After many many months of hibernation, Culture Challenged is back in 2017 with new content, new contributors, and new opinions. In addition to blog posts, commentary, and columns, Culture Challenged returns to the podcasting game (where have you gone “Hold on To Your Buffs”?) with the first edition of the Culture Challenged Podcast. David and new contributor (and life partner!) Ritza bring you their take on the 2017 Golden Globes Awards and why Atlanta is really the best show of the year.
THE CHALLENGE: BATTLE OF THE BLOODLINES Weekly Power Rankings Week 3
1. Bananas and Vince – The Legend and his “cousin” (don’t call him Vinny) look like an early season juggernaut. Bananas goes for his 6th title in 13 seasons.
2. Cara Maria and Jamie – Yes, their deliberation back-and-forth was a mess, but at this point Cara Maria knows how to compete in Challenges. Jamie is intriguing.
3. Aneesa and Rianna – Aneesa is full-on beast mode at this point and couldn’t care less about what other people think at this point. Rianna’s bloodline is think.
4. Leroy and Candice – Do we take Leroy’s excitement over Candice’s performance seriously? I have never seen him more proud since his days with Mike Mike on RIVALS.
5. Camila and Larisa – Camila’s traditional once-a-season crazy blowout is due in Week 3. Will these sisters remain at the end of women’s elimination week?
6. Cory and Mitch – Cory’s REAL WORLD season was always a stepping stone for the THE CHALLENGE. Mitch is still finding his way, but has already shown some game.
7. Nany and Nicole – Nicole’s cat-like interview eyes aside, she and Nany seem to be the most loyal pair. They also seem to be closely involved to all the drama.
8. KellyAnne and Anthony – KellyAnne returns after a long hiatus. These newbies are likely to underestimate her competitive prowess. What Anthony brings is yet unknown.
9. Tony and Shane – Their week 1 fight was and subsequent breakup was easily predictable after REAL WORLD: SKELETONS. Judgement and discipline are a major concern.
10. Dario and Raphy – It is so hard to take ARE YOU THE ONE? teams seriously. They did Jedi mind trick Cara Maria into choosing the Buells, so there is that.
11. Thomas and Stephen – Week 2’s PIT victory may be a good confidence booster for these identical twins. I am just not sure that they are ready for a greater leap.
12. Jenna and Brianna – One of the worst partnerships in CHALLENGE history, only a matter of time for these two. Watching them fight is excruciatingly entertaining.
I can’t say that I have yet made much of a connection to Mackenzie Davis or Gugu Mbatha-Raw (and her exploding career!), but any casting news for Netflix’s upcoming 12 episode (and third series) of the British psycho-ethical-technological modern-day Twilight Zone is most welcomed. Black Mirror is often a mind-blowing and weird, wild trip through an altered state of reality. It is at times provocative, at times horrifying, and at times the most emotionally gripping hour you could imagine on television.
I probably should have marked the return of Culture Challenged with a good ‘ole Let’s Get A Few Things Off My Chest column, explain some of the (right – I hope) reasons for my absence, and preview the future of the site. This informative hibernation mea culpa is coming soon (I promise!), but there is a new season of the The Challenge already two weeks underway and there is no better way to dive back into the commentary cesspool than a proper chronicle of America’s Fifth Professional Sport. There are, however, a few The Challenge related things to get off my chest before I embark on yet another season of coverage…gulp.
- I haven’t written on The Challenge since the tragic deaths last fall of Diem and Knight. When their final season of The Challenge: Battle of the Exes II aired last January, it just didn’t feel right to spend energy and time commenting on the discomforting awkwardness of Johnny and Averey’s relationship or on how Jay and Jenna’s third place finish is the most undeserved appearance in a finals since the 2009 Orlando Magic (I am openly still bitter about KG’s injury. That 2008-2009 Celtics team started the season 27-2 and was even better than the 2008 champions that dominated the league). Although the reality of reality television is an obvious misnomer, often lost in all of the fun, games, and drama is that we are watching real people with real lives and real challenges. Diem’s chronicled departure from the show for health complications from her long and heroic bout with cancer is the worst end of the uncomfortable voyeuristic contract signed by her participation and by our viewing. Diem – the warrior, amazing effervescent club dancer spirit that she was – used her platform for the most incredible kind of good. She propelled her fortunate famed privilege into something that mattered. Her human legacy and the organizational legacy of MedGift beautifully live on. ‘Tis the season for giving and supporting her cause is one the best ways to do so. Both Diem and Knight are greatly missed. Continue to rest in peace.
- While we were away, long-time Culture Challenged favorite Sarah finally had a partner (in Jordan) of her competitive stature, defeated her Challenge demons and won Battle of the Exes II, started the amazing Brain Candy podcast with former Challenger Susie Meister, and got married to a nice Jewish man named Landon. Mazel Tov, indeed.
- I admittedly watched the Battle of the Bloodlines premiere last week ready to write and couldn’t get myself to do so. It was the day of the horrific San Bernardino shootings and much was put out of focus. The violent brotherly unlove between Shane and Tony and the interview contact lens situation of Nany’s cousin Nicole just seemed a little too insignificant. Was I, after a loyal 26 seasons of careful viewing observation, finally too far removed from the immature shenanigans of Dario and Raphy? Why venture into this hot mess of drunken tomfoolery, TJ Lavin quotable gems, Are You the One? imposters (I am none too pleased with the addition of this recruitment pool – it’s like having to scout NBA players from an amateur league in Canada – I just don’t have the time, energy, or the resources), and the simple life of the Buell twins? I felt out of touch and frankly, kind of dirty while watching. The show I was watching felt so far removed from the “Hoorah!” camaraderie of Battle of the Sexes II, the glory years of the JEK dynasty, and the always entertaining battles among Wes, Wes’s ego, and the competition. Why continue to watch? I needed a compelling reason beyond an admitted loyalty to the heroic and herculean twelve year run of Johnny Bananas (primed to win his sixth title this season – even MJ took thirteen seasons to do the same). Then, this week, master pop culture barometer Bill Simmons came out of his own Challenge commentary sabbatical on the Bill Simmons Podcast.
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) December 11, 2015
With his pulse (and his 4.7 million Twitter followers in toe) driving the conversation, implicit permission had been passed on for me to follow suit. Like Jenna’s struggling cousin Brianna, I am not sure I am quite ready to handle this rodeo once again, but with promising late-game additions appreciatively cluttering the wonderful “this season on” it is too hard to pass up.
In lieu of a toast from Bananas (at this point the unofficial beginning of any The Challenge season), there is no better way (and an appropriate homage to the writing tomb of Monsieur Simmons) to begin this season’s coverage than with a retro running diary. From this point forward, “All is fair in love, war, and Challenges!”
7:00 – The scenes from last week are an unfortunate reminder of the travails of the Bloodlines conceit. Sure, family dynamics create a different and perhaps more compelling kind of drama (as Blood vs. Water seasons on Survivor highlighted), but this mostly ragtag group of Challenge newbies, with the exception of Bananas cousin, Vince, are obvious major downgrades on their OG counterparts. Was their resistance from the veterans to bring on a relative who could possibly steal some of their family holiday celebrity status thunder? Or are their not enough sane relatives (certainly plausible) who would be willing to throw themselves in to this teetering fish bowl of insanity? Either way, these Bloodlines are a weak new class of competitors. Fresh Meat ain’t what it used to be.
7:02 – In one of the season’s earliest non-surprises, Aneesa and her cousin Rianna almost kiss. After eleven seasons (the female competitor record) and a surging nostalgic relevance to this franchise, at this point Aneesa has earned the right to do whatever she damn well pleases in the house that TJ Lavin built.
7:03 – The decision to give a Bananas a GoPro for “super sneaky Bananas footage” is a stroke of genius. This type of constant innovation has carried The Challenge to 26 seasons of tomfoolery. Some early footage highlights: butts in the water and a inconspicuous new version of “rock, paper, scissors” played in the back of the bus by Thomas and Cara Maria who primed to “flirt her little butt off to get the final.” I wonder what the always measured Abram will have to say about this later in the season.
7:04 – Today’s Challenge promises to be “creepy.” Bananas, take the mic: “I’ve already seen every one of the girls in this house wake up in the morning, so I don’t know how much creepier the day can get.”
7:06 – TJ Lavin the Great sets some high expectations: “Every once in a while we have a challenge that you never forget. Well today, promises to be that day.” After ten years and seventeen years of hosting, he should know (#youkilledit). “I’d like to welcome you all to FAMILY DINNER. You guys are going to be eating live bugs.” Boom.
“I’ve already seen every one of the girls in this house wake up in the morning, so I don’t know how much creepier the day can get.” – Bananas, responding to the prospect of a “creepy” challenge
7:07 – The premise is simple: for ten minutes one partner chews live bugs and spits them through a tube into a cup while the other partner sustains composure while a snake crawls all over your face. You are either “eating” or “suffering.” Sounds like a great time!
7:09 – KellyAnne and Anthony are the current leaders for the “bloodline that most perplexes.” Case in point…this exchange:
KellyAnne: “If I know Anthony, he’s going to do great.”
Anthony: “She’s going to do fine. You should have seen the stuff she was feeding me when I went and visited her in LA.”
KellyAnne: “(Uncomfortable pause) It was vegan, but ok.”
Anthony: “Yeah, ok (shakes his head).”
What does this even mean? I am so confused.
7:09 – Nine minutes in, it seems like an appropriate time to touch base on what is going on with the Nicole (Nany’s cousin) eye/makeup situation in interviews. It’s like a cross between
7:10 – The initial “suffering” reports of the Round 1 competitors are universally Indiana Jonesian (“I hate snakes!”), except for Cara Maria’s who is admittedly right at home hanging out with a python.
7:11 – Pre-commercial reactions to “eating” are varied. Jamie goes right for chewing. Nany, Jill, and KellyAnne freak out. Candice really freaks out. Bananas just starts banging his head.
7:15 – Bananas, always The Challenge innovator, thinks with his head. “I’m gonna use this massive head of mine which also houses one of the biggest brains in the house to smash, stun, or in some way, shape, or form just render these insects disabled.”
7:16 – Cara Maria sneaks in some Boston accented words of encouragement and frankly, it’s about time. Besides some unexpected kinship with CT and Johnny Reilly over their respective area code 617 origins on past seasons, Cara tends to keep her r’s (pronounced “ahhs”) unaffected. Jamie’s bug deliveries to the dirty watah warrant a little extra something special.
7:17 – Nicole and Nany’s post-interview is a hot mess (“I did the best I could do!”) of apologies and excuses. My “way to go really far out really out on a limb” prediction of the season: Nicole and Nany will often find themselves at the center of the drama this season.
7:20 – Brianna intimates that “this is isn’t for her” and she “just kind of wants to go home.” Bon voyage! With Jenna’s at times rocky initial appearances and now with Brianna, Jay’s Bunim-Murray people contribution tree is a contender for worst of all-time. Only Sylvia’s skeleton and horrific former boss, Alicia, may be a worse additive to the franchise.
7:24 – Wait, I take back my initial desire to see Brianna go home. Watching Jenna (not exactly an intellectual or competitive stalwart) passive aggressively show her disappointment in Brianna is enduring entertainment. Let her stay TJ! I want more of this distressingly low level performance.
7:27 – Cara and Jamie win. Bananas thinks that Jamie’s experience eating prison food as a corrections officer is to account for his success with all the bugs. I still think it was Cara’s decision to go Boston with her accent.
7:28 – TJ Lavin the Great delivers the news of Brianna and Jenna’s obvious loss with a mid-season form zinger, “Some people weren’t really made for The Challenge.” Preach, TJ, killing it always.
7:31 – …but it’s a guys elimination day so none of it matters. Tough times, The Challenge producers. If you are going to have all teams compete in the same pool of winners and losers (all guy teams, all girl teams, and guy/girl teams) than you can’t differentiate who goes into the pit. If Brianna and Jenna lost, they have to go in and should have to face any team that the winners select. This is a wee-bit ridiculous. Why have the two women teams compete in the first place if winning and losing for them didn’t even matter? Inexcusable. Spend more time working out the game play kinks and less time making sure the alcohol cabinet is properly stocked. This is the 5th American Professional Sport! We can’t have stuff like this in season 26. Jenna: “If those are the rules than those are the rules.” No, if those are the rules change the rules.
7:39 – To make matters worse, Cohutta and Jill are the worst team with a guy on it and are headed for the pit. Jill: “I know it’s kind of silly to get upset over something that’s just a game, I can’t help but get a little emotional.” I don’t blame you. For this same “just a game,” you postponed your wedding to take a trip to transient celebrity status with some big cousin Cohutta bonding along the way only to face elimination because of ill-conceived game rules. Meanwhile, Jenna and Brianna are left behind for some bickering and Long Island white trashy talk.
7:41 – Which set of twins is it going to be? Strong Boston courtesy from Cara and Jamie gives Cohutta the call on who to face in the elimination. After a brief deliberation, he settles on the Dario and Raphy meat sandwich, a largely competitive unknown.
7:43 – Cara delivers the news to Dario and Raphy and they threaten to make war when they come back into the house after defeating “toddler” Cohutta. Frozen-footed and fearful Cara goes back to Cohutta, and Cohutta shares her tarsus temperature. Thomas and Stephen (“Buell. Buell.”) seem like an easier out. Cara admits that being in a power position may not be her sweet spot of comfort. Where is Bananas in all this for at least a brief, veteran consultation?
7:46 – Facing the perspective of Dario and Raphy wrath, Cara sends in Thomas (her hookup on the “low-low”) and Stephen. After a brief resentment period, Thomas makes quick peace in time enough for a night out!
7:47 – All the talk at the club is about Jenna’s less than partner who is openly planning her trip home. Aneesa, never one to hold back truth, delivers a “she’s not even cute” provocation to Jenna. It’s one thing to be a lousy partner, but for Jenna to be linked to someone not attractive enough…it’s about to go down…
7:50 – Back at the house, Brianna’s misery blows up in a tearful slop of blame and lame. Jenna, newly backboned, goes after her cousin with low blows about her cheating Spanish boyfriend. With Nicole and Nany handling the intervention, conflict resolution is just around the corner! Oh, wait.
7:52 – Brianna, according to Jenna’s (who is deceptively tall) account, thinks that all of the other housemates are degenerates and losers and that she is better than everyone else because she has a job at the bakery. Jenna unloads about dads in jail, ice cream, and someone’s boyfriend and short hair. It’s really as unintentionally comedic as it sounds. Nany wax-poetics on the sanctity of family. Bananas chews metaphoric popcorn from his front row seat. Cohutta chimes in perfectly: “I swear on my life. These people are insanely crazy.”
7:53 – Jenna and Brianna’s insincere apologies the next morning miraculously make it all better for now. Again, these are the women that should have been in the pit two weeks in a row and one of their members has outwardly declared her desire to go home! How could producers have screwed this one up so royally.
“I swear on my life. These people are insanely crazy.” – Cohutta, on the eve of elimination
7:55 – TJ, sans hat, announces SQUARING OFF. Thomas volunteers to go against Cohutta in this physical best of three rounds event. Cohutta aptly calls it a “damn David and Goliath thing.” Things are not looking good for Georgia’s own Challenge vet and his wedding postponement specialist cousin, Jill’s chances.
7:59 – Based on both my DVR and MTV app viewing, Cohutta and Jill are eliminated, but just not onscreen. Oops. Next week’s clip foreshadows a Camila throwback event and some medical issues for Tony. At this point, I am all in.
Stay tuned…This season’s first weekly power rankings to come on Wednesday.
“I am proud to be an NBA referee and I am proud to be a gay man,” Kennedy told Yahoo Sports on Sunday night. “I am following in the footsteps of others who have self-identified in the hopes that will send a message to young men and women in sports that you must allow no one to make you feel ashamed of who you are.”
The information shrapnel from this WojBomb is not that Bill Kennedy is gay. Sadly, the story is about the ugly and hateful personal derogation by Rajon Rondo against Kennedy, disguised as a routine (at least for Rajon) ejection temper tantrum. Rondo’s shameful denigration of Kennedy is inexcusable and embarrassing. As a professional in a professional sport whose progressive innovations continue to trend set among its peers, there is no room for Rondo’s dirty verbal play in today’s NBA. A one-game suspension seems like a painless wrist slap for the four-time All-Star and rejuvenated assist highlight reel. In full disclosure, let’s just say I have not been a fan of Bill Kennedy’s eighteen years in black and white (his refereeing skills have always been the bane to many a Celtics fan, coach, and player), but c’mon, Rajon. It is just inconceivable that an NBA player shamed another fellow NBA professional to come out. Thank you to Bill Kennedy for your honesty, strength, and courage amid this maelstrom of hate. There is a place for you (and even your mediocre refereeing!) in the association.
Rondo’s responses today don’t really get the point.
My actions during the game were out of frustration and emotion, period!
— Rajon Rondo (@RajonRondo) December 14, 2015
They absolutely do not reflect my feelings toward the LGBT community. I did not mean to offend or disrespect anyone.
— Rajon Rondo (@RajonRondo) December 14, 2015
Frustration and emotion often reveal our actual feelings. What else was he trying to do but offend and disrespect?
Today, Rajon Rondo may have lost a long-time, loyal fan.
Our relationship with new iterations and evolutions of our premier pop cultural staples of childhood can face upward battles of acceptance. There is an inevitable increase of cynicism laced with an “it’s never going to be as good as the original” negativity, but we often forget that it was our wide-eyed wonderment and open-hearted imagination that allowed the youthful connection to be made in the first place. As my experience with the 3D rerelease a few years ago can attest, the world of Jurassic holds one of the most special places in my heart of fandom. Today’s first theatrical trailer unveiling (first sent to me by fellow brother of Isla Nublar nation, Nik Walker) for next summer’s franchise reboot, Jurassic World, brings me such an uninhibited joy. On June 12 of next year it will have been fourteen years since the last ill-advised and chaotic exploration (and mostly forgettable) of this Jurassic mega-franchise, and it feels like this fourth theatrical release is hatching at just the right time.
Here are some of my major takeaways in trailer chronological order:
Note to kids being sent on a trip by your parents: If your parents are David Wallace from The Office and Kitty from Arrested Development and they remind you to remember to “run” if something chases you, don’t go on the trip.
Universal’s opening logo animation has an emotional linkage to Jurassic Park and its subsidiaries in an MGM Wizard of Oz or 20th Century Fox Star Wars kind of way. Legendary Pictures makes me think of Christopher Nolan’s motion pictures. So far, so great.
Yes, the Jurassic World gates may be a bit too CGIed, but this is a much appreciated iconic allusion. If only the late Richard Attenborough could narrate a “Welcome to Jurassic World” voiceover and we would be in transcendent anticipation territory.
“The Park Is Open.” And what a park it is! Key features include: Disney Park crowds, Disney Park commercialism (Oakley apparently opened up a shop), Gallimimus safaris, a decked out Gyrosphere through Brachiosaurus fields, a monorail, and a water theater with sharks used as dino-Shamu bait and water-splashing used as a way to promote LifeProof cases for iPhones.
Nothing reduces potential fan anxiety more than the declaration that Jurassic World is “from executive producer Steven Spielberg.” In Sir Steven we trust.
“We have our first genetically modified hybrid.” Ok, Bryce Dallas Howard’s bangs. This is not going to end well.
It took 1:34 seconds to introduce Chris Pratt, but he was worth the wait (and the weight loss). Part Star-Lord, part Robert Muldoon action figure, all awesome, Pratt’s star couldn’t shine any brighter. Great casting, Universal team.
Setting the escalating theorized dinosaur chaos to a stripped down and tempo-deficient Jurassic Park Theme from the great John Williams is a little stroke of genius. Well played.
“Run!” Poor Bryce Dallas Howard and her bangs.
If the final images of Chris Pratt biking through a Endorian velociraptor speeder chase don’t mark June 12 on your calendar, I am not sure your capacity for cinematic awesomeness is up to standards.
It’s that time of the decade again (years ending in “4” or “9” since 1984), and, unfortunately, there is still reason for money to be sent to help people in Africa. This time the ebola epidemic is the cause. Despite some lyrical changes and your usual onslaught of today’s artists of note, Bono is still singing the money line, thirty years later. Sinead O’Connor does her part by providing the unintentional comedy and curious wonderment as to why she received the invite.
As always, when I see a movie in theaters, I will (attempt to) write the five things you need to know about it.
5 Things You Need to Know About…
EDGE OF TOMORROW
1) My Edge of Tomorrow cinematic experience was easily the most fun I have had in a movie theater since the awestruck majesty of Gravity. Coming on the heals of the depressing and disheartening redundancy of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, my continued movie theater patronage was at stake. Edge of Tomorrow was exhilarating with a purpose, expertly navigating an otherworldly premise (an ultimate reset button in a futuristic Groundhog Day scenario) with logic, consistency, and justifiable rules. Yes, it couldn’t happen, but at the same time, it all seemed to make sense (so, the anti-X-Men: Days of Future Past). Unabashedly humorous and intentionally staying away from a funereal mythology, Edge of Tomorrow reminded me of all that can be fun about an original action/science fiction picture and how more such highly original concepts (thank goodness for Christopher Nolan, Inception, and the overwhelming promise of Interstellar) should be made. Please.
2) It is no surprise that at the forefront of this temporary reversal of cinematic fortune is a performer who over the years has consistently been the reason to spend the extra dollars to see a movie in theaters: the man born Thomas Cruise Mapother IV. At the youngest age 51 (52 next month) in recorded history, Tom Cruise remains ever the magnetic force of nature. His onscreen draw and appeal, imbedded in his fearless commitment to character and story, to passionate determination, to performing his own stunts, and to maintaining the illusion that he is taller than 5′ 5”, crackles and sparks with classic Tom Cruise luster in Edge of Tomorrow. He is having a great time and exuberantly invites the audience to ride shotgun on the ride.
3) As this movie’s female counterpoint to the scene-chewing dominance of a Tom Cruise performance, Emily Blunt fits into her role with an “I don’t really care what you think, so I am going to do what I want whenever I want” command. She pitch matches every Cruise energetic burst with a powered punch of her own. Their strategic and plotted co-dependence appreciatively stays largely out of “will they get together?” trope zone. The goal is to survive, save lives, destroy the alien insurrection, and then, if possible, save each other. Blunt is just as her name suggests without losing an iota of likability (she had this going for her in Looper as well).
4) Thank you to Edge of Tomorrow for recognizing that action humor has a place in a dystopian destruction movie. Despite my love of his work, the Nolan-nification of storytelling has largely yield worlds of morose melancholy. In Edge of Tomorrow, although the world is in the roughest of shape, the movie does not lose sight of how both the audience and the players within the story have to laugh a little at the challenging circumstances. Doug Liman’s editing and quick hitting cuts pop and spark moments of joyous levity that force an audible audience response usually in the form of laughter, if not a inhabited smile.
5) The Edge of Tomorrow is a movie that feels like both a relic of the golden era of the non-superhero summer action movie (this is a great thing by the way) and a fresh and perfectly executed piece of modern audience entertainment. It moves with a pulse, with a swagger, and with the confident smile that has marked much of the career of its top-billed movie star. It is a movie star’s movie and easily one of the best ways to be entertained this summer.