The Week in Culture, “Perfectly Reasonable Number of Harmonicas” Edition
“I can’t quite explain why I harbored high hopes for Bad Moms, a comedy about three stressed-out Chicago mothers on an empowerment bender,” Slate’s film critic Dana Stevens writes of the movie from the creators of The Hangover, the one that could have portrayed motherhood in a post-Bridesmaids, post–Broad City, completely 2016 kind of way. Unfortunately, “the dad minds behind Bad Moms don’t seem to understand, or be terribly curious about, the minds of mothers,” Stevens concludes. Elissa Strauss, looking at what the movie gets right and wrong about motherhood today, had a more charitable take: “Seeing a group of funny moms have dude-comedy-style fun in a competition-free atmosphere is a much-needed corrective to the frazzled, uptight moms that we usually see onscreen.”
The gals of Bad Moms were hardly the only moms on our minds this week. In fact, right now moms are having a bit of a moment. (Mom-ment?) Decidedly not-bad mom Hillary Clinton became the first woman (and first mom) to clinch a major party’s presidential nomination (but what will we call Bill?) at the Democratic National Convention, and Michelle Obama mothered a nation in her radical Democratic National Convention speech. Dads go hand-in-hand with moms, and this week we got to know vice presidential Democratic nominee Tim Kaine and quickly decided that he is a total dad, of the bad-joke-making, multiple-harmonica-carrying, balloon-kicking variety. Chelsea Clinton, she of underappreciated ’90s style and still-unwritten public persona, spoke at the DNC too, shouting out A Wrinkle in Time and sending its sales soaring in the process. The only thing that would have made the week better is if Hillary had quoted more Hamilton lines in her speech.
What else is going on besides moms and politics? In these dog days of summer, there’s a MadTV reboot out, and it’s a far cry from the show’s original incarnation. The Absolutely Fabulous movie pokes fun at, or maybe exposes the hypocrisy of, society. We’re pondering how after the Looking movie/finale, HBO may no longer be the go-to place for LGBTQ stories. Bojack Horseman tackled abortion, the new Star Trek movie didn’t tackle disability, Mr. Robot loves its Kubrick references, and Taye Diggs may be unfollowing you on Twitter right now.
A few more highs and lows from the week in culture:
- What to watch on Netflix this weekend before it expires
- A tribute to cartoonist Richard Thompson
- How to tell when Donald Trump is joking
- Jeffrey Toobin’s new book on the story of Patty Hearst
- Pokémon or cholesterol medication?: a quiz
- A gossip expert weighs in on this summer’s spate of Taylor Swift headlines
- A grand unified theory of disgusting office kitchens
- Sarah Silverman and the value of celebrities at political events
- The story of Crusader Rabbit, TV’s first cartoon
- Talking to the 91-year-old woman who designed a female president shirt in 1995
Kanye West’s “Wolves” Video Features Kim Kardashian, Vic Mensa, Sia, and Some Very Stylish Crying
Kanye West has followed up his music video for “Famous” with another video that is, if not quite as provocative, equally fascinating to watch. For “Wolves,” the Life of Pablo track that Kanye spent three weeks “fixing” after the album’s premiere, Kanye has teamed up with Balmain to make a stunning black-and-white video that puts the spotlight on Kim Kardashian West. Kim and Kanye both wear the Balmain looks they wore to the Met Gala.
The video, which also features Sia and Vic Mensa, is a bit reminiscent of the premiere of “Wolves” in 2015, which saw West weave through a crowd of motionless models as he unveiled his Adidas collection. This time, though, Balmain’s models are pawing at Kim’s face, and everyone is crying. Much like with “Famous,” it’s difficult to look away—but for very different reasons.
This Video Imagines the Pokémon Go Craze as a Chilling Black Mirror Episode
Watching the Pokémon Go craze in action can feel like something plucked straight out of a Black Mirror episode. The very sight of people scouring through bushes and trees on their lunch break, or wandering through apartment hallways after a long day at work while flicking their iPhones at invisible creatures, summons the same sense of eerie, dystopian absurdity of Netflix’s darkly satirical anthology series.
Those looking for a clearer illustration of this should look no further than Patrick Willems’ inspired Pokémon Go-themed Black Mirror homage film. The five-minute short begins by tracking a new relationship compromised by a Pokémon chasing addiction—a man defends ditching his date with the perfect text excuse, “had to catch a Charizard”—before delving deep into speculative paranoia. Pay attention to the little details, and you might not see Pokémon Go—or Black Mirror, for that matter—the same way again.
Here Are All the Other Moments in Hillary’s DNC Speech Where She Could Have Quoted Hamilton
In her speech accepting her party’s nomination at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday night, Hillary Clinton threw a bone to the all-important Hamilfan constituency when she quoted Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning musical. Near the end of the speech, she said,
Though “we may not live to see the glory,” as the song from the musical Hamilton goes, “let us gladly join the fight.” Let our legacy be about “planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.”
Clinton slightly misquoted “The Story of Tonight” (the actual line is “I may not live to see our glory”), but the moment was nonetheless thrilling to thisHamilton fan. And it made me wonder whether Clinton’s very strong, pragmatic speech would have been even better with more Hamilton references. So I found a few places in the full transcript of Clinton’s speech that would have been improved if Clinton had shown off her knowledge of the libretto. Here’s what Clinton’s speech would have sounded like if she hadn’t thrown away her shot at awing Hamilton fans:
The Honest Trailer for the Bourne Trilogy Explains Why All These Movies Feel So Eerily Similar
Ever wonder why it’s so hard to tell whether you’re watching The Bourne Identity, Supremacy, or Ultimatum? Screen Junkies knows the answer—they’re all the same movie. Their Honest Trailer for the trilogy breaks down the exact formula for a successful Bourne film: Bourne struggles with his identity, takes part in a cool car chase, and runs from a control room full of people on computers, only to learn that the government agent chasing him was a puppet for someone else the whole time. (Too bad the new Jason Bourne didn’t get the memo.)
The trailer also points out that the movies “couldn’t be more different from the long, boring books on sale at the airport,” thanks in part to the performance of that guy from Good Will Hunting, shaky-cam filming, and a whole bunch of turtlenecks.
Broad City’s Abbi and Ilana Played Women From 1776 Learning About Hillary’s Historic Nomination From Colbert
Thursday night was a truly historic night for America, as Hillary Clinton accepted the nomination at the Democratic National Convention. Stephen Colbert—not, we should be clear, “Stephen Colbert”—was especially excited, though a little bummed that the women who helped build this country more than two centuries ago are not around to have witnessed the moment for themselves.
Thank goodness for Broad City’s Ilana Grazer and Abbi Jacobson—or rather, Josephine Henley and Abitha Whitmore, delegates from the Second Continental Congress who were interviewed by Colbert from the year 1776.
Jeremy Renner Is Hollywood’s Greatest Negotiating Tool (But He Deserves Better)
Somebody needs to figure out what to do with Jeremy Renner. By which I mean, something to do with him in addition to temporarily substituting him into existing film franchises as a feint toward replacing the franchise’s existing star. When Matt Damon, along with director Paul Greengrass, walked away from the Bourne franchise over creative disagreements, the producers looked to reboot with Renner as their new Jason Bourne. Except he wasn’t Jason Bourne, he was — what was his name again? (Aaron Cross — to paraphrase the current Bourne posters: You Don’t Know His Name.) Similarly, back in 2011, Renner was plugged into Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible franchise for film number four, Ghost Protocol, with the implication being that he’d be inheriting the mantle. (“That’s certainly the idea,” Renner told MTV News.) But by the time Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation rolled around in 2015, Cruise was still front and center, shirtless as ever, with Renner relegated to the Greek Chorus along with Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg. Renner’s also, of course, featured in those semi-successful Avenger movies you may have heard about — as Hawkeye, the Avenger who’s apparently least likely to ever get his own standalone film.
Every movie needs talented supporting players. Yet eight years after his Oscar-nominated breakout role in the Best Picture–winning The Hurt Locker — which he followed up with a terrific, icing-on-the-cake Oscar-nominated performance in The Town — Renner has not yet ascended to a level of stardom that two back-to-back Oscar nominations would seem to portend. It’s an easy comparison, but an apt one: If Hollywood movie stars, as a whole, are the Avengers, Renner is kind of, well, Hawkeye. He’s in the group, definitely, but he’s the one you always kind of forget is there.
This Hilarious Star Trek Podcast Perfectly Captures the Spirit of The Next Generation
Star Trek reruns are a little like Carpenters greatest hits albums: you’ll rarely find someone proclaiming unironic devotion to either one, but clearly someone is watching and listening, because ratings and sales figures don’t lie. Nerdy self-consciousness aside, 2016 has been a big year for Star Trek. Following on the heels of 2009’s acclaimed feature film reboot directed by J. J. Abrams, and Star Trek: Into Darkness in 2013, the franchise’s latest offering, Star Trek Beyond, has been met with praise by critics and fans alike. The recent newfangled Trek films have lots of panache, and at their best, they pay sincere and beautifully realized homage to the original series. But for people who came of age in the late 1980s and early ’90s, it will always be the commanding BBC gravitas of Patrick Stewart’s Captain Picard—along with that series’ generally impressive acting, sharp writing, and spurts of earnest goofiness—that sets the standard for Trek fare. Fortunately, there’s now a place for fans of the original show to revel in nostalgia while discovering that series anew: the smart and hilarious Star Trek podcast The Greatest Generation.
The tagline of The Greatest Generation, which is part of the Maximum Fun network, pulls no punches, announcing that it is “A Star Trek podcast by two guys who are a bit embarrassed to have a Star Trek podcast.” That much is clear from the first episode when the “two guys” in question, Ben Harrison and Adam Pranica, have an extended discussion about the pros and cons of using their real names while they’re recording. Why the embarrassment? Well, we all know why: conventions, costumes, Comic Book Guy, people who speak Klingon. Harrison and Pranica aren’t convention dudes, but they do admire the imagination and high ideals of the series, which is what makes them such good hosts: it’s more Mystery Science Theater 3000 than ComicCon. Each episode opens with “The Picard Song,“ a clever track by an artist called Dark Materia, which sets snippets of Picard dialogue to a “Blue Monday”-esque techno beat, perfectly capturing the blend of seriousness and ridiculousness that the podcast delivers.
Meryl Streep in Talks to Join Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda in Upcoming Mary Poppins Sequel
Meryl Streep is negotiating to appear in Disney’s upcoming Mary Poppins sequel Mary Poppins Returns, Variety reports. She’ll join the already-attached Emily Blunt, who will play magical nanny Poppins, and Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda, who will play a lamplighter named Jack. (Jack is not to be confused with the chimney sweep/one-man-band player named Bert played by Dick Van Dyke in the original film.) Rob Marshall is directing from a screenplay by David Magee, with a score by Marc Shaiman and songs by Shaiman and Scott Wittman.
The new film will be set during the Great Depression, as the original P.L. Travers novels were; the 1964 Disney film moved the story back to 1910. Although it will draw from all of the Mary Poppins books, Mary Poppins Returns is an original story, not an adaptation. Technically it will be a sequel, of sorts, to the film: the Banks children from the first film will now be adults, and Michael Banks will have children of his own.
Streep will play a character named Topsy, who is described as Mary Poppins’ cousin, though it seems likely she’s a cousin by marriage. In Mary Poppins Comes Back, Poppins has a cousin named Mr. Turvy, who marries one Topsy Tartlett, making her, of course, Topsy Turvy. The Travers books, as Charlotte Runcie wrote in the Guardian, are much weirder than Disney’s film, so it will be interesting to see how Magee has adapted them. The cast may not be complete yet, but Mary Poppins Returns already has a firm release date of December 25, 2018. Chim Chim Cher-ee!
Disney’s Developing a Rocketeer Sequel with a Black, Female Rocketeer
Disney has hired screenwriters Max Winkler and Matt Spicer to write a sequel to their 1991 film The Rocketeer, according to the The Hollywood Reporter. The new film will have a black, female lead wearing the rocket pack featured in the original movie.
The first Rocketeer film, Joe Johnston’s adaptation of a series of comics by Dave Stevens, underperformed at the box office in its original release, but has had a long tail, due to the fact that it’s utterly charming. Set in 1938, the film was an homage to the serial adventure films of the period. Billy Campbell played a stunt pilot named Cliff Secord, who stumbles on a stolen top-secret rocket jet packet. Secord, along with his mechanic (Alan Arkin) and girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly) cross swords with Timothy Dalton, playing a swashbuckling Nazi actor based loosely on a later-discredited biography of Errol Flynn.
The new film, to be called The Rocketeers, will be set six years later in 1944: Secord has disappeared, and a new rocketeer steps forward: an African-American female pilot, who will battle to keep the jet pack technology out of the hands of the Soviets. So it’s a comic book Operation Paperclip starring Bessie Coleman. Which sounds like a lot of fun, but maybe not as much fun as Nazi blimps over Hollywood. No word yet as to who will play Wernher von Braun.