Friday, August 15, 2008

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Trailer!

I avoided the Harry Potter bandwagon until 2000. In the interview for my first post college job at a then-popular game show, my future boss said that if I had any love of books or pop culture I simply had to read Harry Potter. As soon as I got back to Pennsylvania I ran out to Borders, bought the first three, and immediately fell in geek love.

As the series progressed and deepened into serious examination of friendship, bravery, loyalty, the responsibilities of a government towards its people, and basic human rights (yes, I think J.K. Rowling is addressing all those subjects), Harry Potter came to be one of the most meaninful reading experiences I've ever had.

So while the series is over, each new movie sends me into fandom overdrive. This trailer looks perfectly creepy and scary and makes me oh so happy.

Fun Fact! The director has the same name as my uncle.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Getting serious about pop culture

Today I was talking with my co-worker Mark about the state of pop culture, or more specifically, his interest in what it is and how it affects so many relationships: personal, political, economic, and legal. As much as I love pop culture, I haven't spent significant time lately thinking about is implications beyond my own gleeful consumption and enjoyment thereof. Back in college, I attempted to convince the English department that my proposed honors project on the pop culture significance and influence of Gone With the Wind was a worthy endeavor, but was met with little enthusiasm. I eventually dropped out of the honors course, but continued the project under guidance of the wonderful Perry Lentz, a fellow fan of Civil War literature and accomplished author in his own right. I regret dropping out now and wish I had formed a more convincing argument, or at the very least chosen a different topic and done a better job preparing it for evaluation.

The fact remains that I still find the intersection of high and low brow compelling, and it is even more relevent today as our world becomes increasingly saturated by the never ending flow of pop culture. I work in Times Square, perhaps the most advertizement-filled corner of the United States, and can't help noticing the ever-evolving rotations of ads whenever I emerge from the subway onto 42nd Street. To my eye, these ads are for almost entirely disposable and forgettable things. There is an enormous billboard on my office building that I think illustrates this perfectly.

Cloverfield is one of the lamest and most annoying movies I've seen recently, although that's not why I picked the above picture. Virtually every movie advertized on that billboard since I've worked in Times Square made a little money and then disappeared to no great regret of anyone, except maybe the people who made them: Blades of Glory, The Heartbreak Kid, Next, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I love Indiana Jones, and I know that movie has made a lot of money, but it's easily the worst of the series. I'd rather watch Temple of Doom dubbed in Spanish than see that again.

At the most basic level, I find pop culture compelling because it is popular. When we examine what people like, what we are drawn to, it tells us something important about where we are as a society. What are people scared of? What do they find romantic? What makes them laugh? What kind of a message do we rally behind? For instance, how can we explain what makes The Dark Knight the biggest hit of the summer? It combines so many things. One, it's a political story which parallels our real-life fears about heroism, violence, the right of any one person to make huge decisions that dramatically affect others, and the line between good and evil. A lot of people feel uncertain these days. Two, and maybe most importantly, it has top-notch performances from great actors who make us care about the story. Three, it's well-written and directed.

I enjoy dumb, disposable movies as much as the next girl, but if you really want to make something that sticks with people, it's better to go smart. I truly think that looking critically at pop culture will tell you much more about a society at large than examining this century's operas, although you'd feel better about yourself at a party if you mention what you saw last week at the Met.