Archive for January, 2015

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?