Things I Loved This Year: Small But Not Forgotten

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 movies that ought to have been huge hits, but weren’t.

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Some movies seem destined to falter at the box office — they’re bad, they’re lazy, they’re weird, they lack star power, they’re in another language. It’s often a shame to watch those movies’ inevitably meager box-office returns, but you saw the disappointment coming, so it’s easier to manage and rationalize.

But other movies seem tailor-made for runaway blockbuster success and yet struggle to find it. Often, you can blame the marketing, or the distribution, or an accident of fate. The best you can hope for is a fruitful run on home video and streaming.

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Taylor Swift Always Wins

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Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston are dating. Perhaps you know about this from the The Sun. Perhaps you know about this from Taylor’s Instagram. Perhaps you know about this from three sentences ago.

But they’re not just dating. They are a Thing. An Item. A Couple. (They might even get married.) They’ve been plastering PDA photos of their romantic travails across the Internet, in what seems like a desperate attempt to convince people of something they probably would have believed anyway. A few weeks ago, Hiddleston’s parents joined the movement. On the Fourth of July, a cadre of famous people like Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds got in on the action.

And over July 4 weekend, so did the conspiracy theorists, of which I now consider myself one. (Much credit to Ellie Woodward of Buzzfeed UK for leading the charge on this important coverage.) The breaking point appeared to be the picture of Hiddleston sporting a gaudy “I Love T.S.” shirt that would be embarrassing if he were in middle school. It’s not a great look for the man who allegedly wants to parlay his T-Swift courtship into the dapper threads of 007. And, on the surface, none of this is a great look for Taylor Swift either. The charges frequently and often unfairly leveled against her — she fakes relationships for attention, she thrives on romantic drama with famous people, she perpetuates antiquated love fantasies and deludes her impressionable fans — don’t seem quite as unfair anymore.

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2015 in Review: Top 10 Top 40 Songs

Some of the year’s most popular songs were also some of the best. Below, I’ve listed my ten favorite Top 40 songs of 2015. All of these songs appeared on the Billboard year-end Hot 100 for 2015.

That self-imposed rules means I can’t include what I consider the cream of this year’s pop crop: Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Boy Problems” and “I Didn’t Just Come Here to Dance” and “Run Away With Me” and “All That” and “Let’s Get Lost.” This woman had her 1989 moment this year and America paid no attention. Her manager Scooter Braun now admits something went wrong on his end. Too little, too late. It’s a crime.

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What I Thought About During “Spring Breakers”

Spring Breakers

I’m not sure if Spring Breakers is a good movie. I’m not sure if I enjoyed watching it. I am sure, however, that Harmony Korine’s sexually explicit, aesthetically unhinged, narratively distant 2013 film gave me a lot to think about. For a movie that many people dismissed as a vapid fantasy of teen bacchanalia, that’s quite the accomplishment. Here’s what I was thinking as the movie unfolded in all of its jarring glory.

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Three More Thoughts on the 2013 AMAs

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Even though I live-blogged the entire three-hour behemoth last night, I have lots to say about the 2013 American Music Awards. The live-blog format is necessarily limiting, and I’ve revised or expanded many of my opinions since the show aired. With that in mind, here are three big takeaways from this awards show (one of the silliest around, don’t forget.)

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The M&M Report Episode 4: Pusher Love Podcast

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It’s time for another episode of The M&M Report, and this is a very special edition for several reasons.

First, we’re a little later than usual. Better late than never, as they say!

Second, we welcomed our first guest this week! My friend Matt Waskiewicz joined me to talk Breaking Bad while Devin plugged his ears and avoided spoilers like the plague. (Just kidding. He left the room.)

Third, we branched out from TV this week with a discussion of some great pop music. Next week: the movies! The week after that: the world!

Before Matt joined me, Devin and I talked about the new season of Parks and Recreation and debated the merits of this year’s barrage of Justin Timberlake action.

Thanks for listening! For further reading, check out my blog post on Justin Timberlake and this New York Times profile.

0:00 – 8:25 / Parks and Recreation
8:25 – 28:55 / Justin Timberlake
28:55 – 48:40 / Breaking Bad

Three More Thoughts on Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2”

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Because it’s been so long since the last one (right), Justin Timberlake just released a new album. The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 is a sequel to the monster hit The 20/20 Experience, which debuted all the way in the long-forgotten time period collectively known as six months ago. I wrote a review of this very long, often baffling, sometimes dazzling collection of tunes for The Eagle’s Album Reviews Brew.

“With the second half of his year-long pop music takeover, Timberlake has delivered an album of 12 tracks that span a wide spectrum of styles and emotions, from animalistic desires to lovestruck devotion. This sequel to the year’s best-selling album strips away much of the romance and throwback smoothness of instant classics like “Mirrors” and “Pusher Love Girl” in favor of a more sinister aesthetic.”

Read the rest of my review here, and click through for Three More Thoughts:

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