And the Oscar Goes To…zzzzzzzzzzzz

Alison:

Here are the bullet points re: the Oscars that have dominated our newsfeeds in the last couple days.

  • It was very white.
  • It was sort of boring and endless.
  • Joan Rivers and Elaine Stritch weren’t in the In Memoriam.
  • John Travolta and his wig continued their transformation into your skeevy uncle on Quaaludes

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Seriously, dude, STOP touching my chin.

Neil Patrick Harris’ lackluster hosting disappointed me most. The man is the closest there is to a Sure Thing in the award show world. But after the passable opening musical number, the rest of the evening stretched on interminably, punctured by intermittent dad puns and poorly timed, mostly harmless pot shots. His running gag with the locked box and Octavia Spencer made me cringe. I kept shouting “No one gives shit about your predictions!” Thankfully, they were not literal award predictions, but a Hollywood Magic Castle-style trick, where he pulled a list of awkward happenings from the night out of the briefcase.  I must admit, that did surprise me and also one dude in the audience. But I don’t blame NPH for the evening falling flat. He’s got charisma for dayzzzz, boi. The Oscars are a big, bloated mess, and it will take real dedication to cut the fat down to a manageable size.

Elise:

I’ll say something controversial here.

NHP was just really bad, yes, and the evening literally never stopped. Somewhere, the Oscars is still happening—though Meryl Streep walked out days ago, and Steve Carrell has taken to hosting a mini-show in a corner for all the sad souls desperate for a laugh.

Everyone is talking about the speeches. Many made impassioned pleas for a cause or three. Though all issues raised are important, and desperately in need of dialogue and discussion—I. Didn’t really. Like it. The outcry-as-acceptance speech phenomenon, I mean.

I can’t say why, exactly—maybe the breadth of issues raised seemed to diminish each individual one? Maybe it’s not awesome to be lectured to by someone who is quite privileged and sheltered by virtue of his or her profession? Maybe I didn’t actually like some of the folks who won—not as people, of course—but as artists. The Imitation Game script was kind of a bummer piece of writing, guys. Be better at the thing you are paid millions and millions of dollars to do. Be better at crafting words that Benedict Cumberbatch will say with his beautiful mouth.

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Again: this is absolutely not me taking a stand against wage equality for women, or LGBTQ youth empowerment. It is me saying: know your audience, and know your platform. What do you want us, watching the Oscars on a Sunday night—exhausted and completely uninspired by all the sparkly, empty nonsense—to do? What’s our call to action? What’s the next step, for all of us?

JK Simmons was my favorite. He got personal, got specific, and was truly genuine without being preachy. Not like I’m being right now. Okay, I’m done.

Alison:

Enough about the garbage we didn’t like. Let’s be Positive Pollys, and get on board with some of this ish.

Benedict Cumberbatch

Yes, just generally, but see above for his cute bit with a flask in the opening. There weren’t enough “celebrities in cahoots” moments.

JK Simmons’ speech (just like Elise! Soulmates!)

The man has been making awards speeches for months now. He’s thanked errbody already. So I loved how much time he spent really thanking his wife and kids and making everyone call their parents. And I had already called my mom earlier that day, thank you very much. (She didn’t answer.)

Elise:

 I was watching the show with my mom. So I win against you all. Even JK.

Alison:

Chris Pine crying at the performance of Glory

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Word, bro. I have crazy white guilt, and I think I would have spontaneously combusted had I been in that theatre.

Lady Gaga

She sounded great! Wish this tribute hadn’t come in hour 14, but it perked me up and lead to Julie Andrews in the flesh!

This Meryl Streep Moment 4Evr

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 I plan to use this infinity times. To punctuate things like, “I don’t need a man” and “I washed my sheets today.” She’s my Lil Affirmation Meryl.

Elise:

I approve and agree with all of these choices. I must add one of the best things ever: Chelsea Peretti’s Twitter feed.

I’ve never totally and fully engaged in a large-scale live-Tweeting event—too intimidated, and freaked out by the lightning-speed of it all. Trolling on Sunday, I realized that Chelsea is my everything. By hour two, I was basically just waiting to see what she would say next.

A random sampling:

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All the amazing Lego Oscar award statues go to her.

—Alison & Elise

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It’s About Time: There Goes The Neighborhood

Note: Spoilers for Season One of Banshee to follow!

Have you noticed that my posts have tended toward the dark, dreary and nostalgic recently? I’m in that kind of a place. It happens.

Doesn’t help that some of my favorite things have gotten super-real on me lately. Harper Lee’s beloved childhood novel unexpectedly resurfaced, This American Life released a two-part piece examining racism and police-civilian relations, Togetherness’s Brett and Michelle are annihilating all my youthful illusions about love and marriage weekly…

There is a very important place in my heart for the lighthearted TV, movies and books that distract me in times of trouble. As I’m sure I’ve said, I re-read Harry Potter when I get the deep sads, and have been known to watch Bridesmaids thrice in as many days.

But sometimes, I wanna see someone bleed.

Not make someone bleed! Hilarious—have you met me ever? I am small, and—though scrappy—very scared of being hit. My weapon of choice is tickling. But I watch CRAZY stuff on TV. Murder-type procedurals, shows with horrendous rape and torture storylines. Prison violence. Drugs. I like it best when paired with terrible gangster dialogue and some truly abominable rule-breaking committed by those supposedly enforcing the law. Haha, don’t worry! We’ll just dump the body in a shallow grave by the highway! What are warrants? I broke my hand like six times today, but fear not–we can still have improbable sex in the bed of my truck later.

let me handle this

Lucas Hood—hero of the Cinemax pulp fiction gore-fest Banshee—does and says and thinks all of these things. Twice. In the pilot. Hood is not his real name—in the first episode a nameless con man, just released from prison, arrives in Banshee, Pennsylvania (a fictional town featuring small-town folk, an enigmatic Amish population and some Native Americans—the ultimate trifecta!). He is in search of his girl and his diamonds. He stops for a drink, yadda yadda yadda, a guy gets shot and the last man standing—our con man whiskey drinker—assumes the dead dude’s identity. And rides into Banshee as the new-come Sheriff, Lucas Hood. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right: this makes no sense at all. It’s true—and it gets so much better!

Banshee has long been a favorite of Grantland’s pop culture and entertainment critic Andy Greenwald. It is therefore astounding that it has taken so long for me to jump on board. But the thing is: I didn’t really dig the first episode. It was fine, but I was distracted by leading man Anthony Starr, the woodenest actor of all time (sorry, Anthony—you’re very attractive). Also the premiere’s big bad evil guy (Amish dropout-turned-drugloard maniac, Kai Proctor) seemed to be doing all his evil things by rote–like he was bored, but had to keep up appearances and stuff. There wasn’t much to keep me coming back—except I trust Andy, and the sheer volume of fake blood sprayed around during those first fifty minutes was definitely my style. So I stayed with it.

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part 3

Oh, man. It gets better. Because a pilot’s job is to set the scene and make the introductions—but what’s great about Banshee is what comes next. Banshee’s got a Ukranian crime-lord named Rabbit (such a terrible boss-name! I love it!), a ladylove former-accomplice turned soccer mom with problems who still has the diamonds that she and Hood stole from Rabbit (fakest looking jewels in the history of TV, bad and otherwise) and now things are gonna get MESSED UP. Also, there is a stylish transsexual Asian hacker sidekick, sex with EVERYONE (all body parts are fair game on Cinemax, HBO’s delightfully smutty cousin), and a complete disdain for actual laws that exist in the world.

Starr does not get better at acting. But he’s an excellent fighter—plus it turns out that Hood’s true love Ana is super-badass, and makes the pansy in me want to go to that one cardio-boxing offered at my gym. The violence in the show is almost elegant, by the season’s end—gratuitous, graphic and relentless. It’s a return to the olden days of pulpy gore—but with a storyline and narrative logic tailored to match: improbable and often stupid, but completely addictive.

If you adore this business as much as I do, give Banshee a shot—and tell me you can’t stop watching. I won’t believe you.

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Banshee airs Friday nights at 10pm ET on Cinemax!

–Elise

Leave It All On The Drums

What was the tensest, best-acted, most electrifying movie you saw in 2014? Birdman?

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 Guardians of the Galaxy?

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The Imitation Game?

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If any of these was your answer, you didn’t experience the twisted pleasure of the indie gem, Whiplash, and that is a sincere shame.

When I walked into the theater, I had almost no idea what I was getting myself into. It was my first Saturday morning free in four months, and despite a pretty serious hangover, seizing the day felt necessary. “The world is your oyster! Go treat yo’self!” my culturally-appropriating hangover told me when it woke me up at 8:30 am. So, obviously, I went to the movies alone at 10 am.

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I know, I’m really hitting this hangover thing hard.

I went on the recommendation of a friend, who said Whiplash was the best movie he’d seen all year. I hadn’t seen the trailer, and all I knew was that the film was about drumming and that JK Simmons was really good in it.

Whiplash was, in short, incredible—tightly paced, superbly acted, and surprisingly visceral. It was by no means Black Swan, but it had its hard-to-watch moments. A half-second shot of a spit valve being released is particularly burned into my mind.

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I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and not just the icky parts.

Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now, some other garbage movies) plays the lead—a drumming student at a prestigious music conservatory, quietly arrogant and hungry for greatness. JK Simmons (Spiderman, Farmers Insurance man) is a formidable conductor, who has plucked Teller out of relative freshman-obscurity, only to berate and abuse him as he does his other band members.

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Simmons is, rightfully, getting a lot of press and awards for his turn here. It’s a role he was born to play (although he seems super nice IRL). The character is an asshole, but like an ogre, he’s got layers. He loves music so deeply that he lusts for perfection, and he needs his students to strive, nay bleed, for transcendence. His performance is crisp and mercurial. I hope this leads to a lot more Simmons in our future.

This film could easily go the clichéd route of, say, Mr. Holland’s Opus—tough, unconventional teacher eventually softens as scrappy, hard-headed student(s) make him incredibly proud in final number at Regionals (Or whatever. I’ve actually never seen Mr. Holland’s Opus, but I assume I’ve fucking nailed it). But Whiplash never strays down that path. Teller and Simmons have a predictably turbulent teacher-student relationship, but every time I thought, “Oh, here’s where he’ll win the old man’s approval” or, “Here’s where they’ll really pull it together, against all odds,” the movie yanked the rug out from underneath me. I basically had an ulcer when I walked out of the theater because I was so stressed the whole time. Again, this is a movie about jazz drumming.

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PSA: You don’t need to be into jazz to be into this movie. My music taste is one part folksy sadness, one part electronic dancey, two parts Beyonce, and like ten parts terrible pop. I halfway considered getting into jazz after seeing Whiplash, but then I realized I was talking crazy, and turned on Nick Jonas. (Was “Jealous” out at that time? Probably not. But damn, that song is good.)

Simmons is favored to win Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars, as he’s been cleaning up all around town this awards season. The movie probably won’t win anything else, but the fact that it garnered at least 5% of votes to get the Best Picture nomination is win enough for me. In a season of snubs, this was one nod that felt both surprising and deserved.

Some internet nutter left a Youtube comment on the trailer saying that he had walked out after half an hour because the movie was predictable garbage. I was devastated for that man. In the last fifteen minutes, I literally gasped out loud. The end was the BEST PART, GUY!!! Don’t be that like that dude. Sit through this entire movie. Please. For me. And if you hate it…never tell me. We won’t survive it.

—Alison

All Grown Up

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I don’t remember the first time I read To Kill A Mockingbird. Or I guess I should say, I don’t remember when I was made to read To Kill A Mockingbird. I remember the second time: I was 21. And the third: I was 25. I’ll probably read it again, in anticipation of the very loudly and virally announced follow-up novel, Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee’s only other written endeavor since Mockingbird was released in 1960.

Re-reading childhood classics and selections from school Required Reading lists has been a bit of a failed experiment for me. Laura Ingalls Wilder is kind of lame and angelic, plus her mom is so racist. The Chronicles of Narnia is offensively overt and, if I’m honest, I never really understood Catch-22. I loved The Unbearable Lightness of Being in high school, but now suspect I was pretending in order to feel cultured and be the best at English class.

But Mockingbird is one of those really special books that speaks to my soul differently every time I read it. Sometimes, it’s about childhood and the strange but magical qualities of those friendships forged during the earliest years of your life. Lately, I’ve focused on Scout and Jem—other times, I’m drawn to Scout’s relationship with her dad. Mockingbird is an almost-perfect novel—filled with characters that somehow sound like we sound and act as we would like to act, though rooted firmly in small-town Alabama in the 1930s. Scout speaks truly and wisely and is genuinely hilarious—in the manner of those awesome kids featured in that Always Super Bowl commercial. #LIKEAGIRL!

Here’s my fear—part of what makes an excellent childhood classic is that those beloved characters are frozen in time. Scout gets to stay that precocious kid forever—or she grows up to be exactly who I want her to be, in my imagination. Maybe she even grows up to be exactly like me. This is why epilogues and add-ons that contradict those fantasies can be so dangerous—and potentially infuriating (see: Harry Potter).

What will this transcendently awesome young person look like, twenty years after we met her? What if she’s fully jaded, an unhappy adult? What if she’s boring or unlikeable? What if she’s a Republican??

I will certainly read Go Set a Watchman. Despite my concerns (and those shared by others). Despite its grammatically confusing title, and the strange timeline of its creation (Is it technically a prequel? Sequel? Also, Harper Lee just—forgot about this for more than fifty years? Should we be concerned?). Despite the fact that so many people will read this book not because they want to, but because they think they should. To be cultured and smart, like high school me.

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Me, circa high school. Note: large book.

Which is annoying. High school me was probably annoying. I’d never admit it then, but high-school-me would have much preferred being sassy in overalls and breaking into haunted houses to debating Nietzsche’s philosophy of eternal return. I still miss overalls, and I still don’t understand Nietzsche. And I wonder if, firmly in our twenties, Scout and I would still be friends.

Go Set a Watchman is scheduled for release on July 14, 2015.

–Elise

Who You Gonna Call?

feigThat’s my new favorite meme that I just created. Spread it around. Rejoice! Since the news of the Ghostbusters reboot casting made the rounds on the Internet, I’ve been as giddy as a little pup at the beach. Twitter occasionally sends me push notifications, and because I am not an avid user, it usually happens when several celebrities I follow like the same tweet. My phone alerted me to this captionless picture.

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I immediately recognized this announcement, and my reaction would be described most aptly as “violently positive.” MELISSA MCCARTHY, KRISTEN WIIG, KATE MCKINNON, LESLIE JONES I SERIOUSLY CANNOT BELIEVE THIS CAST WHERE CAN I WATCH THIS MOVIE RIGHT NAOWWW.

Please forgive my excessive all-caps, but it’s my truth.

Quite honestly, I don’t really remember the first Ghostbusters movies very well. Sry. This is not going to be a breakdown of the reasons why this casting is spot-on as compared to the original. I’m mostly pumped about the badass level of talent that’s about to come together, and need to shout it from the rooftops. Even if they were making Grown Ups 3, I’d still be dying to see these uteruses unite.

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Reboot director Paul Feig struck a sound balance with his four leads. McCarthy and Wiig have great box office appeal, and oh yeah, are fucking hilarious. They collaborated with Feig on The Heat and Bridesmaids, respectively. He also brought on The Heat’s writer, Katie Dippold, to punch up the script that had been floating around in development before the reboot with the original cast fell apart. The Heat had its flaws, but delivered a strong female-based action movie with distinct, well-rounded characterizations. We’re in good hands.

McKinnon and Jones are well known to current SNL devotees, but this is a big screen lead debut for both. McKinnon has been one of my favorites on SNL since she started in 2012, bringing commitment equal parts fierce and offbeat to all of her characters.

Jones transitioned from the writers’ room to a featured player this year, and despite her less-than-polished sketch work, she has a magnetic “cut loudly through the bullshit” quotient that will serve the film well. She’ll bring the oddballs back to earth.

I wouldn’t change this cast if you paid me (jk, I love money), but here are a couple other funny females whose names I hope were at least tossed around: Rebel Wilson, Ilana Glaser, Chelsea Peretti, Jenny Slate. They’re all loveable weirdoes that could have brought something great to the table. And please Lord, give Tig Notaro a cameo. Amen.

The movie will reportedly start filming this summer, but can we get it together sooner? I’m already camping outside the theater, and it’s freezing.

—Alison