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The 13th is Ava DuVernay’s latest film and was released through Netflix in October 2016. It’s a documentary about mass incarceration, in the United States, that disproportionately affects African-American men. DuVernay both directed and co-wrote the film, and it’s a follow-up to her Oscar nominated Best Picture biopic Selma, in which she also directed. The 13th was also nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 89th Academy Awards.

The 13th is a broad overview of a pressing American issue which was mentioned quite often during the 2016 Presidential Election. The film begins with the 13th Amendment, its subsequent abolition of slavery and covers the next 100 years including the Jim Crow laws, segregation, the Civil Rights movement, and the Black Lives Matter movement. Its central thesis is that the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provided a loophole, which reads, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”  The key words here are, “except as a punishment for crime.” Unfortunately, after the Civil War, many Black men were arrested and convicted of made-up offenses to essentially re-enslave them in the South.

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When that became an unpopular practice, the Jim Crow laws made sure that Blacks continued to be disenfranchised and second-class citizens. The progress of the Civil Rights movement and resulting desegregation was wiped away by the influx of drugs into minority and poorer neighborhoods.  This resulted in many arrests of dealers and users, once Republican President Richard Nixon cried out for a war on drugs and talked about bringing, “law and order.” This phrase is both frightening and an eerie carbon copy of what current President Donald Trump promised he’d deliver once elected. The problem became further exacerbated by Reagan’s policy of “Just Say No” and tougher sentences for crack possession over cocaine possession. This meant that 1980’s White Wall Street traders went largely unpunished, while their poorer Black counterparts got sent to Rikers Island for years for holding 10 times less.

These findings are backed up by shocking statistics that are highlighted in the film. For example, the film starts off with the fact that the United States makes up 5% of the world’s population, but holds 25% of the world’s prisoners. It explains that in 1970 there were 200,000 U.S. prisoners and in 2014 there were approximately 2,300,000.  Over 800,000 of these prisoners are African-American. In fact, a startling disparity DuVernay calls out is that 1 in 3 Black men will end up in prison at some point in their life versus 1 in 17 White men. This comparison is both heartbreaking and incomprehensible.

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DuVernay uses archival footage and 47 interviews with prominent activists, historians, pundits, and politicians like Angela Davis, Henry Louis Gates, Van Jones, and Cory Booker. She starts with disturbing images of D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation and end-caps it with haunting pictures of Treyvon Martin. The film takes a wide-angle view at a multitude of issues that have led us to the present day problem. Starting with the verbiage of the 13th Amendment itself, to reconstruction in the South, Jim Crow, segregation, Civil Rights, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, drugs, ALEC (a non-profit organization that teams up with corporations to write legislation and pass it on to Republican members of Congress), the media, the privatization of prisons, the militarization of the police, and mostly never addressed in other films – the systematic elimination of powerful African-American leaders.

 

With so many causes covered, I couldn’t help but wonder if this film would have been more effective as a limited series on Netflix.  With perhaps an hour devoted to each of the items listed above.  The interview and story of Angela Davis’ was so powerful, she deserves her own documentary too.

angela-davis

DuVernay uses music to transition between each of the issues and highlights the words of the songs. What’s fascinating is that since the Civil War, the songs all include lyrics about being locked up in chains from folk songs to rap group, Public Enemy. There were a few too many talking-head style interviews included, and the film felt like it could have been 10 minutes shorter. It seemed that a few of the interviewees’ points were shown multiple times just so the audience could hear the words, “mass incarceration” over and over again.

I didn’t personally learn many new findings having already been familiar with the unjust mass incarceration of African-Americans through my political activism.  But I felt the weight of the film and its potential to educate those with less knowledge on the matter.

It also felt strange that the audience was predominately White. I saw the film through DocuDay, an event that the International Documentary Association (IDA) runs.  They screen all the Oscar nominated documentaries on Oscar weekend. It made me wonder who is DuVernay’s intended audience?  Was she preaching to the choir at the event I attended?  Were most of the educated upper-middle class people in attendance going to go out, discuss it over dinner, and then go home and forget about it until they vote in 2018?

But I went to this specific screening for a reason. I could have watched it at home on Netflix on my sofa. However, Ava DuVernay was there for a Q&A after the film. She squeezed it in between her new film, A Wrinkle in Time, which is shooting in New Zealand, the Independent Spirit Awards, and the next day’s Oscars. I was grateful to hear from her and learn from her insights. It was moderated by Simon Kilmurry, the Executive Director of IDA. One great question  he asked DuVernay was, “What do you hope people will do after watching this film?”  She first said,”Let’s hope you do someting.”But then she added, “I’m really interested in how people change what they think about who a criminal is.”

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There were also some questions about her experience with Selma during the 87th Academy Awards and some sophisticated candor in her answer as to how she felt about that and what her expectations were for this years’ Academy Awards. Another question by Kilmurry was, “How do you see documentary film fitting into your overall body of work?”  She answered, “We have to look to the people that inspire us. And you know Spike Lee’s career really inspires me. Unfortunately there’s no Black woman that I can look to and see a career like the one I want to have. Because there are none that have been given the opportunity and the resources and the support and the amplifications to have careers where they’ve made more than four films in different formats with different ways in which their amplified…”  What’s ironic in this statement is DuVernay may not have any similar person to look to, to model her career after, but she is creating a pathway for future Black women filmmakers. She is the trailblazer.

Lastly, Netflix is offering to screen this film for free, for those that don’t have a Netflix subscription in public libraries, schools, and in gatherings of three or more people. This is excellent, and while watching the film I felt that it would be useful as a teaching tool. I went with my boyfriend and another male friend to the screening. They liked the film, and I think they learned something. And isn’t that the point?

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By Amelia Solomon

Broad City LogoSeason two of Comedy Central’s Broad City show premiered last week and to borrow an alleged phrase from Ryan Seacrest, “They killed it.”  Broad City is the brain child of former improv actors Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson.  The two met, during their time doing skits, at the Uprights Citizen Brigade Theatre, and they created a web-series about life in New York City revolving around two women in their 20’s, who both lack direction and end up in insanely humorous situations.  The web-series received a large following and positive media endorsement, which resulted in them gaining the attention of fairy godmother Amy Poehler.  Poehler teamed up with Glazer and Jacobson, as the Executive Producer, of a television comedy show based on their web-series.

Everything she touches turns to gold.

Everything she touches turns to gold.

What makes Broad City so unique is that it’s unapologetically real.  The two comics are not afraid to go there, push the envelope and show everyone that girls are just as raunchy as men.  They are the antithesis to network sitcom shows like 2 Broke Girls.  Nothing is glossy, glazed over, or too taboo to discuss.  In fact, Broad City is touted as a new kind of feminism because it lets these girls be free to act like who they really are.  Female comedians like Sarah Silverman and Amy Schumer, who has her own successful sketch comedy show on Comedy Central, may have opened the door for the Broad City creators and stars, but they have taken the female buddy comedy to the next level and redefined what a millennial woman’s world looks like.

Even women can troll Facebook to hit on guys from high school.

Even women can troll Facebook to hit on guys from high school.

After the success of season one, season two was highly anticipated, and a trailer for season two hit the internet in November 2014.  From the two-minute trailer, it was obvious that the new season would not disappoint.  There’s a danger with some shows, especially those that are so fresh and brilliant during their debut season, to fail to deliver the second time around.  But with the season two opening episode, “In Heat”, Glazer and Jacobson outdid themselves.

“In Heat” has the finest two-minute opening sequence I have seen from a comedy show in years.  Abbi and Ilana race to make a subway and, once on the train, they realize they need to get to the back, so they will be close to the exit at the next stop.  This means they have to traverse through three subway cars of insane Manhattan residents.  For those that have never lived in New York City, it might seem unrealistic that the people they see as they walk from car to car could really exist.  But I guarantee you they do.  The girls encounter two hostel loving backpackers, a guy with bad body odor, a man clipping his toe-nails, a mother cutting her son’s hair, a family of tourists eating a six-foot sub, a perverted man, a couple making out, a pregnant woman, an impromptu calypso band doing circus-freak style acrobatics, a pile of dog poop, and then a subway car full of Orthodox Jews.  Trust me, if a baby shark can end up on the New York subway, the above list is just your normal commuter fare.

Can you say awkward?

Can you say awkward?

The plot-line of “In Heat” revolves around Abbi’s quest to get an air conditioner, because it’s summer in New York City and that means it’s end of the world hot, where your clothes stick to you, you can’t breathe and smells emanate off the New York City sidewalks that you could never even imagine.  Abbi is also trying to redeem herself after a bad date with Stacey, played by the cameo loving Seth Rogen.  Because she has no AC in her apartment, the two sweat to death and then uncomfortably try to pretend they aren’t shvitzing everywhere.  After he passes out, while they are having sex, Abbi’s determined to find a way to cool her apartment and try again another night.  When she tells Ilana about her date, she admits she may have continued to have sex with Stacey for a few seconds after he passed out.  Ilana points out that she just committed date rape and that her actions are like “reverse rape culture.”

Sizzling fajitas in August is just a bad idea.

Sizzling fajitas in August is just a bad idea.

The next scene finds Abbi and Ilana in a Bed, Bath, and Beyond to buy an air conditioner.  It becomes apparent that Abbi spends too much time there, as she has a secret handshake with every employee in each department.  Anyone that’s ever gone to college or moved can attest to the fact that Bed, Bath, and Beyond is like a black hole of amazing kitchen appliances and crazy As Seen On TV products that you become brainwashed into thinking you can’t live without.  It’s okay, you don’t have to hide your lettuce spinner and ShamWow from me.

This is the single best invention after Dibs.

This is the single best invention after Dibs.

After Abbi’s newly purchased air conditioner gets stolen, she posts an ad on Craigslist looking for a free air conditioner.  They meet a man who answers their ad and it turns out he’s trying to shoot an audition tape for The Amazing Race.  This scene is a great dig at the recent popularity of GoPro cameras, as the young man is filming his audition with one mounted to a bike helmet, while moving his belongings into a U-Haul truck.  It’s a random assault at the recent deluge of GoPro posted videos on various websites and YouTube, but it works.

Hey buddy.  You look like a dipshit.

Hey buddy. You look like a dipshit.

Their last attempt to secure an air conditioner brings Abbi and Ilana back to New York University (NYU), where Ilana previously attended, and where she left her air conditioner in her old dorm room.  They pretend they are resident advisers and trick an unknowing group of freshmen college boys into giving them their air conditioner, because they find a bag of contraband weed in the wall.  Before they abscond with the air conditioner, the girls have a comatose inducing smoke session with the college students.  In a haze of sativa head, Abbi makes out with one of the boys.  He then remarks that this is awesome and he can’t wait to attend next year.  A stoned and stunned Abbi asks him how old he is and he replies 16.  That’s their cue to exit and once safely outside NYU, Abbi worries that now she’s a pedophile and combined with her earlier transgression, with Stacey, she questions if this means she’s a sex offender.

Please don't send this to the Colorado legislature.  I'm heavily invested in some pot stocks.

Please don’t send this to the Colorado legislature. I’m heavily invested in some pot stocks.

I have to admit that if a show that centered on two young men had two scenes in which one of them sort of committed date rape and then made out with a minor, there would be an outcry of indignation, even if it was a comedy.  Because these topics aren’t funny.  So it’s interesting that Glazer and Jacobson are able to touch on these subjects and not only get away with it, but create laughs while doing it.  This may be a double standard.  But isn’t that the point?  The fact that Glazer and Jacobson wrote an episode that shows “reverse rape culture” is what is so smart.  They are turning the idea of rape culture, which has been a popular topic this past year, thanks to various newsworthy events and the resulting #YesAllWomen campaign, upside down and reimagining it.  In effect, they are taking a serious subject and successfully making it humorous, which is a feat in itself.  It’s no wonder that Broad City was already renewed for a third season.

Celebrate all the way to the bank ladies.

Celebrate all the way to the bank, ladies.

By Amelia Solomon

It was a new year of hope and change, and then the biggest blunder of 2015 to date happened.  Okay, the second biggest blunder, if you count that little snafu where the United States “forgot” to send a representative to the Anti-Terrorism Unity Rally in Paris.

Maybe Biden and Kerry had post traumatic stress disorder from childhood games of Red Rover.

On the morning of Thursday, January 15th, the nominees for the 87th Academy Awards were announced.  Some of the nominations were expected, some were unexpected, and then others were given the infamous Oscar snub.  A snub by the Academy is nothing new.  In fact, it happens almost every year to someone.  For example, in 2013 both Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow did not receive Best Director nominations, even though the films they directed, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty respectively, were both nominated for Best Picture.  2014 saw Spike Jonze miss out on a Best Director nomination for Her.

My beard should make me a shoe-in.

With often only five nominees announced per category, it’s a given that not everyone will get honored.  But Hollywood doesn’t have its panties in a twist this go round for no reason.  This year was less about too many great films to choose from, leaving an unlucky person out of the running, and more about an obvious dismissal of works by African-Americans and women.

Where dreams come true. Or not.

Let’s break down the biggest offenses by category and then look at the numbers:

-The Best Picture category expanded from five nominees to 10 in 2009, in order to allow inclusion of pictures that picked up a nomination in a category like best writing, adapted screenplay, but wouldn’t have normally made it into the best overall picture.  This was also a way where smaller films, made outside the studio system, would have a chance to compete against the $100 million studio backed contenders.  So it’s surprising that this year the Academy only nominated the following eight films:  American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, and Whiplash.  What’s also interesting is that every single one of these films revolves around a male main character.  It’s true that the number of films featuring a female protagonist are dismally low, but this category should have included Gone Girl and Wild.  Both films feature female leads and both films were deserving of a best picture nomination.  Gone Girl has made $167 million and has an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  Wild has made $33 million, which is quite successful for an indie, and has a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  This isn’t about adding two films just because they had female leads.  It’s recognizing two films that have been both critically and financially successful and with two open slots, there seems no reasonable explanation for their omission.

It worked for James Franco in 127 Hours.

-The Best Director category this year includes Birdman, Boyhood, Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and The Imitation Game.  But where is Selma?  Selma has made $29 million and has a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  Its story resonates with what has been happening in Missouri and New York recently.  It’s already proven its worth in various award circles where it was nominated for a Golden Globe for best motion picture drama and best director, won the AFI Award for movie of the year, nominated for best director for the Independent Spirit Awards, and won the freedom of expression award for The National Board of Review.  It’s placement in a multitude of additional film award programs is also not a fluke.  The film, directed by Ava DuVernay, were it to have garnered a best director nomination from the Academy, would have made history.  Ms. DuVernay would have been the first African-American woman to receive a best director nomination and only the fifth woman in the history of the Academy to receive a best director nomination.  But most importantly, Ms. DuVernay didn’t deserve a nomination because of her race or sex; she deserved a nomination because her film was one of the top films of 2014.  Whereas a film like Foxcatcher, lacked fine-tuning in terms of pacing and length, which is a misstep by the director.

Yes Ms. DuVernay really is a Director.

-The Best Actor category this year includes Steve Carell for Foxcatcher, Bradley Cooper for American Sniper, Benedict Cumberbatch for The Imitation Game, Michael Keaton for Birdman, and Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything.  Again, the missing film is Selma and the missing actor is David Oyelowo.  It’s another instance where an African-American didn’t make the list.  Oyelowo has already been nominated for best actor for a Golden Globe, for best male lead for an Independent Spirit Award, and for best actor for a Critics’ Choice Movie Award all for his role as Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma.  I’d replace Carell with Oyelowo in a heartbeat.  Visionary leader simply trumps creepy guy with a prosthetic nose every time, especially when the latter was only a supporting character.

This looks familiar.

-The Best Adapted Screenplay category this year includes Jason Hall for American Sniper, Graham Moore for The Imitation Game, Paul Thomas Anderson for Inherent Vice, Anthony McCarten for The Theory of Everything,  and Damien Chazelle for Whiplash.  The biggest misses in this section were female screenwriter Gillian Flynn for Gone Girl and Nick Hornby for Wild.  Both Gone Girl and Wild were successful books, revolving around strong female characters, and were extremely successful films.  In order for this to happen, the writer who pens the adaptation must know what they’re doing.  Inherent Vice is a trippy comical farce, but it’s all over the place, lacking a clear plot and making sense only half the time.  Whiplash is about a young Jazz drummer who dreams of becoming the next Charlie Parker and his abusive college band teacher.  It’s a simple story, with lots of tension, but the locations are simple, there are few characters and it most certainly did not come derived from a novel with two points of view, told in both the present and past, or from a memoir relying heavily on flashbacks to enhance the current situations.  In other words, both Gone Girl and Wild were difficult books to adapt and that is the mark of a best adapted screenplay.

The Cool Girl Speech. Enough said.

There were many other misses in this year’s Oscar nominations, but overall the above mistakes highlight the fact that both deserving African-Americans and women were passed over.  It doesn’t matter if some films weren’t nominated because the screeners didn’t get sent out in time, which is really a reason being touted in the blogosphere.  Or maybe the reason is because 12 Years a Slave won last year, and the members of the Academy already awarded a film about African-Americans.  I certainly hope that’s not the reason, but I don’t doubt it.

Damn you, US Postal Service.

It’s also a shame when the conversation about how DuVernay and Oyelowo deserved nominations gets twisted.  Somewhere along the line it gets lost that they deserved the nomination not just to make history, and because they are African-American or a woman, but it’s because their directing, their acting, and frankly the film was that good.  The only reason race and sex comes into it is because the public is trying to understand why they weren’t commended.  The one explanation that makes sense is this is what results when the people who do the picking are mostly male and predominantly white.  But it’s important to remember that change doesn’t happen from the outside, it comes from within.  So the best thing anyone can do is not get discouraged, support these films, and go and make yours; in other words keep trying to affect change.

Remember when Congress was only white men?

 

 

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You’d have to be living under a rock to not have heard about the hackers, known as the Guardians of Peace, who infiltrated Sony Pictures’ computer network and leaked the company’s private records, including emails from the Co-Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment Amy Pascal.  Never mind that innocent employees were unlucky recipients of unwarranted privacy invasion, the biggest story of last week was how Sony Pictures botched the upcoming Steve Jobs biopic.

One can follow every blunder like a trail of bread crumbs in a chain of emails between studio boss Pascal and Producer Scott Rudin.   The two argued like nursery school children over the course of 10 months.  Sony Pictures optioned the source material for the Steve Jobs biopic in 2011, and by the end of 2014 hadn’t made any progress towards making the film.  But the most gut wrenching part of the story isn’t that Sony lost the film to Universal.  It’s the disgusting verbal attacks that Producer Rudin made against women and that the only female studio boss could lose her job.

Sony Pictures Classic 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards Party

Rudin became angry when his first pick Director for the Jobs film, David Fincher, was also desired by Angelina Jolie for her project, Cleopatra.  Rudin attacked Jolie in multiple emails and wrote, “…I have zero appetite for the indulgence of spoiled brats….”  He threatens Pascal, writing, “YOU BETTER SHUT ANGIE DOWN….”  In another, he writes, “I’m not destroying my career over a minimally talented spoiled brat….She’s a camp event and a celebrity… and the last thing anybody needs is to make a giant bomb….”

Angelina Jolie is the daughter of actor Jon Voight and she may have gotten a nepotism boost.  But so have Michael Douglas, Beau and Jeff Bridges, Sofia Coppola, Laura Dern and Kiefer Sutherland, and, just like Jolie, they have proved their worth.  Jolie has directed two features, and the unreleased Unbroken is an Oscar hopeful.  She has eight Producer credits, including Maleficent which made $241 million domestically and is the sixth highest grossing film of 2014.

jolie-and-pascal

Rudin further proves he takes unnecessary digs at women by offending Megan Ellison, the founder of Annapurna Pictures.  When she expressed interest in co-financing the Jobs biopic, Rudin called her a “bipolar 28 year old lunatic” and wrote to Pascal, “… if she took her meds, there’s some vague chance you can start this movie….”  Rudin must have forgotten that Ellison’s company has produced box-office and critical successes like Foxcatcher, American Hustle, Her, and Zero Dark Thirty.  Not to mention, I’m sure he’ll be receiving a complaint letter from the National Institute of Mental Health.

The release of these hacked emails is unfortunate and proves that a producer has no problem name-calling and insinuating that certain women lack talent.  It’s also a shame that the only female studio boss has messed up in a very public manner, because she is looked upon as a pioneer.  Although Pascal has admitted to her blunders in recent days, she may still lose her job.  This entire fiasco highlights the larger problem, which is if there was parity in the entertainment industry, her mistake wouldn’t seem so crushing to the argument that there should be more women in power positions in Hollywood.  The last thing women want is for people to use this debacle as a reason against having women in executive roles.  I hope that people will recognize that Rudin and Pascal are not the sole representation of their gender.

sony

Girls“Together”, the tenth episode of Girls Season Two and the season finale, took a surprising twist that evoked emotion and left the audience satisfied.  For the first time, Lena Dunham gave the viewers their happy ending.  The way she accomplished this continues to show how fearless and brilliant she is.  She did it in the vein of David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, where boy gets girl in the end, but a sophisticated audience forgives the happy ending, because it’s done so gracefully.

The episode opens on Shoshanna doing something that typically takes more nerve and maturity than her character has shown in the past.  She breaks up with Ray, rather than continue to lead him on and, ultimately, cheat on him.  Ray is devastated, but deep down he must realize that his relationship with Shoshanna would never have worked.  With a ten-year age difference, the two are in completely different places in their lives.  Ray is also a victim of Shoshanna’s lack of experience.  Now that she has had her first relationship, she realizes she wants to explore and that there are so many other men in the world for her to meet.  In essence, Shoshanna needs to sow her oats, and Ray has become an obstacle to her being able to do so.   This scene also allowed for some evolution in Shoshanna’s character.  By ending her relationship with Ray, she has allowed herself more freedom and is less uptight.

Ray gets dumped

The next part of the episode focuses on Charlie and Marnie.  Over a late morning brunch, Marnie says that she thinks she and Charlie are now dating.  Charlie falls silent and Marnie thinks that Charlie’s lack of agreement infers he is only interested in sleeping with her.  She storms out of the restaurant and Charlie follows her.  Realizing that she has nothing left to lose, Marnie tells Charlie, “I want you. I know I’m a mess, but I want you. I want to see you every morning. I want to make you a snack every night and, eventually, I want to have your little brown babies and, eventually I want to watch you die.”  As a viewer, I found Charlie’s response to Marnie’s candor quite unexpected.  He tells her that’s all he ever wanted to hear.  He also tells her he’s always loved her and he keeps coming back because he loves her.  It’s a beautiful moment and a satisfying one.  All season Marnie needed to figure out what she truly wanted.  Once she realized that what she really needed was already right in front of her, she was able to let her guard down and be honest for once.  What resulted was a reconciliation between two people who most audience members had been rooting for all season.

Marnie and Charlie

The primary storyline of the season finale revolves around Hannah and her continuing breakdown.  Her EBook deadline looms, but she’s unable to write anything and sees her golden opportunity slipping away.  As I predicted last week, Marnie finally decides to reach out to Hannah and, when she comes to check on her, Hannah hides.  Whether it’s because she is too embarrassed for anyone to see her in her current state or because she’s still angry with Marnie is unclear.  But the result is that the reunion between Hannah and Marnie never happens and the season closes with their friendship still in jeopardy.  As a writer, Dunham needed to leave one of her storylines hanging in the balance.  Otherwise, there’d be nothing for the viewer to be anxious about in the opening of Season Three.

When Hannah begins to feel all is lost, she places a desperate, last-minute call to Jessa and tells her she needs her.  Realizing she will not hear back from Jessa, at least not anytime in the near future, she then dials Adam.  It is a moment of utter despair.  Adam picks up and they somehow end up on Apple FaceTime where he can see Hannah twitching.  Adam realizes Hannah is suffering from her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and he tells her not to move and that he’s coming.  Hannah ignores her instincts to hang up and stays on the line with Adam, watching him as he travels to her.  Then in one of the most romantic gestures I’ve seen, Adam, who is not even wearing a shirt, runs down the sidewalks of Brooklyn and down the stairs into the subway.  He finally reaches Hannah’s apartment and breaks down the door and then sweeps her into his arms.  The entire sequence, from Adam running through the streets while still looking at his phone and then busting her door down is unbelievably poetic.

Adam picks up Hannah

In an interview about her show Girls, Dunham has said that her Executive Producer, Judd Apatow, often gives her notes that read do not be afraid of emotion in your writing.  Dunham doesn’t shy away from emotion in her Season Two finale.  In fact she embraces it, and she creates a new cultural icon of the romantic gesture.  No moment like this has been shown in recent cinema or television.  It is a send up of the classic scene from the 1989 film, Say Anything, where John Cusack’s character, Lloyd Dobler, stands in the rain with a boom box over his head and plays a song for his girlfriend.  I’m not surprised that the person who creates a scene that outshines one of the 1980’s most memorable moments is Lena Dunham.  She just gave the Millennial Generation its own moment in pop culture history and cemented her place in the television medium.  It is no wonder, Girls is coming back for a third season.  Simply stated, it’s just that good.

Say Anything 2

Hannah at office“On All Fours”, the ninth episode of Girls Season Two, had a dark undertone that seemed to sweep the characters further into their destructive behaviors.  With only one episode left of the current season, it seems unlikely that any of the three remaining girls will get her act together or even fully hit rock-bottom.

Hannah continues on her downward spiral and still suffers from her latest attack of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  For the first time this season, Lena Dunham has her character, Hannah, barely speak.  What the viewer does get to witness is her sad state and her general withdrawal from her friends.  She spends the entire episode alone and struggles with a Q-tip that she lodges too far into her ear canal.  It is the best reenactment ever done of someone trying to clean their ears.  As usual, Dunham is a master of observation and she puts a trivial grooming technique into her episode and ,somehow, turns it into a metaphor for Hannah’s current emotional and mental state.  When Hannah ends up in the ER, she acts like a scared little girl, and the viewer is invited to see just how fragile and vulnerable she is, underneath all of her witty sarcasm.  On her walk home from the hospital, she conveniently (a tactic usually reserved for network sitcoms) runs into Adam.  At this point, she craves any type of human compassion and she tries to reach out to him in her own way.  Adam tells her he is out with his new girlfriend, and then leaves her on the sidewalk alone.

Hannah runs into Adam

As predicted in my review last week, Adam is actually more scarred by this run-in than Hannah.  He masks his hurt feelings by diving head first back into a bottle of Jack Daniels.  After a night of heavy drinking and dancing, he treats his girlfriend like a cheap porn star and the viewer witnesses how disturbed Adam has become.

Adam in bed

Shoshanna, Marnie, and Ray attend a party at Charlie’s new bourgeois smart phone App Company.  Shoshanna, still feeling guilty from her tryst with a doorman, tries to avoid Ray most of the night.  Ray detects that something is off and presses her to explain why she is acting so strangely.  Shoshanna admits she held hands with a doorman, and Ray seems to not care.  For a person who usually says exactly what she is thinking, this is Shoshanna’s first attempt at deceit and manipulation.  I’m expecting it to blow-up in her face in the season finale.  Her character is still quite innocent, and her indiscretion is more about being inexperienced and naive, rather than being a female player.

Marnie sings a song at the party against a new track she laid down the previous night, and completely embarrasses herself in front of Charlie and all of his coworkers.  Charlie takes her aside to tell her that her current behavior is not cute anymore.  But, apparently, he loves her anyway because the two hook up at the end of the night.  This has been teased all season and Marnie is infatuated with Charlie and his recent success.  This might be her rock-bottom, where she will finally have to figure out what she really wants.

Marnie sings at Party

The episode concludes with Hannah lying on the floor making a distressed phone call to her parents for help.  She recognizes that her current mental state is off, and she reaches out to the two people who will not judge her.  I’m expecting her to show her stronger side again in the season finale next week, because I don’t  want to see this season end with Hannah’s destruction.  Perhaps, Hannah and Marnie will spend some time together and help one another.   Although, that is the type of happy ending that typically doesn’t happen in Cable dramedies.

Hannah on phone upset

Hannah in shrink's office“It’s Back”, the eighth episode of Girls Season Two, is mostly a filler episode.  Its main purpose is to serve as a set up for the final two episodes of the season.  The title of the episode refers to the reemergence of Hannah’s obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).  The stress of writing her first eBook, compiled with her emotional distance from her best friend, Marnie, causes Hannah to complete everyday tasks eight times each.  Whether it’s opening and closing her door eight times, eating exactly eight potato chips, or just counting to eight, she exhibits odd behavior that she claims she hasn’t had since high school.

Lucky for her, her parents happen to be visiting New York when her latest psychological issues reappear.  After much prodding, they convince her to see a psychotherapist, and in typical Hannah dialogue, she convinces the shrink that this is not your average case of OCD.  Her case is special and she really is screwed up.  It’s not surprising that someone like Hannah, who often exhibits a no-holds barred attitude about life and experiences, would suffer from some kind of slight mental disturbance.  The way in which the writers deal with it is comical as usual, and brings an almost light-heartedness to it, which helps not to throw a dark and stormy cloud over the entire episode.

The B story involves Adam asking a new girl out on a blind date and meeting her for dinner.  Much to his surprise, the woman is extremely beautiful and charming.  He even smiles for the first time all season, and the audience is left to ponder if he is now truly over Hannah.  My best guess is he most likely is not, and it will take dating this new gorgeous girl to make him realize how much he loved Hannah.

Adam at AA

There is one surprise thrown into this episode and that is that Marnie (Allison Williams) can actually sing.  I’m not sure if the character is going to pursue a new career or if it was just a way for Dunham to let the world see that Williams can not only act, but also has pretty decent pipes.  Either way, it was a pleasant and unexpected treat specially gift-wrapped by Dunham.

Marnie can sing

With only two episodes left of Season Two, I am slightly disappointed that this season is coming to a close.  However, I am eagerly anticipating that the next two episodes will be the best of the bunch, because it’s at this pivotal juncture that Dunham and her writing staff need to deliver.