Whip It.

I got to see Whiplash this weekend, a film festival favorite that hit theaters nationwide just recently. The movie was written and directed by Damien Chazelle, adapted from his short film, and stars Miles Teller and the ever impressive J.K. Simmons. The plot, boiled down, sounds simple. An up-and-coming student drummer begins to study under a brutally driven music director, who pushes him to his physical, mental and emotional limits in pursuit of the pinnacle of percussion-playing greatness. If you think you’re going to see it, just beware there are a few minor spoilers below.

The art form in this case is jazz, which I know very little about. But music is the lifeblood of the movie. Chazelle uses these rhythms in his shots—when the jazz band is gathering for rehearsal, the camera angles across the empty seats and plunk, plunk, plunk…three instrument cases are put down. Then click, click, click…the cases are opened. Close-up shots of tapping feet and rapidly moving drumsticks are mixed in with wider shots of the band when they’re performing. The musical pieces that are the main focus are Whiplash, the titular composition by jazz composer Hank Levy, and Caravan, a standard most closely associated with Duke Ellington.

There’s a fair amount of musical lingo in the script, but don’t worry…you really don’t need to know what it means to get the basic gist of a teacher who pushes a student past their breaking point. And that gets to the heart of the movie, which is the performances by Simmons and Teller.

Teller’s star has been on the rise for a while. I thought he was great in The Spectacular Now, and I’ve been seeing him in more and more films over the past few months. But honestly, the intensity of his role in Whiplash is pretty incredible. Teller plays Andrew—a 19-year-old drummer in a prestigious conservatory with practically no social life and a lot of ambition. He has a close relationship with his father (Paul Reiser, in a surprisingly sweet, though small supporting role), but his musical aspirations are what drive him.

Enter Fletcher (Simmons), the temperamental and often downright cruel conductor of the conservatory’s premiere jazz band. To play for Fletcher and make it into his ensemble is clearly the height of achievement for the student jazz musicians. But Fletcher, though an exacting and talented conductor, is a tyrant. He bullies his students mercilessly, swearing at them, taunting them and goading them into playing better.

In a riveting scene at a midway point in the film, Fletcher wants an incredibly fast tempo from his drummers. But all three student percussionists in the room, Andrew included, fail to meet his expectations. He temporarily dismisses the rest of the players and orders his three drummers to continually rotate, playing at that unbelievable speed…grilling them until one of them can deliver what he wants. Hours pass. The drummers are drenched in sweat and exhausted, and when Andrew steps in again and starts to play, the pain and determination are etched in his face as Fletcher yells at him. Blood from blisters on his hands splatters over the kit, and finally, finally…Fletcher stops him. “You’ve earned it.” That’s about all the approval he’ll get.

The film has more than one extremely intense scene like that, where the two characters face off against each other. To Simmons’ credit, Fletcher has a few moments where he is seen as a multi-dimensional human being, and not just a jazz directing monster, stalking the conservatory halls. You simply get a very clear sense that the music is everything to him. There is nothing else. Other things, including people’s feelings, only interfere with the pursuit of greatness. Fletcher himself illustrates this point with a well-known apocryphal story about jazz legend Charlie Parker, and the conductor/teacher that drove him to practice so maniacally that he became the virtuoso he was.

The climactic concert scene is one I won’t spoil here, but it is beautifully shot and edited, with some snappy camera work that drives home the back and forth, push and pull, antagonistic nature of the relationship between Andrew and Fletcher. Whiplash is a film about such a specific world that it may not be for everyone, but for anyone who wants a glimpse at the building of a genius, the sacrifices an artist makes for creative perfection, and the complicated relationship between a mentor and a protege, it shouldn’t be missed.

Going, going, going…GONE.

I finally got a chance to see David Fincher’s big screen adaptation of Gone Girl earlier this week. I had a complicated relationship with the book, as you can read here. Basically, I loved the book, but felt VERY unsatisfied with the ending.

I think, in as much as it was possible with a plot so dependent on unreliable narrators, Fincher put together a pretty masterful film. Everything about it, the performances, the cinematography, the color palette, the music…it was almost right. Almost normal. Almost perfect. But something is always…off. Nothing is exactly what it seems. The flashback sequences to the beginning of Nick and Amy’s relationship have a particularly dreamlike quality, which makes perfect sense in light of later reveals.

This is a tough adaptation to write about without spoilers. So if you haven’t seen the film or read the book, and you plan to do either, you should not continue reading…

First of all, I have to heap praise on Rosamund Pike. While she’s been in numerous films over the past few years, she hasn’t had what I would call a “breakout role.” And Amy Dunne is nothing if not a breakout role. The line she is asked to walk, between believable vulnerability, snobby confidence, and icy sociopath, would be an enormous challenge for any actor, and she manages to pull it off beautifully. (Literally, as well…with her Grace Kelly looks, Pike is striking in every frame.) Not to be outdone, Affleck manages to tap into Nick’s questionable moral compass, capturing a man who is NOT likeable and yet, in this film, is the closest thing we have to a hero.

The supporting cast is also great, especially Carrie Coon as Margo, Nick’s twin sister, and Kim Dickens as Detective Boney. Even Tyler Perry, not known as a particularly good actor, acquits himself well as the confident and overpriced attorney Nick hires in an effort to protect himself.

One of the more surprising performances for me was Neil Patrick Harris as Desi Collings, Amy’s highschool boyfriend and a dangerous obsessive who she turns to when, after escaping and pretending to be dead, she’s robbed of all her carefully saved money. But Desi, as weirdly menacing as he is with his expensive pressed shirts and immaculate mansion prisons, is no match for Amy.

Frankly, nobody is. Which is what made the back half of this movie a particularly wicked delight to watch. It’s one thing to read Amy on the page…she’s remarkable enough there. But to see Pike bring her to life…every calculated move, every manipulation, every carefully posed, pre-planned step carried out with surgical precision? It’s chilling, in the best possible way. In fact, the last act of the movie dips dangerously close to black comedy or even camp, but in Fincher’s hands it works, and there were moments that I laughed at the absurdity. But that’s not a criticism, that’s a compliment. I felt like cheering for Amy. She’s horribly wonderful—a perfect blonde nightmare, and you can’t help but applaud her bad-assedness.

So the movie was entertaining, dark, grim, funny, twisted, and all the other things that I loved about the book. The ending, unfortunately was only modified slightly…the fundamentals are the same. Yet it didn’t bother me in the same way it did in the book. Maybe because I knew it was coming, maybe because watching Amy actually brought to life had that bizarre effect I listed above, where even as I recognized her inhumanity, I admired her gusto, her brilliance, and her complete unwillingness to compromise, no matter how fucked up it will make things for other people. Even innocent people.

Bravo, Amy. Bravo.

Gracepoint/Broadchurch.

I watched the premiere of the Fox series Gracepoint last night. I adored the original British series, Broadchurch, that Gracepoint is based on. (You can read more about that here and here.) I also speculated on the potential of the American remake. (You can read about that here.) Well, now the show has finally arrived and speculation is no longer necessary. If you haven’t seen Gracepoint (or Broadchurch, for that matter) and are planning on waching either, beware…potential spoilers ahead.

I couldn’t help but wonder, as I watched the pilot, what I would think of it if I HADN’T seen Broadchurch. And I think, in general, I would have liked it. The performances seemed strong, the whodunit component was clearly established, and the intense emotional undercurrents that separate it from so many other crime shows seemed to be intact. The problem is, I HAVE seen Broadchurch. Seen it and loved it. And shot for shot, this seems an almost identical remake. And that never goes well. (See the first season of the American Office.) So to me, while I can’t say Gracepoint’s pilot was bad, it just seemed like a pale imitation of something I had already seen done so beautifully and originally.

All of the iconic moments that I could recall from the Broadchurch premiere were here. Danny (they even kept the dead boy’s same name) poised on the edge of a cliff in the cold open. Danny’s father moving through the town’s main thoroughfare, in a tracking shot that establishes our cast of local figures, all of whom we’ll get to know better in coming episodes. David Tennant’s grizzled city cop looking askance at a fence break in our introduction to his character. Danny’s mother running in slow motion down a traffic filled street when she hears there’s been a body found on the beach. Anna Gunn’s Ellie Miller crying on the beach when she realizes she knows the dead boy…and on and on and on.

That’s not to say the performances were bad. They weren’t. Anna Gunn in particular seems to be handling her role quite well. I’m not as sold on Michael Pena as Danny’s father, but Virginia Kull, who plays his mother, Beth, did a very good job with all the heavy lifting she was required to do as a grief stricken mother. I don’t understand why Tennant had to have an American accent (the inn-keeper in Gracepoint has a British accent) because as talented as he is, it makes him seem like he’s working a bit harder than he should to stay in character. I love him, and I’m glad they kept him in the part…I just don’t see why he couldn’t stay British.

My biggest concern, as a viewer of the original series, is one I already alluded to earlier in this blog. This pilot makes it seem like the American series is going to be, point for point, character for character, identical to the British series. If that’s the case, I’m not sure why I would want to keep watching. It’s a great story, but it’s a mystery, and I already know the ending. Do I need to see it play out again, in California instead of England? The original ending is very powerful, and very chilling. I don’t know if the could do better than that. That being said, I’d like to see them try to switch it up. Otherwise, there isn’t much point in a viewer like me continuing to watch.

I will say, one thing I often forget…a lot of people are not as TV-obsessed as I am. And while I know a fair amount of people who love British TV, I know amongst the American viewing public at large, that is probably generally the case. So maybe Fox just thought, hey…we know this show is good. Let’s just set it in California and see what happens. And maybe that’ll work. But for this viewer, the only motivation to keep watching each week will be to see what’s changed…to see if they can give this mystery something new and unique that will make it good in its own right, and not just competent because it’s walking in the exact steps of a superior series.

Baby Daddy Drama, Mama!

Nashville is two episodes into its third season, and I just have to give it up for a show that continues to be a hot soapy mess, and yet Nashville, I can’t quit you. So if you AREN’T caught up yet, avoid the following snarky, spoilery, gif-filled post. I am digging in deep to the new season, y’all.

When I realized Nashville’s season premiere was already here.

When the season premiere had Rayna pondering, AGAIN, whether to be with Deacon, and Tandy kept saying the same boring stuff she always says.

When I realized, this week, that Tandy was “moving to San Francisco to work at a non-profit.”

When Scarlett, Gunner and DrunkAvery ended up on a road trip to nowhere together.

When this week’s episode teased that Scarlett and Gunner still have “song writin’ chemistry” and Zoe saw it and got pissed and messed up her background dancer steps at rehearsal.

When Maddie walked around pissed at every adult, copping major ‘tude.

When Rayna chose to marry Luke and left Deacon high and dry…AGAIN.

And finally, most importantly of all…when we find out Juliette has a bun in the oven.

When that baby was CONFIRMED to be Avery’s, right before she was planning to get rid of it.

And when Juliette, like the queen of everything that she is, channeled all her angst and emotion into her Patsy Cline audition…including cutting her fucking hair off!

(It’s convenient that Juliette’s pregnancy matches Hayden Panettiere’s real life pregnancy, no?)

Good to have you back, Nashville.

And now your host…Starlord!

Chris Pratt hosted the season premiere of SNL last night, and I was excited to watch. Pratt seems ideally suited to be a host. Genuinely funny, relaxed and someone who seems to really want to just have fun. He can embrace the spirit of hosting—which is to enjoy yourself. Because if you do, the audience will too.

There are some new faces on the show this year, as there always are. (And notable traditional elements gone as the show enters its 40th season. RIP Don Pardo. The open is not the same without you.) Weekend Update was one place where these new faces really performed. Michael Che, recently of The Daily Show, was lured away by SNL to help anchor with Colin Jost. He’d obviously more than proven himself in the fake news arena based on his three month stint under Jon Stewart. (Stewart and the rest of the correspondents gave Che a hilarious send-off based on the fact  that he really hadn’t worked there that long, and he was already leaving.) Che is the first African American anchor of Weekend Update, and in my opinion is funnier than Colin Jost. (Jost may be a great writer, but his delivery still seems a bit flat.)

The other new face that stood out for me was a young (VERY young) performer named Pete Davidson, who did a bit on Weekend Update that I can’t really adequately describe here, in terms of content. I can only say that it ended up being very funny, in a way that I didn’t expect it to be, and that Davidson impressed me because he is so young and he seemed incredibly comfortable and confident in front of the camera.

Pratt definitely jumped into all the roles he was called to tackle, including a very odd but funny sketch about He-Man and Lion-O where he and Taran Killam wore elaborate makeup and costumes and learned about the pleasures of cake and touching their crotches. There was a pretty funny Guardians of the Galaxy parody citing Marvel’s ability to put their brand on any odd collection of characters and still score a big hit. My favorite of these was “Marvel’s Pam.” (Cut to Aidy Bryant in a cardigan and khakis, walking down the space ship hallway, waving at people. Followed, naturally by “Pam 2: Winter Pam.”)

Aidy Bryant actually had a great night. Not all the sketches landed, but she was the bright spot in almost everyone she was in. She has a remarkable ability to sell ballsy, sex-focused characters in a way that is really hilarious to watch. She and Pratt had a particularly good sketch together later in the evening where they were shyly and awkwardly approaching each other to flirt, only to suddenly burst into sexually charged rap verse.

For the sketches that didn’t land as solidly, the endings seemed to be the weak point. The Lion-O and He-Man sketch had a fairly funny premise, but it was clear the writers weren’t sure how to end it. And there was another sketch that felt the same way…like the actors just kind of exited the set, and that was it. It’s a bit disappointing when that happens, and leaves you with a less positive impression, even if most of the sketch WAS funny. The other really odd choice of the night was a purposefully bad sitcom parody with Christ Pratt, Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett. I laughed some when I watched it, but it was SO odd I think I also spent a fair amount of time going, “What IS this?” It had purposefully bad sets, dialogue, costumes, musical transitions, and audio. Meant, it seems, to mimic the TGIF style sitcoms of the early 90s. All three actors gave unenthused, almost wooden line readings. The whole thing was just very strange…and went on longer than I thought it would. I still can’t decide if I liked it for being so risky and weird, or just feel like it was a lot of effort for small payoff.

As for Ariana Grande, I can’t say anything about her. I fast forwarded through most of her performances. I had a vague impression of cat ears and high heels, and that’s about it. Overall, though, I did enjoy the episode, even if it was only lukewarm in parts. Pratt’s energy and enthusiasm carried him through, most of the new cast seems game, and there were a few standouts that indicate promising things for the future of the show.

Gotham and Sleepy Hollow: Mondays are fun days!

I just watched Fox’s new Monday night line-up. Gotham premiered at 8 on Monday, and Sleepy Hollow returned for a second season at 9. I was excited for both shows. Sleepy Hollow was a surprise guilty pleasure for me last fall, and Gotham had one of the more intriguing premises this year. Spoilers ahead if you haven’t watched and you’re planning to…

Let’s start with the newbie. There was a line in Gotham where one of the characters says to Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) that the city stands on knife’s edge. That’s actually a pretty accurate description of the show itself. After watching it, I can’t tell you if I thought it was good or bad. I honestly don’t know yet. But I would count it as a successful pilot because it made me want to tune in again…and that’s where the “knife’s edge” metaphor is applicable. The second episode could be really great, and I wouldn’t be surprised. Or it could be really terrible…and I wouldn’t be surprised.

It gets points for style. The city looks grim, but not too grim, and they do some fun and interesting things with color and light. Some scenes are warm and saturated, others are cool and blue-toned…kind of like the ongoing struggle between good and evil that is at the heart of the city and its characters. I still don’t find McKenzie especially dynamic, and that’s a shame…the dialogue was one of the weaker parts of the show, and for us to buy into a do-gooder protagonist like Jim Gordon, McKenzie has to sell it. The actors who did more scenery chewing actually gave more effective peformances—especially Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock, Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney, and Robin Lord Taylor as the creepy Oswald Cobblepot (before he learned to embrace his Penguin moniker).

The winks and nods to the canonical figures from the Batman mythos can be amusing, but also overdone. (Anyone else care to speculate that the young comedian auditioning for Fish Mooney is someone we might see again as the Joker? He was never mentioned in the press that I saw, but I wouldn’t put it past them to be planting seeds for Batman’s most iconic villain.) So we’ll see what next week brings. I’m definitely willing to give it at least a few more episodes to settle into a groove.

Now, on to Sleepy Hollow. The first ten minutes of the episode made me really angry. I couldn’t BELIEVE they would do a time jump after that cliff-hanger ending last year. Or eliminate Jenny and Katrina in one fell swoop. “Lazy writing!” I was thinking. “Poor form!” But of course, I didn’t give the show enough credit. One of the things that was so remarkable about the first season of Sleepy Hollow was the breakneck pacing of the plot…and yet the writers managed to keep building that plane in mid-air, instead of falling out of the sky like many of us predicted. And they haven’t lost their touch. It’s hard to always say exactly what’s happening in any given episode, but when you’re watching it, you don’t question it and you just enjoy the ride. That’s the sign of a winning formula, I think.

Beharie and Mison were back, both in prime form, and I’m glad the episode didn’t leave Abbie Mills stranded in Purgatory overly long. Their chemistry is great and they’re so much more fun to watch when they’re working as a team. Crane got a few great “Ichabod and modern technology” moments—including an attempt at driving a car and trying to record a video with his phone. There were some highly humorous Ben Franklin flashbacks (Ichabod was his apprentice, because OF COURSE he was), secret codes and a hidden key, fights with the Horseman, and most importantly it seems John Noble is not going anywhere any time soon. And there’s almost no show I can think of that wouldn’t be improved by adding John Noble. So all the essential ingredients of a Sleepy Hollow episode were present.

I did find it interesting that Katrina is once again separated from Ichabod. They made his quest to get her back last a whole season, and that was enough for me. I don’t care if they reunite, but I think of her as a distraction from the insanity of the horsemen, so I’d rather she was all the way incorporated with the characters in modern times, or not in the show at all. But it looks like, from the teaser for next week, we’ll get more about Katrina’s fate.

All in all, I was pleased with Sleepy Hollow’s season opener…even the bait and switch at the top. Is it an insane show? Yes, undoubtedly. Is that why we find it so entertaining? Yes, undoubtedly.

Fall Preview: High Hopes Edition

Every year, the new slate of fall shows is like a trip to Vegas. You’re hoping to win big, but you know you’re going to end up disappointed. The odds are simply not in your favor. There’s always a few pleasant surprises—I would point to last year’s dark horse, Sleepy Hollow, as an excellent example. I was sure it was going to suck, and it was actually very enjoyable. But other shows, even those from show creators or stars that you’ve liked in the past, will then disappoint.

All that being said, there are a couple of shows I am looking forward to checking out. Both just happen to be new dramas on Fox.

1. Gotham. I would put this at the top of the list. It’s a risky premise…it’ll probably get high tune-in initially because it’s tapping into the ever popular Batman mythos. But should they handle it poorly, it’ll implode in spectacular fashion. Still, the trailer had me intrigued…more intrigued than I expected to be. I like Donal Logue a lot, I think Benjamin McKenzie is competent, if not especially exciting, and the prospect of seeing some young unknown actors sink their teeth into the rogue’s gallery that is Batman’s collection of villains could be a lot of fun.

2. Gracepoint. I am more curious than anything else to see an American take on a British series (Broadchurch) that was such a perfectly executed gem. Sure, they managed to grab David Tennant to take on the co-lead again, but he’s playing an American…which in and of itself is a bit off-putting. Anna Gunn was great on Breaking Bad, and has the Emmys to prove it, but this is a tricky piece of work. There are basic logistical questions. As a viewer, if I’ve seen the original, do I still know how this mystery ends? Because frankly, there’s no way to win there. The ending of the original was incredibly powerful and horrific and made the series so impactful…but if they keep it in the American version, anybody who watched Broadchurch will have the whole mystery spoiled.

I wish I could say there was more, but right now nothing else is really making me excited. There are a few return series I’m pumped about, but that’s about all that can be said. And no new comedies look that great. I wanted to say I’m excited about Mulaney…John Mulaney wrote Stefon…perhaps one of the greatest recurring Weekend Update characters ever. I should be looking forward to his sitcom. But I haven’t heard much that sounds promising. And there are a couple of shows (looking at you Bad Judge and Mysteries of Laura) that just look awful. Again, I could be totally wrong. A series can surprise you…or start out weak and get stronger…or have a great pilot then drop off the map entirely.

For a TV fan like myself, the beauty of where we are now is that when word of mouth builds for a show, and I haven’t seen it yet, I can, simply by catching the episodes I missed on demand. It’s a sort of “let’s see what all the fuss is about” setting that’s permanently enabled in your cable box. You can let things shake out a little before you commit to a new series. I love that flexibility. And I hope this season will surprise me again with a show that hits out of nowhere.

And so it begins…

Fall television premieres have officially begun. Last night Fox aired its season premieres of New Girl and the Mindy Project, two shows that have ranked among my favorite comedies in the past few years. New Girl hit a great stride in the middle of first season, with its writers learning to tap into the vast comedic potential of its cast, playing off their phenomenal chemistry. And the Mindy Project came into its own in its second season, establishing Mindy Kaling (in my humble opinion) as great new comic voice.

I was a little disappointed with how the premieres tonight went down. Neither were terrible, but both were a bit underwhelming, leaving me wondering whether or not they’re suffering from the same Roman Candle syndrome—burning brightly, but not for long. I’d like to think both shows have staying power and will be able to be consistently funny, but the season premieres tonight were a bit weak. (Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen them.)

New Girl was the most problematic. The premise of the premiere is that the gang goes to the last wedding of the summer together, making a pact that all of them will find someone to hook up with. From the start, there’s issues here. First of all, while the “everyone-goes-to-the-same-event” approach has worked for New Girl in the past, they’ve done weddings before. More than once. And the hooking up conceit is a little tired as well. There were a few standout moments—Nick’s reaction to the suggestion of a four way with two bridesmaids, himself and Schmidt, Jess’ impression of how her dancing is like sex, and Nick’s unconcerned reaction to discovering he accidentally bought tap shoes. But in general, I didn’t laugh as much as I normally do.

Jessica Biel guest starred as a weirdly competitive rival who was fighting Jess for a chance to sleep with the best man, played by Veep’s Reid Scott. Their storyline ended in an odd and unsatisfying way, and Biel’s character, whose seeming perfection is meant to be hilariously offputting, was so offputting there weren’t any laughs there. Winston was, in general, not given enough to do, which is a shame, since we know Lamorne Morris is a very gifted comedic actor. And Coach had a one note story that included a brief montage of the women he slept with lecturing him. Again, just not that funny. In general, for a comedy…the episode was weak sauce. Plus, they’re trotting out more and more of those “aw shucks, it’s great we’re friends and we have each other” moments on the show, usually at the end, and it’s not cute any more…it just seems sappy. (“We’re not going home alone,” says Jess…get it? Because they’re GOING HOME WITH EACH OTHER. Barf.)

The Mindy Project was a bit stronger, though plot wise it was all over the map. The main narrative, of Mindy and Danny navigating the beginning of their relationship, and adjusting to each other’s personalities in that context, wasn’t bad. Chris Messina and Mindy Kaling still have fun chemistry, and they’ve managed to transition the “will they won’t they” into a likeable couple. But there were so many sideplots…Peter’s girlfriend hooking up with Jeremy, Morgan’s cousin (played by Rob McElhenney) working at the office, gossip and secrets being shared…all of it got a bit muddled. But it was worth it for Chris Messina stripping at the end of the show. It was funny AND hot! And Mindy got in a few choice lines, as per usual.

I’m always excited to watch the fall shows when they’re back, but I was bit bummed that this was the way we kicked things off. We know these shows can be great. Let’s hope we see that again…sooner rather than later.

The Movies That Make Us Remember Why We Love Movies.

In our current era of informational overload, the entertainment business traffics in as much speculation and gossip and teases and sneak peeks and casting rumors as one would expect. This can be a lot of fun for a pop culture dork like myself. I love to read about what’s happening in the industry, what movies are in development, which of my favorite books are being adapted, who was cast as a classic character, or which director is going to helm the newest tentpole-franchise-blockbuster.

But.

It is also a double-edged sword. For one thing, the experience of the movie itself can sometimes be dulled by overexposure prior to release. We’ve already seen the domestic trailer, the international trailer, the featurette, the cast press interviews, the sneak peek, etc. So there’s less surprises in the movie itself, less wonder and excitement. It’s still fun, but we’ve SEEN this already.

The second issue is that it’s much more likely that a movie will disappoint. So much anticipation has built up from all the marketing we ingest that we’re so excited, so pumped…and quite often the movie doesn’t measure up. At least not fully. It might be good, but was it AS good as what we were hoping for?

But we all have movies we’ve loved since we can remember. The movie that, if it’s playing on TV, we have to stop and watch, no matter how close to the end of the movie it is or what else we’re meant to be doing. The movie that we can quote, virtually line by line, only vaguely aware that we’re annoying everyone around us. The movie that reassures us, by its mere existence, that movies can still be about unadulterated joy, about immersing oneself in a world that is, above all other things, still entertaining.

For me that movie is Ghostbusters.

I love comedies of all kinds (except bad ones). But Ghostbusters, for me, is special because it is a perfect marriage of a script that is not only hilariously funny, but incredibly unique, with a cast and a director who are all a precise fit. Obviously I’m biased. There are a lot of great comedies out there. But Ghostbusters is MY number one. It would be hard for me to find fault with it. Even things about it that are dated, like the soundtrack or the special effects, just add to the charm for me.

I got to see it again last night in the theater, and despite the fact that I’ve seen it a million times (only a slight exaggeration) it’s still makes me laugh from start to finish. I recite my favorite lines like an asshole, I grin in anticipation of Peter Venkman’s wry barbs and I cackle every… single… time Louis Tully locks himself out of his apartment. Seeing the movie WITH me is probably not always the most fun, but this is one movie where I honestly don’t give a fuck. I’m in it, man. This is Ghostbusters.

I think it’s just nice to be reminded of what movies can be to us. No matter what YOUR movie is—Caddyshack, Back to the Future, Pulp Fiction, The Empire Strikes Back, Rushmore…you know that’s it there for you with the characters that will never stop being family, and the scenes that will never stop being home.

A Brief Tribute to Joan Rivers

As a young woman with an interest in comedy and feminism, I have to write a few brief words about Joan Rivers. We lost another great one. People will tell you she had controversial opinions on certain issues. She did. Some people may say she was mean. She definitely could be. But you know what else she was? Unapologetic. Outspoken. Funny as hell.

Male comedians can get away with that more easily than women can. Maybe you disagree, but I think that, as much progress as we’ve made, there’s still a gratuitous double standard when it comes to gender and comedy.

And Joan started doing comedy in an era when it was nearly IMPOSSIBLE for a woman to be those things. Not everyone may have found Joan’s style to their liking, and that’s fine. I usually found her to be hilarious. But no one can deny the impact that she made in a field that hasn’t always been kind to women. No one can deny that she was a trailblazer, and no one can deny that she worked her ass off for her entire career.

That may be what I admire most about her. She never stopped working, even when she easily could have. She did stand-up the night before the ill-fated surgery that eventually took her life. They taped a red carpet special of Fashion Police just last week after the Emmys.

Joan was one of a kind.

She was a true bad-ass bitch of comedy.

RIP Joan. What are we gonna do without you?image