Holiday Card, 2015

Happy Holidays, friends and lovers! How I’ve missed you. I hope the ups of your 2015 outpaced the downs, and that you didn’t have too many unbearable hangovers. 

10606037_10152443881507077_7512554998478246123_n (1).jpg

Merry Christmas from this girl, whose sweater is equal parts comfortable and insane.

Let’s catch up. As my (belated) Festivus gift to you I present: a letter full of hot recs!

PODCASTS

Screen-Shot-2015-06-30-at-2.48.18-PM.png

If I had to distill the most important thing I took from 2015, it was Self Care. My life hashtag has been #notimeforscrubs for quite a while now, but I’ve expanded it to include more than just idiots from my dating life, past and future. #notimeforscrubs means no time for toxic friendships, negative self-talk, or events for pure obligation’s sake. It means more time for yoga, chiropractic appointments, and face masks. I started therapy this year, and I tried ear acupuncture. My 2016 resolution is to floss. I’m really trying to get it together. A huge influence for me in this realm has been the Buzzfeed podcast Another Round. Tracy Clayton and Heben Nigatu make a point to discuss the practicalities of taking care of yourself, and they ask each of their guests (including Hillary GD Clinton!) how they take care of themselves, too. Just as important, they are hilarious, and I wish they were my real-life friends.

magictavern1.png

I don’t usually recommend people go back to the beginning of a podcast, unless they’re a freak completist like me. It’s overwhelming and time-consuming. But the best thing about Hello from the Magic Tavern is the fully formed fantasy world Arnie Niekamp, Matt Young, and Adal Rifai are building, and it’s worth it to get in on the ground floor. The backstory: Niekamp is a human who fell through a portal in Chicago to the magical land of Foon. He’s joined every episode by pals Usidore the Wizard (Young) and Chunt the shapeshifting badger (Rifai), and they have a roundtable chat with a local colorful character. Think Dungeons and Dragons meets Professor Blastoff (RIP). The most impressive feat the show pulls off is the continuity between episodes. Even one-off guests readily reference rules of the universe established in previous weeks. Usually fictional podcasts are not my bag, but this hits all the right notes of the most fun improv you’ll ever see except in audio form. Full disclosure: As of this posting, Adal coaches my improv team, but he will likely never read this, so NO I’M NOT SUCKING UP.

Elise mentioned Mystery Show in her summer postcard, but I’d like to reiterate how incredible that show is. Start with the “Belt Buckle” or “Source Code” episodes. Really, anything on the Gimlet podcast network is worth your time, if you’re looking for something new. Reply All is unmissable, too. Honestly, I will listen to anything Gimlet puts out; they’re doing good work.

TV

FX had a stellar year, upping the ante on a bunch of their shows. The Americans, You’re the Worst (yeah, yeah, technically FXX), and Fargo all blew their previous seasons out of the water.

I’ve also continued upon my inadvisable rewatch of original 90210. Unless you unapologetically like bad TV, like some people I know, you have better ways to spend your time.

90210_opening_083110_m.jpg

What is anyone wearing, ever

MOVIES

Well, what about a little indie gem called The Force Awakens? Truthfully, I’d like to just list it here ten times, but that feels lazy. I’ll just say it was the most fun I’ve had at the movies in literal years, and if you’re not a Star Wars person, I still think you’d like it. But I’m a little too close to the material to know for sure. I could seriously watch BB-8 give a thumbs-up on repeat for five hundred years.

star-wars-force-awakens-gifs-3.gif

Spotlight is also great. It’s part procedural, part thriller, and covers the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, as brought to light by The Boston Globe. Though it dramatizes true events, it doesn’t add any extraneous nonsense to make the story more big-screen friendly. It’s just a bunch of 2000s journalists in hideous outfits doing their jobs really well. Pro tip: I spent the whole movie thinking Cardinal Law was some sort of catechism, but it is, in fact, a person’s name. So much for 13 years of Catholic school.

Sisters isn’t getting much love, which is sadly fair. But if you like Tina and Amy at all, their chemistry certainly justifies a rental. I will be plagiarizing many of my future sick burns from the script, including: “I respect your jumpsuit, but not its contents.”

sisters-tina-fey-amy-poehler_universal_2.0.0.jpg

BOOKS

In October, I successfully completed my Goodreads challenge to read forty books this year and felt a powerful sense of accomplishment, because my self-worth is determined by To Do lists. Unsurprisingly, I have significantly slowed down since then. Currently I’m reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. It’s sad as fuck, guys. But so beautifully written. Now that I’ve finished my challenge, I am savoring the act of reading, instead of blowing through pages to cross another novel off the list.

MUSIC

My new music consumption is pathetic. As I edit this, I am listening to The Head and the Heart’s 2010 self-titled album, which I have heard approximately eleventy-bajillion times already. Sure, I bought Adele’s new album (and tickets to see her in concert, doi), and I have intensely lip-synced to it around my apartment. I like Leon Bridges’ album a whole lot, but usually when I put on Spotify, I head straight for the “Focus” section because I have work to do. I’ve written many jokes to the energizing instrumentals of the “Productive Morning” playlist. (And not always in the morning, either.)

I guess what I’m asking, dear reader, is what music should I be listening to? What were the albums you couldn’t live without this year? No aggressively dissonant music need apply, but I am otherwise open.

I’m trying to try, though. I even bought a record player this year! And my transformation to completely insufferable is now complete! Unfortunately, I had to replace my turntable within a month, and the new one was also non-functioning, so now I have about 15 records with no way to play them. Take pity on me and my virgin copy of Dolly Parton’s Greatest Hits.

tumblr_lgwq98cZ7E1qbmre7o1_500.gif

Thats it! Merry happy, everybody, and see you in 2016!
Alison

Re: Postcard, Summer 2015

Hi, buddy!

Thanks for your letter. Your summer sounds like it was tremendous. Wish I could have been there, too.

The fugue state that is Chicago summer feels like months ago, instead of merely weeks. With October quickly approaching, we’ve entered the season of Impossible to Dress Yourself Since It Will Be Fifteen Degrees Warmer Later, or ItDYSIWBFDWL, for short. But fall truly is the best time of year. It holds so much promise—even without the beginning of the school year, autumn feels like the perfect time for reinvention and revitalization. Am I a Pilates Person who Reads the News now? Hey, at least for September.

autumn gorilla

But let’s go back in time for a moment. Here are some of the things that I was jamming on this summer, about which I may or may not have already texted you.

Podcasts

I wish you had more patience for Beverly Hills, 90210 because Tara and Sarah (#squadgoals) are doing an amazing job recapping every episode on Again With This. You should at least be checking out the accompanying Visual Aids because, you know, comedy gold. I, on the other hand, subscribed to Hulu Plus to watch every second of the ten-season series because, just like Dylan and Brenda, I am going all in on this relationship.

90210

Co-sign on Death, Sex & Money. I teared up listening to Chaz Ebert’s episode. Love is real! All of Anna Sale’s interviews are handled masterfully—they each feel so honest. It helps, too, that her guests are game to be open books. I loved listening to Jane Fonda, Scott Aukerman with Kulap Vilaysack, Ellen Bustyn, and Joy Williams, too. And all the rest of them. Just go listen, already!

Books

I finally finished Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, five hundred months later. I appreciated the book more than I enjoyed it, but No Regrets 2015! Now, onto the miniseries…

Everyone should experience Aziz Ansari’s book Modern Romance via audiobook. Internet, contact me for more details. (Seriously.)

Mindy Kaling’s new book made me laugh out loud in public more than once. She’s a boss.

mindy

TV

As readers of this blog may have noticed due to my sudden decline in coverage, I dropped True Detective like a hot rock. As much fun as I had mocking it, I could not carry on because it was total trash. If any of you out there are holding on senselessly to any shows that have gone off the rails, follow my example and let go. I also gave up on Masters of Sex, and I’m feeling great.

I binged Season One of Empire last month, which was amazing, but no one did batshit as well as UnREAL did this summer. Get on it, everyone. It may have aired on Lifetime, but UnREAL has an FX sensibility.

I already miss Playing House, but thanks to the podcast Womp It Up (a Comedy Bang Bang spinoff) and an iTunes purchase of the show Best Friends Forever, I’ll still have some Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham to keep me warm this winter. As a dude that I met on a dating app texted me the first night we started talking, “Alison, you are definitely crushing on Lena [sic] and Jessica.” The next day he passive aggressively complained when I didn’t respond immediately. Feeling great about my twelve-hour summer fling of 2015!

I still have not finished The Wire. I’ve got a real “slow and steady” thing going. I average about an episode every two weeks, which is the perfect pace for forgetting everything that’s happened so far.

Movies

I just Googled “summer movies 2015” because I had no memory of what I saw this year. Great sign!

I liked Trainwreck and Straight Outta Compton, loved Spy, and had my brain exploded by Magic Mike XXL. I’m a different, better person now.

mmxxl

Music

James Bay (or Bae, if you will) is my new twentysomething-Brit-with-a-guitar crush. I saw him at Outside Lands in San Francisco, and have tickets to see him in Chicago in November. On a related note, there is a RedEye employee in my office who wears a similar round brim hat at his standing desk. My amateur diagnosis is that he’s trying too hard.

Lianne La Havas is a goddess. For Christmas, I’d like her jumpsuits and her casual cool.

I’ve re-signed my lease for the 2015-2016 year, which is a funny feeling. I’ll have at least one more winter and one more summer in Chicago. So much will be different by this time next year—mostly the newly wedded bliss of some of my favorite people, as 2016 is The Year of Weddings. The other changes, however, the changes in my own life, are ones I cannot foresee. And I’m excited for those.

Love,

Alison

P.S. Of course you brought corn on the plane. Of course you did.

A Special Day

Today is a very special day. [A young but mature-sounding number of] years ago, Alison was born, and she was fabulous.

Actually, she—like me—was pretty dorky and strange. Proud to let her freak flag fly until middle school—then, unsure how to contextualize her beautiful weirdness in a sea of scary pre-teens.

Until—college! Freedom! Thick-framed hipster glasses! And of course, many years of ME IN HER LIFE.

But this is about Alison. To celebrate, I have here compiled a few of her (and my) FAVORITE things, thematically united by girl-friendship and powered by strong, feminine wonder.

We encourage you to listen, watch, subscribe and enjoy—and to send one-half of your favorite blogging dynamic duo some love on her birthday.

WOMP IT UP!

lennon and jessI have already written ecstatically about the Lennon Parham/Jessica St. Clair best friendship—which inspired the delightful comedy Playing House on USA (returning for its second season this summer). 

Parham and St. Clair recently launched WOMP IT UP!, a hilarious podcast featuring recurring characters from Scott Aukerman’s Comedy Bang Bang! television show and podcast.

Join high school senior Marissa Wompler (St. Clair) and her BFF/sketchy middle-aged mentor and teacher, Ms. Listler (Parham) for hours of unending fun.

RIP Joan Rivers.

VERONICA MARS

veronica

This was the very first show that Alison and I binge-watched together. Veronica Mars, a spunky and disconcertingly brilliant high school-aged private investigator, tackles all things dark, difficult and mysterious while navigating her own twisty adolescent feelings. Her buddy Mac—girl-computer genius—stands by her side throughout.

Often funny, super-entertaining, and available in TV, movie and –finally!—book form! Brought to you by the ridiculously awesome Rob Thomas.

TWO BOSSY DAMES

Created by sassy chicks not unlike Alison and me, Two Bossy Dames is a weekly newsletter in which, by their own description: “Margaret [librarian and pop culture critic Margaret H. Willison] and Sophie [Sophie Brookover, librarian and writer extraordinaire] boss the Internet with impeccable discernment and insouciant charm. Cultural recommendations and commentary every Friday evening. GIFs aplenty.”

Try it! If you don’t fall in love with Dames Margaret and Sophie immediately, consider us, as they might say, “highly puzzled by you.”

EXTRA HOT GREAT, FEATURING TARA ARIANO AND SARAH D. BUNTING

Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 9.36.44 PM

A classic and immensely great pop culture podcast, conceived by the minds behind Television Without Pity and Previously.TV. Tara Ariano and Sarah D. Bunting co-founded both sites, along with Tara’s deliriously insane hubby, David T. Cole.

Each week, an in-depth gab-fest featuring uniquely sophisticated television and film commentary. These folks know literally everything about what’s on the tube. Also, a game-time segment at the end of each episode that is often bizarre and very fun to play along with in the comfort of your mind.

BROAD CITY

abby and ilana

If you have not already caught this show on Comedy Central, do yourself a favor—Youtube some clips, or catch season one for free on Amazon Prime.

These girls are adorably gross and in love with each other—a must-see for twentysomethings living in cities that haven’t a clue. Alison and I cannot decide who is which—probably both of us are Abbis, if we’re being totally honest.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BUDDY!

 –Elise

Have Culture, Will Travel

It’s here! Spring Break!  Enough of this tease we call Chicago spring; take me to the snow! (…what was I thinking…) In a few short days, I’ll be bleary-eyed on a 7am flight to Colorado, trying to decide whether I should nap or have too much coffee and soldier through. I’m spending my first time off in 2015 skiing with a mish-mash of college friends and total strangers, whom I assume are all my new BFFs-in-waiting.

But, spoiler alert, the Midwest is flat as hell, and I have to make it to those pristine mountains first. So, for those of you with extended traveling coming up, here are some things to Watch, Read, and Listen To on your way.

A preliminary note: I prefer my Pop Culture for Travel to be on the lite side—engrossing, easily digestible, and funny (usually). If you look forward to a seven-hour train ride for the opportunity to make a serious dent in American Pastoral, this list is not for you.

WATCH

Like the average impoverished twentysomething, I fly Southwest. I have a laptop whose battery dies within forty minutes, so I’m unable to enjoy the Wi-Fi-accessible DISH Network programming provided by the airline. It’s been a while since I watched a movie on a plane, but maybe you have an iPad that works. Or you’re using your parents’ miles to fly first class or something.

giphy

Picking something to watch in a public place requires some delicacy. It can’t be too sexy or too murder-y, lest an old lady or a child sits next to you. And it must have a quick pace—otherwise you become distracted by the discomfort of your chair, and the fact that you and your seatmate have been playing elbow-footsie for three hours. (If we can’t share the armrest, than neither of us should have it!) I really enjoy animated movies or action flicks while traveling. Anything Pixar should do the trick. Same goes for the Bourne trilogy or The Avengers. Also, Sherlock. That doesn’t fit into either category, really, but whatever. Whatever, I say!

giphy (1)

For something a little more off the beaten path, I highly, highly recommend Mike Birbiglia: My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, streaming on Netflix. Anyone familiar with his comedy or his This American Life appearances knows Birbiglia’s signature stand up/storytelling style. His special is funny and heartfelt and bittersweet. I watched it while I was still working in my obituary call center job, and the fact that it was still enjoyable while in that pit of despair is testimonial enough.

READ

If you’re unfamiliar with the blog Hyperbole and a Half, please educate yourself. Start here. Allie Brosh’s MS Paint illustrations enliven her stories, which range from whimsical, childhood antics to darker issues like depression. She tackles them all with humor and vulnerability, and she has made me cry with laughter many times. Her graphic novel (also titled Hyperbole and a Half, published November 2013), includes new pieces as well as old favorites from her site. Read it in hardcopy or on a color tablet—you don’t want to miss any of the graphics.

kpcS95N

I love a good mystery. Like, actually good—one that is both gripping and well-written is rare. I would like to recommend I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes, but as I am a third of the way in, I cannot yet, in good conscience. I’ll keep you posted. So instead, I’m going with an old standby: In the Woods by Tana French, the first of her Dublin Murder Squad series. If you know me even remotely, I’ve recommended this book to you—so I won’t carry on. But if I haven’t, please read it! It’s an excellent example of the genre, which has been relegated, unfortunately, to “beach and/or airport reads.” It’s not just a good mystery novel; it’s a good novel.

Or just read Bossypants again.

LISTEN

I’ve been devouring audiobooks lately, thanks to both the public library and the website Audible. The key is finding the right book with the right narrator. Listening to a book and knowing you’d be enjoying it more on the page is The Worst. To start, I heartily recommend Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, or any of his titles, all of which are read by the author. His sardonic delivery is just right for all who regard interacting with other humans as….complicated. Fair warning: you’ll be That Guy/Gal with your headphones in, smiling idiotically into the middle distance.

Fans of Buttercup and Wesley will enjoy As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride, narrated by author Cary Elwes and the cast and crew of the film. It’s an oral history of sorts, and while there’s no real conflict, per se, the warmth of the stories complements the nostalgia of the movie.

I assume you have listened to the podcast SERIAL, so I shan’t waste my breath. Instead I’m recommending the Fast & Furious 6 episode of How Did This Get Made?, a comedy podcast from the Earwolf network. The regulars Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, and Jason Mantzoukas—whom you might recognize from The League, New Girl, or Burning Love—break down the worst movies out there. This particular episode features my ideal mate, Adam Scott, and the best part about it is how much they all LOVED the movie. They discuss it with such unmitigated glee that I went out and paid actual money to see it (only $5, but still). DO NOT WORRY IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THIS MOVIE. This episode is still thoroughly hilarious, even out of context.

HDTGMFULL-1024x1024

That should be enough to get you there and back again, mon petit chous. Now go traveling!

—Alison

Fifty Shades of Grey: A Pretty Boring Movie

As Elise wrote in her last post, she and I spent a romantic Galentine’s weekend together in Chicago—brunch, PureBarre: Beyonce Edition, lots o’ wine, and of course, Fifty Shades of Grey.

You might be asking: “As two staunch feminists (it’s all we ever write about), how could you two pay $12.50 each for this hot garbage?”

Well, keen reader, we were duty-bound to watch with a critical eye for gender tropes and abuse masked as love. Also, we only paid matinee prices.

This movie was very dumb; I’ll say that right off the bat. Jamie Dornan (playing the richest mannequin on earth, Christian Grey) had all the spark of an Abercrombie & Fitch shopping bag. He said things like “I’m fifty shades of fucked up,” which made me laugh and throw up simultaneously.

movies-50shades-021315-videoSixteenByNine540

“I’m…complicated.”

Dakota Johnson played the mostly-mousy, teensy-bit-spitfire Anastasia Steele with some human emotion, which was both surprising and refreshing. In her most charming scene, Ana is tipsy at a bar with her friends, drunk dialing Christian (been there, gf). He somehow shows up, although he has been given no information about her location (of course). She proceeds to puke her brains out on the sidewalk. “I will launder this item,” she says, using Mr. Moneybags’ handkerchief to wipe the bile away. “We would be friends,” I thought. Johnson has a nice breezy earnestness about her, and after watching her host SNL last Saturday, I can safely say that in Fifty Shades she’s pretty much playing herself.

50-shades-jpg

The sex was….fine? Honestly, the straight-laced stuff was sexier to me than any of the kinky business. Even the soundtrack got me going more than the peacock feather. Maybe that’s more about my preferences, but also, I’m pretty sure there’s more to BDSM than extreme tickling.

fifty-shades-grey

Side note: Rita Ora was in this. America’s Sweetheart, Rita Ora!!! No? Feat. on Iggy Azealea’s “Black Widow”? The most overshadowed musical guest at the Oscars? Rob Kardashian’s pre-weight gain bae? Still nothing?! Fair enough. You’ll just have to trust me: it was very confusing to have a minorly famous person in this movie for three minutes tops. Could not have been worth the paycheck.

640_rita_ora_mia_grey

Similarly confusing was ANASTASIA’S FUCKING FLIP PHONE THAT IS NEVER ADDRESSED. For real, though. This bajillionaire stalker buys her clothes and a computer and sells her car without her knowledge, but the man can’t get her on a data plan?!? Dude: you know you can easily monitor her movements through smartphone GPS, right? The phone is so distracting, and the most infuriating part of the whole movie.

Frankly, I have no regrets about seeing Fifty Shades. Yes, it was bad. And if I had had on my feminist clogs 100% while watching, I would have been sincerely appalled by the film’s take on healthy relationships and self-worth. But I knew it would be atrocious—I told several of my friends they shouldn’t see it because it would make them too mad. I was not watching for the message. I wanted ridiculous, campy B.S. to laugh at with my Galentine. And I got it.

On Oscar Sunday, I was on the phone with my Gramma talking about what movies we’d seen this year. She told me that she and her friend Betty were thinking of seeing Fifty Shades. But then they saw Paddington instead. Good move, Loretta. Good move.

—Alison

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

john-travolta-1-1024

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.

Benedict-Cumberbatch-kicks-off-the-Oscars-with-a-drink

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

giphy

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

meryl-streep-jennifer-lopez-oscars-gif

 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:

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 4.52.13 PM

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 4.51.06 PM

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 4.51.24 PM

All the amazing Lego Oscar award statues go to her.

—Alison & Elise

Leave It All On The Drums

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

cameron

 Guardians of the Galaxy?

chao

The Imitation Game?

lemon

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.

photo

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.

photo (1)

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.

whiplash-slice1

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.

tumblr_nhek1kB94q1tg96lho1_500

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