Please note for this week’s episode: we recorded this podcast before Carrie Fisher’s death, so though we talk briefly about her role in this film, we don’t address this event or its impact on the series. Alright, with that out of the way, let’s dive into Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and our picks for the best pop culture of 2016. Spoilers for this episode: we’re talking about everything in Rogue One, so definitely check it out before listening here.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Rogue One is the first of the “Anthology” films being made by Disney, and it sits outside of the main “Saga” films that we have seen before (i.e. Episodes I – VII). As a very casual fan of this series, I admit to being very lost in the positioning of this particular story, and it’s something I felt the movie didn’t help me out with at all. As Jeff points out, these Anthology films are the future of the franchise, so it behooves Disney to work out some of these kinks for more casual fans. Jeff liked the movie more than I did, and maybe other super fans of the franchise felt served by the movie. We’d love to hear your thoughts.
If you like war movies, I think this is also for you. I saw visual parallels to Saving Private Ryan and Apocalypse Now, and the work the movie does with those themes is strong. As Jeff points out, this is a darker film in both tone and visual spectacle, which makes it different than most of the other Star Wars films. Rogue One looks directly at themes of political activism, fascism, and the need for good people to take action. I was very impressed by the point the film makes that while some people have the luxury of discovering a political or social ill and choosing to take up the fight against it, for many many others, their life is that struggle, and always has been. If you find yourself on the lucky side of this equation, it is your absolute obligation to give everything you have to help those who don’t have the choice. Well said, Rogue One.
We talk a little about the casting of the film, and praise the diversity of the cast. It was great to see another woman at the front of a Star Wars story, and also great to see a (subtextual) gay relationship between a monk and his protector. Make it canon, people. We also talk about the CGI in this film, and both agree that on the whole, the effects in the film are super great. Neither of us cared for the CGI re-rendering of Peter Cushing (who died in 1994) and a remaking of a 1977 version of Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia. It was jarring in both cases. Overall, Jeff gives this entry into the Star Wars universe a solid B+. I’m probably closer to a C+, but, in keeping with the theme of the story, I’ll keep hope alive for future Anthology films that I might enjoy more.
Pre-2016 Best Pop Culture Picks
In our second half, we run down our picks for the best pop culture of 2016. We have two picks for each category. One that came out in 2016 and one that we discovered last year. Here’s a summary:
Jeff had fiction and non-fiction picks because he luvs books. Non Fiction: Yes, Please By Amy Poehler and for Fiction: Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson.
Lauren: Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Illustrated by Adrian Alphona.
J: Hamilton Original Broadway Cast Recording. Controversial pick, this.
L: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I watched this movie a bunch, and it was super. It actually turned me into a fan of Star Wars, when I really wasn’t before.
J: The Iron Giant. Brad Bird’s 1999 film with another heartwarming, if expressionless robot.
L: Bunheads. This is the one and done season from Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and starring the charm and talent factory that is Sutton Foster. Check it out, y’all.
J: Gilmore Girls. Clearly we’re on a wavelength here. Jeff finally gave this a try and quite enjoyed it.
J: Wham Bam Pow with Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher. This dearly departed podcast is missed by both of us for their perspectives on dude movies.
L: Serial. Controversial pick, this one. I highly recommend a re-listen of Season 1. That shit holds up.
2016 Best Pop Culture Picks
J: The Caped Crusade by Glen Weldon. As a fan of Mr. Weldon, nerd culture, and Batman, Jeff found this offering absolutely irresistible.
L: Year of Yes. How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes. I cheated here, this came out in 2015. But! It’s super. So yeah.
There is only one answer here, and we both came up with it. The best music of this year was Beyonce’s Lemonade.
Oops, we picked the same thing again. Captain America: Civil War. It’s not really our fault. Jeff loves the MCU more than anyone I know, and I love Captain America (and actually Peggy Carter) very much, so this was bound to happen. Plus, that movie was super, and a lot of other movies this year weren’t.
L: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. This show is super, and I’m so glad it’s found an audience and support from its network, the CW.
J: Switched on Pop with Nate Sloan and Charlie Harding. Popular music is broken down by music experts and Jeff highly recommends.
L: The Next Picture Show Podcast. Get a crash course in film criticism and a healthy dose of film context on everything from John Carter to Westworld to Hail Caesar! to Suicide Squad to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Pop Culture Kool-aid Picks
My pop culture Kool-aid pick this episode is Moana, Disney’s latest animated movie. Moana is a coming of age story about a girl (not a princess) who wants to live an adventurous life outside of her family’s ideas of who she should be. The story may be bog standard Disney fare, but it was incredibly well-executed here. Plus, it features music by Lin-Manuel Miranda which doesn’t hurt it one bit.
Jeff’s Kool-aid this week is all the great movies he has had the chance to see in the last month. Between Rogue One, Moana, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Doctor Strange, Moonlight, and Arrival, he is overwhelmed by the range of high-quality movies that are out right now.