Pretty Much Pop#173: Cowboy Beyoncé? (Cross-Genre Music)

Mark, Lawrence, Sarahlyn, and Al look at pop music and the idea of genre. Beyoncé is beloved enough that she can do whatever she wants to musically, but the response to her Cowboy Carter album among country music listeners has been pretty critical. Is it real country, and what is it to even ask that question? How relevant are the actual musical gestures to being in a  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #171: The Traitors – A Multi-National Reality Game Show Phenom

Mark, Lawrence, Sarahlyn, and Al discuss the American version, and to a lesser extent the British and Australian versions, of this reality game show that originated in 2021 in the Netherlands, based on the party game Mafia (aka Werewolf), plus Survivor-like challenges and a gothic tone. How does such a simple (stupid?) concept end up creating compelling TV? Are we cruel for  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #170: Poor Things and Other Yorgos

Mark, Lawrence, Sarahlyn, and Al discuss the 4-Oscar-winning film Poor Things as well as the other creations of writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos, including most notably The Lobster, Dogtooth, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. These films mix high concepts, purposively stilted line-readings, and increasingly rich cinematography with horror and gross sex. Watch the dance scene  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #169: Doctor Who? (When?)

Do you Who? Did you Who back in the day, or just from the point of the 2005 revival? Did you Who through Tennant, Smith, Capaldi... Were you still on board for Whittaker, and now as Disney+ and revival creator Russell T. Davies attempt to make this more readily accessible in all ways with the transition to Ncuti Gatwa? Mark, Al, and Lawrence are joined by our special guest,  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #168: Writing Women’s Fiction w/ Kathryn Leigh Scott

To celebrate the publication of the latest novel by one of our hosts, Sarahlyn Bruck, we bring back acclaimed actor/author Kathryn Leigh Scott (previously seen on our Dark Shadows episode) to join Mark and Al. The four of us discuss women's fiction as a marketing category, its relation to genres like romance and literary fiction, and the writing process for these kinds of  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #167: “May December” and Other Docudramas

When we've already heard about someone's personal scandal in the news, do we need to also see it dramatized with A-list actors? We discuss Todd Haynes' 2023 film fictionalizing the long-aftermath of the Mary Kay Letourneau story. The main events of May December are fictional (based on a story by screenwriter Samy Burch along with Alex Mechanik): An actress (Natalie Portman)  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #166: Miyazaki’s Anime Dreamscapes

In light of the new, acclaimed film, The Boy and the Heron, Mark, Lawrence, Sarahlyn, and Al reflect on the Studio Ghibli films that Hayao Miyazaki has directed since the '80s, including Spirited Away, My Neighbor Tortoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, The Wind Rises, Princess Mononoke, etc. Does the visionary design make up for the languorous pacing? We talk about the anime  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #164: Muppets, esp. Their Xmas Carol

For our annual holiday episode, Mark, Lawrence, Sarahlyn, and Al talk all things Muppets, but in particular the 1992 film The Muppet Christmas Carol, wherein Michael Caine gives us just as strong and serious a Scrooge as you might find. What's the appeal of this puppet act? Is the humor actually supposed to be good, or post-funny ironic? How do Muppets change the way we  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #163: Marvel Fatigue?

Mark, Lawrence, Sarahlyn, and Al are joined by returning special guest comic scholar Vi Burlew to talk about the new film The Marvels as well as more generally what's been coming out in film and TV from the Marvel folks in the latest "phase." Does Marvel have a consistent tone at this point (and should it)? What explains the box office poison of the new film despite its being  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #162: Poe Flavoring Upon the House of Usher

We discuss the loose mishmash adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe stories that makes up Mike Flanagan's Netflix show, The Fall of the House of Usher. Mark, Lawrence, Sarahlyn, and Al talk about the various creative choices, moral responsibility in the show, the relation between gothic and camp, Poe's continued standing as horror icon, Flanagan's other films and shows (e.g. The  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #161: Revisiting “The Exorcist”

Watch the unedited video of the discussion: Mark, Lawrence, Sarahlyn, and Al talk about the original 1973 film (and the 1971 novel), the new Exorcist: Believer, with some talk of the early sequels. What makes the original film so scary? Its adjacency to real-life parental fears? Does the new film really dialogue intelligently with that original, and how was this challenge  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #160: Mvto to “Reservation Dogs”

After three seasons, this groundbreaking Native-written/starring TV show about four teens trying to get away from their Oklahoma reservation has completed its arc. Mark, Lawrence, Al, and COVID-infected Sarahlyn discuss the show's take on death, community, drugs, wisdom, wokeness, and the supernatural. Did the show work given the wildly different tones and emphases over the  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #159: Watching “How To with John Wilson”

Watch the unedited video of the discussion: Mark, Lawrence, Sarahlyn, and Al all watched the three seasons of this groundbreaking, polarizing documentary show that serves as a visual diary and collection of essays by its creator John Wilson. While episode titles promise that you'll learn things like "how to track your packages" and "how to make small talk ," what starts  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #158: “Oppenheimer” and Other Christopher Nolan Films

Christopher Nolan has directed ten films starting with 1998's The Following and his first major film, 2000's Memento. We consider his work up to the present through Insomnia (the only one of these he didn't write), The Prestige, Inception, Interstellar, Tenet, and Dunkirk (and yes, the Batman films, but we've already talked about Batman). We talk about his typical heroes,  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #157: The Function of a Pop Culture Podcast

What is media criticism, and is that what we're doing? For our Season 3 finale (i.e. the end  of PMP's 4th year of operation), your now officially official hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Lawrence Ware, Sarahlyn Bruck, and Al Baker turn their gazes fully toward their collective navel to think about what purposes are served by discussions about pop culture and how we can do it  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #156: Black Mirror’s Tech Horrors

Mark, Lawrence, Sarahlyn, and Al talk about Charlie Brooker’s British anthology TV series that began in 2011 and recently released its 6th season. How has this show evolved from satirical science fiction to something more often just horror studies that study human nature? We talk about our favorite episodes and what does and doesn't work. Does the show have to be so dark to  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #155: Existentialist Barbie

Mark, Lawrence, Sarahlyn, and Al talk about the most discussable movie of the summer made by the unlikely pairing of feminist indie director Greta Gerwig and Barbie's corporate overlords at Mattel. Does the film convey at least a legitimate teen version of feminist existentialism, whereby oppressed women question their identities? On this account (says Mark), even the Ken plot  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #154: Indiana Jones and the Various MacGuffins

Mark, Lawrence, Sarahlyn, and Al talk about the blockbuster archaeological adventure films created in 1981 by George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg that we grew up with and which have now been revived and apparently concluded twice, currently via James Mangold's Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. What's the formula for these films, and which deviations to we appreciate?  Continue Reading …