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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*

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An Idiot Abroad, aka Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus (2013)

4 Jul

crystal fairy magical cactusSorry to disappoint you if you were hoping for a review on the Ricky Gervais-produced TV show, but honestly I have found that show rather boring. I’ll try not to judge too harshly, since the movie I am about to review here might be boring to many of you: Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus.

hoffmannJamie (Michael Cera) takes you on an anxiety-ridden and socially awkward journey through Chile, as he searches for a coveted San Pedro cactus to make into a nauseating soup which will lead him to trip balls on a Chilean beach for a day. Joining him is the ever-dramatic and wonderful Gaby Hoffman (whom you may recognize as Adam’s sister in HBO’s Girls or as the best friend character in the new abortion rom-com, Obvious Child). A group of Chilean locals bring these two through their adventure, though how they met up with Jamie in the first place is never quite addressed. One thing is clear, you will get annoyed with Jamie first, then you’ll notice the Chileans follow suit. Crystal Fairy is somewhat irritating in her own right, but she means well.

I am the queen of slow-paced movies, but my viewing companion had a tough time with the way this movie progressed. You know what they say though, it’s all about the journey not the destination. It can be hard to be patient with their quest for the San Pedro for about half of the movie, especially because Jamie is also so high strung and anxious during the hunt, you can’t help but have it rub off on you. While viewing this movie several thoughts will cross your mind repeatedly: Are they ever going to find the San Pedro? They’re never going to find the San Pedro. Is something bad going to happen? I think something bad is going to happen. I won’t spoil it by giving you the answers because I do want you to watch this movie. It didn’t quite reach critical acclaim, but I’d give Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus an A.

 

Netflix Documentaries for Your Snow Day(s)

6 Jan

So from what the internet is telling me, it looks like the whole world is having a snow/ice/coldness holiday today. Even many of you who are not in the education field are enjoying a day off that usually only happens if a bomb threat is called into your work (which is what I have always referred to as Adult Snow Days).

Now that you have an extra day to remain snuggled in your pajamas with your pet or your loved one(s), don’t you think it’s time to fire up your Netflix and participate in some informational movie film viewing on your new flat screen? Luckily my three-day NYE hangover has afforded me the opportunity to preview and review many of Netflix’s old and new docs for you. Here are some recommendations, in no particular order.

1. Blackfish (2013) Blackfish

You have been putting it off, or perhaps you didn’t even know it was available on Netflix streaming, but it is time to sit down and punish yourself for all the carefree hours (or days) you spent at SeaWorld in your childhood. Blackfish uncovers SeaWorld’s reckless policies when it comes to the capture and handling of orcas, and focuses in particular on Tilikum, an orca that really lives up to the killer whale nomenclature.

Somm2. Somm (2012)

I love wine, yet all I know about it is that you should drink white wine cold, it’s not technically champagne unless it comes from the Champagne region of France, and if you want to get the best Malbec, you should ensure that it originated in the Southern Cone (Argentina/Chile). I thought I was doing pretty well on my wine knowledge until I saw Somm, a documentary about some of the elite few sommeliers who put their lives on the back burner for years in order to study for, and often fail, the Master Sommelier exam. It is absolutely insane what these people have to know in order to pass. I hope this can lead to more wine parties in my future, as we attempt to recreate the “blind taste” part of the exam. “This wine tastes like a freshly opened can of tennis balls, freshly cut hose.” And for those of you who think wine is a drink that is just for women, you will be surprised at what a boys club it tends to be. Which leads me to my next recommendation…

3. Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony (2012)Bronies

Apparently I am late to the party, but until I saw this documentary, I had no idea that people flock, in the thousands, to My Little Pony conventions all over the world to join in

Abe Simpson

fellowship with Brony bretheren. This isn’t your MLP of the 80’s or 90’s, however. The (mostly) male followers of the new age of My Little Pony love it for its animation, music, and above all, the overall message of friendship and love in the show. I must admit, I still don’t really get it, but maybe I’m just getting too old. I really do appreciate the message and the vibe of these Bronies, however, and I think it’s a world worth gawking at through this doc.

ROOOS_70_M1V1.indd4. Room 237 (2012)

If you love Stanley Kubrick and/or The Shining, you’ll enjoy this documentary about the many (conspiracy?) theories that surround this masterpiece of cinema from 1980. Some of the theories presented in the documentary are downright frustrating, and remind me that I am in wayyyy over my head if I really wanted to be a film critic/analyst. It took me back to the days of high school English classes in which every little literary symbol is beaten to death as a possible reference to a Freudian nightmare. But overall, even my frustration came from a place of entertainment, and some of the theories I found quite enjoyable. My favorite one claims that the original moon landing shown on TV was actually a fake, directed by Stanley Kubrick himself. It refers to several instances in The Shining that support this conclusion. While some are far-fetched, I want to believe!

5. Kumaré (2011) Kumare

We all spend at least part of our lives pondering the existential questions of “who am I really? Why am I here? What is my purpose? Why is there suffering?” etc. Some of us even seek the answers from others, often a guru, or a spiritual teacher/guide/healer. Kumaré tells the story of a “false prophet,” a man who creates his own philosophy, teachings, and spiritual practices, and then gains followers to see how far he can take it. As a viewer, I often found myself wincing at how blindly these people accepted him as a guru and prophet. Yet at the same time, he did have a virtuous message underlying this whole project, and I think that those who came out of the project without hating him for his betrayal actually learned more about themselves, life and enlightenment than many who never see the veil of their guru lifted.

Keep warm, my friends! And stay tuned for my next wintery installment of Netflix streaming and Hulu TV shows to keep you warm until the first thaw.

Stroszek (1976)

1 Mar

Stroszek coverIt is a pleasure to review one of my favorite foreign films by one of my favorite directors, Werner Herzog. Stroszek is a poetic Herzog take on the American Dream as an unattainable myth for immigrants to the US. There are many subtle laughs along the way, but overall the movie leaves you with heartache on behalf of the title character and his attempt to improve his life by starting anew in the US.

While it is not a documentary, Herzog based this story on Bruno S., the actor who plays the title character, and there are several scenes that are shot in his actual tiny apartment. Herzog has a knack for picking out interesting human subjects to showcase in his movies. And although not based on the true story of one particular German immigrant, it isn’t hard to imagine the story that unfolds as one that is based in the reality of those who immigrate to the US these days.

The film introduces us to Stroszek as he is being released from jail where he was serving a short stint for some drunken misconduct of stroszek-Brunosome sort. He is released and heads straight to the nearest bar to pick up where he left off. Stroszek is motivated to leave his native Germany when he and his lady-friend, Eva, are both tormented and abused by her pimps. The two of them set off for Wisconsin with Bruno’s elderly neighbor, Mr. Scheitz, in search of the American dream. In the states, however, they are met only with obstacles and people who either take advantage of them or simply don’t understand them.

"Can't stop the dancin' chicken."

“Can’t stop the dancin’ chicken.”

I have a penchant for melancholy movies, and Stroszek is one of the best. This is a must see in my book; it is a movie that graces my current Top 10 list.

P.S. If you listen to Ratatat, you may recognize a sample from this film in the song, Drugs. ^^^Please watch that music video, it’s hilarious. It practically had me in tears of laughter when I saw them perform at Camp Bisco 10.

The Queen of Versailles (2012)

10 Feb

Welcome to the first edition of Documentary Sundays. For me, Sundays have always been good for sleeping in, eating brunch, enjoying mimosas and bloody marys (bloody maries?), and curling up on the couch to watch some of the myriad of documentaries in my netflix queue. Unfortunately, work obligations have cut into my early morning mimosas, but Sunday evening documentaries are still a time-honored tradition in my house. Won’t you join me?

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David and Jackie Siegel. And their taxidermied dog draped over the piano in the background. Yep. That classy.

This week’s DS doc is a guilty pleasure view of mine, The Queen of Versailles. It is basically one of those reality shows I always talk shit about, but as a whole movie, I somehow accept it. It’s one of those train wrecks that you can’t look away from. So please, take this recommendation with a grain of salt, and don’t expect to really learn anything from this documentary.

The Queen of Versailles has been called a “rags-to-riches-to-rags” story by critics, and I can’t think of a better or more clever way to explain it in a snappy tagline, so there you have it. This movie explores the rise and fall of David Siegel, the Father of the Timeshare. And when I say “fall,” the fall itself is still a work in progress. Siegel hasn’t quite hit rock bottom, but you may surmise that he isn’t quite done falling at the end of the documentary. You will most certainly look up his status in the business and financial world after you watch the movie.

Image

“Help. What do I do with this?”

You may be asking yourself, “if this movie is about David Siegel, why is it called the Queen of Versailles?” I wish I could tell you that in an attempt to save his failing business, Siegel throws the biggest French-themed drag show the world has ever seen. The truth is, in a nutshell, this title refers to Siegel’s wife, Jackie, and they are building a multi-million dollar mansion that is a replica of the palace at Versailles. Jackie is smart enough to get a computer engineering degree from MIT, but ditzy enough to do, well, all of the other things she does in this documentary. She has a gigantic litter of children that she doesn’t know what to do with, and clearly she and her husband both continue to pine for the days that she was Miss America. Jackie continues to feed her shopping addiction while David’s various resorts go belly-up and their bank account runs dry.

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Virginia Nebab, the Siegels’ nanny, stands in front of her “house,” on the property. And you’ll never believe what it used to be. Actually, you probably will.

So, a little something you might not know about me, I have my Master’s in International Studies. It may be for this reason that the most poignant element of this documentary is the storyline which follows the housekeepers and nannies of the Siegel household. I thought this documentary was going to be a huge joke, but the stories of these women who have lived thousands of miles away from home for decades to raise someone else’s children was just heartbreaking. It is not the ideal job, by any stretch of the imagination, but these women don’t complain. They just tell their stories point blank. I got anxiety listening to their sad stories just thinking about how David Siegel would probably fire them once he saw the documentary for making him look bad.

And even with all of that commentary, I haven’t even scratched the surface of The Queen of Versailles. So no worries, you have a lot to get out of watching this documentary. Just be sure to stock up on plenty of champagne and orange juice, because you’re going to need them it to dull the sting that is 21st century American capitalism, incarnate.

Adrift- À Deriva (2009)

8 Feb

Welcome to my new feature: Foreign Film Friday! I had been having a lot of trouble getting into foreign films as of late. I’m often multi-tasking while watching, which means I miss crucial bits of dialogue all of the time when I look away from the screen. Even in Spanish movies a couple of lines slip by me, which is unacceptable because I am a Spanish teacher.

So, I got an elliptical trainer a couple of months ago, and got it all set up in front of the TV. I started twerkin’ that ish after throwing on Brick when I realized I couldn’t hear anything over the whir of my badass workout. (It’s an old, rickety elliptical machine I got off Craigslist). Then it hit me. This is the perfect environment to start chipping away at all of those foreign films in my Netflix queue!

So far I have ellipticized my way through The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Biutiful, Whores’ Glory, and The Red Balloon, but it wasn’t until I watched Adrift (À Deriva) that I thought I should use this as new routine as fodder for a new feature. And thus, Foreign Film Friday was born!

With that long-winded explanation of the genesis of FFF, I don’t have much breath left to write about Adrift, (and I’m sure your patience is running thin as well).
I’ll make it snappy…

adriftAdrift is a beautiful film set in a beachy Brazilian paradise. Perhaps the combination of a welcoming summer atmosphere, the nostalgic ’80s feel and the melodic sounds of Portuguese are what got me smitten on this film. I have to assume that all of the allusions to photography in the film are not by accident, as the cinematography often takes on an etherial, Poloroid, spilling-out-of-the-frame quality. And maybe they’re overdoing it with the amount of times they played it in the background, but I love this song.

You might like this movie if you: love Portuguese, beautiful Brazilian people and/or seascapes; were ever a 14 year old girl (as is the main character); enjoy movies that showcase the effects of infidelity; or would like looking at Vincent Cassel in a Speedo from time to time.

Oh, and, by the way… If you decide to watch Adrift, and no one is speaking Portuguese in the film you put on, it’s probably Open Water 2: Adrift, and definitely not the movie you should be watching, under any circumstances or at any time, I can assume.

Also, there are no subtitles in the trailer, so you can just stop here if you’re not up for that type of thing.

Django Unchained (2012)

6 Jan

ImageI am pleased to announce that, for this girl, Quentin Tarantino’s newest flick did not disappoint. Though can I really call a two-and-a-half hour cinematic romp through the Antebellum US a “flick?” Don’t go expecting anything other than a Tarantino flick, though, as would be my recommendation for all of his films forever and ever, amen. His budget gets bigger, the cinematography gets more lavish, the gore gets messier, but Tarantino films will always undeniably bear his seal of excellence and ridiculousness. You might find yourself getting swept away in serious moments of this spaghetti western revenge story, trying to convince yourself of its historical accuracy, but Tarantino always brings it back with crass or inappropriate humor, modern music, outrageously unbelievable violence and brazen characters. All of these I want, no, need, in his films. 

It’s no secret that Django Unchained is the story of a freed slave, Django (played by Jamie Foxx), who is on a mission to find and free his wife (name: Broomhilda!) from a Mississippi plantation. I feel as though I have been waiting for a movie like this: A US Civil War revenge tale that, while hyperbolically fabricated, gives a sense of victory, at least in one microcosmic sphere, over the disgusting history of slavery in the US. If only they could have cast Levar Burton as Django, we could have seen the real revenge of Kunta Kinte as I would have liked to see it. Image

I was positively enchanted by Dr. King Schultz, Django’s German “partner-in-anti-crime” throughout the film. It was also nice to see Christoph Waltz playing the role of a hero rather than a villain (see: Inglourious Basterds).  My inner graduate school student problematized the patronizing relationship between Django and Dr. Schultz (among a myriad of other issues). Nevertheless, just as important as my suspension of disbelief was my suspension in social commentary regarding their relationship.

ImageSamuel L. Jackson’s character, Stephen, was also a delight. This is not to say he was a lovable character, he was actually quite despicable, very comparable to Uncle Rukus from The Boondocks. But he played his despicability brilliantly (with the help of some makeup that rendered him practically unrecognizable as Samuel L.)

Django delivers on the cheesy and unrealistic violence you expect. It incorporates anachronistic tunes from Jim Croce, John Legend and others (à la Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette), which is a soundtrack strategy that I absolutely love. 

The strangest part of my whole Django Unchained experience was watching it in the South. Asheville may be an enlightened bubble here in North Carolina, but it still has its fair share of backwards-thinking good ol’ boys. I found myself cringing at the snickers of some of my fellow moviegoers at quite inappropriate moments. But it gave me great pleasure to see the representations of their racist ancestors slaughtered to pulpy bloody piles, so I hope that sentiment wasn’t lost on them. 

Loved the movie and would love to see it again. It is not for everyone, not even all seasoned Tarantino fans, but with a strong stomach and a sadistic desire to see a Roots revenge story as gory as the injustices that spurned the vengance, Django Unchained is worth shelling out the cash to catch at the theaters while it’s out.

A!

 

Be Love

30 Dec

Reflections on a TED Talk delivered by Kathryn Schulz.

My last post of 2011 is going to stray a little from my traditional format, but please stick with me here.

Some say that 2012 will bring about, at the very least, a paradigm shift. I am certain that many of us see that changes have to occur in order for us to live as happily as we are all capable of being. The following TED Talk has unexpectedly prompted me to make my own reflections upon how I hope that things can change in 2012 and beyond.

We all have regrets, and as Schulz points out, it is part of what makes us human. Of course we may all wish to have the foresight and wisdom that would allow us to live in harmony with our every word, action and thought, but to do so would be an inhuman condition.

And like I regret certain words, actions and thoughts in my life that have affected others, I know that others regret those same things toward me. When I think of how I hope to overcome regret in a way to move on with my life, I believe it is through honesty. However much it may hurt me or hurt another, at least after the pain there can be healing. All of this is probably sounding very vague, but I hope that you can apply the hazy outline of what I am trying to say here to your own experiences of regret.

To those who I hold close, and to those who I have never met and everyone in between, I have but one request: Choose honesty and an open heart in the New Year. I am not asking anyone to be perfect, nor am I making a New Year’s Resolution to live without harm. It is difficult for one to learn about the danger of fire without ever feeling its burn. But do not let your regret grow so looming that it consumes your heart and the hearts of those around you. Quench the fiery sting of regret with loving truth. Let your heart guide you with empathy, compassion, and above all, love.

There is a message that started in my ear as a small buzz, but it has grown to a dull roar. I think it will continue to swell until I hear it come from the lips of everyone I know and everyone I don’t. Above all else, I want to be loved and I want to be love. But I don’t know how to do one without the other. I hear this message often, but I fear that many people are saying it for the wrong reasons or using it as an excuse for actions that are not based in love. Maybe I still don’t know what love really truly is or should be, but I know that I am going about it at this moment with as pure of intentions as I am capable of at this part in my journey. I have only reached this point after much reflection on the regrets of my life, and the pain that I have felt at the hands of others.

I know I am not the first to say it, I just want to do my part to echo this message. Maybe I cannot end pain or regret, but I am going to do my part to use honesty and openness to be love now and in the future.

A Healthy Dose of Film Critique and Commentary

17 Sep

Greetings! I have started this new blog to carry over the movie reviews and other such film-related posts from my other blog. Welcome!