Monday, May 1, 2017

My controversial takes on pop culture

One of my Facebook friends put up an excellent and entertaining post about her controversial opinions about food, which got me thinking about the possibly idiosyncratic and unusual opinions that I have about big pop culture items. I don't offer these as unassailable truths; they are merely my opinions. Imagine that each one begins with "I think" or "I believe," which I've deleted to avoid repetition. So here they are:

1. Taylor Swift music is the best for speed workouts on the treadmill. Followed by Kelly Clarkson. I'm not sure why, but I do find interval reps less painful when I'm listening to "Shake It Off."

2. Star Trek > Star Wars. Some sci-fi magazine once put it best: no matter how cool you think Star Wars is, it starts with Jar Jar Binks and ends with the Ewoks. (Well, I guess now it ends with Rey and Luke Skywalker, for now.)

3. Pierce Brosnan has been the most entertaining James Bond. Yes, Sean Connery defined the role. But Brosnan managed to fuse Connery's ruthlessness with Roger Moore's suave humor. I love the set piece in "Tomorrow Never Dies" where Bond is having fun driving the souped up rental car via smartphone.

4. I acknowledge Bruce Springsteen's greatness, but as far as New Jersey rock stars go, I enjoy Bon Jovi's music more. "Born in the U.S.A." is an unquestionably great album, and "Born to Run" is a great song. But I like "Livin' on a Prayer" more.

5. The Wire is boring. David Simon knows an incredible amount about police procedure, Baltimore, the war on drugs, and so on. If "The Wire" had been a documentary, like "The Corner," it would be fantastic. But as a television program, it's dull. I made it through 2 1/3 seasons before I gave up. McNulty? Boring. The female assistant D.A. who inexplicably goes from sleeping with McNulty to having an affair with the police lieutenant? Boring. Heck, "The Wire" made Lance Reddick boring, and that guy is awesome! He had maybe five minutes of screen time in "John Wick" but made far more of it than in all the episodes of "The Wire" that I saw. Just compare "The Wire" to "The Shield" - yes, "The Wire" is more realistic, but "The Shield" is better TV.

6. "Fletch" is the rare movie that equals the book it was made from, but in a totally different way. The James Bond novels are about the only ones where I thought the movies were superior to the source material. But the movie "Fletch" is about as good as the novel, except that I always envisioned Fletch (when reading) to be someone like Dirk Benedict's Faceman from "The A-Team." Somehow Chevy Chase took Fletch in a totally different way and it worked!

7. Deep Space Nine was the best Star Trek series. I know I'm not alone in this, but still, the majority of Trek fans seem to think either the original series or Next Gen was the best. Of course, the original series has its schlocky charm, and without it, there wouldn't have been anything else. And of course, Next Gen elevated the production standards and the writing. But Deep Space Nine broke away from the ridiculous Roddenberry conceit that in the 23rd century, there would be no interpersonal conflicts. It gave us a gritty, nuanced view with an array of characters so strongly written that each could headline entire episodes. And from season 4 on, it was basically one long story that held together to the end.

8. Jack Bauer ("24") was the best TV character, but Raylan Givens ("Justified") was the coolest. I used to think James T. Kirk was the coolest character, but I don't think anyone can touch Timothy Olyphant's portrayal of Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens.

9. The 1980s produced the best pop music, followed by the 1990s. Notwithstanding my point 1 above, the best music came from the 1980s, followed by the 1990s. I can't believe those are now so old that they're older than the "oldies" I listened to when I was a teenager. If it weren't for the early seasons of "American Idol" and "The Voice," I would know almost nothing about today's music.

10. Jay Leno was my favorite late night talk show host. I don't care too much about the celebrity interviews, but I do like the comic monologue, even if it's too vanilla for others. And I still have fond memories of "The Dancing Itos" and all the Clinton/Lewinsky skits.

11. The Hunger Games trilogy > Harry Potter series. One is much deeper than the other.

12. I sort of regret reading the "Song of Fire and Ice" books. Okay, not that much. But I don't get HBO so I haven't been watching the "Game of Thrones" series, and I'm more and more doubtful that I will read any more of the series beyond "A Dance of Dragons." First, and most importantly, it's iffy whether the next book will ever get published. Second, even if it is, it's been so long since I read "Dragons" that I think I'll need to re-read from the start, and I don't think I have the stomach for that.

13. CSI: Miami was the best, er, most entertaining of the CSI franchise. There's something fascinating about "CSI: Miami." If I'm flipping through channels and I come across reruns of it, I can always watch it. The trick is, you have to think of it as a comedy, and try to come up with better (cheesier?) one-liners than David Caruso tosses off as he takes his sunglasses off in the dazzling Miami outdoors...(!).

14. Keanu Reeves makes more entertaining movies than Robert DeNiro does. Maybe this isn't controversial. But basically, what I'm saying is that while DeNiro is acclaimed as one of the greatest actors ever, while Reeves is saddled with a reputation consistent with Ted "Theodore" Logan, Keanu Reeves' movies are far more watchable and re-watchable. Seriously. List the five most entertaining DeNiro movies. Compare them against "The Matrix," "John Wick," "Point Blank," "Bill & Ted" (your choice of which one, although I prefer "Bogus Journey"), and "Speed" or "The Devil's Advocate."

15. Captain Kirk > Captain Picard. If I were a Federation taxpayer (except I don't think the Federation has taxes, since Picard so haughtily exclaimed in "Star Trek: First Contact" that there's no need for money in the 23rd century), I'd much prefer Picard in charge of government property. But as a viewer, I find Kirk more entertaining. Plus, if they had a fight, Kirk would win, because while Picard was negotiating, Kirk would Kobayashi Maru-him.

16. Gryffindor is overrated, while Ravenclaw is underrated. Gryffindor is basically the jock house, while Ravenclaw is the nerd house. I know which one I'd want to be in. And who gets more stuff done in real life, anyway?

17. Cable is overrated. I got rid of cable almost three years ago, and I don't miss it at all. Of course, it helps that most of the cable programs that I've been interested in during that time (the end of "Justified," "The Americans," "The Last Ship") are available for streaming, often for free via Amazon Prime.

18. Han shot first. Okay, that can't be controversial, can it?

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