Category Archives: TV

2018 Oscars Recap: Ho Hum

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The Upshot

For some reason I was bored by this year’s Oscars almost before they started.  Following last year’s gonzo trainwreck of an ending, and this year’s empowering Golden Globes, fatigue may have set in.  Times Up?  Or is it Me Too?  Or Me Next?  All these causes effectively canceled each other out leaving… an award show.  And this year’s award show was, I thought, lackluster.  Jimmy Kimmel’s hosting was ok.  Not great, but not terrible.  The few bits that stood out are noted below.

The Jet Ski

OK so I am a sucker for “The Price is Right.”  I have fond childhood memories of staying home from school pretending to be sick, watching Bob Barker and his bevy of models.  My husband and I still apply “The Price Is Right Rules” when if you go over a price estimate, you lose.  So the idea to award a jet ski to the person with the shortest speech was genius.  The theme music, Helen Mirren serving as the model, the ridiculousness of the prize, the whole thing was a great, great idea.  Loved the Jet Ski.

Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph

I don’t even want to write about what they said, because I won’t do it justice.  Watch the clip.  They were, truly, hilarious.   Give these women an award show to host.

This Year’s Version of “Stars – They’re Just Like Us”

Involved various celebrities going to a nearby movie theater and handing out hot dogs and candy to moviegoers enjoying an advance screening of A Wrinkle in Time.  The whole thing had a merry zaniness to it, perhaps because of the night vision camera.  It was a good idea to thank the people who really matter most – the movie-going public.

Frances McDormand

She is a beacon of steely resolve and a force for good in the world.  She hijacked her own speech by asking all the women nominated across all the categories to stand up.  Then she made a direct plea to studio executives to meet with these women and finance their projects.  She cut straight to the heart of the matter – it’s about the money.

The Rest

The winners were fairly predictable, and it was good to see that the awards were distributed across many films.  Loved that Get Out! won for original screenplay.  Dunkirk definitely deserved the technical awards it won.  Most of the speeches were snoozeville, but a few – hello Kobe Bryant! –   were articulate and interesting.  I get that The Shape of Water was an incredibly polarizing film, having seen it with my sister-in-law who hated it, but I absolutely loved it and am glad it won.

The Movies

And I loved that this year’s crop of nominated films had more diversity than the usual.  Sure there were the historical films – Dunkirk, The Post, and The Darkest Hour, all of which are worth seeing.  But Get Out! and Ladybird were pioneering films.  My two cents on all the nominated films is below, ranked from least preferred to most preferred.  One important caveat is that one of my favorite movies of the year wasn’t nominated.  If you haven’t already, go see The Florida Project.  It is tremendous.

9. The Phantom Thread – strangely icky and precious at the same time. But I loved Lesley Manville’s performance (the sister).

8. Dunkirk – a chronological mess. Well filmed, but confusing and completely lacking in character development. All the soldiers really did look the same.

7. Call Me By Your Name – beautiful, but glacial. Way too many shots of the ripening fruit on the apricot tree. We get it.

6. The Post – enjoyable, if a bit plodding.

5. The Darkest Hour – Gary Oldman can do no wrong. Scene on the Tube is worth the price of admission.

4. Get Out! – see it, if you haven’t.

3. Three Billboards – not as brutal as I would have thought given the topic. Frances McDormand always kills it, but Sam Rockwell does as well (for those who haven’t seen it, check out The Way Way Back).

2. Ladybird – beautiful writing, beautiful acting, and funny!

1. The Shape of Water – as noted earlier this movie is not for everybody but I adored the art direction, crazy plot and genre-mashup.

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You Go Girlfriend

oprah

Art and Bias

All critics are biased.  How someone reacts to a piece of art is inextricably linked to what they find funny, or sad, or poignant.  To their values.  To what makes them tick.  Systemic unconscious bias is what has resulted in an entertainment industry run by and for men, in which (mostly) male critics commend movies and TV shows directed by men and acted by men.  This is why “The Sopranos” was considered a seminal work of art while “Sex and the City” was dismissed as fluff.  When the reviews came out for “Big Little Lies,” several critics dismissed the show, which is phenomenal, as a “domestic” (code for insignificant) piece not worth of our attention.

But not last night.

My Bias

I thought about criticism and my own personal point of view and as I watched last night’s Golden Globe Awards.  For this ceremony was hands-down my favorite Awards Show of all time.  This Awards Show had me at Hello.  This Awards Show put feminism front and center in a rousing, empowering and positive way.  The night’s unabashed theme was You Go Girlfriend.  Anyone not on this playbook – Gary Oldman’s perfectly conventional acceptance speech comes to mind – was kinda tone deaf.

The Host
Seth Meyers understood from the get-go that a white, straight, male host might not have been the best choice for host this year.  His monolog was sharp, sensitive, and on-point.  And then he got out of the way.  Well done.

The Winners

Were almost all about female empowerment.  “The Handmaids Tale,” “Big Little Lies,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and “Ladybird,” all unabashedly feminist works, won handily.

The Speeches

When Oprah Winfrey received the Cecille B. DeMille lifetime achievement award, I cried during the entire speech and when she brought the crowd to its feet, cheering wildly.  And during Frances McDormand’s speech.  And when Allison Janney mentioned that Tonya Harding – a victim of class discrimination if there ever was one – was in the room.  And during Greta Gerwig’s speech.  And when Reese Witherspoon encouraged women to be brave, to speak out.

The Takeaway

Hollywood has been roiled.  To everyone’s complete surprise, behavior that was discreetly tolerated in the past has brought down powerful men.  Not so much in the White House, but that’s another story.

The Bigger Picture

And at least this year many people in Hollywood – Oprah in particular, but others as well – understand and called out that most women who are sexually harassed and assaulted are not movie stars.  That most women suffer without the resources to fight back.  And that, together, we have the power to effect change.  A long time devotee of Awards Shows, I have never seen a show with such a unified and empowering message.  Until last night.

Putting Baby – and Carrie Bradshaw – in a Corner

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To quote Broadcast News, I’m mad as Hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.  I’m tired of the sexism in the movie industry.  A recent issue of Entertainment Weekly lists the 100 best movies of all time.  Dirty Dancing and movies of its ilk (Clueless, etc.) are not on the list.  Goldfinger, however is.  Boy fantasies are critical darlings.  Girl fantasies are not.

Dirty Dancing is a girl fantasy.  It is actually a specific kind of girl fantasy.  Summarizing the plot of this film may not be necessary given that everybody who doesn’t live under a rock has seen the movie.  In any event, for those of you who live under a rock the plot is thus:  smart, outspoken Jewish girl meets hunky dancer from wrong side of the tracks in a Catskills resort in the early 1960s. Patrick Swayze is smokin’ hot.  Romance ensues along with, well, dirty dancing.

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You may think – what does Sex and the City have to do with Dirty Dancing?  Well, in the same Entertainment Weekly issue, there is a rating of the 100 best TV shows of all time.  The Sopranos is #5.  Mad Men is #9.  Sex and the City is #58.  As the New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum notes in a recent amazing article, Sex and the City is viewed as a “guilty pleasure:” a frothy combination of prurience and fashion.  Although yes there is lots of sex and lots of fashion, can we pause to consider … the writing?  The writing is excellent.  Although each episode sticks to a prescribed formula (Diner scene, Carrie voiceover, et. al.) this is the case with many shows, including the award-winning Modern FamilySex and the City is about femaleness – female characters, female friendships, female flaws.  And although critics want nothing but to dissect the flaws and complexities of Tony Soprano and Don Draper, nobody gives Carrie Bradshaw and her cohorts the time of day.

Carrie and Baby are both stuck in a corner.   To be fair, part of this is due to the money-grab on the part of the Sex and the City Powers That Be, making two lackluster feature film sequels.  The first was mediocre, the second horrendous as well as morally offensive.  So in the purple haze of sex, fashion, and bad movies, it was somehow forgotten that Sex and the City was an excellent show with top notch writing, stellar acting, and nuanced characters.

I am actually a fan of Mad Men and The Sopranos.  It’s noteworthy that both shows are notable for what isn’t said.  Don Draper and Tony Soprano are (were) inscrutable; part of the fun is putting together the puzzle pieces.  In Sex and the City, everything is stated in exhaustive detail.  Isn’t that sort of like men and women – men not communicating, and women over-communicating?  So why are artistic works lacking communication considered superior?

So listen up.  I’m tired of reading (male) critics praise shows created by (male) showrunners starring (male) leads.  Part of the reason they get away with this is that we let them.  So my challenge to you, faithful readers, is to speak up. The Gilmore Girls.  Pitch Perfect.  Bridesmaids.  Scandal.  Let us now praise female-driven entertainment.