Posts tagged pop culture references
Ever since I devoured Dana Fredsti’s thrilling zombie novel Plague Town last April, I’ve been anxiously awaiting its sequel Plague Nation. Thankfully I was rewarded with it earlier this month, and got a chance to start it during my morning commute. I found myself on the edge of my seat, literally so absorbed, that I didn’t even realize I had gotten on the wrong train. Now that’s gripping zombie literature!
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Let’s not pull any punches. Silhouettes are boring, stuffy pieces of artwork. The only places you can usually find them are in the homes of older affluent folks, or those trying desperately to project the air of wealth. However, once you discover Silhouettes from Popular Culture by artist Olly Moss, you’ll never look at the medium the same way again. That’s because Moss’s debut hardcover is a game-changer for this type of art.
Instead of featuring nameless subjects or dry historical figures, Moss mines our favorite movies, television shows, and yes even video games from the last 50 years for silhouette fodder. To reveal who he gives the treatment to would spoil the thrill of seeing it yourself, although pop culture gurus should be delighted by the variety offered up in this book. Moss doesn’t hesitate to get obscure with his references, something that only adds to the hilarity of his concept.
What makes this hardcover unique isn’t just that Moss borrows characters from popular culture; it’s the way he playfully arranges them by using both pages to tell a story. Sometimes the silhouettes on opposing pages are characters from the same piece, other times they are different ones played by a single actor, and in select instances they can be different versions of the same character portrayed by different actors. These characters can be interacting directly or indirectly based on their placement. At certain points they’re facing one another, in others they’re facing away, and in a few spots, they are lined up going the same direction.
When necessary to create context, Moss adds his own clever design flourishes to the silhouettes like small splashes of color. There’s plenty of range to entertain you and a very sleek old-time look and feel to the book. The cover is made of a blue textured fabric, with gold etching for the title, and a raised silhouette that feels like it was hand-cut and pasted on.
Silhouettes from Popular Culture is brimming with cool pictures to keep you engaged, but it’s much more than just a typical coffee table book. Moss combines old-fashioned aesthetics with a postmodern sense of humor to create an experience that’s incredibly fun and interactive.
His book is a mind puzzle like a Rubik’s Cube, except infinitely less frustrating and easier for friends to play with at the same time. Even if you’re well-versed in pop culture it’s still tough to guess every single silhouette right. When you find ones that you don’t know immediately, it’s actually more stimulating because it gets you to use your powers of your imagination in order to figure out who it is.
The only slightly annoying thing about Silhouettes from Popular Culture is that there’s no answer key. But understandably, Moss is hoping for re-read value. He knows you’ll keep coming back after you absorb new movies, television, and video games to try to fill in the blanks. He definitely has me hooked.
Silhouettes from Popular Culture is available in stores and online at www.titanbooks.com.
Remember early ‘Family Guy’ before it got excessively gross? Back then, the writers made you laugh with clever pop culture references instead of relying on the shock value outrageous plotlines. If those were your favorite episodes of the animated series, then you’re going to love Seth McFarlane’s live action directing debut “Ted.” The film, which McFarlane co-wrote with former “Family Guy” scribes Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, is hilarious and slightly edgy way without going over-the-top.
McFarlane’s comedy explores a childhood wish that yields amusing adult consequences. The flick focuses on John, a lonely child in the Boston area. John wishes that his teddy bear Ted could really walk and talk. Miraculously Ted comes to life and gives John the true friend that he always wanted. Although little John couldn’t possibly have considered what his adulthood would be like with a teddy bear as his best friend.
The film then cuts to present day, where thirtysomethings Ted and John are roommates in Boston. Ted (voiced by McFarlane) has become a rude, crude, Massachusetts bro who smokes weed and womanizes to excess. However John (Mark Wahlberg) has grown into a goofy man-child with more propriety. He has a crappy yet steady job, and a loving girlfriend named Lori (Mila Kunis). Much to Lori’s annoyance, John is a complete pushover when it comes to Ted. He never refuses Ted’s schemes for slacking off, or gets angry when the bear makes a mess.
So on the eve of their fourth anniversary, Lori issues John an ultimatum: if he wants to stay with her, Ted has to move out. The remainder of the film largely deals with John’s conflicting allegiances to both Ted and Lori. During that time John has plenty of humorous misadventures with Ted, but with each incident, John’s antics bring him closer to destroying his relationship.
In addition to the Lori/Ted conflict, there are a couple of underdeveloped subplots that weaken the story, like a wacky father (Giovanni Ribisi) who wants to kidnap Ted, and Lori’s boss (Joel McHale) trying to get in her pants. Ribisi’s socially awkward character is funny in a demented way, but the portions with McHale feel forced. It’s almost like McFarlane needed an excuse to squeeze McHale in and an egotistical boss was the only open part.
Despite his vulgar personality and gruff accent, McFarlane gets you to love Ted as a character. That’s primarily due to Ted’s fierce loyalty, which makes it easier to forgive his negative qualities. Wahlberg appropriately balances Ted out as the straight man in this comedy. Mila Kunis on the other hand does a fine job, but she’s placed in the unenviable position of playing a typical bitchy girlfriend. Because she has to operate in this stereotype, it’s very difficult to appreciate her character.
Reminiscent of early “Family Guy,” much of the comedy in “Ted” is derived from well-placed pop culture references to 1980s mainstays like “Star Wars,” “Indiana Jones,” and “Flash Gordon.” McFarlane milks a cameo from Mr. Flash Gordon himself, Sam Jones, for every laugh that he can. Familiarity with the hero isn’t required, although if you know him, you’ll laugh a lot more. The same could be said about Boston. If you know the city, you’ll get more out of McFarlane’s jabs at Beantown women, but you’ll still have a good time even if you’re not a Boston local.
For a raunchy comedy, “Ted” will surprise you with its sentimentality. Even though it loses focus in a couple of places, you’ll still laugh your ass off when you watch this strangely charming tale about growing up.
My Grade: B+