Pot Culture Goes Pop: 2017's High Points of Art and Entertainment

Pot Culture Goes Pop: 2017's High Points of Art and Entertainment

by Mike McPadden
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CULTURE
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A stoned, biased, and totally arbitrary round-up of some of our favorite cannabis-friendly culture from this last trip around the sun.

Lead photo by Molly Adams

Even if 2017 doesn't count as the first year that weed "broke" in the mainstream, the past 12 months have seen cannabis continue to infuse and uplift popular culture like never before. This is all dope because, really, in 2017, we've needed pot-pumped pastimes and inspiration (along with pot itself, of course) like never before.

So looking back, and lighting up, here are MERRY JANE's picks for delectably dank, stoner-friendly pop culture from 2017. It's by no means a comprehensive list of everything we loved and blazed along to, but you know what? We're potheads, and you can only shout-out so many other weed-friendly things before you get distracted and start re-consuming it all. Cheers, and thanks for the good times, you brilliant artists and creatives!

MOVIES

Baby Driver (2017)
Director: Edgar Wright
Cast:  Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey

While there's no explicit cannabis consumption on-screen, Baby Driver's one-of-a-kind hybrid strain of high-octane action, genre-sampling music numbers, and off-the-wall, out-of-nowhere brutal comedy is clearly this year's stoner classic to be watched and re-watched endlessly at home between bong hits.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas, Harrison Ford

In 1982, the Ridley Scott-directed sci-fi vision of wonder Blade Runner landed with a clunk on the general public. It was up to stoners, then, to discover and devour the original apocalyptic parable about the very real consequences of artificial intelligence — and we did. Blade Runner is not just a pass-the-bong rite of passage for smokers, it's a beloved classic overall.

35 years later, it looks like it's up to Nug Nation to perform the same service for director Denis Villenueve's eminently worthy (and weed-ready) sequel. Harrison Ford returns as Deckard, the hunter of rogue "replicant" robots who struggles with his own (and everyone else's) humanity. Blade Runner 2049 really belongs to Ryan Gosling as replicant Agent K — a complex hero whose even more complex (and visually magnificent) explorations you'll definitely want to experience in the company of a fat-packed Agent J.

Grow House (2017)
Director: DJ Pooh
Cast: Snoop Dogg, Malcolm McDowell, DeRay Davis

Goofy, likable, low-down stoner comedy from the co-creator of "Friday" (with Snoop as himself) allowed enterprising potheads to turn his Bel Air mansion into the object of the title. Full of other funny people: Faizon Love, George Wallace, Martin Starr, and Charlamagne tha God as Black Jesus.

Mother! (2017)
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer

Like most hallucinatory indulgences, Mother! is the very definition of a "divisive" experience — many despised it, some hailed it as genius, all involved should definitely smoke up to watch it before issuing their final opinion.

Darren Arofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan) whips up an operatic, symbol-packed parable regarding Javier Bardem as Him (aka God), Jennifer Lawrence as Mother (as in Nature) and the havoc humanity continually unleashes on the couple's best-intended creation (brace yourself for cinema's ultimate freak-out regarding the very notion of "eating the body of Christ").

Maybe you'll love Mother! Maybe you'll hate it. Just watch it high and appreciate the film's overall weirdness — not the least element of which is that Aronofsky and his team snuck a modern equivalent of Jean-Luc Godard's Weekend (1967) or David Lynch's Eraserhead (1977) into 2017 multiplexes.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Director: Taika Waititi
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Cate Blanchett

What the past couple of years have lacked in terms of huge-hit stoner buddy comedies — on the order of Friday (1995) or Pineapple Express (2008) — Thor: Ragnarok makes things right by way of the modern superhero blockbuster.

Although nobody openly indulges in intoxicants on screen, the epic slapstick and smart/dumb fun affection between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) — even with all the standard CGI overkill and sense-pummeling battle scenes tossed in — is clearly rooted in the lovably lit likes of Cheech and Chong.

Light a doob in thanks to writer-director Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows) for bringing fresh, fun, and funny marijuana sensibilities to the Marvel factory.

DOCUMENTARIES

Highland: Thailand's Marijuana Awakening (2017)
Watch It: Netflix

The three-part Netflix documentary series Highland chronicles Thailand's brutal history and evolving present when it comes to weed — as well as the larger state of cannabis culture throughout Southeast Asia. It's loaded with facts — some frightening, some hopeful, all thought-provoking (particularly after a few puffs).

Finding Joseph I: The HR From Bad Brains Documentary (2017)
Director: James Lathos

Finding Joseph I takes us way up-close and vulnerably personal with HR, the definitive front man of Bad Brains, the greatest hardcore Rasta punk-metal-reggae-dub band to ever rock.

No one beside HR could have possibly piloted Bad Brains to their cosmic (and in-every-other sense) highs, and Finding Joseph I exposes us to his mysteries while letting us puzzle, awestruck, over what we find.

For even deeper insight into the man, his music, and the relationship of both to marijuana, also check out MERRY JANE's interview with director James Lathos.

The Land of Look Behind (1982)
Director: Alan Greenberg

Alan Greenburg, a world-renowned visual artist and Werner Herzog's go-to DP, crafted The Land of Look Behind, his nonfiction cinematic love-letter to the island nation of Jamaica, just shortly after Rastafarian demi-god Bob Marley departed this realm for even greater highs.

So why is MERRY JANE promoting a 1982 documentary in our 2017 roundup? Because The Land of Look Behind is nothing less than a masterpiece that many of our readers thanked us for exposing them to during this summer's Jamaica Week. Pick it up, spliff yourself up, and let this overlooked gem carry you away.

The Legend of 420 (2017)
Director: Peter Spirer
Watch It: Netflix

With The Legend of 420, director Peter Spier accomplishes what — to the not-yet-smoked-up — may seem impossible: his documentary captures, conveys, and entertainingly explains the overall condition of cannabis and its related cultures in 2017 America.

Spier's camera explores rapidly-progressing decriminalization (and — boo! — the fight against it), along with medical marijuana and pot used for food, art, enlightenment, and, of course, recreational good times.

TV/STREAMING

At Home With Amy Sedaris
Creator: Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello
Cast: Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello, Drake von Sedgwinn
Watch It: TruTV

At Home With Amy Sedaris conjures up a wiggy, way-out spoof of the 1960s how-to-be-high-functioning-suburban-housewife TV shows that creator and genius funny-person Amy Sedaris (Strangers With Candy) fell in love with as a kid.

Each wondrously warped half-hour blends Amy's love of old recipes, popsicle-stick sculptures, and bizarro characters like The Lady Who Lives in the Woods, not unlike the cotton-brain-candy surrealism of Maria Bamford's sativa-welcoming Netflix sitcom, Lady Dynamite. The whole cracked concoction effectively approximates exactly what Martha Stewart must see if she ever does take a drag off whatever her pal Snoop Dogg is smoking.

BoJack Horseman
Creator: Raphael Bob-Waksberg
Cast: Will Arnett, Amy Sedaris, Allison Brie
Watch It: Netflix

In a year when veteran animated stoner faves on the order of South Park and Rick and Morty made some of their deepest, most highly hilarious impacts to date — amidst top-notch newcomer cartoons such as Nick Kroll's fantastically savage coming-of-age saga, Big Mouth, and Carson Mell's tripped-out urban legend picaresque Tarantula — MERRY JANE has to give proper kush-heightened kudos to the ever-more-surprising Netflix side-splitter and occasional heartbreaker, BoJack Horseman.

With Will Arnett more heartfelt and hilarious than ever as the title character, BoJack Season Four pushed the already-stellar series to wholly unprecedented triumphs. Smoke, watch, laugh, and maybe even tear up a bit.

Disjointed
Creators: David Javerbaum, Chuck Lorre
Cast: Kathy Bates, Aaron Moten, Elizabeth Alderfer
Watch It: Netflix

The high-profile pot-com from Netflix blazes hard to combine the influence of co-creators David Javerbaum, a champion Daily Show writer, with Chuck Lorre, the CBS laugh-track kingpin who brought us Two and Half Men, The Big Bang Theory, and other shows you'll watch five episodes in a row of because you're too wasted to get up and look for the remote.

The end result may not satisfy cannabis community insiders — Disjointed often becomes a little too close to caricature —  but it's still mind-blowing that the dude behind the most-watched TV sitcoms paired up with Kathy Bates (as well as "pot doc to the stars" and MERRY JANE fam, Dr. Dina) to create a TV show that advocates for legalized reefer. Here's to hoping season two has less growing pains and continues to proselytize the marijuana-needing masses.

Budding Prospects
Director: Terry Zwigoff
Cast: Adam Rose, Joel David Moore, Will Sasso
Watch It: Amazon

As part of Amazon's "Pilot Season" competition, where the audience votes on which show should go to series, Budding Prospects flamed out. Still, there's lit laughs to be had watching this set-up about a trio of stoners in 1984 who attempt to start their own grow op. If Will Sasso is a daily smoker in real life, he sure knows how to play one to the high hilt.

Snoop Dogg Presents The Joker's Wild
Host: Snoop Dogg
Watch It: TBS

The Doggfather himself, who grew up loving the original TV game The Joker's Wild, refers to his blazed update of the series as "The Smoker's Wild." Snoop hosts as only he can, players spin for cash and prizes, and laughs abound as ganja-meets-game-show like never before.

Super Deluxe (generally)
Creators: Wolfgang Hammer, Jesse Pearson, Ryan Likes
Watch It: SuperDeluxe.com

For anyone who ever thought Adult Swim wasn't keeping pace with the potency of their stash, there's Super Deluxe — a multi-platform comedy outlet featuring the weirdest, most beyond-bizarre dispatches to date from a new generation of weed-wacked wits, as well as beloved stoner cracker-uppers on the order of Tim & Eric, Bob Odenkirk, Nathan Fielder, Norm Macdonald, Maria Bamford, Larry Wachs, Dave Foley, and Joanne the Scammer. We could write a whole tome on the merits of Super Deluxe. Instead we'll leave it at Vic Berger for President, 2020! (And bring back Magic Funhouse!). 

Twin Peaks: The Return
Creators: David Lynch, Mark Frost
Cast: Kyle McLachlan, Laura Dern, David Lynch
Watch It: Showtime

Episode by episode, the second coming of master cinema mind-blower David Lynch's Twin Peaks alternately excited and delighted some, while baffling and incensing others — and vice versa, oftentimes all at once.

That said, everyone can agree that "Part 8" was some next-level shit — a TV moment that truly blew our minds all over our faces. After a bit of storyline regarding FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper as he continues to unravel the interdimensional mysteries of the title town, Lynch just went full-on freak.

Atomic bombs, mythical creatures, avant-garde music, and sweeping, transcendent, soul-scorching visuals flow forth throughout "Part 8," making this one-hour journey an indisputable masterwork of nonlinear genius to which humanity will be able to always get high. And if you want to get highfalutin about it, MoMA is rescreening all 18 episodes of Twin Peaks: The Return in early 2018. If that isn't instant-canonization, we're not sure what is.

BOOKS

American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road 
By Nick Bilton
Publisher: Penguin Random House

In American Kingpin, author Nick Bilton tracks the rise-and-ruin of Ross Ulbricht, an outlaw computer programmer who essentially brought the "dark web" to the mainstream in 2011 with his anonymous online sales site, the Silk Road.

Largely unknown and completely unregulated, the Silk Road quickly attracted the very worst of the World Wide Web — e.g., creeps looking to buy and sell illegal weapons and underage porn. Still, the dark web did have its light side, specifically in how it enabled online trading of psychoactive substances.

Building to the Silk Road's inevitably undoing, American Kingpin also raises seriously stirring issues regarding freedom, self-direction, and why so much of society still equates pot-puffers to the fiends looking to pick up dirty bombs and research chemicals that make you shit your pants.

Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall of Marijuana in America
By Emily Dufton
Publisher: Basic Books

Grass Roots is a critically-acclaimed, politically-charged (and still engaging!) history of getting high stateside over the past 50 years, and it just arrived in time for holiday gift giving and post-smoke reading. D.C.-based Phd Emily Dufton lays out "how earnest hippies, frightened parents, suffering patients, and other ordinary Americans went to war over marijuana" in strongly compelling terms. Hot tip: light up, lean back, and let the Grass Roots audiobook enlighten you with some hard-knowledge about how the billowing joy in your hand actually got there.

The Killer Weed Coloring Book: For Marijuana Lovers
By TROG
Publisher: North Light Books

The Killer Weed Coloring Book by Australian artist TROG is a nothing less than page after page of incandescent trips that you, the crayon-holding psychonaut, get to illuminate with any colors that flow from your high. For more on TROG, check out our interview with the crafter of these stunning psychedelic images.

Kingpin: Prisoner of the War on Drugs
By Richard Stratton
Publisher: Arcade Publishing

Last year, Richard Stratton wrote Smuggler's Blues, his account of how he sped from being a simple college joe looking to get lit to an international drug runner in cahoots with crime lord Whitey Bulger (he also got to party with Mick Jagger and David Bowie).

Kingpin, Stratton's follow-up, chronicles what happened after all those green-fueled good times crashed to a sudden halt, with DEA agents pinching Stratton in a hotel lobby and casting him into the federal prison system for the next eight years.

While the government plays up Stratton's capture as "victory" in what the author insightfully terms "The War on Plants," Kingpin plunges the reader into the agony and stupidity of prison life, as well as how Stratton got through it. For more on the book and Stratton, revisit our interview with the author here.

Preservation: The Art and Science of Canning, Fermentation, and Dehydration
By Christina Ward
Publisher: Feral House

Preservation is a one-stop compendium on pickling, drying, and otherwise immortalizing virtually any munchie you can imagine, which can then be saved long-term for just the right post-pot pig-out.

Author Christina Ward, who also works for Feral House, the book's publisher, has crafted a warm, witty, and wise guide to keeping your food healthy and delicious into the future — especially when you spike the brine with lip-smacking marijuana. Check out our interview with Christina here and definitely try out the recipe she shares for pot pickles!

The Scratch & Sniff Book of Weed
By Seth Matlins and Eve Epstein
Illustrated by Ann Pickard
Publisher: Abrams Image

Yes, it's exactly what you think — and it really does work. The Scratch & Sniff Book of Weed does, in fact, come loaded with fingernail-activated olfactory samples that smell like various strains of pot and pot-adjacent sensations.

Even more impressive than that (imagine!), the fragrances are divided up into fun, informative, and sometimes even serious subcategories, all played out among an overall narrative tracing the 4,000-year history of the wondrous plant.

Co-authors Seth Matlins, a brand marketing impresario, and Eve Epstein, the former editor-in-chief of Daily Candy, have crafted a knockout here that's more than a mere novelty, even as it hits you nose-first.

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Mike McPadden is the author of "Heavy Metal Movies" and the upcoming "Last American Virgins." He writes about movies, music, and crime in Chicago. Twitter @mcbeardo


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