Things I Loved This Year: While Others Say ‘I Wish,’ Ava DuVernay Says ‘I Can’

Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: one of Hollywood’s most powerful figures blazes a new trail.

DuVernay.jpg

What’s the next step for a filmmaker who directs an Academy Award nominee for Best Picture? Sometimes it’s another Best Picture nominee. Sometimes it’s a movie that aspires to such heights but falls short. Sometimes it’s years of silence.

Ava DuVernay has taken a different path in the two years since she became the first black female director of a Best Picture nominee. Last year, she took meetings with Marvel about directing the studio’s first movie centered around a black superhero; she declined, citing creative differences, and the job eventually fell to her friend Ryan Coogler. She directed an Apple Music commercial starring Taraji P. Henson, Mary J. Blige and Kerry Washington that set the Internet ablaze. But 2016 was the year when DuVernay really started to flex.

Continue reading

Advertisements

The M&M Report: 2016 in Review

AtlantaFX.jpg

Devin and I reflected on a turbulent year for world affairs and a fruitful year for pop culture in the final M&M Report of 2016. Thanks to all who have listened this year. See you in 2017!

Timecodes

Frank Ocean’s Blond (0:00-9:40)

the Longform podcast (9:40-18:15)

Atlanta (18:15-33:40)

O.J.: Made in America (33:40-42:20)

The Lobster (42:20-47:30)

Hell or High Water (47:30-54:50)

Moonlight (54:50-End)

PROGRAMMING NOTE: We’ve made a behind-the-scenes change. If you haven’t done so already, you need to RE-SUBSCRIBE to the podcast on iTunes or the podcast provider of your choice in order to receive new episodes in your feed. We know this extra step is time-consuming, but we’re excited about what it means for the future of the podcast. Tell your friends! (And if you’ve already done it once, no need to do it again.)

Things I Loved This Year: Schur Thing

Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: praise for a TV creator who’s doing all the right things.

GoodPlace.jpg

Michael Schur earned an express pass to the TV Pantheon on the strength of Parks and Recreation, the NBC sitcom he created with Greg Daniels of The Office. But his subsequent efforts have only strengthened his claim to the title of one of the century’s most influential, successful and inventive creators.

Continue reading

The Billboard Year-End Hot 100, Ranked in 100% Subjective Order

Rihanna.jpg

I took valuable time out of my life to rank every song on the 2016 year-end Billboard Hot 100 in order of my preference. There is nothing definitive or objective on this list, and I often felt no need to explain my choices. Some things speak for themselves.

I hadn’t heard “Never Be Like You” by Flume feat. Kai, “Antidote” by Travis Scott, “Wicked” by Future and “Middle” by DJ Snake feat. Bipolar Sunshine enough to consider them for this list. I don’t feel too bad about it.

I disqualified the following songs because I associated them more with 2015: “Sorry” by Justin Bieber; “Hotline Bling” by Drake; “The Hills” by The Weeknd; “Jumpman” by Drake & Future; “679” by Fetty Wap feat. Remy Boyz; “Here” by Alessia Cara; “What Do You Mean?” by Justin Bieber; “Same Old Love” by Selena Gomez; “Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd; “Wildest Dreams” by Taylor Swift; “Lean On” by Major Lazer & DJ Snake feat. MO; “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” by Silento; “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa and “Perfect” by One Direction.

Without further ado:

Continue reading

Things I Loved This Year: Bruno Mars Gets In and Gets Out

Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: complimenting Bruno Mars in a way that sounds like an insult.

Bruno.jpg

Something unexpected happens at the 32-minute mark on Bruno Mars’ album 24K Magic. I sat back in my chair.

The album ends.

It’s over. That’s it! Nine songs, each less than five minutes long. No skits, no tangents, no filler. Four years between albums, and here’s what Bruno Mars has to show for it: nine songs, all stellar.

Continue reading

Things I Loved This Year: Women Dominate Prestige Dramas

Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: on three of the best “prestige” dramas, women rule the roost.

Alison.jpg

Better Call Saul and Mr. Robot are as driven by their respective leading men as shows can be, a fact the titles make abundantly clear. The Americans has a dual focus on its central couple. But on new seasons of each this year, the MVPs were the women.

Nothing against Bob Odenkirk or his character Saul Goodman, a slippery con man who’s constantly caught between good intentions and material desires. Nothing against Rami Malek, who brings aching vulnerability and disaffected sensitivity to the role of Elliott Alderson, a hacker struggling with mental illness and revolutionary impulses. And nothing against Matthew Rhys, who deserves far more than the one Emmy nomination he secured this year for the shape-shifting masterstrokes on display as Philip Jennings, the KGB operative who always has going straight deep in the back of his mind.

Continue reading

Things I Loved This Year: Leslie Jones Never Backs Down

Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: Leslie Jones triumphs over the haters by being who she is.

Jones.jpg

The first monologue of this current season of Saturday Night Live began in fairly typical fashion. Host Margot Robbie looked ecstatic as she smoothly navigated her first few jokes and an appearance by Kenan Thompson, who joked that he’s been on the show for so long that he “slept like a baby” the night before the premiere. (Actually, I doubt that was a joke. Side note: I hope Kenan never leaves SNL. He’s a treasure.)

Then Leslie Jones arrived onstage, and the crowd exploded.

Continue reading