Podculture: Summer 2019 pop culture recap

Wilson Chapman, Assistant Arts and Entertainment Editor

WILSON CHAPMAN: Hi, welcome to Podculture, a Daily Northwestern podcast on all the biggest events in entertainment. We’re your hosts. I’m Wilson Chapman. 

ABIGAIL SUTTER: I’m Abigail Sutter.

ISABELLE SARRAF: And I’m Isabelle Sarraf.

CHAPMAN: For the first episode, we’re recapping the best, the worst, and the wildest things that happened this summer in pop culture.

SUTTER: Then, we’ll be discussing what we’re looking forward to this fall and preview some of what we will be talking about this quarter.

SARRAF: Let’s get into it. 

CHAPMAN: Okay, so first category, movies. What was everyone’s favorite summer movie this year and their least favorite?

SARRAF: I’ve got to say my favorite summer movie, even though it was technically towards the end of spring quarter, was Booksmart. I was floored by that movie. The actors like Beanie Feldstein if you’ve seen Lady Bird, she was great in that. But her taking like a big role in a movie like this was just impressive. And I think overall the way that it was directed, the music choice for it, the aesthetic that the movie brought was on point. It was everything that I love in a movie.

CHAPMAN: Yeah, absolutely. That was just such a fun movie. I’d argue, it’s like probably the best classic teen comedy since maybe like, Easy A. Didn’t you say it was Aladdin or something like that?

SARRAF: I don’t know if I would count Aladdin as a summer movie, because it came out during spring quarter. I guess we can talk about, at this point, all the Disney live-action remakes. First of all, there was a lot of casting controversy that happened beforehand, where they did brown-face on some background actors, and then I think re-casted them. And then the fact that girl who played Jasmine was Indian and not Arabic. I have to say I do think a highlight of the movie was Will Smith as the genie. I think that he brought his own flavor to the character and it was really great. People were gonna compare him to Robin Williams, but I think he made it his own. However, I think Jafar was the biggest disappointment in this entire movie. What did Jafar have? Corny lines and really just bad delivery of everything. I feel like this movie was meant to add more depth to the characters than weren’t given in the animated movie. That’s the whole point of the live action remakes. And Jafar, there was no complexity to his character whatsoever. 

CHAPMAN:  These Disney remakes. They’re not going away. In the summer, there was also the Lion King movie, which got horrible reviews. Did any of you see that?

SUTTER: No, I didn’t. It was interesting, though. Because if you look at the cast, I was super excited. And I was like, ‘Oh, I’m definitely going to see that.’ 

SARRAF: I have to say I support Billy Eichner and his Oscar hype, because “Go ‘Cats”. 

CHAPMAN: Love Billy Eichner. 

SARRAF: Yeah he’s great. I hear that him as Timon is a highlight of the movie. But you know, I didn’t want to pay to see literally the animated Lion King, but in 3D, but still technically animated, but that’s considered live-action.

SUTTER: Yeah, I think something that the Disney remakes really have to contend with is the line between being true to the old animated version. And then, you know, if you’re exactly like the old animated version, why are you making this new one? 

CHAPMAN: So the first live-action Disney remake I saw in theaters was Cinderella. And I actually liked it.

SUTTER: That’s the best one. And it goes downhill from there.

CHAPMAN: It wasn’t trying to remake the original. It was just taking the basic fairy tale and putting a new spin on it.

SARRAF: I mean, anything with Lily James in it. 

CHAPMAN: And also Richard Madden. 

SARRAF: That’s a great combination.

CHAPMAN: I mean, Disney+ is launching with Lady and the Tramp live-action remake.

SUTTER: I saw the trailer for that. And I really was sitting there for about two minutes or however long it was, just wondering about ‘why?’

SARRAF: I want to know how they managed to make Lady look like a five-year-old dog and the Tramp look like an old man.

SUTTER: The classic animated versions are classics for a reason. I don’t think you have to touch every single one.

SARRAF: Disney, please make more animated content. The next movie that I want to bring up. [Spiderman:] Far From Home came out this summer. What did you guys think?

CHAPMAN: I liked it, I liked it a lot. What was your reaction when you heard about like, they almost lost the rights because of the Sony thing?

SARRAF: My initial reaction at first was like, ‘Oh no,’ because it was right after Far From Home came out. I was like, what are we going to do next with Spider-Man? And then I realized, Disney needs to stop being this giant media conglomerate, and we need to stop being sad for Disney for not owning another property on its Infinity Gauntlet. 

SUTTER: I’m happy he’s staying, but at the same time, I don’t want to feed the Disney machine.

CHAPMAN: Disney was clearly the one who was too greedy. Abigail, what was your favorite movie of the summer?

SUTTER: Honestly, didn’t get to see too many but I loved Rocketman. What’s your favorite? 

CHAPMAN: My favorite movie was The Farewell by Lulu Wang. Did you guys see that? 

SUTTER: That’s the one about the grandmother? I haven’t seen that yet but I plan on it.

CHAPMAN: So the premise is basically this Chinese-American girl, she learns that her grandmother has cancer and the family basically stages a mock wedding to visit her without telling her that she has cancer because they want her to live out the remainder of her days in peace. Awkwafina is in it. She’s really becoming one of my favorite actresses. It’s just a really great, really emotional story. And then my least favorite, IT: Chapter Two. Did either of you see it?

SARRAF: I don’t like horror movies. 

SUTTER: I’ve just gotten into horror movies. It was one I didn’t see, because I grew up in a creepy little town with a sewage system. But now that I don’t live there, I’m more willing. 

CHAPMAN: So I love horror movies and I liked IT: Chapter One. I thought it was really charming. I liked the child actors. IT: Chapter Two was basically an excuse to throw bad CGI on the screen over and over and over again. And just have set piece, after set piece. It really lost sight of the story and the atmosphere that made IT: Chapter One good. Bill Hader was in it, love Bill Hader. I was really happy to see him thriving, really happy that he won an Emmy. But other than that, it was kind of a wash. So, moving on. TV. What were your guys summer shows?

SUTTER: Stranger Things. I just got into it. This summer I binge watched the whole show.

CHAPMAN: Wow, you were late.

SUTTER: I was really late. As I was watching it. I was like, how am I this late?

CHAPMAN: I like this season. I’d say it’s generally a step up from season two, which I thought was a little weak. 

SARRAF: I think everyone thought two was weak, especially because Eleven wasn’t with the squad for the entire season. The thing about season three is that they retconned a lot from season two. They actually, the writers listened to the audience. So remember, in season two, when Max and El first met and they immediately were rivals, they hated each other for absolutely no reason, because it’s the whole trope of pitting girls against each other.

SUTTER: Because girls can’t be friends when there are guys involved. 

SARRAF: So in season three, they completely retconned that and made them best friends. We don’t even know how but we don’t care because the whole scene of them shopping in the mall.

SUTTER: I loved it. And I loved that the guys were being mean to them. And the girls were like, ‘fine, bye’ and just did their own thing. 

SARRAF: ‘I dump your ass’ was amazing.

SUTTER: It was amazing. It was everything I wanted to see out of a young girl. And I was like, if kids are watching this, if young girls see this, I love that for them too.

SARRAF: You know, I think the coming-out scene at the end was one of the most wholesome scenes out of the season. The way that Steve handled it and the way that it went down was really great.

SUTTER: It was so genuine and real. The fact that he didn’t immediately hate her afterward.

SARRAF: I think one of the downsides for me of season three was of, there were some characters that I think were neglected, and that I think weren’t given a good enough subplot akin to the Steve and Robin plot, which was really great. Or like the El and Max plot. I think that Will literally spent the entire season touching the back of his neck. And I think that his performance in season two was so good. It was like highlight of the season.

CHAPMAN: I would argue he’s the best actor in the young cast.

SARRAF: One hundred percent. And all he did this season was like, “I don’t know, my neck.”

CHAPMAN: Like I don’t know about you guys, but I personally at this point don’t really have any interest in Nancy and Jonathan. 

SARRAF: I was going to say their subplot was boring.

CHAPMAN: At this point, they basically almost only interact with each other. Also hot take. I don’t really want Hopper to come back. 

SUTTER: That’s a real hot take.

CHAPMAN: Alright then, the Emmys. Did you guys watch or no?

SARRAF: I did, actually. I watched The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel the weekend before we got here because I was like they’re going to sweep the Emmys, and I haven’t watched it yet. And I’m Jewish, and I feel like it’s a sin that I haven’t watched it. So I watched it thinking they’re going to sweep the Emmys, and I’m going to go cheer them on, and then they won like a couple awards. But Fleabag was the big winner of the night, which I was really impressed by because I love Phoebe-Waller Bridge.

CHAPMAN: Have you watched Fleabag?

SARRAF: Not yet.

CHAPMAN: Amazing show. Definitely my favorite show of the year so far. I was really happy that she won. I was shocked that she managed to beat noted Northwestern [alumna] Julia Louis-Dreyfus. I feel like somebody in Northwestern’s alumni department was like, s–t.  

SUTTER: They had the email ready to go.

CHAPMAN: Yeah, I was a little disappointed that Julia Louis-Dreyfus lost because I like her, and I enjoy watching people make history and she would have won the most acting Emmys in the world by that point. Other than that, the show, it’s didn’t have a host, which I think might end up becoming a thing, because the Oscars also didn’t have a host and presumably aren’t going to in the future. I thought it worked decently for them. And there were some good moments. I really liked Michelle Williams’ speech where she was calling attention to wage gaps.

SUTTER: Yeah, I didn’t watch the Emmys but I watched that speech and even I was like, I’m not an actress, I’m not even in the professional world yet. it uplifted me and gave me confidence to advocate for myself, which I think is something women in the professional world don’t always enter it knowing how to do.

SARRAF: I think another very moving speech was Alex Borstein from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. She talked about how her grandma was a Holocaust survivor, and it was very, very moving and emotional. I loved it.

CHAPMAN: Yeah, I also loved Billy Porter’s speech. Just, a fashion icon. He honestly doesn’t even need to say anything. He can just walk on stage and will instantly be iconic. I loved him shouting out his husband. I thought that was really cute.

SARRAF: His win was really historic too.

CHAPMAN: And Jharrel Jerome from When They See Us. I just loved his energy, and I really loved him shouting out the Central Park Five. It really was such an emotional moment.

CHAPMAN: Yeah. So basically the big story of the night was Game of Thrones. It still won Best Drama but it didn’t do as well as expected. The other thing it won was Best Supporting Actor for Peter Dinklage, which he was always going to get. He could have showed up for three minutes this season and he would have gotten it.

SARRAF: He’s won it several times and I feel like at some point they need to acknowledge that he’s not the only good actor on the show. He had a few touching moments, I’ll give him that, but the writing on this season was not good and didn’t service his character well enough. I feel like Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, up until halfway through season eight, we were really rooting for.  

CHAPMAN: If he was nominated for the second episode, I would have given it to him.

SARRAF: Oh the second episode, give him and Gwendoline Christie every Emmy. You know, I’m really proud of Gwendoline Christie for nominating herself and getting nominated. I think that Emilia Clarke should probably have been considered for the Best Actress seriously. Although they really massively screwed up her character this season, I think the way she acted was so great. 

CHAPMAN: And I think, and I’m definitely guilty of this. I think a lot of people have undervalued her as an actress. I did not think she was a good actress for the majority of the run to be honest, but she really impressed me in season eight. Yeah, and there’s also His Dark Materials on HBO.

SARRAF: You know, I’m really confused because they actually just finished filming season two. So, even before season one premiered they made season two and I think it’s because Lin Manuel-Miranda owns the entire entertainment industry.

CHAPMAN: What’s disappointing about Lin Manuel-Miranda is, I feel like he’s become a bit of a Disney shill at this point.

SARRAF: A bit? Have you seen Mary Poppins Returns? 

CHAPMAN: I don’t know, a little disappointing from him.

SARRAF: I want him to get an EGOT eventually, because he deserves it.

CHAPMAN: Yeah. I’ll support it. Let’s move onto the final category which is preview, what are you guys looking forward to this fall and this winter? What’s a film you’re excited for, a TV show you’re excited for, an album you’re excited for? 

SUTTER: Anything Rihanna will give me, I will take. There’s been hints here and there that she’ll drop music by the end of this year. Whether or not it is happening or if it happens, I will be ecstatic and I will be thrilled. Everything she’s been doing since she released music is so creatively interesting. Her fashion show that she just did was so just inclusive and diverse and amazing. So I’m excited to see what music she’ll put out after having this period of not releasing and still being very successful.

CHAPMAN: Yeah, so that’s apparently going to be a reggae album too, which is very exciting. She’s another celebrity that has like 100 percent approval rating.

SUTTER: I’m excited for Charlie’s Angels. I know we’ve been talking about how we don’t like remakes just for the sake of remakes, and now I’m excited for Charlie’s Angels. I mean, it’s one of those movies where I have to admit, I haven’t seen the original, and I like the idea of the movie. I think a lot of people age haven’t seen the old one or this will make them see the old one or make some people who are younger than us see this one. Yeah, I think it’s got a great plotline. I’m here for it. It’s got a great cast.

CHAPMAN: And also, in the 70s, I think Charlie’s Angels was sort of dismissed as this brainless, kind of sexist show that was just about objectifying women. So it’s really cool to see a female director take the reins and try to update it.

SUTTER: I think if you just make it empowering instead of disempowering. I think that it’s a very cool and important thing you can do with older media.

SARRAF: I have to say though, my most anticipated movie for this winter will be Cats.

CHAPMAN: Okay, when the Cats trailer came out, I think I may have watched it 20 times, I’m not exaggerating.

SARRAF: My favorite video is I’ve seen like shot-by-shot analysis of it, and it really makes me laugh so hard.

SUTTER: So, there are some cats that look like they have clothes. And then there are other cats who don’t. And so are these anthropomorphic cats? Are they actually cats?

SARRAF: Yeah, I think if they wanted to commit to an animated sort of cat body, they should not have kept the face. The problem is that they were too human. They didn’t look enough like cats to make it look like a normal thing. I just can’t like look at the cats trailer and like come out feeling comfortable.

CHAPMAN: It’s gonna be a nightmare fuel, but nightmare fuel that I will watch opening night. It also has maybe the wildest cast in any movie. Idris Elba, what are you doing?

SARRAF:  Taylor Swift.

CHAPMAN: Judi Dench, Jennifer Hudson. 

SUTTER:Judi Dench?

CHAPMAN: So November 1, Apple TV+ is coming out. And then Disney+ is coming out 11 days later, which is going to be wild. So Apple TV+, it has Dickinson which is a comedy about Emily Dickinson. Its big show is The Morning Show,  which has Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. There’s this show starring Jason Momoa from Game of Thrones called See. It’s going to be interesting because I feel like a lot of people still don’t know what it is, and it has really been overshadowed by Disney+.

SARRAF: I also think the whole thing is, as college students we’re not looking to pay the same amount that we pay for cable as we do for streaming services. And also, all the Marvel TV shows they’re going to probably get you to watch so you can understand the context of the movies, which is a big pull for Disney+. For other TV shows, I’m looking forward to The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season three coming out in November. I just fell in love with the show. And next season, she’s going on tour in Europe. So, the set design is going to be sick, it already has been really cool the last couple of seasons. The actors are so good. Like I love Tony Shalhoub, so much.

CHAPMAN: So great. So the big show I’m looking forward to is Watchmen on HBO. Have you guys ever read Watchmen, or seen the movie?

SARRAF: I’ve seen the movie.

CHAPMAN: I’m really excited for this because it’s apparently going to be a sequel. And it’s like a different interesting spin on it. And it’s also created by Damon Lindelof, who created The Leftovers, which is a top three favorite show of mine, so keep it on your watch list. My most anticipated movie of the fall is Little Women by Greta Gerwig. Saoirse Ronan, I’m really hoping this will win her an Oscar. She deserves it. She deserves the world.

SARRAF: She should have gotten it for Lady Bird. Timothee Chalamet. This is Timothee Chalamet’s time. 

CHAPMAN: I feel like nothing can ever top 2017. 

SARRAF: That was his year. But I feel like this might be his role.

CHAPMAN: Adele is apparently releasing an album in December. This is going to sound really crass, but sorry Adele, but she got divorced recently, so you know, we may get songs based off that. 

SUTTER: I’ll need it to get through those sad winter quarter hours. 

CHAPMAN: Yeah, I’m excited. We haven’t heard a lot from her recently. So, I’m ready for Adele to come back. 

CHAPMAN: That’s it for this week’s Podculture. 

SUTTER: We’ll be back two weeks from now on October 15th.

SARRAF: We’ll be on a biweekly schedule after that, so be sure to check in every other Tuesday.

CHAPMAN: See you next time.