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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Best of Summer: Our Staff Picks

HollywoodCinemimi [Wednesday, August 31, 2011]
Yes, it's that time of year again. Summer's over—meaning it's time to head off to one last beach trip, pick up your back-to-school supplies, stock up on sweaters and take one more look back at everything that went down in pop culture's biggest season.

So far, we here at have gone back to reminisce over the Best Moments in Summer TV, the Winners and Losers of Movies, Celebrity Moments that Made Us Facepalm and even sifted through to find the Best Indie Flicks—but now we've wracked each of our brains to declare our favorite moments of the season. TV, Movies, Celebs—anything goes.

Take a look at what came out on top during the Summer of 2011 for each of our writers, then chime in with your own:

Louie's Unrequited Confession of Love

Sure, comedian Louis C.K. is known for pointing out the ugly truths in life, but every once in a while he touches on something a little sweeter. And with the added context of his matter-of-fact borderline cynicism, the particular instance I have in mind gains even greater levels of adorableness.

In the episode entitled ""Subway/Pamela,"" which might be my favorite from this entire season (though it's not quite over yet), Louis C.K. finally bites the bullet and confesses his deep, hidden love for one of his best friends, Pamela. Even though he knows he has no chance, he stands before her on a cloudy day in some sad-looking open air market. All romanticism is washed away and all that's left is a man in a modest winter coat standing before a woman and confessing that his whole being aches for her. And you know what? It felt completely genuine and it's because it was stripped of every romantic staple we've come to expect on television. In a nutshell, this take on the romantic plotline is exactly the sort of thing Louie does with television on a regular basis. It was simple, unadorned and moving.

In essence, it was a perfect television moment.


Drew Barrymore's ""Our Deal"" Video

Early this month, a special kind of music video was released attached to the band Best Coast's song "Our Deal." The video (short film, rather) is directed by Drew Barrymore, and stars Chloe Moretz and Tyler Posey as the headlining pair above a cast including comic actors Miranda Cosgrove, Alia Shawkat and Donald Glover. I won't bother going into detail about the glory of the figures involved with this film: if you know who they are, you know that each of these people is an artistic majesty.

The piece itself is an adaptation of Romeo & Juliet, reminiscent of a cohort in this class, West Side Story with the rival gangs theme. Moretz's and Posey's characters fall in love—their conflicting loyalties contend with their happiness.

In watching this film again recently, it dawned on me what it is that impresses me so fervently. Beyond even the powerball casting and the immaculate aesthetics (the film is shot, designed and choreographed beautifully), what I love so much about this film is its bravery. It visits well-worn literary territory in an unconventional medium—one strange to the concept and to Barrymore's cinematic prowess alike—and attacks it without hesitation. It never feels like the film is holding back, or halting momentum. In fact, Barrymore's love for this project pervades. Although Moretz is such a chillingly magnificent performer, her scenes would mean nothing without the honesty this film embraces.

I am a sucker for experimentation. I love the melding of media, and I love employing unorthodox means of storytelling—this is more than anything a silent film, which is a rarity in modern times (zing). More specifically, I love when actors and filmmakers of television and cinema take leaps with projects like these that don't really seem to "fit" anywhere (another fine example would be this year's Beastie Boys tribute). These works, "One Day" especially, is demonstrative of artists embracing artistic expression.



The Buildup to Kim Kardashian's Wedding

Kim Kardashian has been infiltrating our lives since 2007 by way of TV shows, interviews, magazine covers, sneakers that tone your ass, perfume that makes someone want you, dieting pills that also make someone want you, and sex tapes. And for the most part, we've embraced it. It wasn't so bad in the beginning - even if we were perfectly happy with the sneakers or diuretics we already had, she became a figure that represented a unique smoothie of glamour and productivity that was eerily inspiring.

But when we learned in May that Kim was engaged to New Jersey Nets forward Kris Humphries, her presence in our environment, let's say… swelled! She was on the cover of everything and performed the very impressive task of seeming to talk about everything without actually saying anything. Everyone bombarded Kim with questions regarding the details of the wedding (like which dress she'd wear and where the ceremony would take place and where the newlyweds would go on their honeymoon), and she addressed all the inquiries with class (by again, not saying anything) because she wanted to keep everything a secret so she could sell the photographs of her big day to a tabloid magazine and make millions of dollars off them. There were a few things we were lucky enough to learn beforehand though, like the fact that it really wouldn't matter if we had to spend August 20th in a vet's office because E! announced its plans to air a 4-hour special that would take losers (who have to physically bring their pets to the doctor, instead of being rich enough to have a vet who makes house-calls) inside Kim's wedding.

But because Kim kept all the specifics of the event a secret, people's intrigue increased and increased over the summer months. It meant paparazzi followed her everywhere hoping to catch a glimpse of her dress, or photos of how she'd like to wear her hair, or the color scheme she'd use for her reception. But everyone involved was sworn to secrecy, which meant all the tabloids could do was speculate as to what was going to happen - which practically encouraged people to get obsessed over the nuptials. And while the wedding itself did turn out to be very beautiful (and expensive - some estimate it would have cost the average person $6 million. There's still no word on how much it cost Kim because she got numerous discounts along the way for being so famous), it was not nearly as exciting as the buildup that it got.


Captain America: The First Avenger

No one said being a summer blockbuster was easy work. In an over-crowded summer, Captain America had a lot working against it. The Marvel superhero flick was the fourth comic book movie of the season, was following in the footsteps of cinematic juggernaut Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2, had a unestablished character with a period setting to overcome and was being directed by Joe Johnston, the man who brought us the 2010 dud The Wolfman.

Movie buffs were cautiously excited.

But Captain America: The First Avenger was the biggest surprise of the summer, a total blast in theaters and the only movie (besides the final Potter installment) I imagine I'll revisit some day. Unlike his Avengers accomplice Thor, whose own summer blockbuster was passably enjoyable, Steve Rogers's big screen adventure had all the gusto of the old fashioned, '40s adventure it mimicked—classic car chases, over-the-top villains (Hugo Weaving's cackling mastermind Red Skull), sweeping romance and shield-to-face moments that screamed for giant, block-lettered THWOMPs to appear on screen. Johnston previously directed The Rocketeer, another throwback auctioneer, and Captain America only built upon that film's unique charm. Chris Evans deserves credit for being physically downsized by CG animation before beefing up into the slick hero of Cap. He carries the movie on his shoulders and, thankfully, punches a few pseudo-Nazis in the process.

In an era where blockbusters have to be dark, serious and gritty in order to ""connect"" with audiences, it was great to have a flashy superhero who dropped the cynicism and stood up for what he believed in. Captain America was two hours of solid fun, with a song-and-dance number in the middle, for good measure.


So You Think You Can Dance

There's a phenomena on broadcast TV that doesn't usually get a lot of love on, a dance craze that doesn't involve former athletes or washed up actors waltzing around your screen to the same old routine for an hour each week. It's a true showcase of physical performance, endurance and skill that features a wide array of musical and dance styles, exciting camera work, Hollywood glamour and a great group of guest judges that bring something unique to the stage every week.

In case you haven't figured it out, I'm talking about So You Think You Can Dance, a seven-time Emmy winning competition program created by American Idol's Simon Fuller and Nigel Lythgoe, two veterans of the blockbuster small-screen genre. This past season, which ran from late May through mid-August, introduced the world to some phenomenal dancers who knocked every style out of the park, from Broadway to Bollywood and back again. Though Melanie Moore of Marietta, Georgia ending up winning, the show didn't stop before we were introduced to some incredible talent from the around the world. The top ten this time around was a gathering of some of the finest dancers the show has ever seen in eight seasons, including Sasha Mallory (the runner-up), Marko Germar and Tadd Gadduang.

In addition to featuring more types of dance and more elaborate choreography than any other program of its kind, SYTYCD compiled a motley crew of guest performers and judges that upped the ante in season 8. Lady Gaga thrilled audiences with signature outfits, heartfelt commentary and a medley performance while Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson brought smiles and laughter to all who tuned in. Industry professionals like Rob Marshall and Kenny Ortega gave the young stars tips while Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds gave inspiration to everyone around her. The season was so tighly packed with wonderful moments and surprises that there was virtually something for everyone!

Because SYTYCD continually brings a well-rounded and completely entertaining show to the masses year after year, and since its surprisingly been the only competition show that has held my attention since the genre blasted its way onto network TV, I'm endorsing it as my staff pick of Summer 2011.



Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 8

Summertime is movies' season; everybody knows that. If you don't wanna get onboard, you're on your own, because you will not find solace on TV. No—you'll find, for the most part, F-grade reality shows, network throwaways/leftovers, and, well, America's Got Talent (and its equivalents). True, we were gifted with Breaking Bad, a marvelous show in its own right. One of TV's best. But it's heavy. And dark. And twisty. All great attributes and, again, this is a great series, but for some viewers, like yours truly, we're seeking summer respite from precisely that: We need to laugh, hysterically and easily.

Enter Curb Your Enthusiasm. It was a long wait, any way you slice it, but when the eighth and final season premiered July 10, HBO appointment viewing had returned for those of us who dare prefer good TV (emphasis on good) in the comfort of our own homes to more-loud-than-good movies in the discomfort of movie theaters. Curb is one of the rarest shows ever in that there has been no considerable drop-off or regression during its lengthy run, and season 8 might just be Larry David's masterpiece. It kicked off in that old, familiar Curb way: David finding trouble where only he can while airing his societal grievances, to hilarious results. And the season has remained top-notch all along. The third episode, about a Palestinian chicken joint with food too good to care about ostracism from the Jewish community, is my personal favorite, and it even, in an act of roundabout nobility and perhaps goodwill, simplifies one of the many ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.

Indeed, L.D., the schlub genius, the bizarro Woody Allen, has struck gold again. More importantly, he's also made a ton of people laugh this summer, and that is the real escapism.


The Quotes of True Blood

I know it's a cliché, but time goes by when you're having fun and even though I'm sorry to see the summer end, I can't help but look back at all the good times. The sunbathing, the frozen drinks, the AC (minus the increase in my electric bill), and more importantly - television summer shows. My summer isn't complete without my weekly dose of True Blood and Season 4 has been sure to fill up my Sunday nights with love, lust, and laughter. Now that's something I can sink my teeth into.

In honor of True Blood's wickedly exciting season, I've decided to compile my favorite Season 4 quotes in the hope of keeping the show alive (or should I say undead) for a little bit longer. Summer is still in session!

Everyone is welcome at Fangtasia. Vampires, Humans, men, women, families, pets. Everyone is welcome, come on down. The blood is warm, and so is the service." - Pam

Pam is always given the best lines ever and it was the perfect way to kick-off the season. She's the best and admirably has the balls to say what all the other vampires are thinking—this is so stupid.

Some old hippies levitated an old bird. So what?" - Nan Flannigan

This line serves as being both hilarious and ironic. Hilarious because it just further proves that Nan Flannigan should be playing a much more essential role in the show. Between her and Pam, there could be a hilarious vampire spin-off show consisting of just these two with their bitchy, sarcastic remarks.

It's in the 10 commandments. Don't kill sh*t. Don't f*ck with your parents. I did both." - Tommy

Tommy on the whole is a worthless character and normally wouldn't come close to making the "Best List" of anything (unless we're referring to the Best Waste of Space), but his line is priceless and really makes me want to get myself to a church confessional ASAP.

I love you, both of you, and I'm asking you to love me back. Together." - Sookie

I think all women will agree that Sookie's proposition of a threesome with Eric and Bill is probably the best idea this girl has ever had. This marks a turning point in Sookie's life where she's no longer a shy, innocent girl, but rather a confident, self-aware woman who knows exactly what she wants. Who says you can't have your vampire cake and eat it too?!



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