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March 2018

Get Pumped for Easter With This Mildly Creepy ‘SNL’ Sketch

There isn’t anything this week that particularly caught my pop culture eye, and Easter (the lesser Christian holiday with special candy) is less than a week away, so it felt like the perfect time to bring back this incredibly strange and hard to explain gem from “SNL.” To be fair, it’s not really that hard to explain: it’s a guy (Michael Keaton) talking about what’s in his Easter basket. It’s the stuff inside the Easter basket, from a bunny named Glenny (after Glenn Close, of course) to a DVD of the movie “Friday” (“the best Friday”), and what’s happening around him that makes it so unusual and funny.

 

It’s also not the only one of it’s kind. It’s one of those strange recurring “SNL” sketch formats that feels both new and familiar each time. Steve Buscemi did it for Christmas. So did Edward Norton at Halloween. Kristen Wiig got in on the fun as well near Thanksgiving. And most recently, Bill Hader (in a cut-for-time sketch from the most recent episode) played a similar weirdo talking about St. Patrick’s Day. There’s something inherently entertaining about them all that always gets me and I get excited when I can tell that one is coming.

 

So if you’re celebrating this Sunday, you can whip this sketch out when your family members start talking about politics. And if you’re not celebrating, you can watch it alone and be happy that you’re not with all of your family talking about politics. Either way, you’ll be living the dream. A creepy, slightly unsettling dream, but a dream nevertheless.

 

What do you think? Do you have a favorite of the strange-people-talking-about-holidays sketches? Are you still trying to process that fact that Darren Criss might actually win an Emmy for “American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace” and deserve it? Who would’ve thought that was going to happen? Share your thoughts in the comments. And, of course…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

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‘American Idol’ Is Really, Actually, Officially Back…Yay?

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Apologies for the garbage lighting in my house. I swear it wasn’t as dark as it looks.                Photo by Jenn Murphy

When it was announced that “American Idol” was ending its run after 15 seasons, I was sad but accepting. Did I want my favorite reality show not involving prosthetic leg-throwing to go off the air? Of course not. But I understood that it had run its course, that the show it had once been was no more and that it was time for it to go gently into that good night.

 

But “Idol,” much like the reality stars born from shows like it that just aren’t ready for their fifteen minutes of fame to end, was not prepared to fade into history just yet. It turns out that it wasn’t ready to leave TV for good, it was just ready to leave Fox. Barely a year after the grand season 15 finale where just about everyone they could find came out to say farewell, it was announced that “American Idol” would live to sing another day, this time on ABC. When this news came out, I was a bit cynical and concerned. Sure, a little part of me was pleased that it was coming back, but did it really need to come back? Hadn’t we all sort of agreed that it wasn’t really churning out stars anymore and had become just another way for Jennifer Lopez to promote her latest endeavors?

 

With these concerns in mind I cautiously watched the first episode last Sunday. I was ready to really throw in the towel, to say that this was a lost cause and that I was right that it didn’t need to happen. But then someone came into the audition room and sang real nice and now I’m back in again. Because guys, the new-ish “American Idol” is good. Like, really good.

 

We’re three episodes in and the talent level has already been impressively high. Sure, there are the middling, mediocre people that get through to Hollywood only to fizzle out and fade into obscurity, but the serious talents are seriously talented. And they’re not all generically handsome white dudes with guitars! I mean, some of them are. That’s inevitable on a show like “Idol.” But a lot of the really good ones aren’t! It gives me hope that this season can break the cycle of winners that go onto do nothing significant. As long as the new judges keep doing what they’re doing, and audiences decide to vote on talent, not who’s the cutest cutie of the bunch, we might actually have a chance of selecting the next superstar.

 

More on those judges, Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan. They’re charming and they have pretty good chemistry with one another! When rumors started swirling of who might join the new judges panel, I had hopes that they would have a non-performer judge who could provide more critical industry expertise, a la Simon Cowell or Randy Jackson. And they don’t, but they don’t really need it because these guys are throwing out constructive criticism and feedback like t-shirts at a minor league baseball game! They’re even giving tips to the really good ones! It’s amazing!

 

Despite all of the familiar trappings that make “Idol” what it is, this season still somehow feels fresh and potentially more interesting that ones in recent years. It has already had a few missteps, from Katy Perry’s unwanted smooching of a contestant to the fact that Ryan Seacrest is still there at all after well, you know, but they both feel like they can be overcome. (Although, I’m really curious to see what they’ll do with Seacrest once they get to the live episodes. They seem to be showing him less that usual in these pre-taped ones. Maybe bring back Dunkleman?) And there is the ever-present chance that once the show falls into the hands of the voting public it will slip into the bland-ness and predictability that probably pushed it off the air in the first place. But I have high hopes, hopes that I didn’t expect to have, that this season can be different. It has to be. Right?

 

What do you think? Are you pleased with this sort-of reboot of “American Idol”? Are you still freaking out over the perfect cameo on “SNL’s” Stefon bit this past weekend? Let me know in the comments. And, as always…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

The Lonely Island Wrote A Song for The Oscars And They Didn’t Use It, Which I Think Is A Federal Offense?

In the aftermath of last week’s somewhat underwhelming Oscars, national treasures The Lonely Island revealed that they had written a song (and created a demo for the corresponding video) for the big ceremony. It was so great and so epic that it was apparently way too expensive to put together, not to mention unrealistic in terms of the star power needed to pull it off. The Oscars sadly passed on it but lucky for us, the dudes decided to share the demo with the world, revealing what would have almost definitely been the best part of the night.

 

The song features the stars of some of the biggest movies of the year lamenting over the fact that their films often get overlooked when it comes to fancy schmancy awards season. From Wonder Woman to the clown from It to the cavalcade of Hollywood Chrises, the song argues that the often superhuman feats these characters and the people who play them pull off should be considered on the same level as the quieter performances given by frequent Oscar winners, especially because people are actually going to see their movies. It’s hilarious, yes, but it also brings up an incredibly valid point, one that has plagued the Academy for years.

 

While people who avidly follow the Oscars strive to seek out the films that are recognized by the Academy with a nomination or a win, they’re not exactly the films that are bringing in the big box office dollars. Often, these films are shown primarily in art house theaters and aren’t largely advertised in places where Oscar voters are scarce. As a result people simply don’t see them and don’t have any strong reaction to whether or not they win an award. It can make the Academy seem out of touch with what’s actually hitting with the viewing public, which can result in lower viewership of the ceremony and lower interest overall.

 

Take, for example, the bit Chris Rock did when he hosted the Oscars in 2005 and 2016. In both instances, he visited a movie theater to talk to average movie goers about the nominees. And in both instances, people didn’t have much to say or much familiarity at all with the films that were actually nominated, but were happy to speak about the “popcorn movies” that they were there to see. It’s played for humor (and it is pretty funny) but it shows that the movies people are actually seeing, the movies people are actually excited about are not the movies getting nominated at the Oscars. It’s why the Oscars expanded the possible number of Best Pictures nominees from five to 10 after “The Dark Knight,” considered to be both a critical and monetary success, lost out on a Best Picture nomination despite eight nominations and one of its stars, Heath Ledger, winning for his unforgettable performance as the Joker in 2009.

 

This, of course, isn’t to say that every blockbuster film should be in the Oscar conversation. There are plenty of trash movies that make a ridiculous amount of money because some people will just see anything. And it is worthwhile for the Oscars to recognize quieter films that are brilliant despite their lack of moneymaking potential. It can help those films gain more attention and help those filmmakers to get funding for their next project. But there are films that are both artful and money-making that the Oscars can choose to recognize. While I wanted “Get Out” to win best picture this year mostly because it was really really well done and deserved it on that merit alone, it also did incredibly well at the box office. “Dunkirk” also made a lot of money and received plenty of awards recognition. But films like “Wonder Woman” and “Girls Trip,” that provided star performances from the likes of Gal Gadot and Tiffany Haddish and raked in the cash, were left out entirely. Its those kinds of snubs that show the Academy’s blind spots.

 

With “Black Panther” crossing the $1 Billion mark this past weekend, it has clearly cemented its status and a blockbuster. But it has also been celebrated for the quality of its story, its directing and its performances. If it were to win any award at the Oscars next year it would become the first Marvel Studios movies to receive that honor. Simply a nomination in one of the big categories would be pretty revelatory. But will it happen? Or will The Lonely Island have to make another song next year featuring T’Challa and Co? Only time will tell.

 

What do you think? Do you think the Oscars should be open to more mainstream films? Are you also a little bit embarrassed by how happy you were to have “American Idol” back on your TV last night? Divulge in the comments. And, of course…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

A Look Back At Last Night’s Incredibly Predictable Oscars

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Here’s my Oscar ballot from last night. Green is what I wanted to win, pink is what I thought would win and black is what actually won. I got 18 out of 24 correct, way more than I wanted. Photo by Jenn Murphy

After months of watching movies and award shows, prognosticating and discussing who would win (and who should win), the Oscars finally aired last night on ABC. It was a largely enjoyable night helmed by Jimmy Kimmel, who was able to address the Time’s Up movement as well as other prevalent and important movements in ways both funny and thoughtful. (Although it felt more than a little unfortunate to be highlighting Time’s Up on a night when both Kobe Bryant and Gary Oldman went home with trophies.) Nearly every presenting duo felt like the beginnings of a film that I would pay good money to see, but Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph really took the cake when they presented two awards together. They need to host the Oscars (and the Emmys and the Tonys and the Golden Globes and the Kids Choice Awards and the Teen Choice Awards and the People’s Choice Awards and…) together next year, or at least star in some sort of hilarious and wonderful buddy comedy. Haddish is already set to host the MTV Movie & TV Awards later this year, so let’s hope that she’ll at least bring Rudolph out then for more fun.

 

As for the actual awards themselves, the night proved to be mostly disappointingly predictable. (At least, it was for me.) All of the acting awards went to the same people who have won at nearly every other award show this season. Frances McDormand (who, I’ll admit, is great and had a great acceptance speech) won Actress in a Leading Role for “Three Billboards Outside, Ebbing, Missouri,” Gary Oldman won Actor in a Leading Role for wearing makeup in “Darkest Hour,” Allison Janney won Actress in a Supporting Role for doing what she always does in “I, Tonya” and Sam Rockwell won Actor in a Supporting Role for “Three Billboards,” but I’m going to pretend he won for “The Way Way Back.” (In fact, I’m also going to pretend Allison Janney won for that.) Director and Best Picture went to Guillermo del Toro and “The Shape of Water.” Look, del Toro seems like a lovely human being, but “The Shape of Water” was not that good. If I wanted to watch a movie about a group of misfits who encounter and ultimately befriend a fish person, I would much rather watch a little film called “Aquamarine“! It’s got a lot more JoJo and a lot less questionable fish-human relations. The only two pleasantly predictable moments came in the screenwriting categories, where James Ivory‘s adaptation of “Call Me By Your Name” won in Adapted and Jordan Peele‘s brilliant “Get Out” won in Original. The look of joyful shock on Peele’s face as he walked off stage, Oscar in hand, was truly the highlight of the night. (You can check out the rest of the winners here.)

 

What did you think? Were you pleased or disappointed with film’s biggest night? Are you already preparing the Oscars 2019 campaign for “Paddington 2“? It’s the right thing to do. Share all in the comments, And, of course…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

 

 

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