Review: Don’t Think Twice by Sarah

As the film ended and the lights in the theater came back on, the couple sitting in front of me kissed.
It was a simple, spontaneous gesture; a sharing of life, of love, of intimacy.
That’s exactly what this film is, and that is what it so clearly inspired in the audience. In that moment, they weren’t sharing a PDA. They were simply sharing a moment.
A quick summary of the plot: An improv group in New York City is disrupted when one of its members (Keegan-Michael Key) gets a shot at The Big Time, a slot on Weekend Live (a clear Saturday Night Live stand-in). His rise to fame is quick, and everyone is hoping to ride his coattails.
The only problem is, his coattails aren’t big enough for everyone.
Who is going to get left behind, and who is going to land their dream job?
It would be so easy for this to be a film about a ragtag group of losers who are looking for their break to stardom. On a base level, perhaps that’s what it is. Except, it is also much more. It would have been easy for Mike Birbiglia, the talented writer and director, to have made these people pitiable and pathetic. It would have been easy to have made it a story of fame corrupting and twisting everything good. It would have been easy to make it a rags-to-riches story. But, Mike Birbiglia didn’t settle for easy. Instead, he made a complex, beautiful, and funny film about adults growing up.
Sometimes, the showboat gets rewarded.
Sometimes, the rich get richer.
Sometimes, the ones who need it most have to let go.
Sometimes, that’s just the way life is.
And, sometimes, maybe that’s okay.
At its heart, this is about friendship. These people love each other and are for each other no matter what. They also hate each other, bicker, endlessly mock each other, and are simultaneously ridiculously proud and insanely jealous for every good break anyone else gets.
Their chemistry on-stage and off-stage is natural, funny, warm, and engaging. The audience is immediately drawn into their warm friendship, and we want so badly for all of them to get exactly what they want.
Of course, that’s now how life works.
That doesn’t mean there can’t be happy endings, they just aren’t the endings you expect.
The stand-out performance for me was definitely Gillian Jacobs. I’ve been a fan of hers since Community, and it was an absolute joy to see her get to show her full range. She imbued her character with depth and warmth, vulnerability and strength, and grace and humor. The scene where she has in Improv an entire scene alone on a stage is funny and heart-breaking. Her transformation throughout the film as a glorified fan of Improv who participates but is uncertain of her own place in the world, to the expert who teaches and even sacrifices for her art form, is touching and subtle.
Perhaps more than anything else, this movie understands comedy. Some of the jokes land, some don’t. That’s just the way comedy works, you throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. What’s important is that you have your friends to fall back on.
Some of the sketches we see on Weekend Live (there aren’t a lot) are great, some don’t go anywhere, but it’s all things you would reasonably see on Saturday Night Live. There aren’t any of the false-ringing, heavy-handed sketches of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.
This film also doesn’t make any bones about comedy being an industry. Those who have made it leave people behind, because those who are worthy break through and those who aren’t flounder. You can’t make room for everyone, and if you’re not careful your own place on the top of the heap will be in jeopardy. Key does a great job portraying coming to terms with this reality. His character is a jerk sometimes, sure, but he’s not a villain. He’s a good guy just doing the best he can.
So far, for me, this is by far the best film of the year, and it’s one of the best films about comedy ever. Mike Birbiglia also wrote and directed Sleepwalk With Me, and between these two features, he is my new favorite filmmaker. He understands people, he understands life, and he understands why the things that make us laugh also make us cry.

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“What About the Boys?” by Sarah

The last twelve months have produced at least two amazing female-driven blockbusters (Star Wars: The Force Awakens and now Ghostbusters), and there are more to come. Putting it as politely as I can, this has led to many… colorful debates online about the value of female-driven scripts.

Isn’t it enough already?

Don’t girls have enough heroes now?

What about the boys?

Don’t BOYS need people to look up to?

The short answer is, yes. Of course boys need someone to look up to.

The longer answer is, no. It’s not enough. Women, people of color, and every other overlooked minority population needs more exposure. Diversity in entertainment is GOOD.

Let me explain my story a little.

Growing up, I wanted to be a boy.

Now, I did not want to be a boy because I had gender identity issues. I wanted to be a boy because from all the books I read and all the movies I saw, it looked to me like boys just got to have more FUN!

I loved everything swashbuckling and knightly. King Arthur was a personal favorite. I wanted to badly to be a knight of the round table. Why? BECAUSE THEY GOT SWORDS, DAMNIT! They got to save people and defeat dragons! They got to DO SOMETHING! What did Guinevere get to do? Cheat on her husband and basically destroy Paradise? How is THAT fun? (I’m speaking as a child saw the situation, of course there are more nuances to her character… but when you’re seeing it on screen as a child, this is what you see.)

I also loved Robin Hood. He was an archer! He could hit any bullseye from a million miles away. He stole from the rich and gave to the poor. He was a HERO!

What did Maid Marion get to do?

Fall in love.

Get kidnapped.

Yell and scream a lot.

Get saved.

That’s not me.

I never wanted that to be me.

The more I saw women being nothing but Damsels in Distress, the more I saw the MEN coming in to save them, the more I wanted to be a dude. Why wouldn’t I? If I was a boy, I would get to be the hero. I would get CHOICES. I would MATTER.

The only modern women I really saw in cinema were the stars of romantic comedies. I enjoyed these movies, but there weren’t women I wanted to be like. They weren’t HEROES. They essentially fell in love, and having a man in their life just fixed all their problems. I can barely even remember any of their names, they are completely interchangeable and generic. And that’s fine for what those films are, but when then those are the ONLY women I had to see on screen, there’s a problem.

The other women I saw on screen were the Bond Girl types, the femme fatals who existed to be leered at by men. The women who dripped with sexuality and betrayed everyone at the drop of a hat. What I learned as a child was that as a woman, I mattered only if a man wanted to make out with me. I mattered only if a man decided I mattered. If he didn’t pay attention to me, if I was (God Forbid!) ugly or undesirable, I wasn’t worth his time, and hence I wasn’t worth anyone’s time.

My value came from what men thought of me.

I didn’t like that.

I didn’t want to be a woman like that.

I wanted to be a boy.

James Bond was a boy, and he got fun toys and got to save the world.

How is that not better?

Whether intentional or not, as a child, these were the messages I took away from the stories that surrounded me.

Being a girl was inherently worse than being a boy.

Being a girl meant being passive and not getting to fight for anything.

Being a girl meant waiting to be rescued.

Being a girl meant falling in love with whatever guy paid the most attention to me.

Now, what about the boys? Are there negative messages bombarding boys? ABSOLUTELY. Is there toxic masculinity out there? You bet. Should this be fixed? YES!

But, boys have choices.

Boys have heroes.

Boys can be the hero.

When will it be enough?

When I don’t have to write this article explaining why it’s not enough.

Why Kate McKinnon And Kristen Wiig Are Important For The Future of Women in Cinema By Sarah

 

First of all, we’re going to be talking about Ghostbusters (2016), so if you have a problem with spoilers, stay away until you’ve seen it.

And, go see it.

I was not sure this movie would be good. The trailer left me a little numb, truth be told. But, within thirty seconds of the film starting, I had laughed. Out loud. Twice.

That’s more than I generally laugh the entire 90 minute runtime of most comedies.

So, in short, see Ghostbusters. It’s fun. It’s funny. And, it’s important.

The entire cast is amazing. Each and every woman plays her role perfectly and is charming, witty, and amazing. I loved them all. But, for me, Kate McKinnon and Kristen Wiig have two specific moments that are not only completely badass, they are absolutely some of the most important moments of the year for women in cinema.

The first moment is McKinnon’s. If you’ve seen the movie, you know exactly what moment I’m talking about. In the third act, there is a giant ghost-busting-ass-kicking fight. McKinnon licks her supernatural sixshooter, and takes on what seems like a hundred ghosts on her own. She just obliterates them in amazing fashion.

That, right there. That was important.

Why, you may ask?

First of all, because it was awesome and actually elicited a cheer from my crowd. A raucous, spontaneous, CHEER. But, beyond that, it is important because she is a woman who, in that moment, is standing up and taking control. She’s not wearing a skimpy leather outfit while doing it. She’s not trying to look sexy. Her boobs aren’t perfectly accentuated in a halter top. No. Her hair’s a mess, she’s in a dirty jumpsuit, and she’s just going to kick asses and take names.

Most movies fall into the trap of thinking a strong, female character needs to be in a Catwoman-type costume. I’m not saying there’s no place for tight leather and whips, and I’m not judging that type of strong female at all. What I’m saying is, there are OTHER ways to be strong. There are other ways to be confident. In this moment, Kate McKinnon showed the world she could defy every Hollywood cliche, and she could still be the sexiest woman on Earth while doing it.

The second moment that is important for the future of women in cinema belongs to the fabulous Kristen Wiig, who has been a comedy hero of mine since before Bridesmaids. Her Katherine Hepburn impression on SNL won me to her side from minute one.

Ms. Wiig’s moment is slightly more subtle. It is also during the final fight scene. Her friends are all in danger, crushed beneath a giant, very familiar-seeming ghost. Then, out of no where, BAM! The ghost explodes, and standing there is Wiig in her full glory. She gets an amazing, Indiana Jones-style hero shot. An actual, real life, honest-to-God HERO SHOT where you just stare are her in her awesomeness and soak it in.

She’s a woman.

She defeated this ghost.

She didn’t wait for a man.

She didn’t give up.

She didn’t run.

She is the hero. Accept it, love it.

Again, she is not in a negligee. She is not accompanied by a love interest. She is not in a Princess Leia slave outfit. She is just there, also in her jumpsuit, also radiating pure womanly radiance in a way we just don’t generally get on screen.

Again, I am not judging the heroines on screen who are more overt with their sexuality. There is a place for that brand of feminism, too. What I’m saying it, this film dared to embrace a DIFFERENT brand of feminism. A brand of feminism that often goes overlooked in Hollywood because it might seem less glamorous, but after all, feminism is about the ability for ALL women to choose their fate, to choose how they live out their femininity. Neither McKinnon nor Wiig sacrifice an iota of womanliness or femininity. Theirs comes from their characters, their depth, their quirks, their smiles, and their determination.

It was glorious to behold.

So, take note, Hollywood.

Women are here.

ALL women are here.

And we’re not going anywhere.

You Got Time (But We Don’t Got Time for You Piper): Orange is the New Black Season 4 Recap and Review – Episode 1 – Work that Body for Me

Plot Synopsis: Season 4 picks up right where season 3 left off, with the ladies of Litchfield celebrating their short-lived freedom in the lake.

Well, almost all of the ladies are enjoying their freedom.

Alex is being strangled in the garden shed.

We all cross our fingers and hope this is the end.

Unfortunately for the audience, Lolly saves her, in the process beating the guard to death. Uh-oh. Can you guess what the over-arching story of THIS season is going to be? Just when you thought there might be a season NOT revolving around Alex and Piper.

Anyway, Alex and Lolly bury the body. But not before chopping it up. Gross.

Piper has now decided she is “Gangsta. Like with an ‘a’.” She feels she has earned some respect, and she’s going to get it.

Of course, she’s still Piper. No one respects Piper.

Caputo gets a new batch of guards from Max to help replace the ones who walked out last season, leading to the lake voyage. They prison also got an influx of new prisoners, so there is a huge over-crowding issue. The guards from Max are some scary-ass dudes. The guards hired by Litchfield are under-trained, but the Max guards are INTENSE. Especially Piscatella, who Caputo immediately takes a shine to.

Romances are blooming all around. Soso and Poussey. Suzanne and her crazy fan, Kukudio. All are fighting for the title of “Who will they finally spend more time on than Alex and Piper?”, because we instantly like each of them more than Piper and Alex. Kukudio is clearly even crazier than Suzanne, and her nickname is Crazy Eyes.

No sign of Larry the entire episode.

Thank God.

There is also no sign of

Piper reads a Nick Horny book.

We don’t know which one.

Don’t take Nick Hornby away from me, Piper. I like him. I don’t want to have to hate him because of you.

There’s a new prisoner: Judy King, a cooking show magnate clearly based on a cross between Martha Stewart and Paula Deen. She gets stuck being processed while everyone else deals with the new influx of prisoners.

Piper tries to establish dominance with the new inmates.

She fails.

Of course she fails.

But she still manages to make us hate her.

Poor Poussey tries to talk to Judy King, her hero, but can’t get a word out. She’s adorable. And oh so gorgeous. Seriously. Who else makes sweats look that good?

I guess I should mention that the assassin that Lolly kills for Alex isn’t really dead, so Alex re-kills him. Frieda sees the body and helps them cut it up and bury it over the yard.

Analysis: Overall, not one of the strongest eps in the show’s history. No real classic moments, no real tension. Even the Alex killing the assassin scene, which should have been full of tension, fell pretty flat. The cutting up of the body came across as more unrealistic and “that would never happen in prison”, even a minimum security. I understand this series has a lot of those moments, but really. Honest to God, that shed is the worst. Why would prisoners be allowed unfettered access to ANY PLACE? Much less a freaking SHED with TOOLS THAT CAN CUT UP A BODY? I don’t see it happening.

Not much in the way of character development. No flashbacks. This episode really is just setting up the rest of the season, and it doesn’t do it all that well. If the bulk of the season is going to revolve around Alex and her body, then I’m not that interested.

None of the people or storylines we care about are being touched on. No mention of Sophia. Not much Red. Thankfully, we’re spared much of Daya, who has become kind of annoying over the last few seasons. She’s far from the wide-eyed, innocent, adorable woman who had a sweet romance in season 1. They really crapped on that romance.

We’ll have to wait to see what the rest of this season holds, but so far I’m not too optimistic.

Why Ed Rooney is Not The Secret Hero of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off by Sarah

The Internet loves nothing more than positing ridiculous fan theories about our favorite movies. Usually, these fan theories boil down to someone is actually dead and/or in a coma from a certain moment onward, and the rest of the movie is just a dream. With the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, however, there is a fan theory that I find deeply disturbing.
This fan theory basically states that Ed Rooney is actually the secret hero of the film. In this theory, Ferris is a sociopath-in-training, luring his friends to The Dark Side with no qualms about destroying their lives. He lies without remorse, steals, uses people, and seems to have little to no actual emotion about anything that happens. Ed Rooney, on the other hand, is the put-upon school administrator who is the only person who sees Bueller as he really is. He’s just a man trying to do his job, trying to save his students from the bad influence of a future serial killer.
Ferris Bueller, as a character, doesn’t hold up as well today as he did in the 80s. That’s undeniable. He comes off less as charming through modern eyes, and seems more like a spoiled, privileged brat. However, these character flaws do NOT make Ed Rooney the hero. Ed Rooney is in no way, shape, or form a good educator. He is not trying to do his job. Ed Rooney is a bad person, a bad educator, and a villain in every sense of the word.
“He’s just doing his job,” is the central argument of this fan theory. That would be all well and good, if anything he does is actually part of his job. Checking up on students who called out sick? Maybe. Speaking condescendingly to that student’s parent and heavily implying they are negligent and out of touch? Absolutely not. Besides, if he was so concerned with Ferris’s attendance, why did he wait until the ninth absent to call? Why not call on the eighth? Or the seventh? Or the sixth? The answer is simple: He didn’t call because he doesn’t actually care. He’s not out to help a student, he’s out to nail a kid he hates.
From the very first moment, the hatred Ed Rooney has towards Ferris is palpable. He can’t even say his name without spitting it like a viper. Disdain drips from every syllable. That is not the attitude of a good educator. His goal is not to help Ferris, as he makes clear time and time again. His eyes gleam with the thought of “bringing down Ferris Bueller”. His goal is to ruin his life, not to hold him accountable. Again, if the goal was accountability, where was the call to the parents on the eight previous absences? Rooney wants Ferris to fail, not just at school but at life. He wants him to get held back, to not get into college, to not have any success. This is not the attitude a man who is “just doing his job” should have. This is the attitude of a true villain.
When Rooney thinks the young man is on the phone pretending to be Sloane’s father, he says horribly inappropriate things to him, not because he doesn’t realize he’s speaking to a student but because he believes he is speaking to a teenager. There is no justification for ever speaking to a student like that. That is not an educator trying to do his job, that is an educator who has lost sight of any sense of purpose.
Additionally, Rooney shows little to no concern for any other student in his school outside of Ferris Bueller. When he personally witnesses Sloane kissing her “father” (actually Ferris) in a way that heavily suggests an incestuous relationship, his response is complete and utter indifference. “So that’s how it is in her family,” he shrugs and walks away, back to his life. He does not follow any of the standard abuse reporting procedures that every educator are required to follow, as mandated reporters. Rather than wasting his entire day tracking down a student whose parents have already given him an excuse for being absent, he should have been calling Child Protective Services. Educators can lose their jobs, their licenses, and potentially even serve jail sentences for ignoring signs of suspected abuse. That is part of your job, Ed Rooney. Do your job, sir.
If you’re still not convinces Ed Rooney isn’t the real hero of this film, also consider how many laws he actively breaks just to trap this one kid in one lie. Is Ferris Bueller the only student who has ever skipped school? Of course not. Has Ed Rooney gone after all of these students with equal fervor? Nothing in the movie indicates he has. He is focusing all of his ire on this one kid. Targeting a single student for extreme punishment is not “part of your job” as an educator. Letting personal feelings into your discipline practices is not “part of the job”. Breaking and entering, assault, and animal cruelty are not part of your job.
In short, if you don’t like Ferris Bueller as a character, that’s fine, but do not over-compensate by assigning positive attributes to Ed Rooney that don’t exist. Nothing about his character is reflective of an educator concerned with what is best for his students, or with being a good educator and doing his job at all.

 

 

Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

Overall Grade: C-

First of all, there will be some spoilers here so if you care about that kind of thing, see the movie and come back later. I’m not going to go out of my way to spoil things, but I’m not going to avoid it, either. Just giving you fair warning.

You know the characters. You love them. You put a towel around your neck and pretend to be them in the backyard… or maybe that’s just me.

Whatever. Don’t judge me.

Anyway, this is the movie we’ve all been waiting for. Batman and Superman finally on screen together. What could be better?

Turns out, either of them separately.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a terrible movie. There is a lot to like here, and a ton of unrealized potential to be an amazing superhero slam-bang action flick for the ages. Alas, it ultimately falls short.

Let’s start with the positive:

1 – Ben Affleck is actually a good Batman. He’s older and wiser, and a hell of a lot more cynical and jaded, but he still kicks a lot of ass. I like the way this film emphasizes the detective aspect of being Batman, and how he uses each of his personas to the maximum degree to achieve his goals. I also like how secret identities don’t remain too secret to the smart people. It felt right. Also, he uses a voice modifier instead of a gravely voice. Good choice.

2 – Jeremy Irons is a great Alfred. Well, let’s be honest. Jeremy Irons is just great in general. But I like the way this Alfred is always seen doing practical, mechanical things. He’s much more of a partner than a butler. He’s not as quipy as other Alfreds have been, but I’m hoping he’ll have an expanded role in the future so he gets more screen time.

Just let Jeremy Irons be in everything, okay?

3 – The actual Batman versus Superman fight is AWESOME. It’s everything you want it to be, BUT–

(the Bad now)

1 – IT TAKES TOO DAMN LONG TO GET TO THE FIGHT! I mean, come on! It’s CALLED Batman V. Superman! Why does it take almost 2 whole hours to see them go at it?

2 – The movie is bloated and has WAY too much going on. The entire Zod suplot needed to be out of there. The whole focus should have been on the building tension between these two titans, and then their battle, the end. 90 minutes, in and out. A streamlined, simplified script would have been nice. And needed.

3 – Wonder Woman was useless and wasted. Again, that’s because there was too much going on. She should have been integral to the plot, trying to make peace and not wanting to choose sides, even if she has loyalties (which she doesn’t seem to). As it is, in this movie, she doesn’t seem to have a motivation for anything she does. Either give her something to DO, or just cut her out until the next one.

4 – The geography was weird and distracting. It took no one any time to get anywhere, and also since when are Gotham and Metropolis like in eye-sight of each other? Time, space, and scale was all wonky on every level, and it kept taking me out of the movie. I hated that. And you know it’s bad if I’m complaining about it.

5 – When people aren’t punching stuff, it’s boring. When people are punching stuff, it’s confusing.

6 – The chases are terrible, make no sense, and are hard to follow.

7 – Even if she’s played by Amy Adams, Lois Lane is a dumbass that I hate. Always have, always will.

Overall, I wasn’t bored by the film for the most part. It needed to be about an hour shorter, and I’m in no rush to see it again, but it was also uneven and inconsistent. You spend the whole movie thinking you’re building up to one thing, then that happens, then something ELSE happens for another forty minutes. It’s just too much.

Everything I Know About Being A Woman, I Learned From Roz Doyle By Sarah

Few female characters in the history of television have kicked as much butt or taken as many names as Roz Doyle, the amazing radio producer on the sitcom Frasier, played for eleven seasons by Peri Gilpin. I grew up watching episodes of Frasier in syndication, but it wasn’t until the entire run was put up on Netflix that I realized how truly awesome Roz Doyle really is, and how much she taught me about what it means to be a woman in the modern world.

Don’t Apologize for Being Good at Your Job

The first thing Roz taught me is that being good at your job isn’t something to be ashamed of. From the first episode, Roz is an amazing producer, and she makes no bones about it. She never cows to male counterparts or refuses to speak up for fear of offending someone.

Importantly, she doesn’t belittle anyone else or pick fights just for the sake of arguing, either. She is just an extremely competent radio producer with ideas and opinions, and she makes sure her male colleagues take her seriously. She will challenge them when they are wrong, listens to them when they are right, and through sheer tenacity and talent manages to be considered a true equal in every respect. From this example, I learned to be confident in my workplace. I learned not to undersell my talents and abilities, but to be proud of my accomplishments.

Men Don’t Define Me

Unlike many sitcom characters, Roz Doyle doesn’t end up married or in a serious relationship at the end of Frasier. She dated a lot and came close a few times, but in the end she ended up single.

And you know what?

That’s just fine.

Roz was happy being single. She had an amazing daughter she was raising on her own, she had a close network of family and friends who loved and respected her, and she had the career and life she had built for herself over years of struggle and hardships. She was not defined by the man in her life. She defined success on her terms. Of course, she battled the same insecurities as all women do, but the important lesson I learned from her example is that I don’t need a traditional life to be happy. I don’t need to wait for a Prince Charming to rescue me.

I can rescue myself.

Just like Roz.

Men and Women Can Be “Just Friends”

Frasier and Roz are friends.

Just friends.

Sure, they’re both tempted to see if their relationship could be more romantic, and even sleep together at one point, but they immediately recognize it was a horrible mistake. They both know they wouldn’t work as a romantic couple, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be close. They refuse to let that fact ruin the beautiful relationship they do have, however. They don’t have to be lovers to love each other. They will always love each other, no matter what.

And that friendship is more important to either of them than any marriage or dating relationship would ever be.

From this relationship, I learned that it’s okay to have platonic friends. I don’t have to feel awkward about being “just friends”. I don’t have to worry about “the friend zone”. The friend zone can be a pretty awesome place to be.

Unfortunately, there have not been many female sitcom characters who are as strong, dedicated, loyal, and independent as Roz Doyle. Here’s hoping the next generation gets someone as amazing to look up to.