A New Era for Smart Women in Comedy- Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck

24 Jul

Trainwreck_posterI don’t know about you, but I am quite enjoying this renaissance of women in comedy. Realistically, I guess it has been in the works for over a decade, with the rise to fame of Kristen Wiig,  Amy Poehler, and of course, Tina Fey. But the SNL greats don’t take it quite to the level that Amy Schumer does when it comes to revolutionarily feminist content in comedy that is somehow accessible to men and women alike. Take the intelligence of Fey, add a dash of Sarah Silverman’s raunchiness, and finish it off with Amy’s own specialty which is the no-shame-sex-talk, and you can see why Amy is the spokeswoman of my generation.

While Trainwreck is not a must-see-on-the-big-screen-because-it’s-so-visually-stunning feature, I knew I had to go see it at the theater. If Amy Schumer were the leader of a cult, I would let her talk me into joining it and proceed to give her all of my money and worldly possessions. The second-best thing I can do is pay to see her movie when it is in the theater, and hope to add to the week 1 statistics. (Unfortunately, another thing that was added to the movie’s week 1 statistics was the unfortunate shooting in Louisiana theater during its screening).

The week before, I binge-watched all unseen episodes of Inside Amy Schumer (her hilarious sketch comedy show that airs on Comedy Central). I proceeded to laugh myself to tears, and even repeat view some of the best sketches with other people (see “Football Town Nights” below, especially Amy and her ever-growing wine glass).

So now on to Trainwreck… While I didn’t laugh until I cried like I do with her show, Amy still had me loling quite a bit.

Mary Cybulski/Universal Pictures AP

Schumer and Jamea Photo by Mary Cybulski/Universal Pictures AP

From the awkward way she interacts with her nerdy nephew, to the way she condescends sports culture, Amy Schumer gets me in a way no other screenwriter/comedienne can. And the perspective on the normalization of casual sex from the female perspective is something that is severely lacking in most mainstream movies. And who can hate a movie with Bill Hader and Lebron James? I know this Ohio native can’t. And while I hate to fit a criticism into this review, it was a little too “rom-com” and not enough “raunch-com” for me. But I’ll take that with a grain of salt, considering she had to appeal to a wider audience (and I clearly prefer pushing the boundaries beyond mainstream comfort levels). Nevertheless, Schumer’s true gold still lies in her show, which, if you haven’t seen it yet, or even just the most recent season, do yourself a favor and check it out on Hulu ASAP. Just like I did with Broad City and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, I am going to be seeking people out who have not seen it yet, just so I can have an excuse to watch it again.

Trainwreck is an absolute A in my book. Please, everyone, go see it. Give Amy your money. Show her that we want more. And Amy, if you’re reading this, I love you. *mouthed silently with eyes closed*

Them Females is Strong as Hell- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015)

30 Mar
Yaaaasss queen!

Yaaaasss queens!

When I first watched Broad City, it made me realize that up until that show, there was this big gap in television programming that I didn’t even notice before. I am still struggling for the words to explain what that gap actually is, but Broad City helped to fill it. Once I realized that television could be that wonderful, I also realized that it would probably be a long time before another show would even come close to the female-powered comedic majesty of Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson.

unbreakable-kimmy-schmidt-600And then, lo an behold, came the Netflix series out of left field, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which I will admit to have finished in a few days’ time, and have already started a second round. This show is catching onto the trend of naive Indiana girls trying to make it in the Big Apple (a lá Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt 23– which doesn’t hold a candle to Kimmy, but is still enjoyable). But Unbreakable has the added plot twist of Kimmy joining the real world after being locked away for 15 years in the underground bunker of a religious cult. Hard to picture, at first, quite how this can be spun into comedic gold, but trust me, it has been.

I have noticed many people have jumped aboard the Kimmy Schmidt train, albeit with reservations at first. I have read a lot of apprehension in people’s evaluations of the show, statements along the lines of, “I’m not entirely sure if I love this show, but I am binge-watching it just the same.” (Psst.. I think that means you might love it.) I think there is a part of every one of us that finds it easier to be wary of a show with a strong female cast and an underlying feminist message (more on that later). But watch a couple of episodes and believe me, you will be hooked. You might not even be annoyed by the opening title sequence, something that usually gets old real fast.

kimmy titus mrs voorhees

Titus Andromedon (Kimmy’s roommate), Jacqueline Voorhees (Kimmy’s boss), and Miss Kimmy Schmidt herself! (Along with robot Yuko)

You will like this show…

  • …if you liked 30 Rock. This is not just because Jane Krakowski (30 Rock‘s Jenna Maroney) is one of the leading ladies of the show, or because all of the background music is identical to the jazzy ensembles played in 30 Rock, but more likely because Tina Fey is executive producer. And we all know that Tina Fey can do no wrong. (Same goes for Amy Poehler, obviously, who also produced Broad City. Are we seeing a pattern here?)
  • …if you liked The Office, as Ellie Kemper (Kimmy), also played Erin on that show. (In a Bust magazine interview with Kemper, we learn that “she parlayed what was originally a four-episode arc into a recurring character”).
  • …if you liked Strangers with Candy or Arrested Development, due to the show’s “invisible humor,” as this article in Esquire magazine so aptly put it. The meticulous attention to detail for subtle comedic gems is what has me immediately returning to re-watch the series.

Case in point: this show is intelligent, y’all. And it’s perhaps a clandestinely feminist as well, which is wonderful for those people who couldn’t handle a more direct feminist approach. Tina Fey’s comic wit with a feminist twist shines in subtle moments, such as Matt Lauer’s line in a scene in which the Indiana mole women (aka bunker cult prisoners) visit The Today Show: “I’m always amazed at what women will do because they’re afraid of being rude.” This was in direct response to one mole woman’s explanation that “one night, [Cult leader Wayne Gary Wayne] invited me out to his car to see some baby rabbits and I didn’t want to be rude…so… here we are.”

Troll the respawn, Jeremy. (That means goodbye).

Peeno Noir- an ode to black penis:

The Idiots Are Taking Over… The Revisionaries (2012)

1 Mar

If you’re not pissed off, you’re not paying attention. Even if you are paying attention and you are pissed off, you may find yourself helpless to stop this bullet in progress.

Revisioonaries_poster_smallwave.inddI didn’t really know how Boards of Education worked until I saw Revisionaries (2012), the documentary about the Texas Board of Education and their attempts to undermine public education and textbook content in order to conform to theological and specifically Christian biblical beliefs. This doc mainly follows Don McLeroy, Creationist/Dentist who serves as chairman on the Texas State Board of Education. As you will see in the trailer, he wants to change practically everything in the world of science and social studies in public education, from ensuring that Barack Obama is always referred to including his middle name, Hussein, to removing the term “hip hop” and replacing it with “country” when referring to popular music.

Why should we care about what Texas does with their educational system, at least we who do not live in that reputably conservative state? Because Texas is the home of a great deal of our big textbook companies, the ones who write standards and curriculum for schools all over the country. What this little board decides for Texas often goes for the rest of us. Now, I don’t teach the subjects under attack in this doc, but as a Spanish teacher I can be easily affected by this conservative mindset. These are the same people who tout “Speak American!” and confuse Latin with Spanish, as many people showed in their ignorant displays of protest regarding a Vermont state motto here. I am clearly biased here, but I think foreign languages should be offered right along with math and science from the beginning, especially considering that studies show we learn language best in our formative years.

Although this movie makes my blood boil, I have to give it an A based on its importance of bringing to light an issue that affects us all.

Trailer for the film:

But He Was Such a Nice Guy… Jack Black Evokes My Sympathy for a Killer in Bernie (2011)

24 Feb
Bernie-Movie-4

Such a nice guy… Jack Black as Bernie Tiede

Last month I heard a story on NPR about convicted murderer Bernie Tiede, who continued to be loved by his entire community in Carthage, (East- very important!) Texas, even after he admitted to murdering an elderly widow and keeping her in a deep freezer in the garage for nine months. In the NPR story, they spent some time talking about Richard Linklater’s 2011 dark comedy/mockumentary about the man, aptly titled Bernie. It’s the Best in Show of murder movies.

(AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

The real Bernie Tiede (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

Jack Black is absolutely amazing in this movie. He plays Tiede in such an endearing way, you can’t help but side with the many townspeople who also saw past Bernie’s horrific actions. As they put it, Marjorie Nugent, Tiede’s victim, was a total bitch. Shirley MacLaine, who portrays Nugent in the movie does a good job of letting us feel that she kind of had it coming. Whether that is true in real life is only truly known by Tiede himself, but I’m inclined to believe it. In addition to Black’s killer (ha!) performance, the vignettes of the townspeople, exhibited through mock interviews, are also just priceless.

Last year, Tiede’s attorney began to present new evidence in the case that alleges that Tiede was sexually abused as a child, and the emotional abuse he suffered at the hands of Nugent prior to her death drove him to a “dissociative episode,” which led him to kill her. I don’t want to ruin the surprise that is what became of Bernie Tiede and where he is today, so be sure to Google him only after you have seen this delightful movie.

I give it an A.

Here is one of my favorite scenes from the movie, about the differences between the regions of Texas.

And here is a great scene of Jack Black playing Bernie

“He Lives in a Horde of His Own Personal Peculiarities” Burt’s Buzz (2013)

22 Feb
Burt Shavitz, namesake of Burt's Bees

Burt Shavitz, namesake of Burt’s Bees

I’ve been using Burt’s Bees products for as long as I can remember, but until I saw the documentary Burt’s Buzz, I had no idea that Burt was a real person. This documentary takes an intimate look into Burt Shavitz’s life as the poster “boy” of Burt’s Bees products. He travels all over the world, passing out samples and meeting superfans (yep, he has those). He is just as rustic as the photo to the left suggests.

Some Burt's Bees superfans in Taiwan

Some Burt’s Bees superfans in Taiwan

April Ludgate is similarly not amused

April Ludgate is similarly not amused

Trevor Folsom is known as “The Majordomo,” aka Burt’s handler, who makes sure he gets his packing in order and to his appointments on time, but mostly he helps Burt with things around his house and in his life on a daily basis. He is the darling of the documentary, in my opinion; he made me laugh until I cried. Folsom’s deadpan sarcasm and obvious annoyance with the one man pony show that is Burt would put April Ludgate (Dwyer) to shame. In the first shot in which he faces the camera, interview style, he states, “Burt’s a very interesting guy that I spend every day with. And sometimes I wanna throttle him,” and later he delivers my favorite lines, “He lives in a horde of his own personal peculiarities…He does not have the range of conception that allows him to see what he has become…He’s like Colonel Sanders, and he simply does not understand that.”

I will always love documentaries about peculiar people. They are uplifting alternatives to the depressing docs I watch about climate change, religious extremists, and hegemonic US international policy-making. Burt’s Buzz is one of the best I have seen in some time, although there is a bit of a sad twist to his story as well.

My favorite scene from the doc at the end of the following video: https://thescene.com/watch/presents/burt-s-buzz-meet-burt-and-his-majordomo-trevor

I’m Gettin’ too Old for This Shit – Happy Christmas (2014)

18 Feb

I can be into Mumblecore movies, depending on my mood. Today was a snow day, a slow day, and an alone day, so I was

Mumblecore Poster Child Mark Duplass. (Not in the movie... but worth mentioning)

Mumblecore Poster Child Mark Duplass. (Not in the movie… but worth mentioning)

down for an onslaught of slow-moving plots that seem to go nowhere, meandering dialogue, and amateurish camera angles. Enter: Happy Christmas, a title that is one of the biggest misnomers I have come across in a movie. Sure, it takes place during Christmas time, but it’s more of an afterthought than a focal point. If anything, it is just there to add to the ambiance of a stagnant and frigid Chicago winter.

Lena Dunham fans rejoice, she makes several appearances in the movie as Jenny's friend Carson.

Lena Dunham fans rejoice, she makes several appearances in the movie as Jenny’s friend Carson.

Jenny (Anna Kendrick) has just broken up with her boyfriend, and has decided to start over again in Chicago. She has returned to live with her brother Jeff (Joe Swanberg), his wife Kelly (Melanie Lynskey), and their baby while she looks for her own apartment. Jeff and Kelly set Jenny up in their tiki-themed bar basement while she relives the reality of living with a parent once again, complete with adolescent behaviors such as coming home wasted in the middle of the night, passing out drunk while a frozen pizza burns in the oven, and sneaking bowls downstairs while online shopping for Christmas presents.

Hangover city in the tiki basement

Hangover city in the tiki basement

One thing I like about this movie is that Jenny never wallows in the breakup that she left behind, and she doesn’t spend half of the movie complaining about the ups and downs of relationships. She’s just 27 years old, a bit directionless, and in a strange limbo between post-college and post-post-college, that awkward time when society takes a look at you, one foot tapping, saying, “you are really supposed to have your shit together by now,” but you don’t. This is why the film is so relatable to me. I barely have my shit together now, but at 27 I was really at a crossroads of the social discomfort and hangovers that I was supposed to have grown out of by then.

Carson and Jenny and Baby Jude

Carson and Jenny and Baby Jude

Full of discursive and improvisational dialogue, this movie shows people being people and having conversations in an unscripted way that I usually like. It feels a little overdone at times, but I appreciate a movie that captures realistic human interaction just as much as I enjoy beautifully prosaic scripts handcrafted by a room full of professional writers. It is exactly this kind of movie that I become more and more uncomfortable viewing in the company of others, for whatever reason. So many people want movies to have a point, a big and obvious breakthrough or resolution. Happy Christmas doesn’t really have one of those big messages at the end, but it’s relatable, and I really like that about this movie.

So if you ever felt a little lost and irresponsible while in your mid- to late-20’s; if you have found yourself a part of the boomerang generation that moves back in with family members or at least back to some semblance of the “home” from whence you once came; if you have ever woken up at noon, hungover, and thinking to yourself, “I’m getting too old for this shit;” and if you don’t mind reliving all of these uncomfortable moments just once more, you will like Happy Christmas, in spite of its hideous title.

Grade: B.

Everybody Must Get Stoned- Inherent Vice (2014)

12 Jan

inherent-vice-pta-joaquin-banner

Part Big Lebowski, part Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, part Boogie Nights. Sound intriguing? Read on.

When I saw the ad for Inherent Vice, I was like “meh, probably not for me.” That is until the very end when I read the fine print: “Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Based on the book by Thomas Pynchon.” I pulled a complete 180 on my apprehensions about the movie and dove in, head first, on the second day of its nationwide theatrical release. I haven’t done that in quite some time, and I am ashamed to admit that although I have this (rarely updated) movie blog, I prefer to wait until the movie comes out on Netflix.

PT Anderson is the architect for such movies as There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights, and my personal favorite, Magnolia (among others). In fact, my last review here was on his other most recent film, The Master, which, like Inherent Vice, starred Joaquin Phoenix as the protagonist. And like The Master, I don’t think that Inherent Vice quite hit the mark of those past films for me. I did like it much more than The Master, with the once exception being that I am sad it didn’t/couldn’t include Phillip Seymour Hoffman, for obvious reasons.

docThe good parts:
Joaquin Phoenix stars as Doc Sportello, a perma-stoned Private Investigator in 1970’s SoCal, following a breadcrumb trail of several different cases that twist and turn and intertwine in unexpected and comically unbelievable ways. Doc is the most lovable Joaquin Phoenix that I have ever experienced, so that is the a plus. Because of his permanently stoned state, Doc finds it just as incredulous as the viewer that all of these cases so coincidentally cross paths. His intoxication- mostly all of the joints in the tri-state area, along with an occasional nitrous tank or bump of heroin- is absolutely contagious. As a viewer your eyes will turn red, your perception will become hazy, your sense of humor will sharpen, and you will experience this ridiculous journey almost as stoned as Doc is. It’s truly unexplainable, and worth viewing the movie for that entertaining aspect. In addition, my beloved Joanna Newsom is an inspired choice for the narrator of the film (with occasional physical appearances). The star-studded cast is also a delight, and you never know who is going to make an appearance next (unless you ruin it by reading the cast list ahead of time).

Joanna Newsome as Sortilège. Swoon

Joanna Newsome as Sortilège. Swoon

The bad parts:
Although I am sure it is simply preserving the old school sentiments of 77-year old author of the novel, Thomas Pynchon, I cannot help but detest the sexist nature of this movie. The female characters are neither complex nor do they seem to act as agents of their own desires, but rather they exist as objects for the male gaze. (Although Joanna Newsom’s character, Sortilège, is actually rather sage and omnipotent, the only female character represented thusly). I find this incredibly frustrating, because I tend to like controversial movies that many people would find uncomfortable or that pushes boundaries of human decency, but I am somehow unable to get past this part of Inherent Vice, as much as I wish I could just ignore it. I am just sick of seeing movies that are so obviously written for men and by men without much consideration for women other than as some kind of accessory to the far more important male characters. This is my complaint with two of Wes Anderson’s recent movies as well: Darjeeling Limited and Grand Budapest Hotel.

Inherent-Vice_612x380I’ll give the movie a B, because I still found it wildly entertaining, and it is an uncomfortable movie. And as I mentioned, I am always a fan of those. Just like when I went to the theater to see Life Aquatic, I found myself laughing aloud a little more often than the rest of the moviegoers. Joaquin Phoenix and his constant high confusion kept me in a state of trying-to-hold-back-giggles throughout the movie, and although it was 2 and a half hours long, it didn’t feel as painfully long as I thought it might (thinking back to There Will Be Blood).

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 154 other followers