The 10 Best TV Shows of 2018

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In the introduction to last year’s installment of my annual “Best TV Shows” series, I lamented the fact that television had grown so voluminous in its content, and so fragmented in its appeal, that great shows no longer stood out the way they once did. Competitive-minded producers, sensing the need to stand out in an increasingly crowded field, have birthed countless shows designed to appeal to smaller and smaller demographics. And while some of these little-watched shows have been quite good, most of them… uh, no longer need to be.

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The 10 Best Films of 2018

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I don’t consider myself an expert on great film. Great TV, yes. Great animation, sure. Great comics, kinda, so long as they involve powerful people in tights. But the world of cinema is too wide and varied for me to get a firm handle on, at least thus far.

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10 Great Pop-Culture Books of 2018

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It’s that time of year again. The time when all the uppity and pretentious critics all hunch over their desks and type out their picks for the best films/shows/books/albums/games/celebrity pratfalls of the last 12 months. As a somewhat uppity and pretentious critic myself (albeit one who doesn’t hunch, for posture purposes), I’m all too eager to join the fray. I’ll be posting my “Best Films of 2018” piece next week, with a “Best TV Shows of 2018” article following shortly after.

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Why the Twitter Mob Keeps Winning

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On Wednesday, the Academy announced that Kevin Hart would host the 2019 Oscars. On Thursday, Hart announced that he would not, in fact, be hosting.

What happened? Some folks had dug up some of Hart’s old tweets and stand-up bits (from around 2010, before his Hollywood breakout) in which he made some homophobic jokes. These tweets quickly spread across the Internet, and a backlash quickly grew against the Academy. Said Academy told Hart to apologize, and although he at first balked (saying that he’d come clean about these jokes in the past, and has changed his tune in the years since), increased pressure finally forced him to acquiesce, and he stepped down from his Oscar-hosting role.

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My Thoroughly Accurate Predictions for the 2018 Election

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As I’m writing this, we’ve just come off Halloween, the second-scariest holiday of the year. Now it’s time to move on to the first: Election Day. Yes, as those of you who watch cable news, browse online media, or stare at any screen for more than eight seconds a day probably know, America’s next annual election will be held November 6th. It is a “midterm” election, a term I assume is designed to diminish the already low voter turnout of college students.

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Book vs. Film: Do Androids Dream of Blade Runner?

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Note: I originally wrote the following as a thesis paper in May 2016. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, I’ve decided to share it on the main site, with slight modifications for clarity. The piece contains spoilers for both the novel and the first Blade Runner film. It does not contain any spoilers for Blade Runner 2049, which did not premiere until 2017.

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In Defense of the Disney Princess

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On Wednesday, Keira Knightley (appearing on an episode of Ellen) mentioned that she forbade her daughter from watching certain Disney films. Cinderella was on the banned list, because, as Knightley explained it, the protagonist “waits around for a rich guy to rescue her.” The Little Mermaid was also frowned upon because of its purported message – as Knightley put it, “Do not give your voice up for a man.”

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2018 Emmys: The Revolution that Wasn’t

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When it comes to the Emmy Awards, I’ve long held two mindsets. The Jekyll in me wants to root for the nominees I love, and cheer whenever a lesser-known gem takes home the gold. But the Hyde in me is urged to snark my way through the ceremony, mocking the self-important Hollywood types who’ve devoted a dry and often artless night to congratulating themselves.

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“Ocean’s 8” Proves that Women Deserve (and Need) Their Own Films

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Ocean’s 8 is a Hollywood executive’s dream of a summer movie. It’s modestly-budgeted, eschewing the grand-scale action and VFX-plosions which pepper the traditional action blockbuster – yet it’s also light, fun, and breezy, in the way that only summertime films are allowed to be.

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The Important Lesson of the Seinfeld Finale

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May 14, 1998, marked the end of two pop-cultural touchstones. One was Frank Sinatra, who died in Los Angeles at the age of 82. The other was the TV series Seinfeld, which aired its final episode on NBC that evening.

It may seem trivial to lump a man’s life with a TV show, but while Sinatra was mourned by many, the end of Seinfeld garnered even greater recognition. NBC devoted its entire Thursday night comedy block to the show – an hourlong retrospective clip show, followed by the hourlong finale. The episode attracted over 76 million viewers, making it one of the most-watched TV finales of all time. (No other series finale since then has come close to that number, with only one – the Friends finale – even getting halfway there.)

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The Ending to “Infinity War” Presents a Long-Term Problem for the MCU

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By now, it seems like everyone on planet Earth has seen Avengers: Infinity War. However, if you’re one of the select few who haven’t seen the film (or one of the fewer who don’t have interest – shame on you, BTW), I should clarify that, as the title implies, this article will feature MAJOR SPOILERS for the ending of Infinity War, as well as the two-and-a-half hours leading up to it. Oh, and maybe a few other Marvel films, too.

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Hollywood Shoots, CinemaScores

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Like most critics, I’ve long been disdainful of audience scores. Simply put, people should not determine which films are worth watching based on IMDB ratings or Netflix upvotes. While some of these aggregates can give you a basic idea of how the public views a specific film, the anonymity and insubstantiality of online rankings make it a poor substitute for pop-culture critiquing.

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Top 10: The Best of DreamWorks Animation

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If you’re a regular visitor to this site, you’re probably familiar with my love for all things Disney. Even if Disney may be an evil corporate monster intent on sucking our wallets dry and brainwashing us through mind-controlling Mickey Mouse ears, their films are still a lot of fun. I grew up on all things Disney and Pixar, and maintain a fondness for their works even to this day.

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Oscars 2018: The Animated Shorts

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Once upon a time, the short film was everywhere. Cinemas preceded every new film with a brief and humorous cartoon from the minds at Warner Bros. or Walt Disney Studios. For much of the 20th century, in fact, the theater offered patrons a veritable variety show of short films (both live-action and animated), newsreels, and musical performances in addition to the feature presentation.

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“Slayers & Vampires” is an Engrossing History of Buffy and Angel

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When it comes to essays, journals, and thinkpieces, few TV shows have as vast a catalog as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Countless books have been published which dig into the characters and themes of the show. The series itself was a trailblazer for the current wave of analytical online TV recaps, paving the way for essays about quality shows ranging from Breaking Bad to The Leftovers. And, lest we forget, this very website owes its existence to the intricacies of the Buffyverse.

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Happy New Year 2018

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Welcome, one and all, to 2018.

It was almost a year ago that Mike contacted me and asked if I would like to take over as administrator of Critically Touched. As a regular writer and contributor to this website for several years, I was thrilled to accept his offer. But at the same time, I wasn’t sure if I could properly sustain my usual level of writing while also presiding over the site and forum itself (free server notwithstanding), in addition to keeping up the continual strains of college life and adulthood.

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The Top 15 TV Shows of 2017

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2017 may have at last been the year in which quantity overtook quality.

With over 500 shows airing this year, across more networks and streaming platforms than ever before, the world of television is bursting at the seams. And the effects were clear: This year saw multiple networks (WGN, A&E, Cinemax) get pushed out of the scripted-TV business by sheer force of competition. There was a narrowly-averted writers’ strike, attributed largely to the evolving nature of the business. And some of the best shows on television slipped between the cracks unnoticed, with viewership numbers that scored in the mere six-digits.

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A Complete Guide to Studio 60 (Part 2)

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I wasn’t sure if I’d have the strength to finish this guide. Studio 60 takes a lot out of a guy, particularly when he reviews 11 episodes in one go. But I’ve been watching a lot of Saturday Night Live lately, and it’s reminded me that – even after all these decades, and even in a largely uneven season – sketch comedy can still bring joy to the world. It can bring laughter to us when we most need it.

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The Mouse and the Fox: Some Thoughts on the New Disney Deal

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After weeks of swirling rumors, the news has finally been confirmed: Disney is buying 20th Century Fox.

The mouse-eared media giant announced its plans yesterday to buy out one of its chief cinematic rivals, acquiring the rights to the X-Men, Avatar, The Simpsons,, and a slew of other TV and film properties in the process. The cost for this maneuver? A little over $52 billion.

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Emmys 2017: Which Shows Will Win?

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It’s that time of year again. The time when rich people gather into a big ballroom and repeatedly pat themselves on the back. The time when awards are handed out to people based on quality and also how much money they spent on campaigning. The time when a host makes some modestly humorous jokes and then disappears after the first twenty minutes. (Okay, I don’t expect much “modesty” from Stephen Colbert these days. But hey, twenty minutes.)

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Was Ally McBeal a Feminist Icon?

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In June 1998, Time Magazine published an issue with a most unusual cover. The image displayed the pictured heads of four women: Susan B. Anthony, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and… Ally McBeal. The first three heads were printed in black-and-white, the fourth in full color. Beneath the picture of McBeal were printed three boldened words: “Is Feminism Dead?”

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Whitewashing… Or Is It?

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Two events recently occurred in the world of pop-culture that, on the surface, appear very similar.

The first instance occurred last week, when controversy ignited surrounding the upcoming Hellboy film. Ed Skrein, a white actor, had been cast as Ben Daimio, a character who (in the comics) has an Asian-American heritage. This hearkened back to the uproar that occurred just last month, when Mandy Patinkin, also a white actor, was announced as the replacement for the African-American star of the Broadway play Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. In response to these respective outcries, both actors have stepped down from their roles.

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