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March 2016

A (Dream) Night at the Movies

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Photo by Jenn Murphy

On a recent episode of the Happy Sad Confused podcast (which I’ve already said lovely things about on this blog), host Josh Horowitz asked actor Sebastian Stan to describe his ideal movie-going experience. I’m not going to tell you what he said, you’ll have to listen for that, but it did get me thinking about what my dream night at the movies would be.

 

I have this kind of silly dream of being the only person at a screening of a movie. When I was a kid, it was fueled by the idea that if I was the only one in the theater that meant I could run around and speak at full volume, unafraid of angering any fellow movie-goers. While those possibilities no longer entice me, I would still like to see this dream realized. It adds a certain level of exclusivity to the experience, which I know is pretty lame, but hey, sometimes I want to feel special for no apparent reason! Is that too much to ask?

 

Typically when I go to the movies I end up getting there pretty early. Part of it is a constant paranoia that something will cause me to be late so I need to prepare in advance, and part of it is that I firmly believe that the best part of going to the movies is watching the trailers. (Seriously, I think the theaters should just screen trailers for an hour or two in an empty theater on occasional weekday afternoons and charge $7 for a seat. I would go in a heartbeat.) This means that I generally end up being the first in the theater and automatically assume that the day of my dream movie-going experience has finally come. But once it gets closer to the actual time the movie is supposed to start, others start to trickle in and my dreams are dashed. It’s happened so many times that I might as well give up.

 

Despite my many failed attempts though, I have actually gotten close a few times. I was probably one of the last people in the world to see “The Hangover” in theaters, but there was (of course) one other poor soul there. I kind of did it at a midnight screening of “Larry Crowne” (why I was at a midnight screening of “Larry Crowne” is another story for another time) but the theater staff sat in on the movie too, so I refuse to count it. My goal isn’t to be one of a small handful of people in the theater; my goal is to be the only one in the theater.

 

I like to believe that one day my movie-going dream will come true. Perhaps it’ll take me going to see a poorly-rated movie on an odd afternoon or getting to the theater early as usual and speaking loudly and at length about a “highly contagious, flesh-eating bacteria” I’ve picked up to scare away other potential patrons. Who knows? All I know is, when that day comes I will have realized a dream long in the making. Then it’ll be onto the next dream: being a person cool enough to get Questlove to DJ at an event in my honor. What? A girl can dream!

 

Have your own dream movie-going experience? Ever been the only one in the theater? Want to find out how I ended up at a midnight screening of “Larry Crowne”? Let me know in the comments. And, before the trailers start…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

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Dear Hollywood: Just Let Things Be!

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Photo by Jenn Murphy

Upon seeing the above image of James Corden on the latest cover of one of my favorite magazines, Entertainment Weekly, with the title of “Carpool Karaoke King,” I was reminded of both Corden (who I think is doing a lovely job with “the Late Late Show“) and his carpool karaoke segment, where he drives around with the likes of Adele and Elton John, singing along to their songs and just generally having the kind of bite-sized, charming fun you’d expect from a segment on a late-night talk show. I was also reminded of that fact that this bite-sized, charming fun is currently being developed into not just one, but two different full-sized television series. This, I’m not so jazzed about.

 

It all goes back to Jimmy Fallon (as so many things do) and another bite-sized, charming bit of late-night fun that he did on “the Tonight Show” called the lip sync battle. Here, guests like Emma Stone and Paul Rudd would compete against Fallon to see who could most convincingly (or really, most entertainingly) lip sync along to a song of their choosing. It was perfectly simple and hugely popular. Every time a new lip sync battle occurred, the Internet would collectively lose its mind and a new viral hit would be born. So of course Hollywood decided to ruin it.

 

It was announced in November 2014 that “Lip Sync Battle” would become its own show on the Spike TV network. At first, I was very excited about this. Like everyone else, I got absurdly excited at the sight of a new Tonight Show lip sync battle and had the highest of hopes that this new series would be equally simple, charming and delightful. And then I watched it. Gone was the simplicity of a guest, fresh from an interview, just lip syncing alone onstage. That was replaced by excessively high production values and costuming that took people like my beloved Joseph Gordon Levitt from an approachable guy who really gets into game night to a celebrity who gets waaaaay too into game night.

 

What made the original lip sync battles so great was that they gave celebrities a certain level of accessibility. They were just themselves, seemingly goofing off. You could practically imagine them as one of your friends, over-dramatically lip syncing at a party. The TV series on Spike removed all of that accessibility by giving the celebrities more of the resources that we expect celebrities to naturally have, like costume designers, makeup artists and choreographers. It took away the relatable quality that the original clips had. These aren’t your friends, Spike TV reminded us, these are celebrities. And they can basically do whatever they want. Needless to say, “Lip Sync Battle” is not on my regular viewing list.

 

This brings me back to James Corden and carpool karaoke. As of now, the idea seems great. Really, anything that gets Jennifer Hudson to sing “And I Am Telling You” is great. But I can’t help but worry that it’ll go the way that lip sync battle did, that it’ll lose its simplicity and charm to Hollywood’s never-ending need to take everything from a 10 to a 10,000. I guess I’ll have to watch and find out.

 

What do you think? Do you hope that the new versions of carpool karaoke will retain their current simplistic format? Love the high production values of “Lip Sync Battle” and think I’m just a curmudgeon? Wanna say that to my face, ya punk? Let me know in the comments. And, before I forget…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

Time To Get Excited For The New Lonely Island Movie

When it was announced last year that The Lonely Island, a super funny and awesome musical comedy trio comprising of Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, would be teaming up with Judd Apatow to make a movie, I was immediately excited.

 

I’ve been a big ol’ fan of The Lonely Island ever since their days making incredible digital shorts for SNL and working on hugely under-appreciated movies like “Hot Rod.” They just have a genius way of creating song parodies that are fully goofy and hilarious but also catchy enough to download and listen to on the regular or even, in the case of one-time collaborator T-Pain, perform live. Based on the above trailer, they seem to be continuing in that direction in a big way with the fruits of their labor with Apatow, “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.”

 

Starring Samberg as Conner4Real, an apparent megastar in the midst of a slump, the film seems to parody the popstar documentaries of recent years that chronicled the lives of folks like Justin Bieber and One Direction. With a who’s who of co-stars and cameos, including Sarah Silverman, Bill Hader (who also has one of the best scenes in “Hot Rod”), Martin Sheen, Will Forte, Adam Levine and Snoop Dogg, the movie seems almost destined to please.

 

The movie doesn’t come out until June 3, so if you’re not particularly well-versed in The Lonely Island world, now is the perfect time to take a deep dive into their online oeuvre. (Yeah, I said oeuvre. I know words.) I’ll recommend three personal faves: “Boombox,” featuring Julian Casablancas from The Strokes, “The Creep,” featuring Nicki Minaj and an all too perfect cameo from the great John Waters, and “Great Day,” an equally hilarious and disturbing ditty about one man’s truly (truly?) great day.

 

Excited for “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping”? Have a favorite Lonely Island jam of your own? Have your own tactic for when “a fine P.Y.T. walks in front of your tree”? Spill your secrets in the comments. And, like always…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

‘You, Me and the Apocalypse’ is NBC’s Deeply Hidden Comedic Gem

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Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

In my eyes, NBC used to be the go-to place for off-beat comedy. With shows like “30 Rock,” “The Office,” “Community” and “Parks and Recreation,” the peacock network used to be a haven for people like me who loved to laugh but also feel mildly uncomfortable or confused in the process. But low ratings and the never-ending competition between networks caused NBC to stay away from these types of comedies and move into more traditional fare, with varying levels of success. Luckily though, they seem to be returning to form with one of their newer series, “You, Me and the Apocalypse.”

 

Created by Iain Hollands, U.S.-U.K. co-production (which appears to have already aired in full in the U.K.) tells the story of a group of seemingly random people in the days leading up to what is predicted to be an apocalyptic event. From a disillusioned priest in the Vatican (played by Rob Lowe), to a lowly bank employee in rural England (played by Mathew Baynton), to a woman in prison for a crime she didn’t commit (played by Jenna Fischer), the characters all have their own interesting backstories and plans for their final days on earth. As the series progresses (NBC has currently aired six of the first season’s 10 episodes), you learn that these people aren’t so random and that they’re all interconnected in completely surprising and unexpected ways. There hasn’t been an episode yet that hasn’t left me totally shocked and excited for what’s to come.

 

The show has a near-perfect mix of comedy and heart and its fair share of scenes that will have you on the edge of your seat. It feels almost disingenuous to simply call it a comedy; it’s a much more exciting, new hybrid that I really hope to see more of on TV. The wide scope of the series, with characters stationed all over the world, also gives it a universal quality not often seen, especially not on American TV.

 

In addition to the scope and the originality, the series also comes at a seemingly tired and played-out topic (apocalypse) in a way that is new and interesting. Too many times have we seen the post-apocalyptic world, where people are desperately trying to pick up the pieces and keep going. This is the pre-apocalyptic world, a world of true uncertainty. With it comes the exploration of topics like religion and the savior, the government and how much it hides from its people and who you really want in your life when the world ends. It’s a lot to chew on, but putting it into a more comedic context like “You, Me and the Apocalypse” does makes it much less daunting.

 

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how the series ends) there doesn’t seem to be any current plans for a second season. Much like the real end of days, the end of “You, Me and the Apocalypse” is truly the end. And, honestly, even though I am completely in love with this series I kind of can’t wait to see how it all plays out. The first six episodes can be caught up on now on NBC.com and the last four will air on Thursdays at 8/7c. I know a lot of my blog seems to be deeply rooted in hyperbole (I’m just a very excitable person!), but this show is seriously excellent and not to be missed.

 

Have you been watching “You, Me and the Apocalypse?” Got any juicy theories about how it all will end? Are you reading this sitting in your own personal doomsday bunker? Share your survival tips in the comments. And, in case the world ends tomorrow, let me share with you these important words of wisdom…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 5 Best Moments From Last Night’s Oscar Awards Ceremony

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My Oscar picks. Got 17 out of 24 right! Not too shabby. Photo by Jenn Murphy

After months of schmoozing and speculating, the 88th Academy Awards finally happened last night. I, for one, was equal parts excited for the night to have finally arrived and relieved that the end was in sight. (That being said, you better believe I am already hard at work on my Tony Awards predictions. It never ends. NEVER.) Despite clocking in at almost 4 whole hours of programming, the ceremony didn’t feel too boring or bogged down. There were very few unnecessary odes to things that didn’t need to be oded to. The goal seemed to be to dole out the awards, say a few jokes and thank you’s and get out before it got too late. Here are five key moments that, in my mind, made the show worth watching.

 

1) Chris Rock’s Compton Movie Theater Sketch

A large topic that loomed over the whole ceremony was the glaring fact that this year was the second year in a row that all of the actors nominated for Oscars were white, sparking the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. In a year that had such great, diverse films as “Creed,” “Straight Outta Compton” and “Beasts of No Nation,” it seemed particularly absurd that Academy voters couldn’t even select one actor of color from any of these films for a nomination slot. It spoke volumes about not just the Academy, but the film industry as a whole. Needless to say, people were eagerly awaiting host Chris Rock’s monologue to see how he would address the issue and he did not disappoint, talking about diversity in Hollywood at length in ways that were both funny and a little uncomfortable (and rightfully so) for the primarily white audience. This theme was prevalent in his bits throughout the night, including a sketch that hearkened back to Rock’s first time hosting back in 2005. In the sketch, Rock chatted with people outside of his favorite movie theater in Compton about #OscarsSoWhite, diversity in film and movies in general. It really highlighted the Oscars’ continual challenge to stay relevant in a world where many of the movies that get nominated for Oscars are not really the movies that the general public is itching to see. In the sketch, Rock mentioned nominees like “Spotlight” and “Bridge of Spies” to moviegoers who had never heard of them and in some cases thought that Rock was making the movies up. It was a genius and hilarious way of skewering the event without being too cruel.

 

2) Louis C.K.’s Low Key Audition to Host (Although Let’s Be Real, He Would Never)

While Rock was no slouch when it came to hosting the Oscars, it’s never too soon to look towards next year’s potential host. Louis C.K. may have unintentionally thrown his hat into the ring with his incredibly funny presentation of the Oscar for Documentary (Short Subject). His presentation focused on the fact that the award is his favorite, seeing as how, in his words, it’s “the only award that has the opportunity to change a life.” He went on from there in typical, lovable Louis C.K. form, going as far as to name “Mad Max: Fury Road,” a six-time winner that evening, as the victor before naming the actual winner, “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness.” While it seems highly unlikely that C.K. would ever be willing to take on this task, it’s fun to think of a delightful alternate universe where the 89th Annual Oscars are hosted by none other than Louis C.K.

 

3) The (Somewhat) Surprise Win of Mark Rylance

For most of award season, the Oscar for Supporting Actor appeared to be destined for Sylvester Stallone for this portrayal of Rocky Balboa in “Creed.” He had the perfect comeback narrative and a Golden Globe win that practically seemed to cement his status as a winner. But an Oscars ceremony is never really complete without a surprise or two, and one of the big surprises of the night came when Stallone lost to Mark Rylance, an actor known mostly for his theatre chops who co-starred with Tom Hanks in Best Picture nominee “Bridge of Spies.” While I had generally been rooting for Stallone to take home the trophy,  I ended up very pleased with Rylance’s win. I was lucky enough to see Rylance on Broadway several years ago in an incredible play called “Jerusalem,” (for which he won one of his three Tony Awards) and he was truly amazing. He’s also known for reciting poems in lieu of an acceptance speech, although for the Oscar he decided to go the more traditional route. In a year where so many of the acting wins seemed like forgone conclusions, it was nice to see a surprise and one that was very much deserved.

 

4) Brie Larson’s General Existence

Every awards season there seems to be a newbie to the game who steals the hearts of everyone (and inevitably walks away with all of the shiny trophies). This year that newbie was “Room‘s” Brie Larson, although she’s not really that new to the game. Larson has been acting since she was a child and almost had a chance for an Oscar nomination back in 2013 for the absolutely brilliant “Short Term 12.” Her time finally came this year though, and she didn’t squander it. From the non-stop parade of adorableness between Larson and her “Room” co-star Jacob Tremblay to the fact that Larson hugged all of the sexual assault survivors that stood with Lady Gaga during her powerful Oscar performance, Larson really seems like the dream best friend. Or, at least, my dream best friend. She’s the best kind of rising star, one that seems completely genuine and nice.

 

5) “Spotlight’s” Best Picture Win

While all of the blogs and news outlets predicted that the exhausting-looking “The Revenant” would take home the biggest award of the night, I held out hope that the small but powerful “Spotlight” would surprise them all to take home Best Picture. And guess what? It totally did. “Spotlight’s” big win not only highlighted the power of great journalism (the film tells the story of a group of Boston Globe reporters uncovering a major sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church) but also showed that sometimes, if we’re lucky, story can actually beat spectacle.

 

Well there you have it, the best moments of the Oscars all put together in a nice little post. If you didn’t watch last night (you’re dead to me, btw) the whole ceremony is available online. Get to watching. And for those of you who did watch last night, what were your favorite moments? Did you think Chris Rock was a great host? Have any absurdly early predictions for next year’s big night? Let me know in the comments. And, like momma used to say…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

 

P.S. Happy Leap Day! I hope Leap Day William brought you all treats in exchange for your tears.

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