Contrary to rumors, The Wednesday Pop Culture Rant enjoys many things. We just think people should ratchet down their reaction to what they love and despise about a million notches. J.J. Abrams, after wildly entertaining you at the beginning of a movie or television show, will drive you batty by the end. Just breathe deeply and enjoy the ride; there’s no need to go a-blogging all day about how he has slighted you or endlessly searching for hidden meaning in his meandering mythologies (That’s a lot of alliteration from an awesome author). He’s the Mike Nichols of our generation.1

The Rant offers up a list, but not a listicle, of things we’re thankful for this holiday season:

That the universe gave us Leon Russell and Sharon Jones: Tough few weeks for The Rant’s music icons. Tulsa’s very own Russell added another brilliant layer to the musical landscape of Oklahoma, bringing his unique talents and hordes of other great musicians to the area. Russell not only developed his own genius, he had a genius for bringing out the best in others. From the Gap Band to Tom Petty, Russell provided the resources and community to let artists grow.

Sharon Jones just kept ignoring all the music industry people telling her no until someone said yes when she was in her 40’s. With her killer backing band the Dap-Kings, Jones made up for lost time, redefining soul through her ferocious performances that not even cancer could dampen. She had to prove herself before she died, so, as she brilliantly put it, “When I’m gone, they’ll say she was a good singer. I want them to say she is a good singer.” You were both sister. You were both.

That Marvel Studios knows how to make an entertaining movie: What the hell has happened to you Hollywood? You can’t make 90 minutes of fun anymore? We’re not talking about a cinematic masterpiece discussed in hushed tones; I’m talking about the solid, well constructed film you don’t feel embarrassed by as you leave the theater.

Before Dr. Strange, which we thoroughly enjoyed, The Rant had to endure a trailer for the Triple XXX sequel. If knitting needles had been handy, we would have gone all Oedipus on our eyeballs. Do executives at the major studies just rummage around in the basement of Misfit Scripts, randomly greenlighting projects because the star is still ambulatory?

Marvel’s insight has been that the mythology has to take precedence over any character, any single movie, any director or any star. Marvel has the good fortune of delivering that mythology consistently when all the other mythologies of our culture have been disintegrating. And they do it with the sparkle in Stan Lee’s eye that has always made Marvel more lighthearted than DC.

DC’s short-term glory in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy has become its long-term headache. Nolan had a vision so singular and unique no subsequent director or film has been able to capture it. And his films are so powerful DC cannot escape their influence. The Rant could not begin to articulate how difficult duplicating Nolan’s tone would be. The result has been the constant move into melodrama, self-importance, and crushing seriousness in movies like Batman vs Superman. The Dark Knight has turned DC’s world pitch black.2

That Jason Schwarztman exists: If you haven’t heard Schwartzman’s show Coconut Radio on satellite radio, find it immediately. There’s nothing new in the format: Schwartzman picks a theme for the week and then plays songs in that vein. The wonder of it all is how utterly besotted Schwartzman becomes with the object of his pop culture affection. Charming, funny, earnest, embarrassingly honest, often at an utter loss for words, Schwartzman conveys the joy we find in a song, a book, a film, a painting that seems to speak to directly to us and only for us. He expresses the unbridled passion for art that gives us meaning we too often keep bottled up inside of us. And we love him for it.

  1. Look, The Rant knows we’re swimming against the tide here, but no one could could set up the comic framework of a movie like Nichols and then so completely appear to lose interest in finishing the plot. The Graduate goes nowhere.  Working Girl requires the entire movie to grind to a halt by the elevators so all the characters can gather ’round and figure out the narrative. Oh yeah! Melanie Griffith good. Sigourney Weaver bad. Harrison Ford handsome. As an aside, while fact-checking the spelling of Sigourney’s name, we saw an ad for The Affair. That cast radiates more moodiness than a teen told to turn off the phone during Thanksgiving dinner
  2. In the name of humanity, don’t get any ideas about another Pitch Black movie. We take it back! We take it back! We fear it’s already too late

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