Thursday, June 15, 2017

Update: "A Second Opinion" and Abroad

Well, it's finally my summer, and you know what that means: the guy that writes things that you read every once in a while's gonna write something you'll never read. At the very least, this is sort of relevant to the aim of the blog: diversifying.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Cartoon Splurge: Star vs. the Forces of Evil: Season 1

Hey. If you're new here, let me do a quick introduction: I'm Matt, and I write bits of analysis that are so pedantic that all fun is lost. (Riveting, I know.) I'm not a massive cartoon fan, though I'm currently infatuated with The Amazing World of Gumball; it is for that reason that I'm doing this right now, indebted to Mr. Anonim. So, uh... hello. Hope everybody's doing okay.

As you probably know, his grand idea was to hop between communities and spread word of other cartoons to establish a sort of "Community Watching" and give some shows some new fans. Since so few people seemed to be playing along with it, I decided I had nothing to lose and that I was diving straight in. Though he planned out a few episodes of Star vs. the Forces of Evil, I saw the first episode, recognized its potential, and decided to stick around for the whole first season. That's what this is: a so-called "Cartoon Splurge," where I go all in on a cartoon and review a season of it at a time. At the very least, I can offer an outsider's opinion, and that's good, right?

Oh, and as a disclaimer: I apologize for any anachronisms or technically incorrect assumptions: I haven't seen Season 2 and know basically nothing about it, so my views of the show might be slightly incorrect as I lack the complete image.

First things first, though: one of the things that Anonim repeatedly tried to warn me of was that Star was an insanely plot-heavy cartoon, but it's really not, at least not yet. (I've endured HIMYM - this isn't that, thankfully.) Yes, there's some chronology to it all, but it's still light. You can tell that the show is slowly building up, what with Toffee and the Headmistress (?) of the Reform School, but the show doesn't ever let that detract from simple character interplay and quirky ideas. It's a lot like Wander Over Yonder's approach in Season 2, where four, plot-heavy, 22-minute episodes were punctuated by interludes of 12, lighter, 11-minute ones; through it, the story could build up without compromising on any light fun. For Season 1, at least, Star seems to be following a similar course of action. (The two's similarities may or may not be intentional as per Craig McCracken's post discussing Disney's more rigid views towards serialization.)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

SNL Review: Farewells (and Dwayne Johnson)

I haven't written an SNL review in a good while, but this is the sort of episode that beckons to be addressed: if not the "end of an era" in the same way that Season 37 and 38 swept away four of the strongest castmembers in SNL's history (Samberg, Wiig, Hader, and Sudeikis), the loss of Moynihan and Bayer is definitely the sort of upset that'll shake up the show. Their departures are definitely going to be noticed.

Sure, Bayer and Moynihan were never the show's big stars, but they never sought to be. They devoted themselves to strict character work, and they excelled at it. They're the definition of hard-working - they never went for the easy laughs, instead exploring the nuances of their characters and practically dissolving into their roles. In other words, they were built for the show, and the season finale (which, by the way, was hosted by Dwayne Johnson, which I neglected to mention) is a perfect example of all of the little things they did that made them as great as they were.

Even the sketches that didn't put them in the spotlight showed how they managed to enliven even the simplest, most inconsequential characters. The return of Gemma, for example, was inconsequential and unmemorable, but it showed what made Vanessa so great as the flustered straight woman: she genuinely seemed flustered and confused, annoyed even. Meanwhile, Bobby's small role as the evil villain in the "evil invention" sketch wasn't the center of attention either, but he put himself entirely into the role, even if he wasn't getting any laughs out of it. That's dedication. (His Carlos character, on the other hand, was classic, aloof Bobby, and it was a delight.)

Sunday, April 9, 2017

SNL Review: Louis C.K. Does Not Sell Sectional Couches

"This one's called 'The Gathering.' It looks like elephants gathered for an important reason."
You know what? I'm going to tough at these reviews until the end of the season.

For one thing, this blog is essentially dead considering the unbearable yet insanely predictable lull of TAWOG's hiatus. For another, the last four hosts this season are some of the most exciting in recent years - Jimmy Fallon, Chris Pine (either way), Melissa McCarthy, and Dwayne Johnson. I guess that at least one of those nights will be a shocking hack job by virtue of how perfectly the stars seemed to have aligned (it's all a trick!) And, for a third reason, there's a very existent chance that the writers' strike is going to wipe out the last two nights anyway, so might as well get in what I can now.

Besides, it's Louis C.K.! It's always exciting when he hosts because you never know what will come out of it. It could be good, it could be bad, but the guy's always a delight to watch given whatever stupid idea to perform, and here the poor guy had to don some stupid wigs, long eyelashes, and do a Polish accent ('Polish,' of course, being a formality), but the best part is that the guy just gives in to whatever material he's given. And it works!

This was Louis' night, and not even the perpetually douchey faces of The Chainsmokers could ruin that.

What didn't work, however, is more of the tiresome Trump impression courtesy of Alec Baldwin. The fact of the matter is that there isn't any bite to the character anymore. There's nothing incisive. It worked before because we were confronted with some caricature, but as time is revealing that vision to be more than less completely accurate, it's just tiresome and not funny anymore. I respect how much Baldwin brings to the performance and understand how much it increases ratings, but the horse has been beat dead by this point and, come the end of the season, I'll be glad that the bit is gone.
Current Score: C+

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Amazing World of Gumball Review: The Heist (and the Gumbomb)

Okay, so yesterday was rough. I'm going to move right along, ignore that, and say that I really enjoyed this episode. (Also, I'll be talking about the Gumbomb in general at the bottom- double feature, yo.)

Realistically, "The Heist" is very similar to "The Box" in trying to take the same general format as "The Check," and while it once again falls short of that level of excellence, that doesn't mean this episode was bad. In fact, this is probably my favorite episode to come out of this week, believe that or not. For all of its complexities, it was probably one of the simpler episodes this week- it didn't try to push at anything new, instead offering more delightful takes on the Watterson family and how they think.

First of all, I'm going to say that I honestly didn't mind Richard's ignorance of the situation as a catalyst, at least partially because his helmet was the real issue. Even if he made some poor decisions, it wasn't out of his stupidity alone so much as a series of honest mistakes. The plot is set up so that it makes sense why Richard would use the sign to confuse the bank for a Joyful Burger and, with Larry at the helm of the bank, it makes sense that he wouldn't assume anything was wrong. Admittedly, there were some stupid twists, like Richard telling everybody to put their hands in the air because he believes it to be someone's birthday, but I at least like that Richard retains that joyous, loving character. It's just that the message is misconstrued.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Amazing World of Gumball Review: The Weirdo

"I think we've seen enough, thank you."
Let's get this out of the way so as to help deflect that which will follow: I'm cold-hearted, I'm cynical, I'm a terrible human being and a waste of the air supply. We good? Good. You ready for this? I don't think you are. Okay. We can do this. It'll be fine. All I have to say is that this episode was boring. And I get that everybody else thought this episode was phenomenal and y'all are all teary-eyed messes, but this episode just didn't work for me.

You don't know how long I debated just lying and saying that I loved this episode, because me finding this to be tedious is a solid dent in my reputation. After all, this is definitely my second most polarizing opinion for the show (the first shall, for the time being, remain undisclosed. It'll surface in time). It's much easier to just join the crowd of admirers, but I don't want to be dishonest. I already view the series with probably abnormally high prestige, so if I find that something doesn't work, there's actually a legitimate bone worth picking. So... let the ostracism begin.

A big part of the issue is that I just don't like Sussie as a character. There's nothing interesting about her. She's realistically one of the few links the show still has to Season 1 because of her unchanging nature in the show, and that can really drag stuff down.

The only times that I think Sussie was used successfully were in "The Night" (for the meta sequence) and "The Question," where she spurred an unexpectedly complex personal philosophy. Those occasions worked because a new angle was taken in understanding the character and exploring something different. Here, we get stuck in the inevitable rut of Sussie being Sussie, a character without anything to prod at, and a clear message that didn't warrant 11 minutes to understand.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Amazing World of Gumball Review: The Uncle

"How did this situation escalate so quickly?! I was literally two steps behind you!"
I'm going to preface this article by saying that, above all, I'm really just excited to see Ocho get another role in the spotlight. I always thought he was one of the more interesting characters, both in design and demeanor (however one-note he can be at times), and considering that he hasn't had a main role since Season 2 and only two speaking roles since then, this episode was long overdue.

The premise is that Gumball finds out that Ocho's uncle may or may not be Mario and he sets out to befriend Ocho and prove his worth for the sake of meeting him, though along the way, he endures trauma after trauma. That's what was most exciting about the episode- it was almost a reverse-Saint. Ocho keeps forcing Gumball to do terrible things or otherwise traumatizes him (as in the hazing prank, which literally gave Gumball PTSD), with Gumball nevertheless determined just to meet Mario, but when he finally does, it's the not exactly who Gumball envisioned. Whomp freaking whomp.

As much as I enjoyed the episode, though, I still found a few issues.