Monday, December 27, 2010

2010: A Year in (Discoveries) Review...

What was it My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture set out to look for from the world of entertainment and pop culture in 2010 that I hadn't found in 2009 or any of the years prior? What criteria did I have for the things that would spark my interest, grab tight to my obsessive nature, and become the focal point of my fixation for weeks, if not months, on end? Well, admittedly I don't rightly know. There is no formula to determine what will speak to me and my sensibilities; timing and being open to new, exciting things are really half the battle. And 2010 certainly brought a number of the latter onto my radar and into my life!

A few years ago there was a little movie called Cloverfield roaring into cinemas, and critics were over-hyping it like all hell. I did not fall physically ill in the theater like many claimed I would, but I did fall into quite a few plotholes and ill of the lack of character development, even knowing it was supposed to be a monster movie. I was so distracted by my disappointment that I didn't pay much attention to the cast, which was how I missed the charming Michael Stahl-David in what became his claim to fame. 2010 gave me another chance to be introduced to him (and later, literally, during an interview for one of his many new projects) when he was cast in Noah Hawley's My Generation, a sadly short-lived drama about a fictional high school class and where they landed ten years upon graduation. He caught my eye immediately in the pilot for the twinkle in his own. He had an unassuming, unentitled quality which worked for the character but also lent itself to him as a humble talent. The down-to-Earth guy you saw on-screen spoke volumes about him in reality and encouraged me to see what else he had been working on recently, which is when I discovered he, too, believes in the little medium that will-- i.e. the web-- in a sardonic turn playing stuck-on-fame version of himself in Behind-The-Star. Some actors just have a spark that instantly endears their audience to them and makes you want to know (and see) more. In a short period of time in 2010, Stahl-David proved that he has that and then some.

If you knew me growing up, you knew I really had no use for video games. I had an old Nintendo...something, and a handheld (color!) Sega, but I rarely blew the dust off the cartridges often enough to consider them "used" when I eventually sold them to a friend's younger brother. So color me most surprised of all when I trekked out to a Best Buy on New Year's Day and purchased, sight-untested, a brand new Wii console, Wii Fit platform, and a handful of games. The intention was to use the "movement" games to inspire me to get off my couch and exercise muscles that had long ago atrophied, but what actually game out of it was a much more inspiring column for this website called "Wii with the Stars". Miraculously I managed to find about half a dozen celebrities who enjoyed Wii (or at least were open enough to give it a try for the first time on-camera) to come do an interview while playing. Admittedly it started as a fluke, but I think it is growing into something nice and unique!

This year I found not one but two awesome, interactive Dexter games. One was made specifically for the iPhone, cost about $5, and allowed you to become Dexter Morgan himself, interacting with characters from the first season of the serial killer drama and actually partaking in his early season one kills. Through challenges that involved picking locks, matching DNA strains, prepping a kill room, and stalking your victims, you got an inside look at his mind and the strength and discipline (and at times, patience) it takes to do what he does every day. The animation was phenomenal, most of the voices were done by the actual actors, and the effects may make you squirm as much as any episode. The only problem? The game ends when Dexter finds the Barbie head on his fridge; you don't get to kill your brother! Maybe an update will be coming soon? Until then, though, you can play the interactive (free) YouTube game that offers you one case, lots of suspects, and the choice to either turn the assumed bad guys over to the police or finish the job yourself. Fun for everyone!

There used to be a stigma about working with babies and animals on television and in film. They were said to be too unpredictable and a last ditch effort for new and unique content in programs on their last legs. Well, not anymore! The babies from Raising Hope are single-- well, they're twins so double-handedly changing the face of what we believe infants on television can do. And seeing how perfectly expressive they are, it's a wonder why other shows don't look harder to find equally talented babies. Cute faces just don't cut it anymore; the kids have to be talented from the jump, too!

Let me clarify that I have known about Chuck for a long time but it wasn't until late this year that I had a chance to sit down and nerd-out with Team Bartowski. And as amazing as the hand-t0-hand ass-kickings are weekly, I have to admit I have much more fun with the scenes that show him just trying to still be his normal, floating through life self, playing video games with his best friend, having dinner with his sister, and still struggling to live up to his potential. We may not all have a super brain in our heads, but those are all things to which we can relate. And it's certainly nice to think that every time our parents told us we were "special," there was a real, deep reason as to why!

Along those nerdy lines, but multiplying them by about twenty-five, is The IT Crowd, an English original that was reimagined by NBC a few years ago. The humor didn't quite spark with the network, nor did it with me when the pilot "leaked" online. But discovering the original has been a throwback to a simpler, more old-school humor. There is a laugh track, and much of the series seems like it is shot live, in one take. Its humor is sketch in that way: short and sweet, and each season only holds six episodes, with a somewhat wacky take on an otherwise extremely mundane life. Instead of going for awkward humor the way The Office does, The IT Crowd takes on a more whimsical tone.

Embedding Disabled. Click here for The IT Crowd clip.

Angry Birds has been called the biggest time-waster craze of the year, but I like to point out the fact that it has roots in physics, so it is so much more than just a dime a dozen video game. This trend is part strategy, part timing, and all fun, especially if you don't particularly like birds and wonder what they would look and/or sound like hurtling from the sky at entitled green pigs. It isn't a particularly hard game to beat, but trying to get three stars on every level and then find all of the golden eggs definitely adds hours of enjoyment to the experience! Besides, they constantly update with new levels and new special worlds for seasons, so you are never truly finished.

Though Showtimes' new drama Shameless won't premiere until next month, I was invited to screen the very first pilot at their offices over the summer. It was then and there that I found Cameron Monaghan, who admittedly has actually been acting for years and years prior to this new role as Ian, one of alcoholic Frank Gallagher's very many children. Since he has a resume longer than most currently in this business, let alone those his age, this isn't necessarily his big break. However, it is a breakout role nonetheless because within the ensemble, he manages to steal scenes left and right. He sticks out in his family for his quiet, thoughtful presence that begs a secret, and he stands out in this cast with wide, expressive eyes that reveal something much deeper to the talent he has thus far been allowed to share. A little peek was given in 2010, but the best is yet to come in 2011!

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