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“57 Channels and Nothin’ On” Doesn’t Make Sense in the Streaming Environment and You Have No Excuse, Marina Koren

So, here it is, in yet another article exploring just how creatively bereft the kids are nowadays, and how their nonsense actively makes a world a shittier place. Now, I’m not taking about clickbait morons like “We’ve Got This Covered” and Gizmodo’s Germain Lussier, who wouldn’t know how to craft a useful sentence about Art if you told him the dog gets it if they don’t. I’m not even talking about well-meaning shills like The Mary Sue or The A.V. Club, fallen from previous heights of usefulness. No, I’m talking about late-twenties and mid-thirties reviewers who should absolutely know better. 

If you were born in the late Sixties or early Seventies, the pop culture landscape was quite different than the one we have today with the inverse of Springsteen’s lament, “57 Channels and Nothin’ On.” Nowadays, of course, we have 700 channels and everything is on, so you can’t keep up. It is one hundred percent incumbent upon people getting paid to produce content for it not to be absolute crap absent from historical context of its production.

The remit of this site is we watch and read the crap and tell you about it in an entertaining way so you don’t have to watch or read what you think is garbage, or, conversely, get pointed to glorious awesomeness you may have missed. But, once… every once in a while, that “we watch crap so you don’t have to” thing applies to contextualization and consumption of pop culture and shining the light on editorial being asleep at the wheel and/or the inmates taking over the clichéd asylum.

For example.

I thought this was an isolated incident, but this actual hurtful wrongness is starting to become de rigeur amongst the morons and not just one getting through the wall. It’s a compete breakdown in useful discussion of pop culture, and I blame the whole uncurated online experience for this nonsense. Those of us who cared, back in the day, had a limited access to what we wanted to watch and had to rely on programmers to be hip to the scene. If it was raining and you got the three networks and a couple UHF channels, you did that crossword puzzle with your mom and talked about what was on your mind, or played ping pong in the basement with your dad as you solved the issues of the day with The Three Stooges shorts on, or The Invisible Man and then you’ve accidentally watched all the Universal Monsters with your dad’s running commentary of how going to the movies back then was an event and a quarter could get you lost in cartoons and newsreels and a serial and the main event all day.

And now, you get just straight-up garbage like Mark Hill’s Inverse article claiming that Steven Spielberg’s summer blockbuster Close Encounters of the Third Kind was an obscure but valiant effort that needs more recognition. I haven’t pointed out one of these moron articles for a while, but check out what this 25 year old doofus had to say: CE3K is completely underrated, not exactly the movie you think of when you think “Spielberg” and “aliens,” and it was eclipsed by Star Wars and Alien

https://www.inverse.com/culture/close-encounters-of-the-third-kind-45-year-anniversary

I mean, this wasn’t an obscure thing that happened in the Sudetenland in 1938 you have to research; ask the old guy in the Green Lantern shirt at your hipster coffee shop and he’d tell you it was a summer blockbuster the same year as Star Wars to the point where the vacation George and Steve took together to escape the whole who’s-space-movie-is-better pressure the media was putting on them resulted in Raiders of the Lost fucking Ark, for God’s sake.  

Basically, everything in this article is wrong, and is the kind of inaccurate nonsense that is causing Loab. Close Encounters is his best film, arguably one of the greatest movies ever made, and a profound statement on the passionate process of art disguised as a movie about aliens. There’s no other film like it, American or otherwise. Right? And this guy has no excuse that he wasn’t born yet. I saw Vanishing Point when I was 13 on late night TV and it blew my little mind. I ended up going to the public library (remember those?) and read all the reviews. “You can beat the road, you can beat the clock, but you can’t beat the desert. You just can’t.” Man, the dread, the Vietnam war, the rough people from the rough streets, and that wack-a-doodle existential 1970s end… The difference between me and Mark Hill’s editor, who probably isn’t any older than him and is responsible for letting this nonsense out into the world, is that I was in the theatre watching CE3K, and this guy wouldn’t be born for twenty years. It’s possible his mom wasn’t born yet. How does he get what was going on if he wasn’t there and did no research? What is the point of this article and its absolute Platonic ideal of “error” from beginning to end? Next, let me explain The Depression to everyone; no, it’s cool, my mom was four, so I’m informed enough to start writing to deadline.

Anyway, that was the long way of introducing these two other absolute embarrassments. Ordinarily I wouldn’t even bother, but these three things all happened this week. This isn’t a coincidence, man; it’s a pattern, and it needs to stop.

Some forty-something called Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, writing for The New Yorker, watched all of Seinfeld, after having avoided it for thirty years, and, oh, look, here’s a cloying memoir about why what he was doing was so vitally important he missed out on a shared pop culture experience, and his absolute surprise that his friends can all quote episodes back to him. Can you imagine? Somebody don’t tell this guy about Transformers fans, much less the Trekkies. He’ll get the vapors.

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/i-finally-watched-seinfeld

But look at this garbage from the space-and-robotics reporter at The Atlantic. It’s such a crime against humanity, it needs to be autopsied. Buckle up, because this is going to be the opposite of a clickbait article, done only for clicks. This is going to be too long, an exhaustive takedown, and if this fuckhead gets fired (or, ideally, her editor who allowed this going out under The Atlantic masthead), I will go to sleep tonight having felt my entire life has had meaning.

Let’s start at the top, shall we? Marina Koren, you are a thirty-three year old poser. I scanned your output from the last five years writing your bland pabulum for The Atlantic, and my kid knows more about the US manned space program than you do. You’re an embarrassment. And reviewing the best movie ever made like you’ve barely heard of it? Your qualifications are not adequate. Read along with her article first, won’t you, where I explain everything to this mental patient, like you would to a small child, and feel free to add your own derision…

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2022/12/2001-a-space-odyssey-science-reporter-analysis/672316/

I mean, she begins with a tweet: “My editors have now seen this tweet, which means that I’ll be turning this into content for the atlantic dot com. Stay tuned!” So, thanks for telling us your editors are absolutely lacking in any kind of vision and “Millennial writes about a hallmark film in her purported area of expertise” with her trademarked writing style of old cheese left out on the counter overnight is on the menu. I mean, if she is recording her observations in an actual article instead of live-tweeting this nonsense, there’s enough blame to go around. Her first observations are that it’s boring and slow-moving and that her “partner” doesn’t get it either and wants to watch it at double-speed? So, you’re a moron who can’t engage with art on its own terms, in its own context, and in the manner intended. Why should we give an actual shit about what you, a confessed moron, and your idiot partner you’ve brought along to work with you think about this film? I mean, you’re taking this seriously because it’s your job, yeah, and not just sitting with Danny or Stephanie in your Halloween onesie and Christmas socks, right? Because a tone poem about the nature of humanity is going to slide right by you and your vapid Millennial brain, I’m guessing. Nobody who cares what The Atlantic space reporter says about the best movie ever made has to say, because you are demonstrably ill- equipped to handle pop culture criticism.

You know that famous bone-to-nuke time-dilation transition from “first weapon” to “last weapon” in one cut, rendering all of human history kind of a moot point from tribal ape to hairless one? The fantastic adding of narrative in-between shots? That fucking genius people write whole dissertations on what is happening in that one cut? Here’s what she writes: “After a fight with the rival troop, an ape hurls the bone into the sky and, in a smooth split-second transition, the object becomes a satellite floating in space. We’re in the future now! Maybe there will be some dialogue?” Are you kidding me? What an insipid, contentless observation. She might as well tell us Posh Spice is her favorite of all the Spice Girls, as much as that has to do with this Kubrick film.

“The spacious interior looks like a luxury airliner, and a man with neatly coiffed hair dozes in his seat and—wait, are you telling me he’s the only passenger on this space-plane? How wasteful.”  This is how she interprets the scene where they are running a solo Pan Am flight for one man to the L5 station and a solo flight to the moon in the Aries B. Does she think HOLY SHIT THIS MUST BE AN IMPORTANT MAN, COMMANDING SUCH A DISPLAY OF RESOURCES TO GET TO THE MOON TO DEAL WITH THE FIRST EVIDENCE OF NON HUMAN LIFE? No, “The spaceship bathroom has a sign with a 10-step guide to using a zero-gravity toilet. This is remarkably prescient on Kubrick’s part: Astronauts get asked how they go to the bathroom in space all the time. I look across the couch and see that my partner has fallen asleep.” What an embarrassment.

“The men pose for a picture with the monolith—cute—but then there’s a high-pitched beeping noise and they’re bowled over. Kubrick offers no hint of what that all means, which I’m starting to realize might be his whole thing.” No one at The Atlantic watches a movie in its linear context, but just complains about plot points resolved before the end of the film? A TV monitor turns on at the moment of HAL’s death, the pre-recorded briefing from Floyd telling the crew about the monolith and its radio signal. The signal was directed at Jupiter. “The monolith’s purpose remains a mystery…” For God’s sake, Marina. Have your fun, sure, but why do you sound like an idiot who just found out coffee has caffeine in it?

“HAL reports a glitch with a device on the exterior of the spaceship, and one of the awake astronauts, Dave Bowman, takes a little pod outside to check it out. Bowman floats out of the pod—completely untethered?!—and grabs on to the side of the ship, takes out the device, and goes back inside. All of this unfolds extremely slowly. My partner has woken up, but now I’m falling asleep.”

Yeah, a space reporter shouldn’t be expected to know Bruce McCandless rocked the MMU in 1984, a full 16 years before Dave flew his UNTETHERED in 2001. What kind of smack-headed idiot is writing this nonsense? I mean, I’m a well-informed enthusiast and I knew that without looking it up, because I lived through it. McCandless was CAPCOM on Apollo 11 and SKYLAB 3 and 4, but was classified as a pilot on his MMU Chall flight despite having a serious lack of test pilot experience. He said he was grossly overtrained at the time, so a fictional astronaut like Dave? That’s just a stroll to the back part of the car. This feigned tone of “shitty special effects, slow pace, and flat tone” thing just makes me think Marina and her bosses are actual morons.

Your favorite space movie is Interstellar? You think Dave “forgot his helmet” and that’s the most unbelievable thing in 2001? That the only other talking human in 423 million miles is in trouble and he has to go save him? Dave practically runs over the magnetic plates in the garage to get to the B pod to save Frank. Maybe he didn’t think stopping for gear he doesn’t need to maximize rescue time was an actual judgment and not an error? Whatever. Enjoy Matt Damon crying like a bitch and Anne Hathaway’s short hair in that dopey Interstellar abortion.

“I am completely befuddled and unsatisfied. I was expecting 2001 to be a movie, consisting of those elements that make movies great: plot, character development, and, you know, a decent amount of dialogue.”

Personally, I wish I was completely befuddled and unsatisfied at your complete dumpster fire of inaccuracy and stupidity and flagrant, intentional intellectual dishonesty here, but as you might remember from earlier in my estimation of your trash, this is a common thing amongst “content-providers” and not something an actual writer or editor would think about for four minutes much less waste everyone’s time upon.

I’d tell you to stay in your lane, but you’re a danger whatever lane you’re drunkenly swerving through.

Larry Young
Larry Young
Larry Young is a writer: non-fiction, graphic novels, and pop culture criticism. His work has appeared in ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, VARIETY, and THE YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION. A frequent guest on the video podcasts MILLION DOLLAR MAILBOX and WORD BALLOONS, he’s also co-host of SERIOUS STAR TREK and the sister YouTube channel of this website.
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