Movie review: “Celeste and Jesse Forever”

(image via graffitiwithpunctuation.net)

 

One of the hits of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Celeste and Jesse Forever is a romantic comedy in reverse.

The script by Parks and Recreation Star, Rashida Jones (who also plays Celeste) and Will McCormack, which has earned the pair a 2013 Spirit Awards nomination, plays merrily, and without apology, with the hallowed conventions of this much-maligned genre to great effect.

As it crunches gears and hurtles backwards with the sort of witty yet charming abandon that characterises much of the titular couple’s largely congenial relationship, you watch the slow dissolution of a romantic relationship that has its start during their high school days.

The film begins with a montage of still shots that tracks the growth of the couple’s friendship into romance then marriage and finally, although this isn’t revealed till a fraught dinner early in the movie with best friends, Beth (Ari Graynor) and Tucker (Eric Christan Olsen), who are planning their own marriage, their separation.

 

Clowning around in a phone booth, the montage which starts the film is poignant, sweet and funny and aptly describes, using visuals only, how close this unusual twosome is (image via showwatcher.com)

 

And what a cleverly scripted reveal it is.

Midway through dinner with their friends, as they are working out what Mexican food to order in fake German accents, and amusing themselves no end in the process, they are stopped by a clearly upset Beth who says “I can’t do this anymore” before storming out of the restaurant.

Shocked at her reaction, which you initially think is simple irritation at their meal-ordering tomfoolery (which is clearly meant to indicate a couple very much in love and at ease with each other), Tucker explains that it’s weird that they are still acting like a real couple when they’ve been separated for six months.

It hasn’t occurred to either of them that it’s odd that they’d not only still be hanging out almost 24/7 with each other but still living in the same house – well sort of; Jesse (Andy Samberg, Saturday Night Live) sleeps in his very bachelor-esque studio out the back – when their marriage has run its course.

But then that lack of awareness speaks to the enduring closeness of the friendship which undergirds their entire relationship, and which defines the way they see each other, their friendships and all their interactions with the outside world.

They are inextricably Celeste and Jesse Forever, and it looks doubtful, even when it’s clear they must do so, that they will be able to pull apart and stand on their own two feet.

 

Celeste and Jesse are shocked when their close friends finally reveal what everyone else is thinking – they need to stop acting like they’re still a fully-functioning married couple and move on with their lives (image via kentuckytheater.com)

 

But time and events inevitably force them to do just that, but the process is neither pretty nor evenly paced, and there are just as many regretful steps backward as there are faltering steps forward.

The back and forth pull between the two ex-lovers, but enduring best friends, rings true on any number of levels, and illustrates vividly that life is not a series of elegantly-executed, well-thought maneuvers (much as we would like it to be) but a messy melange of half-decisions, backtracks and emotional confusion.

And it’s on this point that you realise that Celeste and Jesse’s friends are completely missing the point.

Yes the marriage is over, and yes Jesse has moved on to the lovely Veronica (Rebecca Dayan) with whom he is having a child, and true Celeste needs to move and finally realise Paul from yoga (Paul Messina) is the one for her, but it’s not as simple as that.

 

The cast of “Celeste and Jesse Forever” get goofy for “Entertainment Weekly” (image via tumblr.com / source: ew.com)

 

You don’t simply and cleanly end one part of your life and faultlessly commence the next, and Celeste and Jesse Forever isn’t afraid to acknowledge this.

But nor does it shirk from pointing out that difficult though this transition is, that both Celeste and Jesse are refusing to even try, at least initially, to fully commit to the next phases of their lives, all too aware it will be an uncomfortable, awkward and painful separation.

Which is exactly what it is when it finally gets underway.

Celeste handles it in a spectacularly all-over-the-place way getting high once too often with mutual friend and pot dealer Skillz (Will McCormack; co-writer of the screenplay), delivering slightly inappropriate but heartfelt wedding speeches, and accidentally designing a logo for her company’s new signing pop starlet, Riley Banks (Emma Roberts) that looks, ahem, like a penis entering a butt.

Jesse for his part is more low key with his yearning for a return to the closeness of old – falling into bed with Celeste after a night of too much red wine and the creation of robot sculpture from a destroyed IKEA dresser and dropping around one night just to cuddle her – yet it is he who realises first that what they had as married partners at least is gone and it is time, wrenching though it may be, to move on.

 

Helping your ex assemble an IKEA dresser – thoughtful and kind; getting drunk and sleeping with them – not so thoughtful, or in the end, that kind for either party (image via enthunder.com)

 

But move on they do, through a whole lot of missteps, in jokes, witty humour, and biting regret and they manage what I think is the only scene involving the signing of divorce papers that actually had me cracking a smile.

What makes what is at heart a long and sad pulling part of two once close people (who thankfully manage to retain the friendship that gave birth to the whole romantic mess they are trying to extricate themselves from) work so well is the visible chemistry and witty banter between the two leads.

They are totally believable as close friends with a shared history that will endure long after all their other bonds have been dissolved.

Helping too is the fact that Jones and McCormack wisely don’t portray the two new partners – Veronica and Paul – as crudely drawn cliches who don’t belong anywhere near Jesse and Celeste respectively.

 

He loves me, he really does – Samberg holds Jones close (image via myeveryzine.com)

 

They are rendered as real people who are rightly excited by the possibility of new love which is a refreshing change from the usual lazy tendency to show the other parties in a breakup as idiotic saps who don’t deserve a relationship with anyone, let alone the couple as the centre of the story.

It’s almost like they are “bad” people simply by virtue of being the next partners the two protagonists in a dissolving relationship move on to next.

It marks Jones and McCormack as screenwriters to watch with the emotional insight and ability to render fully fleshed out characters who act in believable real life ways.

 

Celeste and Scott, business partners and friends, light up the scenes they share (Image via -andrews.tumblr.com)

 

And that in the end is what drew me, and will likely draw you, to these two characters, and their associated friends and business colleagues – Elijah Woods is particularly fine as Celeste’s gay friend and business partner Scott who finds it hilariously hard to integrate his “gayness” into any conversation – their realness as people.

They don’t claim to have all the answers, they stumble and fall but they get back up again, laugh and cry about in equal measure, and yes, eventually bow to the inevitable and move on with life, savvy enough to know that the one thing worth holding on to is their friendship.

Celeste and Jesse Forever is a funny, charming, totally real subversion of almost every romantic comedy cliche you can name, buoyed by sterling performances from Samberg and Jones, and a reminder, if we needed one, that while life can be messy and complicated, it’s the important stuff like friendships, and yes love, that usually win out in the end.

 

 

Miranda Hart asks: “Is it just me?”

(image via curtisbrown.co.uk)

 

In the fine tradition of all modern media personalities, Miranda Hart, star of sitcom Miranda (soon to return for series 3), and Call the Midwife, not to mention (and yet I just did) sometime Swiss mountain climbing companion of one Bear Grylls, has branched out and written a book.

Full of passages that had me laughing openly – yes Sydney commuters I saw you judging me as I giggled loudly on public transport; I care not – and others that actually had me thinking quite deeply, and yes even some that managed the rare feat of inducing both at once, Is It Just Me? sounds like Miranda Hart doing a stand up comedy routine in your head.

And that, My Dear Reader Chums (or MDRC, to borrow one of Miranda’s terms from the book; I am sure she won’t mind), is a very good thing.

For you see, distilling a comedy routine that works jolli-bells (read: well) – once you start reading the book, using words like this seems entirely appropos – on a stage or in a sitcom into written form is fiendishly hard, and not everyone makes the transition gracefully or with comic wit intact.

 

(image via hachette.com.au)

 

But Miranda Hart does, and it is one of those rare occasions where hearing voices in your head – she peppers the book with conversations between her now “very young indeed” 38 year old self and Miss M, her 18 year old self boarding school-resident who is convinced she will be wildly successful in every facet of her life by age 25, 30 tops – will be welcomed with open arms, and not great handfuls of medication.

Admitting upfront that while she can handle the major events in life such as “births, deaths, the reminiscences” because they come fully equipped with easy to navigate rituals and regulations, she is often stumped by how to handle, with any sort of dignity, the small awkward moments in life.

You know the ones.

Where you accidentally fling a prawn across a restaurant into someone else’s drink, or meet someone for the first time, someone important, and ask them how to pronounce their name, which is, um, Bob.

There are no roadmaps for negotiating these sorts of tricky life situations, and while I am sure many of the stories Miranda makes note of are played up for hilarious comic effect, they do serve the very real purpose of perfectly underlining that more tends to go wrong rather right for many of us.

 

Miranda Hart at the signing for “Is It Just Me?” (image via digitalspy.com)

 

We dream, like her younger self Miss M, of sashaying confidently out into the world with all the elegant prepossession of a supermodel only to trip and fall on the first step, or as she did on one date, emerge from the toilet on a particularly romantic date trailing loo paper from her like a streamer.

“Where’s the flipping guidebook? There are thousands of  years of writing devoted to  dealing with birth, death, ageing, love and the meaning of it all; but absolutely nothing to tell me how to handle the indignity of briefly turning oneself into a human party popper to the detriment of one’s romantic prospects.” (p5, hardcover)

So fed up with the lack of such a life manual to prevent such catastrophes (or at least mitigate them), Miranda Hart, with all the endearing wit and charm you would expect, offers us, what she likes to call, a “Miran-ual”.

 

The cast of Miranda Hart’s hit sitcom “Miranda” (image via comedy.co.uk)

 

(Which, as she points out, is the completely correct use of “what I like to call” since only she, at least till we readers got our hands on the term, calls it that; now of course once it enters widespread use it will be incorrect to use … see so many things to think about!)

And she covers a lot of ground in her attempt to arm us to meet life’s seemingly innocuous, but bristling with the propensity for embarrassment on a grand scale, moments.

Everything from music – we all imagine we will be walking encyclopedias of hip musical taste but many of us get stuck somewhere between our adolescent top 40 tastes and knowing the songs from “four or five hit Broadway musicals” – to hobbies (she admits that she, like most people, fall back on “swimming, reading and travelling: the holy trinity of boring acceptable things everyone likes) to holidays (hiking the alps is an adventure; picnics are NOT).

 

(image via womanandhome.com)

 

The only time of the year that she finds she can relax is Christmas which she embraces “with childish excitement and glee”.

But even that can be fraught with anxiety if you have one of those mothers who strides around the house organising everything to within an inch of its merry life like “an over-caffeinated, tinsel-decked Captain Mainwaring from Dad’s Army“.

It is the sheer universality of her hilariously-framed observations that resonates, and you are reassured over and over that no matter who you are, life has the ability to humble us with our inability to handle it with total ease and grace.

“… I know that even that star [she was on a Christmas chat show with a major movie star once] regularly feels like an idiot. To varying degrees, we all feel awkward. Whether we hide it with arrogance, shyness, modesty; whether we lay the clown or the trendsetter, everyone struggles.” (p322, hardcover)

 

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Miranda Hart and Ronnie Corbett on “The Graham Norton Show” (image via jobsformyprofile.com)

 

You may even find, like I did, that Miranda’s witty stories get you thinking about all sorts of life issues in a totally serious way – perhaps a little less social media recording of life’s experiences and – gasp! treasonous thought incoming! – simple living of them? – which makes sense since once the laughter has dissipated into the universal ether that is the point of most stand up comedy anyway isn’t it?

One thing is certain at least.

Once you have laughed and pondered your way through Is it Just Me? you will agree wholeheartedly that a manual for life’s weird little moments is desperately overdue, and this book may just be the panacea for all the embarrassing ills that ail us.

But more importantly you will realise that it doesn’t really matter in the end if we stuff things up from time to time – OK most of the time – since we’re all doing it so perhaps we should get on with “Life eh?” and simply hope for the best … and laugh a lot more in the process.

* Here’s a great interview that Miranda Hart conducted with Chris Harvey from the UK’s The Telegraph newspaper to mark the launch of the book.

Zombies with you “In the flesh”

(image via hollywood-spy.blogspot.com.au)

 

In the Flesh (written by newly-discovered writer Dominic Mitchell and directed by Jonny Campbell who has previously worked on Doctor Who) is an imaginative new three episode drama from the BBC, currently in production, charts the events that follow one startling night when the dead rise and, as the undead are want to do, cause all manner of havoc, mayhem and death.

But in an interesting twist on the whole zombie apocalypse scenario, society isn’t brought wholly undone by the rise of this new class of person, officially tagged as Partially Deceased Syndrome (PDS) Sufferers, and instead, after their capture and rehabilitation – including some no doubt much needed cosmetic make up and specially adapted contact lenses – the survivors are welcomed back to their families and loved ones.

But of course, as you might have guessed, it isn’t quite as simple as that.

The PDS Sufferers, who committed unspeakable acts when they were in their full zombie state are not only struggling to cope with the guilt they inevitably feel for their past murderous actions, are also trying to come to terms with the dislocation of going from life to death to some weird halfway state inbetween the two.

 

Kieren Walker (Luke Newberry) finds life isn’t any easier the second time around in “In the Flesh” (image via hollywood-spy.blogspot.com.au)

 

And of course, there is the inevitable prejudice and bigotry that always goes hand-in-hand with any major upheavals in society, and as upheavals go – at least the ones where civilisation isn’t vanquished by apocalyptic events –  they don’t come much bigger than this.

The premise suggests to me a mix of The Walking Dead meets True Blood, and alludes to what I expect will be an exploration of the dynamics within the families of the survivors and society as a whole, and whether the PDS sufferers can truly ever be a part of mainstream society again.

 

Is “In the Flesh a mix of “True Blood” meets … (image via kamikazeegirl.wordpress.com)

 

… “The Walking Dead” (but without the breakdown of society as know it?) with a healthy dose of gritty, heartfelt British drama? I certainly hope so (image via scifimafia.com)

 

It is seeking to accomplish what I imagine is a fairly weighty ambition by focusing primarily on teenager Kieren Walker (Luke Newberry, Anna Karenina, Doctors) who commits suicide after his best friend Rick Macy (David Walmsley) is killed in Afghanistan, and is re-animated, along with Rick on that fateful night.

Certain they would never see Kieren again, and unaware of why he took his life in the first place, his family and friends, and according to the official synopsis quoted on cultbox.co.uk, “a village that always rejected him” must now deal with his reappearance, along with that of Rick, a fellow PDS Sufferer.

It promises the sort of high level concept drama, full of humanity and rich with emotion, that the British excel at, with director Jonny Campbell describing it like this, again on cultbox.co.uk (a brilliant site by the way which is well worth checking out):

“From the moment I read the opening scene I was hooked. Dominic is an utterly fearless and instinctive young writer with an uncanny ability to tell a great story full of humour and humanity in a most original way. An elusive and rare combination in TV drama. What’s most exciting about In The Flesh is that it challenges our pre-conceptions about the standard zombie genre and in so doing almost certainly creates a new one.”

It does indeed sound like an imaginatively fresh take on the whole zombie phenomena and promises rich viewing days ahead for those of who love our semi-apocalyptic drama served up with a substantial dose of the undead.

Birthdays: a TV show writer’s best friend

(image via fox.com)

 

Birthdays are a great narrative device for any TV show.

Unlike other major holidays such as Christmas, Halloween or Thanksgiving (the latter two being especially favoured by US TV while Christmas it seems belongs to everyone) which aren’t about anyone in particular (anyone mortal anyway), birthdays are about one person and one person only, and allow great writers to draw something out about that character in a series of interactions with everyone else in the show.

Shows like The Gilmore Girls (Rory’s birthday parties were legendary), Friends (“The One Where Everyone Turns 30” is a classic) and Modern Family (I have never laughed so hard watching an episode of this show as I did when Mitchell desperately tries to get rid of all evidence of a The Wizard of Oz theme when he finds out his Kansas-raised boyfriend Cameron has tornado issues) skilfully use birthdays to advance plots, bring to light something new about a character, and do something out of the box that ordinary day to day life doesn’t easily lend itself to.

 

Ditch the rudy red shoes Mitchell, ditch ’em now! (image via afterelton.com)

 

It’s a lesson that the writers of one of my favourite TV birthday episodes have learned well.

In the season 1 episode of smash hit sitcom New Girl, “The Story of 50”, the gang learns via a melodramatic announcement by Schmidt (Max Greenfield) that he has lost his booking on the party bus – complete with a very tasteful “love grotto” and stripper pole – he had booked for his 29th birthday which he views as his last real chance to celebrate before he turns 30 and “it all goes downhill from there”.

It is an episode that takes place roughly around the halfway mark of the debut season where we are still getting to know each of the characters, and the exposition of what makes them intrinsically them is in full swing.

 

The infamous Douchebag Jar (image via fanpop.com)

 

On the surface we see Schmidt in usual full douchebag mode – the title of the episode refers to the amount of  money accrued in the “douche jar” into which Schmidt must deposit money every time one of his housemates deems him to have acted in a less than socially acceptable way (hilariously illustrated by a series of vignettes inserted into the credits) – and in the hands of a less talented team of writers this is pretty much all we would see.

But thanks to the talented production team , led by showrunner Liz Merewether, and actor Max Greenfield’s remarkable ability to find the simply humanity in a character who could simply have wound up as a skirt-chasing slime ball, we see a lost little fat kid behind the douchebag who still longs for real love and acceptance.

To get that he was still willing to do pretty much anything – lose all the weight he arrived in L.A. carrying on his self-conscious frame, put up with the “friendship” of Benjamin, a crass, narcissitic man he admits he hates, and describes in true Schmidt style as his “bronemy”, changed his style of dress and as he admits to Jess “I even dropped my voice half an octave”.

 

Schmidt’s heart-to-hearts with Jess form the emotional core of an episode which uses his birthday as the perfect character fleshing-out device (image via wetpaint.com)

 

He is even willing to sing an insulting version of “We Built This City” by Jefferson Airplane – “We Built This Schmidty / On tootsies rolls” – with Benjamin every time he sees him just to retain some friendship from this odious man who despite his many flaws is still one of the few people with which he has shared any type of emotional intimacy.

And the desperate lengths he is willing to go to feel some measure of social acceptability, however precariously balanced, are laid bare when he and Benjamin break into the hurtful ditty in front of Jess, Nick and Winston as they’re about to board the school bus Jess has hurriedly fashioned into a replacement party bus.

Their collective shock that Schmidt would submit to this just to keep a “friend” is palpable and real, as is their growing distaste for the deeply flawed, and highly conditional friendship that Benjamin offers Schmidt, a man he clearly holds in contempt.

 

The lengths Schmidt will go to to be liked are on graphic display the night of his party when he submits to all manner of humiliation for his old “friend” Benjamin (image via tvrecaps.ew.com)

 

In stark contrast to Benjamin’s louche, uncaring treatment of Schmidt is the effort that his housemates, Jess, Nick and Winson go to to fashion the school bus from Jess’s school into a replacement party bus so Schmidt’s pivotal party can go ahead.

And they go to an amazing amount of trouble, corralling guests at a moment’s notice, and decorating the bus so beautifully, complete with keg, “kosher yoghurt and honey”, and “the R-rated section in the back with the stripper pole, normally used for stability but tonight it’s gioing to be used for $50 worth of semi-nudity” (used by a male Gospel-singing stripper mistakenly booked by Jess).

While the party’s execution may have been a little, in Jess’s words “flawed” – they crash it into a pole and a giant pile of garbage ending the party’s bus’s journey of fun – Schmidt is amazed that his friends care so much and they would do all this for him.

 

The gloriously kitsch interior of the party bus fashioned by real, enduring friendship (image via givememyremote.com)

 

As he says to Jess as they’re waiting for the tow truck, a crash caused by the way by Schmidt and his friend’s rejecting Benjamin’s sleazy behaviour in definitive fashion, the night was “10s across the board, no splash.”

He admits that “no one has ever done that for me before”.

It is touching and sweet, and while Schmidt almost immediately reverts to his douchebag persona by trying to kiss Jess (which in a way is refreshing since a fairy tale change to perpetually lovely Schmidt would have been unrealistic, not to mention fingernails-on-a-chalkboard annoying), it reveals a soft fiercely protected side of the birthday boy that elevates him far above the simple comedy cliche he could have so easily been.

And enriches the whole show in the process.

 

It takes almost a whole birthday-centric episode but Schmidt finally realises, just a little that these people are his real friends who like him for all the right reasons (image via fanpop.com)

 

The revelations and frank conversations are of the kind that could really only take place at a significant event like a birthday when pretty much everything about who you are and what matters to you in life is rawly exposed, whether you’ll admit it or not.

New Girl recognises that truth and runs with it, and in so doing gives us insights into one its main characters that arguably couldn’t have taken place in any other type of episode.

It is a truly funny, remarkable episode that beautifully illustrates that birthdays are so much more than just another day on the calendar, and a powerful way to bring alive a character and yes, an entire TV show.

 

 

Happy birthday to … my favourite fictional celebrities

JD Hancock via photopin cc
JD Hancock via photopin cc

 

Right … now … in the interests of complete and utter birthday cake-covered full disclosure, it is my birthday today.

And in the interests of making that full disclosure even more plump, I love birthdays.

I mean seriously love them in a would-celebrate-them-24/7-365-days-a-year kind of way way.

So at the risk of looking ridiculously narcissistic and self-absorbed – but surely this is the one day of the year that that is totally and completely justified – I have compiled a list of five fictional characters whose birthdays would be an absolute kick to celebrate (drawn from a series of cool info graphics put together by the clever folk at flavorwire.com).

Happy birthday to …

 

NATE FISHER (Six Feet Under), born on 8 January 1965

 

Nate Fisher (Peter Krause) (image via hbo.com)
Nate Fisher (Peter Krause) (image via hbo.com)

 

I think it’s fair to say that Nate, who shares the same birth year as me, would not welcome a surprise birthday party with open arms.

Actually if the featured picture of him is any guide, and it is a good one, then it’s doubtful he would want you even remarking on the fact he was having a birthday. (I mean, look at him – a beautiful woman, likely Brenda Chenoweth, his on-again, off again girlfriend in Six Feet Under played by Australia’s own Rachel Griffiths, holding him close and he still manages to look miserable.)

Nate Fisher, played with admirable subtlety by Peter Krause who managed to turn him into somebody likeable and sympathetic despite his often moody, introspective disposition, and yes sometimes annoying self-absorption, was not a spontaneous fun-loving kind of guy.

And yet out of all the characters on what is without a doubt my favourite HBO show ever, and there are a sizeable number jockeying for the honour of that dubious accolade, Nate Fisher is undoubtedly my favourite.

So even though you would likely throw the champagne back in my face, and schmoosh the birthday cake through my hair in a fit of pique, I salute you Nate Fisher and wish you a Happy, ahem, 47th Birthday.

Wow that old? OK you may now officially look miserable.

 

COOKIE MONSTER (Sesame Street), born 2 November

 

"C is for Cookie" right? Yes it is my dear friend! (image via fanpop.com)
“C is for Cookie” right? Yes it is my dear friend! (image via fanpop.com)

 

While the menu might be a tad limited – BYO savoury treats I am thinking – shopping for it would be a snap.

Cookies, and lots of them.

(And an industrial sized vacuum cleaner to hoover it all up later since let’s face it, he has a major issue with crumb spillage.)

But regardless of the limited food options, the party would be raucous, fun and loud since Cookie Monster, is no shrinking violet and as gregarious a personality as you could ask for.

With his origins dating back as far as 1966 when Jim Henson sketched him out, along with two other monsters for a commercial, he has demonstrated that nothing fazes him, and he will have fun as long as his demands for cookies are met.

Of course if you run out of cookies, I would duck for cover as quickly as possible.

 

MACGYVER (MacGyver), born on 23 January 1951

 

Now that's a missile! MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson) swings into action (image via rapgenius.com)
Now that’s a missile! MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson) swings into action (image via rapgenius.com)

 

Can you imagine a birthday party with the ’80s ultimate ironic action hero?

Forgot to go to the store to get ingredients for the cake? No problem, MacGyver would whip you one up with paprika and chicken wire using an old recipe his grandma left him.

No party venue? No problem. Jump out of the plane with him and he would fashion a full balloons-and-streamers-six-course-meal-with-champagne-in-a-homemade-circus-tent somewhere between yelling “Geronimo” and pulling the first rip cord.

While I am guessing his work for the fictional Phoenix Foundation, which saw flung into all manner of hotspots around the world (all of which managed to look eerily like southern California to one degree or another) to rescue lost souls, mete out justice to tinpot dictators and evil drug lords, and resolve lingering issues for friends seemingly incapable of doing themselves, wouldn’t leave him much time for partying, if he put his mind to it, it would be a doozy.

Talk of a MacGyver movie in the works should be reason to start calling the party coordinator I would think.

Best order the paprika now I’m thinking … or you know, an actual cake.

Nah, where’s the fun in that?

 

LORELAI GILMORE (Gilmore Girls), born on 26 April 1968

 

Ah dear Lorelai. Conversations with you would be a hoot. Yes a hoot! (image via midwesttvguy.com)
Ah dear Lorelai. Conversations with you would be a hoot. Yes a hoot! (image via midwesttvguy.com)

 

You know how at a party, no matter how hard you try to avoid them – feigning death, pretending to speak only Farsi, impersonating a zombie are among a handy list of options I have developed over the years – there’s always that one person who never stops talking and seems to hold you within their orbit like a rogue’s spaceship in the tractor beam of the Enterprise? (Yes I just geeked out on a profound level.)

Well I am confident Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) wouldn’t be one of them.

In fact, I would happily spend an entire party just chatting to her and her alone.

One of the things I loved most about The Gilmore Girls (2000-2007) was the witty pop-culture saturated wordplay between Lorelair and her delightfully precocious daughter, Rory (Alexis Bledel).

Much like the characters in any Aaron Sorkin drama where words beguile and entrance, Lorelai was a delight to listen to.

And frankly if she invited me to her birthday party, I would be there early, my head brimming with every witty pop culture reference I could find, ready to play verbal repartee for the night.

Now that would be a party where the “I’m a zombie” defense would not be needed.

 

SNOOPY (Peanuts), born 2 October

 

Author, aviator, cool dude ... is there isn't Snoopy can't do and still look cool doing it? I say no (image via blogs.popart.com)
Author, aviator, cool dude … is there isn’t Snoopy can’t do and still look cool doing it? I say no (image via blogs.popart.com)

 

I have loved Snoopy ever since I first laid eyes on one of the paperback Peanuts collections that you could buy for 10c-20c in the local second hand bookstores in Grafton, NSW where I lived till age 10.

There were was something about his gleeful dismissal of anyone who stood in his way that engaged me from the word go.

He wasn’t arrogant or rude; just delightfully confident in his own ability to do whatever he laid his paws to – novel writing, Scout leader, Joe Cool hanging at the dorm, or fighting the Red Baron.

Whatever it was he could do it well, in stark contrast to poor Charlie Brown who could never seem to catch a break.

And I am fairly confident that he would be a lot of fun to celebrate a birthday with to.

As long as he didn’t hold the party on a “dark and stormy night” which frankly, given his predilection for starting all his stories that way, is all but inevitable.

* So which fictional characters would you like to party with? Why exactly?

First Look: Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy turn up “The Heat”

(image via veryaware.com)

 

I am a huge fan of Sandra Bullock.

From the moment I saw her in Speed in 1994, I was totally in love (in a sweet non-stalker-ish way that doesn’t bring on Do Not Approach Orders and doesn’t involve hundreds of photos plastered across a blood-splattered wall in a grimy downtown basement; you know the kind) and have pretty stayed that way ever since.

It’s rare for me to be so besotted.

While there are actors in both TV and movies that I respect and admire, I have never really been a celebrity-obsessed kind of guy, caring not whether Matt Damon had omelettes for breakfast, or, and this from a tweet I saw yesterday, whether Kim Kardashian (who is barely a celebrity anyway) is having trouble getting her leather leggings to stay in place.

How is that even news?

 

Sandra Bullock captured on the set of “The Heat” in July 2012 (image via justjared.com)

 

But there was something about Sandra Bullock, who was refreshingly and candidly down-to-earth, and apparently every bit as nice in real life as she was in interviews, and moved to Austin, Texas to escape the potential superficiality of life in the Hollywood celebrity fishbowl, that appealed.

As did her acting.

While there were missteps along the way – name an actor who hasn’t produced a cinematic turkey in his or her time – such as Two If By Sea, Speed 2, and All About Steve – by and large she has chosen wisely from Wrestling Ernest Hemingway through to Speed, While You Were Sleeping, and of course her Academy Award-winning role as Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side, which was thoroughly deserved.

Which brings us to her upcoming April 2013 release The Heat, in which she stars as an FBI agent who doesn’t play well with others and who is assigned to partner with a Boston policewoman played by Melissa McCarthy (Gilmore Girls, Bridesmaids) to bring down, naturally enough, an evil drug lord.

 

Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock share a moment of hilarity while filming “The Heat” in Boston (image via splashnewsonline.com)

 

Now much as I love Sandra Bullock, this movie, from the man who brought you Bridesmaids – I know everyone said it was hilarious and I don’t hate gross-out raunch comedies but I really didn’t like this movie – couldn’t go either way.

It has all the ingredients you’d expect of a movie like a mismatched buddy movie.

The efficient by-the-book FBI agent paired with a rough-as-guts policewoman with attitude who, despite clashing repeatedly eventually bond and become the best of friends, learning valuable life lessons along the way (and accidentally dropping a “perp” off a building onto a car).

And yes it made me laugh out loud a few times which makes sense since both actors have a real gift for physical comedy (witness the beer incident near the end of the trailer and you will see what I mean).

 

(image via blogs.indiewire.com)

 

But I can’t help wondering if it is too cliched for its own good.

Misgivings aside though, it is a Sandra Bullock film first and foremost – sorry Melissa I may be a little one-eyed – and so naturally I will be in cinemas whenever it reaches Australia ready to cheer her on.

And who knows? Maybe laugh a hell of a lot, and wonder why I ever doubted her (and yes Melissa) in the first place.

* What do you think? Turkey or eagle?

 

 

The red, red wine of “Cougar Town”

 

ew.com, which exclusively revealed the new TBS promo for Cougar Town, is pretty much right on the money when it says this is the “ultimate laundry nightmare”.

(With the exception of trying to put a load of whites on when a pack of rabid juvenile wolverines break in and force you to include a brand new red t-shirt; yep … much scarier.)

Featuring the Eric Burdon and War song “Spill the Wine”, to which Jules (Courteney Cox) slinks mischievously (yes it is possible to be both sexy and cheeky thank you) towards the camera with meaningful wine-throwing intent, this is the perfect way of telling the world that the red wine-quaffing friends we know and love are back on our TV screens from January 8.

 

(image via ew.com)

 

You can see the fabulous promo here and I would say the odds are pretty good that makers of new white clothes, and laundry detergent … and yes red wine … will be lining up at the door to TBS to throw their hard earned sponsorship dollars the basic channel’s way.

Oh, and you may like this fun promo by the cast announcing they’re back on January 8 too, featuring some mean guitar-playing and singing by cast member Josh Hopkins (who plays Jules’ love interest Grayson Ellis) and innovative musical use of old red wine bottles by Courteney Cox, Busy Philipps and Christa Miller.

 

The pop culture vultures are circling: The first cancellations of the new TV season

(image via abc.go.com)

 

Whoosh!

What is that sound?

Why I believe it is the sound of the wind rushing over the wings of hungry pop culture vultures descending with unseemly haste to feast upon the corpses of now dead TV programs that just a few months before were bright eyed and bushy tailed and eager to court a viewer or 10 million.

But since they’re now lying askew, scripts blowing in the breeze around them and a sad trail of catering trucks and unemployed grips wandering forlornly around them then we can safely assume that their acts of audience seduction have come to nothing, and unlike the Walkers of AMC’s ironically very much alive The Walking Dead, they won’t be re-animating soon, if at all.

 

(image via beginningandend.com)

 

So who are the victims of this annual round of purging by US TV networks that has occurred around Thanksgiving this year, rather oddly we think,  since, presumably, it should should be a time of joyful thankfulness rather than bitter regret and recrimination?

Well the first two images in this post should have tipped you off to two of the biggest scalps so far.

Both Last Resort, about a US navy submarine crew forced to go rogue to defy what they believe are unjust orders, and 666 Park Avenue,  set in a glamorous apartment building in New York occupied, unbeknownst to them, by the already-damned, have been cancelled by their network in the USA, ABC.

While they will be allowed to finish up all 13 of the ordered shows, the extra two scripts each show that were ordered just a scant month ago – how fast time flies in the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-world-of-TV! – will now clearly not be required.

Both shows had slipped somewhat from their initial ratings figures but while 666 Park Avenue had been treading water for some time, and had been predicted to shortly join its landlord in the fiery pits of hell, Last Resort was doing sufficiently that many believed it would live to see another day on its tropical idyll home.

 

Michael Idato, self-described “media and culture vulture” at The Sydney Morning Herald (photo by Quentin Jones via twitter.com)

 

Alas it was not to be and the submarine’s crew will now be stuck on the golden sands of their island hideaway forever, subsisting on coconuts and dreams of what might have been in season 2.

Michael Idato, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, noting Last Resort‘s surprising demise, had these thoughts on why it might have sunk without a trace (submarines can do that you know):

“Of the two shows, the decision to cancel Last Resort is the more surprising, as the series was performing reasonably well, but was not delivering strong demographics and, for ABC, which is a female-skewing network, was slightly off-brand.”

While Last Resort, which starred three Australian actors (Dichen Lachman, Daisy Betts and Daniel Lissing) had not yet reached Australian screens, 666 Park Avenue (starring Rachael Taylor, also late of one of last season’s casualties Charlie’s Angels), had begun screening on cable network Foxtel as part of this season’s much-welcomed but belated mania for “fast tracking” from the USA.

I am now, like many other viewers, in two minds about whether to finish the remaining episodes of 666 Park Avenue I haven’t seen.

Truth be told, while I enjoyed the first episode and reviewed it quite favourably, the show wasn’t compelling enough to have me rushing home to watching any subsequent episodes so I may simply let it slide down into the fiery abyss and be done with it.

Brutal yes, but with so many other shows alive and kicking and worth seeing, it seems like the sensible thing to do.

 

Partners joins the rollcall of the TV show dead (image via buncee.com)

 

Alas one other show I had been looking forward to seeing that has bitten the dust is Partners (CBS) about two best friends since childhood – one straight (David Krumholtz, Numbers), one gay (Michael Urie, Ugly Betty) – trying to navigate the tricky waters of relationships and making a living while keeping their very close friendship as close as it had always been.

I may watch this, in a spare nanosecond or two – believe me, in this day new golden age of TV when quality shows are thick on the ground, that is all I can spare – simply to satisfy my curiosity but it won’t be a high priority.

 

(image via talesoftelevision.blogspot.com)

 

These three reasonably high profile shows join earlier cancellations Made in Jersey (CBS) and Animal Practice (NBC) in the graveyard of TV shows past.

Since neither show has reached Australia’s UV-overdosed sunny shores yet, it’s a fair bet that I won’t be watching either of these shows (except perhaps to play the guessing game of what went wrong – such fun!).

 

(image via awesomedl.com)

 

Other shows teetering on the edge of oblivion are Up All Night and Guys With Kidsyou can check the predictions of tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com here – but for now that is the program body count.

May they all rest in peace … until disturbed by their inevitable DVD release anyway.

Chevy Chase lets slip the bonds of “Community”

Chevy Chase in “Community” (NBC Photo: Mitchell Haaseth- via joblo.com)

 

Are we shocked that Chevy Chase is leaving Community?

No, and I am reasonably sure no one really is.

In news first reported by Deadline, and swiftly carried by everyone else, it was announced that Chevy Chase, who was known to be unhappy about his role as bigoted Pierce Hawthorne on the show, and had a less than cordial relationship with former showrunner, Dan Harmon, would be leaving the show immediately.

The exit surprises no one who has paid even passing attention to the ups and downs of Community, the oddball little-sitcom-that-could, despite NBC’s half-hearted support of and recent shunting of its season 4 debut from October 19 this year to February 7, 2013.

 

The cast of “Community” (image via thebrotha.wordpress.com)

 

In fact it’s a wonder it didn’t happen much earlier if this quote, carried in the Deadline post, is representative of his attitude to the show and by all accounts it is:

“He has been vocal about his displeasure with the Community gig, telling The Huffington Post UK in an interview this fall, ‘It was a big mistake! I just sort of hung around because I have three daughters and a wife, and I figured out I might as well make some bread, every week, so I can take care of them in the way they want … The hours are hideous, and it’s still a sitcom on television, which is probably the lowest form of television.’”

In addition to his dislike of the show in general (odd in a way since it is one of the most creative and least formulaic shows on television at the moment; surely a dream for a comic of Chase’s talent and standing) , former showrunner Dan Harmon (which boiled over last year into a public verbal brawl) – no word on his regard for new showrunners Moses Port and David Gaurascio – there were also apparently tensions with the rest of the Joel McHale-led cast culminating in an on set tirade last month.

Fortunately for the show, most episodes for season 4, including the finale, have been filmed, and for the one or two that haven’t been, it should be a simply matter of a minor rewrite here or there and his absence will be easily explained.

 

(image via collider.com)

 

With season 5 still up in the air, despite fans repeating the show’s mantra “six seasons and a movie” like it has mystical powers (it does doesn’t it?), it’s impossible to say what effect Chase’s absence will have on any future seasons.

But I suspect with a cast as strong as Community‘s, and a reportedly energetic new team eager to pay appropriate homage to one of the funniest shows on television, I have every confidence the show will go on in style.

Just as soon as NBC figures out that you need to telecast the show as well as make it.

You know guys so we can, um, see it

 

 

Ryan Gosling’s not just a pretty face

This is how we are used to seeing Ryan Gosling … (image via everythingyntk.com)

 

Every actor worth his or her salt – are they even paid in salt anymore? Maybe Armani suits? Spa vouchers? Chickens? – craves credibility as a thespian.

They may have matinee idol good looks or enough charisma to start a cult (a very pretty cult at that) but while that might be enough to fill cinemas, and earn them Vogue magazine covers aplenty, it doesn’t lend them the sort of artistic recognition that boldly declares “I can act!”

So they go to extreme lengths, which often is the only way some people can see past their drop dead gorgeous looks, to showcase themselves as real actors and not just another arresting billboard model in the making.

 

… and this is how he appears in his forthcoming movie, “Only God Forgives” (image via hollywood.com)

 

We have seen it countless times.

But here are a couple of notable examples.

Charlize Theron made herself almost unrecognisable to play serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster (2003), earning herself an Academy Award for Best Actress in the process.

Noted method actor Christian Bale in almost every role he takes on, but most famously in The Machinist (2004) where he lost a substantial amount of weight to play an emaciated insomniac worker.

And now we can add Ryan Gosling to the list.

 

Living his art – Ryan Gosling looking a little the worse for wear for “Only God Forgives” (image via blogs.indiewire.com)

 

The interesting thing is he is one of those leading man-type that really didn’t need to go to these lengths to get noticed.

Never content to simply appear in a movie, and trade on his undeniably “pretty boy” looks alone, he has taken on an array of diverse and challenging roles in movies like Lars and the Real Girl, Blue Valentine and last year’s critically-acclaimed Drive.

In this case though I think it’s less a desire to get noticed than the chance to work with the director of Drive again, Nicolas Winding Refn who has apparently come up with the sort of vividly imaginative and offbeat role that Gosling couldn’t resist.

 

Ryan Gosling in 2011’s “Drive” (image via screencrush.com)

 

And apparently offbeat is an apt description for the surreal nature of Thailand-set Only God Forgives.

According to indiewire.com, Gosling described it as the “the strangest thing I’ve ever read” while Refn remarked in an interview with Empire Magazine (and reported via movies.yahoo.com, based on a report on MTV Movies) that it’s “based on real emotions, but set in a heightened reality. It’s a fairy tale.”

Yes but a very brutal, violent fairytale as this plot synopsis from movies.yahoo.com illustrates:

“The Bangkok-set thriller follows an English criminal kingpin (Gosling) who runs a Thai boxing club as a front for his family’s drug smuggling operation. He is eventually forced by his ruthless Lady MacBeth-like mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) to track down and kill the individual responsible for his brother’s recent death, who ends up being a retired police officer who calls himself The Angel of Vengeance.”

Whatever it is, it sounds amazing and the perfect vehicle for an actor who has never been afraid to push the boundaries and take on roles that demand a great deal of him.

In this case, alas, it is his very handsome face that takes the brunt.

But I suspect that with Gosling and Refn involved, and the amazingly talented composer Cliff Martinez once again providing the music after his star turn on Drive, we won’t mind so much when Only God Forgives opens in theatres in May 2013.

 

Yes in the name of art they have messed with this very handsome face … and torso and … (image via tumblr.com)