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January 2017

The Screen Actors Guild Awards: One Step Closer to the Oscars

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Part of my ballot for last night’s awards. I…didn’t do so well. Pardon my nasty carpet. Photo by Jenn Murphy

Last night’s Screen Actors Guild Awards provided a much-needed two hour respite from all of the things in the news that are currently making me yell “WHYYYYYY” at the heavens, although it did provide its fair share of head-scratchers. The big actor love fest had several expected wins but also had some moments that came as a surprise and could steer Oscar talk in a slightly different direction. Like I have with previous award shows, I’ll split my recap into the two covered camps. Let’s get into it.

 

TV: Drama is for the New

The comedy side was mostly predictable, with wins in Actress and Actor in a TV Series – Comedy going to previous winners Julia Louis-Dreyfus from “Veep” and William H. Macy from “Shameless“, respectively. Ensemble in a Comedy Series went to “Orange is the New Black,” which I kind of forget exists sometimes. I know so many people love it, but it never really hooked me. Best Actor and Actress in a TV Series – Drama went to “The Crown” stars John Lithgow and Claire Foy respectively, all but implying their cast’s win for Ensemble in a Drama Series but then, in a somewhat unexpected move, everyone’s other favorite Netflix binge, “Stranger Things“, took home the prize. Star David Harbour gave an intense speech (one of the many speeches last night aimed at our current political nightmare) and Winona Ryder gave a lot of face. And finally, Actor and Actress in a TV Movie or Mini Series went to Bryan Cranston (for “All the Way“) and Sarah Paulson (for “The People vs. O.J. Simpson“) respectively. I don’t know about you guys, but it looks like “The Crown” might be the new Emmy darling this fall. Sorry “Mr. Robot”/”House of Cards”/”The Americans”/Any show that thought it had a chance since “Game of Thrones” won’t be in the running.

 

Film: Okay…okay…okay…wait, what?

The film categories largely fell into line with that has gone down at previous award ceremonies this season, with one major exception. Supporting Actor and Actress went to Mahershala Ali of “Moonlight” (whose powerful speech was my favorite of the night) and Viola Davis of “Fences” respectively. Denzel Washington of “Fences” beat Casey Affleck of “Manchester by the Sea” for Best Actor, which I’m hoping means that’ll happen at the Oscars too. Emma Stone of “La La Land” beat Natalie Portman of “Jackie” for Best Actress, seemingly cementing Stone’s chances of going home with a little shiny man come Oscar Sunday. Those wins were all mostly expected; what wasn’t expected was “Hidden Figures” surprise Outstanding Performance by a Cast win. While I was rooting hard for “Moonlight” (as I am in basically any situation), I was certainly happy to see the excellent cast of “Hidden Figures” get their due, especially because I think Oscar nominee Octavia Spencer‘s co-stars Janelle Monae and Taraji P. Henson should have been more in the Oscar conversation from the beginning. Does this mean that we should be looking out for another big “Hidden Figures” surprise at the Oscars? It’s hard to know. “La La Land’s” lack of a nomination in this category makes it difficult to determine how this win will factor into the Best Picture race and while the SAGs can often be a good indicator of Oscar glory (there’s a lot of overlap between SAG and Oscar voters), it doesn’t always get it right. It’ll definitely be interesting to see how all of this plays into the Oscars next month.

 

So that’s what you missed (if you missed it) on the SAGs. Now we wait out the long month in between the SAGs and the Oscars. There is, of course, The Grammys and that big sporting event to fill the time, but we all know they’re not as good.

 

What did you think of the Screen Actors Guild Awards? Have any thoughts on what it means for Oscar night? Still mad that “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” didn’t get more award season attention? Me too. Tell me how you really feel in the comments. And, especially in our current social and political climate…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

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Be A Good Person and Watch “The Good Place”

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Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

Last year I highlighted several upcoming shows in a post where I judged their quality solely based on their trailers. So far, I did a pretty good job. “Son of Zorn” is delightful and “Designated Survivor” might be a little too bland, but it generally gets the job done. “Making History” has yet to premiere but it just recently set an official premiere date for the first week of March, so I’ll have to see how that goes. And then, of course, there’s “The Good Place,” the best of them all.

 

“The Good Place,” in case you weren’t aware, is about a woman, Eleanor Shellstrop (played by Kristen Bell), who wakes up in the afterlife (after an unfortunate incident involving a bottle of margarita mix and a stack of shopping carts) and is told that because of her many good deeds in life she has come to “the Good Place,” a heaven of sorts.

 

The only problem is, Eleanor never did any of these good things. In fact, she was a pretty bad person in life, more suited for “the Bad Place,” which we only hear tales of and a brief sound snippet akin to the scene in “The Christmas Carol” when all of the ghosts are outside screaming at that guy. Needless to say, Eleanor decides that she needs to become a good person to earn her spot in “the Good Place” before anyone else figures out that a mistake was made.

 

Along the way she meets several people who seem perfect for “the Good Place”. Her “soulmate” (each person in “the Good Place” is set up with their true soulmate) Chidi (played by William Jackson Harper), spent his life studying ethics and knows the clear right and wrong decision to fit any circumstance. Eleanor and Chidi’s neighbor, Tahani (played by Jameela Jamil) hosted various fund-raising and philanthropic events in her life. And Tahani’s “soulmate,” Jianyu (played by Manny Jacinto) is a monk who took a vow of silence in life that appeared to continue on into the afterlife.

 

Quickly Eleanor’s incorrect presence in “The Good Place” causes various negative effects on the neighborhood she lives in and the architect of said neighborhood, Michael (played by Ted Danson) believes it’s a sign that he’s done something wrong. Chaos naturally ensues.

 

The show was always great, mixing laugh-out-loud humor with a thoughtful commentary on what it means to actually be good person (with some writing, I’d like to add, by former blog interviewee Demi of “Gilmore Guys”), but it was the recent season finale that cemented its status as a new classic. I won’t give it away, but there’s a huge twist that even I didn’t see coming. It’s so clever and brilliant and makes it explicitly clear that this show needs a second season, something NBC has yet to nail down as of this post.

 

So that’s where you come in. If you haven’t watched any of “The Good Place” yet, watch it! Watch it OnDemand, watch it on NBC’s website, just watch it somewhere where NBC will know its being watched. This show needs to be saved, not just because its great and a second season could potentially earn it a bigger audience, but also because I need to find out what happens next. And hey, if you do help it get renewed, maybe that’ll get you some “Good Place” points! You never know!

 

Have you watched “The Good Place”? Got thoughts on the big season finale twist? Do you think I would end up in “The Good Place”? Be honest. Or maybe not, I don’t know. Provide your reasoning in the comments. And, before I go emotionally prepare for the Oscar Nominations Announcement tomorrow morning, I’ll leave you with this…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

Don’t Worry Guys, I Fixed “Passengers”

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Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

When we’re not agonizing over the latest heart-wrenching but also mad corny moments on “This Is Us” (or “Randall Deserves Better”, as I like to call it) or eagerly awaiting the fallout from Countess LuAnn’s wedding to Tom on the next season of “The Real Housewives of NYC”, my mother and I have been discussing (let’s be real, arguing) over the recent movie “Passengers.”

 

(Spoilers for the movie “Passengers,” if not being spoiled for this movie is somehow still important to you.)

 

Starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, the film tells the story of a starship taking a 120-year journey through space to a new livable planet, and the two unlikely people who have to make sure it gets there without falling to pieces. Before it opened, the movie had serious buzz given it’s flashy stars and intriguing and mysterious premise. What’s wrong with the ship? Why are only these two awake with 90 years left in their journey? Can’t any film about space travel just end well? (It can! Go see “Hidden Figures.” In fact, go see it on January 20. It’s not like anything important is happening on that day.) Well, most of those questions were answered, including one that was answered in a…a not super great way.

 

The big question most of the movie’s trailers hinted at was why were these two the only ones awake? It appeared that Pratt’s character woke up due to some sort of technical malfunction, but Lawrence’s character’s story was left to mystery. Or, at least, left to get people to go see the movie in theaters. The big reveal in the film, that Pratt’s character woke Lawrence’s character out of her 120-year slumber so that he wouldn’t be so lonely, didn’t receive nearly the “whoa, that’s crazy!” response that I’m sure the writers hoped for. The many (and I mean many) negative reviews of the movie frequently highlighted the creepiness of this plot twist. I mean sure, the guy was lonely, but that’s no reason to wake up a girl who you’ve never even met and essentially force her, against her will, into a life solely with you on this ship. Homegirl’s gonna likely be dead before the ship ever lands on this shiny new planet and will never see her friends or family again! That is beyond messed up.

 

The movie, of course, tries to (and in my mom’s eyes, succeeds, hence our arguing) redeem Pratt’s character by having him come clean to Lawrence and risk his own life to save the ship and all of it’s snoozing inhabitants. And, of course, Lawrence’s character falls in love with him (despite the fact that he kind of imprisoned her) and chooses to not go back to sleep for another 90 years, even when Pratt figures out how to fix her sleeping pod. How romantic. Just kidding, I meant how disturbing.

 

So what can be done to fix this movie? Well, like many things, it took a woman to figure it out and that woman is me! Behold, my A+ plan for fixing “Passengers.”

 

In the most basic summation of the plot, boy wakes up alone on ship in space, boy gets lonely, boy wakes up girl to hang out with, girl finds out and gets super angry, boy and girl realize that ship will not survive trip, boy and girl save the day and fall in love blah blah blah. Well, how about having Pratt’s character wake up Lawrence’s only after he discovers that the ship is in peril instead of before?

 

Perhaps he finds in her records that she’s some expert in technology or engineering and instead of waking her up for companionship, he wakes her up and explains the ship’s dilemma and how he knew she was the only one who could help. Sure, she might still be a little mad, but knowing that his reasoning wasn’t just for his own selfish interests but for the interests of everyone on the ship would certainly make his decision much less sketchy. The two could still fall in love or whatever while working together to save the ship and maybe they could use their combined smarts to not only fix her pod but his too. That way they can have their romantic happy ending and not die on a ship while everyone else is asleep! It’s foolproof, it’s perfect and it fixes “Passengers.” You’re welcome.

 

What did you think of “Passengers” and its big twist? Have any movies that you’d like to fix? Is it about Tom? Please don’t let it be about Tom. Provide your evidence in the comments. And, as always…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

A Look Back At the 2017 Golden Globes

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My ballot for the night. I got 14 out of 26 of my guesses correct. Not great, but not terrible! Photo by Jenn Murphy

The 2017 Golden Globe Awards aired last night, kicking off award season and setting us down the path that will eventually lead to Oscar. It was a night of high highs (Jimmy Fallon’s “La La Land” themed opening number! Meryl Streep’s powerful Cecil B. DeMille Award acceptance speech! The adorableness of Sunny Pawar!) and low lows (Everything else Jimmy Fallon did after the opening number! Tom Hiddleston’s super weird Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie acceptance speech! “Hidden Fences“!) but all of that didn’t even have anything to do with who actually won. In terms of winners, the TV side offered many more surprises, both positive and negative, than the film side. Let me break it down for ya’ll.

 

TV: “Atlanta” wins big, So does “The Night Manager”???

The TV categories were a bit of a mixed bag, largely celebrating new shows. Only one person, the much deserved Tracee Ellis Ross for Actress in a Musical or Comedy for “Black-ish“, won for a series that has had more than one season. The rest of the Musical or Comedy Awards went to the equally deserving “Atlanta” and its creator Donald Glover, one of the big treats of the night. On the Drama side “The Crown” took home the TV Series and Actress in a Drama (for it’s star, Claire Foy) Awards and Actor in a Drama went to Billy Bob Thornton for some show called “Goliath” that I’ve never seen and couldn’t even tell you what channel or streaming service it might be on. Thornton’s win was early in the next and followed another weird, surprise white guy win and it gave night a weird feel to start. Limited Series or TV Movie went to “The People vs. O.J. Simpson“, naturally, and Sarah Paulson won as well but every other Limited Series/TV Movie award, as well as Supporting Actor and Actress (for Hugh Laurie and Olivia Colman respectively) went to “The Night Manager.” What? Who? I know I had heard of it but it didn’t seem to really leave a mark, so it was surprising to see it take home three awards, including one for Tom Hiddleston, who as I mentioned above, really needs to work on his acceptance speeches.

 

Movies: “La La Land” wins everything but hey, “Moonlight” still exists!

The movies side of the night started off with a big shock in Aaron Taylor-Johnson of “Nocturnal Animals” winning for Supporting Actor instead of “Moonlight‘s” brilliant Mahershala Ali, but quickly fell into a much more predictable line. “La La Land” won literally every award it was nominated for, including Best Picture, Musical or Comedy, Director (for Damien Chazelle), Screenplay, Musical or Comedy Actor (for Ryan Gosling), Musical or Comedy Actress (for Emma Stone), Original Score and Original Song for “City of Stars” making it the only film in Golden Globes history with 7 wins in one night. I’ve talked about it a little before on this blog, but this seemingly constant stream of wins has me feeling a bit irritated. Yes, “La La Land” is great, but you know what’s really great? “Moonlight”! And sure, it won Best Picture, Drama, but that was the only award it won, which is truly insane. There isn’t a ton of overlap between Globes voters and Oscar voters, so hopefully the outcome will be different there. Casey Affleck won for Actor in a Drama for “Manchester by the Sea” which felt kind of lame given that I just saw “Fences” and Denzel Washington should seriously be winning every award that he’s nominated for in that role. At least Viola Davis won Supporting Actress for her role in “Fences.” I see an Oscar in her future and I am completely okay with that. The Foreign Language film winner “Elle” also took home Actress in a Drama for Isabelle Huppert, proving that she might be real competition for the other ladies in her category come Oscar time. And finally, “Zootopia” won for Animated Feature, beating “Moana” which is a shame because I loved “Moana.” Justice for “Moana”, am I right?

 

Well there you have it, a brief refresher on last night’s Golden Globes. The next big televised award show is the Screen Actors Guild Awards on January 29, and they’ll be much more of an indicator of where the Oscars may end up. Should be interesting.

 

What did you think of the Golden Globes? Have a most favorite win or a least favorite loss? Know what Animated Feature nominee “My Life as a Zucchini” is about? Please let me know about that last one in the comments. And, before I go see “Hidden Figures,” which was completely snubbed last night, I’ll leave you like I always do…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

Here Are My Top 6 Movies of 2016 (Because Picking 5 Was Just Too Difficult)

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Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) in “Hunt for the Wilderpeople.” Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

Happy New Year, dear reader! I set out with the goal of picking my top five favorite movies of 2016 for this week’s post, but it was just too gosh darn difficult. I tried, I really did, but there were so many enjoyable movies this year! (And yeah yeah yeah, I could extend my list to 10 like most critics do, but I’m not going to, okay? Deal with it.)

 

So I gave myself a little leeway and decided on six movies that really got me going. I tried to provide a somewhat wide range of movies, movies that people of all ages and interests could enjoy, but at the end of the day they’re movies that I saw and liked so it definitely leans in a particular direction. Plus, it only accounts for movies I saw in the 2016 calendar year, so movies like “Fences” and “Jackie” that I have yet to see that are considered to be 2016 movies will not be included. I’m sure if I had seen them by now it would complicate my list even more. So here it is, in no particular order, my top six movies of 2016!

 


 

1) “Moonlight

It would be a little bit insane to not include this incredibly beautiful and moving film on any best of list, because it simply is the best. Everything about it, from the writing to the directing (shout-out to Barry Jenkins, who, if the world worked out in my favor, would be taking home an Oscar come February) to the acting all around, is completely brilliant. It’s certainly stuck with me the most out of any movie I saw this year. It’s also the one I’ve recommended the most. Basically, it’s awesome. And you should see it if you haven’t.

 

2) “Hunt For the Wilderpeople

Another movie from this year that you should definitely see that maybe hasn’t gotten as much attention as the Oscar-buzzy “Moonlight” is the delightful “Hunt For the Wilderpeople.” Equal parts hilarious and heartwarming, “Hunt For the Wilderpeople” tells the story of a young boy and his foster uncle making their way through the New Zealand brush. That might not sound entirely riveting, but trust me, it is. It’s a movie that everyone in your family can enjoy, as long as everyone in your family is cool and like cool things. Get into it.

 

3) “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Any movie that starts with the line “Ever since I was born, I was dope” is bound to be great and “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” doesn’t disappoint. The Lonely Island’s take on the popstar documentary genre is a pitch-perfect parody full of on point pop culture references and surprisingly great parody songs. It should be one of the biggest hits of the year, but it somehow slipped under the radar and faded into obscurity. Truly unfortunate. So watch it and then get all of your friends to watch it and right this wrong in 2017.

 

4) “Lion

Another wonderfully moving tale, this time based on the amazing true story of a young man using Google Earth to find the family he was separated from as a child. It has great performances from Dev Patel (who should be in everything, frankly) and Nicole Kidman as well as a child actor, Sunny Pawar, who can actually act! It’s a rare feat and a necessary one, as Pawar really carries the first hour of the movie. It’s also another good one for the whole family, since the power of family, both by blood and by choice, plays a significant role in the film.

 

5) “The Lobster

I already wrote a whole post about what I liked about “The Lobster,” so I won’t go into too much detail here. I will say, however, that it’s wonderfully weird and unexpected and surprisingly funny and while it might end up being an acquired taste for most, it’s worth giving a shot. So hey, give it a shot, y’know? What’s it going to hurt? It’s not like you’ll get turned into a animal if you do.

 

6) “La La Land

Another pick that isn’t all too surprising, “La La Land” is well on its way to at least some Oscar glory. And deservedly so, given it’s vibrant and exciting modern take on the classic musical movie of days past. In a year rife with darkness, this movie was full of light and fun and songs that will stay in your head for weeks after. If you love musicals like I do, then it’s definitely worth checking out.

 


 

So there you have it, my top six movies of 2016! Here’s to more great movies in 2017. Because hey, we’re definitely going to need something to get us through the next four years.

 

What do you think of my top six movies? Have a top six (or five or whatever number) of your own? Think I’m lame for not sticking to five? Well no one asked you! Except for me, right now, but that doesn’t matter. Share your thoughts in the comments. And, as you embark on this new year, remember…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

 

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