Lill & Jill Response

Lill and Jill tagged us with a vital question (3 questions, technically) and here is our answer(s):

Q. Why should we all live in fear/hate of Angelina Jolie and what is the BEST and WORST film you’ve blogged about?

A. (In 3 parts) 1. She is a baby-making robot who barely moves and has arms as thin and sinewy as my beloved Gollum – though Gollum has good reason to have stick arms: he lives in a cave and survives on raw fish and the occasional overtaken goblin; he isn’t a fucking multi-billionaire with access to personal chef, nutritionist, trainer, pastry chef, organic gardener, etc., etc. – and all of her biological children look like clones of each other.  Cute, pouty-lipped clones, but clones nonetheless.

2. Best film: this one is pretty damn hard to answer.  Personally, I loved several movies that we saw and reviewed last year (Red State, Young Adult, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, X-Men: First Class, Jane Eyre, the list goes on…) but the one movie that I’ve re-watched most frequently and enjoyed every single time is Bridesmaids.  So, while I can’t say that there is just one film we’ve reviewed that is the best, I think my favorite has to be Bridesmaids.

3. Worst film: Something Borrowed, by-fucking-far. This response required zero consideration, as Something Borrowed is hands-down the worst film we’ve seen and reviewed. Oh my dear sweet aching baby Jesus, is it terrible. Shitty characters who you wind up hating and rooting against, a pathetic, predictable plot, and overall headache, indigestion, nausea, vomiting, and gas with oily discharge. It’s an unpleasant experience, start to finish, and if you are someone who actually enjoyed this shitshow, please just do us all a favor and quit watching movies – you’re only encouraging them!

Thanks for the shout-out girls!

~Nikki & Annie

Mother Should I Trust the Government

Oh my god, HBO, enough already! I have a house that needs cleaned, a yard that needs mowed, and groceries that need purchased.

So yeah, Veep is pretty great.

If the 2009 film In the Loop has never crossed your radar, (and you like dark humor and the UK), seek it out, pronto. The people who brought you that blast of sharp political satire (director Armando Iannucci and writer Simon Blackwell) have created another, similar treat for television. In the Loop was about a group of government officials from England and America, dealing with a snafu that could potentially start a war. It’s dark, has some of the most spectacular swearing sequences I’ve ever seen, and that dry humor I so adore. In comparison, Veep is a little lighter, with less use of the c-word. It’s In the Loop, the D.C. edition, spliced with the zany incompetence of Parks and Recreation.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as Selina Meyer, the vice president of the United States, and Leslie Knoppe, she is not. Advertisements had me assuming that she was going to be a savvy force to be reckoned with, but the pilot showcased someone who has so much bullshit to deal with, it’s almost impossible for her to handle it all successfully. She relies heavily on her staff and assistants, who are mostly idiots (BUSTER BLUTH ALERT!!!!!!). The core trio of advisors are Gary, Amy, and Mike, (Tony Hale, In the Loop vet Anna Chlumsky, and Matt Walsh). Gary and Mike are the dolts of the group, and Selina verbally skewers them accordingly. Still, she couldn’t make it without them: At a press event, Selina literally doesn’t know the names of attendees, and relies heavily on Gary to whisper information in her ear.

In the Loop (film)

In the Loop (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The pilot focused on a scandal involving the cleanup required after Selina uses the word “retard” at a press conference, against the backdrop of attempting to garner support for her Clean Jobs Commission project. Her cause is viewed as a joke by all – the gooey, disintegrating cornstarch utensils she’s trying to put into regular use at the White House certainly don’t help the effort (try stirring a hot beverage with a biodegradable spoon).

The writing here is aces, the pace is fast, I laughed out oud a few times, and was amused almost the entire time. And I’m not someone who is enamored with the world of politics either, let me just say that. If you’re staying away from this show because you hate the political landscape or find the topic generally mind-numbing, you’re missing out. I mainly gave this show a chance because I loved In the Loop, and Entertainment Weekly gave it a glowing review; I wasn’t disappointed. Iannacci and Blackwell are gifted writers, and with Veep, HBO continues to prove itself to be something I increasingly am unwilling to live without.

~Annie

A Kiss With A Fist Is Better Than None

The topic is: what do you fantasize about?  Or, rather, whom?  The reason I ask is because of this new series of books now available, the first of which is called Fifty Shades of Grey.  Heard of them?  Apparently, the series started out as Twilight fan fiction by this English woman, E. L. James.  It’s an erotic novel (her first) that centers around this young, inexperienced girl who falls in love with a somewhat older, wealthy gentleman with very specific tastes.  Let me begin by saying I have not read Fifty Shades of Grey and everything I know about it is from word of mouth, internet articles and Entertainment Weekly.

Actually, allow me to back up a bit and first say that I disliked the Twilight series.  I read it and felt the story would have been compelling were it not for the characters in it.  I disliked the series not because it was teenage fantasy but because I was entirely unable to relate to the main character, Bella Swan, and I did not like her love, Edward Cullen.  Nothing about the cold, stone-like description of him appealed to me but, even putting all that vampire stuff aside, he seemed to me a jealous, possessive boyfriend with serious stalker potential.  I know that all teenagers, when first in love, would like to spend every waking minute of their lives together.  On paper, I understood why teenaged girls loved Twilight and adored Edward.  But why the fuck did their mothers love him?  If I were a mom, I would not want my 17 year-old daughter dating a boy who told her whom to talk to, watched over her while she slept and treated her like a breakable toy – like a porcelain doll incapable of surviving without his watchful eye upon her.  In fact, those are the kind of guys I was always told to steer clear from, as they are the ones we see on the news – you know the stories: “Man shoots ex-girlfriend after she gets restraining order against him, says he’d rather see her dead than with someone else.”  Guys like that are scary, not sexy.  I know that the Twilight series was written for a Young Adult audience, so naturally the characters in it would be chaste and virginal.  Not exactly realistic in today’s world, but whatever.  And author Stephanie Meyer is a Mormon, undeniably a patriarchal community, so sure, her female characters are likely to treat their men as stronger and wiser that they.  Fine.  But the fact that millions of adult women loooooved Edward Cullen shocked and, kind of, disgusted me.  The response to this new book, Fifty Shades of Grey, is even more appalling.

Back to the matter at hand.  Here’s what I’ve gathered from reviews and articles about Grey: the main character is a 21 year-old virgin who falls for an older billionaire who offers her a contract that clearly states he has control over her.  She signs said contract and then becomes something of a sex slave to him (of her own free will), engaging in bondage and pretty hard core sado/masochism.  He tells her what and how much to eat and watches her like a spy as she goes about her life, becoming so irate when he sees her speaking to any other men that he goes into jealous, rageful fits.  This book is hugely popular and has been dubbed “mommy porn,” because its audience is about 98% women and the sex scenes are pretty graphic.

Look, I’m not against bondage or sado/masochism.  Everyone is free to do anything they choose with a consenting adult – that’s not the issue here.  But it surprises me that, apparently, millions of women in their 20s, 30s and 40s want to be controlled by a man.  I get that there is a certain freedom in not making your own choices but I thought that applied more to letting your guy pick the restaurant or the movie, not exactly what and how much you are allowed to eat or with whom you can speak.

The truth is, I think people should read whatever the hell they want.  If you’re into harlequin romance novels, fine.  And if this book is something that appeals to you, that’s fine, too.  I just can’t help but wonder what it says about American women today that these possessive, controlling men are the ones they lust after and day dream about.  Are they bored and simply enjoying the excitement?  I wonder if, in their actual lives, they’d prefer a man like that over one who treats them with trust and respect, as an equally valuable and free human being.  I’ve had a few “bad boy” boyfriends and I get the appeal.  But after a very short period as the girlfriend of the bad boy, the shine wears off.  The jealousy thing stops being cute because it’s much less about their affection for you and more about their need to control and manipulate another person.  And they’ll lie and cheat and exaggerate to get what they want.  And if you won’t be the person they want you to be, they quickly pick up and move on.  They are okay to rebound with or have a fun, summer fling with.  But these are not the men you want to marry or be fathers to your babies.  Because, as you should be able to guess, they’ll want to control and manipulate their daughters, as well, and raise them to be docile, submissive women because those are the women they like.

100 years ago, female authors wrote about men who treated their women as equals, who were inspired and enlivened by their women.  Men like the beloved Mr. Darcy who fell for Elizabeth Bennett because she did not blindly worship him for his money and power, as most other available women around him did.  Or Robert Lebrun who loved another man’s wife – a married mother of two (not an untouched virgin) for her passion and independent spirit.  And the hardened Mr. Rochester whose soul was stirred by the conviction and integrity of the poor and plain Jane Eyre.  Back when women literally were oppressed and controlled by the men in their lives, they dreamed of a man who valued them for their minds and willfulness.  Now that we have achieved relative equality, the modern woman’s ideal man is obscenely rich and ties his lady to the bedposts, violently penetrating her while she gags on a chokeball.  Oh, how far we’ve come.

It shocks me that there are so many submissive women in today’s society.  Or women who fantasize about being submissive, about being dominated by a possessive man.  I don’t want to get political, but seriously, are women advancing or regressing?  Is this what the generations of women who fought so hard for suffrage and equality fought for – the right to choose to be dominated by a man?  I may be in the minority here, but give me a Mr. Darcy over a Christian Grey any day.

VS.

Seriously?

~Nikki

Oh, You Capture My Attention

The past couple years of my life have found me becoming completely enamored with electronica/dance/synth-y music, and I find that I like it more and more as time goes on. Dubstep, anyone? One of my favorite electronic artists is known as Lights (Valerie Poxleitner), a 25-year old Canadian musician/absolute doll. Lights is kind of a unicorn. Crazy gorgeous and teeny-tiny, a self-proclaimed Worlds of Warcraft addict, and a helluva talented musician. Hate all you want on computer-generated music, but Lights is much more than that. She writes all of her own stuff, and most of her tracks have alternate acoustic versions – you know, with actual instruments, that she plays. Her music videos are something else – earlier in her career, they were like, outer space sagas (no lie), and now they’re much more stripped down (out in the desert, roaming around, as you do) and properly produced, but I think she’s a unique voice and presence in a sea of pop annoyances.

Lights, performing live

Lights

A few weeks ago, I saw her in concert for the third time, at a small-ish bar in the armpit of America. This is the second time I’ve seen her in this exact establishment, and it’s becoming a must-see for me, as the place only holds a few hundred people, is SMALL, and cheap. She puts on a good show, which is something I find is not usually the case in the arena of electronic music. A looooooooooooooooot of the synthy goodness can tend to be lost in translation. While I had a hard time seeing the stage from my viewpoint (as evidenced by these vids I posted), I know there were drums, guitars, and keys up there. You know, real instruments.

The crowd for a Lights show continues to fascinate me. She has a HUGE male following. I don’t know if it’s how hot she is, her nerd-cred, or what, but I’m always surrounded by loads of boy hipsters belting out her lyrics. It would be endearing, except they kind of smell bad. :/  The age of the crowd ranged from pre-teen to mid 40s; I’d say the average attendee was in their early 20s.

I have to mention that the opening act was a band called The Ambassadors, and they were excellent. I only caught 2 or 3 songs, but I was captivated and kept asking my cohorts, “WHO IS THIS?!!!”

The set was mostly from her newest album, Siberia, which is much less pop and much more electronic (and darker) than her previous effort, The Listening (one of my favorite albums, pretty much ever). I thought the new stuff sounded great, although my heart belongs to her first album. The strobes and colored lights were flashing and the crowd was singing along to almost everything – here are my highlights:

“Ice”, from her first album; people love the shit out of this one. I’m always near guys who belt out the rap-like bridge in its entirety. (Sorry my videos kind of suck.:()

“Everybody Breaks A Glass” is one of my favorite tracks off of Siberia… it rocks a lot harder than you’d initially think.

And finally, “Toes”, another of my favorite tracks from her newest album. I really hate feet, but I find this song to be irresistible.

A great time was had by all, except for the awkwardness I experienced by realizing I was  standing in front of my (super-HOT Luke Wilson look-alike) gynecologist, who I’m pretty sure recognized me, and was with his wife and daughters. Oy. After the show, we tried to stand in the alley that doubles as the entrance, where her tour bus was, hoping for an autograph. Unfortunately, everything promptly went to hell in a handbasket. The lead guitarist of The Ambassadors was climbing over a fence to help load equipment and semi-impaled himself. He’s doing okay now (according to their twitter feed he has been in the hospital for a while but is finally doing better), but there was a lot of blood and he asked for 911 to be called – at the same instant, two guys carried a half-blacked out chick through said alleyway to a waiting cab, and we all got to watch as she yacked her guts out. “We’ll hang her head out the window, man” is the only solace that poor cabby got. As this club is walking distance to 3 different hospitals, I was surprised it took almost 6 minutes or so for an ambulance to arrive, but in this time, the security guys came out to SCREAM THE F WORD AT EVERYONE to get out of the way. I mean, it’s a small alley, but 75% of the people standing (including us) were in a side parking lot, not standing directly in the alley. And there was another band going to go on in about 20 mins or so, so it’s not like the place was closing. This ASSHOLE was like, “GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!! ALL OF YOU!!” And I mean, this is like, the main entrance of the building. It’s not like we were doing ANYTHING TO HINDER THE AMBULANCE. I wanted to punch that dude. Especially because about an hour later, Lights DID come out to sign stuff for her fans. :(

All in all, aside from feeling the gyno shadow behind me and Saw-like experience of the biohazard alley as we were forced to leave, it was a fun night. ;)

Set List: Banner, Fourth Dimension, Ice, My Boots, River, Flux & Flow, Everybody Breaks A Glass, Face Up, Siberia, The Last Thing On Your Mind, Suspension, Where the Fence Is Low, Toes

~Annie

First You Must Learn To Smile As You Kill

When I saw Aliens, I felt certain no one could ever play a better robot than Lance Henriksen.  And while I still know beyond a doubt that no one alive and acting at that time could have been a better Bishop, a new generation of bad-asses has come to Hollywood.  And chief among them, Michael Fassbender, coming soon to a theater near you as David, an android so efficient, so utterly in control, so calculated and calm, you know that after casually inserting a knife into your skull, he’ll use your skin for lamp shades and sharpen your femur into a deadly blade, all in an effort not to be wasteful.

Here’s a little taste of what’s to come:

~N.

Oh Mother Dear We’re Not the Fortunate Ones

Source: wetpaint.com

HBO’s new dramedy Girls (Sundays, 10:30pm) was everything I wanted it to be, and more. In fact, I hit play quite late at night, assuming I’d watch the first five minutes, then go to bed and save the rest for another day. Instead, I ended up getting sucked right in and watched the whole episode, without even feeling the need to putz around on the computer or mindlessly eat while viewing.

Lena Dunham, the 25-year old filmmaker and actress, is the star and creator of this highly anticipated series. She plays Hannah, a young woman pursuing her dream of being a writer while living in New York. The first episode finds her being cut off, financially, by her parents (an adorable Peter Scolari and Becky Ann Baker), and subsequently quitting/being let go from her unpaid internship. We are introduced to Hannah’s friends, BFF Marnie (Allison Williams), bohemian Brit Jessa (Jemima Kirke, who plays another bohemian Brit in Dunham’s acclaimed film Tiny Furniture), and Jessa’s cousin, Shoshanna (Zosie Mamet). Hannah also has a booty-call boy in her life who she wishes was more, despite the fact that he is a filthy, arrogant, ignorant, entitled, complete and utter pig. Who hasn’t been there before though, honestly?

Comparisons will be made to Sex and the City, another HBO dramedy focused on four female friends, navigating their lives around New York City. That was a wonderful show, truly. Try as I might to despise the glamorous group with dream careers and designer wardrobes that was Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte, I couldn’t. The excellent writing, stories, and characters always sucked me in and had me sympathizing/relating/feeling bonded with any or all of ‘em.  In Girls, that effect is even stronger, because these are REAL girls. The similarities to that beloved show are there, but without any trace of being a rip off or copycat. This is SATC for a younger, more jaded, unemployed generation.

Tiny Furniture

Tiny Furniture (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dunham is crazy fearless, which I find commendable and am terribly envious of. She simply has no vanity, and she doesn’t have the body of say, your average film star. Which is great, but unsettling – purely because we are not used to seeing this kind of reality portrayed in our living rooms (except when we look in our own mirrors). Was this her desired effect? I’d love to hear her answer. I don’t know what would have to happen for me to display my entire ass on HBO, but it would have to be pretty epic (unlike my ass).

If you’ve seen Tiny Furniture, the award-winning film she directed, wrote, and starred in, you’ll feel a familiar vibe. She has a style, a look, a feel to her work – quiet, awkward, uncomfortable, sad-funny. That film starred her real life mother and sister as her mother and sister, and portrayed the months following graduation from college, as Aura (Dunham), came home to feel out-of-place, with no career prospects, and general boredom/life malaise/hopelessness. It’s a good flick, but one of those where nothing really happens. In films like that, it’s all about how invested you are in the characters. I liked Aura, and wanted her to succeed, but she was kind of inert and made some crappy choices. I do recommend that film, but be prepared to feel uncomfortable, as the atmosphere is far more awkward and miserable than Girls‘. There’s a depressinggggggggg sex scene and loads of unflattering body shots. To which I say, hear-fucking-hear. I applaud her for being all, this is me, take it or leave it (although I have no idea if this is how she really feels. There’s a certain self-conscious aspect to her work as well; whatever she believes, she puts it all out there). I would certainly like to hang with her for a day, and see what goes on inside her head.

This show is seriously something special and different. What astonishes me is that it completely lacked that awkward “pilot-y” feel that basically every single pilot ever has. Even the ones that go on to become amazing shows. This felt like it had been on forever, yet simultaneously, was completely unique, new and fresh. The dynamic between the girls feels real, lived in, authentic. They made me want to be a member of their group. The writing was excellent – funny, without trying too hard (I loved the speech about why working at McDonald’s is something to be proud of), relatable (Marnie’s explanation of why she can no longer stomach the boyfriend who is crazy about her, while she feels nothing, was perfection), and honest (Hannah’s booty call with the boy who is just not that into her, will undoubtedly hit close to home for many a female – this one included).

As Entourage and How To Make it in America are done with their testosterone-laden runs, it’s nice to have some estrogen back on the HBO schedule. I’m always drawn to watching others struggle with the task of growing up, and seeing a group of women being portrayed as broke, miserable, and kind of gross was refreshing and encouraging. I am strongly suggesting you watch this – especially if you’ve got two X chromosomes.

~Annie

I Wish I Was Special

I’m beginning to think that Michael Fassbender is a genius.  An acting god among mere puppets.  Because the truth is, without his talent to carry Shame, it probably would have been a film easily forgotten.  Instead, it is a haunting, disturbing movie about a man who is slave to one of the most basic of human needs, a desperate addict tortured by his compulsions.  Fassbender stars as Brandon Sullivan, a seemingly successful businessman in New York who lives alone and makes no effort to maintain any personal relationships.  His sister, who calls regularly and leaves sad, lonely messages that Brandon ignores, appears in his apartment one night needing a place to stay.  Sissy, played by the lovely Carey Mulligan, is a bit of a train wreck – bleached hair and bad make-up, always braless and penniless.  Her sudden intrusion in Brandon’s life puts quite the dent in his rigid routine and he quickly unravels at the seams.

Steve McQueen, whose debut film Hunger put him on the world’s cinematographic map because of its bleak realism and heavy subject matter, stays true to form in Shame.  There are moments so genuine, so painfully real, you count the seconds until the scene ends, a feat not easy in itself because McQueen favors unusually long takes.  At times, they felt too long, slowing the film’s pace enough to make its 99 minute running time feel much longer.  But he makes up for it in general content and in the performance he gets out of his lead star.  Fassbender’s range is well documented here, for any of you fools out there who doubt him.  In an early scene, he manages to eye fuck a darling redhead on Manhattan’s subway effectively enough to make her squirm in her seat.  And you’ll squirm, too.  Without a word, without a single sound, he conveys more confidence and persuasive appeal than most men can muster on their best day.  Toward the end of the film and at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, after failing to react appropriately to a woman he actually cares about, he desperately seeks gratification in the company of what I assume are a couple of working girls and at the moment of climax, he (again, wordlessly) lays bare the wretched emptiness and self-loathing that feeds his addiction.

Carey Mulligan manages, somehow, not to be her usual adorable self here and instead looks like the junkie her on-screen brother is.  No details are revealed but it is strongly implied that these two siblings lived through something painful enough to essentially ruin them both.  Their relationship feels, at times, close and at others, unbearably strained.  The city of Manhattan is the third star and the duality so superbly showcased by Fassbender is mirrored in the back and forth between its impressive landscapes and the grimy, filthy bars and clubs where Brandon seeks an easy conquest.

Shame is not a movie one could watch repeatedly and it’s not one some could watch even once.  Bits of it are terribly slow and much of it is sharply uncomfortable.  Anyone looking for a sexy flick in which both Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan offer full frontal shots will be disappointed here.  Oh, you will see every naked inch of Michael Fassbender and nearly as much of Carey Mulligan and there is plenty of sex to go around, but you won’t feel good about it.  In fact, Shame does for sex what Super Size Me did for fast food: it shows you just how sick it can be.

~Nikki