Sunday, November 19, 2017

Reconsidering Woody Allen

by Eric Peterson

Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Jeffrey Tambor, Brett Ratner. It seems that every day we hear about another powerful (and let's just say it -- male) figure in the entertainment industry who has been accused of sexual "misconduct" at best, and abuse/rape at worst.

While it's difficult to hear these stories -- sometimes because the stories themselves are horrendous and awful, sometimes because the men who were accused really disappointed us -- it's good that we're having this conversation, especially if it leads to real change within this industry that touches us all, whether or not it's where we spend our careers. But even if it takes us a while to make the kinds of changes that will make the worlds of film and TV a safe space for women to work and create, it's a positive development that both women and men who have been harassed or assaulted are generally being believed, and that everyone is waking up to how endemic sexual abuse really is.

With that kind of introduction, the fact that I'm about to launch into a defense of Woody Allen, of all people, might seem odd. But that's what I'm doing.

First of all, let me admit my bias. I think Woody Allen is one of the cinematic geniuses of our time. To put it simply, I'm a fan. Hannah & Her Sisters, released before the scandals I'm about to discuss, and Bullets Over Broadway, released afterwards, rate among my favorite movies made by anyone, ever. But add to that list Crimes & Misdemeanors, Interiors, Manhattan, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex (but were afraid to ask), Annie Hall, A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy, Midnight in Paris, Match Point, September, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Mighty Aphrodite, Radio Days, Alice, Another Woman, Broadway Danny Rose, Blue JasmineThe Purple Rose of Cairo, and more -- some of these films feel perfect in their construction and artistry, and even those with obvious flaws are still interesting, so much more interesting than what you're probably thinking about renting next. He's our generation's Chekhov -- an artist in the truest sense of the word.

None of which excuses bad behavior, of course. And while I'm busy defending the man and his legacy, let me just state for the record that Woody Allen has behaved, in my opinion, very badly.

So what exactly are we doing here? Okay, let's talk about his offscreen life for a moment, and then I'll get back to the movies.

The most serious charge against Woody Allen came from his own daughter, who was, at the time, named Dylan Farrow. She claimed that, during his separation from her mother, Mia Farrow, he molested her in an attic. Her story was, and is, harrowing. And, there's a lot of doubt surrounding the allegation. A much more detailed account of these doubts was written by Robert Weide (who produced and directed a two-part documentary about Allen's career for PBS) in The Daily Beast in 2014. You can read that essay here, but the most convincing point made, to my mind, was that the allegation was made very soon after the alleged molestation occurred, which allowed investigators to launch a thorough and timely inquiry. And they did so. And after six months of considering the evidence, including physical examinations, they concluded that Dylan had not been molested, by her father or anyone else.

What we do know for sure about Woody Allen is that he began a sexual relationship with Soon-Yi Previn, his girlfriend's adopted daughter when she was either 18 or 20 and he was 55. That is awful. No, really -- it's terrible. Moreover, it's creepy as fuck. In addition, it's a terrible thing to do to a woman you've been in a relationship with (and had children with) for twelve years. Also, it was a terrible thing for Soon-Yi to do to her mother. I totally get that. And if that makes you not want to ever watch a Woody Allen movie ever again, I will support you in that decision. But -- and this is the point -- the sordid tale of Woody and Soon-Yi is not a story about rape, or abuse, or assault, or even harassment.

At the time that they began their affair, Previn was very young, especially compared to Allen, but was, in point of fact, a few years above the age of consent -- so we can't accurately call this statutory rape. If she were to come forward today to tell the world that she had been emotionally manipulated or physically assaulted by Allen as a teenager, I'd certainly be willing to give her a hearing. But given the fact that she remains married to Allen a quarter of a century later, that's not likely.

As much as I support the #metoo movement, and I truly do -- part of supporting those who have experienced rape or abuse or assault or harassment is to 1) start by believing the alleged victim(s), 2) investigate the claims as thoroughly as possible, and 3) separate criminal behavior from that which is simply untoward or uncouth.

If you apply that measure to Woody Allen, he doesn't exactly emerge looking like a saint. But he's not a rapist. He's not an abuser. And if you still want to call for Harvey Weinstein's head one day and take in a Woody Allen movie the next, I won't call you a hypocrite.

Speaking of Woody Allen movies, did I mention how amazing they are? In them, Woody Allen -- the writer, the director, and to a lesser extent, the actor -- has an uncanny ability to see life through the eyes of so many different people, especially women. So if he can be a selfish cad, and clearly he can -- he also has the capacity for reservoirs of empathy. Like Walt Whitman, he contradicts himself, and while that's confusing and complex, it's also the most human analysis that can be offered about any of us. Witness the following scene, from Hannah & Her Sisters:


In the scene above, Hannah (Mia Farrow) meets her sisters (Dianne Weist, Barbara Hershey) for lunch. Holly (Weist, who won an Oscar for her performance) is at a professional crossroads, and has come to ask her sister for money. While she and Hannah negotiate this request, Lee (Hershey) is overcome with emotion. What the audience knows but neither Hannah nor Holly know, is that Lee is currently having an affair with Hannah's husband (Michael Caine as -- you guessed it, a selfish cad). In this scene, there are usually three or four things going on at once, dancing between what's known and what's unknown, what's practical and what exists in the darker corners of the heart. It's less than three minutes long, and it's masterful in its execution.

And there's another scene from my other favorite Allen film, Bullets Over Broadway, which came out in 1994 -- three years after Woody Allen's contentious break-up with Mia Farrow and the tabloid furor around his relationship with her daughter, that speaks directly to the question of whether or not artists should be excused for their bad behavior. I couldn't find this particular scene anywhere on the internet (do better, internet!), but the basic setup is this: David Shayne (John Cusack), an aspiring playwright, is in a conversation with Sheldon Flender (Rob Reiner), a selfish cad. Sheldon is explaining to David that artists exist on a separate moral plane than the rest of us ordinary mortals. This is probably exactly what David wants to hear, since he's cheating on his girlfriend Ellen (Mary-Louise Parker) with the leading lady of his new play (another performance by Dianne Wiest, another Best Supporting Actress Oscar), and also wrestling with the knowledge that Cheech (Chazz Palminteri), a bodyguard and the real creative genius behind David's new play, has killed Olive, the talent-deficient actress (Jennifer Tilly, who is hilarious in this movie) in an effort to save the play from being an artistic flop. However -- and this is key -- the audience hates Sheldon Flender, and we don't even know yet that he's sleeping with Ellen himself. When we hear Sheldon's philosophy from his own preening, obnoxious mouth, we reject it immediately, even after we laughed our heads off when Cheech killed Olive (no really, it's hilarious). Allen, the filmmaker, expertly makes us complicit, and then shows us the lie -- all while cramming more laughs into a single movie than he probably ever did before or since. Just to prove it, here's more genius from Dianne Wiest:


Woody Allen has a new movie coming out this winter. It's called Wonder Wheel, and it stars Kate Winslet, Justin Timberlake, Juno Temple, and Jim Belushi. I'm going to see it. I typically see whatever Winslet does, and I'm not likely to pass up a chance to see her act a script that Woody Allen has written. I might even see it in a theatre, or I might wait until I can see it at home. But I'm almost definitely going to see it.

My final diagnosis is this: Woody Allen might be a decent guy who made a big mistake. He might be a completely decent guy who found the love of his life in the oddest of places. He might be the world's most rancid asshole and deserving of nothing good in this life whatsoever. I've never met Woody Allen, and I'm not likely to. I'm not even sure I'd want to. But watching Woody Allen's movies makes me a better person. They force me to ponder life's essential questions, and they often make me laugh so hard I don't even realize I'm doing it.

Y'know, if Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey never work again, I won't be upset. They have each exhibited a pattern of abusive behavior, and the stories of their victims stand up to scrutiny. It's important that they be held accountable for a history of assault, even if I, the moviegoer, miss out. There's zero chance that I'll ever see Daddy's Home 2, because I can't stand to look at Mel Gibson's face -- he's a racist, he's guilty of domestic assault, and I wouldn't enjoy watching that movie, or any movie he appears in for the rest of his career. And yet, I don't feel like I'm "boycotting" Mel Gibson. For starters, I wasn't all that likely to see Daddy's Home 2 to begin with; more importantly, I'm not trying to stop anyone else from seeing that movie. I'm personally not going, because I personally wouldn't be able to enjoy it; it's that simple.

If the public at large decided to hold Woody Allen accountable for being a selfish cad, and he stopped working after a long and prolific career, I suppose I'd survive that as well. But if Woody is still making movies (and he is), and if I, as a human being in this world, can benefit from seeing those movies (and I believe I would), then I'm going to see them. And I'm more than okay with that.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

I Can See My House From Up Here!

by Stacey Fearheiley


This week we talked about Angela Lansbury…wishing her happy 92nd birthday and basically being impressed with all she’s done artistically in over 70 years on the job.  I would love to say that the rest of this blog will be an in depth look at either Angela’s career or homelife or some other fun topic of popular culture and entertainment.

Eric and I also talked about, and continue to every once in a while, WHY we started this podcast.  Why we love pop culture and why we think it’s important.  We can even (YES, it’s true) get a little uppity on our high horses in our explanations and rationalizations.  We don’t mean to, but it happens.  Mostly because we believe it.

Yes, I would love for this blog to be all shallow pop culture, “access Hollywood” fun.   

Politically, as you know, every day brings another piece of ridiculousness.  We can’t get away from it.  But we try…through entertainment, through sports, through Pinterest.  But that’s not always an escape any more.  These last 2 weeks have brought that home.

As I watched my facebook feed stack up with “me too” after “me too”,   I felt more and more deflated.  I’m a “me too” as well.  And the sheer number of them was completely disheartening and I wondered…who the F cares about Angela Lansbury’s birthday?  Stuff is going down and we need to pay attention.


So I paid attention.  And I read stuff.  And I watched stuff.  The "real life" stuff.  And the more I pushed into my brain, the heavier the weight felt on my chest.  Sadder, harder, heavier...more painful.


And then the POPeration! podcast dropped.  And I listened. 




I also went on to YouTube and watched a little of my favorite Tubers (is that what they're called?)




And I smiled.  And I smirked.  I laughed. I breathed easier and some of the tenseness dropped from my shoulders.  I leaned back in my chair and just stopped.

Yeah, Eric and I can get pompous and pretentious about why we podcast about pop culture...but, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.   If this year hasn't been a huge THIS IS WHY WE TALK ABOUT SHALLOW STUFF advertisement, I don't know what would be.

Hopefully we can be your "escape" from reality sometimes.  And you know what?  I DO F'ING CARE THAT IT'S ANGELA LANSBURY'S BIRTHDAY!  She's awesome!





Saturday, October 7, 2017

Art isn't easy

by Eric Peterson

In this week's show, we talked about ladies who make us laugh. Stacey and I made passing mention of the controversy surrounding that photograph of Kathy Griffin and what looked like Donald Trump's decapitated head. So, for this week's blog installment, here's something I wrote about that incident in the days after it occurred. (NOTE: This post originally appeared at Medium on June 1, 2017.)

* * * * *

In the last few days, comedienne and gay icon Kathy Griffin has found herself in a spot of controversy. Together with photographer Tyler Shields, Griffin created an image that depicted her holding the decapitated head of a man, covered in blood, and with a hairstyle unmistakably reminiscent of President Donald Trump.


The backlash was almost immediate. Angry tweets were tweeted by the likes of Chelsea Clinton, Griffin’s personal friend Anderson Cooper, and Trump himself, who noted that the image was very upsetting to his 11-year old son in particular. The consensus reached by both sides of the political spectrum was a sandstorm of outrage, offense, and condemnation. Liberals insisted that such violent imagery has no place in civilized debate, while conservatives predictably used the incident to indict the “hatred” they see as synonymous with liberalism, and wondered how liberals would have felt if someone depicted a violent death of Barack Obama.


Actually, we don’t need to wonder about that since violent images, often reminiscent of Jim Crow-era lynchings, depicting a violent death for Obama were all-too-common throughout his Presidency. And yet, liberals argued, two wrongs don’t make a right. Just because they did it, doesn’t mean we should follow suit. When they go low, we go high. In less than 24 hours, Griffin apologized. In a video, posted to Twitter, she said, “I’m a comic. I crossed the line … I beg for your forgiveness. I went too far. I made a mistake, and I was wrong.”

I couldn’t help but notice that in a political landscape so polarized that both sides have all but given up hope that we would ever agree on anything ever again, Kathy Griffin brought the entire country together in a matter of hours, with a single image, without ever saying a word. But it was difficult for me to celebrate this feat of momentary peacemaking, because I wasn’t so sure that I agreed with the masses on this one.

I will admit, firstly, that I’m a fan of Kathy Griffin; more often than not, she makes me laugh. I will also admit that I’m no fan of Donald Trump. As such, I should have been the perfect audience for this particular artistic creation — but something about it didn’t work for me. It didn’t make me laugh, or even smile. It didn’t inspire me to #RESIST, politically or in any other sense — it certainly didn’t fan any latent urges toward violence. Mostly, it just numbed me. I sat in front of my computer screen, taking it all in, mouth agape and eyes growing ever wider. “Wow,” I thought. Not much more than that, just … “wow.” (And not really a good wow, but more of a “WTF” wow.)

I noticed the look on Kathy’s face — not defiant, certainly not jubilant — but slightly panicked and somehow both manic and depressive at the same time. I noticed her oddly formal, bordering-on-frumpy blouse, which I was later reminded has a particularly named feature: the pussy-bow. I noticed the sheer amount of fake blood used to decorate the prosthetic head. And I reflected on the fact that I really, really dislike Donald Trump, and yet — I had to ask myself if I was okay with this. And the answer came slowly. And it was … no. No, I don’t think so. No, I don’t like this.

And yet, I’m not eager to condemn Kathy Griffin and Tyler Shields for creating this particular work of art, even though it makes me uncomfortable. I believe that many works of art, certainly this photo, are meant to make its viewer uncomfortable. And I can’t deny that this image taught me something about myself. It tested my limits; as a result, I learned that there’s a line I don’t want to cross. And I’m not upset at Kathy Griffin for crossing that line for me; in many ways, that’s an artist’s job.

Art is not a luxury. Art isn’t something to enjoy once life’s necessities have been taken care of. Art, even really bad art, has a purpose. Art, at the very least, has something to say. At its best, art is a vessel wherein the viewer learns something, not about the artwork, but about him or herself. And by that barometer, this shocking photograph is surely art. It might not have been a smart decision for Kathy Griffin to create this particular work of art; in fact, it’s already come at a financial cost. It might not have been politically savvy; many are suggesting that the photo gives Trump supporters license to dismiss any of his critics as violent hatemongers. It might not be in good taste; more to the point, it was likely never meant to be.

But it is art, nonetheless. And I am, ever so slightly, different than I was because of it.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Long Trailer...er...Podcast

by Stacey Fearheiley

I know there are some who do NOT like to sit through the previews of movies when they go out to watch films.  I get that.  I even understand the logic.  But it's not me.   I LOVE TRAILERS.  Movie trailers.  Good ones and bad ones.

Why?  Dunno!  And I don't even WATCH 1/3 of the movies of the trailers/previews I see.  One reason this podcast about holiday movie previews was so long was because both Eric and I appreciate a well done and entertaining trailer.  We like watching them, and talking about them.

We discussed a little about what makes good trailers and what makes bad ones.  Even in 2017, there are still producers who don't know how to get a good trailer made.  But this got me thinking...this comparing of good vs. badly made movie previews.  And I started remembering the ones from back in the day that really hit the mark. 

So, below are some examples of "old school" trailers...AND, a great way to waste time.  Enjoy!



















They run the gamut. And these are just a few, but I could watch these all day...a rabbit hole I would never come back from.
So, what are you going to see this holiday season?  Do you base it on previews?  Or do you hate the waste of time these little 3 min vignettes are?  
Wherever you stand, you have to admit, the trailer is an art form unto itself.  



Happy Movie Going!









Thursday, September 21, 2017

Wherefore Art Thou, Emmy?

by Eric Peterson

I hated myself for staying up and watching the Emmys until the end. After all, I had a busy day at work the next day, and could have used the sleep. And yet, it's not like this was a typical Oscars show that flirted with midnight (Eastern Time) before the awards were all handed out and the L.A. after-parties could begin.

And I was liking the show. No, the Sean Spicer cameo didn't sit well with me. First of all, I could have written that joke. Secondly - and perhaps more importantly - he doesn't deserve a warm welcome anywhere after facilitating the complete destruction in Americans' faith in our own government for six months. Finally, I could have written that joke. But I was liking the rest of it.

Aziz Ansari & Lena Waithe win an Emmy
I particularly enjoyed the diversity of the winners. I didn't enjoy the television industry's love letter to itself with regard to how inclusive they were. Because whatever. But the folks who actually walked up to receive trophies were a diverse bunch, and that was cool. Lena Waithe was the first black woman to win an Emmy for writing a comedy series. Aziz Ansari (an "Indian kid from South Carolina" was how Waithe described him) shared that award. Donald Glover was the first black person to win an Emmy for directing a comedy series. Sterling K. Brown was the first black actor in over two decades to win for Best Actor in a drama series. Reed Morano was the first woman in over two decades to win Best Director for a drama series. Riz Ahmed, a British actor of Pakistani descent, was the first South Asian actor to win an acting award at the Emmys.

Of course, some of my warm and fuzzy feelings about the rainbow of honorees were dimmed slightly when the producers of the Emmys cut off Brown's microphone before he finished his speech. Sure, this kind of stuff happens, but Nicole Kidman had just delivered what seemed like a lengthy list of thank-yous moments before, and the orchestra didn't make a peep. And moments later, they let Elisabeth Moss finish. Just sayin'.

But I liked the show, even though I haven't seen a lot of the shows and performances that were nominated. My own ignorance on this point was on my mind, because two days before, Variety published an article called, "Almost Nobody Watches Most Emmy-Nominated Shows," and that knowledge made me feel less alone.

And, it also seemed completely normal to me. There's just way too much television today for any one viewer to consume everything that might appeal to them unless they are lucky enough to get paid to watch television.

And, it also reminded me of the one reason why I like awards shows. Despite the fact that only 5% of television-watchers in America have ever watched Master of None (for which Waithe & Ansari won a writing Emmy), The Handmaid's Tale (for which Morano won her directing Emmy), or Atlanta (for which Glover won his directing Emmy) -- they might, now. If it weren't for Emmys or Oscars or Tonys or Grammys, or Pulitzers, the only television (or movies, or plays, or music, or books) that we'd ever see would be that which is explicitly designed to make the most money. Basically, every movie would be aliens blowing up the halls of Congress, every TV show would be cheaply made reality television, and every book would be Twilight. The fact that these awards shows exist make it somehow profitable for networks and studios and Broadway theaters and publishing houses to invest in quality. Because after a show or a movie or a play or a song or a book wins an award, there's a sizable audience out there who buys tickets or pushes the "download" button. And hopefully, quality art continues to be made by industries for whom the ultimate incentive is and always will be money.

So no, I'm not going to stay up to watch every award show until it's over. When I do watch, I will rail at the foolish choices of those voters and pontificate loudly upon why their choices were so, so wrong (still not over Brokeback Mountain losing - but that's another post for another day). But I'm ultimately glad that these shows exist.

Now, if you'll pardon me, I need to go watch that episode of Master of None. It just won an Emmy.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Laugh, fool, laugh...

by Stacey Fearheiley

So, why DOES Netflix have a whole category dedicated to stand up comedians?  Why do the ratings of comedy shows like Saturday Night Live, Late Night, Conan and the Daily Show  surge when tragedy hits?  Why are the biggest laughs in movies often in a scene at a funeral?



I remember several weeks after my father, to whom I was very close, died, I was reading an article in a magazine and there was a statement made that looked weird to me.  It didn't seem accurate.  I wasn't sure I believed it.  I sat there for a quick minute and realized that there was one person who would know about the accuracy and so I picked up the phone and started dialing my dad's phone number.

I believe I got about 3 numbers in when I realized what I was doing.  I stopped dialing.  I hung up the phone and I said aloud, " I don't have that area code."  There was a beat. Then I giggled.  And I knew my dad would have chuckled as well.  But my question is, why didn't I burst into tears?  What made me think that bizarre thought and then laugh at it?

Maybe it's because laughter and tears, happy and sad, comedy and tragedy are but 2 sides of 1 coin. Without one, the other isn't as understood.

As this world has seemed to be exploding and imploding, literally and figuratively for about a year, we have, as a society, been turning more and more to our comic entertainers.  Colbert has never been more popular. Samantha Bee has soared and SNL hasn't had a season like their last one in YEARS!



But this need to laugh through tears, to find humor in the abysmal isn't a new thing. Bob Hope was successful in his career before WWII, but his legacy that endures will be how he entertained the troops overseas through several wars.  How he made GIs laugh in the literal middle of war, with bombs sounding in the background, knowing that many of those young men would never make it back to the U.S.


In my lifetime, I'll never forget Jon Stewart talking to the camera for the first time after the attacks on September 11, 2001.  The Daily Show after 9/11 

What he said was exactly the answer to my questions.  The need to feel after we think we couldn't feel anymore.  To feel something better.  To feel like there is hope.

Why do we have so many comedians?  Because we need them.  Especially when it feels like there isn't one reason to smile.

When comedians talk about going back to work after tragedy, they talk about timing.  It is a thin line between the "right time" and "too soon."  In politics there doesn't seem to be "too soon", but for natural disasters and man-made terror the line is more blurred.  For the victims of the hurricanes and earthquakes, it may still be too soon to joke about the storms themselves as they are dealing with the nitty gritty of the aftermath.

But, Conan will still do his "Clueless Gamer" routine, Colbert will drop some "Midnight Confessions", John Oliver will talk about "How is this still a thing?" stuff and Netflix will keep adding to its comedian show catalog.  Because we need it.  Even if it is temporary.  Now more than ever.

I had a chance to see a bit of Comic Relief's Hand in Hand fundraising telethon last night, as it raised money for the victims of the hurricanes, etc.  Not a lot of funny, but a lot of good spirit.  And we need that too. Music was in abundance.  And while we need the comedy, we also just need the arts in general...it keeps us human.







Thursday, September 7, 2017

Reclaiming my Time

by Eric Peterson

In the past few weeks in America, oh now let's see ...
  1. Actual neo-Nazis marched through the streets of Charlottesville and killed someone.
  2. Transgender servicemembers are being banned from the military for seemingly no reason.
  3. Hurricane Harvey became the single largest rain event in our country's history, burying our fourth largest city in a trillion gallons of water.
  4. Recipients of the DACA program have learned that the program is being ended, and if Congress takes no action, they'll likely face deportation.
  5. Hurricane Irma has strengthened to a Category 5 storm and is headed straight for Florida.
It's times like this when I sometimes pause and wonder why Stacey and I spend so much time watching movies and TV shows so that we can meet on the weekends and have long extended conversations about them. I mean, the nominal "leader of the free world" is a spray-tanned toddler and the planet is apparently trying to eat us alive, and this is what's important to us?

And you know what? Yes. Yes, it is.

For starters, I love movies. I love good television. Additionally, I love books and theatre and music. I have a love/hate relationship with awards shows, but I still end up watching them and caring who wins. I grieve (in my own way) when young artists die too soon and older artists leave behind a stunning legacy of work to inspire the next generation. I believe that pop culture is art. And I believe that when art ceases to be important, we're in real trouble.

Your hosts. And wine.
Also, if you haven't already noticed, most of the POPeration! episodes we record are basically me laughing hysterically. Stacey has always been able to make me laugh, no matter the topic, and so no, I won't give up the hours we spend together planning the next episode, fighting over which movies and TV shows we need to watch the following week, and recording our conversations; it's just too much fun.

And I need a little fun right now. I need some joy in my life. I suspect I'm not alone.

It can be very easy during troubling times to resist those things that bring you joy, but I believe it's a huge mistake. Yes, you should watch the news, if you can stand it; I do. Yes, if you feel so moved, you should protest; I did, and I probably will again before too long. But no, you should not stop doing things that make you happy. Walk your dog. Watch the game. Knit. Play a round of golf. Lose yourself in a good book. Travel. And if you're like me, see a movie you loved as a child or binge the latest must-see show on the streaming service of your choice.

Above all, laugh. If you don't have a Stacey in your life, you should get one. Vent about the state of the world if you need to, but at least tell a joke while you're doing so, and then change the topic eventually and do something that makes you happy.

Also, podcasts. Podcasts are good. I know of a really excellent one you should try; we're on Apple and Stitcher and Google Play and iHeartRadio and YouTube and ... okay, you get my point.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Of Asians and Aliens

by Eric Peterson

Earlier this week, British actor Ed Skrein (Deadpool, Game of Thrones) was cast as Ben Daimio in an upcoming reboot of Hellboy, based on the comic book published by Dark Horse Comics. Daimio, the character, is of Japanese descent. Skrein, the actor, is not. Controversy ensued.

Ed Skrein (L), Major Ben Daimio (R)

And the controversy was, let's be honest, sort of predictable. It reminded a lot of people of Tilda Swinton being cast as "The Ancient One" in Marvel's Doctor Strange and Scarlett Johannsen's work as Major in Ghost in the Shell, based on a Manga comic.

In both of those cases, a white performer was cast as a character originally written as Asian, and the decision was roundly criticized. Some argued that Hollywood was essentially taking a role away from an Asian performer, others lamented the fact that Asian audiences wouldn't have the pleasure of seeing themselves represented on screen.

But there was something different about this story, and it is this: within days of the casting decision being announced, Ed Skrein withdrew from the movie. He announced his withdrawal on Twitter.


Needless to say, many were happy to see this. Wired magazine published a piece called, "Ed Skrein leaving Hellboy Proves How Easily Hollywood Could Stop Whitewashing," and the headline at the Guardian was "White Actors Must Stand Up to Whitewashing. Ed Skrein Shows How."

But, naturally, there were some detractors, who believed that Skrein was both the victim and a perpetrator of political correctness. The conservative website The Daily Caller noted that "with Skrein out of the picture, the Hellboy production team will have to find an actor more suitable for the role — or at least an actor without any qualms about pretending to be someone he isn’t."

Which sort of misses the point. Skrein wasn't hired to play an Asian character (hopefully the days of Mickey Rooney as the Chinese landlord in Breakfast at Tiffany's are behind us), but  what is far more likely  the film was just going to make the character white. By stepping down in the way that he did, Ed Skrein has all but guaranteed that the producers of Hellboy will cast the role with an Asian actor. And the character will once again be Asian. And, as others have noted, it will now be more difficult for white actors to play characters who were originally people of color. People will wonder why they accepted the role. After all, look at what Ed Skrein did.

In other cross-racial comics casting news, Senegalese actress Anna Diop (24: Legacy) was cast as Starfire in Titans, a new television series based on DC Comics' The New Teen Titans. Starfire's given name is Koriand'r, and she hails from the planet Tamaran. Koriand'r, the character, is an alien with orange skin. Diop, the actress, is not. Controversy ensued.


Koriand'r (L), Anna Diop (R)
Not many people are stepping forward to own their outrage over this particular piece of casting news, but a quick search of internet comment threads — where stupid goes to die — is full of outraged fanboys. I suppose the fact that Starfire is orange and the most famous orange person in America happens to be a white nationalist is confusing to some.

Aside from the orange skin, Starfire also has green eyes — not green irises, but green eyes  like, the entire eyeball is green. Also, when she flies, her enormous hairdo becomes, in the words of George Perez, who created her look, a "Mighty Mouse contrail."

My point is that Koriand'r possesses an ethnicity that no human being possesses. She's literally an alien. And yet, because fans of Teen Titans have never really thought of her as a black girl, some people feel something upon seeing her face and hearing this news, something between irritation and outrage. It must be tempting for some to conflate these two stories, to wonder why Anna Diop can play a character who isn't black while Ed Skrein should be celebrated for stepping away from work when his character isn't white. But these two stories are not the same.

Firstly and most obviously, Ben Daimio is of Asian descent. Also, Asian actors exist. Meanwhile, Starfire is an alien. There weren't any Tamaranean actors in the SAG directory for Greg Berlanti to call. Secondly and more importantly, white audiences are not in need of seeing themselves represented on screen. If a young white boy wants to see people like him wear a silly costume and save the world (or the universe), he's got Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, Henry Cavill as Superman, Chris Evans as Captain America, Ben Affleck as Batman, Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Chris Pine as Captain Kirk, Chris Pratt as Star-Lord, Chris Helmsworth as Thor, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern, Zachary Quinto as Lieutenant Spock, Charlie Cox as Daredevil, and the list goes on and on. Let's say you're a black girl who likes comic books, and you'd really like to see yourself up on screen, well ... there's Halle Berry as Storm. At one point, there was also Halle Berry as Catwoman, but she's not really a hero and the movie was also not great. There's Zoe Saldana as Lieutenant Uhura. There's also Zoe Saldana as Gamora, but she's not really black; she's ... green. And now there's Anna Diop. Who might end up being orange, and will almost certainly have alien eyes. These two situations are not, in any way, equivalent.

Perhaps when a white audience member can prove that anything has really been taken from them when a person of color is cast to play a role with an ethnicity that doesn't exist, I'll be able to equate the two. Until then, congratulations, Anna; thank you, Ed. Because of you, our fantasy worlds now look a little bit more like reality. And believe it or not, that's important.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

My Heart Can't Handle a Third

by Stacey Fearheiley

Frank asked me the other day who would be the third?  Third?  Third what?
"Jerry Lewis, Dick Gregory....and who?"  Ahhhh, I thought.  The rule of 3s, that when there is a celebrity death, there will not just be 1 or 2...but 3.  And so we waited.

And while we waited, we thought about the two that just left us.  Two very different comedians and yet both history making and cliche' smashing talents.

Dick Gregory made you think....whether you wanted to or not.  He was that smart, that good, that talented and that funny.  So sharp, his wit left scars.  He fought on the front lines of the civil rights movement with a keen eye for observation and the ability to communicate in a distinct and new way.

Jerry Lewis became an industry and icon, charming not just the post WWII society trying to normalize their lives...but actually the whole country of France.  His slapstick and mime abilities have rarely been rivaled in the past 70 years. His years of charity work with the Muscular Dystrophy Association raised awareness and billions of dollars for disease research.

Two legends who helped define the second half of the last century in comedy, gone.  Social media and news shows all created their own tributes--some better than others.
Comedians, actors, politicians and other celebrities weighed in on the influence both had on careers and the industry itself.

This is not to be just another tribute piece. This is a bit of what we'll miss...a bit of history...of what influenced the present to be the way it is.  Maybe the fact that we have SO MUCH "entertainment" to choose from, has kept us from looking back at some pieces that changed how comedy is done, reacted to, and remembered -- until the artists are gone.

Pop culture is an evolving thing...it is changed daily by what is happening now...and builds on what has occurred in the past.  Here is a bit of the past that got us to where we are today.








Dick Gregory.  Jerry Lewis.  Thank you.  True legends don't leave us with just "bits of funny", they leave legacies.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Not all Blogs are Funny

by Stacey Fearheiley

I’m not Jon Stewart, Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert or John Oliver….obviously.  I bring this up for a reason.

POPeration! came about because of a desire to entertain people…especially Eric and myself.  To talk about stupid stuff that is popular and makes us laugh.  For me, entertainment should be first and foremost ENTERTAINING.  If I learn something, great…but I better be entertained.  So, when POPeration! calls itself entertainment…it better be just that.  But sometimes…with certain subject matters…that’s hard.

This is the part where who I am NOT comes in.  The grace, class  and dignity that the aforementioned entertainers continue during their shows (for Stewart, when he had one) cannot be matched by me.  They are able to go beyond the immediate headlines, no matter how disgusting, depressing or grave, and find hope and most times at least a kernel of amusement.

This week’s POPeration! episode about “hot button topics” included the topic of race.  It was taped a couple of weeks ago.  Before Charlottesville.  Before the U.S. President sat quiet, then read a statement he didn’t write, then went back and basically condoned not only those actions taken by, but the organizations themselves, representing white nationalists…Nazis.  I’m not sure we could’ve talked about the subject with as much levity if we were taping now.



Race in America is a thing.  It is a HUGE thing.  The movies and television shows we discussed (Get Out, Dear White People) tell us that, while it MIGHT be getting better, we still have a VERY long way to go.  And, frankly, it’s on the white folks to push the effort a long.  Because it is we and our legacy that are the heavy anchor dragging on its speed.

I will not go into a long lecture here.  There are plenty of people more eloquent than I who are out there doing it.  But I will say this:  popular culture aspects aside, this needs to be fixed.  The fact that in the last several years there have been movies and tv shows depicting race as being the central theme to their stories should tell us what we need to know, as white people.   1.  Racism is still here. 2. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away and 3. It’s past time to fix it.  We should be  mortified that we haven’t fixed it yet.

Not convinced?  I dare you to watch these:  MoonlightGet Out, Dear White People (Netflix), 12 Years a Slave, Birth of  a Nation (2016), Do the Right Thing, In the Heat of the Night, Hidden Figures, Mississippi Burning, The Butler, Selma, Glory, The Color Purple, Amistad, The Help, blackish, Key & Peele, and even Blazing Saddles

These are only a small portion of what is out there. If you’ve seen them before, watch them agaim.  Challenge: if you are white, watch them as the black people depicted in them.  What do you come away with then?  These pieces of art and pop culture are also a mirror to our society…where we come from and where we still are.  These are the artifacts that future generations will judge us by.  That in the 21st century the same problems are being “debated” that began centuries before is shameful.

Eric and I are not shy about letting people know where we stand on certain topics.  So we understand if some listeners stop listening because of our opinions. We love pop culture.  Love pontificating about it.  But we also love our country and to ignore what is happening with silence is part of the problem.  My hope is that POPeration! continues to be entertaining…but I want us to be valid as well.

My last word on racism in the country is this…it is NOT an opinion.  It is a fact.  And it is a fact that needs to be changed.  And it is a fact that until all citizens, no matter what race, are safe and treated equally, within the law and practically, we will not be able to make American great again.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

My Current Binge

by Eric Peterson

I had a great time discussing how streaming TV is changing the way we're watching television on this week's show. We also talked about the "binges" that we've really enjoyed in the past, including my personal favorites, Jessica Jones and Happy Valley.

There's another show that's captured my imagination recently; we didn't talk about it on the show because when we recorded that episode, I hadn't seen it yet -- but my current binge is another Netflix show: Ozark, starring Jason Bateman and Laura Linney.

Jason Bateman & Laura Linney in "Ozark"

One reason why the show is so good is its premise -- a financial advisor from Chicago who somehow got mixed up with a Mexican drug cartel makes a deal that involves moving his entire family from their urban life to the Missouri Ozarks. If it has any legitimate ancestor in television history, its closest relative is probably HBO's The Sopranos. With a dash of Green Acres.

Like The Sopranos, it flip-flops effortlessly between crime drama and family drama, focusing much of its energy on an anti-hero patriarch who does very bad things while at the same time trying to be a good dad (he doesn't expend nearly as much effort in the husband department, but there are reasons for that). But unlike James Gandolfini, you spend the first half of the season wondering why the hell Michael Bluth is even here. And eventually, yes -- we get around to that. He's perhaps not quite so miscast as he initially appears; in fact, he's pretty darn wonderful.

And while the very first episode had me worried that the amazing Laura Linney would be simply "the wife" in a story that belonged, in every way, to her character's husband, she very quickly came into her own, playing a character that is worth an actor of her considerable talent.

Julia Garner
While I'm gushing about the cast, I also want to say one tiny word about Julia Garner as local criminal genius Ruth Langmore. When she appeared in Ozark, I thought I'd seen her before and couldn't quite place her; a quick trip to her IMDB page reminded me that she was the granddaughter to Lily Tomlin's acerbic grandmother in Grandma (a terrific little indie if you love Tomlin or sharp-tongued grandmothers or both). She's just as good here, if not better.

Like any good binge, each episode ends with a moment that makes me hunger for more. Sometimes, it's a genuine cliffhanger, other times it's just an "oh-shit" moment that nonetheless incites a viewer's curiosity; I tune in to the next episode as soon as I can because I just have to know what happens now. The final shot of the very first episode simply shows the newly relocated family standing by a lake in Missouri, surrounded by trees. The camera moves back, to reveal a puzzle of forests and lakes that's so expansive, it seems never ending. Also, you can't help but notice that the cliff they're perched on is a lot higher than you originally thought it was. A bit obvious in its symbolism, maybe -- but it served the story and worked for me, and I was immediately hooked. The second episode ended with a simple declaration of fact, spoken by Laura Linney to her two children. It's only shocking because most television mothers would have lied at this particular moment, and she doesn't. And I couldn't click on Episode 3 fast enough.

But mostly, I think this show succeeds because of a singular artistic vision. As I've just noted, it's very aware of its episodic structure -- at the same time, it feels more like a 9-hour film in ten installments than a series of 10 separate episodes about the same people. And it does things and goes places that a 2-hour film just can't. Jason Bateman probably deserves most of the credit for this; he's an executive producer on the show and directed 4 out of the 10 episodes. In addition, the show's creators (Bill Dubuque & Mark Williams) along with two other writers (Paul Kolsby and Martin Zimmerman) do the lion's share of the writing. Other writers have popped in for an episode or two, but these four were involved in scripting all 10 episodes of the first season. And that kind of consistency matters when you're telling a story about characters you think you know, only to find out three episodes later that there's a side to them you had no idea about.

If you're watching Ozark, leave a comment, here or on our Facebook page, and tell us what you think. Or, tell us what you're binging these days and why. After I finish the last couple episodes of Ozark, work my way through HBO's Big Little Lies, then polish off Season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I might give it a look.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Movies I Forgot I Liked: Sports Edition

by Stacey Fearheiley

I never go to "sports" movies...on purpose.  Watching something go round and round on a track, either biologic (horses or people) or automotive (cars) makes me dizzy.  I have LITERALLY gone into comas in front of a screen showing a golf movie.  Football movies tire me.  Boxing/karate films lose me around the climactic slow motion final punch moment. (That goes for hockey, too.) Soccer and basketball and tennis have too much back and forth...it hurts my neck.  I am going to ignore the surfing genre.  But the most avoided sport subject matter in film for me is....dunh dunh dunh.....baseball!

Don't get me wrong...I like watching the sports of swimming, racing, football and hockey....in person. The problem is the movies tend to follow the same trope.  Each sport has its own cliche's...but cliche's they are.



Thus it was a surprise to me that I LOVED A League of Their Own.  As the lights came up during the credits in the theatre, I was still crying happy tears.  It was a movie that did what it was supposed to do...make me feel better after having seen it.

But if I'm honest, I will admit that there have been some other movies that were the exceptions to my  "never do sports movies" rule.  When I generalize, I tend to forget the times I actually enjoyed myself watching fictional jocks athlete (making it a verb) throughout a scripted storyline.  Sometimes it makes the sport better...or at least more watchable.

While we're on the subject of (ugh) baseball movies, we all have to agree that America has an obsession with the sport in film.  THERE ARE SO MANY!  Throughout the ages, baseball movies have ruled the sport film universe.  Horse racing and football follow pretty close, but baseball is king.  I think it is because there are so many, the quality of those movies tends to be better.  Remember, I don't like baseball movies....except the ones I like.

#1 Baseball is A League of Their Own.  Hands down.
But a close #2 is Bull Durham.  This movie came to closest to turning me into a baseball fan.  There is  nothing sexier than Susan Sarandon talking about why her character likes the game.  Kevin Costner talking about what he believes in made many a woman sigh.  And I still think of this scene when I see ANY postgame interview with a jock.


Honorable mentions in baseball: Field of Dreams and Eight Men Out.

In football movies any guy will tell you that Rudy is no. 1.  Possibly Bryan's Song.   For me, Remember the Titans (dude, Denzel!) and the Blind Side.  I also liked Burt Reynolds' The Longest Yard and Jim Thorpe: All American.   Honorable mention in football: Jerry Maguire and Radio.



What about racing movies?  Chariots of Fire is surprisingly moving in the human category,  and Seabiscuit and Secretariat do well with the equestrian side.


As for soccer movies...I'll be honest, I've only seen 2.  I really liked Bend It Like Beckham.  



I saw Shaolin Soccer.

 

The only car racing movie I've liked is from Pixar.  Cars hit it on all cylinders for me. (Get it?  I'm talking sporty.)  Honestly, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman and Tom Cruise all tried to get their favorite sport on film but car racing just doesn't seem to translate to celluloid for real live people.


Hockey actually has a pretty good showing.  Both The Mighty Ducks and Mystery, Alaska were really enjoyable.  I would watch either again, as long as I had a sweater.  Props to Miracle as well.



Boxing has a lot of good ones.  From Rocky to Raging Bull, from Million Dollar Baby and Creed to The Champ and The Great White Hope.  Boy we sure do love an underdog with a mean uppercut.



Even almost 50 years later....same story!!!!!  (#Sadblondewhiteboys)



Ok...so I lied....sometimes I DO go to sports movies....on purpose.  And sometimes I like them.
I guess, if the story is interesting, the writing is on point, the directing is compelling and the acting is good-- a good sports movie is really just a good movie.

Sometimes I "profile" movies and that's not fair.  It's generalizing to categorize all sports themed films as nothing I want to see.
But...on the other hand...I've never seen a tennis or golf movie I was particularly fond of.  I'm ok generalizing about those.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Just one look....is all it took....

by Stacey Fearheiley

How long does it take to fall in love?  Some would say there's no such thing.  Others would say long enough to know each other's faults and not care.  And still others would suggest that it can happen in an instant.

One thing I noticed about the movies Eric and I talked about this week...movies from 1967.  50 year olds.  All the couples seemed to jump into relationships very quickly.  Whether it was the rebellious fling of Bonnie and Clyde, the mad lust filled affair of Ben and Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, or even the sweet but complicated adoration between John and Joey in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, it happened FAST!  Too fast?




In this day and age of television series that arc across time continuously, we are used to stories and relationships created like old school soap operas...some relationships take YEARS to materialize. And that's ok.  We have the time.  We have 6 to 23 episodes to get there.

Sure, a la GOT, there are "relationships" that happen in an instant, but even there...any emotional bond is a gradual evolution.  Again, we've got time.

But in the movies, before there were sequel upon sequels that were planned from the first line of the first film, you have 90 - 120 minutes to get your story told.



If you were a good film maker, you did so through showing not telling.

For John and Joey, I was convinced, as most of the relationship had happened before the movie started and off screen.  The skill of the actors showing what the emotions were and proving their affection.

For Ben and Mrs. Robinson?  Well, we're bending the definition of "relationship" to call what they had that.  But his "true affection" for Elaine?  Did I believe that?

Bonnie and Clyde had barely any real lines between them before she was hopping into his car and they were off.  In my 21st century vision, it was jarring.



In the end, I suppose, when we look back at movies "of a certain age" we have to view them in the time they were created.  It's not fair to expect films made in the past to take into account the skepticism and snarkiness of future audiences.

How long does it take to fall in love?  You can ask Bonnie and Clyde, you can ask Edward and Vivian from Pretty Woman, you can ask Vianne and Roux from Chocolat, and you can ask Bridget Jones and Mark, and they will all give different answers.    How long does it take to fall in love? Probably the best answer to the question is...as long as it takes.


Bonus:


Thursday, July 20, 2017

That (Thirty) Million Dollar Smile

by Eric Peterson

Thirteen years ago, archeologists in Bulgaria uncovered a female skeleton that turned out to be 9,000 years old. That’s a find under any circumstances, but what made this discovery particularly extraordinary was the skeleton’s perfectly straight, perfectly shiny teeth. The scientists named their discovery “Julia Roberts.”

If right now, someone asked you to close your eyes and picture Julia Roberts, and you followed along (go ahead and try it, right now), she might have blonde hair or auburn, she might be formally or casually dressed, but chances are she’d be sporting her trademark smile – warm, generous, full of joy, existing for no other reason than that its wearer feels authentically, buoyantly happy.

Rumor has it that Julia Roberts has insured her smile for thirty million dollars, and it’s easy to see why. If something – anything – were to happen to those precious chompers, it would greatly inhibit Julia’s ability to work, or at least to get the twenty million dollar paychecks she received for some of her biggest hits.

Stacey and I recently devoted an entire show to Julia Roberts’ career, and of course we talked about the smile – that iconic moment in Pretty Woman when Richard Gere snapped a jewelry box just as she was reaching toward it, causing a spontaneous moment of laughter (you know the one), and what it feels like to be denied the smile, in a serious film like Mary Reilly.

When Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly reviewed Mary Reilly in 1996, he didn’t much care for it – using EW’s “letter grade” system, the film earned a C-minus. In his review – in the very first paragraph of his review, in fact – he writes, “Anyone eager for a glimpse of the famous Roberts smile — those luscious wax lips come to life — had better look elsewhere. In Mary Reilly, the lips are taut and nervous, drawn into a stoic line of woe. Her eyes gleam with trepidation.”

The moviegoing public didn’t much care for Mary Reilly either, or at least most of them didn’t buy a ticket. It cost $47 million to make the film, and it made only $12.3 million worldwide.

As I mentioned on the show, I remember seeing a line chart in a copy of Entertainment Weekly after the film’s release (I searched online when preparing this blog entry, but couldn’t find it) detailing the correlation between the number of times that Julia Roberts flashed her multi-million dollar smile in some of her more notable films and the amount of money each film made – and there was a direct correlation. More smiles, more money. At least in the eighties and nineties, no one was interested in a Julia Roberts that was somber or scared.

Nearly twenty years later, Julia made August: Osage County with Meryl Streep, Margo Martindale, Julianne Nicholson, Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, and more. In it, Julia doesn’t smile much either. The film didn’t break any box office records, but it did make a profit, and it fared better critically (a 64% score on “Rotten Tomatoes” compared to 26% for Mary Reilly). The world, it seems, is finally ready for a Julia Roberts that is something other than a bundle of joy – her performance as Barbara in August: Osage County is a study in a woman’s anger; in fact, it’s difficult to even call it anger; rather, she’s ROYALLY PISSED OFF in almost every scene.

Perhaps it’s because she’s no longer an ingénue. If I were optimistic, I’d suggest that perhaps our society is becoming less sexist and is finally allowing women to express emotions that might threaten or shock people. And while I’d like that to be true, I somehow doubt it. Whatever the reason, it’s entirely possible that what lies ahead for Julia Roberts the actor might be twice as exciting as what we’ve previously witnessed in the career of Julia Roberts the movie star.

And all the same, if we remember her 9,000 years from now, we’ll probably still be picturing that iconic smile. And maybe that’s okay, too.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Sounds of Summer

by Eric Peterson

Stacey and I had a blast creating our Perfect Summer Playlist during this week’s podcast. Admittedly, we spend most of our time on the show talking about movies and TV, so we were itching to talk about pop music and this seemed like a perfect time to do it.



It occurred to me about five or six years ago that “summer music,” like holiday music (aka Christmas Carols) was a thing. But just as the B-52’s remind us that summer has a taste (specifically, “orange popsicles and lemonade”), I’ve become convinced that summer has a sound – or more accurately, lots of sounds … but sounds that particularly belong to this sunny season.

SONGS ABOUT SUMMER (duh)

The obvious place to start is songs that specifically reference summer, or where the word “summer” is right in the title. Other tunes, like Sheryl Crow’s “Soak Up the Sun” don’t quite sound right when the tulips are just beginning to pop in April or when the leaves are falling in mid-October, but couldn’t sound more perfect on a hot, July day.



SONGS ABOUT WARM PLACES

The Whole Wide World” by Wreckless Eric is a favorite summer tune of mine, probably because the first verse casually name drops both the Bahamas and Tahiti. Any song called “California Girls,” whether sung by the Beach Boys or Katy Perry (featuring Snoop Dogg) is bound to sound a little summery. I’m not sure where the Mermaid Café in Joni Mitchell’s “Carey” is supposed to be, but it’s close enough to Africa to get a hot wind, and close enough to the sea to put beach tar on Joni’s feet; it’s a classic summer tune. And even though the band is practically synonymous with Ireland, U2’s “Where TheStreets Have No Name” is so evocative of a hot desert landscape that it seems right at home on a summer playlist. “California Dreamin’” by the Mamas and the Papas is pointedly about a winter’s day, and yet it just sounds like summer.



REGGAE

The syncopated counterpoint to a bass and drum downbeat is really all it takes to send a listener on a direct route to Jamaica, home of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Jimmy Cliff. The lyrics can be about injustice, intoxicants, or three little birds pitched by my doorstep – it’s bound to sound just like sunshine and a sandy beach. On the show, I picked a song by Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, comprised of four of Bob & Rita Marley’s children – and I like them so much, here’s another one.



LATIN MUSIC

Like reggae, songs either sung in Spanish or featuring a delicate Latin guitar can transport a listener to another land, and to a white kid from the Pacific Northwest, it often feels like the musical equivalent of a frozen margarita. My favorite new song of the summer is “Despacito,” by Luis Fonsi (featuring Daddy Yankee, not featuring Justin Bieber). In it, Fonsi sings, “Despacito/Vamo a hacerlo en una playa en Puerto Rico/Hasta que las olas griten "¡Ay, Bendito!" … which is basically an invitation to get down and dirty with Fonsi on a beach in Puerto Rico until you scream to a higher power. Yeah, I’m just going to let you ponder that for a while ... (translation: hold on a minute; Eric has the vapors).



SUMMERY ARTISTS

Anything by the Beach Boys, The Mamas & the Papas, TheGo-Go’s, or Jimmy Buffett sounds like summer. Period.



ANYTHING FROM THE SUMMERS OF YOUR YOUTH

Music has a strange ability to attach itself to memories in a powerful way. So the perfect soundtrack for your summer, no matter what Stacey and I tell you, are the songs that take you back to the summers you remember, particularly the ones that remind you of long summer vacations, for those of us lucky enough to have enjoyed those. As a child of the 80’s, that can sound like a little Toto, a little Joan Jett, a lot of Madonna, and maybe a splash of Def Leppard.


To listen to POPeration!’s “Perfect Summer Playlist,” go to Spotify or iTunes, fire up the grill, mix up some Piña Colada’s and think of us. And in the meantime, don't forget to subscribe, rate, and review. See you next week!