West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/26/23

So, like many other Marvel fans, I saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3. Seeing as how I still haven’t gotten around to Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania – even though it’s now on Disney+, in the comfort of my own home – I was starting to feel like I was losing a bit of my MCU Geek Cred. If you know me “in real life”, then you know the past few months have been pretty crazy, and it’s a miracle I even saw this thing. Anyway, I went to my traditional Thursday night release, and prepared to say goodbye to Star-Lord’s motley team. I probably had a bunch to say when the movie was over, but I’ve gotta wait a week to give the bulk of folks a chance to watch it, and then I ended up adding another week to that because LIFE, so now I don’t have many crazy opinions on it.

I will say that GOTG Vol 3 was the first MCU film I *loved* since Avengers: Endgame. Sure, the bloom is off the rose for Endgame, as folks have had enough time to pick it apart, but I ranged from “tolerated” to “really liked” when it came to all the Phase 4 Marvel films. Every time one of these films comes out, some reviewer dying to see their name on a TV spot will say “Marvel’s Best Yet!”, but that pretty much lost all meaning after Eternals. This time, however, it wouldn’t have been false to have said “Marvel’s Best This Decade!” It was a good film, and a fitting farewell to a sub-franchise about an underdog team that had no right to be as great as it was.

At the end of the day, this was a Rocket movie. Sure, the whole team was there, but it was Rocket’s origin story, while also advancing the character’s development. It sort of feels like the MCU’s “Everything Is Connected” ethos is hanging by a thread, as you would have thought the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special would have been more important here. Sure, not everyone has Disney+, and you can’t assume your entire audience has seen it. That said, the fact that Star-Lord and Mantis are siblings is just kind of thrown out in an off-hand manner, much like how it was revealed in the special. It had no real consequence for the characters nor the plot. And, sure, the special set up that Nowhere was the Guardians’ new base of operations, but that would have been pretty easy to grasp without having seen it. For a continuity guy, like myself, I just feel like you’ve gotta make this stuff *matter* or don’t do it at all. Otherwise, don’t dangle little trivia to be cute.

I know a lot of people had issues with the animal cruelty, but that wasn’t me. I don’t really care about animals, and these were CGI, so it’s not like they were showing actual footage from an Avon test lab. I’ve heard some people cried. Again, not me, but I’m glad it resonated so much with people – many of whom tend to think the MCU is just chock full of cookie cutter dreck.

Now, for the characters. I LOVED Drax’s arc, even if he didn’t get closure with Thanos. He was a dad and, at this point in my life, that resonated with me. I’m glad they didn’t Magic their way into restoring Gamora and getting her back on the team full time. I’ve come to really like Nebula, and hope that isn’t the last we’ve seen of that character. Groot was Groot. Always dependable, like a mighty oak. Mantis even experienced some growth. As for Star-Lord, I’m glad he’s come down from the stars, and it would be great to see him interact more regularly with the earthbound heroes. Hell, I’d love another Disney+ special of just him, acclimating to today’s pop culture: Michael Jackson’s dead, Madonna is a bird creature, Alyssa Milano is a social activist. A lot has changed since the 80s, and he’s got a lot of catching up to do!

One thing I’ll say, though, is that Marvel doesn’t do a great job getting you excited for new rosters of old teams. When I saw the New Guardians, as showcased in the mid credits scene, I was just as underwhelmed as when we were introduced to the new Avengers lineup at the end of Age of Ultron. It’s like, if they make it, I’ll see it, but I’m not gonna be excited about it.

So GOTG Vol 3 actually made me excited about the MCU again, which I was pretty sure was a thing of the past. I was never going to fully let go, but the anticipation just wasn’t there for me anymore. One issue with the Bob Chapek era of Disney is that he was determined to milk that cow, and they were just cranking out content because they could. Now that Iger is back, the company is being more reserved with their offerings. Fewer Disney+ series, and more of a focus on quality over quantity. Hopefully. I mean, Secret Invasion premieres in 25 days, so…

Speaking of the MCU, over in Podcastland, I was invited on the After Lunch Podcast to come up with new additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We were each tasked with choosing a property that was licensed and published by Marvel, but wasn’t considered a “Marvel character”. For example, there was a Marvel comic adaptation of the film Meteor Man, so that character could be used in this endeavor. Then, we had to figure out how to incorporate this character/concept into what has already been established in the Marvel movies. Without hyperbole, I can’t remember the last time I was more proud of a concept than I was by my final entry in this storytelling venture. What was it? Well, you’ll just have to listen to find out!

Trailer Park

The Creator (theaters, September 29th)

This looks like Children of Men, if it were created by Neil Blomkamp. This is the kind of movie that I won’t see in a theater, even though that’s undoubtedly the best way to see it. No, this is the kind of movie I buy used, years down the road, and never get around to watching (Looking at YOU, Ex Machina!).

No Hard Feelings (theaters, June 21st)

This is WORLDS better than the first trailer I posted for this movie. It’s now looking like something I’d actually want to see. In the first trailer, it felt horribly miscast, and it seemed like a role Lawrence took just because she was shopping for beach houses. Now, however, I’m picking up what she’s putting down. I’d say I’d wait for it to come on TBS or something, but, being an R-rated comedy, all the best stuff would be edited out. So, while I won’t see it in theaters, I’ll totally buy it once it hits $9.99 on Bluray.

Oppenheimer (theaters, July 21st)

I had absolutely no interest in this film while it was being made. I’d see Film Bros talking about it, and just think “Not for me!” But then something happened. You see, there is a phenomenon where men hit a certain age where World War II starts to become interesting to them. I used to think it was an affliction relegated to White men, but I guess I was wrong. I seem to have hit that age. This looks really good. And that cast! I…I may just have to venture to the theater for this.

Barbie (theaters, July 21st)

Seeing as how this comes out the same day as Oppenheimer, I smell Double Feature! I still find myself unsettled by the world depicted in this film, but I’m glad there’s a “Comes into the real world” component, because it was gonna feel like a fever dream if they spent the whole movie in Barbie Land. I really don’t know what to expect here, but I love pretty much everyone in the cast, so I don’t see how it can miss.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Usually this is around the time I would have done my annual network Upfronts post, but everything’s canceled or paused due to the Writers Guild of America strike – so much so that ABC unveiled an ALL REALITY schedule for Fall.
  • Fans bid farewell to The CW’s “Arrowverse”, which came to an end with this week’s series finale of The Flash.
  • Because his campaign manager must be a 25-year old incel, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis used Twitter Spaces to announce he’s running for the Republican nomination for the 2024 Presidential election.
  • LL Cool J’s Sam Hanna character has just become the “Worf” of the NCIS franchise, as it was announced he’d be joining NCIS: Hawaii, mere days after he was last seen in the NCIS: LA series finale.
  • Wanting to leave his past behind him, the artist formerly known as The Weeknd now wants to be called by his given name, Abel Tesfaye.

Some weeks, I don’t write because I don’t feel like anything was deserving of the West Week Ever. I used to just say something like “Try harder, America”, but that felt like a cop-out. So, we end up with more gaps between posts, while things in pop culture begin to percolate. Then, some weeks, I feel I have to write because, well, I have to. I don’t tend to cover celebrity deaths here because I might miss someone y’all care about who simply flew under my radar (looking at you, Ray Stevenson). Or, it might be someone iconic, where I just don’t have much to say (like a certain Private Dancer). Still, every now and then, there’s a passing that does affect me, and it’s then that they get the distinction of having the West Life Ever. Well, this is gonna be one of those posts.

This week, my family and I had to say goodbye to Daisy Buchanan West – our 19 year old, perpetually angry cat. Like I said above, I really don’t care about animals, except for how they taste. Sorry, PETA. I’m not the guy who’s gonna run up and ask if I can pet your dog. They can stay over there, and I’ll be fine right here. For some reason, though, animals tend to like me. Throughout my life, I’ve established a special bond with a handful of animals. There was my neighbor’s dog, Tammy, who I’d care for during their vacation trips. There was my mom’s cat, Motor, who just kinda did his own thing, but we had a mutual respect for each other. And, then, there was Daisy.

I met Daisy when I met my wife, Lindsay. She had brought her from Colorado when she moved out here, and they were a package deal. Again, I don’t really care about animals but, sure, I’ll pretend to like your cat. In the beginning, Daisy pretty much kept her distance. We both occupied our own space. Eventually, she would crawl over me, and I’d tense up, because I wasn’t used to that. Then, she got comfortable, and that’s when the biting started. Ya see, Daisy wasn’t a scratcher. She was a biter. And she’d do it when you least expected it. She’d sit on your lap, and insinuate she wanted you to pet her. Once she had gotten her fill, however, she’d quickly turn around, bite your hand, jump off your lap, and then look back at you, as if to say, “Yeah, I did that. Tell your friends!” That was her way of telling you she loved you. If I was lying on the bed on my stomach, she’d climb up and sit on my back. If I was on my back, she’d sit on my legs, and that’s how we’d go to sleep, every night, for 15 years.

We moved all over this county with her, from an apartment to my mom’s to our house. She was there when Evie was born, and eventually she was biting her. She was there when Charley was born, and soon she was biting her. At one point, we tried introducing a dog into our family unit, but that was a failed experiment (Don’t worry, he’s currently enrolled in community college and doing great!). It’s not that he and Daisy didn’t get along. They seemed to respect each other. No, we made the mistake of getting a dog that was going to grow to the size of our house. I didn’t sign up for Clifford! So, once again, it was just us and Daisy.

In recent years, Lindsay would remark how Daisy was getting old, and how cats don’t live after a certain age. I knew that we would all be broken up when that day came. In March, Daisy turned 19, and it felt like she could be living on borrowed time. Back in the day, she’d race through the house, as if she was chasing something that only she could see. Now, I noticed she wasn’t racing anymore. Hell, she wasn’t even running anymore. When she’d come upstairs, it sounded like a peg-legged pirate ghost was slowly making its way up. She had trouble jumping up on things. She spent a lot of time sleeping, but that’s what I would do if I didn’t have shit in the world to care about, so I didn’t think much of it. Now, when she sat on us, it wasn’t always on our laps. No, she would actually climb up higher, and sit on our chests, just under the shoulder, as if she was giving us a hug. What I also noticed, however, was that the biting had stopped. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been bitten. “Hugs” had replaced biting.

When we woke up Sunday morning, it was clear that something was wrong. She equal parts wanted to be touched and not touched at the same time. She was breathing funny. Lindsay was worried, as were the rest of us. Lindsay asked the girls if there was anything they wanted to tell Daisy. As young as they are, they didn’t totally grasp the situation at that time, but they told Daisy they loved her and petted her. We found an emergency vet, the kids got dressed, and off we went. I sat in the car with girls, letting them watch YouTube Kids on my phone, while Lindsay and Daisy walked inside. It wasn’t 10 minutes before Lindsay called me: They were going to have to put her down. The rest of that day was something of a blur. I did my usual Sunday stuff – laundry, groceries, etc – but I didn’t really notice anything different because it was common for Daisy to sometimes hide during the day. No, I felt it that night. As I went to bed, I didn’t hear the pirate ghost coming up the stairs. There was no one on my legs. I missed that weight that was always there. There was no loud “Meow” that I feared might wake up the girls. Simply, there was no Daisy.

It hasn’t been a great week, but we’re getting through it. I never really understood why folks would get all upset when a pet died. I mean, it’s not like y’all were doing your homework together (except my exceptionally smart dog in community college), or going out for Karaoke. No, these were just things that ran around and pooped and sometimes looked at you weird. The thing is, these pets become fixtures – part of the family. Daisy was my first daughter, as I fed her, and changed her box, and looked after her. Something that started out as Just That Girl’s Cat became something I loved and cared for. And I know she loved me, too. So, raise your glasses to Daisy, who had the West Life Ever. And to me, for having had a better life with her in it.


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