February 15, 2012

Over, Under and In Between

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I believe that hype is randomized. There must be some big Wheel-of-Fortune-esque spinner with every single cultural whatsit and thingamabob on it, turning ad infinitum. Whatever the spinner lands on — be it Quentin Tarantino or Ugg boots — gets awarded media hype. Every once in a while, the spinner will land on the jackpot, but instead of Pat Sajak handing Mindy from Milwaukee an all-inclusive Sandals resort vacation, The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences awards Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close an Oscar nod or The Grammy’s name Evanescence Best New Artist. Hype is this non-discerning critic, like A. O. Scott on his period or a bipolar Roger Ebert, who sometimes makes good decisions and sometimes just throws darts at a board to determine Hollywood’s next big thing. Over the years, it has been made evident that critics don’t always get it right, but just as the poor taste of fellow Cornelians makes me contemplate their existence, a legitimately good song may start blasting through frat house speakers — forcing me to examine the overrated, the underrated and everything in between.

The overrated: The Usual Suspects. Let me tell you, this category is inexhaustible. I mean, c’mon, Michael Cera? Scarface? Anything Damien Hirst has ever created? Betty White? Alas, I have settled on a film equally adored by viewers and critics: The Usual Suspects. The movie was good, but it wasn’t that good. Think about it — would anybody care about this movie if there weren’t a twist at the end? One scene does not a movie make. And seriously, if the audience is in suspense, asking “Who is Keyser Soze?” for the entire film, I’ve got a little trick that is sure to demystify any whodunit: Ask yourself who is the most famous (and believably villainous) person in the film — it takes talent to play a villain, especially a brilliant one whose identity should evade the audience’s estimates. (Spoiler Alert) In The Usual Suspects, Benicio Del Toro’s got serious chops, but it’s Kevin Spacey who’s most famous (plus he’s got that chilling, serial-killer monotone that any bad guy needs). See, it even works for Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Since Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig are immediately disqualified, the next most famous actor is that creepy professor guy from Good Will Hunting. And whaddya know?

The underrated: Kenan Thompson on Saturday Night Live. There’s tons of undiscovered stuff not getting equivalent press for equivalent quality, but Kenan Thompson deserves high praise. First off, the fact that we don’t just know him as “that fat guy from Good Burger” is pretty damn impressive. In fact, that was kind of where he was headed, considering his better half, Kel, has been MIA. Instead, he rose from a mere extra on SNL to one of the show’s main players. And the dude can actually sing as faux BET host DeAndre Cole in the recurring sketch, “What Up With That”. While Andy Samberg seems to steal the limelight (totally overrated, in my opinion), Thompson’s the go-to for many of the show’s skits.

The perfectly rated: Sherlock. If you have come across me in the last month, you have most likely been assaulted by my effusive worship for one Benedict Cumberbatch. Just say it. Benedict. Cumberbatch. Feels good, don’t it? It’s the coolest made-up-sounding name ever not to be made up, and he just so happens to play the title role in the perfectly awesome, perfectly rated show, Sherlock. This contemporary BBC remake of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Detective Sherlock Holmes series is getting decent exposure, but the seasons have had their ups and downs. The pilot was wonderfully erudite and even Inception-esque at parts, but I almost wanted to punch the next episode in the face for even existing. Season two stepped up the show’s game, continually blowing minds, but it was the third and final episode of season two, “The Reichenbach Fall,” that made me actually, like, feel feelings. Seriously. I am no longer the same person I was before I watched Reichenbach. I kid you not; this is the show you need to be watching.

The overrated and now underrated: Kanye West (as a person, not an artist). Why are people surprised that rappers are cocky bastards? Seriously, what kind of well-adjusted person would parade their bling and rims and general ghettofabulousness? You can’t take Yeezy seriously because he’s just a personality. Kanye’s had numerous mishaps with the media (“George Bush doesn’t care about black people”) but the whole Taylor Swift “Imma let you finish” thing at the 2009 MTV Music Awards caused a PR nightmare that he’s still trying to recover from. Do me a favor and give Kanye a break, will ya? He’s a prolific artist, he tweets the best things (“Sometimes I get emotional over fonts”) and he treats Aziz Ansari with great respect (bonus points). Besides…is it his fault if he suffers from realness?

The underrated and now overrated: Tumblr. There are several good things turned bad through overexposure: Lana Del Ray (in the 1.2 seconds it was cool to like her music), Fight Club, when it first bombed box offices and Banksy before Urban Outfitters started selling his book, for example. However, the one that hits closest to my heart is Tumblr, the microblogging platform — kind of like Stumbleupon if Stumbleupon was actually good. If Tumblr were a country, it’d be full of slightly antisocial hipsters that eat a lot of pizza, drink a lot of Earl Grey, smoke a lot of weed, listen to a lot of Bright Eyes and reblog a lot of cat memes while making Fresh Prince of Bel Air gifs. Basically, this was a Tumblr country full of my kind of people — that is until Jay Z and Joseph Gordon Levitt and the rest of the world joined. Now hoards of tween girls, spelling Tumblr with an “e” (gasp!) and linking their posts to Facebook (a most egregious error) have invaded our land and slammed our dashboards with Selena Gomez photosets. Pretty soon, Tumblr CEO David Karp may start selling ad space and my beloved country will have been raped and pillaged by the masses.

Original Author: Alice Wang

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