A bi-weekly podcast all about Pop Culture and the stories we love. Let us be your Pop Cult Leaders! Each episode, we share the pop culture we love with you--whether it's a specific fandom (Star Wars and the MCU are regular features), musical theatre, sports, television, or movies. We also love to play pop culture trivia games, and those are sprinkled throughout the episodes. We end each installment with a recommendation for the pop culture Kool-Aid we're drinking each week. Join us, and be sure to find the podcast companion articles on www.thepopculturereference.com!
S02 EP. 7 – Wonder Woman
We’re back from a summer hiatus to bring you one of the most exciting movies we’ve seen in a long time—Wonder Woman! Jeffrey and I have thoughts on thoughts about director Patty Jenkins’ treatment of the most famous female superhero, on Gal Gadot’s utterly charming performance as Diana Prince, and on how Robin Wright is truly a war general for our times. Dive in with us as we go deep on Wonder Woman!
Wonder Woman set records for box office performance by a solo female director, which made us very very happy. Jeff helpfully lays out a bit of history and context about the character of Wonder Woman and her “creator”, William Moulton Marston. His polyamorous partnership with two women certainly informed his creation of a feminist icon, and he shared credit for creating Wonder Woman with his partners Elizabeth Marston and Olivia Byrne. He also created a lie detector test (lasso of truth shout out!). Marston is a fascinating character unto himself, and it’s worth taking a look at his story.
There are definite parallels between Wonder Woman (the character) and Captain America, and further parallels between Captain America: The First Avenger and Wonder Woman. Both of these properties reflect worlds that are dealing with frightening wars, and the characters are two interesting examples of idealized men and women and their ability to shape the world they live in.
Gal Gadot’s performance is the heart of the film, and phew, does she ever nail it. She has the strength of her convictions, plus a strong physical presence that instantly communicates her self-confidence (even as she learns the ropes of being Wonder Woman). Chris Pine does good work as Diana’s love interest, and we appreciated that his character deferred to the actual God he was standing next to.
Robin Wright (!) stole all 7 minutes of screen time she had, because that is what she does. Jeff was particularly impressed with how Wonder Woman accumulated her powers, and the connection she had with her female role model, Antiope. SHIELD!
A small shout out to Danny Huston’s performance, and an entry in Lauren’s Hollywood Dynasty corner to honour these eyebrows:
A few other actors round out our cast discussion, and we do spend a minute with Lucy Davis as Etta Candy. That character deserves her own show, and in the time since the taping of the podcast, I learned that Lucy Davis was Dawn Tinsley on the original UK version of The Office. Here. For. It.
Wonder Woman capitalizes on its fish-out-of-water premise, and the humour in the film reminded me of 3rd Rock from the Sun. I’M NOT WRONG ABOUT THAT SHOW.
S02 Ep. 6 – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
We’re back! This week, we’re talking about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which was released back in May. In the follow up to 2014’s sleeper-success Guardians of the Galaxy, we continue our journey with Peter Quill and his rag tag group of friends in their space journey. Our whole show is dedicated to this bright and colourful sequel, and we end the show with Kool-Aid picks as usual. Spoiler alert time: we talk about everything in the movie including plot twists and reveals, so definitely check it out before listening.
The cast of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 impressed us with their more assured character performances. Chris Pratt continues his charm assault on us, and I’m enjoying the Peter Quill as beta male storyline. Zoe Saldana won me over forever with her use of That Big Fucking Gun™ as Gamora. She and Furiosa should hangout and watch crappy TV with cocktails, and I should get to join them. Make it happen, universe.
We also touch on the Amelia Bedelia of the MCU in Dave Bautista’s Drax, and the judicious use of adorable puppy Baby Groot (Vin Diesel). Bradley Cooper’s trash panda realness in Rocket Raccoon works for both of us as well. I was HERE for the star turn taken by Kurt Russell’s glorious wig. Let’s all take a moment to appreciate those resin statues that immortalized the wig within the movie. Amen.
Effects are up next, and this is a movie worth seeing in theatre because it’s a grand visual spectacle. Yondu’s arrow had a very beautiful scene, and Jeff really liked the wacky time jump sequence. The de-aging of 66 year old actor Kurt Russell was seamless and exemplary (I have scoured the internet for a photo of that scene and can’t find one. Please help me).
We touch specifically on the female characters in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and it’s a bit of mixed bag. I liked the further exploration of the sister relationship between Gamora and Nebula, but didn’t particularly enjoy anything Mantis got to say or do.
Post credits scenes garner their own section of our podcast because there were freakin’ 5 of them. Too many.
* Kirk in Space stabs Drax in the neck.
* Teenage Tween Groot. This solved a timeline problem that was bugging Jeff for the whole movie. I still don’t know that I get what happened, but I don’t super care.
* Stan Lee cameo scene. Stan Lee is a watcher. Marvel fans (apparently) loved this one.
* Sylvester Stallone does…something. This one was unnecessary.
S02 Ep. 5 – Grace and Frankie and Seniors on TV
This week, we’re all about media featuring the over-55 crowd, and we start with a look at Netflix’s Grace and Frankie. In the second half of the show, we talk about seniors on TV (Murder She Wrote features prominently, you’re welcome).
The third season of Grace and Frankie was released on Netflix at the end of March 2017, and by the very fact that it has two female leads who are in their 70s, it’s a revolutionary show. The show was created by Marta Kauffman (one of three creators of Friends) and Howard J. Morris (Home Improvement and According to Jim).
Jeff and I are both fans of Grace and Frankie, and the work of Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda on it. The show overcomes a rather trite sitcom premise to do something subversive by telling a story for and about these two female septuagenarians.
Lily Tomlin is a comedic legend, and her talents are on full display throughout Grace and Frankie. My absolute favourite lines in the series come out of her mouth, and it’s so often just the spin she puts on a small joke that turns into a gut-buster. Praise.
Jane Fonda brings a layer of depth and emotion to her performance as the uptight Grace, and it’s very easy to see why she is a two-time Oscar winner. Her ability to emote outside of any dialogue and to show a real journey of discovery at this later stage of life gives the show a real ground to stand on. Also, Jane Fonda seems kind of awesome.
Jeff is excited about a depiction of two men who have lived the majority of their lives in secret, and choose to live it openly in their 70s. Sam Waterston does great work in showing us Sol’s emotional side, and Martin Sheen matches him by showing us Robert’s embrace of his newfound freedom. I appreciate that the show is choosing to focus on June Diane Raphael’s character, Brianna. Her work here reminded me how great she is, and I hope she gets more and more to do in future seasons.
We praise the show’s use of accomplished female actors as powerhouse guest stars, and for those of you playing along at home, I count 3 former Frasier guest stars:
Wendy Malick (Ronnie)
Marsha Mason (Sherry)
Millicent Martin (Mrs. Moon)
If you find others, PLEASE tweet at me.
The show also deserves praise for it’s frankness about sex and sexuality. It’s one more facet of a human life that the show is honest about, and it happens to revolve around 70 year old people.
In our second segment, we are talking about senior citizens on TV–a subject near and dear to my heart. We start with the Alpha and the Omega of seniors on TV, The Golden Girls. It always fascinates me that the great actors who played ...
S02 Ep. 4 – Beauty and the Beast
This week, Jeffrey and I are chatting about the live action version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, as well as live musicals on TV. Beauty and the Beast is up first, and both of us have good things to say about this remake. The source material, the Beauty and the Beast animated feature from 1991, is often cited as the high mark of the Disney renaissance, and for good reason. This remake may not hit that iconic high, but it’s still interesting.
The cast is pretty darn fantastic, and I would happily watch Hermione Granger (the great Emma Watson) do Belle cosplay for as long as she wants to. High marks also to Josh Gad for his crazy LeFou face and energy. We agree the additional backstory for both the Beast and Maurice fills out those characters, and that Professor Trelawney (Emma Thompson) brings significant heart and warmth to Mrs. Potts.
The music in this movie had a lot to live up to. We agree that Audra McDonald nailed it (no big surprise there), and that Emma Watson did a very passable job with her songs. We weren’t sure about Dan Stevens singing his little Beast heart out, but Oscars must be sought after, I guess. Emma Thompson does as well as anyone can do while trying to fill the shoes of the GREAT Angela Lansbury. Fun facto (maybe for me only): Emma Thompson is friends with Angela Lansbury and calls her Angie. Can I please be in your friend group, ladies? PLEASE.
We talk very briefly about the “gay moment” that occurs on screen for a fleeting few seconds. We’re glad that a gay character was shown interacting with a member of the same sex here, but that’s a laughably low bar to clear, so we don’t want to overpraise it. It is a step in the right direction from a really massive company that has huge cultural influence, if still the smallest step they could have taken.
The future of live action movies at Disney looks bright, with these already on the horizon:
The Little Mermaid
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
The Lion King with Jon Favreau as the director
Cruella De Vil starring Emma Stone
Aladdin with Guy Ritchie as the director
Tinker Bell starring Reese Witherspoon
Winnie the Pooh
In our second segment, we talk about live musicals on TV. This is hardly a new concept, but lately we’ve had a resurgence of this tradition. NBC has lead the charge to bring back these live musical events starting with The Sound of Music Live! in 2013.
S02 Ep. 3 – Lin-Manuel Miranda
It’s time for Jeff and I to discuss the pop culture phenomenon that is the great Lin-Manuel Miranda. We have previously talked about his work on Hamilton in our Tony Awards Chat. Now we’re bringing you a full hour on the man himself, and his ever-impressive catalog of musicals, movie soundtracks, and collaborations.
We start by talking about Hamilton, with the caveat that neither of us has actually seen it. The fact that we can talk about a musical in depth without having seen the show is a testament to the power of this cultural product. It’s also a testament to the talent and genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda himself. How lucky we are to be alive right now. The main way we’ve interacted with Hamilton is through the cast album. Have you listened to it yet? Of course you have, it’s awesome.
We also have “seen” Hamilton through various awards show performances, and pop culture moments. Jeff and I are Tonys fans, and have observed the relationship between Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Tonys broadcast evolve over time. Jeff and I choose favourites from the show, and it will come as a surprise to absolutely no one that we are HERE FOR the Schuyler Sisters. It’s almost tiresome how much we are here for these ladies. We also thoroughly enjoy the use of an anti-hero narrator through Leslie Odom Jr’s performance of Aaron Burr and “Wait For It”. I have a personal affinity for anger through courteous letter writing in “Your Obedient Servant”, and Jeff rightly points out that this song walks the line between high drama and comedy in a fascinating way.
We move on to our personal dream casting choices for the inevitable film version of Hamilton. Jeff has some Good Ideas™ to include The Pop Cult Podcast Fave Janelle Monáe in a film version of this musical. If she were to enact the role of Aaron Burr, I might die. My ideas are decidedly less good, but I’m here stumping for the great Anika Noni Rose, the iconic Lea Salonga, and the reliable Amber Riley. Neither of us has any great contribution to the dudes that should be in a Hamilton film, but Jeff does have two strong picks for a director.
It’s just occurred to me now, but I think it should be a woman of colour. Ava DuVernay or bust.
We move on to the music of Hamilton, and Jeff takes the lead in breaking down some of the many influences in the work. He speaks to the revelation that was the Hamilton Mixtape for him in bringing these influences to light...
S02 Ep. 2 – Oscars 2017
This week it’s all about the Oscars 2017! The 89th Annual Academy Awards are this Sunday evening, and as usual, Jeff and I are all in to talk about the nominated films and creators. Can you believe it was just a year ago that Leo didn’t have an Oscar? Were we ever so young? The 2017 Oscars are a very different beast than last year’s ceremony, with the #oscarssowhite controversy fading slightly (though still a major, systemic problem), and new controversies taking hold. Jeff and I get into all of that and more in the episode, so dive in with us for Oscars 2017!
In our first half, we’re talking about the less glamorous categories. For Best Adapted Screenplay, we have an interesting set of works where in 3 out of 5 cases, a person of colour’s story is being adapted by a white person. This is the case for Hidden Figures (original story Margot Lee Shetterly), Arrival (original story by Ted Chiang), and Lion (original story by Saroo Brierley and Larry Buttrose). The other two films are works of people of colour, adapted by those people (and one collaborator, who is also a person of colour). Those are Fences by August Wilson and Moonlight by Tarell Alvin McCraney and Barry Jenkins.
For Best Original Screenplay, we have 5 movies written by white men, and four of them are specifically about white men. This is boring. We’re bored now. I’ve heard good things about 20th Century Women, so I throw a little support that way, but would prefer to take a pass on this particular Scrabble hand and change out my tiles.
On to Best Animated Feature next, and Jeff is glad to see two such high quality (and popular) Disney movies in this category. He and I are both hoping for a win for Moana, which is really super. Hat tip as well to the craft of Kubo and the Two Strings, which we did a podcast episode on earlier in the year.
We finish the first half with talk about music. In the Best Original Score category, we agree that the lock has to be La La Land. That score is a character in the movie, and an important facet of the story.
For Best Original Song, we’re both excited to see if Lin-Manuel Miranda can add an Oscar to his passel of Tonys that he won in the fall. Controversial opinion: that guy is going to need several display cabinets for awards before long here. It’s a bit of a shame that “You’re Welcome” isn’t the nominated song here. Jeff makes the super point that leaving that out of here means we won’t get to see WWE Monday Night RAW alum Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson perform a musical number at the Oscars. That would have been pretty great. If you are interested in being depressed by a song about a reporter who was beheaded, knock yourself out here.
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