Television Tribune: It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye

Clone+High

By James

I hate show endings.  I recently finished watching the fantastic animated cartoon Clone High. Clone High relies on the premise that government scientists cloned famous people and left them to grow up in a suburban town. The show stars Abe Lincoln, his friends Joan of Arc and Gandhi, his love interest Cleopatra and his enemy JFK.  It had a very special type of humor, a mix of intellectual history jokes and satirical high school sitcom scenarios, with a fantastic diversified cast starring SNL members, guests from MTV, and practically the entire cast of Scrubs. So of course it got canceled after one season. One season might have been enough, if not for the ending. Due to an abrupt cancellation, the cliff hanger ending of the season became the series finale, leaving a disappointing, dissatisfying conclusion to what was otherwise an outstanding series.

The theme of early cancellations comes up often. Shows like Firefly, Arrested Development and Freaks and Geeks draw huge amounts of fan boy attention, due to their early cancellation, and too-little too-late viewership. The internet is filled with petitions to bring these shows back, but in the end nothing changes. These shows are left without a proper ending, and the fans are left disappointed by their brief love affairs.  However, compared with the potential for perversion, the prospect of an inconclusive end doesn’t necessarily seem so bad.

The worst end to a show that I can think of is the movie Serenity. Firefly was one of my favorite shows, and after finishing the televised series, I couldn’t wait to see the movie that would extend the show’s ending. Only, the movie I watched wasn’t the same as the show. The episodic, care-free narrative of the show disappeared within the strict confines of the cinematographic structure.  At the end of the movie, I was more disappointed with the movie than the note of finality. Everything was tied up neatly, with all major plot threads tidied up, but the result felt hollow to me, a purposeless ending for the series. The entire series was rewritten into a black and white tale of good and evil, and the kind-hearted bandits living in the cracks of society were replaced with the sterile moral absolutes. That to me was the worst sin, because I could have stood to watch a bad movie, but it was more than I could bear to see the show ruined.

The show Scrubs is a complement to the early cancellation. Scrubsstarted as a popular, funny show with funny writers and a fresh spin on the idea of a doctor in a hospital, making a deep show that also managed to mix in humor. Unfortunately while I was ready to stop around season seven, the cameras rolled for another two seasons. The unique twist of the show eventually aged and ossified. When the show became established in itself, it was no longer original, fixated in rigid formulas for the sake of maintaining continuity. Unfortunately, when shows get stuck in these formulaic patterns, they experience the law of diminishing returns and thus shows like Heroes, The Office, House, Futurama, and 30 Rock, eventually outlive their audiences.

I don’t think there really is a great way to end a show. There’s a thin line to straddle. Either you risk cutting off a budding show, or find a stagnant mess. The fact of the matter is, people don’t want to watch their favorite characters fade away. The thing is, even though the endings to shows can be messy and somewhat disheartening, the ending ultimately is only one small part of the show. Maybe Gilligan will never get off the island, but it was enjoyable to always watch him try. In the end, Clone High was one of my favorite animated shows of all time, and even though Clone High died young, I’m glad it never grew old enough to disappoint me.

Frames of Preference: Once Upon a Time in America

Today’s Frame of Preference comes from Sergio Leone’s often overlooked, sprawling, gangster epic Once Upon a Time in America (1984). The movie follows the tumultuous life of a Prohibition-era gangster played by Robert De Niro, and showcases some of Leone’s most brilliant shots, including this one. This look at the Brooklyn Bridge towering over a dilapidated street communicates perfectly the beauty and the gravity of the film.

Silver Screen, Silver Tongue: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is Pernicious

By Magellan

About the Film

Year: 1986
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, and Jeffrey Jones
Director: John Hughes
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%

About the Word

Definition: per-ni-cious [per-nish-uhs] adj. -causing insidious harm orruin; ruinous; injurous; hurtful: pernicious teaching; a pernicious lie.

The Review

First off, since this is the inaugural installment of “Silver Screen, Silver Tongue,” let me explain the purpose behind this column. I came up with this format as a way of marrying my love of film and my love of esoteric vocabulary, and also as a solution to what I saw as a problem with traditional movie reviews. Evaluating a film quantitatively, be that with star ratings, percentages, or what have you, is inherently flawed. Art is vague, and a review is supposed to convey the feelings of the reviewer, an equally vague entity. So, rather than try and condense my opinions to a number, I’m going to condense them to a third, vague entity: a word. And maybe, just maybe, in the swampy muck of layered vagueness, something genuine will manage to surface.

That all being said, let’s move on to the topic at hand: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, John Hughes’s 80s classic about skipping school and sticking it to the man. A testament to the fun that can be had when you forget the rules, steal a bithcin’ car, and cruise around Chicago for an afternoon. Our protagonist, Ferris Bueller (Broderick), convinces his best friend, Cameron Frye (Ruck), to “borrow” his father’s Corvette and take Bueller and his girlfriend, Sloane (Sara), for an eventful jaunt around the city. This includes catching a baseball game, posing as upper-class snobs at a fancy French restaurant, visiting an art museum, and hijacking some kind of German parade, all the while avoiding Principal Ed Rooney (Jones)’s ire. It’s a truant’s fantasy: a fun, lighthearted look at a world without consequence, where the parents and the principals have no power and the kids are calling the shots.

It’s the kind of happy-go-lucky movie that I thought would be a perfect start to this new column: nostalgic and silly, perfect 80s fluff. Upon re-watching, though, I’ve come away with a much different view of this film. It’s dark, and I found parts of it quietly unsettling. I mean, strip away all the facile 80s junk and look at the people that make up this world: Cameron is clearly mentally unstable, suffering from serious family problems that the movie more or less glosses over; Rooney is a sadistic maniac who would risk life and limb to bring one kid back to school on some sick vendetta; and Ferris himself displays a terrifying amount of disrespect for authority, as well as ingenuity when it comes to skirting it. The kid is a super villain in the making. Hell, he put more effort into all of his precautionary measures than he would have into a single day of school. I’m not trying to be a wet blanket, but this movie really is unsettling when you sit and think about it.

Now, I’m not the first person to furrow his brow at Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The Cracked video series After Hours brings it up in their episode “5 Classic Movie High Schools That Would Suck to Attend,” as does a Nerve article entitled “Five Beloved Yet Deeply Disturbing Coming-of-Age Films.” Both discuss Ferris’s disturbingly sociopathic rule-bending, noting it as something which makes the world of the movie unsettling. On top of that, there’s a fan theory (which I won’t delve into too deeply here) which states that Ferris is simply a figment of Cameron’s imagination, a diametrically-opposed alter-ego that Cameron concocts for himself Fight Club-style, since he’s too much of a pushover to actually do what he wants.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Ferris is a real person who is really skipping school for the ninth time this semester, who is really convincing his friend to take a joyride in a priceless car, who is really running the greater Chicago area with a boyish smirk and a garish vest. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off creates a world bereft of authority, where the only thing that advances your station is deception. This is Ferris’s movie because he is a master of it. He’s thought of every scenario, dancing circles around Rooney at every turn.  Liars in this world don’t face consequences. Ferris, of course, but don’t forget the valet driver who takes the car for a spin without anyone noticing. And every character who tries to stand for truth and authority is punished for it. Rooney is torn apart by a dog and forced to hop on a school bus to get home. Ferris’s sister, who calls in to the police station with a legitimate trespassing complaint, is suspected of prank calling and is going to be punished by her parents. Sure, she meets a dashing young cokehead, but that cokehead is Charlie Sheen, so we’ll call that one a wash. Cameron, who serves as the voice of reason throughout this film, destroys his father’s car and gets to cruising for a nuclear ass-bruising. Every pillar of honesty and virtue is toppled and stomped on by movie’s end.

But, pernicious? I can see you rolling your eyes, it’s fine. All I’m saying is that this movie turns modern Chicagoland into a postapocalyptic wasteland, ruled by deception and demagoguery, then slaps on some eyeshadow and calls it an 80s high school classic. Don’t get me wrong, I love this movie. The acting is decent, the directing is solid, and the jokes that are present are rather funny. Go ahead, watch this film, enjoy it. But just try and watch this clip from Ferris’s opening monologue, with everything I’ve said in mind, and not walk away agreeing that Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is pernicious.

Opening Monologue (sorry for the poor quality): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6k0DnuDEQ4

After Hours Video: http://www.cracked.com/video_18196_5-classic-movie-high-schools-that-would-suck-to-attend.html

Nerve Article: http://www.nerve.com/movies/five-beloved-yet-deeply-disturbing-coming-of-age-films?page=2

Re-Cut, Dramatic Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAe5P_xYoKg&noredirect=1

Frames of Preference: Mirror’s Edge

Frames of Preference is a feature we plan to do semi-regularly here at Pop Modern where we post an image, be it a game screenshot, concept art, movie still, or even a scene that we particularly like and want to share with the world from some of our favorite visual mediums. Our first installment is from 2008’s Mirror’s Edge, a game that not enough people played. It’s basically a futuristic parkour mystery story, and some of the enironments that the player character, Faith, runs through are just dripping with artistic style.

Random Encounters: Why I Can’t Get Excited For Next-Gen Gaming Just Yet

By Allen

The video game industry is really weird. In the last few years, indie has become the new cool in certain circles. My opinion may be skewed as I get older and more jaded, or it may be because of my particular tastes in games, but the line between “indie darling” and “expensive AAA badass-fest” is getting thinner and thinner for me. What defines a AAA title at this point? Budget? Team size? At the end of the day, none of these questions matter as long as the game is good…right

I don’t know if I’m really excited for the next generation of consoles. Well, that’s technically not true. New hardware is always exciting in a shiny new toy sort of way. However, the games that have been shown so far haven’t exactly tickled my fancy. Watch Dogs seems like it has a cool premise, but how many more games am I going to play in my lifetime where I run around a big city being devious? Then you have games like The Crew or Forza Motorsport 6 or one of the 700 other racing games that were shown at E3 last week, and you start to realize that it all kind of blends together.

Now before you close this tab and disregard this article as another “Down with mainstream, long live the indies!” tirade, know this; the most fun I’ve had with a game this year was actually a 2011 game from the developers of Just Cause 2 (one of the more recent examples of a big-budget game that got by on ridiculousness and dumb fun). Renegade Ops, originally released in 2011, is on sale at the time of this writing on Playstation Network. I downloaded the demo to see how it ran and played with a friend the whole way through. For those who don’t know, Renegade Ops is basically a send-up of the 1980s in terms of gameplay, tone, and style. While games like Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon take the aesthetic of that era and rework it into something more modern and fresh, Renegade Ops feels like it’s a remake of some obscure arcade game that nobody played. Specifically, it brings back memories of Konami’s Jackal, released on the NES in 1988. In both games, you play as a Jeep driver rampaging through a nondescript South American forest and mowing down unnamed villains with machine guns. Renegade Ops fortunately doesn’t rely on poorly-emulated pixel graphics or pseudo-nostalgic music, instead opting for comic book-style exposition and realistic graphics for the game itself. These both lend themselves to actually feeling like you’re controlling an isometric remake of Cobra.

I’ve been enjoying Renegade Ops so much not because it’s a game with big explosions and huge high score counters popping up on screen constantly, but because it feels like the developers over at Avalanche really just wanted to make a certain type of game without being limited by the iron fist of a massive publisher. While playing, I can’t shake the feeling that a bigger budget version of Renegade Ops would probably control better and have a longer, more complex campaign, but it would also have the unavoidable stench of an authoritarian publisher limiting the vision of the developer and forcing the game to appeal to the largest possible demographic. At the end of the day, I don’t hate publishers. I mean, Renegade Ops was published by Sega of all people. What I dislike, and why I can’t get excited for these next-generation launch titles, is the feeling that there’s anything getting between what the developer wanted me to play and what the game I launched on my console of choice is.

Preambling

By Pop Modern Staff

pop-modern (adj.) A vacuous bastardization of two equally vacuous words. The kind of word that demands a definition, but has none. Some bullshit we cooked up to come across as witty or potentially thought-provoking. Think of it not as the word that encompasses what this blog is all about, but the word that a crowd shouts out at the beginning of an improv show. From here on out, we’re just going to riff, and we’d like you to join us.

We here at “Pop Modern” don’t really have a formal schedule, but we’re going to try to post a healthy amount of articles every week. We’re going to give our unique perspective on all things pop-culture, be that films, video games, music, or whatever else catches our fancy.

This isn’t a review site, or a news aggregator; this is our perspective, plain and simple. We’re going to tackle the zeitgeist with a thoughtful, but often tongue-in-cheek tone. As this blog progresses, we’d like to build a community of people who are just as interested as we are in talking about pop-culture from diverse points of view. If you have an idea, an opinion, a suggestion, or anything else you’d like to share with us, we’re open to it.

This is an experiment, and we’re hoping it blows up like some weird-ass, neon chemicals. Now, whether that explosion is disastrous or groundbreaking, though, remains to be seen.