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The 14 best pop culture things of 2016 so far

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We're just a shade over the way through 2016, can you believe it? Time is only a flat circle on TV, here in reality it passes so quickly that when I started this blog post Kevin Durant was on the Thunder. Won't you look back on happier times in popular culture with me?

The Lobster 

Nathan and I went back and forth about The Lobster a little while back and I can’t really add much more to it than that, other than to compliment the versatility of Colin Farrell’s paunchy gut. So intimidating and cop-like in "True Detective," so meek and sad in The Lobster.

Image via HBO Go
Image via HBO Go

Game of Thrones season 6, episode 5, “The Door”

[Be advised that spoilers await. If you’re not caught up all the way on season 6 of Game of Thrones, then you may just wanna skip to the next page.]

We recoiled in disgust and horror at the flesh-and-mud chaos of war in episode 9, “Battle of the Bastards,” and enjoyed the immense satisfaction of closure in the recent season finale, “The Winds of Winter,” but episode 5 held the reveal of a series-long long game, at once shocking and gut-wrenching.

What was a piece of seemingly inconsequential scenery and occasional humor in Hodor’s limited vocabulary is now a symbol for heroism and sacrifice, as great as any act of valor in a TV show about knights and gallantry. It was also metal as all hell. The brave half-giant’s death was so traumatic, that —bridged through time by Bran’s greenseer and warging abilities— it left him scarred for his previous existence, creating a sort of lifelong feedback loop of tragedy. Maybe it was just a coincidence that Hodor took a hard one for the team the same night Steven Adams did, or maybe life really does imitate art.

Also, if you're into it, I picked out a hypothetical GoT small council last year.

Blood Orange — “Freetown Sound”

The modern civil rights movement gets its well-deserved “Sign o’ The Times.”

Green Room

For a grisly grindhouse workout more stressful than doing Crossfit, Green Room found gracefulness and beauty in the unlikeliest of places: the punk rock mosh pit. The death of Anton Yelchin hit especially hard after seeing him in this one, all wiry vitality and determination.


Charles Bradley — “Changes” (Black Sabbath cover)
Sturgill Simpson retrofitted Nirvana’s “In Bloom” nicely, but I don’t hear that and think “Country tune.” This is a soul ballad that somehow got crossways in the songwriting ether.

 


Mitski — “Your Best American Girl”
A great song for its time about not fitting into a boring culture and determining to thrive.

 

 

Sheer Mag live at the Capri in Marfa, Texas
<p>Sheer Mag performs live at the 2016 Marfa Myths music festival Saturday March 12, 2016 in Marfa, Texas. [Photo by Matt Carney, for LOOKatOKC]</p>

Sheer Mag performs live at the 2016 Marfa Myths music festival Saturday March 12, 2016 in Marfa, Texas. [Photo by Matt Carney, for LOOKatOKC]

Been gushing for the rock scene in Philadelphia the last couple of years —bands like The War on Drugs, Kurt Vile, Restorations— but Sheer Mag are easily my favorite, and certainly the most exciting live act. Finally got to catch them down in southwest Texas back in the spring and man do they rip. Kyle Seely’s nervy lead guitar work’s fun to watch, but you can’t tear your eyes away from Tina Halladay’s full-body singing hysterics.

 


Chance the Rapper — “No Problem”
Liven up y’all, it’s a celebration.


Hail, Caesar!

There seems to be a critical consensus out there that Hail, Caesar belongs in the tier of lesser Coen brothers films alongside, like, Burn After Reading and The Ladykillers. I’d like to shrink that notion down to the size of an ice cube so I can drown it in a 7-Eleven Big Gulp. And dump it in the sewer.

For starters, Ladykillers had the cojones to cast one of the world’s most beloved stars —Forrest Friggin’ Gump— as a racist Colonel Sanders cartoon and aim for no meaning or moral whatsoever. And in an even more impressive feint, the Coens supplanted him as the film’s main character with a kindly, generous, not-quite-all-there black matron, whom they clearly adore. It’s not No Country for Old Men, (Dude, There Will Be Blood isn’t No Country for Old Men) but at least Ladykillers did it big. And Burn After Reading shot Brad Pitt point-blank in the face!

So, yeah, the Coen lesser tier is a myth and Hail, Caesar! is good. Will there ever be another film with Channing Tatum tap-dancing through a show tune, fat Oscar Isaac and Frances McDormand doing a slapstick interlude? I think the reason why critics relegated it to Lesser Coen was that they either misconstrued it as a satire or a screwball comedy, and yeah, as either of those things it leaves a lot desired. But as a series of earnest inside jokes about the follies of making of movies? Now we’re getting somewhere.


Margo Price — “About to Find Out”
Authenticity is cool and all but acerbic songwriting goes a long way too and Margo Price’s got both in spades.


Jared on "Silicon Valley"
Image via HBO Go
Image via HBO Go

This third season of Silicon Valley’s started retreading old sub-plots, but Zach Woods’ unrelentingly optimistic softhearted dweeb amongst tech evangelists and slackers is enough to keep watching ad infinitum.

Jared mostly functions as the Pied Piper gang’s conscience —albeit one with latent Oedipal issues— and somehow gets in, like, two lines every episode that hint at some tragic, rural backstory. Coming from his ever-cheery choirboy, they seem almost perverse. Please don’t murder me, Jared.

The 1975 — “The Sound”
They’re pretty Brits who respect Prince and women, what’s not to like? Anyway, I’m pretty sure this song’s about cocaine.

Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go is displayed on a cell phone in Los Angeles on Friday, July 8, 2016. Just days after being made available in the U.S., the mobile game Pokemon Go has jumped to become the top-grossing app in the App Store. And players have reported wiping out in a variety of ways as they wander the real world, eyes glued to their smartphone screens, in search of digital monsters. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
Pokemon Go is displayed on a cell phone in Los Angeles on Friday, July 8, 2016. Just days after being made available in the U.S., the mobile game Pokemon Go has jumped to become the top-grossing app in the App Store. And players have reported wiping out in a variety of ways as they wander the real world, eyes glued to their smartphone screens, in search of digital monsters. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

It’s only been out like a week now and it’s already changed the world dramatically, both for its users who now spend every spare moment walking around looking at their phones and making up excuses to walk somewhere they normally wouldn’t, as well as the people-watchers who now get to watch us walk into, like, water fountains and stuff.

Just don’t get robbed while you're playing. And if you happen to find a dead body while wandering around the woods, at least your phone’s right there to call the police immediately. 

<p>From left, BRONCHO is Ryan Lindsey, Penny Hill, Nathan Price and Ben King. [Photo provided by Pooneh Ghana]</p>

From left, BRONCHO is Ryan Lindsey, Penny Hill, Nathan Price and Ben King. [Photo provided by Pooneh Ghana]

Broncho — “Double Fantasy”
Three different people independently confirmed to me that this album is a grower so I tested their hypothesis, and yep, it improves dramatically once you just sorta incorporate it into your general lifestyle as a soundtrack to whatever you’re doing. Driving to work, washing the dishes, exercising, whatever, you’ll find yourself humming Ryan Lindsey’s melodies and muttering his nonsense lyrics to yourself whenever it isn’t on.

Related Photos
Image via HBO Go

Image via HBO Go

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Matt Carney

Matt Carney is the night editor of NewsOK.com and a 2011 graduate of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication. He was born in Tulsa, lives in Oklahoma City and misses QuikTrip every day. Read more ›

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