The Most Intriguing TV Opening Credit Sequences

DaredevilNetflix assumes that I want to skip opening credit sequences, which isn’t true. Yes, Netflix, I have been binge-watching Marvel’s Daredevil for the past six hours, but I still want to see the melting maroon wax (or blood?) statue of Lady Justice turn slowly as the eerie cadence of high notes fights with the low, booming bass sounds that slowly intensify beneath them. It gets me in the mood.

A title sequence is an emotional trigger, and I appreciate the opportunity to mentally prepare myself for the narrative that follows. This article contains an analysis of some of the more musically intriguing and visually engaging opening sequences. Obviously, some opening credit sequences, like those of The Simpsons and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, are well-established classics, so I will not discuss those below. Other title sequences feature brilliant theme music but do not offer much in terms of visuals, like those of Firefly and Battlestar Galactica. Even the simple melodies of shows like Scrubs and Gilmore Girls work well as triggers of nostalgia and empathy, but they will not appear below.

Other classic intro sequences that will not be discussed here: the concise opening of The Twilight Zone, the friendly notes of Cheers, the mission statement of Star Trek, the Big History explanations of The Big Bang Theory, and the catchy expositional songs of The Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island.

Dexter Continue reading

Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

10 cloverfield laneI loved Cloverfield. As an avid monster movie fan and gamer—I liken the feel of Cloverfield to a mix of Call of Duty and Resident Evil—this is not the type of sequel I anticipated. When the marketing for 10 Cloverfield Lane came out, I was baffled that what looked like a psychological thriller bore the Cloverfield title and was the supposed next entry in a giant alien monster movie franchise. All these things left my expectations low but hopeful.

The beginning starts cautiously, establishing the mood with a strong and foreboding score at the forefront. You are given details and character hints without any dialogue. Then, once you’ve been established in the world and you settle in for what you expect to be a slow build to the first tension of a slow psychological thriller, everything explodes on screen in full audio and visual. I think this opening epitomizes the shock that I felt throughout the entire film. This movie is an odd but pleasant surprise throughout, and definitely nothing I was expecting.

The thing that stands out first is the score and the sound mixing. The mechanical noise of the door opening and shutting, the clatter of objects, the jostling of a car shaking and rolling; all the sound in the film feels like it’s turned up to 11 and it presents a visceral world that keeps you braced for something terrible yet to come. At some points I thought the sound and the score might’ve tried a little too hard to push the drama of a scene, but they played a big part in shaping it as well. Ultimately, as the film rises to its peaks the sound really stands out in delivering the drama of each scene. Continue reading

Brilliant Short Films You Can Watch Right Now

Don HertzfeldDon Hertzfeldt is an impressive artist. Hertzfeldt is a two-time Oscar nominee, and a 2012 Indiewire Best Director poll placed Hertzfeldt above filmmakers like Richard Linklater and Steven Spielberg. While the short film genre has always been an artistic platform for profound ideas, few short films have captured the public’s attention more than Hertzfeldt’s. Rejected, for example, has gained a cult following. Rejected was first screened at the San Diego Comic Con and has since been viewed by Cartoon Network audiences and Sundance Film Festival attendees. Rejected is a simple, absurd animated short film that tackles big concepts. In about nine minutes, Hertzfeldt introduces audiences to an assortment of supposedly rejected cartoon clips. Though the characters seem basic and the narrative seems fractured, the short film as a whole shines a somber light on the plights of the forgotten.

Hertzfeldt’s latest short film, World of Tomorrow, is now on Netflix. Of World of Tomorrow, culture commentator David Sims writes:

The idea of the copy-pasted brain, and the moral quandaries that could stem from it, has enjoyed a quiet revival in sci-fi recently, with World of Tomorrow as the must-see standard-bearer. Hertzfeldt, whose work always tends towards the absurd, had never experimented with the genre before making this short, which was his first digitally produced film. As Emily and her clone drift through the “outernet,” the virtual reality through which all people in the future apparently communicate, the environment pops and crackles around them. But for all of his fantastical imagery, Hertzfeldt triumphs by focusing tightly on his protagonist’s emotions, which are seemingly haywire thanks to their being a Xerox of a Xerox of a Xerox. “I am very proud of my sadness, because it means I am more alive,” the clone proclaims, while acknowledging that she has occasionally fallen in love with inanimate objects in the past.

As World of Tomorrow proves, short films can wrinkle your brain as much as feature films can. Below are some short films (some by Hertzfeldt) that you can watch right now. Enjoy!

Everything Will Be Ok (2006) dir. Don Hertzfeldt

Created after Rejected and before World of Tomorrow, this animated short film is the first portion of a three-part story about Bill, a passive, thoughtful stick-figure man. Everything Will Be Ok is seventeen minutes of social commentary that slowly transitions from amusing and relatable to unsettling and poignant.

Are You the Favorite Person of Anybody? (2005) dir. Miguel Arteta

Written by Miranda July (The Future) and starring John C. Reilly (Step Brothers), this short film features three different responses to a seemingly simple question. Bob Davidson calls it a “profoundly simple short.” (Warning: Film may be a trigger for those with depression.)

Continue reading

Why Kimmy Gibbler Should Be Your Role Model

Fuller HouseIt has been described as “an inescapable nightmare” and “a new low in the current culture’s inability to leave behind the blankies, binkies and wubbies of one’s youth.” Writer Rich Juzwiak described the viewing experience as “what tripping on ayahuasca must be like.”

Critics do not like Fuller House.

Though, as of today, the new Fuller House has earned a paltry 38% on Rotten Tomatoes and seems to offer little more than aggressive nostalgia and thinly veiled jabs at the Olsen twins, the somewhat forced existence of this Netflix sequel has given the world an unexpected and well-needed gift: another glimpse into the life of Kimmy Gibbler, one of TV’s most underrated heroines.

Kimmy Gibbler is the socially awkward friend of D.J. and next-door neighbor of the Tanner family. Her role in the show is to permeate the often sickeningly wholesome Tanner family environment with hijinks and unsolicited opinions. Despite D.J.’s unclear motives for interacting with Kimmy—”whether it’s because she can live on the edge a little by hanging around her, or because she gets to practice her leadership skills and guide her, is uncertain”—many episodes of Full House include at least one scene with this eccentric teenager.

Taken as a whole, these scenes tell the courageous story of a unique, independent female who, which grace and wisdom, rejects the antagonistic behavior of those around her. Continue reading

88th Academy Awards: Big B’s Predictions

Best PictureThe Big Short
The Revenant
Should Win: The Big Short
Disappointment: Bridge of Spies
Should Have Been Nominated: Straight Outta Compton
Should Have Been Nominated: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Best Director
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant
Honorable Mention: Adam McKay, The Big ShortStraight Outta Compton
Best Actor
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Best Actress
Brie Larson, Room
Honorable Mention: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Should Have Been Nominated: Alicia VikanderEx Machina
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Honorable Mention: Tom Hardy, The RevenantThe Revenant
Honorable Mention: Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Should Not Have Been Nominated: Christian Bale, The Big Short
Should Have Been Nominated: Oscar IsaacEx Machina
Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Continue reading

The 86th Academy Awards: Big B’s Oscar Predictions

Oscars SITEBest Actress

Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”

Best Supporting Actress

Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”

Honorable Mention: Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”

Best Actor

12-years-a-slaveChiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”

Honorable Mention: Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”

Honorable Mention: Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”

Should have been nominated: Tom Hanks, “Captain Phillips”

Best Supporting Actor Continue reading

90s Kid’s TV Shows: Why My Childhood Was Better Than Yours

“Music these days is awful. It’s much worse than it used to be.”

“I only like movies made before 1985. Modern films are stupid.”

“Back in my day, food was good and nurturing. It gave us energy. Not like today’s food. You can’t chop wood with a belly full of McNuggets.”

You’ve heard the arguments. Perhaps while at Applebee’s with your moderately hipster friend who takes pleasure in critiquing the barely audible background music. Perhaps on an international flight when your seat-neighbor insists on critiquing your television show selection instead of watching his own screen. Or perhaps at the movie theater when you accidentally sit in front of the loud and opinionated older couple who thought Moonrise Kingdom didn’t appropriately represent the Cub Scouts of America. It’s difficult to escape the judgmental gaze of haters of modernity.

What makes such pretentiousness so frustrating is its commitment to tunnel-visioned subjectivity. First, many of these opinions are fueled by the same visceral nostalgia that connects today’s youth with modern pop culture. You may appreciate The Dick Van Dyke Show (which is a wonderful show), but is your love inspired by the brilliance of Carl Reiner, Dick Van Dyke, and Mary Tyler Moore? Or is it fueled by the fact that The Dick Van Dyke Show reminds you of childhood memories? Though they are not mutually exclusive, there is a difference between nostalgia and critical thought.

Even if hipsters, older generations, and the overly opinionated can swallow the red pill and bypass the temptation to limit criticism to new media, their perspectives of pop culture timelines are often distorted. Pitbull, Katy Perry, and Taylor Swift might not create the most poetically inspired albums, but post-Y2K years are not the only years with arguably bad music. Both Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch” and Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Achy Breaky Heart” were 90s Billboard hits; “Boogie Oogie Oogie” by A Taste of Honey was a 70s disco success; and Patti Page’s “(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?” reached the top of the charts in the 1950s. But a nostalgia-infused lens either eliminates such songs from memory or persuades its wearer that hits like “I Write the Songs” by Barry Manilow—”I write the songs that make the whole world sing / I write the songs of love and special things”—are examples of profound lyricism.

There is one specific type of media, however, that I believe has declined in quality since the 90s.

While all decades contain examples of poor programming, the 90s was the best decade for kid’s television. Television shows for children and tweens had not yet reached their potential before 1990, and shows created after 1999 have been, with several exceptions, meaningless and uninspired. The sighs of relief as our computers continued to operate on January 1, 2000 signaled the beginning of over a decade of mediocre programming for kids.

The 90s played host to a variety of intelligent and unique shows for children and young teenagers. Shows like Hey Arnold! and Recess meaningfully and unpatronizingly highlighted the nuances of life as a kid. The protagonists of these shows offered children understandable and often humorous environments in which to consider more profound topics, concepts like divorce, obscenity, multiculturalism, and gender stereotypes. Even secondary characters like Stoop Kid and Swinger Girl, while simple in some ways, contained layers of relatable emotions.

Though not all 90s kid’s shows offered the readily applicable morals of Hey Arnold!, most shows of the decade had something unique to offer. For many, any lack of obvious morality was made up for with bold originality. CatDog featured an anatomically confusing pair of protagonists and an instantly classic theme song; Dexter’s Laboratory introduced an array of fascinating secondary characters and was nominated for four consecutive Primetime Emmys; and The Powerpuff Girls parodied gendered superheroes and had Mojo Jojo.

Wishbone, The Magic School Bus, Legends of the Hidden Temple, and Bill Nye, the Science Guy set the standard for educational entertainmentAll That was one of the first sketch comedy shows for kids. Rugrats and Doug became archetypes of kindhearted media for kids. The Big Comfy Couch championed a new generation of imaginative, small-set children’s shows. Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain uniquely combined academia, pop culture, slapstick comedy, and satire. Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark? brought the horror genre to kids in a way that has not been done since. Dragon Ball Z and Pokémon peaked in the 90s. And even Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, arguably the best of the Power Rangers franchise, existed in the 90s.

Compare these shows with modern entertainment like Dave the BarbarianBrandy & Mr. Whiskers, and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, and you may notice the difference. While modern music, film, and television programming for adults and older youth are as inspired now as they were in the past, kid’s television shows are not.

More Fan Fiction: Macaroni and Despair

Because of the success of our first attempt at fan fiction, Big B is back with an encore. Find your favorite seat (or sit cross-legged on the floor), pop some popcorn (or boil some vegetables), and enjoy (or not). This piece of fan fiction was inspired by this Kraft Macaroni & Cheese commercial:

The Stranger at My Table

Nelson has just discovered that this father, Harold, has another family. Seemingly unaware of his son’s bewilderment, Harold scoots his chair closer to the table and begins to eat his macaroni one noodle at a time, pausing only to steal more noodles from Nelson’s plate. While Harold eats, Nelson and his son, Tyler, sit motionless at the table. Finally, Nelson speaks.


You…you have another family?


(With a mouth full of noodles) Yup.


And you decided to tell us on noodle night?


Well, it wasn’t noodle night for me, was it?


What do you mean?

Suddenly angry, Harold throws his fork across the room. The fork hits a vase full of white flowers, and the vase falls to the floor, breaking on impact. With wild eyes, Harold turns and points his finger at Nelson. Shocked, Nelson opens his mouth, but no words come out. After a few intense moments, Harold lowers his finger, stands up, and walks toward the broken vase.


You never give me any noodles. Did you see my plate before I stole your noodles? One piece of chicken—that’s all I had. One tiny piece of chicken.


Don’t make this about your problems. You have another family!


And they are my first family! My original family. You’re the other family!




(Interrupting Nelson) And why do you think I decided to get a second family?


I don’t…I don’t know.

Harold leans down as if to pick up the broken vase. Instead, he picks up his fork. He walks to the table and gently places the fork beside Nelson’s plate.


They didn’t give me any noodles either. I had to steal from them every day, and I know they resented me for it. I thought that, maybe, with another family, someone would finally offer me some noodles.


(Staring at Harold’s fork) You just wanted some noodles.


I just wanted some noodles—from you.


(Speaking quickly; stammeringSit…sit down, Dad. You can have some noodles. I’ll take some more from Tyler, and you can have some of mine. You can have my noodles.


Nelson. My son. It’s too late.


But Dad…

Harold begins to walk out of the dining room. Just before exiting, he turns back.


I’m going to find a third family. Maybe they’ll give me some noodles. But a bit of advice: Stop taking Tyler’s noodles. He’ll hate you for it, and you’ll end up just like me.

Harold exits. For a moment, Tyler and Nelson sit in silence. Then:


I love him. I should hate that old man now, but—dammit!—I love him.


But he stole my noodles!


And he stole my heart.


~Big B

The 84th Academy Awards: Big B’s Oscar Predictions

Best Actress

Viola Davis, “The Help”

Honorable Mention: Rooney Mara, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

Best Supporting Actress

Should win: Bérénice Bejo, “The Artist”

Will win: Octavia Spencer, “The Help”

Best Actor

Jean Dujardin, “The Artist

Honorable Mention: George Clooney, “The Descendants”

Best Supporting Actor

Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”

Honorable Mention: Jonah Hill, “Moneyball”

Best Picture

“The Artist”

Best Director

Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”

Honorable MentionTerrence Malick, “The Tree of Life”

Best Animated Film

Should win: “Kung Fu Panda 2”

Will win: “Rango”

Honorable Mention: “A Cat in Paris”

Best Art Direction Continue reading

Review: Prom (2011)

When modern pop cinema replaced heart-of-gold rebel archetypes with more multifaceted characters, where did the archetypes go? When Disney seemed to shift their focus from High School Musical-style films to more elaborate plots, where did the teen soap opera storylines go? When tween, teen, and young adult films began to offer more ethnically and economically diverse characters, where did the old racially stereotypical ensembles go?

They went to Prom.

Prom is a collection of all the outdated elements of popular teen film. Star-crossed lovers without depth. Random bursts of hormonal emotion. Smug, out-of-context attempts at wit. A disheartening lack of interracial couples. This repository of outcast archetypes boldly attempts to unravel years of social and cinematic progress.

In fact, the only somewhat unique character in Prom is Rolo, a curly-haired stoner who may or may not have a career in adult film. After spending the majority of the film casually responding to accusations that Athena, his Greek girlfriend from Canada, is not real, Rolo steals the show when he enters the prom-filled auditorium with a supermodel at his side. This spectacular entrance fascinates the other Prom characters and adds fuel to the idea that the Prom Committee may not be Rolo’s only extracurricular activity.

Sydney White, 17 Again, and even Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam (yes, the sequel) have more inherent entertainment value than the visually pleasing, regurgitated drama-slush of Prom.

Thank goodness for Rolo.

Joe Nussbaum: Director

Katie Wech: Writer

Aimee Teegarden, Thomas McDonell, DeVaughn Nixon: Stars