Award Show Round Up: Golden Globes 2020

And we’re off! This is kind of a wild year, in that even though I have seen a lot of the nominees so far, I really didn’t know who was going to win the big awards going into last night. And there were some fun winners! And I guess I really need to find time for 1917 soon.

As for the show itself, I had fun watching it, but really could have done without Ricky Gervais, his brand of disdain for the enterprise felt fresh 10 years ago, but he’s no longer a scrappy outsider, he is also a rich, powerful famous person. He got a few good zingers in, but mostly, I found him boring.

Not boring, Ramy Youssef winning an award and reminding me I need to watch his show:

Cheers to Stellan Skarsgard’s eyebrows:

I would have given Foreign Language Film to The Farewell, but I would give every award possible to the The Farewell, and Bong Joon Ho gives a good acceptance speech:

Kate McKinnon’s speech to Ellen Degeneres (this year’s Carol Burnett Lifetime Achievement Award recipient) was my tearing up moment of the evening:

Elton John and Bernie Taupin are my favorite Hollywood marriage:

Patricia Arquette gave an important speech, and also wore her sunglasses all night, which is a move I appreciate:

Olivia Colman being slightly tipsy by the time her category came around was a gift to us all:

Tom Hanks is a class act and I love him:

I love a Michelle Williams speech, with a cut to Busy Phillips crying:

Look, I still find Quentin Tarantino to be a smug bastard, and I’m not sure I see Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood as the best comedy of the year, but I do love Brad Pitt:

Elton John’s giddy joy for Taron Egerton is so pure and lovely:

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I’m not going to see Joker but I will always love Joaquin Phoenix for being the glorious weirdo he is, who prompted two friends to text me last night to ask if he was drunk. (For the record, he’s publicly in recovery and I think he was sober, he’s just an odd guy):

I love Renée Zellweger, I love that she’s back, and I love that she’s full Texan:

And then a movie no one has seen yet won Best Drama:

Fashion wise it was a mixed bag of a night, lots of strange bows and weird cutouts, but some standouts:

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Laura Dern in Saint Laurent (Photo Credit: Getty)

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Rachel Brosnahan in Michael Kors Collection (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

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Renée Zellweger in Aramni Privé (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

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Taylor Swift in custom Etro (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

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Beanie Feldstein in Oscar de la Renta (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

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Busy Philipps in Monique Lhuillier (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

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Saoirse Ronan in Celine by Hedi Slimane

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Ana de Armas in Ralph & Russo (Photo Credit: Steve Granitz/WireImage)

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Helen Mirren in Dior Haute Couture (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

 

 

And the Nominees Are 2020: Round 2

Happy New Year! And happy Golden Globes day! I was traveling over Christmas, and only managed to see one movie (Little Women on Christmas Day, naturally) but in the week since I’ve been back, I’ve managed to get to a few more. So, here are my latest.

Little Women

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There has never been anything more #ForMe than a Greta Gerwig adaptation of Little Women starring Saoirse Ronan, Timothee Chalamet, and Laura Dern. It was the rare movie I wasn’t even worried about overhyping because it wasn’t possible.

And my intuition was correct. Despite making major, structural changes, Gerwig clearly feels the novel deeply. Reading back my post from a couple of weeks ago I realized I kept praising the things I loved as “warm.” And if what I’m craving is glowing, kind art, then this was exactly what I needed.

I love this story, I read it as a girl, and then as a freshman at boarding school whenever I was feeling homesick, and these characters are very important to me. I’ve loved other adaptations before, but this is the first one that didn’t just feel like, “Jo and her sisters who are less cool than her.” All of the sisters are given their full humanity. Florence Pugh as Amy is getting many well-deserved accolades, but I also really appreciate the way Gerwig shows Meg (Emma Watson) and John Brooke (James Norton) as a love story without sugarcoating their struggles.

Look, this was my favorite movie of the year. And I’ve already seen it twice in theaters. So, I could ramble on for a very long time (and I already have and I will continue to) but just go see it. (And if you need a buddy and live near me! Hi! I’ll go again!)

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Dolemite Is My Name

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I’ll admit that for the first third of this movie I wasn’t completely sure what I was watching. I thought it was just a star vehicle for Eddie Murphy (who is great in both the on and offstage personas of Rudy Ray Moore). But once he gets the idea to make a movie, this becomes an old fashioned “lets put on a show” story with a blacksploitation twist, and it is so much fun. Murphy deserves all the buzz he’s getting, but I want to also praise the supporting cast, especially Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Lady Reed, Moore’s collaborator and friend who he discovers on the road, and refreshingly does not fall in love with. She’s got a commanding presence and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

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Ford v Ferrari

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I saw a few tweets that this movie would soon find its rightful home playing seemingly endlessly on TNT, and…that’s fair. But, that being said, I found this more interesting than I expected.

I don’t really care about cares or racing, but I like stories about people working to be the best at something, and this was a great example of that. (Why don’t we have sports movies without cars anymore? I love a good sports movie.) Also, this manages to revel in American ingenuity while poking fun at corporate bullshit. Tracy Letts (who plays Henry Ford II) is a treasure, and he’s clearly having fun here.

It gets unexpectedly emotional at the end, but overall it’s a fun watch (though a little too long). Also – it’s my winner for the coveted Best Sunglass Content of the film year.

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Bombshell

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I just let out a long sigh before I started writing about this and I feel like that sums up how I feel about it pretty well. It’s not a bad movie, it’s ably made, the acting is good (at moments even great), and the makeup department deserves any accolades coming its way. But I have major misgivings about it (some of which may not be completely fair).

I was talking to my dad on the way home from seeing this, and came to the conclusion that in ten years when there have been many more “Me Too movies” this portrait of the conservative women at Fox News bringing down Roger Ailes will be an interesting chapter in the story of a revolutionary moment. But at the first one of these narratives to get the fictional film treatment, it feels like a whitewashing of history. (Me Too was started by a black woman lets not forget, and these women actively participated in the racist culture at Fox News.)

Which isn’t to say that they deserved what happened to them, of course they didn’t, and I’m truly happy that they got some modicum of justice, but setting them up as feminist heroes (while they constantly deny any connection to the word let alone the movement) is a little hard to swallow.

Also, as a sort of inverse to what I wrote about Hustlers, there are moments where you can tell this was directed by a man. Do you really need to show us which parts of Margot Robbie’s body  were exposed during her abuse? Wouldn’t it have been more powerful  to focus on her anguished face? We know what happened – the sequence felt like it was meant to be, as one producer describes the ideal Fox story, “horrifying and titillating” and that feels gross.

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Jojo Rabbit

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I thought I knew what this movie was based on its marketing: a pointed satire of fascism winking at its own zaniness. An early review I read (and now can’t seem to find) did nothing to correct this impression by referring to it as a sitcom premise that goes on an hour past its gag.

I don’t know what movie that reviewer was watching, but hat is not the movie I saw. In fact, that goofy conceit, Taiki Waititi as Hitler as a little boy’s imaginary friend, was far less central than I expected. Though there are moments of farce, at its heart this is a sincere coming of age movie about growing up in an absurdly fucked up environment. Obviously, the movie has political resonance with out current precarity, but what I found most powerful about it was the way it showed that growing up is a process of letting go of seeing everything as black and white, and letting go of the myths you’ve been taught that make the world make sense. And many adults never fully do that, which leads to tragedy.

Also, the staginess that bothered about Scarlett Johansson‘s performance in Marriage Story totally works here, she’s fantastic.

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2019 Top Tracks

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Happy almost New Year! Last year, I made an Insta Story of my top 16 songs of the year (I have trouble choosing and 16 is my lucky number), and I thought I would share it on here as well this year. (It’s on Insta too, because I’m a little extra.)

Anyway, I started with 45 possibilities and whittled it down to 16 (which means there are at least 29 more songs I could have put on here if my mood were different.) They are in an order, but they aren’t ranked. You can listen to the full playlist on Apple Music or Spotify.

OK, enough lead up:

Highwomen – The Highwomen

I could put every track from this album on this list and just call it my top songs of the year. This project reminded me I used to love country music until it got so bro-y I felt like I wasn’t welcome in that world anymore.
I am obsessed with each of these women separately and together, and this song made me cry more than any other piece of art I consumed this year.

Waylon Jennings Live! – The Mountain Goats

It was hard to choose between this song and the one in the voice of a religious possum. Sentences like that are why I love The Mountain Goats, and again, I spent a lot of time this year remembering country music is great (and not just the country music made by Kacey Musgraves.)

Harmony Hall – Vampire Weekend

Again, a bunch of songs from this album made the possibilities list, but this first single, took my breath away when it came out near the beginning of the year and it manages to feel both anthemic and catchy.

The Bones – Maren Morris & Hozier

I love Maren’s original (she’s a Highwoman after all!) but adding Hozier made it perfect.

Rylan – The National

“Don’t you want to be popular culture?” Is up there for my favorite lyric of the year.

ghostin – Ariana Grande

Controversial opinion: I think Sweentener is a better album on the whole than thank u, next, but this song breaks my heart with its vulnerable honesty. It’s a truly beautiful, confessional pop song and that production makes me swoon.

The City Loves Me – Beauts

I know nothing about this band. This song just showed up on my “For You” playlist on Apple Music, which honestly isn’t a super successful algorithm, except in this case, because this became my “surviving NYC” anthem this year. Yes, I’m fooling myself if I think NYC loves anyone, but this song helps.

Death By A Thousand Cuts – Taylor Swift

I almost chose “Lover,” which is beautiful, or “I Think He Knows” which took my breath away on the subway, but I feel like people are underrating “Death By A Thouasnd Cuts,” which is a heartbreaker of a bop like only Taylor can write. (Plus it’s based on a movie, and a Taylor Swift song based on a movie, is pretty much my brand.)

Now I’m In It – HAIM

A pop song that feels like how anxiety feels, but somehow also is hopeful? I don’t know, I just love these girls and this song so much.

Too Much – Carly Rae Jepson

It was a tie between this and “Want You In My Room,” but the way she says “draama” just kills me.

If I Can’t Have You – Shawn Mendes

Keeping the Canadian bubble gum love going. This song was the biggest earworm of the year for me.

Love You For a Long Time – Maggie Rogers

I loved every song on her album (which came out in January, even though it feels like I’ve been living with it for so long) but this new single feels like it like a culmination of her epic year and I love it and her very much.

Little Trouble – Better Oblivion Community Center

Thanks to my boyfriend Tim for this one, he put it on a mix for me, and it’s fantastic. And I often do “find one song [I] like and play it on repeat…”

Juice – Lizzo

It’s Lizzo’s world and we’re all just lucky to live in it.

King of the Dudes – Sunflower Bean

I’ve never felt cooler in my life than when I was screaming along to this song at Mercury Lounge at their Gov Ball after show, and I probably won’t.

Golden – Harry Styles

I don’t know if this is my favorite song on this album, I haven’t lived with it long enough to be sure yet, but it feels like it sums up the jangly, happy, sad, pop, rock, joy of Harry the best.

And the Nominees Are 2020: Round 1

Happy Awards Season! It’s already shaking up to be an interesting one, full of rants at the Golden Globes and lots of awkward jokes about Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach’s relationship. I’ve seen a lot so far (though I’m still waiting impatiently for Little Women to open…) and it’s been an interesting film year, with a real range of genres and styles.

(For the record, I do not plan to see Joker or Us because I do not see horror movies/I have a queasy feeling about Todd Phillips. I may change my mind on this, but for now, those are my outs.)

OK, here we go…(settle in, this is always my longest post of the year.)

Booksmart

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I don’t know if it was the presence of Beanie Feldstein or the female director (great debut, Olivia Wilde), but I went into this expecting a slightly raunchier Lady Birdand that it is not. But once I got over my preconceptions and met this movie on its own terms, I ended up liking it a lot.

Teen movies are fun, because high school and hormones basically turn the volume up on everything, so even the most outrageous stuff can still feel true. I don’t want to fall into the trap of saying this is like “Superbad for girls” because that’s dumb. Superbad can be for girls and Booksmart is for people of all genders. But who it is really for is nerds, 21st century girl nerds especially, who (like me) were raised on a steady diet of female empowerment and working hard and (maybe) had some trouble remembering that letting off steam is important too. (Though there’s nothing wrong with realizing that in  your twenties either – believe me – even if it gets you banned from Jamba Juice.) At the end of the day, I’ll  be shocked if this movie ends up on my Top 10 this year, but I’m glad it exists.)

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Rocketman

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I was wary of this when I saw the trailer, biopics of still living stars are always tricky and I was afraid it was going to be just a retread of Bohemian Rhapsody (which I thought was fine), but I was so pleasantly surprised.

The best part of this movie it its structure, rather than a Music Biopic this is a Movie Musical, where all the characters sing and dance their way through Elton’s story and I’m a sucker for a well done movie musical. The performances are all great (Taron Egerton as Elton of course, but I loved seeing Jamie Bell as Bernie Taupin) and the visuals are all as over the top as Elton deserves. I cried, I laughed, I weirdly sway-danced in my chair. Loved it.

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Late Night 

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Emma Thompson is my idol. I love her. This movie is a fun, feminist workplace comedy that never really shocks, but never veers out of being enjoyable. But again – Emma Thompson! That should be reason enough for you all to stream it right now.

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The Farewell

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I had heard the This American Life story that writer/director Lulu Wang had done about this story (when her grandmother in China was diagnosed with cancer, her family decides not to tell her) and was excited to see the movie because I found the take on the American immigrant experience unique. And it was an interesting cultural snapshot, but it was also a deeply heartfelt, and at times unexpectedly hilarious, portrait of a specific family, who were all portrayed with warmth and humanity.

I’ve loved Awkwafina in all  of her broadly comic supporting roles in the last couple of years, so it was really great to see her step up and do so well in a complex, leading role.

The central conceit of the film, and Wang’s family’s lie, centers around her cousin getting married to a woman he just started dating to give everyone an excuse to come home without making her grandma suspicious, and this leads to farce (though its subtle farce, if such a thing exists) but also real emotional difficulty for all involved. (I have a lot of questions for and about the bride.)

I really loved this movie (my only quibble is the score, though lovely musically, felt a bit obtrusive at certain moments) and urge you to see it.

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Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

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I was very nervous about going to see this movie. Longtime readers will know that I’ve basically boycotted Quentin Tarantino for a long while now, but I also have my cult fascination and my Karina Longwirth-given Manson Family/Hollywood history knowledge, so I felt like I needed to break my rule and go.

And, in one way, I’m glad that I did. Based on reactions on my Twitter feed I expected this to be a 3 hour violence against women extravaganza. While I admit that I closed my eyes for the extended sequence of a teen girl getting her head bashed against a mantle, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it is mostly a slow-burn exercise in dread, doubling as an examination of Westerns as the primary myth of American masculinity and the way that that was/is manufactured.

All that being said this movie made me angry, not in the knee jerk ways I was expecting and maybe not even in ways that are completely fair. My boyfriend commented on our train ride home that I may be “the worst possible person” to watch this movie, because of my knowledge of the real events, and I think he may be right, because I have a lot of questions for Tarantino beginning with “who do you think you are?” and ending with “what gives you the right?”

(This is going to get a little spoilery.)

What frustrates me more than his completely revising the tragic history to have the 1960s be saved by two symbols of white male power most popular a decade earlier (though I find that gross and frankly insulting to the 17 year old Steven Parent who was actually at the bottom of Cielo Drive that night and maybe could have been a hero if he had been handed a fucking flamethrower) is the fact that if I brought this and other historical inaccuracies up to QT, I feel like his eyes would twinkle and he would shrug and he would say, “I’m the artist.”

And fair enough, I understand that he’s not writing a historical account of the Manson murders (if you want that – and frankly even if you don’t – I cannot recommend Longwirth’s series enough), but then I guess my question becomes, why use your significant artistic talents to manipulate history to downplay the influence of Charles Manson’s abusive techniques (including starvation, forced drug use, and rampant sexual violence) to frame the Family’s actions more as the choices of his (mostly female) followers? Or, for that matter, why ignore completely the racist motivations for their violence?

Aside from his gory visuals and questionable respect for women, the thing that has always bothered me about QT is that seems so smug. That he has a quick, curt answer for every critic and that he likes to frame legitimate critics of his work as people who just didn’t understand it. Well, I think I understand that Once Upon A Time…in Hollywood is a deliberate manipulation of our expectations, but I guess my final question is why he worked so hard to get a room full of people to cheer at an abused girl’s violent death?

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

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Richard Linklater is one of my favorite artists because he tells human stories and that made him a great fit for this material. (Full disclosure: I haven’t read the novel.) The plot could have felt zany and arch, but Cate Blanchett and Billy Crudup (and Kristen Wiig) breathe real life into their “genius” characters. This movie isn’t perfect (it veers a little too saccharine at points for me) but it’s funny and warm and nuanced and I’m very glad I saw it.

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Hustlers

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I’m having complicated feelings about this movie, so let me start with the unequivocal positives:

  • J. Lo is a superstar and this role gives her the opportunity to use her talent, charisma and (crucially) warmth and if she doesn’t get an Oscar nomination, I’m going to scream
  • I’m so, so, so glad this story (based on a magazine article that was clearly always going to be a movie) was given to a woman to make. Yes, there are titillating shots of strippers, but the women dancing are allowed their full humanity and stripping is treated as work that they are good at, and while I may have feminist objections to the system that exploits female bodies for male pleasure, I can only shudder to imagine what many male directors would have done in this milieu

OK, now I’ve already started veering off into theory, because this crime movie about strippers is actually at its core a heavy movie about capitalism and found families and the precarity of living in a system that only works for the men at the very top, whom are protected from the consequences of their own misdeeds.

This is all to set up, that this movie made me a little queasy. It’s weird to think of a movie set in the exact years I became an adult (this starts in 2007, my senior year of high school and the bulk of the action ends in 2013) made as a period piece and to have a kind of nostalgia for the pre-Recession economy where dripping in diamonds and furs was sold to us all unironically as the cultural ideal – that was within reach for more than just the 1%. I get the overall point Lorena Scafaria is making about how these Wall Street clients were hustling the American people, but its hard not to have sympathy for a human being, no matter how he made his money, when you see his face go slack from too much ketamine being slipped into his drink. To the movie’s credit, it doesn’t exonerate the women at its core from wrongdoing, but I’m still grappling with what it was exactly saying. Maybe (OK, definitely) some of these men were dangerous, leches who deserved what they got, but weren’t some of them also just victims of the system we’re all stuck in? I don’t know.

To end on a good note: I’ve never seen a crime movie grapple so directly with the demands of motherhood before, and “Motherhood is a mental illness,” is a line for the ages.

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Judy

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Renée Zellweger does a great job embodying an icon as a human being, and that’s not an easy task. I don’t think it really matters whether or not she actually looks like Judy Garland, but it just so happens that at certain moments, especially in profile or wide shot, she looks so much like her it almost took me out of the story.

As successful biopics do, the creative team here chose to tell just a sliver of Garland’s life, a messy sliver, though with her, I’m not sure there was any other kind. Admirably though the film never loses sight of Judy the human being, the mother, the addict (not just to booze, but also to fame itself.)

There’s nothing too groundbreaking going on here, but everything is done with admirable style, and the supporting cast (particularly Jessie Buckley as the kind, no-nonsense handler assigned to Judy in London) are all great. The flashback sequences, to Judy at MGM, tormented by LB Mayer (Richard Cordery), feel a little stilted to me, but I think they can be read as dream-like, Judy’s own memories filtered through her current haze. I can also rationalize the jarringly sentimental last minute, at first I wanted to shake my head at its implausibility, but on second thought, there have been enough truly, heartfelt moments of sentiment by that point that I think, on the whole, the movie earns its sing a long.

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The Lighthouse

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I can’t figure out if this movie is bad or not. I mean, I can tell you that I didn’t particularly enjoy the experience of watching it, but I don’t think enjoyment is what Robert Eggers was going for. He’s clearly going for something though, and I guess I want to commend him for that.  Both Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson are fully committed, but is that enough? I feel like a movie this portentous should be making a point, and I’m not sure what the point of this was beyond, stay away from lighthouses.

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Honey Boy

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I grew up watching Shia LaBeouf on the Disney Channel, and I’ve always had a, sometimes unexplainable, fondness for him. I have a very distinct memory of reading an interview with him (I think it was Eagle Eye era?) where he talked about his “unconventional” upbringing and his “eccentric father.” It was played for laughs at the time, but whenever Shia would be in the news doing some weird new thing, and people would be speculating about his mental health, I would think of the subtext of that profile, that he was a man clearly carrying a lot of trauma around and trying to use it to create (even if he sometimes does that in baffling and/or misguided ways). And this autobiographical film, which Shia wrote and costars in as his father, is the most literal of those attempts. (It’s directed by Alma Har’el, with able flair.)

It’s raw and at times hard to watch, but also deeply human and filled with compassion for all its characters. It would have been easy to tell this story in a straightforward way, LaBeouf’s father is nothing but a villain, but that’s not how life or therapy – and for mostly better, sometimes worse, this film feels like a therapeutic exercise – work. It’s not an easy watch, but it’s ultimately a rewarding one. I hope it means LaBeouf has turned a corner as an artist, because I’m still fond of him, and this was a beautiful piece of work.

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A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

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I was predisposed to love this based on the fact that it was directed by Marielle Heller (of last year’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?) and about Mr. Rogers (whose documentary last year made me cry just the most) and – I did. It’s, crucially, not a biopic, Tom Hanks‘s Fred Rogers is the heart of the film, I think maybe because Rogers had so much heart that any story involving him would have him at the heart, but its actually the story of a journalist (Matthew Rhys – who is beleaguered and compelling) trying to write a profile of kindness personified without being tacky or boring – not to mention dealing with a dying, estranged father and an infant.

It could have been a cheesy premise, but in Heller’s hands its just off-center enough to be lovely. Like Mr. Rogers’s work its warm without being simplistic. There are a few scenes in this that are going to stick with me, but I’ll leave you with one. Rhys meets Joanne (Mrs. Rogers, played here by Maryann Plunkett) and asks her what it’s like to be married to a saint. She replies, “I don’t like that phrase,” because it makes the way he is unattainable, “It’s a practice, he works at it.” This movie does a great job of showing us what that work might look like and inviting us into it without too much preaching, just like its subject.

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The Irishman

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Full disclosure: I watched this with my family after Thanksgiving dinner, when I was definitely too close to a turkey & Riesling coma to give it full attention. (I think we chose it mostly to be able to stop talking about what movie to watch, Happy Holidays!)

Another round of disclosure: I’ve never seen The Godfather (it’s on the Best Picture list, I’ll get there eventually). I have seen Goodfellas (but not Casino or Mean Streets) all of which is to say that this particular type of gangster milieu isn’t a language I speak fluently, nor do I care to learn it, frankly.

To state for the record, this is an exceptionally well made film, the acting is great, it’s well shot, edited, and designed. The de-aging thing works, sort of, there’s enough dissonance around the fact that I know how old Robert De Niro actually is compared to say, Bobby Cannavale, that I got a little muddled about timelines, but overall it didn’t super bother me.

I guess the feeling I got at the end of the 3.5 hours was, OK, mobsters are humans? I understand, I think, why Martin Scorsese, growing up where and when he did, is fascinated by the Mafia and clearly sees their history as a synecdoche of American history, but I think that’s a matter of emphasis. If you’re looking for organized crime then its there for you to see, but the same would be true of Labor or, stay with me on this, women with thoughts they share out loud. (That’s not completely fair, and, for the record, I don’t think Scorsese is misogynist, but I was disappointed by how underused Anna Paquin was in this.)

So, I guess this is a shrug of a reaction, and a movie on this scale, surely deserves something bigger than that, but, uh, it’s not for me.

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Knives Out

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This was our traditional day after Thanksgiving trip to the movies choice this year as a family and it was perfect for that. The cast is stacked, and they are all clearly having so much fun. I can’t remember the last time we had a real who-done it on the big screen. (I think because TV has basically become nothing but that?)

Anyway, this was a stylish, satisfying example of the genre with genuinely surprising twists. My only complaint was that I wanted to spend more time with many of the characters which is a good complaint to have.

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Parasite

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I think this movie got too hyped up for me before I saw it, both in terms of quality and its fear factor. Honestly, it’s…good. Extremely well shot, the acting is great. I closed my eyes through the gory part. I kept hearing rumblings about a “twist,” but I had to ask Tim after what he thought the twist was.

I don’t have a well thought out explanation for my feelings on this, except that it left me feeling sad and hopeless and kind of meh.

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Marriage Story

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Noah Baumbach isn’t always an easy watch for me, in fact I turned off Meyerowitz Stories about 1/3 of the way in. But, this one is getting all the buzz, so I dove in…and, it’s good! Upsetting emotionally, a little stagey in feel, a tad overwrought at times, but overall effecting. (Affecting? I never know.)

My main quibble is with Scarlett Johansson, whom I don’t love. She felt a little too, practiced? I’m not sure what the right word is, but in certain scenes I felt like I could see her thinking about her blocking. Adam Driver was playing a harder character to love, but I believed him more. (He shouldn’t have fired Alan Alda though.)

Laura Dern is lovely, and terrifying, and always inexplicably wearing cocktail dresses.

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Harriet

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This is a visually stunning, spiritual biography of a modern saint masquerading as a straight-ahead biopic. Director and co-writer, Kasi Lemmons has crafted a mythic image of Ms. Tubman, and she deserves it obviously, and Cynthia Erivo does a great job of embodying her strength, while never letting go of the fact that she was a full human being with personal concerns in addition to her grand mission.

(Also, this side note is so unimportant in the scheme of things, but – why does Joe Alwyn keep playing such creepy characters?)

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2019 Live Highlights Playlight (pt. 4)

Previous parts – ONETWOTHREE

After a break last week for Thanksgiving last week, here’s the return of Vampire Weekend, Kacey Musgraves, Brandi Carlile, and an off assortment of bands I saw open for other assorted bands in 2019.

2021 – Vampire Weekend 

Happy & Sad – Kacey Musgraves

Then Again – Pinegrove

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We actually saw them twice this year. Here’s a picture from the back of the room of the tiny Space Ballroom in Hamden, CT

Never in My Arms, Always in My Heart – Pinegrove

The Eye – Brandi Carlile

Found a Way – Hala

Until My Body Breaks – Olive Tiger

Champagne Ladies – And The Kids

Hey Now – The Regrettes

Isaac – Bear’s Den
As always, the full playlist can be found here, if you have Apple Music!

 

2019 Live Highlights Playlist (pt. 3)

Previous parts – ONETWO

Agape – Bear’s Den 

I was just talking with my friend last night about how they mispronounce this word, so I have also for years.

Ottoman – Vampire Weekend 

As I said on my Insta story, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Tim more excited than when they started to play this song. Also, it prompted us to rewatch Nick & Nora’s Infinite Playlist, which holds up. (But that may just be because we now go to a lot of shows in the neighborhood in the movie, which is a fun.)

Oh, What a World – Kacey Musgraves

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The Socialites – Dirty Projectors

(Sorry about the quality of this video, I wanted a video that didn’t have Amber Coffman singing the lead part, since that’s how I saw it, but it’s hard to find a good one.)

Alabama High Test – Old Crow Medicine Show

No Cause For Alarm – Niall Connolly

Intrepid – Pinegrove

As Long As We’re Together – The Lemon Twigs

Came Out of a Lady – Rubblebucket

Chasing What’s Already Gone- Mary Chapin Carpenter

Mary Chapin Carpenter (and Trisha Yearwood) was my first concert ever, when I was 10, and it was a thrill to see her as part of a program at the Sheen Center this year.

As always you can see the full Apple Music playlist here.

 

 

 

2019 Live Highlights Playlist (pt. 2)

Happy Friday! It’s looking like Vampire Weekend and Kacey Musgraves are going to the Taylor Swift of this year’s playlist (meaning they play first pretty much every time that I put this on shuffle they play right away putting them on the list every week.)

Previous parts: ONE

Fuel on the Fire – Bear’s Den

Jerusalem, New York, Berlin – Vampire Weekend

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View from above and behind

What Is Love? Tell Me, Is It Easy? – Hala

Butterflies – Kacey Musgraves

Break-Thru – Dirty Projectors

Going to Port Washington – The Mountain Goats

Sweet Amarillo – Old Crow Medicine Show

I saw these guys last night at Town Hall (where it hard to dance, but there was some quality swaying.)

There Is A Ledger – Wild Pink

May 12th, 1916: A Song for James Connolly – Niall Connolly

You may remember this song from last year, I’ve seen him a few times live since then and this song always hits me really hard.

Golden Days – Shana Cleveland

As always, the full list is here on Apple Music.

This week’s not on Apple bonus:

Friendship – Mavis Staples and Brandi Carlile

 

Best Picture Baking Project: Grand Hotel

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Despite my alphabetization efforts, we stayed in the 30s for this month’s best picture, and you can definitely see the development that movies as an art form went through comparing this to last month’s, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Had I seen this one before? 

Nope. I knew very little about it other than my mom saying, “Oh, Greta Garbo! And it’s very art deco!” Also I have a vague memory of seeing the Choate musical theater department do an adaptation of it one year when I was a child.

Top 3 observations on this viewing? 

  1. Lionel Barrymore (later most famous as Mr. Potter in It’s A Wonderful Life, plays a character in this named Otto Kringelein, who is entering my pantheon of favorite film characters. His whole arc is that he’s spent his whole life slaving away in a factory and is now dying and has decided to go out in style, and he gets to give a great anti-capitalist speech, and the whole movie I just want to give him a hug.
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Also, hi there, young Joan Crawford

2. Although it has pacing issues to a modern eye, the cast here are all really wonderful and naturalistic, except Greta Garbo, who has a physicality that makes it really clear that she came out of silent movies and which is frankly distracting.

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Everything is very dramatic for her

3. My mom, was correct, this movie, is “very art deco” and visually really cool:

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What did it beat? Did it deserve to win?

Arrowsmith – I’ve never hear of this

Bad Girl – Umm, ibid, but the poster is wild, and a great example of what “pre-code” really means

Five Star Final – Look, I don’t know my early 1930s cinema, but it’s crazy that two of these nominees so far star Edward G. Robinson

One Hour with You – Young Maurice Chevalier! (I don’t know what this movie is.)

Shanghai Express – I’ve heard of this one! Marlene Dietrich and Josef von Sternberg! (I’ve of course not seen it, but you should listen to the “You Must Remember This” about her.

The Champ – Jackie Cooper! I’ve seen clips of this, and generations of child actors should thank Mr. Cooper for the protections for their time and money.

The Smiling Lieutenant – Two Maurice Chevalier nominees! (I’ve never heard of this.)

Obviously I have no way to judge this group of nominees. But I will say that as far as it goes, Grand Hotel holds up.

Bechdel Test Pass?

Because they give Greta’s maid a name (hi Suzette!) and they talk about how she must perform even is she is overcome with ennui.

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Because “art decco desserts” aren’t really a thing beyond intense cake decorating that I’m not interested in learning, I had to get a little creative for this month’s dessert. With some googling, I found a recipe for a “Greta Garbo cake.” Even the author of the blog post was unsure why this Hungarian dessert was named after the Swedish star but, oh well. It’s not a simple recipe, but it was a good way to spend a day off from work. (Note: I adapted the recipe a bit, and did my best with the conversion to American measurements.) 

Greta Garbo Cake

Ingredients for the Dough 

  • 1 packet dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 14 tablespoons of butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 7 oz smetana or crème fraiche (I cheated and used sour cream) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 4 2/3 cups all purpose flour

Ingredients for the Filling

  • 18 oz jar of jam of your choice (I used Smucker’s Strawberry Preserves) 
  • 2 1/2 cups of ground walnuts
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Ingredients for Ganache

  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 6 oz of white chocolate

Directions for Dough

  1. Dissolve yeast in water
  2. Add sugar and stir. Let sit for 5 minutes
  3. Add the soft butter and stir well
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition
  5. Add the smetana or cream, salt, and lemon zest and mix well
  6. Add the flour, setting aside 2 tablespoons, mixing until just combined
  7. Sprinkle work surface with remaining flour
  8. Knead shortly until it forms a ball of dough (DON’T OVERKNEAD!)
  9. If the dough is super wet, add a little more flour
  10. Place dough into a bowl and cover with a cloth
  11. Place in a warm place for 15-20 min
  12. Sprinkle the working surface with some more of the flour
  13. Diving the dough into four equal parts
  14. Take one part and shape it into a rectangle with your hands, roll thin with a rolling pin to fit it into a 9x13in baking pan (Don’t grease the pan!)
  15. Spread 1/3 of jam on top of the first dough layer
  16. Sprinkle it evenly with 1/3 of walnuts and 1/3 of the filling sugar
  17. Repeat with remaining dough balls, jam, and sugar, closing with a last layer of dough
  18. Cover the dish with kitchen cloth and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes
  19. While it’s rising, preheat oven to 400F
  20. Bake for 10 min
  21. Turn heat down to 360F
  22. Bake for 20 min
  23. Check if top layer is browning, if so, tent with aluminum foil
  24. Bake for 30 min
  25. Remove from heat and let cool completely

Directions for ganache

  1. Put white chocolate in a food processor until finely chopped (Note: You can do this step by hand but it will take a lot longer)
  2. Place in a medium, heat safe bowl
  3. Heat the heavy cream in small pan until it boils
  4. Pour over the chocolate
  5. Let stand for 2 minutes
  6. Stir well until the mixture is smooth
  7. Pour over the cake and spread until even
  8. Let stand until set (I kept mine in the fridge for 2 days before serving and it held up)

2019 Live Highlights Playlist (pt. 1)

Hey! I cannot believe it’s already November! So I’m bringing back my Live Highlights series. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, depending on your perspective, I didn’t see Taylor Swift in a stadium this year, so there will be fewer videos of her, but I did see lots of great artists, and made a monster playlist that I mostly use as a soundtrack for doing dishes, but now once a week for awhile, I’ll be sharing the songs ten at a time here for you for the rest of the year!

So, let’s jump in:

Go There – Another Michael 

OK, probably not a great start that I couldn’t find a live performance video for the first song this year, but “Another Michael” pulls up a lot of Michael Jackson videos on YouTube, so…oops… But I do have this blurry shot of seeing them open for Pinegrove in Hamden, CT this Spring:

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You can probably tell this is a bad screengrab of an Insta story, follow me here for more stellar content like this.

Diplomat’s Son – Vampire Weekend

This was my show (though very far from my seat)!

Sophie – Bear’s Den

Also my show, surprised you can’t hear me sobbing in the background of this clip.

No Children – The Mountain Goats

But, Kath, didn’t you post this song last year? Yes, get ready there’s gonna be quite a bit of that.

Redesigning Women – The Highwomen

Also from my show, and technically this is The Highwomen – Maren Morris of course, but as they are my favorite musical thing to happen this year (a year with a new Taylor album, so a big deal) I couldn’t not put them on the actual playlist.)

Merry Go ‘Round – Kacey Musgraves

Alaska – Maggie Rogers

This Is My Tree – The Lemon Twigs

As you can gather from this video seeing The Lemon Twigs live is an Experience, and so I the videos are sometimes terrible quality, but I didn’t understand them at all until I saw them play live, and I really love them now…

Carousel Ride – Rubble Bucket

We Get By – Mavis Staples

The legend is an adorable and strong and everything all at once as ever.

The full playlist can be listened to here if you have Apple Music.

Like last year artists I saw selfishly kept singing songs I couldn’t add find on Apple Music, so here’s this week’s extra off-playlist highlight (another from Brandi Carlile’s truly spectacular night at MSG):

A Case of You – Brandi Carlile (Joni Mitchell cover)

Best Picture Baking Project: Gone With The Wind

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I’d been on such a hot streak without skipping a month on these, but then September came and went, because it is hard to schedule time to watch an almost 4 hour movie. (Especially when no one involved was super excited to watch it.)

Had I seen this one before? 

Remarkably, not. Miró and I tried once in high school but got bored and went to eat about 45 minutes in and never started again. I knew a ton about it though, because of my film podcasts and the really great exhibit on its production at the Ransom Center when I lived in Austin.

Top 3 Observations on this viewing? 

  1. Upfront, I feel I need to state for the record, this movie is really racist and props up a narrative of the Lost Cause of the Glorious Old South, which is dangerous, ahistorical nonsense. That being said, Hattie McDaniel’s Mammy is a great performance, and we all commented that we would love to watch a movie about her (preferably one where she leaves Scarlett behind and goes to live her own life somewhere.)
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Queen of the side-eye

2. I was really dreading this, I remembered it being dull and so long, but on this viewing (aided, I admit, by quite a bit of white wine) it didn’t really feel like it dragged. The structure is so episodic that it felt like watching a soap opera, which also helps contextualize the character of Scarlett for me. She’s a sociopath really, but a glamorous one, like the divas at the center of daytime soaps today, who are always doing things like stealing their sister’s men and then not caring when those men die.

3. This is an exceptionally well cast movie, filled with incredible performances (I get the fuss about Rhett Butler guys – I mean how do you not find Clark Gable charming?) with one, surprising to me, exception – Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes, not only does he sometimes slip into a British accent at moments of high emotion – he’s such a drip (to borrow a phrase from my friend Mary Kate) that its actually hard for me to understand his appeal at all. (I mean, I get why Melanie loves him, but she’s such a saint she sees the good in everybody. – Oh & one bonus observation – the movie is 4 hours long, indulge me – the most interesting relationship in this film is between Rhett and Melanie. I love that he respects her and sees that her kindness has its own power.)

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What did it beat? Did it deserve to win? 

Dark Victory – I’ve never heard of this, but I love a Bette Davis vehicle.

Goodbye, Mr. Chips – Ah, yes, the retrospective, teacher drama, I haven’t seen it in years, but I remember it being…fine?

Love Affair – I don’t think I know this, but I love the comically generic title.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – A true classic. Love Capra. Love Stewart. Love this.

Ninotchka – I don’t know enough about Greta Garbo.

Of Mice and Men – Is it bad to admit I prefer the Gary Sinese/John Malkovich version of this?

Stagecoach – I’ve never seen it. (I know…I know…)

The Wizard of Oz – Oh, I love The Wizard of Oz (of course!)

Wuthering Heights  – This is not my favorite Bronte novel, and this is not my favorite adaptation of this novel.

Wow, what a stacked year…politically I want to give it to Mr. Smith, sentimentally I have to go with Oz, but I understand why they gave the production award to Selznick for this. I guess I’ll let it stand (with the earlier caveat that it is racist AF.)

Bechdel Test Pass?

Yes! By a mile. In fact, I would say the majority of conversations in this movie are about a woman, she’s evil, but she isn’t a man.

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Did you know there’s a dessert called “Gone With The Wind?” Well, now you do, it’s basically an egg custard. The recipe linked here is absurdly simple, so I’ve written it out in a more logical way.

Gone With the Wind

Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • approx. 20 graham crackers
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Prep 

  1. Crush the graham crackers so that they are crumbs (Should yield approx. 3 cups of crumbs)
  2. Whip the heavy cream until it forms soft peaks, set aside
  3. Separate the eggs
  4. Whip egg whites until they hold soft peaks, set aside
  5. Melt the Butter

Crust

  1. Mix graham cracker crumbs with the brown sugar and melted butter in a medium sized bowl until evenly coated
  2. Line a 9in square pan with approx. half of the crumb mixture, set the other half aside
  3. Place in freezer while preparing the custard

Custard

  1. In a medium sauce pan, combine the milk, sugar, egg yolks, and salt
  2. Cook over medium heat until thick, stir often to avoid scorching the sugar or scrambling the egg.
  3. Dissolve the gelatin in the cold water
  4. Add it to the milk mixture and let cook down until a smooth, thick liquid forms
  5. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature
  6. Pour custard mix into mixing bowl and whip until starts to fluff
  7. Slowly mix in the whipped cream and egg whites
  8. Beat until fully combined
  9. Remove crust from freezer and pour custard over graham cracker layer
  10. Sprinkle top with remaining graham cracker layer
  11. Place in refrigerator to set for at least 4 hours