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Go See Mad Max: Fury Road

Every good thing you've heard about Mad Max: Fury Road is true and you need to see this one in the theatre to truly appreciate its uniquely frenetic adrenaline rush of a visual ride.  Nothing more need be said.  Just go see it.


Dear Madonna: It's Over

This was it for me.  With this photo, my decades-long and slowly eroding loyalty to "The Queen" has finally been severed.  I guess it's possible that we just grew apart, but IMHO she has gradually been losing her shit since after Confessions.  Amongst the cringe-worthy grill-wearing interviews for Rebel Heart there were still moments of lucidity and flourishes of the fun-loving pop star I once worship so fervently, but Madonna passed a point years ago of spearheading pop trends and now quite hungrily seems to chase after them.  The middle-aged fans who made her rich and famous are invisible to her.  She believes only the adoration of the masses of youth are worth courting.  And it's not working.  The resulting thirst and desperation has played out regularly on her Instagram feed, where amongst the heartwarming photos of her kids, she posts a "rebellious" street-thug as billionaire pop-star stream of photo-consciousness (see above).

Madonna has always had a surly, defensive attitude in interviews.  I know she sees the world as trying to take her on, and she stubbornly self-identifies as "edgy."  But after releasing Ray of Light to huge critical and commercial success, winning a hundred Grammys, going spiritual, becoming a mother and opening her girls' school in Malawi, her pouty, impatient "rebel" act comes off outdated and just unnecessary.  Being provocative has morphed into actively alienated her audience.  Why?  Did the Guy Ritchie divorce create the grumpy, flailing woman we now see before us (who incidentally is so insecure about her age she cannot even bring herself to refer to herself as a "woman" - she's always a "girl" in her songs) writing songs that pander so embarrassingly to the popular trends (see 'Bitch, I'm Madonna,' 'Illuminati' and 'Iconic' off the new album, or previously 'Gimme All Your Lovin' and '4 Minutes') that her remaining moments of triumph (namely the winning adult-contemporary tracks like 'Joan of Arc' and 'Ghosttown') get lost in all the agism/sexism/irrelevancy kerfuffle.

Full disclosure:  I have tickets for her Rebel Heart tour.  I bought them months ago.  So, yes, I am still going to her over-priced concert and I fully expect her to put on a hell of a show.  But I've unfollowed her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and I stopped defending her years ago.  I know she cries agism from the highest mountaintops and revels in fancying herself a victim of cruel and unfair judgment, but I kind of wish she'd use some of her own once in a while and grow up.  Who cares if she never has another number one single, or album even?  An artist's worth isn't measured by their popularity or being "The Queen" forever.  What happened to aging with dignity or graciously passing on the hot seat to younger artists?  I'm not saying she should ever stop or go away.  Just make good music.  Don't try so hard to be relevant and COOL WITH THE KIDS. Quit phoning stuff in (like the 'Living For Love' remixes, which sound dated and generic).  Quit defaulting to "sexy" in everything you do.  Quit chasing glory and enjoy your success.  You're better than this.  You're bigger than all this.  You already won.  You don't have to try so hard anymore.  Let's hug it out. 


Pearl Has More Twitter Followers Than Any Other Season 7 Queen Because ... ?

For years I've been calling RuPaul's Drag Race the most entertaining show on television.  Because it is.  Season after season the show has introduced us to scores of dynamic, talented and hilarious queens who have all gone on to varying degrees of success in an ever-growing international drag celebrity scene.  But low on talent and high on beauty, this season's queens have continually struggled in challenges.  If charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent are truly the benchmarks, this year's group kinda sucks.  And it's disappointing to watch.

But ... it is a reality show.  And part of the appeal is that you get to know the cast better as the season progresses.  You keep watching and by default you begin to form attachments, hoping for unexpected moments when someone mediocre has a huge, triumphant, glorious victory.  Those moments are also non-existent.  Other than Ginger Minj, and other than in the looks department, these queens are simply not at the level of polish or performance that contestants should be at by this stage of the game and having grown up watching RPDR.  That's why it's been so frustrating when the usually level-headed choices RuPaul makes at the judge's table take a dive into head-scratching territory.  

For example, can someone convincingly explain to me why Pearl is still here, please.  Is Ru changing tack and simply keeping Pearl around based on looks alone?  Pearl is, after all, one of the better looking competitors, in and out of drag, that the show has seen.  But why, when Trixie Mattel and Miss Fame both clearly outperformed her in the lip sync, is she still here?  She's yet to impress as an actor, singer, dancer or seamstress.  And why does she have the biggest following on Twitter [*see chart below]?  The only explanation I can muster is that his "eyes at half mast," "above it all" demeanor has everyone cowtowing to their baser instincts, including Ru.  After all, doesn't the bullied kid inside each of us secretly want to be friends with the bitch who acts like they're cooler than everyone else?  It's basic high-school, Mean Girls logic.  Too bad.  I had thought Drag Race was better than that.

* S7 Contestants by Twitter Followers (rough figures):

  • Pearl - 36,900
  • Katya - 30,300
  • Miss Fame - 28,800
  • Trixie Mattel - 28,000
  • Violet Chachki - 24,500
  • Max - 20,100
  • Ginger Minj - 18,700
  • Tempest DuJour - 9,300
  • Jaidynn Diore Fierce - 9,200
  • Mrs. Kasha Davis - 9,100
  • Kandy Ho - 7,900
  • Kennedy Davenport - 7,600
  • Sasha Belle - 6,700
  • Jasmine Masters - 6,200


Matthew Weiner Has the Greatest Judgment in the World ... Except When It Comes to His Own Kid

The last and final half-season of the brilliant Mad Men is almost at its end.  The show continues to be, IMHO, the most intelligently nuanced, emotionally detailed and beautifully visualized show in the history of television.  Its creator and showrunner Matthew Weiner is a genius of good taste and sophisticated storytelling, not to mention the inspired choices in his cast.  That is with one bumpy exception:  the casting of his own son, Marten Holden Weiner, as recurring character Glen Bishop.

While I'm sure Marten is a nice young man and I have no desire to be unnecessarily cruel to a boy who has grown up over the course of Mad Men's run, if ever there were a more jarring, more embarrassingly blatant instance of nepotism, I cannot recall it.  It's not just that the poor guy looks out of place among the charismatic and striking cast of Mad Men; it's also that his self-awareness and emotive capabilities seem almost non-existent.  Defenders to his critics cite the fact that his character, Glen, is meant to be awkward and strange, but even that attempt to explain his dead-eyed, monotone delivery just doesn't hold up, especially when he's acting alongside the captivating Kiernan Shipka.

My unbridled enthusiasm for these final seven episodes of my favourite show came with two small, hopeful conditions:  the return of the magnetic James Wolk as Bob Benson (or alternatively a surprise reappearance of Bryan Batt's Salvatore), neither of which has happened, and please, more than anything I had hoped Weiner would not bring back his son as Glen.  It seemed already a challenging stretch to Weiner's credibility to keep conveniently inserting this character again and again over the course of Mad Men's long-term narrative, and this final appearance did nothing to alleviate that challenge.  Glen's appearances have been the only time in its seven-year run that I was brought out of my viewing experience, and jarringly so.  Nice try, Weiner, but just because he's your son doesn't mean he's Mad Men acting material. 


Ghost Town

Dear Madonna:  THIS is how you do Ghost Town.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Trailer)

Welp, there's a ton of shit to talk about, so it's time to start the blog up again.  Why not get going with a bang?  Here it is, the new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Careful, nerds.  You might want to be alone when you view this. 


Is It Over Finally?

Welp, I gave American Horror Story: Freak Show about five or six episodes this season before I forgot to keep watching.  Apparently the finale aired this week.  Apparently this was the biggest messiest most-disjointed season yet.  I am officially giving myself permission not to care about this show anymore.  You should too.


Nobody's Watching The Comeback

My boyfriend and I have been watching The Comeback every Sunday night since it -- ahem -- came back.  But it turns out we may be the only ones who are.  Ratings are pretty dismal, which is just a gawddam shame because the show is really brilliant.  I mean, I will be the first to admit it's sometimes difficult to watch, but that's kind of the point and what makes it so fantastic.  

It's hard not to be disappointed, but I can't say I'm surprised.  The Comeback is challenging us with the sad, shallow truth of a popular culture that we fuel with our lazy, couch-potato tastes.  Nobody wants to see the reality behind reality, especially when you're being asked to laugh at the very ridiculousness of what you secretly enjoy.  In a way, the show is pointing a finger back at the viewer:  you did this, you make this shit important by the choices you make when you spend your money and change your channels.  People aren't self-aware enough or secure enough to admit their part and still find it funny. 


If You Haven't Read Gone Girl, You May As Well Get It Over With

I started reading #GoneGirl three days ago, and now it's all I can think about. I haven't been getting a lot of sleep these past couple nights. My boyfriend was nagging me to hurry up and read it so we could go see the movie (which hello, David Fincher!).  What is that nagging reflex I have that causes me sometimes to casually ignore that which is almost universally heaped with praise and garnering massive attention?  It's some sort of childish ego thing, always needing to be early to the party, not wanting to be a sheep following along at the last minute going, oh, yah, it IS really good.  Anyway, it doesn't matter, you just gotta read it and get it over with.  Do it quickly, like a bandaid.  Ignoring is not an option.  


If You Don't Watch Veep, They'll Stop Making Good Shows

If you've ever complained about the formulaic spoon-fed comedies found on network television like The Big Bang Theory or Mom, if you've ever mourned the premature cancellation of intelligent, sophisticated entertainment like The Comeback or Arrested Development, and especially if you appreciate the cynical yet playful tone of workplace humour portrayed in The Office or 30 Rock, you should be absolutely ashamed of yourself if you're not currently watching Veep.   

And you know what?  I get it.  Veep is one of those critically acclaimed, award-worthy shows that you tell yourself you really should watch, but for some reason doing so feels like a chore.  Everybody has a list of shows they feel remotely guilty for not watching, shows they know they would probably love, if they could only get into them.  I'm talking about show like Nurse JackieGetting On or Web Therapy.  You may have even watched a few episodes and thought, ugh, I'm too tired to think, let's just find a Friends rerun. Well, I'm here to encourage -- no, "insist" is a better word -- you to make the effort and commit to this show because, man, you will not be sorry.  Veep is hilarious, and each new season is better than the last.  And if we don't watch the really good high-brow stuff, then have no right to whine about all the crap out there.


Hang On Just a Minute

We all spent a decade making fun of Renee Zellweger for having a puffy face.  We do not now get to step back and act surprised that she's had plastic surgery to change it.  Come on, people, this face is on you.  Anyway, she looks fine.


Season 5, Episode 1: Not Bad

Looks like we've thankfully sidelined another potentially tedious half a season's worth of our crew held up at Terminus by a bunch of predictably one-dimensional bad-guy cannibals.  I will reluctantly admit the season 5 opener seems to have learned from its critics.  They don't go overboard on the shootouts, there's a good balance between action, gore and drama, and just when you think the characters are resorting to inexplicably stupid choices in order to force the narrative, the show flips it around and has it make sense.  We even had one or two antagonists who showed a tiny flicker of humanity for a change (which in a world with an ever-lowing humanity bar should be the norm). Overall a tad too tidy and convenient to have everybody (except Beth) reunited and on the road with an open slate for storytelling all in the first episode, but I'm not going to continue criticizing a show that keeps pushing itself to new and different heights ... or lows, depending on how you feel about death, torture and extremely poor hygiene. 

Gay Daryl Clues:  Does not kiss Carol upon long-awaited and extremely emotional reunion.


Welcome to the Freak Show

As usual American Horror Story looks gorgeous, is weird and disturbing with fascinating, fun, campy ideas and great performances (not to mention cutting edge special effects).  But as usual, it's just not scary.  Ryan Murphy doesn't seem to understand the difference between "disturbing" and "scary."  There's no suspense being created here.  We see the murderous clown doing his thing, and he's creepy and violent and upsetting, but instead we should be wondering about his existence, building up to it.  What we don't know about him (or the entire Freak Show for that matter) should be far more scary than what we do know.  It feels like there is a real missed opportunity to hint at an underbelly of darkness that isn't worn so brazenly on its sleeve (see Carnivale or Twin Peaks).

I'll keep watching for the fun and the entertainment value of this level of creativity and art in production, especially visually, but I have exactly zero faith in AHS's ability to sustain any kind of a narrative arc over the entire season.  The show always veers off into "making it up as we go along" territory and never feels like it has a solidly planned storytelling path.  That is the series' biggest failing.  So many great ideas mined and drained almost instantaneously for their visual payoff, without proper thought being expended towards how the overarching story brings all those ideas together into a worthwhile conclusion.  Also, was I the only person not entirely but somewhat confused as to why they performed for the first time for only two audience members and referred to it as a "sold-out show"?


The Pinnacle of Visual Cinematic Evolution

It dawned on me as I watched the kinetic thrill-ride that is Guardians of the Galaxy, putting all opinions of creative worthiness aside, that we truly have reached a point in cinematic evolution where we can believably recreate absolutely anything on film.  Movies have now achieved the same limitless pinnacle as comic books in terms of having zero restrictions creatively on what can be visualized on the screen.  

The height of technical precision required to seamlessly splice live action filmmaking, advanced makeup artistry and physical stunts with artificially created and infinitely imagined motion pictures is on proud and preening display in this movie.  For those of us who have been reading comic books for decades, it is an exhilarating prospect to realize.  Comic books have always been a wealth of storyboards just waiting to be exploited by Hollywood, and Guardians of the Galaxy's flawless visual execution rests firmly on the past trials and errors of all comic-book movies that have come before it.

As for narrative and character-driven content, Guardians succeeds quite spectacularly as an unqualified summer popcorn blockbuster.  The tone is light, the humour is plentiful and the characters deftly push their one-dimensional boundaries in the right direction.  The story submits itself respectfully to the action, and so it should, because the action is nonstop and mind-blowing.  To sit through such a fully realized artificial joyride of this magnitude without having your suspension of disbelief being challenged even once is something for director James Gunn and the entire technical and creative production team behind this film to be extremely proud of.  I don't do this often, but I will probably go see it again.


Unsentimental & Abrasive To Her Last Breath

It's been over 24 hours and I'm still trying to process why the death of comedy legend Joan Rivers has left me feeling so sad.  At 13 years old while babysitting I stumbled upon her album "What Becomes a Semi-Legend Most?"  Hearing a brazen, intelligent woman standing on a stage in front of hundreds of people loudly cracking jokes about her own ugliness without a hint of shame or guilt was inspiring to me as a still-closeted tentative gay boy filled with self loathing.  I will always be drawn to the most sarcastic, fearless and boldest person in the room no matter how offensive they are, as long as they are funny.  And that was Joan Rivers.

Her detractors have a point, though.  She did sometimes cross the line of good taste and often waded into the waters of nastiness.  But it was always in search of a laugh, never coming from a place of true meanness.  Sure, you can pick out a handful of poorly chosen zingers that fell flat and made her look horrible, especially in the later years of her career, but her schtick was far more self-deprecating than it was about attacking others.  Nothing was off limits, which is what I found so freeing about her, and she always put herself at the top of the hit list.

If there was ever a perfect poster child for the healing power of laughing in the face of adversity, she was it.  Having had major career setbacks and personal tragedies, Joan understood more than anyone the idea that by laughing at our most painful truths, we chip away at their ability to hurt us.  For this reason, I found her liberating, empowering, and holy shit she could deliver a one-liner like nobody else in the business.  She was really, really funny, and I felt safer in the world knowing she was out there, a huge LGBT ally and trailblazer for women, saying what no one else would say even though everyone was thinking it.  RIP Joan Rivers.  You are irreplaceable.  


Penny Dreadful

Penny Dreadful is the most exciting new series to come out this year.  A film-quality period piece that combines 19th Century fictional literary characters and drips with Gothic visual storytelling, it feels like a series ahead of its time yet steeped in history.  It's the Mad Men of horror series.  This is what American Horror Story was aiming for, but somehow got sidetracked by extraneous campy ideas and a pretty much non-existent narrative structure.

PD doesn't make that mistake.  The show's pacing is beautifully deliberate, and the entire project just feels like the work of extremely talented, intelligent and creative individuals.  Eva Green has been balancing on the edge of mainstream mega-success for a while, and her attachment to a project as sophisticated as this, even on the small screen, lifts her profile as well as that of the show itself.  Josh Hartnett pulverises my impression of him as a cookie-cutter leading man.  And if, like me, you'd never heard of Harry Treadaway before, he's reason enough to watch right there.

Her Will Touch You

The delightful thing about Her is the gentle deceitfulness of its premise.  You sit up and pay attention because it's a story that takes places in an Instagram-filtered future with gorgeous urban architecture, beautifully decorated apartments and where everything, including the artificial intelligence, is designed at the most evolved and intuitive level. 

But seamlessly, and ironically given it's a movie about falling in love with a computer, it grows into an eye-opening and enlightening study of the complicated emotions that exist inside human relationships.  This is an intimate and heartbreaking film that will cause you to reflect on your own loves and may even leave you feeling reflective about the way you say goodbye to someone who has moved on.  


Mindy Is Funny But Annoying

It's not that The Mindy Project isn't funny.  Because it is.  And Mindy Kaling, it's titular actor, creator, writer and producer has a sharp, snappy sarcasm that lends itself well to rapid-fire one-liners.  And it's not that the show's characters are one-dimensional and its situations are far-fetched.  Because they are.  No, it's not those things.

The biggest problem with this otherwise plucky, entertaining show is that the character of Mindy herself is just annoying as hell.  We all know people like this in real life.  At first they seem sympathetic.  They are clever, attractive and successful.  But the reason they are single has little to do with society's unattainable standards of beauty and more to do with their desperate, entitled mission to find a perfect prince to save them.

Mindy makes every situation about her.  And yes, I realize she is the main character on a show written from her perspective.  Almost every episode culminates in some sort of immature temper tantrum directly stemming from Mindy's overbearing "why doesn't somebody super hot and perfect LOVE me?"  She is confusing "romance" with "Cinderella syndrome."  To turn this ship around, Mindy's project needs to be about learning to love herself.