno never did – he messed around. He showcased his musical talents and invited his celebrity guests to share in his passion for silliness. He experimented with big-budget parodies of popular TV shows. He cracked an egg on Tom Cruise’s head. He rapped the hits with Justin Timberlake once, then twice, then twice more. He slow-jammed the news with Brian Williams, Gov. Chris Christie, Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama. He incorporated social media more deftly than any late-night host before or since. And he had a lot of fun.

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“House of Cards”: It’s Okay Not to Care

House of Cards

(Photo courtesy of manybits)

I’m missing out on a moment today.

When House of Card debuted to considerable fanfare last February, I did not have access to a Netflix account or the money necessary to acquire such access. I observed from the sidelines as the binge-watchers tore through each episode, finishing the series within one weekend. I observed as the show faded from the pop culture conversation as people moved on to other things (binge-watching Arrested Development). I observed as binge-watch skeptics (I would count myself among them, to an extent) finished the series at their own leisurely pace. I observed as the show became the first streaming-only, television-scale scripted series to merit serious consideration at the Emmys and the Golden Globes.

And then I was granted access to a Netflix account. But I didn’t start with House of Cards. I started with Orange is the New Black, by far the most warmly reviewed series of Netflix’s modern foray into “television.” Then I worked my way through the dense fourth season of Arrested Development, marveling at the massively complex puzzle structure while sometimes wondering why it had been seventeen minutes since I’d laughed.

And finally, I got to House of Cards.

I watched four episodes. I might have watched more, but the end of winter break and the beginning of my spring semester loomed. Tough decisions had to be made. And I decided I’d seen enough of House of Cards to know that I wasn’t clamoring to finish it.

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Upheaval in Late-Night, Part 1: The Workhorse Rides Off Into the Sunset

Leno

I grew up with Jay Leno.

I don’t mean to suggest that I’ve been an avid fan of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. I don’t mean to suggest that I’ve watched it regularly, periodically or even intermittently. I certainly don’t mean to suggest that I find Jay Leno funny.

That’s beside the point. Every weekday that I’ve been alive (barring holidays, the occasional vacation and the 9-month Conan-induced hiatus), Jay Leno has appeared on TV at 11:35 every night to tell jokes about the events of the day. Have those jokes been funny? Has he gotten better with age? Has he innovated within the late-night playground he inherited in 1992 from the legendary Johnny Carson? No. He’s simply written some jokes, delivered them, sat down with some celebrities, introduced the musical guest, said goodnight and disappeared until the next night, when he did it all over again.

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“Her”: Future Awe

Her

In writer-director Spike Jonze’s Her, Joaquin Phoenix plays the man some of us might turn out to be in twenty or thirty years. Burdened by the constant bombardment of “connection” and “engagement,” Theodore Twombley is perpetually alone, at least in his own mind. Even though he knows his life is stuck in neutral, he feels too threatened by his own sorrows to make any meaningful strides in the right direction. But technology hasn’t hollowed him out. In fact, Theodore radiates empathy and compassion, even when he doesn’t know where or how to direct it.

That’s the contradiction at the heart of this marvelous film, a richly imagined exploration of the nature of relationships and a study in the futility of rejecting technological progress. Her offers a vision of the future that’s both radically different from our world and very much the same. Theodore’s central quandary – is my relationship with an artificially intelligent operating system “real”? – is just a logical extension of our own uncertainty about knowing and connecting with others. As we place our trust in manmade machines that take on lives of their own, we’re simply transferring the central questions of human existence into a more palatable outlet. In the not-so-distant future of Her, those central questions remain the same, even though they’ve evolved on the surface.

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The M&M Report, Episode 20: #Sports

Super Bowl

Listen to Episode 20 here.

Welcome to the M&M Report! This week, Devin Mitchell and I welcomed special guest Eric Saltzman to talk about the Super Bowl and the Olympics. We assessed the legacy of Peyton Manning, picked our favorite commercials, criticized NBC’s coverage of the games and previewed the most interesting Sochi events.

Next week, we’ll be back with a discussion of the year’s best TV so far. Thanks for listening!

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“Labor Day” and “That Awkward Moment”: A Reminder That Terrible Movies Are Still Out There

Oscar season spoils us. The major Hollywood studio pack the fall release schedule with thoughtful movies directed by skillful filmmakers and brimming with exceptional performances from Hollywood’s acting elite. 12 Years a Slave! Gravity! Nebraska! Her! American Hustle! Movies are so awesome.

Then awards season really kicks into gear, right around the time when everyone and their mother is reaching back into their memory banks to fill out their Top 10 lists summarizing the year in film. We’re reminded of all the great experiences we had at the movies even before fall began. Remember when we cried at the sight of Oscar Grant cowering in front of a policeman at the end of Fruitvale Station? Remember when Cate Blanchett tore into her role as an entitled woman stripped of her privilege in Blue Jasmine? Remember when Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley reminded us that teen romance isn’t all sweaty vampires and broody mopes in The Spectacular Now? Movies are so great.

And they are. But the reality of Hollywood’s long-standing business strategy makes it very difficult for us to maintain that belief in the first few months of every new year. With their Oscar hopes secured, the studios take out the trash, dumping their most impressively unambitious projects of the year into the trash receptacle known as January.

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The M&M Report, Episode 19: She

Girls

Listen to Episode 19 of The M&M Report here.

This week on The M&M Report, Devin Mitchell and I talked about two pieces of entertainment with female-centric titles: HBO’s Girls and Spike Jonze’s Her. It’s only fitting that we also brought in two women to talk with us!

First, The Eagle news assistant Lindsay Sandoval joined us to discuss the new season of Girls, the strange appeal of Adam Driver and the validity of the controversies surrounding the show.

After that, we welcomed The Eagle student life editor Chloe Johnson to discuss the romantic drama Her, the first film both written and directed by Spike Jonze. All three of us like the movie and recommend you see it instead of choosing from the January trash heap (That Awkward Moment and Labor Day, just to name two).

Next week, we’re happy to finally welcome The Eagle sports editor Eric Saltzman to talk about the Super Bowl, the Olympics and whatever else is on our minds.

In the meantime, make sure to listen to Chloe’s first appearance on Episode 8 of the podcast. Until next week…thanks for listening!

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