Goodbye, 2017

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I couldn’t let 2017 slip away without indulging one more look back at the year in pop culture. Here are a few things that brought me joy. (And here are a few more.)

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The M&M Report Predicts the 2017 Emmys

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Here are predictions for this year’s Emmy awards from me and my podcast partner Devin Mitchell. They are official and binding, and we arrived at them separately. If you bet on our picks and come up short, you may sue us for all we are worth.

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Things I Loved This Year: The Kids Are More Than Alright

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: kids!

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You never want to admit when a child actor isn’t quite cutting it. I wouldn’t want to be the director on a set with a kid who just can’t nail the take, or isn’t quite right for the role. It’s one thing to tell a full-grown adult that they missed the mark — most of them can take it. But a child? What kind of monster tells a child they’re just not good enough?

Luckily, this year, I don’t have to wrestle with that moral dilemma. There were so many great kids on TV this year! Here are a few.

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Things I Loved This Year: Dazzling Single-Takes on “You’re the Worst” and “Better Things”

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: two episodes of half-hour shows that pushed the boundaries of the form.

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One of the most talked about TV moments of 2015 came at the end of the fourth episode of HBO’s True Detective: a violent and visceral eight-minute raid scene, presented in a single uninterrupted take. Some observers praised director Cary Joji Fukunaga for the technical virtuosity required to pull off a filmmaking feat of such complexity, while others dismissed the sequence as a visually dazzling distraction that lacked narrative weight or thematic depth. The blatant showmanship of the camerawork in that scene served only to flatter the audience, not to deepen its experience of the unfolding story, those critics argued.

I saw two sequences on TV this year that reminded me of that True Detective debate, but neither one got the same attention, and neither one inspired a similarly vigorous discussion. FXX’s You’re the Worst devoted most of an episode to an uninterrupted shot that carried the camera across a wedding party venue to several overlapping conversations. One night later, Pamela Adlon’s FX star vehicle Better Things dedicated a third of its first season finale to a scene showing a typical whirlwind morning in the household of Adlon’s loosely autobiographical character Sam Fox — three daughters hollering and whining; multiple visitors cluttering the messy front foyer; flirtatious messages distracting Sam from her hustle. Both of these sequences showcased their respective shows’ most appealing qualities, and both employed a technically challenging stylistic technique in service of an idea and an impact. Both were a joy to watch, even at their saddest moments.

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