Pop Culture Blind Spot: Crossroads

Okay, you know those movies and shows that everyone has seen, and when it comes up in conversation you just sort of nod and hope nobody asks you anything? I have a lot of those. The entire Godfather series, for example. I know. Anyway, we’re both out to tackle our pop culture blind spots and find out if the phenomenon we’ve missed out on are really all they’re cracked up to be.

Our first installment is a cinematic masterpiece that is the zenith of my generation’s teen entertainment. It stars Britney Spears and was written by a young Shonda Rhimes. And I’m pretty sure I’ve told like 5 people that I’ve seen it when it came up in conversation. That was a lie.

Ladies and gentlemen, Crossroads.


 

0:00 Not only have I refrained from seeing this movie since it came out in 2002, I have also been pushing it down our post queue for, like, two months. So I think a lot of our Pop Culture Blind Spots are movies, shows and albums that we’ve avoided because a still small voice said “another episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, why don’t we?”

1:00 Taryn Manning, Zoe Saldana, Shonda Rhimes? This was an incubator for stars of the future.

1:20 … and the past. Kool Mo Dee, anyone? [Edit – next morning: I cannot remember where or how Kool Mo Dee appeared in this movie.]

I have already had to pause this to laugh at the Brit Spears voice over.

1:40 The wardrobe department did a very good job on the 90s flashback jacket for young Zoe Saldana (Kit, but it sounds like Britney is saying Kid). It’s easy to picture “90s kids clothes” today, but when it was only a couple years after the fact it was hard to remember what has changed. Like, if you told me to dress a child like it’s 2007, I’d put it in …. an Obama Hope logo tee shirt? No clue.

By the way, young Britney is played by Jamie Lynn Spears, before her life and career went in a totally different direction. You could almost say she was …. at a crossroads.

2:20 There’s a time capsule. I’m hooked.

3:00 Oh thank God. Britney is singing again. Madonna’s Open Your Heart, which is really more suited to a televised mass wedding, to be honest.

3:51 BRIT IS THE VALEDICTORIAN. This is important.

4:10 PENNSATUCKY IS A PREGNANT TEEN. This is more important. I also am not sure how or when Taryn Manning became typecast as the redneck bad girl from the wrong side of the tracks, but she is so amazing at it.

OMG THIS FOREVER YES.

5:50 Why is Brit in a prom dress AFTER graduation? Do they do that in … is this Louisiana?

In my day (2 years after this movie was made) graduation night was the first chance you had to start never seeing most of those people ever again.

6:36 Britney Acting Range: Emotion #1: Pouty. She cries over missing out on high school stuff to become the valedictorian. When she says “I was like ‘is this it?'” you can almost see her straining to recall memorized dialogue.

7:23 They’re at some sort of fancy post-grad soiree. I forgot how shiny and pink 2002 was. Saldana is rocking the rows of twisted hair into a bun look. Sans butterfly clips, because it’s not 1999 here.

Reminiscent of the best Zoe Saldana role of all time, Eva in Center Stage.

10:30 Brit and her Nerdy Male Friend (Lucy and Henry, which sounds more like a preschool class in 2015 than a high school class in 2002) prepare to have sex for, presumably, the first time. There is a scarf strewn over a bedside lamp. Does anyone toss a scarf over a lamp before sex IRL? Anyone? Seems like a fire haz.

Henry, BTW, is Justin Long in his early career.

12:45 Pennsatucky fights with a guy with molded vertical Ken Doll hair.

14:38 The Time Capsule was so boring. Oh my god, so boring. They put in emblems of their hopes and dreams, which is exactly as not-interesting as it sounds. Saldana wanted to get married, Brit wanted to find her mom, and Pennsatucky wanted to get out of dodge.

Britney Acting Range: Emotion #2: Opening a box. Kind of neutral, but wouldn’t most of us be if we were opening such a boring-ass time capsule?

17:10 Brit calls her mom “mother” which gives me hope that things will turn Baby Jane/ Psycho / SOMETHING.

Yo remember those slim-fit rugby shirts we used to wear? I assume there’s a name for them.

That one shirt we all had.

19:40 Bucket hat. Trailer park. They’re going to LA.

21:32 You know those people who,when you’re singing in the car, try to ~show off and sing really good? Britney Spears is that person.

Saldana has those sunglasses with a shape in rhinestone decals. Those are Paige Michalchuk sunglasses.

25:40 Ben was in jail. Ben is the guy they’re driving to LA with. Never take rides from a stranger, friends. That’s how you get serial killed.

27:00 Saldana is rocking some yellow-gold eyeshadow that I also sported a lot c. 2002. I thought it made my blue eyes “pop” but I looked like a baby that needed to get put under those jaundice lights.

Also they’re buying Funyuns. Do people actually like those?

29:00 Dan Aykroyd wants Brit to come home. I have avoided mentioning that Dan Aykroyd was her father till now because it pains me.

31:10 Those shirts with the thin neck scarf thing attached! I had roughly the same top as Saldana has on.

32:18 Pennsatucky and Saldana fight. If anything is redeeming in this movie, it’s Taryn Manning. She is amazing.

Britney Spears Acting Range: Emotion #3: Frustration. Broken-down car on road trip.

35:55 The girls do a Karaoke performance to make money. I Love Rock n Roll. I forgot about that Britney Spears cover. Spears packed a crimper in their luggage, apparently; thank God. She also has one of those shirts where the writing on it is split open in front of her cleavage, and her underwear is a solid inch above her low-rise jeans. Okay. So I have adjusted to the 90s fashion revival, but it’s really going to sting when the early 2000s come back.

38:00 Did you ever notice that Britney changes the end of every word that ends in an “ee” sound into an “ay” sound? ‘He was with may.’ I think that must have been part of the Mickey Mouse Club training protocol, because the late 90s boy bands did that, too. Or is it a very specific accent native to the Oakwood?

43:00 The girls have a slumber party at the house from Pretty Baby.

I waited to add images til my lunch break, and I can’t look up Pretty Baby at work because… have you seen Pretty Baby? But Google it and you’ll see that the set design is 100% the same.

 

Child!Saldana went to fat camp. Is fat camp real? Has anyone been? Will you write a guest post? I’m dying to know more.

44:55: Britney Spears Acting Range: Emotion #4: Rue. Rue? Rueful? She’s bummed. Mom stuff.

You know what this movie is missing? The Shonda Rhimes cadence from Scandal. Where they all “talk like THIS, like.. they are reading a SLAAAM… poem.”

46:00 Wait, Pennsatucky is pregnant because she got date raped? This just got dark.

50:10 How many sing alongs do they have to do? I mean I know it’s a road trip movie… with Britney Spears in it… but I want to leave sing alongs to Man! I Feel Like A Woman on my high school tennis bus where they belong.

54:20 Car Owner Ben was arrested for helping his sister get away from his stepdad. This is the least fun road trip ever.

57:45 NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.

Nobody told me that Britney was going to dramatically recite the lyrics to Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman. I would have remembered if somebody told me that. I would have steeled myself for it. Britney Spears Acting Range: Emotion #5: Poetess.

Shouldn’t a valedictorian be better at writing?

1:00:00 Kim Cattrall is here. Maybe that will help. She’s Brit’s mom, who lives in a McMansion. Lots of white, light oak, and giant floral arrangements. The decor preferences of a total bitch. She is dressed like the Crocodile Hunter, may he rest in peace.

1:06:40 Ben set Brit’s “poem” to music. That’s what I’ve been watching for over an hour? The origin story of Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman? Britney Jean Spears’ fifth-best single? Now anybody who knows me knows that I love early 2000s-era Britney … hell, all the Britneys… but this is just too much.

“Not a girl, not yet a woman.” So, a teenager. That’s a teenager.

1:09:20 They’re singing in the car again (If It Makes You Happy by Sheryl Crow, this time). Oh Christ Jesus. Holy Mary Mother of God. Sing With All The Saints In Glory. Why? If I wanted to listen to someone sing Sheryl Crow in the car I would go run errands with my mom.*

* If you like me even a little bit, you would love my mom.

1:12 I’m sure they explained this in between sing alongs, but how do they have the money to stay at all these hotels? Car Owner Ben? Now they’re in LA in a room with a beach view that looks like it would be the set of a Mary Kate And Ashley original movie. One of them would be the girly, sweet one and the other would be the sporty, funny one and their names would be Cleo and Baylee. Or Maddi and Lylah. Or Trixie and Summer.

Shea and Maxie?

 

1:14:02 Ben has a back piece of angel wings, but make no mistake, he’s no Helena.

1:15:40 Oh shit. Saldana’s BF is hooking up with some hussy AND he’s wearing one of those zip up bowling shirt things. AND he raped Pennsatucky. So obvi Pennsatucky owes nothing to anybody at this point, but wouldn’t you do a friend a solid and tell her that her BF/Fiance is a rapist? Or like slip it into a note since it’s an uncomfy convo. I’d say you could text it, but in 2002 that would have taken like 15 minutes and that’s IF your plan had texting.

1:18:20 Pennsatucky fell down the stairs getting away from Rapist Dylan and lost the baby. This road trip is the pits. Is anything good going to happen to her ever, or is this an early 2000s cautionary tale about going to parties in the first place or some-such?

I feel like this is an e.e. cummings poem where Milly (Brit) gets to befriend a fallen star whose rays five languid fingers were, and freaking Molly (Pennsatucky, Saldana) has to get chased by a terrible thing that runs sideways blowing bubbles.

1:24 So Pennsatucky sat out her miscarriage or whatever, and now they’re ready to go.

**** At this point, I went to take a picture of the screen but was accidentally on selfie mode. It’s against my better judgement to post this, but this is the ACTUAL UNALTERED FACE I WAS MAKING while watching this:

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Those aren’t so much eyes as saucers brimming with confusion. ***

1:25 Dan Aykroyd comes to collect Brit. She says “don’t make me run, let me go.” Then she hands him her locket so that he can keep half of it and find her at an orphanage in 10 years, and she leaves to make out with the guy she met that week.

There’s a billboard for Spy Kids in the background, to give you an idea of what era we’re in.

And if there were still any doubt of what era we’re in, Brit sings at an American Idol-esque audition wearing a criss-cross crop top with enormous billowing sleeves. Pennsatucky and Saldana, fresh off a miscarriage and finding out her fiancé is a rapist, respectively, sing backup.

1:29 They make a new time capsule, but with no wishes for the future, because I guess Britney is the only character who has one at this point. For they are not girls, not yet women.

Teenagers.

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Show You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already: Orange Is The New Black

Raise your hand if you were apprehensive about the idea of Netflix creating original programming. I thought it was a smart idea for Arrested Development to make its big comeback online after the networks gave it the heave ho, but when I heard the people behind Netflix were going to continue their venture into alternative programming, I didn’t really think it was going anywhere.

Boy was I wrong.

I watched House of Cards, thought it was brilliant, and then it gave me hope that Orange is the New Black would be just as good. After hearing from a bunch of people and seeing the fandom grow on Tumblr, I decided to give it a try. And in all honesty, I loved it more than Kevin Spacey looking straight into my soul in House of Cards.

Created by the woman behind Weeds, Jenji Kohan, I knew that if OITNB had any of the same drama/weird comedy her previous show did, it would at least be pretty decent. And for you Weeds fans, I expected it to be as good as at least the first 2 seasons in Agrestic.

Quick plot summary: Based on a true story, Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) is a yuppie, Connecticut-raised, New York City resident who is engaged to her fiance, Larry Bloom (Jason Biggs). In the pilot, she is sentenced to a women’s correctional facility after being convicted of carrying drug money for drug smuggler Alex Vause (Laura Pepon) – who also happens to be her ex-girlfriend. Piper is introduced to an eccentric group of fellow inmates, and learns the ropes of living in jail.

I think what makes this show special is that although Piper is the main character and the story revolves around her, the magic of the show is the outstanding ensemble of actors that come together to create a group of people you care about – even though they are all criminals. Besides Piper, I believe, you get to know each person before it is revealed what they did in order to spend time in prison. We get to know these characters on a human level, not a criminal one.

Here are just a few of the standout recurring characters from OITNB,

Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson

played by Danielle Brooks

Taystee is probably the liveliest, most energetic inmate in the prison. In fact, she’s so upbeat that she’s the main reason why at times, you forget you’re watching a show that takes place behind bars.  Taystee also is an excellent employee in the prison library (as seen above), which makes me love her even more.

Poussey Washington

Played by Samira Wiley

  Poussey is Taystee’s best friend, and their friendship is one to be jealous of. In a place where the ladies often look to each other for ahem.. sexual relief… Taystee and Poussey’s friendship is endearing, natural, and at its heart – a story two lifelong sisters.

Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett

played by taryn manning

This bitch cray. There’s no other way to describe it. She’s like The Situation or Sarah Palin – you know what they’re saying and doing is wrong, but you can’t help but watch it all go down in flames. Pennsatucky is a former drug addict who turns herself into a self-proclaimed evangelist for God. Except everything she does is not Christian at all.

Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren

played by uzo aduba

Oh Crazy Eyes. She has the most fitting nickname, because all you have to do is look at her. She quickly becomes obsessed with Piper, but things go awry once she tells her she’s engaged – to a man – and does not want to hook up. Let’s just say, don’t get Crazy Eyes mad when she’s had a lot to drink.

Sophia Burset

played by laverne cox

Sophia is a transgender woman who is the hairdresser for many of the inmates. As if living as a transgender isn’t hard enough out in the real world, it’s even more difficult in prison. But Sophia has this exceptional confidence that she always carries that would make any woman – or man – jealous.

Nicky Nichols

played by Natasha Lyonne

I feel like Natasha Lyonne was made for the role. Nicky Nichols is a former drug addict who provides snarky commentary and A+ advice to her fellow inmates.

BONUS: John Bennett

Played by Matt McGorry, Bennett is a correctional officer who is in a secret relationship with inmate Daya. I did not include a picture because I graduated college with him and it’s weird to see his face everywhere. I got freaked out and had to stop searching. But he’s included so I can compare my success in life with his (not as impressive as his).

BONUS x2: The cast members are people you actually want to hang out with IRL. Case in point: TWERKING.

BONUSx3: Even though we’re nearing the end of the summer TV season, there’s still plenty of time to fit in another series before fall TV kicks up again. So after you watch OITNB and are left wondering what to watch, we suggest using this awesome TV show generator to find your next fave series!

Click image to open interactive version (via CableTV.com).