The M&M Report: Highlights from a Tumultuous Year

hero_917d0d43fac07d9b38e726d62367ffb766cc8a26cd0834013c0b7e93b2d06dd18ff73654868ecfcbf425d91d95ffece5.jpgAs 2017 draws (crawls? barrels?) to a close, the time has come to reflect on what made us laugh, cry and think — or all three — in the last 12 months.

Devin Mitchell and I recorded 19 episodes of The M&M Report in 2017. Highlights included all-out fisticuffs over La La Land, a look back at the pop culture legacy of President Obama and a look ahead at the impact of President Trump; a long-awaited deep dive into Game of Thrones; a sober reflection amid the Harvey Weinstein allegations; and a truly revolutionary take on the acclaimed movie Lady Bird.

But there’s plenty more entertainment we didn’t have time to address on air. Here’s a look back at a few more of our favorite cultural items of the year.

American Vandal

Vandal.jpg

I cautiously clicked the first episode of this Netflix half-hour series expecting to be amused and perhaps intrigued by the silly mystery at its core: Who drew 27 dicks on 27 cars in the high school parking lot? Before long, the question of “who” blossomed into so many more: How? Why? With whom? To what end? Does it matter? If so, to whom? Why? Should it? American Vandal is, at once, a richly textured laugh riot, a keenly observed high school drama, an intricately drawn mystery, a pointed critique of pop culture’s recent obsession with turning true crime into slick entertainment, a sociological investigation into the constraints imposed upon the modern teenager, and a laudatory advertisement for the restroom facilities at local antique stores. It’s a perfect example of my favorite phenomenon: A show with no marquee actors or extended promotion that manages to cut through the Peak TV clutter. –Mark

(Streaming now on Netflix.)

Big Little Lies

BLL.jpg

The HBO miniseries that was an on-point depiction of upper middle-class parenthood (and won all the Emmys) was so satisfying. Bringing Reece Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, and Shailene Woodley together unsurprisingly worked out. Two scenes stand out: A wonderfully awkward dinner party that doesn’t end well for Madeline (Witherspoon) and a searing therapy appointment in which Celeste (Kidman) is honest about her spousal abuse with her therapist (Robin Weigert). I don’t know if the second season will have a story to tell without the template of the book, but I look forward to seeing writer David E. Kelley and director Andrea Arnold try.  –Devin

(Streaming now on HBO services, available for rental and purchase on iTunes, Amazon and other platforms.)

Crack-Up by Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes

The Guardian may have declared the end of the “Pitchfolk” era in November, but I enjoyed the first Fleet Foxes album in six years. The transition from January to June in “On Another June” still gives me goosebumps. It’s eerie but fitting in its way how similar the album artwork and “Fool’s Errand” music video are to Luke and Rey on the island in The Last Jedi. –Devin

(Streaming now on Spotify and other platforms.)

The Crown

Crown.jpg

I watched both seasons on Netflix this fall. The world of the British royal family in The Crown — the palaces, the foreign trips, the flashbacks showing uncomfortable proximity to Nazis — is so gorgeously rendered by writer Peter Morgan that the show is worth watching for the cinematography alone. Yet the second season represented a step forward for the rest of the show in exploring the problems in Philip and Elizabeth’s marriage, the ill-advised but mesmerizing relationship between Margaret and Tony, and the intergenerational transmission of pain from Philip to Charles. Even making Qyburn from Game of Thrones the Prime Minister grew on me. I will miss Claire Foy’s performance as Queen Elizabeth II. She was such an anchor for the show and portrayed an impressive evolution into the monarchy in her twenty episodes. –Devin

(Streaming now on Netflix.)

Girls Trip

Girls trip.jpg

Everything about this sprawling comedy, directed by Malcolm D. Lee, elicits unbridled joy. Headlines have focused on Tiffany Haddish, who makes an indelible impression and deserves an Oscar nomination at least as much as Melissa McCarthy did for Bridesmaids. But the ensemble is full of riches: dexterous Jada Pinkett-Smith, tear-inducing Regina Hall, sturdy Queen Latifah, swoon-worthy Kofi Siriboe and Larenz Tate, and a host of delicious cameos. The script from Black-ish creator Kenya Barris and his protege Tracy Oliver packs in poignant nostalgia amid a nonstop barrage of visual and verbal jokes. There’s pee humor, penis humor, a grapefruit demo and a dance breakdown. This movie tries it all, and it all works. –Mark

Insecure

Insecure.jpg

Issa Rae’s star vehicle (co-created with Larry Wilmore) had a strong and well-received first season in 2016, but I missed it until a couple months ago, when I decided to catch up on the entire series. Seeing the first season finale and the second season premiere separated by only a day offered a striking contrast: From minute one of the new episodes, Rae appears more confident and charismatic. The step up reflects fictional Issa’s journey into her “hoe phase,” during which she sheds her self-imposed aversion to chaos and misbehavior. But it’s evident throughout the series: Supporting characters Molly (Yvonne Orji) and Lawrence (Jay Ellis) carry their own subplots with ease; bit players from the first season make a stronger impression; even the soundtrack and the cinematography feel more alive. –Mark

(Streaming now on HBO and available for rental and purchase on iTunes, Amazon and other services.)

The Leftovers

Leftovers.jpg

No piece of art hit me harder in 2017 than the final season of what has become one of my favorite TV shows of all time. On a sheer craft level, nothing I’ve seen in recent years matched its simultaneous embrace and abandonment of the rules of narrative structure and visual style, nor its uniformly expert performances. But this show’s achievements go far beyond technical merits. This season, characters flirted with and occasionally seduced the great beyond amid global chaos and personal trauma. In the generous hands of creators Damon Lindelof and Tom Perotta (flanked by a peerless staff of writers and directors), existential angst and depressive despair gave way to uproarious mirth, rueful wisdom and, most tantalizing of all, glimmers of hope. Watching this show feels like being pulled out of a deep pool just before drowning — an experience several characters understand quite intimately. I’m so glad I took the plunge. –Mark

(Streaming now on HBO and available for rental and purchase on iTunes, Amazon and other services.)

Logan Lucky

LOgan Lucky.jpg

I’m glad Steven Soderbergh found it within himself to un-retire. I am a sucker for a heist movie and Ocean’s Eleven is a master of the genre, so it’s probably no surprise that this was so well done. Channing Tatum and Adam Driver played so nicely off each other as the central pairing and the supporting cast is, typical of a Soderbergh film, stacked. The execution of the plan: from the vault explosion, to the prison riot, to the bar scene at the end was just fun in a way that nothing else I saw this year was. And I love “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Who knew Daniel Craig had that kind of performance in him? –Devin

(Available for rental and purchase on iTunes, Amazon and other services.)

Personal Shopper

Personal Shopper.jpg

Kristen Stewart belongs in this year’s Oscar race. She won’t be there for a variety of reasons too boring and dispiriting to discuss at length. But at the very least, she’s in the Oscar race of my dreams for her second collaboration with French director Olivier Assayas. Stewart’s strengths are in depth, not range — her characters seem to come from deep within, only occasionally bubbling to the surface. Maureen in Personal Shopper doesn’t wear her feelings on her sleeve; she’s only intermittently in touch with what’s swirling inside her. But they’re impossible to ignore when they’re pinging her on her smartphone, or spooking her in a dimly lit house. The beauty of this movie is in its decision to keep its supernatural elements purely abstract. It’s never clear whether Maureen is truly communing with the dead or simply experiencing grief-induced hallucinations. The outcome is the same either way — the only way to move on from profound loss is to accept the unknowable. –Mark

(Available for purchase on iTunes, Amazon and other streaming services.)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s