Addiction Du Jour

So I’m sitting here listening to Jada Pinkett Smith talk about addiction because what else would you do on a Saturday afternoon when deadlines are looming and you have a dozen and half more student scripts to read?

Killin’ it

You might want to know that it turns out Jada has a talk show on Facebook Watch (Note:  So this is a thing now?) called Red Table Talk with her Mom (Adrienne) and daughter (Willow) and the random guest where they share three generational perspectives on…issues.

Now I’m not a Jada fan, or even non-fan, though I remain rankled by her husband Will Smith refusing to kiss a guy onscreen decades ago when he played a gay character in the film adaptation of Six Degrees of Separation.

Never has there been a more appropriate usage of this gif #ByeWill

Still, that’s not her responsibility and I did enjoy her in Bamboozled.  Though I really dislike the idea of people home schooling their kids, which apparently the Smiths have done.  And I think we can all also agree her announced Oscar boycott a couple of years ago, partly due to Will not being nominated for, ahem, Concussion, was a bit grand and a bit much.

On the other hand, who’s to say?  #OscarsSoWhite became more of a thing and the next year Moonlight did win best picture.

All of this is #SoNotMyBusiness, of course.

I don’t know these people and have no right to judge them.  Except, well, I do – most of us do – especially when they expose their personal lives to us via…well, I was going to say television.  But silly me, Red Table Talk is a web series, which is not exactly TV even though it involves a small screen with talking heads and programming you can make disappear with the flick of your finger.

TV? Phone? Remote? I have no idea.

Don’t knock that power.  How much did you wish you could make disappear this week?

Somehow watching Jada’s Mom talk about her years as a heroin addict, Will’s sister admitting up until a week ago she was stoned on grass 24/7 and Jada recalling her own sex addiction back in her twenties became, in itself, addicting.  At least for the 15 plus minutes it was on.  Add to this the presence August Alsina, the seemingly tough guy young singer she and Mom recently helped out of pill addiction and I began to wonder if my continued interest wasn’t the latent addiction gene that I know I carry but had always managed to keep at bay, finally rearing its ugly head.

Suffice it to say – no.

We’re all addicted to addiction and not necessarily in a good way.

Pretty much

Although…I lament on how unable I am on most days to turn off cable news.   And when I had my students watch Boogie Nights last month I could see the look of sheer terror in some of their eyes when I casually mentioned that porn was not always free to watch over and over again on the Internet.  Speaking of which, is Twitter raging an addiction?

That’s obviously rhetorical.

Three major movies at the moment spotlight addiction.  Julia Roberts tries valiantly to keep her son from going back on drugs in Ben is Back, Steve Carrell valiantly trying to understand why his son does drugs in Beautiful Boy and Lady Gaga is torn up inside and out that the man she loves and knew was an addict before she married him is now back on drugs in A Star Is Born.

I was so moved by this scene I almost forgot the terrible orange hair moment. #ALLY

The old sick joke at the newspaper I once worked at was that it took at least three concurrent examples to even begin to consider something a trend at any moment in time.  So if we add Twitter raging to the mix, well…. draw your own conclusion.  But know another golden journalism rule I learned in grad school at Northwestern — never rule out the obvious.

(Note: You’re welcome since I just provided you with several thousands of dollars of valuable education gratis).

The price is right

In too many ways all three of these film stories are rather obvious, but, isn’t that part of the attraction?  We know these people, we’ve seen these people or perhaps we are these people.  All of us addicts.  Or enablers.  And sometimes both.

Tom Arnold just claimed in Newsweek that even self-proclaimed never tasted alcohol Electoral College POTUS Trump habitually snorted Adderall on the set of NBC’s The Apprentice.  Stand up comic Noel Casler, who says he worked on the show for six years called the EC POTUS a speed freak and said his obsession/ogling of the female contestants on the Miss Teen Universe pageant he owned was something akin to what would happen if you gave Jeffrey Dahmer a cooking show. 

It’s just beyond #MUELLERHURRY

None of this is pretty but we don’t live in pretty times.  Therefore, the more we can understand our addictions and/or the addicts we love, or love to hate, the sooner we can make the necessary informed choices.

They may not all be our cups of tea but let’s not pretend A Star is Born, Ben is Back and Beautiful Boy don’t offer us all something and that together they’re not a trend. We can even learn from Jada Pinkett Smith, god help us.

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – “I Hate Myself For Loving You”

 

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Auntie Emmy

Why is it the Emmy Awards telecast feels like something only your old auntie would watch in real time so she can root for her shows?

  1. Because it is?
  2. Because there is too much TV to have a favorite show if you’re under 90?
  3. Because there are too many award shows and none of them carry much weight?
  4. Because who wants to watch anything except the slow disintegration of the country?

Notice there is no all of the above choice.

At 70 years of age Auntie Emmy is a bit quaint.   She’s sort of the equivalent of a pop culture painting of Elvis on a velveteen blanket or arriving with a box of Fannie Mae chocolates for the beau you’re taking to the church social.

nuff said

Of course, the Chair has never been to a church social, purchased a box of Fannie Mae anything or really knows if there is such a thing as a velveteen blanket, much less one with Elvis painted on it.

Still, it sounds right, doesn’t it?  Something that used to be frivolous, fun and fiercely IMPORTANT now feels almost dull, superficial and, well…unpatriotic to spend any spare time on.

Except….

We Are Americans.

The only thing we love more than competition is…

TELEVISION!!!!!!

Lest we forget COMPETITION TELEVISION #ChoppedAllDay

So who am I/we kidding? We’ll be watching, tweeting, DVRing, reading, dishing and paying some sort of mind – even if it means going out of our way to proclaim both the show AND awards never entered our minds.

This became apparent to me about 10 years ago when I ran into a show biz guy I knew who had just been nominated for an Emmy at a trendy brunch spot that morning and, upon congratulating him, he synthetically replied:

Oh really, were those today? 

Well, yes, that’s why you are in the trendiest show business watering spot in town, you fake, I replied knowingly.

Okay, of course I didn’t.  I mean, I was there too.

Still, those were the days when Emmy was not an auntie and we were both A LOT younger so what does it matter?  He is no doubt still denying he cares as he grudgingly watches, along with the rest of us, silently cheering, or perhaps audibly jeering, for or against his shows.

Which is why every year from now until the end of our republic we will feature:

THE CHAIR’S EMMY CHEAT SHEET:

DRAMA SERIES

Nice try but I will NOT shut up about this show #BlessedBetheFruit

The Handmaid’s Tale
Game of Thrones
This Is Us
The Crown
The Americans
Stranger Things
Westworld

Sadly, there is nothing more timely than The Handmaid’s Tale.  Don’t say you know, but it’s too depressing to watch.  You owe it to your country to be forewarned.  Or at least keep up with current events by way of Gilead.

Yes, all of the aforementioned nominees have their merits, and yes The Americans is all wrapped up and sure Game of Thrones has won twice before and wasn’t up last year when The Handmaid’s Tale won the first time.  So what? Stranger Things and Westworld are audience favorites too and yes, This Is Us could sneak in because it’s the one network show critics, industryites and audiences all love.  But we’re going with the Zeitgeist.

LEAD ACTOR DRAMA

SO. MUCH. PLAID.

Jason Bateman, Ozark
Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
Ed Harris, Westworld
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us

Jeffrey Wright, Westworld

Trusting our gut here.  The season long tease of Jack’s death on This Is Us gave Milo Ventimiglia all season to be the 70s Dad, man, hottie (NOTE:  NOT all three at once, step back) of our dreams.  Prognosticators don’t give him a chance but sometimes ya get a feelin’.

LEAD ACTRESS DRAMA

Dare I say… SLAY!

Claire Foy, The Crown
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale
Sandra Oh, Killing Eve
Keri Russell, The Americans
Evan Rachel Wood, Westworld

You’re gonna bet against OfFred?  Really?  No, really?  We didn’t think so.  And if one more person tells you Keri Russell gave the performance of the decade or that Sandra Oh’s win will make history ask them if their characters could endure sub freezing temperatures in the suburban wilderness nine months pregnant and then give birth by themselves in the middle of  drafty house with only the fireplace to light their way.  Please.

SUPPORTING ACTOR DRAMA

Wait.. I thought only Harry rocked the beard! #JusticeforHarry

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Game of Thrones
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Joseph Fiennes, The Handmaid’s Tale
David Harbour, Stranger Things
Mandy Patinkin, Homeland
Matt Smith, The Crown

Tough category and all of these actors deserve the honor.  But in any other year The Crown could win best series and best actress.  So it’s Matt Smith here – an actor who somehow managed to make a younger Prince Phillip sympathetic and sort of sexy while not shying away from him also being a lying, priggish philanderer and full on abusive father.  That alone is award-worthy.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS DRAMA

Let’s hope this Serena isn’t robbed. #stillnotoverUSOpen

Alexis Bledel, The Handmaid’s Tale
Millie Bobby Brown, Stranger Things
Ann Dowd, The Handmaid’s Tale
Lena Headey, Game of Thrones
Vanessa Kirby, The Crown
Thandie Newton, Westworld
Yvonne Strahovski, The Handmaid’s Tale

One of the only sure thing categories.  I myself find Serena the most heinous character on television so it’s amazing to see an actress who is actually able to make us believe she’s human.  Don’t know what that means because you haven’t watched the show?   Then WATCH IT!!!

COMEDY SERIES

Emmy’s Darling

Atlanta
Barry
Black-ish
Curb Your Enthusiasm
GLOW
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Silicon Valley
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

There has never been a pilot episode of a television series less likely to break through as both an audience and critics TV favorite as much as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.  As I said to my sister, who first turned me on to the show:  This is the most Jewish thing I’ve ever seen, I can’t believe anyone but us and our family is watching it!!

It will be a close race with the depth of storytelling in Atlanta and the sheer originality of Barry but count on Mrs. Maisel for bringing us an escape from reality by way of late 1950s Greenwich Village.

LEAD ACTOR COMEDY

Make more room on the shelf Donny! #thatsuittho

Anthony Anderson, Black-ish
Ted Danson, The Good Place
Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Donald Glover, Atlanta
Bill Hader, Barry
William H. Macy, Shameless

Donald Glover will deservedly and rightly win.  Everyone else in the category is good but he’s doing something different and real here we haven’t seen before – and doing it consistently in between his tasks as its creator and sometime writer.

LEAD ACTRESS COMEDY

Oh don’t worry Midge, we’ll be there. #Catskills #Season2

Pamela Adlon, Better Things
Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Allison Janney, Mom
Issa Rae, Insecure
Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish
Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie

The other sure thing category.  It’s Midge in a w.a.l.k.  And when you watch Rachel Brosnahan being interviewed and see how far she is in real life from the character she portrays, well….it’s Midge in a w.a.l.k.

SUPPORTING ACTOR COMEDY

No shark this time

Louie Anderson, Baskets
Alec Baldwin, Saturday Night Live
Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Brian Tyree Henry, Atlanta
Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Kenan Thompson, Saturday Night Live
Henry Winkler, Barry

Henry Winkler was first nominated for an Emmy 42 YEARS AGO and has never won.  Five nominations and – bupkus.  This guy was THE FONZ!  Plus, his work as a deluded yet somehow effective acting teacher on Barry is heartfelt, fresh and more than deserving.  Not to mention, in real life he’s the nicest man.  Don’t mean to name drop but…..

SUPPORTING ACTRESS COMEDY

Never better #notalternativefacts

Zazie Beetz, Atlanta
Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Aidy Bryant, Saturday Night Live
Betty Gilpin, GLOW
Leslie Jones, Saturday Night Live
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Laurie Metcalf, Roseanne
Megan Mullally, Will & Grace

A REALLY tough call.  Alex Borstein should win for being laugh out loud hilarious as Mrs. Maisel’s snide, baked beans eating manager and Megan Mullally has made Karen Walker one of the most popular female supporting characters in the history of TV.  Still, in the 24/7 world of politics Kate McKinnon playing the clown from It as Kellyanne Conway is so frighteningly…something that it trumps all else.

LIMITED SERIES

Welcome to Miami

The Alienist
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Genius: Picasso
Godless
Patrick Melrose

There was something so revolting and alluring about the Assassination of Gianni Versace that it’s hard to imagination it not taking the honors here.  It felt doubtful that this lurid tale warranted an American Crime Story show at all until we watched it use the tale of a twisted killer of one of fashion’s legends as a way to tell  an American tale of class and sexual repression at the turn of this past century.

LEAD ACTOR LIMITED SERIES/MOVIE

Werkin that serial killer lighting like a pro.

Antonio Banderas, Genius: Picasso
Darren Criss, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Benedict Cumberbatch, Patrick Melrose
Jeff Daniels, The Looming Tower
John Legend, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert
Jesse Plemons, U.S.S. Callister (Black Mirror)

Darren Criss played Andrew Cunanan as the boyish serial killer next door and against all odds it worked.  Criss never fell into psycho cliché or gave us outsider gay sociopath 101, which made his presence all the more disturbing and riveting.  It was hard to turn away even though, honestly, there were spots where you had to turn away.  Perhaps he was too much of an awful thing for some voters, which could shift the trophy to the equally good Benedict Cumberbatch – but probably not.

LEAD ACTRESS LIMITED SERIES/MOVIE

OK fine, this is Dern in Pretty Little Lies but like… Renata forever.

Jessica Biel, The Sinner
Laura Dern, The Tale
Michelle Dockery, Godless
Edie Falco, Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders
Regina King, Seven Seconds
Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Cult

An odd category this year with no true standout.  Still, in the #MeToo era Laura Dern deserves the credit for a smart portrayal of a difficult character – a woman who must delve back into her past in order to save herself in the present.  She made the transitions between the adult self and the other actresses who played the younger versions of her character seamless, which elevated the material far beyond where it could have landed.

SUPPORTING ACTOR LIMITED SERIES/MOVIE

I mean.. OK sure.

Jeff Daniels, Godless
Brandon Victor Dixon, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert
John Leguizamo, Waco
Ricky Martin, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Edgar Ramírez, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Michael Stuhlbarg, The Looming Tower
Finn Wittrock, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

Not going to lie.  This is a guess based on prognosticators.  But EVERYONE agrees it’s Jeff Daniels and the more you read his reviews the more you will also agree.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS LIMITED SERIES/MOVIE

But also kudos to hair and makeup because this is late 90s perfection.

Sara Bareilles, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert
Penélope Cruz, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Judith Light, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Adina Porter, American Horror Story: Cult
Merritt Wever, Godless
Letitia Wright, Black Museum (Black Mirror)

The majority of critics believe it’s going to be Penelope Cruz but I could only understand half of the words she said through all the episodes and that’s being generous.  Besides, there is only one Donatella Versace and that’s Maya Rudolph.  Heck, they even once shared the stage in matching evening gowns at the VH1 Fashion Awards.

However, Judith Light brought a new level of denial as the successful and privileged businesswoman wife of a closeted gay man.  It was a strange yet real type of character we don’t see much on television and she could easily get the Emmy for it if it doesn’t go to Merritt Wever or Lettia Wright.  Meaning, we’re not sure but we’re going with Judy.

VARIETY TALK SERIES

We seriously cannot forget about Marlon Bundo. #thebest

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
The Late Late Show with James Corden
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Every single show is worthy.  It really depends on what their producers submitted.  But Last Week with John Oliver feels like the gold standard here and the rightful successor to Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, especially after his win last year.  Though what do we know, we and everyone else we know voted for #HILLARY.

VARIETY SKETCH SERIES

This happened!

At Home with Amy Sedaris
Drunk History
I Love You, America with Sarah Silverman
Portlandia
Saturday Night Live
Tracey Ullman’s Show

Until Trump gets impeached it’s Saturday Night Live.  Never has there been a more perfect match of time, material and talent (Note: The White House being the exception).  Though it’s safe to assume SNL would gladly make a deal to give up the honor if they could get him out.  ……Wouldn’t they??

REALITY COMPETITION SERIES

DVR IS SET

The Amazing Race
American Ninja Warrior
Project Runway
RuPaul’s Drag Race
Top Chef
The Voice

The awards are on a MONDAY night this year and desperately needs some sashay. Besides, I’ve watched every season of The Voice and this last one sucked.  Gurrrrl…

Sissy That Walk – RuPaul

 

Stay tuned for the Chair’s recap of the Emmys! Follow along during the show using #NotesfromtheEmmys … hopefully it will be MARVELOUS (like I could resist).

 

Don’t Other-ize Me, Bro!

There is a moment in Spike Lee’s BlackkKlansman where a Jewish police detective, who has gone undercover as a KKK member, laments being put in this position by his Black counterpart.  It’s as if he’s forgotten (or never fully understood) the Ku Klux Klan were not only rabidly anti-Black segregationists but also virulently, and quite openly, anti-Semitic.

I’m Jewish, yes, but I wasn’t raised to be, says the character played by Adam Driver.  No Jewish rituals, no deep education about Jewish history, not even a bar mitzvah.  I was just another white kid.

Exactly.

Did someone say bar mitzvah?

Suddenly, and much to his chagrin, he’d been OTHER-IZED.

Somehow a movie set in the early 1970s has managed to become the most timely filmic statement now out there about Trumpism.  Based on the 2014 memoir of real-life Black police officer Ron Stallowrth, it tells the story of how Ron made phone contact with the KKK, pretending to be an eager acolyte, and worked with his White counterpart, Flip Zimmerman, to pose as his physical self while in their presence.

Two Ron Stallworths.

Part comedy, part drama and many parts many other things, it tells not only a racial story but speaks to the type of numbness all of us can fall into when traveling in circles where THEY are in the majority and WE are just the unwanted, or at least unfamiliar, INTERLOPERS.

To be OTHER-IZED is not a choice so much as it is a condition of where you live, where you travel and overall what you choose to do or need to do with your time.  A room full of jocks of many races can OTHER-IZE the lily Whitest of nerds just as a gaggle of snow White Hollywood BROs in power can OTHER-IZE any Brown-skinned woman of color – or any FEMALE of ANY color for that matter – who may be twice as smart and/or talented as any one of them.

Or all of them if you’re Oprah.

Gurl, you got that right. #badassbish

We are all nothing if not multi-tribal, depending on where we live, how much we make or what we do for a living.  The one tribe that trumped (Note: Ahem) all in the U.S. used to be American, but what being a REAL AMERICAN is seems to be quite up in the air these days.

In actuality, it seems to depend on which other TRIBE you belong to – or at least choose to identify with.  And with that comes a full handbook on who one needs to OTHER-IZE.

Yes.

The fact is, it is no longer feasible to be a part of ANY TRIBE where SOMEONE is not generally THE OTHER.

Right, that’s what it is Gretchen. #dontotherizeme

We here in the Southern Californian #Resistance headquarters seriously distrust Trump voters of all stripes – and that’s the best case scenario of when we’re not foaming at the mouth angry at what we see as the nasty, racist…well, so many things I can no longer count… those voters have allowed.

On the other hand, Trump voters all over the country call us snowflakes, and at best see us as weak and anti-working class – or so I’m told from the few of them that I can still bear to talk to.  At their worst, well they prove the very points we’re trying to make, probably daily, about them, though I’m sure they’d put it quite differently and probably a lot less delicately if I gave them the chance.  Which I’m not any longer.

I’m done.

The funny part is there are Black, White, Jewish, Hispanic, LGBT, straight, poor AND rich members on BOTH SIDES.  In that sense, we’re all getting OTHER-IZED daily, and perhaps hourly, by somebody, and often in ways we don’t know about as we go about our day.

Of course, there are times when we do realize we are being cast as THE OTHER, and it is at these moments we are faced with THE CHOICE.

I’m trying my best Jamie Lee!!!

Ah yes, you do have any number of CHOICES when you realize you’re the only _________ in the room – or at least woefully outnumbered, discredited or discounted in that person or group’s mind/think about those in YOUR TRIBE, depending on your looks, skin color or affect.  They are:

  1. BLEND – This is the easiest or hardest of the options depending on your denial system, how much therapy you’ve had, or both. Am I GAY????  Not a chance, I hate musicals and I have season tickets to The Lakers/Knicks/Eagles/_______.   Jewish?  Whatever gave you that idea, I don’t like those _______s any more than you do.

I was born in the 90s! I swear!

On the other hand, it’s hard to deny you’re Black if you are very dark-skinned or pretend you’re not poor if you are three months late on the rent and about to be evicted.   Though even in the latter case of ZERO money, there’s always the chance that person is just being…irresponsible.  #AreYouWokeYet?

  1. HIDE – This is not a pleasant alternative but there are advantages to just going along and being an under-the-radar, quiet part of a group. In my younger days I’ve heard straight guy locker room talk about women that offended me to the bone, not to mention bitchy talk among my gay brothers about lesbians that I should have stamped my feet more adamantly about. Yet too many times in my teen and early twenties I did neither.

Sadly, most of us are not always up for a FIGHT, especially when we have the luxury to sit behind the tallest person in class and go unnoticed.  At least metaphorically. I, for one, have also spent time with one or two Republicans I admit to have gleefully watched squirm at Southern California dinner parties rather than blow their cover to the other guests in the room.  Sure, I told myself it wasn’t my place to say or do anything to help them but these days I realize my sadistic inner self rather enjoyed OTHER-IZING them far more, in secret hopes that this would somehow wake them to their senses.

You tell ’em Cher!

  1. DENYOh, he can’t be a sexual harasser. My roommate told me he had a torrid affair with Mary Jane and she would never put up with someone like that.  And no, just because she’s from Paris and her visa expired and he’s an American citizen doesn’t mean she’s tolerating it or pretending they’re an item.  Please.  Besides which, she’s NOT marrying him for her green card to be with her lesbian lover!  Come on!!

Okay, perhaps the last example is a bit fanciful.  But it is possible to be into vintage and thrift stores and old school tech because you want to seem cool when you’re searching for work.  In the same way you can DENY you are RACIST by producing one of two Black co-workers or acquaintances of color even though there are dozens more who heard you use the N word when they were in the room.  And no, just because a videotape of that has yet to be produced doesn’t make it any less so.  Or mean that when it is it was somehow doctored. #ApprehensiveApprenticeTapePart1

Oh jesus, does this mean more Tom Arnold??? #HELP

  1. FACE THE MUSIC – The best alternative because even if you hide, blend and deny most effectively you will NEVER prevent EVERY single ONE of THEM from seeing YOU as something OTHER than THEY are. Implicit in this is that to some people you will ALWAYS be INFERIOR. And that’s in any version of the perfect world that is viable at this moment in time.

Yes, it’s easy to advise be yourself when YOU yourself don’t run the risk of being killed, permanently maimed or beaten up for doing just that.   But the way we’re going soon there will be nowhere for any of US to hide in certain circumstances. That is a condition that will be inevitable for pretty much ALL OF US at some point in our new GLOBAL REALITY.  #ThisISUs.

Meaning blending in, denying or hiding behind HATE simply won’t cut it anymore, if it ever did.  That is unless we want to live out the rest of our days as petulant junior high schoolers playing an eternal game of spin the bottle where we kiss the same people for all the wrong reasons in one unsatisfyingly long loop of endless hell.

“Too Late To Turn Back Now” – Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose (from the soundtrack of BlackkKlansman)

Mission Implausible

By all accounts Mission Impossible – Fallout, starring the bionic version of Tom Cruise in more ways than you can count, or would want to – is a hit.

It opened worldwide this weekend and has already accrued about $140,000,000 plus ($60 mill in the US alone) at the box-office.

It is the best reviewed of all SIX films in the franchise, receiving positive reviews from 100% of our country’s top film critics – all of whom should be ashamed at the ease with which they have been lulled, co-opted and otherwise seduced into dropping their necessary job description of sometime party pooper.

That’s right.. I said it.

And it is a BIG hit with filmgoers, earning a 93% favorable audience rating also from Rotten Tomatoes  – the universal, and in this case, totally unreliable, arbiter of what is generally good, bad or middling at the movies.

For in truth, the only area the new M.I. movie excels in is seeming to be a wonderful, diversionary summer entertainment.

Yes, Mr. Cruise looks almost the same as he has for decades if you squint a bit in the way he seems to be permanently doing these days, though to his credit with exactly the same seemingly earnest, genial manner.

still short though #shade #lifts #imtallerthanhim

And sure, Mr. Cruise also appears to have just as much stamina as he ever did as he drives motorcycles through the streets of Paris at top speed, parachute jumps out of planes from 25,000 feet in the air, and gets in and out of helicopters that he himself glides up and down and through and past various mountain tops and other quite dangerous terrain.

And of course, ABSOLUTELY, for you doubters (Note: Or party poopers, because someone has to be and live in the real world), that IS actually the real Mr. Cruise DOING HIS OWN STUNTS – EVEN THE DANGEROUS ONES!!!

The filmmakers have given countless interviews stating it is this action star’s commitment to authenticity that makes his appearances in this franchise so convincing.

I’m so impressed

This, of course, is amusing in a film where nothing is convincing or makes much sense at all, even in those rare moments when the twists and turns are discernible. Though those are not to be confused with any other number of other scenes where some poor actor has an unsellable chunk of dialogue designed to summarize the objective of the next set action sequence and make it believable.

There was a time when summer action movies like Die Hard or Indiana Jones (#1 and #3), or even November releases like the Daniel Craig as Bond remake of Casino Royale, found a way to give us death defying thrills along with memorable and even vaguely human characters whose actions didn’t need to be explained but instead simply unfolded. These kinds of films were not so much deep but infinitely watchable diversions where fantastical still things happened and the day was still saved by seemingly superhuman, larger than life guys.

The difference was these guys were flawed, they failed – often fatally – and their outer shells didn’t look as if they had been dipped in formaldehyde and frozen for all time. They were slicker and wittier and quite a bit less wordy than any of us real people but when they spoke they nevertheless actually sounded as if they could be us if we were possessed with great luck, superhuman strength, a fab outfit (or two or three) and one or two fancy gadgets.

OK.. maybe not every gadget.

What they were not, or at least what they never seemed to be, were manufactured for maximum audience tastes – an amalgamation of major studio index cards.

A director, a writer, an actor or even a costume designer (or some combination thereof) somewhere along the way gave these guys a real soul and took him beyond a carbon copy of an action hero. Instead, they invented a true man who rose into the role of hero, often against his better instincts because at heart you knew that as far as the world goes, he was not crazy enough to think that HE, ALONE, COULD FIX IT.

Of course, the above might be exactly why we have a character like Tom Cruise/Ethan Hunt currently burning up the box-office – a guy whose ex-wife even says she sleeps better knowing he’s on-the-job.

Never Forget

It’s an uber desirable contemporary fantasy to have this kind of slick looking guy come in and save us from our worst selves with no discernible super powers other than his own moxie and experience. It’s even more tempting that he be someone who has been around a long time but still seems ageless – with hair that’s a real color and outfits that don’t so much show off his wealth but the flattering lines of his body.

He’s almost like an Apple Edition of our much-needed 2018 action hero – a high tech version with all of the all-American qualities we need to take our country back.

Excuse me Chair, what am I.. chopped liver?

Now, if only he were real – or at least seemed that way. We could either put him to work immediately or use him as a model to train someone else to help get us out of the mess we’re currently in.

As it stands now, however, he’s a mere shell of everything we need. Much in the same way that we are a shell of everything we once were.  Or will be, unless we find out a way to rescue ourselves.

That’s our real Mission – should we decide to accept it.

Mission Impossible TV Show Theme Song

 

Let’s Hear it for the Boy…cott!

I won’t watch the reboot of Roseanne on ABC. This does not mean I am close-minded, want her removed from the airwaves or in any way prefer she is silenced, censored or modified.

It doesn’t even mean I am angry that 18.1 million people tuned in to watch her in actual real time – an unheard of number for the premiere of a prime time network show these days.

Nor does it say I want to opt out of the national conversation or give up my status as an incurable, inveterate culture vulture.

Wink #hehehe

It simply means I want no part of a woman who in March 2018 basks in the glory of a congratulatory phone call from Donald J. Trump, enthusing of the exchange the day after her ratings triumph:

It was pretty exciting, I’ll tell you that much…They said, ‘Hold please for the President of the United States of America’ and that was about the most exciting thing, ever. It was just very sweet of him to congratulate us. 

I find nothing about Trump exciting, and certainly never sweet. I believe he is destroying our country, and democracy along with it, by his corruption, his racism, his incompetence and his vile treatment towards anyone or anything that opposes him.

Oh is that all???

I believe deep down that if he got his way we would not only be under the thumb of Russia, we would BE RUSSIA.

I also find everything the actual Roseanne is pushing under the guise of her fictional doppelganger to be disingenuous. Like Trump, I am convinced she is first and foremost out for herself – using our red vs. blue divide as a way to once again be relevant and earn wheel barrels full of money.

Roseanne is definitely hitting the slopes

The thought of giving her 150,000th of one single penny is even more nauseating to me than eating a side of the watery canned peas and carrots my mom used to serve to us at dinner every week – and that’s really saying something. (Note: DM me on Twitter for my sister’s handle and she will confirm).

The same cannot be said about Fox TV host Laura Ingraham and what I hope is her curtailment at her network and elsewhere after she chose to bully and gloat about David Hogg, high school student and Parkland school shooting survivor, NOT getting into four of the colleges he applied to.

By consistently demonizing the teenager, not to mention his friends, who had just witnessed 14 of their friends shot to death before their own ears and/or eyes on Valentine’s Day, Ingraham and her colleagues at Fox have been the leaders of a right wing media assault of ADULTS hoping to make these TEENAGERS the subject of national ridicule by millions more of their viewers by fanning the flames of resentment that will implicitly urge as many of their acolytes as possible to go on virtual attack.

Nothing would please me more than seeing Ms. Ingraham’s ambitions flattened and watching the fire-breathing flames of hate she espouses daily turned directly back at her. And with the help of Mr. Hogg and others far more powerful than me and my tweets and my blog and my blah, blah, blah, I might be getting my wish.

Oh I’m not enjoying this… not even a little bit

Thanks to Mr. Hogg and his fan base, so far she has been dropped by these ELEVEN sponsors:

Hulu, Nestle, Johnson & Johnson, Trip Advisor, Nutrish, Stitch Fix, Expedia, Liberty Mutual, Wayfair and Jos. A. Bank.

Panicked, she issued a faux apology that read:

On reflection, in the spirit of Holy Week, I apologize for any upset or hurt my tweet caused him or any of the brave victims of Parkland…

Notice there was no regret about any of her words, which she obviously stands by (Note: And presumably believes Jesus would, too). Ms. Ingraham obviously understands what her base wants. But so does young Mr. Hogg, who wisely called her out on her B.S., noting it was due to a loss of revenue and not any real desire to change her or her network’s behavior.

Pass the Purell

Had Mr. Hogg done a little more research (Note: Though perhaps he has) he would know the full story. Yes, he called her out for tweeting at basketball greats LeBron James and Kevin Durant to shut up and dribble when they gave an interview and dared to express support for fellow players taking a knee during the national anthem, but she has also:

– Said Mexican immigrants have come here to “murder and rape our people.”

– Called Planned Parenthood employees “heinous, Hitlerian freaks.”

– And said the NAACP is “a push organization for racist sentiments.”

More importantly, this goes further back than that – all the way to her college years.

In the eighties, as editor of the Dartmouth Review, she called her campus’s Gay Students Association “cheerleaders for latent campus sodomites” and sent a reporter to secretly tape the meeting because she disliked they were treated as any other student organization where the campus would provide an activity fee ($100 per student) for them to operate.

Oh yes she did

So much so that she then went on to print the names of gay students present at the meeting, outing some of them in the process. All this occurred at the height of the AIDS crisis in the 80s. #WWJD.

A decade later she did go on to write a 1997 editorial in The Washington Post explaining her past and to admit her views were somewhat modified when she found out her brother Curtis was gay and that his lover was dying of AIDS.

She also asked not to be judged about things she did in college – which somehow seems to presuppose she learned her lesson about hurling personal attacks towards young people who represent causes she disagrees with.

But well, clearly she hasn’t.

She definitely hasn’t #tellemjessica

Though maybe this would be different if David Hogg were her brother with a girlfriend who had sustained life-threatening injuries from gun violence that she could then see David caring for up close and personal.

Oh, and for the record, she is still NOT A SUPPORTER of gay marriage.

Roseanne does support gay marriage and was one of the first to feature out gay characters on network television in a more than casual way. Does this somewhat temper my personal line in the sand?   Perhaps a little, though not entirely.

Not impressed #whatever

There is a difference in choosing to personally boycott the work of someone with whom you disagree and don’t respect vs. urging the national boycott of someone who bullies minors, rages against non-white and non-straight minorities and eggs on her millions of followers to do the same.

There is free speech but also the free market. They simultaneously co-exist and there is a cause and effect to each.

One last word on Ms. Ingraham –

Do we have to?? #OKChair #staywithme

While so many of her contemporaries have evolved through personal experience she has remained her same strident professional self as she pursues, what exactly? Personal fame and fortune? World domination? If either is true, and they seem so, the most dangerous, real-life comparison that quickly comes to mind are the actions and/or motivations of our current Electoral College president – @realDonaldTrump.

So no surprise that she is not only one of his most ardent supporters but the name that is most often at the top of the list to become his new White House Communications Director.

Pass the advil #notanad

With her just announced one-week vacation hiatus, that might happen sooner than later. Or, it may not. Though as someone tweeted this weekend, another similarly deposed right wing Fox firebrand, Bill O’Reilly, is still on the one-week vacation he took more than a year ago.

Hope springs eternal. Roseanne notwithstanding.

Meghan Trainor – “No Excuses”

Tribes

We all have our tribes, be it by race, religion, sexual orientation or even…hair color.   It’s often nice to be a part of something larger than oneself but if you’re at all curious (or just get bored easily) you can’t help but be intrigued by the OTHER. For example, I for one have always wondered – DO blondes really have more fun?

OK Marilyn…we get it

Those of a certain generation might remember that old ad slogan while anyone under 30 probably has no idea. That’s another tribe – the over/under 30, 40, 50 and….so on.

What I can also personally attest to is that once you do indeed become a “so on” the ranks begin to thin a bit and your tribe often needs to expand – if for no other reason than practicality. The alternative is being left entirely alone or slowly driven crazy by the very same people who at one point provided you comfort, excitement and the fuel to simultaneously remake and/or bend the world to your will.

In America we call that – living your best life. Not sure what it is in other cultures but I’ll wager that as an expression it translates pretty well – not unlike one of those universal traffic signs.

I caught up with the movie Black Panther this weekend and enjoyed it far more than I expected to for any number of reasons. But principal among them was that it chose to use the superhero genre to look at what it means to stay a member of one’s own tribe to the practical exclusion of much of everything else.

Deserving of the (box office) throne

NO SPOILERS HERE, don’t worry.

Still, what is fascinating about the film is that it manages to advocate extending a hand to outsiders by sharing your wealth and gifts AND staying especially loyal to the very tribe who nurtured you through the years. The latter is especially the case to members you may never have met and who may be far less fortunate or classy than you and applies even if you think you don’t have much to offer.

What a concept. If I were a religious person I might say that sounds like the teachings of Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, Allah or…God? But being a heathen I define it simply as decency. A no-brainer. After all, no tribe has the market cornered on morality. Except mine.

I’m joking. I think.

for that over [age redacted] crew

The very fact I really liked Black Panther was yet one more small step away from my natural state of tribalism.   To whit, I don’t generally care for superhero films. I mean, they’re okay – sometimes fun. But, well, I was a kid who didn’t get the appeal of superhero comic books. They seemed silly, unreal and unlikely.

Except the 1960s Batman TV series – the bane of most superhero comic book fans’ existence (I think?). But the 12 year old me could never turn away from Tallulah Bankhead as the Black Widow – not to mention Adam West or Burt Ward. Which should tell you all you need to know about my childhood.   Or me.

Allow me to present… the Batusi Dance #thisisreal #ilovedit

Yet here I am all these decades espousing the virtues of Black Panther.   And asking questions like:

  • How is it that there has never been a major studio movie about a superhero of color?
  • Why is this one of the few, if only, movies of its kind to directly tackle contemporary issues of race and ethnicity with a fully coherent story AND have cool action scenes and more than a few witty lines – while still being entertaining?
  • How can so many really good actors be that f’n good-looking?

I mean…. #hott

Speaking of good-looking and living your best life, after getting home from Black Panther, and probably looking inwards for some contact with something from own tribe, I decided to watch a few episodes of Netflix’s new Queer Eye – a reboot of that early aughts Bravo series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

You know the one. It’s where a bunch of gays saunter, macho walk and/or swish into another guy’s mess of an outer and inner life and make him over. Well, to be fair, they more try to make him the best of himself within budget, reason, time constraints and what raw material there is to work with.

Oh hello honey

If that sounds snide chalk it up to my Queer way of putting things because truly, I don’t mean it to be. Many of us gay guys in general have been doing it on ourselves for years, especially those of my generation who as teenagers didn’t really have a discernable tribe and were often left to blend in – usually badly – and out of necessity had to self-teach ourselves a way to blossom into our true selves without our tribal elders.

So why not have a show where we use our talents for the greater good and, in doing so, show people we aren’t so damned…scary? Threatening? Different? Satanic? Unacceptable? I never could really figure it out.

Every episode would end like this

At least that was the overriding subtext of the original series. Times have thankfully changed a bit since then and the new one no longer seems intent on trying to prove anything. It more seems like a romp where they don’t necessarily change an uptight straight guy’s life but can also help an aesthetically challenged gay guy clean up his outer and/or inner act.

Even when the subject is a Southern, redneck, overweight, older straight guy (the subject’s self-characterization, not mine), it’s not about the queer quintet subliminally getting acceptance from the heterosexual world. The redneck wasn’t uncomfortable with the Fab 5 (he seemed to adore them from the outset), he was hopelessly uncomfortable with himself and spent most of his time sad and by himself, watching TV from an old, stained barcalounger.

One of these is not like the other

So within the settling of reality television, it seemed perfectly normal – if not downright formulaic – to watch a group of experts using their pooled tribal talents to transform yet another human life for the better. The fact that they were queer – substitute any other OTHER you like – seemed almost beside the point. Like choosing a red color palette instead of one that was blue or green.

(Note: Hopefully the subjects will evolve and extend to women, senior citizens of either sex or those of any age landing anywhere on the continuum of gender identity).

Sure, it’s staged and yeah, it’s not saving the world. And no, not all gay guys know about clothes, home design, hair, food, or culture (Note: Certainly not culture, I mean check out your neighborhood gay restaurant or bar and see just how delicious and relationship ready your selections seem).

I’m sorry… what did you say? I got distracted by Antoni the food guy #imean

It is merely one part of a tribe showing the rest of THE WORLD who they are, how they roll and just how fabulous IT and THEY can be. But instead of keeping the knowledge or fun (or whatever) to the like-minded, it’s inviting them into your party and morphing said world forward in some small way.

Immigration can achieve similar results. It happens in the theatre, where people sit together and watch a show live. I see it in the classroom everyday – or, well, at least every other day.

Blondes don’t have the market cornered on fun. That was just an old Madison Avenue ad line – a come on that left out all the other colors. Though it was thought of by one of the first female advertising executives in the 1950s. Who also happened to be Jewish. And the daughter of Russian immigrants.

Think about it.

The Weeknd & Kendrick Lamar – “Pray For Me (from Black Panther)”

Who’s Naughty and Nice?

If the bar for presents from Santa Claus is who’s been naughty or nice why shouldn’t we also use it for all the fictional characters in our lives?   These days they seem far more alive than any number of real people we come across daily – especially those we see daily reports about on television.

Yes we, or perhaps only I, have gotten to the point where what’s out there on an hour-to-hour basis is more impossible to fathom than any extreme or even random action taken on any one of our favorite TV shows by any one of our favorite friends um, characters.

The best reason to be antisocial this season

The most overused expression of 2017 – aside from the world is ending – has to be “we live in The Golden Age of Television.” Nevertheless, we do. The choices feel infinite and, instead of what used to be 439 channels and still nothing to watch, we’ve now got so much we want to watch and so little time to do so.

Make of that last sentence what you will. And drink each time you ponder the part about time and little.

Certainly, it’d be a bit alarming to start buying actual gifts for your favorite friends characters. Or would it? I, for one, have a new bar for alarming and it’s neither nice or naughty. It’s scary.

Just call me Kenneth the Page

Which is not the case for the best of my fantasy buddies. They’re not only naughty AND nice, they never fail to disappoint me – especially in the toughest times – which in these days is every day.

THE LIST:

#5 – Hannah Baker (Thirteen Reasons Why) and Jack Pearson (This Is Us), played by Katherine Langford and Milo Ventimiglia

Just give me all the Kleenex now

Well, why NOT start with TWO DEAD PEOPLE? No, these are not spoilers. In the theme of reality IS fantasy these two characters are more alive to their friends and relatives in death than perhaps they ever were when they were actually living.

You can say both are naughty because they seemed to have ultimately caused their own deaths. For Hannah, it was a suicide. For Jack, well – the writers haven’t quite revealed it yet but the drinking and his repressed dark side are both pointing to a demise that was at least, in part, his own doing.

Which makes it all the more memorably heartbreaking to recognize that Jack and Hannah were/are both – so damn nice!

Jack Pearson is the fantasy Dad whose bon mots are timeless life lessons passed on to us, along with endless supplies of sensitivity and an eternally buoyant hairline. Oh, the hairline.

#HAIRENVY

Hannah Baker is girl that got away (literally), the girl who made you laugh, the girl who was the smartest and most infuriating in high school and the girl who you still wonder about decades later and would choose over almost any one else to have just one more final meeting with.

They both remind us that life is fleeting and every so often make us want to contact the estranged parent, friend or person we haven’t yet gotten the nerve to talk to before it’s too late. Which, in itself, is pretty damn nice, indeed.

#4 –  Dougie Jones/Agent Dale Cooper/Evil Doppelganger Cooper (Twin Peaks: The Return), played by Kyle Maclachlan

Hair is becoming a theme here

For those who didn’t tune in to this limited Showtime series to see what happened to Agent Cooper 25 years later, suffice it to say that these three people are indeed all part of one person.   No, you don’t want the explanation. Just accept it.

Dougie Jones walks and talks like a programmed robot (which he indeed may be) but all bets are off when he enables a “homeless” woman in Las Vegas to hit numerous jackpots on the slot machine and bring reams of his own winnings to his long suffering wife and kid – all while unwittingly bringing out the best of two dim-witted Mafia guys with his innate kindness.

Which doesn’t mean he’s incapable of choking a person who gets in his way. Though much of this is left to his Evil Doppelganger who shoots, bites, knives and brutally kicks his way through multiple murders. This version is the irresistible id of evil – someone we all revile because he’s the miniscule evil part of us we would never publicly admit we occasionally have to repress. Not that I just did.

Not me… all the time

As for Agent Cooper, what can you say about a guy who has barely aged a day in a quarter of a century? You admit he’s one of your faves, meet him for pie and coffee and find out his secrets – many of which are still to be revealed.   A 2042 sequel?   We’ll see. On second thought, maybe one of you will.

#3 –  Offred/June Osborne (The Handmaid’s Tale), played by Elisabeth Moss

Peggy Olson sure has changed #jonhammwhereareyou

No one expressed the naughtiness of our current reality and dystopic alternative reality than Offred. It feels reductionist to say the most famous handmaid on any plane was the precursor to the #MeToo movement and impossible to believe that she became the poster child for all of our worst fears about America in the Age of T—P.

Before Offred was an enslaved, raped and tortured handmaid she was the fun-loving, feisty and sweet June Osborne – just a gal making her way in a big city where she worked, fell in love and lived a life. It wouldn’t seem imaginable that her past could serve as prologue to her future but that’s the point – both we and June are often too busy and not observant enough to pick up the signs.

This is where Offred takes over and shows us there are times when naughty is the essential survival skill and nice is a but a mere luxury – some would say relic – of the past. If that seems applicable to the way we live now, well perhaps it is. Or soon will be.

#2 – Dustin Henderson (Stranger Things 2), played by Gaten Matarazzo

CODE RED

Twelve year-old Dustin has a lisp, unruly hair, mad crushes on two teenage girls who will prove unattainable and a look that will forever read best friend rather than star anything.

But Dustin also subverts every stereotype as we watch him not only tame his hair but prove time and time again he is the smartest, funniest and overall most charming in the room – or in town.

don’t forget that Farrah Fawcett hair product #thankssteve

This is not to say he is without his faults. Hiding a slimy and mysteriously growing little creature in your home and allowing it to eat everything you can find, including your (NO SPOILERS HERE but you can imagine) wasn’t the best of ideas. Nor is his unwavering loyalty to the bonds of childhood friendships. Or is it?

The latter is a question we all ask and re-ask ourselves through the decades, which is why every victory this kid has and each mistake he makes feels impossibly awful and improbably life-affirming.

Dustin manages to be a piece of the young us we will always be on the inside.   That he not only brings back those awkward times but makes us simultaneously long for them and embrace him, is the ultimate achievement of both the character AND the young actor who so effortlessly embodies him. And us.

#1 – Miriam (Midge) Maisel (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), played by Rachel Bronsnahan

Bring it, Midge!

What we all needed in 2017 and will need in the future is funny and MIDGE IS, most of all, FUNNY. Funny, funny, funny, funny. How ironic is it, then, that she exists in 1958, 1959 and 1960?

Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a relatively new streaming series that many of you have not yet sampled but will surely do so as it gains awards and attracts critical attention, steam and an expanded audience in the near future.   This is because it is indeed FUNNY. Funny, funny, funny, funny.

Midge is an unlikely mainstream star in her time – a young, Jewish housewife/daughter/mother on the upper west side of New York who is much too smart and too witty for her own good, at least in the decade in which she lives, yet just creative enough to make it work for herself in the most unlikely of professionals – stand up comedy. Or so one hopes.

SLAY

If you’ve ever wondered if you’d have been better off being born in another decade or place (and which of us haven’t this year), Midge gives you hope. She’s the ultimate problem solver for herself and everyone else – that is until it all falls apart and she has to rethink everything and everyone she once knew for sure.

She fails, gets lucky, fails again, opens her mouth when anyone in their right mind would hold back, gets lucky once more, stumbles – and through timing and fate keeps talking back – until she begins to finally get heard. Only to lose a little more ground once more after a big gain.

Midge gets shoved onstage, performs drunk and/or stoned, bombs big time and occasionally slays – in a small club in Greenwich Village, N.Y. with sticky seats where the men tell jokes and the women sit there and laugh.   It’s hilarious watching her discover what those close to her have always known but never ever told her – that she’s the best joke teller in the room.   But it’s even better when she begins to discover what pretty much everyone else in the world knows: she too is an artist – though not quite the kind she had thought or even ever hoped for.

That Girl

I have a close female friend in my life I’ve always called a can-do gal to her face and have always made sure she knew it was the highest of compliments. That is because this is a person who, despite everything, always manages to make it happen and always does so with humor. She has fun.   Not only that, when you’re with her you get to have fun. And at least feel like you’re accomplishing something.

Midge is this kind of person. You can’t help but want to hang out with her, hoping that some of that can-do joy will eventually rub off. Not to mention, she’s…well, you know.

That’s why these days she’s my #1. Fictionally, at least.

Fred Astaire – “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”