Features and Think Pieces


“Don’t Binge-Watch ‘Master of None'” – May 25, 2017

The second season of “Master of None” has the same charms as its first. It’s a stylish look at modern romance and millennial culture through the lens of Ansari’s eye for music, food and Italian cinema. It can be frustratingly meandering but also fresh in its storytelling and structure. You should definitely watch it right away, but please don’t binge watch it.

21 Netflix Stand-Up Comedy Specials of 2017 Ranked” – May 17, 2017

Dave Chappelle has a hysterical habit of stumbling backwards and smacking his mic against his leg as he laughs at his own jokes. In this case, though, he’s laughing at both the hardships of the world and his own strange experiences, including four incredible encounters with O.J. Simpson. He makes some of the sharpest observations in comedy, including that Harambe got more sympathy than countless young African-American men killed by police. This special shows why he’s one of the all-time greats.

Jack Nicholson Turns 80: All of His Major Roles Ranked” – April 20, 2017

Jack Nicholson is a legend. Period. His illustrious career has been spent playing brooding rebels, crazed villains and sneering charmers on the big screen. Soon he’ll star opposite Kristen Wiig in a remake of “Toni Erdmann.” The three-time Oscar winner is undoubtedly a fixture of American cinema (as well as courtside at the Lakers). In honor of Nicholson’s 80th birthday (on Saturday, April 22), we’ve done the near impossible: ranked all of his major, iconic roles, from great to best.

Hell or High Water

Hell or High Water Is Political, But Doesn’t Have a Political Party” – February 17, 2017

“Hell or High Water” may be the most political of this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, but it isn’t clearly liberal or conservative. To some, David Mackenzie’s film will resonate as a 99 Percenter attack on greedy banks. To others, it’s a rebuke to coastal elites who think of its West Texas setting as flyover country. Add in its observations on race relations, and you’ll have a very hard time figuring out where screenwriter Taylor Sheridan leans politically.


2017’s ‘Arrival:’ What Two Time Jumping Movies Have To Say About the New Year” – December 30, 2016

Two 2016 films, Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival” and Makoto Shinkai’s Japanese anime blockbuster “Your Name,” had complex stories that examine modern communication and connectivity. Despite fantasy and sci-fi elements, both felt oddly relevant to the election. But what made them feel profound was how they used time-jumping narratives to consider life in the present.

“12 Movies and Musicals to Watch After Seeing ‘La La Land‘” – December 8, 2016

“How can you be a revolutionary when you’re a traditionalist,” asks John Legend in “La La Land.” Damien Chazelle’s film is enamored with classic movie musicals, mashing up references and wearing its influences on its sleeve. But it’s also about how embracing the past can create innovation. Here are some of the inspirations Chazelle has cited for “La La Land.”



Frank Sinatra Is…  December 12, 2015

Today, we celebrate Sinatra’s 100th Birthday. He was called Ol’ Blue Eyes and The Voice, but Sinatra has endured not because he had the bluest eyes or, dare I say, even the best voice. Sinatra is a performer, a character, a personality, and a legacy. The persona he crafted in all his films and the rapport he had on stage have elevated him to that of the 20th Century’s definitive figure in pop culture, and in turn made him timeless. Until a few weeks ago, I couldn’t seriously consider myself a fan, and yet Sinatra has invariably been a part of my life for 25 of his 100 years. Sinatra doesn’t belong to my generation, and not even quite my parents’ generation, but my grandparents. Yet somehow he has a place that all the other crooners, all the other oldies that get played at every Italian wedding don’t.

USC Annenberg Media


What the Oscars Can Learn From the Grammys February 22, 2016

The Grammy Awards is second to the Oscars in terms of ratings, but after Monday’s broadcast, the Grammys have been putting on a much better awards show. The Grammys is far from perfect, with this year’s show topping 210 minutes and perhaps displaying far more highs, lows, lulls and more “WTF” performances than usual. But the Oscars by comparison needs to get out of the rut of being the traditional, old, prestigious awards gala where everyone in Hollywood pats themselves on the back.

Consequence of Sound


Strange Arcs: Mark WahlbergConsequence of Sound – June 24, 2015

First a brief member of New Kids on the Block, then an iconic underwear model, and finally a rapper named Marky Mark who even he’s embarrassed to remember, Mark Wahlberg already boasts a strange arc towards becoming an actor. This week he’s performing alongside a CGI teddy bear, which some might argue isn’t so far off fromtalking to a bunch of farm animals, but Wahlberg has throughout his acting career managed to play roles beyond just the tough-guy action star. He even produced Entourage (show and film) of all things. In select roles, he’s broken out of being a bro or embraced it to the point that he was worthy of an Oscar nomination. In honor of Ted 2, we take a look at six of Mark “Say hi to your mother for me” Wahlberg’s most distinct performances.

Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry Seinfeld, Comedy and Punditry…What’s the Deal?Consequence of Sound – June 11, 2015

Jerry Seinfeld’s comedy has for the entirety of his career been about nothing. Which is to say, Seinfeld’s “Did you never notice” or “What’s the deal with this” brand of observational comedy was about nothing that really mattered. He only sweated the small stuff. And for a time even after the run of Seinfeld, it appeared Jerry could appear to do no wrong. He’s the first name you think of when you hear the word “comedian” because his material was inoffensive and universal, yet he understood more about how men, women, children and the world worked because he paid attention to the stuff no one else did.



World of Tomorrow Solidifies Don Hertzfeldt as an Auteur – April 6, 2015

World of Tomorrow is a beautiful, funny, surreal, cynical, and ultimately touching animated short about a little girl shown the distant future by a clone of her older self. Humans and clones now live together in the “outranet”, a neural network of thoughts and ideas that has replaced the Internet and provided all of existence with windows into the past. Those too shy to face society have disappeared into “safe infinity”, a realistic extension of the world that’s more than just a “how we live now” allegory. Watching the creativity on display and getting this glimpse into this particular future helps us better appreciate our memories and our present.

Spirited Away

Childhood Memories: Spirited Away and Making the Weird Work – November 25, 2014

Maybe it was just being that age at that point in time, but something about Spirited Away clicked. It depicted things that were odd, ugly, absurd and terrifying in a way I didn’t realize movies could be. For me Spirited Away was not a film that made me love movies, but one that showed movies, or for that matter works of art, could be something more.


Why Are Christopher Nolan’s Movies So Fun to Argue About? – November 13, 2014

Rarely is someone as critically acclaimed as Nolan also this polarizing, with a small but sizable group of critics raising some strong red flags… But why this guy? His movies are very accomplished and popular, but many directors can claim resumes nearly as good. At first it seemed like the vitriol was in response to an even louder group of ravenous fanboys, but even other cultish directors like Zack Snyder, the Wachowskis and Joss Whedon have not earned the vaulted status Nolan has. Did he become king of the fanboys because of one great Batman movie, or is there something else to his work that makes Nolan so fun to pick apart?


The 10 Best Journalism Movies – October 30, 2014

The movie journalist is always caught up in scandal, gossip and invasions of privacy. Though plenty of movies have been made about authors, poets, and other writers, the physical act of writing and editing rarely makes it into Hollywood journalism. Thankfully, the more sensational aspects of media have made for scathing satire and commentary, loathsome anti-heroes, and pulpy, investigative reporting that the camera loves.


5 Things Gone Girl Must Get Right About the BookPopOptiq – September 24, 2014

Comparing a film adaptation to its novel source material is like comparing apples and oranges; the two are so completely different in the way they tell stories and convey ideas, either through visuals or through text, that it’s pointless to say one is better. In the case of the upcoming Gone Girl however, the film adaptation of which premieres this week at the New York Film Festival, the book is such a meticulously crafted, Hitchcock-grade level of psychological thriller nuance, that carelessness with the adaptation could be more than just a let down for fans of the novel.


Robin Williams: A Man of a Million Voices – August 14, 2014

Yesterday we ran a story on some of Robin Williams’ most under appreciated performances. But as the remembrances keep rolling in and as new, gruesome details about his suicide become apparent, it became clear that Williams didn’t just have depth in his filmography; he was an actor and performer who displayed worlds of expression and moved so many in remarkable and distinct ways. Rather than ask our staff to rattle off more of their favorites, we asked them to recall Williams’ personality and the legacy his work left on their lives. We’re looking at each side of his many faces as a comedian, a movie star, a voice actor and a true character, offering our final goodbye to a man who gave us so much.


How Do We Fix the Movie Rating Scale? – July 8, 2014

Use the F-word twice in a movie? That’ll cost you. Don’t remember to count the number of pelvic thrusts you showed? Now you’re in trouble. Showing full frontal female or male nudity and don’t have good distribution? You’re done before you even started. Hollywood’s rating scale is broken. The MPAA’s system of G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17 has meant increasingly less since it came into use in 1968. For years there have been cases of major studio pictures with obscene stretches of violence passing as PG-13 to boost summer box office receipts, while the harmless Oscar winner The King’s Speech was slapped with an R-rating for fear children would be corrupted by hearing Colin Firth use profanity.


A Few Simple Rules for Biopics about Music GeniusesPopOptiq – June 17, 2015

Back in September, Scott Tobias wrote in The Dissolve something of a manifesto about biopics, “Five simple rules for making biopics about geniuses”: (1) Don’t try and tell a person’s entire life story, (2) show us, don’t just tell us why they’re a genius, (3) don’t tell a genius’s story just because he or she was a great person, (4) find a compelling visual style that matches their genius, (5) and “find the saint in the asshole, find the asshole in the saint.” Music biopics however are a genre unto themselves, and like during the Pet Sounds sessions, they have additional rules that can be followed or mended… How then do you make a music biopic sing? Here are a few music notes: