Friday, November 28, 2008

A Pop Culture Thanksgiving

By this point in your Thanksgiving holiday, the turkey has been devoured and the pants are unbuttoned and you’re either curled up by the fire watching movies and dozing, or huddled over the Thursday sale papers to gameplan how to get the most Black Friday loot. I’d like to take a brief pause between slices of homemade coconut cake and my mother’s sweet potato pie to list what I am thankful for in pop culture! I know you’re excited! Let’s go!

*Rihanna’s “Rehab” Video featuring Justin Timberlake.
Justin’s Timberlake’s recent surprise “SNL” appearance reminded us why he is a Grammy-winning, Emmy-winning superstar at the ripe ole age of 27. He can do the impossible: upstage Beyonce and look fierce in a leotard and heels. In the music video for a song he wrote and produced, Mr. SexyBack and Sasha Fierce’s biggest competition, Rihanna, combine their uber-hottness in a way that is nothing but scrumptious, sexy candy for the senses. The video has no actual plot, but is a live action work of art. There’s a gulf-stream trailer and leather and tattoos and those weird one-piece fashion suits celebrities have suddenly decided are the new black. All of these pieces add up to three-and-half minutes of visual ambrosia that will leave you very much addicted.

*Pink’s “Funhouse”.
Pop’s baddest bitch discovers her inner singer-songwriter just in time for The Divorce Album. True to Pink form, she’s not crying in the corner. In her most coherent and focused LP, Pink honestly and cathartically presses the bruises and scars left by her split with motocross champ, Carey Hart. The crash-bang fury of “So What”, the party anthem-turned-ex-husband-hate-mail that launched the album, ebbs away to expose the softer side of a rocker chick in beautiful ballads like “Glitter in the Air” and “Crystal Ball.” It saddens me that Pink doesn’t garner the unabashed praise that is erroneously heaped onto her poptastic competition (Katy Perry, Beyonce, even Miley friggin’ Cyrus), because she is a consistent, self-aware and open musician, who wholeheartedly deserves it. I downloaded this disc when it leaked two weeks before the album’s release date, and loved it enough to buy it when it was in stores. A month later, I am suddenly enamored with songs I usually skipped, like “One Foot Wrong” and “Please Don’t Leave Me.” Other tracks, like “Funhouse,” “Ave Mary A” and “Bad Influence”, make you selfishly glad she got divorced.

If you haven’t noticed by my extremely detailed and snarky blogs immediately following this entry, I have been completely obsessed with this show, and have been since early last season. It is the best television show (about two brothers who hunt demons and other “supernatural” monsters) you’ve never heard about, complete with dreamy lead actors in Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles and fantastic writing. I’ve stopped watching the shark-jumping “Grey’s Anatomy” for this show, and you should too! Jeffrey Dean Morgan died on this show before Denny was a even a figment of Shonda Rhimes’ imagination. So it’s odd that he is playing a ghost on a medical drama. It’s just one more reason, you need to watch this show.

Oh and just for laughs, find their Supernatural Convention videos on Youtube. Those two riff off each other and make the most mundane of stories absolutely hilarious. You can also discover how scarily dedicated their fandom is. Hee!

*“Seven Pounds” Trailer.
There is nothing better than a trailer to a new movie. Trailers are an adrenaline-packed promise of what a movie can be or what the producers and directors think it IS. They’re all gleaming and slickly spliced and hit all of the right buttons in order to get butts in those expensive, red velvet seats. The promo for Will Smith’s new movie, “Seven Pounds” is thirty-seconds of mounting drama that leaves me aching for its opening day, Dec. 19th. Will Smith’s character has apparently done something terrible and decides to pay it forward to seven strangers—one of which is Rosario Daweson—before doing something unthinkable to himself? Yes, please!

*Ugly Betty, “When Betty Meets YETI.”
Last week’s installment of “Ugly Betty” reminded me why American Ferrera is nothing but awesome, and why “Ugly Betty” is still a fabulous fun. While I find the show a warm and fuzzy guilty pleasure with its frothy, pop art aesthetic and deliciously eccentric characters, I also have a very real and very sincere appreciation for its entire premise: a big-hearted, hardworking, not Elle’s versions of pretty woman works at the nation’s hottest fashion magazine. She’s no “Gossip Girl” or tarty career woman desperate for a man, she’s a Queens raised daughter of a Mexican immigrant who wants nothing more than to succeed in a cut-throat business while maintaining her innate goodness. “When Betty Met YETI” pits Betty and Marc against each other as they vie for a career-launching slot in the Young Editors Training Initiative. In true Betty form, she has two days to come up with an idea, goes the most logical root, then starts over, compelled to follow her heart. Her application pitch for B Magazine is not a fashion mag, of course, but one that encourages young women to be smart, intelligent, confident and powerful. In short, it’s the anti-“Cosmo”. She is picked over Marc, who spent three months creating an entire magazine that serves as both of a subscriber and critique of the celebrity machine. He nastily points out that it was because of affirmative action, and Betty’s reaction is so viscerally real that I wanted to cry watching her reaction.

“Ugly Betty” uses the backdrop of kitsch and camp to comment on the true uglies of society, and uses the completely wonderful brilliant, undeniable talented American Ferrera as the main source of beauty. As a woman of color who has to put on heels to reach 5’2’’ and hasn’t been skinny since 2004, I can relate to Betty (and America) more than any character on television, and for that I am truly grateful.

*Barack Obama.
After a 20-month president campaign, I constantly have to remind myself that it is over. That we have a winner, and it doesn’t involve the (feminist) nightmare that is Sarah Palin. That when I see Barack Obama speaking with Barbara Walters or Dianne Sawyer, he’s speaking as the President-elect, and not the Democratic National Nominee vying for votes. And every time that happens, I swell with a pride I didn’t think I would feel in my lifetime, and simultaneously breathe a sigh of relief, because not only is he an admirable man who's rejuvenated the American Dream through his smart, no-nonsense politics, swagger and unflappable aplomb, he is this country's first black president. This writer has no way of expressing how she felt during those historic moments on Tuesday, November 4th even though I've tried every day since. I’m awe-stricken and hopeful for the first time in eight years. The icing on a truly wonderful cake? My birthday gift will be watching President-elect Barack Obama become President Barack Obama. That is a present for the entire nation.

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