“Take a Break” from Hamilton

I’m starting to add lyrics videos to my YouTube channel. I love reading along to my favorite songs and couldn’t think of a better place to start than the Hamilton soundtrack. I started with “Take a Break” because it’s relatively easy, but I’m definitely going to be adding more soon.

Favorite Lines:

  • “You can write rhymes, but you can’t write mine.” – super cute
  • “John Adams doesn’t have a real job anyway.”
  • “Screw your courage to the sticking place.” – always good to brush up on some Shakespeare.

 

Movies 25-30

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In the craziness that has been my life these past couple of weeks, I did manage to watch a few movies and even made it to the theater. I definitely won’t watch 200 a year at this rate, but I’m sure going to try. Let’s see how the summer treats me.

#25: Blue Mountain State: The Rise of Thadland – I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve seen every episode of the show. I was even happy that this crowdfunded movie gave the creators a chance to round out the story that should’ve ended with a fourth season that never came. So, what did I learn? BMS works best in half-hour spurts. The plot of the movie, much like Thadland itself, got more bleak with each passing minute. It was nice to recall all my favorite quirks about the show, though. If anything, it reintroduced “sloots” to my vocabulary.

#26: Spy – I like Melissa McCarthy a lot, but sometimes her schtick can get a bit overplayed (take Bridesmaids, for example). Her movies can be very hit or miss, but her work with Paul Feig has hit a groove. Every second of Spy is a joy to watch. I like that her character got to grow a bit from awkward (assumed) cat-lady to full-blown badass. Jason Statham was great, too. He seemed to be channeling his comedic side left over from Crank. The movie worked well as a comedy and spy homage and I’m hopeful to see a sequel.

#27: 10 Cloverfield Lane – I haven’t seen Cloverfield, so I can’t really compare it to its spiritual sequel. I do know that, much like a certain Kevin Smith movie I watched recently, this is a two for one and I like one plot much more than the other. The movie could have ended 20 minutes earlier and it would have been perfect. I didn’t need anything that came after. The psychological thriller and the awesomeness of John Goodman are why I would recommend this movie. That’s about all I can say without getting into spoilers.

#28: Burke & Hare – This was a nice palate-cleanser after 10 Cloverfield Lane. As I write this, I’m realizing that I don’t remember much of it. Simon Pegg is always funny and Isla Fisher was unexpected (I didn’t realize that was her on the cover) and great! The movie had some great broad comedy to lighten up the dark humor (Stephen Merchant’s face can be bottled as comedy gold). Anyway, I was amused, but not interested enough to find out how much of it was actually true.

#29: Léon: The Professional – I’ve been wanting to see this movie for some time. I usually don’t go this far back in time when I want to see something because I tend to prefer movies made this century. (If I sound young saying this, I’m not; I just wasn’t blessed with a great attention span and prefer faster pacing.) I became interested in The Professional when I spoiled it for myself. There’s a song by Alt-J called “Matilda” and, while reading the lyrics on Genius, I learned it’s about this movie, specifically the ending. The first line of the song is “this is from Matilda”. Few movies can pull off this amount of charm and violence simultaneously. It’s no wonder Natalie Portman is a great actress when you see how talented she was at such a young age. Luc Besson’s directing is a study of how to make a movie look good. It’s so good that I can ignore the overpowering score.

#30: Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn – I put this on at midnight thinking I would fall asleep watching it. I watched the whole thing, so I guess that’s something. I don’t play a lot of Halo, but I thought they did a decent job of making a live-action view of its world. This was originally a web-series, so most of the complaints about it make sense considering the budget. Of course, it spent more time on the cadets than in the actual war. I thought the military school stuff, though trite, was well done. When Master Chief does show up, it’s kind of a nice surprise, but he does most of his fighting off-screen. The effects that you do get to see are amazing for what it’s worth. If you don’t know anything about the Halo games, this movie will leave you disappointed. It’s definitely fan-service. Upside, I finally figured out why Windows’ virtual assistant is named Cortana.

 

Creator vs. Consumer

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It’s been a while since I’ve written a post because, simply put, I just haven’t had any time. I work full-time at a job I love, but leaves me exhausted by the time I get home most days. This past week, I haven’t even been working because I was chosen (lucky me!) to sit on a jury. That had to be one of the most mentally taxing thing I’ve ever done. The case was pretty boring and the effort it took to pay attention and keep all the facts straight was incredible. I have had some free time, when I’m not actually just brain dead, but whatever time I’ve had has been spent rediscovering my need to create.

Deep down, I am an artist (I use the term liberally, considering how much time I just spent on a simple Photoshop project). I started this page as a way to engage in discussions about all the good stuff that is out there. The result shouldn’t surprise me, but it did. Talking about art makes me want to produce. Which is what I’ve been doing in every spare moment I’ve had.

My husband and I recently finished editing our first podcast episode. Sitting down and talking to each other seemed simple enough, but I don’t think either of us anticipated the additional work that would go into it. Luckily, he’s an audio wizard, so I’ve been putting together all the graphics. We also plan on recording a new theme song for every episode, which I am super excited about. We rarely get the chance to play together any more. I’m also working on some art for his site and tweeting like a crazy person. Even if no one is listening, I forgot how much fun it is to yell into the abyss.

So, I guess my point is, it’s hard work creating an online personality. Every day when I get home, I hop on my laptop and pretty much work until I go to bed (with a break for Jeopardy!/dinner). I’m loving every second of it, but I haven’t been able to watch much TV. I guess I can’t complain too much, but I do miss it. I’m preparing for a weekend of couch-surfing, big time.

Japan

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I usually don’t stick around after the credits of a show to see the commentary from the creators. In the case of “Japan”, I’m glad I did. I learned that the inspiration for the episode was a phone call Lean Dunham received from long-time creative partner, Jenni Konner, at the time on a visit to Japan, describing everyone there as “a Shosh”. That’s how I felt watching the episode. While there was some concern for me last season, with Shoshanna deciding to move to Tokyo, it is undeniable that this is definitely her scene.

Shoshanna’s (and Zozsia Mamet’s) role in this collection of characters is nothing short of magical. You never really know how much you miss her until you spend some time with her again. I was holding out hope (episode previews be damned) that the whole half hour would be spent in Japan, much like last season’s “Iowa” took a break from the normal scenery. Can you imagine how amazing a whole episode of just Shoshanna would be? Even with the side stories though, this is definitely her shining moment.

Shosh has always been in a different place than the rest of the “Girls”, but she has come much farther in some ways. At the start of the series, her naivete and optimism about her future were a glimpse of what the other characters might have been like before entering the “real world”. The difference is that as she grew and faced more challenges, her spirit remained pretty much unbreakable. Though her actions at times were impulsive and short of wise, she could never be faulted for lack of trying.

So she ups and moves to Japan and it seems like the only thing holding her back is her boyfriend back home, while she is crushing on her Japanese boss. The obvious cultural differences are amusing and provide some of the best dialogue of the episode (“I’ve literally never heard that; it’s probably a Japanese thing”), but you can see how much she wants to cut ties and fully commit to her new life in Japan. This makes her “managing out” all the more crushing, and after talking to Scott on the phone we see the options floating through her mind.

Scott (Jason Ritter) is constantly referred to as Shoshanna’s “sort of boyfriend” throughout the episode. The two of them met when Shoshanna was ready to give up on her dreams and marry into a comfortable, if not exciting, life. The choice she has to make between him and Japan seems to reach its obvious conclusion. One last night out, which includes a visit to a sadism club, ends with her hooking up with Yoshi. At the end of the episode, as Shoshanna looks out on the balcony over Tokyo, she decides she’s not going back and Scott is left throwing out a bouquet of flowers at the airport.

Like I said, I would have been happy if all the action of the episode remained in Japan, but there’s some stuff going on in New York, so I guess I’ll address it. Fran, as predicted, is starting to become more of a character than just a stark contrast to Adam. I still don’t know what to feel about this new development, but at least he’s interesting. Hannah finds naked pictures of Fran’s exes on his phone and is surprised at how upset she is about it. Fran’s somewhat redeeming excuse is that the pictures are better than exploitative downside of most pornography. Well, I guess they are both right? I can’t say I care that much. The resulting photo shoot Hannah has with Ray and Elijah is pretty funny, but I can’t say it makes me any more interested in Fran and Hannah’s relationship. Of course, the episode ends with her deleting all the other naked pics on his phone.

Equally unsatisfying is the plot between Adam and Jessa. Adam is getting the same kind of work most struggling actors cling to: bit parts on episodes of a Law & Order-type show. They watch the episode’s airing with Ray and Jessa is impressed. This is nothing new. Adam has proved to be a capable actor and has received support from the people around him in the past. For some reason though, her comments prompt him to try, again, to make a move. Jessa, again, rejects him, walking out saying, “I’m not doing this will-they/won’t-they shit”. Too bad it seems the show is doing exactly that. Here’s a tip, if one of you isn’t ok with being “just friends”, then you probably can’t be friends. Ugh. More of Japan, please.

Tested | Party in the Hills

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I’ve heard/read that episodes of Love are meant to be enjoyed in bulk. In a way, it’s a very long-form romantic comedy movie. This makes it perfect for a streaming service that releases a full season of episodes all at once. While, I’ve resisted the urge to plow through all the episodes, as I watch I understand that one is not enough. I can’t imagine people would like this show if they had to wait another week to see what happens next. There really isn’t much happening from episode to episode. There’s a lot of character work being done, but not much action. It’s been a deliberately slow set-up, looking at how our leads behave apart from each other before getting into their relationship. So far, I’m liking the pacing though.

I’ve been watching two episodes a week, pretty much back-to-back. What I’ve found – and this may be pure coincidence – is that the second of the pair is the more enjoyable. However, the goings on in “One Long Day” wouldn’t be as much fun to watch without getting to know Gus and Mickey separately in “It Begins”. The same is true of “Tested” and “Party in the Hills”. In the former, we get a deeper insight into our leads (particularly through their work lives) that makes their interactions in the latter even funnier. I’m sure the story can’t keep Gus and Mickey apart for half of the episodes going forward, but it makes sense (especially in a rom-com movie paradigm) that it starts out this way.

Episode 3, “Tested”, centers around the main characters’ lives at work,  but it’s book-ended with the all-important first text. Gus sends Mickey a text – just a simple “sup?” – and spends the rest of the episode anxiously awaiting her reply. Unbeknownst to him, Mickey attempts to text back while she’s driving to work, which results in her bumping another car in traffic and speeding away. She does end up remembering to text back at the end of the episode and it’s sweet to see Gus’s obvious excitement, but it’s what happens between these events that really frames their perspectives and method of dealing with challenging situations.

They are both “Tested” at work (you see what I did there?). Gus’s job as an on-set tutor for the young actress, Arya, is on the line if she doesn’t pass a state exam. Arya clearly has no interest in learning math (her accountants will handle the books) despite all of Gus’s efforts. Ever the doormat, Gus goes along with her many distractions and doesn’t get the chance to cover any of the material for the exam. When she throws a fit and walks out of the test (she was just acting, right?), Gus finishes the exam for her. Thinking he took some initiative by compromising his moral code and cheating, Gus suspects an attaboy from the show’s producer. What he gets is the sobering reality that no one really cares how the test was passed; he just did his job as far as anyone else is concerned.

Meanwhile, Mickey is becoming more and more uncomfortable with her boss’s advances. I think we all assumed that Brett Gelman’s radio psychologist was super creepy, using his position to coerce subordinates into sleeping with him. Mickey’s solution: sleep with him so she can use sexual harassment as grounds for wrongful termination. Sadly, however inappropriate his flirting was, her boss had no intention of firing her if she rejected him. While Gus has a hard time shifting into gray areas of morality, Mickey shifts deeper into the blackness. At least she can’t get fired, though.

It’s pretty grim stuff, but “Party in the Hills” brightens things up a bit. First, Gus hanging out with his friends making up theme songs to movies is the most adorable thing ever. I loved every bit of the scene in his apartment. I also like that the secondary characters are getting a bit more use after they were introduced fairly two-dimensionally in the premiere. No secondary character can bring as much joy as Bertie, but it’s nice to know Gus’s friends a little more. In the midst of the jam, Gus gets a text from Mickey inviting him to her friends’ house-warming. He, of course, discusses it with everyone in the room and leaves immediately.

When he pulls up to the house and the time on the clock says 6:59 (he was told the party was at 7), I pitied him while laughing. He stays in the car until exactly 7:00 (hilarious) and lets himself in to see that no one has arrived yet. I’m not sure why he thought Mickey would be the punctual type (a piece of advice, Gus: you don’t want to show up before the only other person you know), but it makes for some great moments of him wandering around, clearly out of place. When Mickey does show up, she ditches him almost immediately to talk to an ex. Gus, it turns out, isn’t completely socially inept and he manages to find his own at the party. He jams with a group of guys and even gets some attention from another woman.*

Mickey should not have left Gus to talk to her ex. She goes to the party thinking she can avoid drinking, much to the excitement of Bertie who wants to get drunk and then laid (Claudia O’Doherty is so much fun to watch). The argument with her ex, who she apparently cheated on, drives her to drink and the result is not pretty. After she has two men fight for her honor – well, one for her honor; the other stands by calling her a whore – she turns into that drunk person who is being a drag telling everyone how not fun they are. She shoots Gus, who’s getting cozy with this random lady, a look and demands that everyone jump into the pool. When she biffs it diving off the roof, Gus swims to her rescue. She later suggests that Gus and Bertie hook up, meaning that she doesn’t want him to be with anyone unless she approves. Or maybe she doesn’t want to be with him, but wants him close. This is sure to be a bumpy road for them.

*I didn’t know how to fit this in the review, but hearing Paul Rust sing made me so happy. It’s sad knowing that Don’t Stop or We’ll Die is probably done for good. RIP Harris.

Co-Op | Game Over

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I’ve loved Broad City from the very beginning, but I can’t say that there are many episodes that stick out to me as very memorable. It’s a show full of sequences that are hilarious but ultimately fleeting, for me. The third season seems to be breaking out of this. While “Two Chainz” was a fabulous season premiere, these two episodes work to gift dedicated viewers with variations on the show’s established themes.

My cable provider has been slow on updating Comedy Central shows on demand, forcing me to download the app. In a way, I’m happy that I had to wait because these two episodes make a fabulous pair for viewing. The cold open from “Co-Op” even gives a taste of what’s to come in the next episode, “Game Over”, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

“Co-Op” does a great job of subverting expectations. When Ilana says she can’t work her shift because she has a really important doctor’s appointment, we all think it’s going to go in a direction that, while serious in its nature, wouldn’t be out of character for Broad City to get some laughs out of. She’s a modern woman, after all. The way she depends on Lincoln’s support on the way to the doctor’s office makes us believe that our assumptions are right. Then we learn that she’s traveled to her pediatrician’s office in Long Island and she’s afraid of getting a shot. The interactions with her doctor are even funnier because of the misdirection. A second misdirection shows Ilana seeming like she’s upset hearing all the details of Lincoln hooking up with another woman, when actually she’s turned on and it pays off, as well.

It’s a great way to set up the meat (sorry, vegans) of the episode. Abbi covers Ilana’s shift at the co-op and, since this is against co-op rules, she has to dress and act like Ilana. Her impression of Ilana is spot on and super funny. Also great is how awful Ilana is at pretending to be Abbi for a brief moment. Even though it was obvious the plot with Abbi’s co-op love interest would end with Ilana being banned from the co-op, it was fun to see Abbi fully commit to it. Oh, and they are also banned from Whole Foods, which might be a win in disguise.

The cold open of “Co-Op” gives us a peek at Abbi’s competitive side. After beating a group of young boys in a game of basketball, her gloating culminates with deflating their ball and making them cry. We’ve already seen that Abbi can be a bit intense, especially at work, but this scene serves as a reminder before “Game Over”. The trainers have scheduled mandatory team building games and Abbi, having just learned why she had to sweep so much pubes as a cleaner, tries to keep her cool. Her need to win coupled with a reminder of the her past abuse while working as a cleaner leads to Abbi smashing a co-worker’s face in the final event. I laughed and cringed, but all’s well because that kind of intensity is welcome at Soulstice. Now a fully indoctrinated trainer, Abbi’s work life has taken a turn for the better, while Ilana finally pulls out the last straw.

In the past, Ilana seemed untouchable at her job, Deals! Deals! Deals!, much to the dismay of her deskmate, Nicole. When she shows up, with her pigtails pulled through the hood of a dog sweater, we all think this will be yet another work day where she won’t have to deal with the consequences of being an awful employee. This day is different, though, because the company is visited by an important investor, played by the fabulous Vanessa Williams (who even gets to show off her singing a little). Focused on promotion, at first the investor sees Ilana, who is rightfully obsessed with her, as an asset. Ilana seems to have a knack for viral media and would be the perfect person to run their Twitter account. That is until you realize her lack of filter in social situations will inevitably seep into social media.

Watching the episode, I thought the issue would be that Ilana was posting about deals that didn’t exist. Her past doesn’t indicate that she would know their products well enough to tweet about them on demand, but maybe the newfound responsibility – a task she actually enjoys – gives her the motivation to learn. What she does tweet is much worse, in a way. She links a video of a man getting sodomized by a horse to promote a deal on colonics. That’s an hilarious comparison and, as Ilana puts it, it’s not the bad kind of beastiality (my browser says I’m not spelling that right, but I’m too afraid to Google it) because the man is on the receiving end. The company isn’t as pleased with it as Ilana – though she’s right that it got them some much needed attention – and they finally decide to let her go.

This leads to the best moment of the episode, and probably the show. My opinion may be biased because of the place this movie holds in my heart, but that might true for a lot of people around my age and likely the reason why it’s included in the episode. After Ilana’s farewell speech to her co-workers, Nicole has a fantasy sequence in which all of the employees of Deals! Deals! Deals! break out into the rendition of “Joyful, Joyful” from Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (yes, I had to go with the full title). The icing on the cake is a guest appearance from Whoopi Goldberg in nun costume and, just in case you were watching and wondering if she was really on set, she even gets in a bit of a shoving match to steal the spotlight from Nicole. Poor Nicole can’t even be the star of her own fantasy. The episode could have ended there and I would have been delighted. I liked the tag with the girls watching Abbi’s previously mentioned camp freak-out, but the musical number was an absolute high-point.

I hope Broad City keeps this kind of momentum going through the season.

 

Good Man

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After taking center stage in the premier, Marnie is missing in this episode of Girls. She’s probably still on her honeymoon with Desi and we’ll have to wait a while to witness the awfulness that will inevitably be their marriage. I just thought I’d point that out, since Marnie is on the top of most people’s worst characters list. I don’t mind her too much, but it does make sense that she wouldn’t appear on an episode that focuses on the men in the show.

To get things running, we get a pretty funny scene that lets us know that a closer look at Fran is on the way. He and Hannah are woken in the middle of night by Fran’s roommate who is clearly on the brink of a psychotic break. The argument over Hannah’s “This whole week has been Monday” shirt exposing her “bush” ends with her pulling it down enough to show her breast. This all leads to Fran temporarily moving in with Hannah. Fran, like most people, shows some concern for his former roommate, to which Hannah replies “he’s fucking crazy. Let’s just pretend he never existed.” Pot and kettle, Hannah. Your friends have put up with more than enough of your craziness.

I’m sure it won’t be long until living and working together burdens their relationship. Fran’s clearly already uncomfortable with how close Hannah and Elijah are. Apparently, they kiss/make-out goodbye before she leaves for work. That seems right up their alley. Those two have come so far.

Elijah now works for Ray who is being put out of business by the new coffee shop across the street, Helvetica. I agree with Ray; that’s an awful name. Anyway, the two of them are great together. Ray with anyone is great. Watching the beginning of this series, I never would have imagined he’d become one of my favorites. It’s a real testament to how well these characters have been developed. The scene inside Helvetica was a little too much for me. I think we’ve seen enough of snarky baristas. While Grace Dunham did a fine job as the offended shop employee, I didn’t find it plausible that Ray would be so inept at dealing with a slight over gender identity. He may be “Old Man Ray”, but he’s not that old and he lives in the same world as the rest of these characters. If he’s going to continue pursuing politics in Brooklyn, he should brush up on his terminology.

All the male characters in this episode are struggling with what it means to be a “good man”. Adam is struggling with his feelings for Jessa, but his persistence leads me to believe Hannah isn’t weighing too much on his mind. After Jessa gives him the cold shoulder, he insists that they remain friends. I liked them as friends. They make a good pair and crossing the line to a romantic relationship risks ruining the comfort and solidarity they found in their likeness. Jessa is absolutely right when she says later that they would destroy each other. Their weirdness is complementary in a way that makes them seem like a good fit, but would ultimately be their undoing.

Even knowing that, I loved watching them at the carnival. You can tell how much fun they have together (which to me is another strong argument for staying friends). They don’t seem like two people who could have such a normal “date”. We certainly didn’t see anything like this when Adam was with Hannah. When Adam continues to lobby for more intimacy, I understood why. I liked that Hannah wasn’t the sole reason Jessa wants to keep things from getting physical. Though Hannah’s world and the show as a whole revolves around Hannah, the characters don’t. So they co-masturbate and finally look at each other to finish. They are both weird like that. It doesn’t seem like they’ll be able to keep this “no touching” thing up for much longer and if Hannah does find out, we all know she’ll make it all about her.

Hannah and her father, Tad, get the real substance of “Good Man”. Hannah leaves in the middle of teaching to take a call from her inconsolable father thinking he’s been violated somehow. Apparently, he just popped over to New York to meet up with a stranger he’d met online. In a great meeting with the principal, that’s reminiscent of her job interview with Mike Birbiglia in season 1, Hannah fails to understand why the book she’s been reading with her 8th graders is not age appropriate. Normally, one would get fired for the things she says, especially in the field of education because, you know, there are kids to protect. However, she overshares about her gay dad’s emergency to leave the meeting before getting reprimanded. Clearly, Hannah hasn’t learned anything about boundaries and I’m guessing this issue started with her parents.

Tad, who is still married to Hannah’s mom, has left his wallet at the apartment of his internet hook-up. You can see all the different levels of emotions as he relays his experience to his daughter, who is justifiably uncomfortable in learning of her middle-aged father’s sexual experiences. He’s torn between staying with his wife and being fully out. As long as he’s married, there will be shame in acting on his sexual desires. Meanwhile, Hannah gets a call from her mother (whose vulgarity after learning of her husband’s homosexuality is tragicomic genius) who tells her to relay a message to Tad that she wants a divorce.

Hannah has always relied on her parents to be there when she needs support and this divorce is going to be difficult time for all three of them. Though Hannah has changed a little, this may be the one thing that finally forces her to grow up. It’s time for her to be the strong one and it’s very clear at the end of the episode. After Hannah recovers Tad’s wallet, the two have a conversation about safe sex and the possibility of the Horvath parents staying together. Tad is sure that he and his wife will work it out, and Hannah pops his bubble of delusion by coming out with the truth. “Mom wants a divorce.” The looks on both of their faces at the end of the episode, as they slowly realize that their comfortable little worlds are being shaken apart, show some of the best acting of the episode.

Meanwhile, Elijah finally has more of a story to lead. Elijah had some of his usual great Elijah moments throughout the episode. He’s Hannah’s best roommate, yet. He’s Ray’s most disinterested employee ever (blatantly drinking the competition’s coffee behind the counter, before offering to brew it at Ray’s). I didn’t expect him to get a love interest. It will be nice to see him with someone who is not a sugar-daddy caricature of a young gay man’s older boyfriend. I look forward to see Andrew Rannells doing some more nuanced work.

Rumor has it the 6th season will be Girls‘ last. The way the characters seem to be evolving makes it look like this is all tying up for a satisfying ending. I’m not naive enough to believe Dunham and co. will have all of them get their shit together, but I’m glad to be along for the ride.

Movies 20-24

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Looking at my progress thus far, I think it’s safe to say I can get in about 200 movies this year. I’m not making any promises, but I’m curious to see where things land. I know I’ll watch more in the summer, when there’s less tv. Anyway, here’s what I watched this past week.

#20: Tiny Furniture – Alright, so I’ve been on a Lena Dunham kick lately. I’m constantly in denial about my status as a millennial, feeling that I’m not on the same page as “kids these days”. I looked it up, though, and LD and I are about the same age which is a sobering fact. She is so well-versed in depicting the aimlessness of “our generation”. In the film, she plays a character with more similarities to her real life than Hannah in Girls. It was nice to see some of the other actors from Girls playing distinctively different characters, as well. Oh, and there’s Merritt Weaver, who is always a pleasure. I kind of wish the audience got to see the aftermath of what happened in the final act, but I get it. We are as in the dark about her future as she is at the end of the film.

#21: The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water – I’m a big kid and I love Spongebob. There, I said it. I used to watch the original SpongeBob Movie all the time. My excuse to see this one was using it with my students to study characters. It was a pretty big hit with the 10 to 12 year-olds and I was laughing with them at times. The trailer made it seem like the bulk of the movie was the CGI stuff, but they don’t get to dry land until more than halfway through. Once they did, the super hero versions of the characters were a lot easier to stomach than the 3-D models of their regular forms. I also loved that Sandy was just a squirrel. The first movie will always be my favorite, along with the classic first two seasons of the show, but I liked it enough.

#22: Frank – Why did it take me so long to watch this?! It’s been in my Netflix queue for probably a year now, but I would’ve watched it sooner had I known how great it is. If you haven’t seen it yet, but have heard all the rave reviews, I want to let you know they are all true. Micheal Fassbender’s performance makes you wonder if anyone else can be that affecting from inside a papier-mâché head. And, despite what Clara says, him describing his facial expressions is a really sweet running joke. As someone who ponders the correlation of the artist’s temperament and psychology way too much, I thought the film did a great job of depicting it in a different way. The music jokes were also great. “Someone’s thinking in C!”, and having a band with a name not even the band members can pronounce come to mind. This is a film that gets it and “I love your wall”.

#23: Tusk – Kevin Smith is really getting out there as he ages. In college, I watched Clerks, Mallrats and Chasing Amy on a loop for a few months (that’s what most kids do, right?). I love these films, but I also loved the huge leap he took with Red State. Tusk is another one of those strange films that makes me wonder what goes on his head. It’s really two movies in one, which is good because I don’t think I could’ve handled much more of the walrus stuff. The opening is the kind of two guys talking stuff you’d expect from the writer/director. Justin Long is always fun to watch and it’s really funny when he calls everyone “the worst” while his character actually is the worst.  I could’ve stayed with those opening moments forever, but that’s not what this movie is about. I wouldn’t call it straight horror, but it is really uncomfortable to watch. Like, I don’t know if I can listen to “I Am the Walrus” the same way ever again. The second half of the story is full of off-beat humor surrounding some very dark content. I kept thinking “this is so Coen brothers”, then the movie name-drops The Big Lebowski and Smith sticks his tongue out at you from behind the camera. I’m still not sure how I felt about this one, but, while looking some stuff up, I saw that Clerks III and something called Mallbrats are in post-production. If those are anything like Clerks II, I would rather get more of Kevin Smith’s crazy side.

#24: San Andreas – It was on cable, so I watched it (after catching the tail end of Furious 7 for the 8th time). I just love how the Rock can be a real-life super hero and nobody questions it. I mean, he’s huge. How would you know if he can lift a car or not? I was knocking this movie when it first came out because disaster action movies are usually pretty terrible. This one was surprisingly entertaining, as well as super cheesy. Most marriages don’t make it through the loss of a child, but teaming up to save your other child pretty much guarantees reconciliation. I liked that they kept the science guy and the action guy as separate stories, avoiding those usual hilarious conversations that debate brain vs. brawn in a cheeky way that’s totally not annoying. Sorry. Anyway, it was nice to see some non-American actors from shows I enjoy – Hugo Johnstone-Burt (Constable Collins on Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries) and Art Parkinson (Rickon from Game of Thrones).

Ok, now back to my Double XP weekend.

It Begins | One Long Day

Love, Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2love-series-premiere.jpg

Netflix has proved once again that it won’t be long until they put cable providers out of business. The service has done a decent job of picking up above average series. It doesn’t hurt that they give opportunities for established vets like Tina Fey and Judd Apatow to have free reign over original material.

Love is a bit different than your normal romantic-comedy. First of all, there’s very little romance in these first two episodes. I’m curious to see how things will play out for the characters, especially since all signs point to it not being easy for them. Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust are a delight to watch and their performances show off their comic skills.

The first episode is very pilot-y, setting up the lives of the two leads who don’t even meet until the end of the episode. Gus, played by Rust, is planning to move in with his girlfriend and buys a new rug for their home. As soon as we see that it will take 4-6 weeks for the delivery, we know that the relationship won’t last that long. The metaphor of the rug is a bit obvious as Gus is the type to let people walk all over him. A month later, his girlfriend reveals that she has cheated on him and Gus takes the newly arrived rug with him as he moves out.

Jacob’s Mickey, on the other hand, is in a tumultuous relationship with drug-addicted slacker, Eric – played by the hilarious Kyle Kinane. When she finally breaks things off with him for good, we get the sense that much of what she says is projecting. She’s also the type of person who names her cat “Grandpa” because he’s the reincarnation of her grandpa. A while after the break-up, she receives a text from Eric after taking a couple of Ambien and decides to meet up with him any way. The resulting race against the pills is the funniest sequence of the episode and she arrives at a new-age church and realizes that she’s never really known love.

The episode ends with the two finally coming together. Mickey, in a post-Ambien daze, goes to get coffee from a convenience store and forgets her wallet. After arguing with the clerk, Gus – also hungover, following a failed threesome attempt (which, ew, he’s right on the incest thing) – steps in to pay for her coffee. And a pack of cigarettes. This scene does a fabulous job setting up their dynamic from the jump.

“One Long Day” starts with the same scene, but from Gus’s perspective. It’s a nice touch. Outside of the store, Mickey insists that she pay Gus back and the two walk back to her house. They are a classic odd couple, but the two of them play it really sweet. They clearly don’t operate on the same wavelength and it’s funny to see them constantly explaining themselves. When they reach Mickey’s, she realizes she left her wallet at Bliss House, the place where she met Eric the night before. They decide to “have an adventure” to go find her wallet. Mickey is the exact type of person that can turn the seemingly straightforward task into an adventure.

After finding her wallet, the two hot box her car and go for some fast food and coffee. Paul Rust acting stoned and paranoid was pretty amusing and his high Space Balls rant was just about perfect. A little too high from the Green Crack, Gus lounges in Mickey’s back seat as she drives him home. Unfortunately, he gives her the wrong address and they show up at his ex’s house. The entire scene had me cracking up. Gus discovers that Natalie didn’t cheat on him, she just said that so he would break up with him. That’s about the saddest/funniest thing I’ve ever heard. Their argument leads to a nice moment where Mickey sticks up for Gus, but not to worry. The comedy moves back to the foreground when Gus decides that his belief in romance comes from lies in movies and proceeds to throw all of his Blurays out of the car window on the ride home. (Gus’s collection is quite eclectic – Pretty Woman, Homeland Season 3 – and calling them DVDs makes you look stupid.)

Ir was indeed a long day for Gus, so Mickey tucks him into bed when he gets home. Half asleep, he asks for her number and she replies, “Normally, I hate meeting people, but I don’t hate you.” It’s super cute. They are so doomed.

 

 

This Unruly Mess I’ve Made – Review

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (2016)Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - This Unruly Mess I've Made (2016)...Freak37.jpg

The discussion of white people appropriating Black art is by no means new. Even before Elvis took the music industry by storm, there was a significant rift between white and black jazz. The former was viewed by true fans and critics as a hokey imitation of the latter. However, as Ellington would put it, “it makes no difference if it’s sweet or hot”; some people are just happy to enjoy music without focusing on the people creating it.

That’s not as easy a task when listening to hip-hop. The art-form begs the listeners to see the world from their perspective. While, it’s difficult to make a blanket judgement on “white rap”, white emcees are faced with the challenge of checking the privilege that may be the reason of their success. I’m not sure if Macklemore helps or hurts his case by attacking this issue head on in This Unruly Mess I’ve Made.

I guess I should start with a confession. I loved The Heist. It’s one of my favorite hip-hop albums post-Watch the Throne (which, for me, marks the end of an era). Every track exemplifies why Ryan Lewis is an equal member of this partnership. The songs weave together to build a consistency that forms one of the few albums I can listen to from start to finish. There’s no doubt that Macklemore has skills, as well. He deftly switches up his flow with lyrics that range from silly, to uplifting, to insightful.

There’s something to be admired about an artist who decides to make a name for himself instead of selling it to the highest bidder. If you don’t believe it, listen to “Jimmy Iovine” and tell me it doesn’t jam. Following their Grammy win, there were those who claimed that “Same Love” was shameless pandering to the LGBT community to gain recognition. While it’s definitely not my favorite song (with a riff that brings to mind John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change”), I disagree. Call me naive, but they come off more sincere than that, maybe even detrimentally so.

“Sincere to a fault” is also how I would characterize the release of “White Privilege II” as a single before This Unruly Mess. The internet blew up over that song in a way that would make even the less skeptical wonder if he was for real. I’ll always be the type to defend an artist’s intention (well, except for Kanye), and I can’t bring myself to see anything insidious in what he’s trying to do. Let’s not forget that this is part 2, a follow-up to a 2005 mixtape. You can say that the song is more about himself than the Black Lives Matter movement, but I think that’s the point. He’s trying to figure out, as a white person, how he can be a part of the conversation and I don’t think we should knock him for making an effort. If more people ask the question “how do I talk about it?”, we get to the point where we can actually discuss the issue. It’s sad to imagine a future where an artist is afraid to make a genuine statement because their intentions are being called into question.

Backing up the argument for good intentions is the song “Kevin”. The over-prescribing of pharmaceuticals is a big issue that Macklemore won’t get as much attention about addressing. Yet, he still felt the need to speak out about it. I got some major feels to Leon Bridges singing “give me a dose of the American dream.” The track is wisely followed by two more of their signature reflective songs: “St. Ides”, in which Macklemore raps solo about his struggle with drug addiction/alcoholism; and (my favorite song on first listen) “Need to Know”, which features a great guest performance by Chance the Rapper.

Not every song on This Unruly Mess I’ve Made has a message, though. The album title comes from a line in the opening song, “Light Tunnels”. From the very beginning you’ll remember why you love or hate Macklemore and Lewis, as he recounts their experience at the 2014 Grammy’s. Most people hate it when famous people are dejected about their fame, and I thought this song came off a little like that. I did think it was a clever way to sort of explain why it took so long for this album to come out, though.

The upside of having a hit album is getting a bunch of guest appearances on your next one. The list even includes Idris Elba (!) appearing on “Dance Off”, a club banger that’s so fun I challenge you not to be compelled to at least nod your head to the beat. Ryan Lewis has put together some great stuff here, producing a sound that elevates them from their sophomore status. The post-modern throwbacks “Downtown” and “Buckshot” get an old-school feel not just from the collaborators, but also the prominent melodic bass lines that I’ve been missing in contemporary hip-hop. Plus the silliness of a song about mopeds puts you in a great mood. They also recapture the catchiness of “Thrift Shop” with “Brad Pitt’s Cousin”. Like their first hit, I get the feeling the kids are going to really dig repeating the nonsense in this song. I mean nonsense in a good way, of course. I love stuff like “now my cat’s more famous than you ever will be.”

Speaking of kids, there’s another feel-good song aimed at youth with “Growing Up”. Ed Sheeran sings the chorus, but Macklemore pulls his weight with some rap/singing that is less grating than the usual fare. Also, reading Langston Hughes is good advice for any youngster. I’ll give an honorable mention to “Let’s Eat”. It’s a full song about trying to diet that could easily be a skit or interlude. I did laugh at “I never knew what a carbohydrate was / Turns out it’s all the snacks I love”. I hear you, man.

Overall, I thought this album was pretty good. Unlike their first album, there were 2 songs that really didn’t speak to me so I didn’t mention them. I’m all about positivity here. If you liked them before, then this is a solid album for you. I think they’ve evolved enough while still maintaining some of the hunger that got them recognized in the first place. That’s really all I want out of a hip-hop album.