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It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Awards Season

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Image courtesy of YouTube. Screenshot by Jenn Murphy.

Do you see the shiny gold statues glimmering in the distance? Can you hear the rustling sound of a sequin-covered dress brushing against an inordinately long red carpet? Do you feel a feeling, deep in your gut, that someone, somewhere, is a few months away from being snubbed? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, then you know that Awards Season is finally upon us.

 

Yes, the time where celebrities dress to the nines to celebrate other celebrities in televised ceremonies that we plebes watch from the comfort of our couches has arrived. This past week was full of Awards Season news. From a whole host of host announcements (and some host announcements later rescinded) to nominations for not one, but two very different award shows, Awards Season is in full swing. Let’s take a look at everything we have learned.

 

The Hosts

This week, three hosts were announced for two of the biggest film award shows of the year. By the end of the week, only two hosts remained. How we got there is a fascinating look at what exactly it takes to get and secure a hosting job in 2018.

 

The first big announcement came from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a.k.a. The Oscars, who shared that Kevin Hart would be hosting their big show in February. Pretty quickly after the announcement, people began to notice that Hart was deleting some old tweets. The tweets in question were all homophobic, frequently using gay slurs and implying that Hart polices his son’s behavior so he doesn’t come off as “gay.” People also began to dig back into his standup, where he had shared similar sentiments. Obviously, this is not a great move for someone hosting a show often jokingly referred to as the “Gay Superbowl.”

 

Instead of apologizing, which the Academy apparently asked him to do, he first criticized the public for criticizing him, saying that people are too sensitive. Then he criticized the Academy for asking him to apologize, saying that he wouldn’t do it and that he didn’t feel he had a reason to do so. Then, mere days after being announced as host, he tweeted that he had stepped down from the hosting role. In that statement, he actually apologized.

 

So what can future Oscar hosts learn from this? First, don’t tweet dumb homophobic nonsense, but if you do, remember to delete it before you’re announced as host. Also, just apologize! There’s a certain protection comedians feel that they have from apologizing for insensitive remarks because as comedians their job is to poke fun at uncomfortable topics. But there’s a difference between poking fun and saying and tweeting things that perpetuate beliefs that genuinely put a group of people into danger. It’s silly to stand by something like that, especially if you claim you don’t feel that way anymore. Apologizing isn’t always the most fun thing to do, but sometimes it’s truly necessary. Kevin Hart didn’t seem to get that, and now he doesn’t get to host the Oscars.

 

So who will? As of my posting this, the Academy has yet to select someone new. I’ve heard a variety of suggestions, from the hilarious Wanda Sykes to the indomitable Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland of “Oh Hello” fame (who I personally think would be better suited for The Tonys). But I had my own idea for who should host, and I think it could solve many of the Academy’s problems.

 

Two stars really stole the show in the cinematic world this year, and their names are Charlie and Olivia. Charlie, of course, being the dog in “A Star Is Born” and Olivia being the dog in both “Widows” and “Game Night.” Both are adorable, charming and have proven that they can do anything with the right amount of treats and training. Neither could possibly have any insensitive tweets in their pasts, because dogs can’t tweet! What I’m trying to say is, let Charlie and Olivia host the Oscars.

 

I know what you’re thinking: How could two dogs host the Oscars? Dogs can’t talk! True, but you know who can talk? Jake Johnson and Mindy Kaling. I believe that these two actors could truly capture the voices of Charlie and Olivia respectively, and could easily do voice over work from behind the scenes. All that’s left is to hire the best comedy writers in the game to write their banter and you’ve got yourself a great show. Looking to pull in more viewers? Everyone is going to want to see how two dogs are going to host the Oscars. It’s a brilliant idea, and now that I’ve put it out into the world I’m just going to sit back and wait for a call from the Academy.

 

Or, they could just do what the Golden Globes did and hire two wonderful people who have never done anything wrong and have already proven that they have good onstage chemistry. Sandra Oh and Andy Samberg, I am very excited to watch the Golden Globes with you two at the helm.

 

The Nominees

Speaking of the Globes, they also announced their nominees this past week. On the film side, “Vice” got the most nominations, which is super cool because it hasn’t even been released to the viewing public yet! “A Star Is Born” and “The Favourite” also did very well, and “Black Panther” seems to be well on its way to an Oscar nom with it’s three Golden Globe nominations, including one in the Best Drama Category. I was especially happy to see the delightful Elsie Fisher nominated in Lead Actress in a Comedy/Musical for “Eighth Grade” and especially mad to see “Widows” get zero nominations. Not even one for future Oscars host Olivia, who plays a surprisingly pivotal role in one of the film’s key plot twists!

 

As for TV, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” seems to be continuing its reign over TV awards with several nominations. Same with “Barry.” I guess I should try and watch both of those shows now? That would involve paying for subscriptions to Amazon Prime and HBO and I do not have the time or the money for that. “Killing Eve” got several nominations, including one for now Globes co-host Sandra Oh. I want her to present the award to herself, and I feel like that could actually happen. “The Good Place” also got several nominations, which is nice to finally see. I was most excited for my favorite new TV show of 2018, “Pose,” and it’s two nominations, including one for the magnificent Billy Porter. And in things to be mad about in TV, barely any love for “Atlanta“? The Hollywood Foreign Press had better hope that Teddy Perkins doesn’t come after them. We know he’s got connects at all the big award shows.

 

The Grammy nominees were also announced this past week and I’ll be honest, I don’t have nearly as many strong opinions on that front. There were a lot more women nominated in the biggest categories this year, which is wonderful to see and will be even more wonderful if they actually end up winning. “Shallow” from “A Star Is Born” got a ton of nominations, which is both hilarious and not at all surprising. If they win any of them and don’t recreate the Grammys scene from the film, then this all will have been for naught. Lady Gaga should at least dress in character for the ceremony. I was most excited to see Chloe x Halle get two Grammy nominations, including one for Best New Artist. “The Kids Are Alright” was one of my favorite albums of the year, and you should definitely check it out if you haven’t already.

 

The Future

And in “things that should be getting awards next year” news: both “The Good Place” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” pulled off very ambitious moves on their respective episodes this week. If D’Arcy Carden isn’t a serious part of the Emmys conversation next year, then we have really lost it all.

 

What do you think? Did you enjoy the influx of awards season news last week? Am I going to see “A Star Is Born” in IMAX today? Are Ally and Jackson far from the shallow now? Let me know your thoughts in the comments. And, of course…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

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‘Life-Size 2’ Didn’t Completely Tarnish My Childhood Memories, Thank Goodness

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Image courtesy of YouTube. Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

I feel like every generation has some sort of TV movie that they collectively love. It’s not a good movie by any means, but it’s fun and silly and people choose to associate it with fond memories of their childhood. For me, that movie was “Life-Size.” Starring Tyra Banks as a Barbie-esque doll named Eve that’s accidentally brought to life by an angsty tween (played by Lindsay Lohan, pre-everything), “Life Size” was a pivotal part of my younger years.

 

If it was on, I would watch it. I had it on VHS tape when that was still a thing, and then on DVD when everything started to change over. As I got older, it became a fun point of nostalgic discussion: “Hey, remember “Life-Size”? That was a crazy movie.” When I learned in high school that a close friend had never seen it, I went out and bought it for her so she too could revel in the joy. The lyrics to the Eve commercial jingle will likely never leave my mind and I often talk about the insane scene where Eve eats multiple pads of butter, because she’s a doll and dolls don’t understand food.

 

I never thought that a sequel to the film was necessary. It felt like such a nice stand-alone piece of nostalgia, and as I’ve written before, sequels can really ruin everything. So I watched FreeForm’s “Life-Size 2: A Christmas Eve” last night with serious trepidation. Would it just feel like a re-hashing of all the fun bits from the first film? Would the premise of a doll coming to life seem almost too absurd in 2018? Would it be bad-bad instead of fun-bad like the first one?

 

I’m pleased to say that “Life-Size 2” was mostly fun-bad, and didn’t feel entirely unnecessary. In this iteration, Eve (still played by Banks, although in a much more manic way) is brought back to life by a young woman named Grace (played by Francia Raisa) and her tween-age neighbor to ultimately stop the young woman, who just happens to be the new CEO of the toy company that makes Eve, from discontinuing the doll.

 

The movie seemed very self-aware of its audience (people my age who grew up with the film) and the inherent jokiness of the premise. There was an extended callback to the butter scene from the first film (which I honestly thought was just something that I obsessed over) and a nice shout-out to Lohan’s character (because there was no way in hell that Lohan was actually going to be in this movie). There was even a very sly reference to Banks’s infamous berating of an eliminated “America’s Next Top Model” contestant that felt like entierely Banks’s doing.  All of that didn’t feel too nostalgic-for-nostalgia’s sake. Rather, it helped to make the much of the movie feel like a fun inside joke for lovers for the first film.

 

What I didn’t like about it were some of the more modern elements brought in to update things. The wokeness that they try to add to the doll and the story was admirable but felt a bit performative at times. There was also multiple romantic plot lines, one for Eve and one for Grace, that felt a bit unnecessary to the true story of the film. Eve’s, with a hunky chef, was mostly played for goofiness and humor, but Grace’s, with a music producer whose little sister becomes friends with Grace’s tween neighbor, seemed to be a bit more serious. I generally don’t like a forced romantic plot line in a movie that doesn’t need it to make sense and that was how this one felt. It also didn’t help that his character produced a remix of the Eve jingle that had some truly cringeworthy rap breaks.

 

Overall, I’d say the movie had much of the fun and silliness that made the first one so entertaining while also setting itself apart in ways that mostly worked. Is it going to win any awards? Absolutely not, other than maybe a Teen Choice surfboard. But am I mad that it exists? No, not at all. It was a fun holiday treat. As the song says, “Eve’s great, no matter where she goes.”

 

What do you think? Did you watch “Life-Size 2: A Christmas Eve”? Did you see all the outfits that Beyonce wore at the Global Citizen Festival in South Africa this past weekend? I’m obsessed. Share your thoughts in the comments. And, as always…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

People Actually Think ‘Love Actually’ Is Good?

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Image courtesy of YouTube. Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

For years, I’ve seen the buzz surrounding “Love Actually” without actually watching the film myself. It always seems to make its way onto must-watch holiday movies lists, and appears to be seen by many as a seminal modern holiday film, held up against movies like “Elf.” My holiday viewing tends to fall more into the classics category; “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” (the original, NEVER the Jim Carrey one) and the 1951 “A Christmas Carol” are the ones I always gravitate towards as Christmas closes in. But “Love Actually” was on TV a few nights ago and I decided to tune in. I’m never one to turn down a good rom-com. But “Love Actually” is…bad. Like, really really bad.

 

It’s possible that “Love Actually” could be a good movie if it focused in on one or perhaps two of the stories the film attempts to tell, but instead it barely gives enough time for any of its nine, nearly 10 story lines to make sense or fully pay off. Each story feels extremely rushed or forgotten about after the initial set up. You can’t entirely blame them; anyone would have a tough time juggling that many individual story lines in one film. That’s why it’s never really done. There was often some sort of big, flashy display that I guess was intended to speed things up, but instead it just made things feel fake and forced. It didn’t feel like any of the story lines were given the appropriate time to fully develop, and that is crucial in a good romantic comedy. You need to really believe that these two people, in the hour or two that you’ve watched them meet and interact, have truly found a match and fallen in love. That takes time, and none of the stories in “Love Actually” really had enough.

 

As a result, none of the endings really felt earned, if you can even call some of the wrap-ups real endings. I’ll call out one story line in particular, the one I have seen the most references to from people who love this film, involving characters Juliet (played by Keira Knightley), Peter (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Mark (played by Andrew Lincoln). [Spoilers ahead, obviously.] Juliet and Peter get married at the beginning of the film, and Mark is the best man, who appears to be filming the wedding for them. Mark is – shocker – secretly in love with Juliet, and this manifests itself by him being distant with her (making her and Peter think he doesn’t like her) and withholding the video he shot of their wedding. Juliet forces him to show her the video and it’s all just close-up shots of her, which is super creepy regardless of the context, if you ask me. Then a bunch of stuff happens that doesn’t involve them and the next time we see the three, it’s when Mark shows up at Juliet and Peter’s house and, via a low-tech slide-show that has since been parodied just about everywhere, reveals to Juliet that he’s in love with her. She kisses him before going back into the house and then…that’s it. The next time we see them, all three are at the airport and it’s unclear who has ended up with who.

 

I mean, really? What kind of ending is that? That’s the kind of ending you get when there is not nearly enough room in your packed-to-bursting film for any story to be truly fleshed-out. It’s ridiculously confusing and unsatisfying and could have easily been solved if the focus of the film had been tightened to just a couple story lines. The film ends up feeling like a part of the Garry Marshall holiday movie franchise (even though it came out years before Marshall’s franchise even began). “Love Actually” is focused around a big holiday, is packed with talented actors and has story lines that intertwine in somewhat unexpected ways. It is also, like those Marshall films, not that good. But at least Marshall’s movies wrapped up each ending in a way that made some degree of sense.

 

I could also get into my issues with the film’s gratuitous shots of women in their underwear, the entire premise that American women will fall for any man with an accent or the slightly murky implications of the story line involving the U.K. Prime Minister (played by Hugh Grant) and a female employee, but that really requires a whole other post about how the only good romantic comedies are written by women. (Think about it: Every Nora Ephron movie. “27 Dresses.” More recently, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.” I rest my case.) What I will say is that if you really want to watch a romantic comedy set at the holidays, might I recommend “The Holiday“? It has only two intertwined stories and they both pay off wonderfully. And, you guessed it, it’s written by a woman. Go watch that instead.

 

What do you think? Are you one of those people that actually likes “Love Actually”? Can you not watch the film’s Liam Neeson-led story line anymore because you’re also mad about [SPOILER-ish] how dirty he did Viola Davis in “Widows“? (Also, have you seen “Widows” yet? If not, what are you doing? Go see “Widows.” Now.) Let me know in the comments. And, as we begin this holiday season, remember…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

‘Toy Story 4’ May Actually Make Me Believe in Sequels

Like anyone with eyes, ears and a heart, I love the “Toy Story” franchise. What’s not to love? It’s a kids movie that has enough smart humor to appeal to adults, it’s full of great voice acting, and it’s the rare movie that has genuinely good sequels. (It also may have convinced me as a child that my toys did, in fact, have inner lives and feelings, which made for an emotionally challenging time when it came to letting some toys go. But we don’t need to talk about that.)

 

Movie sequels can be so difficult to pull off. The task of living up to an original film that was already great, plus adding something new and worthwhile to the story is not an easy feat. Few films have actually made it work (shouts out to “22 Jump Street” and “Paddington 2“); more often than not, they end up being a pointless, bastardized version of what made the original film worth seeing (shouts out to “The Hangover Part II” AND “The Hangover Part III“). The urge to make more sequels (a.k.a. make more money) remains though, and that’s why they keep on coming, despite their frequent lack in quality.

 

But the “Toy Story” sequels were different. Much like the rare sequels that work, “Toy Story 2” and “Toy Story 3” expanded the world of the first film and gave us new, compelling characters and story lines. “Toy Story 3,” in particular, was especially great. It was full of heart and humor and carried a sense of finality that was especially poignant for those of use who grew up along with the owner of all the toys. And that is exactly why I’ve been so reticent to get excited about “Toy Story 4.”

 

When the fourth film in the “Toy Story” franchise was announced, I had immediate concerns. The third film felt like such a perfect ending to the story, why mess it up with more? Why bring in new characters and story lines that could potentially soil the greatness that was already there? My concerns were a little bit alleviated when I heard that Rashida Jones and Will McCormack, the dream team behind my favorite under-the-radar anti-rom-com rom-com, “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” were set to write the film. Then they dropped out, and I grew concerned again. But the two recently-released promos for the film, which is set to drop in Summer 2019, have made me feel a little better yet again.

 

The first one was short and sweet, featuring all of the classic characters and one new addition, a spork with pipe cleaner arms named Forky who seems to be having a bit of an existential crisis. The second promo, however (which is featured at the top of this post), is what got me really excited. Featuring Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele (a.k.a. Key & Peele) as two carnival toys doing a kid-friendly take on the classic movie-loving valets from their Comedy Central sketch series, the whole thing is an absolute delight. It has all of the joy and humor from the previous “Toy Story” films, but still somehow feels fresh and different. If the whole movie is like that, “Toy Story 4” might just prove me wrong when it comes to sequels. I certainly hope that’s the case.

 

What do you think? Did the new “Toy Story 4” promos get you excited for the film? Were you also somewhat disappointed by the clunky season finales of “You” and “American Horror Story: Apocalypse“? We deserve better. Let me know in the comments. And, as always…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

My (Very) Brief Moment with John Waters

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Photo by Jenn Murphy

This weekend I had the pleasure of checking out the “John Waters: Indecent Exposure” exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art. If you’re a lover of Waters and his work (or even just pop culture in general) you’ll find the whole thing to be an absolute delight. It not only looks at his films and the motley crew of creatives he worked with to make them happen, but it also delves into his fascination with both the seedier parts of pop culture and the self-serious contemporary art world. It’s not exactly for the faint of heart, but if you know anything about John Waters you should have already expected that. If you happen to be in the area, I would highly recommend checking it out.

 

It reminded me of the time that I met John Waters himself. Well, I didn’t actually meet him. I did hold the door open for him at an Old Navy though.

 

Spotting a celebrity in the wild is always a crazy thing (I’ve written before about my insane two-for-the-price-of-one Steven Spielberg and Judd Apatow sighting) but it’s even crazier when you spot them doing something completely and totally normal. And I’m not talking about something like walking down the street. While that is a completely normal activity, a celebrity doing it makes it somehow glamorous and exciting. (Just ask Kiefer Sutherland, who I nearly ran into once while he tried to avoid paparazzi on the street in NYC.) No, I’m talking about something even more mundane, like doing laundry or ordering a coffee. Or, in the case of John Waters, shopping for a belt at a reasonably-priced clothing store.

 

I was about 11 or 12 and the time and had only really been familiar with him and his work for a few years. I was first introduced to him a year or so earlier in the way many young people are, through “Hairspray.” (“Cry-Baby” and “Pink Flamingos” came much later.) A teacher at my elementary school sang “Good Morning Baltimore” at the teacher talent show (don’t ask) and it somehow didn’t completely turn me off from trying to find the original song and the show it came from. It wasn’t long before I saw a touring production of the stage show and watched the original, John Waters-made film where it all started. I loved it, obviously, and loved even more that the whole wild, wonderful world was created by a guy who basically came from the same part of Maryland as me.

 

Not only is Waters from the same part of MD as I am, but he also still had family there, which is how I ended up seeing him at the local Old Navy a year or so later. I was there with a friend and her mom, and as the last person through the door I kindly held the door open for the person behind me. As I turned around to grab the door I spotted the person coming in and immediately knew it was him. Someone with that distinct of a look is pretty hard to miss. I was too shocked to say anything and ran to catch up with my friend and her mom and tell them the exciting news.

 

We were all fans and quietly freaked out together before building up the courage to try and find him to say hi. By the time we did though, he was gone. But the memory of my brief brush with greatness remains. And it’s a story that I love to tell to anyone willing to listen, which now includes you. Congrats.

 

What do you think? Have your own totally mundane and normal celebrity encounter? Are you alone in your house? What about out on the town? Sorry, I’m still listening to the “A Star Is Born” soundtrack nonstop and living for Lady Gaga’s Old Hollywood-glam look for award season. Look what she’s found. A straight path to an Oscar, perhaps? Tell me something (boy) in the comments. And, as always…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

‘SNL’ Is Finally Funny Again!

I hate to say it, but I have been largely unimpressed with “Saturday Night Live” this season. While they had a trio of great hosts (Adam Driver, Awkwafina and Seth Meyers) for their first block of three episodes, the quality of the sketches just wasn’t there. Other than a few select sketches that were slightly humorous, a majority of the episodes lacked anything especially funny or unique. I had started to really worry that the show had fallen out of the creative favor it seemed to have re-developed in the last couple of years.

 

That all changed this past weekend. It’s possible that with street-fighter and weakest impression of the president haver Alec Baldwin likely out of commission for a little while and the often-discussed high-profile relationship of one of the show’s cast members coming to a somewhat unceremonious close (“Thank U, Next“, indeed), the show needed to dig a little bit deeper creatively. It’s also possible that they chose to step their game up in honor of host Jonah Hill‘s entrance into the Five-Timers Club. Either way, this week’s “SNL” felt like it was finally back  –  in all of its weird and stupid-but-fun glory.

 

From the return of Hill’s Catskill comic trapped in a six-year-old’s body Adam Grossman to the brilliantly strange Teacher Fell Down to the just so obviously funny Pug  Wigs, this episode featured a whole host of sketches worth a re-watch and a share with anyone who needs a laugh. Even the more topical politically focused sketches felt sharper than they had in weeks past. For the first time this season, the show felt fresh and truly entertaining.

 

The sketch that got me the most though was a little gem called “America’s Got Talent: Wait, They’re Good?” To be fair, the sketch itself isn’t exactly brilliant; it revolves around the reality competition show trope of the person that doesn’t seem like they’ll be talented who ends up blowing everyone away, a la Susan Boyle. It stretches that premise out a little too far and features largely half-assed impressions of the “America’s Got Talent” judges. But, and this was the most important element for me, it features Jonah Hill in a cowboy outfit singing “Go, Go, Go, Joseph” from “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

 

Why was this so funny to me? Was it the silly little speaking voice Hill was using? Was it the fact that his character’s name appeared to be Debra? Was it that he was using one of the silliest songs from the silliest musical I had to watch my friends perform in high school? Was it the weird hip gyrating dance move he was doing while he sung it? I don’t know. But it tickled me in a way that nothing from the first three episodes of the season did. It’s certainly possible that I’m the only person in the world who found this moment to be hilarious. But those other people had plenty of great sketches in this episode to laugh at. And that’s the way an episode of “SNL,” should be.

 

It’ll be interesting to see if next week’s episode, hosted inexplicably by Liev Schreiber (Why? Does he have something to promote? Is there a new season of “Ray Donovan” or what ever that show is that keeps getting him Emmy nominations coming? This makes no sense to me.) will bring the same heat. But at least this episode showed that the crew over at “SNL” still have the skills to make it happen.

 

What do you think? Did you like this week’s episode of “SNL”? Did you end up seeing “Bohemian Rhapsody” and do you have thoughts on it that differ from film critics? I saw it and liked it for the most part. Rami Malek was excellent and the musical performance scenes, especially the re-creation of Live Aid, were spectacular. I wasn’t as bothered by the more predictable musician biopic tropes in the film that seemed to bug critics, but I was deeply bothered by the fact that they used the “cough-into-a-tissue-and-there’s-blood-so-that’s-how-we-know-the-character’s-sick” trope. I mean, what year is this? There are so many other, much more artful ways to show that a character is sick! But overall it wasn’t too bad. Let me know what you thought, and what you think of “SNL” this season, in the comments. And, of course…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

 

P.S. If you are in the U.S., 18 or over and are registered to vote, you better be figuring out your voting plan for tomorrow, November 6. Voting in this midterm election is so incredibly important, and you’d be ridiculous to miss out on your opportunity to cast your ballot. Some people like to say that if you don’t vote you can’t complain about politics. While that isn’t entirely true, you can technically do whatever you want, if you don’t vote and then complain about politics, everyone will think you’re a giant tool. Don’t let everyone think you’re a giant tool. VOTE! For more info, go to votesaveamerica.com.

Movies with Bad Reviews: To See or Not To See?

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Image courtesy of YouTube. Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

This coming Friday, November 2, marks the premiere of the long-awaited Freddie Mercury biopic, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” As a longtime fan of Queen and an even bigger fan of Rami Malek, who plays Mercury in the film, I’ve been looking forward to this film for a while. But since it started screening for critics a few weeks ago, word has started to trickle out about the quality of the film and it’s…not great.

 

The consensus seems to be that Malek is excellent as Mercury, but the film itself is a stereotypical musician biopic, in the worst ways possible. The film has been mired in controversy and off-camera drama since day one, with a variety of different actors cycling through the Mercury role and the unceremonious exit of director Bryan Singer. Most people were assuming it might end up being a bit of a disaster with all of that going on behind the scenes, and based on the reviews that have come out so far, it appears that might unfortunately be the case. But can we really simply trust a group of critics to be 100% correct in their analysis? Should I just scrap seeing the movie altogether because the reviews haven’t been stellar? It’s quite the conundrum.

 

When it comes to critical response versus audience response to films, the difference in opinions can be huge. Big blockbuster movies will often get poor reviews from critics for being unimaginative but are loved by audiences for giving them exactly what they wanted, and smaller, artsier films that critics adore can be seen as weird and unapproachable by the average filmgoer. As someone who isn’t big on the blockbusters, I find myself agreeing with the critics more often than not, but there have certainly been instances where I liked a movie a lot that got pretty poor reviews.

 

It’s also important to take into consideration who the critic is. Is this someone who would have ever liked a movie like this in the first place? There has been a lot of discussion lately about the need for a larger number of female critics and critics of color that could bring different, nuanced views to a film that the average white male critic could not. It can often be why films angled towards women and minorities tend to not have the critical raves and big sales numbers that the more white male-centered films have. It’s a frustrating statistic that will hopefully change as the years progress.

 

But while that’s happening, plenty of negative reviews are still out there, and they can be somewhat damaging to the reader’s ability to see a film without any sort of pretense. Once you’ve read a negative review, it can be hard to shake their criticisms and go into a film fresh-eyed. You end up almost seeking out the things that they found fault with instead of forming your own opinions. I truly believe I could have liked the film “Oceans Eight” more if I hadn’t read the sub-par reviews first. It was a film I was incredibly excited for, and I felt like my view of it was tainted by what I had read before going in.

 

All of this isn’t to say that there should be no negative reviews. If a movie is bad, like really really bad, people should know that. It can also be really fun to read an especially scathing review of something you already don’t like. But when you’re excited about something like I am with “Bohemian Rhapsody,” it might be best to avoid the reviews until you’ve seen it yourself. (I’m still going to see “Bohemian Rhapsody,” by the way. Absolutely.)

 

What do you think? Has a negative review ever impacted your ability to watch a film with fresh eyes? Are you still listening to the “A Star Is Born” soundtrack nonstop? SAME. It’s so good! Share your thoughts in the comments. And, as always…
Stay classy.

Jenn

The Perks of Knowing When to Quit

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Screenshot from YouTube by Jenn Murphy

We’re only two episodes into the fourth and final season of The CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” but it already feels like it’s building to something. What that something is, I don’t quite know. But I know I can’t wait to find out.

 

The nice thing about “Crazy Ex” is that it’s not ending because of a cancellation or some other sort of abrupt shift. Rather, the show is wrapping up because that was the plan all along. Co-creators Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna have said several times that they always planned and intended for the series and the story it tells to be complete after about four or five seasons, so things appear to be going exactly as planned. This (hopefully) means that instead of pulling something together at the last minute that doesn’t fully resemble a proper season finale, the series will be able to wrap up in a way that’s clear and satisfying, because it’s exactly how they wanted it to be.

 

I’ve written before about the possible pitfalls of series finales, where years of plot and development can be derailed by a finale that wasn’t built to handle the ebbs and flows of a long-running series’ narrative, but shows like “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” have found a way to avoid that. By creating a carefully planned out and organized series, with a clear idea of when and how it will end and everything that needs to happen in between, a show can avoid trailing off in weird directions, or making a finale that it’s largely disliked. (Like a certain show that we don’t talk about anymore.)

 

Every season of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” has felt organized and intentional, in a very satisfying way. It was clear what stories were going to be told and what messages were trying to be sent. There was, of course, room for entertaining and sometimes surprising diversion, but the framework was evident and it helped to keep the series moving. There weren’t really any filler episodes, because every episode played a key role in telling the overall story. Where a lot of shows can get bogged down in the minutiae of creating an entire season of television, it never felt like “Crazy Ex” did. The plan was always there and the show benefited from that.

 

Mr. Robotwill also air it’s fourth and final season next year and is ending for basically the same reason: the story that Sam Esmail set out to tell is nearing its logical end, and he’s ready to pull the trigger. Much like “Crazy Ex,” “Mr. Robot” has felt clearly planned (largely because Esmail initially wrote it as a feature film that he then expanded for television) and seems poised for a finale that will leave viewers pleased. Or, at least, as pleased as you can be with a show so full of mystery.

 

While I will be very sad to see two of my favorite series of the past 10 years say farewell, I look forward to seeing how these two expertly crafted shows artfully choose to do it.

 

What do you think? Do you like a series with a clear game plan from day one? Did you also see “A Star Is Born” for a second time this weekend? What can I say, the pull of Gaga and the Coops is too enticing. Let me know in the comments. And, as always…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

Reminiscing on Movie Soundtracks

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Photo by Jenn Murphy

It’s only been a little over a week since I saw the latest iteration of “A Star Is Born,” but I am already well on my way to knowing nearly every song on the film’s soundtrack by heart.

 

One of the many things that made this movie so great (and there were a lot) is that the songs made for the fictional musicians the movie focuses on are actually good! I feel like that can often be a problem with movies and TV shows centered on musicians and artists. The songs manufactured for the artists on the show or in the movies sound exactly that: manufactured. (*cough* “Empire” save for like two or three songs *cough*) There’s something that seems to get lost when the songwriting isn’t coming from a genuine place. That doesn’t feel like the case with “A Star Is Born” though. Even the songs on the soundtrack that are supposed to be not that good are mad catchy! It’s great.

 

Listening to the “A Star Is Born” soundtrack got me thinking of the movie soundtracks I loved growing up. Not necessarily soundtracks of entirely original songs, as was the case with “A Star Is Born,” but just soundtracks that compiled songs both original and pre-existing that were either featured in the movie or helped to capture the movie’s mood.

 

The biggest one I can think of from my youth was the soundtrack for what I still consider to be one of the best comedies of the last twenty years, “School of Rock.” That soundtrack was my jam. It introduced me to one of my favorite bands (The Black Keys) and had so many classic rock hits from all over the genre that kept things interesting and reminded me of my favorite parts of the film. It also featured the original song from the film, which, like “A Star Is Born,” is actually good and fun! On the days that my mom would drive me to school I would always want something “cool” (or, at least “cool” by my standards) playing when I opened the car door in case a nearby kid could hear, and for the longest time that was definitely the “School of Rock” soundtrack.

 

As I got older it was always the soundtracks from the latest tween or teen movie I was obsessed with that got me going. Notable soundtracks included the ones for “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen,” which featured Lindsay Lohan singing David Bowie for an in-movie musical adaptation of “Pygmalion,” and “A Cinderella Story,” which featured a lot of Hillary Duff, my queen at the time. Not exactly the most artful of selections, but I remember fondly the hours I spent listening to them and forcing others to do the same.

 

Most recently the best soundtrack that comes to mind is the Kendrick Lamar-produced album for “Black Panther.” It’s full of all star-filled, expertly produced tracks that so perfectly convey the mood and style of the movie. It goes a long way to making me want to watch it again and again.

 

Given the quality and popularity of the “Black Panther” and “A Star Is Born” soundtracks, it seems very likely that Lamar and his crew will be going up against Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in the original song category at the Oscars this year. I truly cannot wait to see how that plays out.

 

What do you think? Do you have some movie soundtracks you especially love? Are you both very excited and mildly concerned by the prospect of Tyler the Creator doing his own version of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” for the newest animated Grinch movie? Hard same. Share your thoughts in the comments. And, of course…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

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