The M&M Report: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “The Post”

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West Coast correspondent Erin Vail returns to nerd out with me and Devin over Star Wars: The Last Jedi (0:00-23:20). Then they poke gentle fun at The Post for being, well, not unsubtle (23:20-38:50). Before she leaves, Erin drops a few pop culture recommendations of her own (38:50-end).

For more Erin content, check out her podcast, writing for The Prompt and consistently delightful Twitter feed.

Listen here and subscribe on iTunes and Spotify.

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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.

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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.

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“Nebraska”: Illuminating the Everyday

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When was the last time you saw a movie set in the Midwest?

Think about that question for a minute, and you’ll realize that the answer is, “Quite a long time ago” or “Very rarely.” Even though movies have the freedom to explore every corner of the known world (not to mention the unknown ones), Hollywood productions rarely take up issues of the heartland. And when they do, they often do so in a simplistic, stereotypical way, emphasizing the wackadoo accents and aw-shucks sincerity without searching for some humanity beneath the superficial.

Alexander Payne’s Nebraska doesn’t entirely avoid those stereotypes, nor does it pretend to – its principle actors adopt accents that could only be described as Midwestern. What elevates this film beyond generic depictions of the Midwest is its willingness to see beyond the stereotypes. Payne and screenwriter Bob Nelson observe the oddly confining vastness of the “amber waves of grain,” capturing the claustrophobia that comes with being so small in a world so large. At the same time, this is a touching film about relationships between fathers and sons and a grimly amusing commentary on the challenges of timelessness.

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