Archive | January, 2014

On Emma Elizabeth and Aunthood

19 Jan

On Wednesday, January 15th, my beautiful niece Emma Elizabeth was born. I think it goes without saying that I’m excited about her arrival, but to be completely honest, my strong emotional reaction to her birth has been one that I wasn’t expecting. It’s taken me by surprise, and I’ve spent a great deal of time over the past few days trying to determine why.

At first I thought it was maybe just the pure joy I feel for her parents. My brother-in-law and his wife have waited a long time for Emma. To see them so happy and to finally have their dream come true is incredible. I dare you to watch their tribute video and not tear up with happiness. Go on, I dare you.

As elated as I am for them, though, that doesn’t quite capture everything I’ve been feeling.

Then maybe I thought it was because of all of the adorable pink outfits she’s been wearing. It’s no secret that while I love both of my boys dearly, I still want a little girl someday. And, yes, seeing her in all her pink-clad adorableness does remind me of the daughter-shaped hole in my heart, but there’s something more than that, too.

After much contemplation, I think I’ve finally figured out what it is.

I’ve always had a naive and perhaps childish vision of what a family is. It’s a Hollywood-style of family that is always there for each other. The kind that goes to every baseball game, every school play, every everything to show support for each other. The kind that gives each other advice and babysitters and shit when it’s well-deserved. It’s what makes me love the show Parenthood so much (see my underrated entry here). When I reflect on my own childhood, it’s filled with these ideal images of family. I had cousins who were like siblings and an aunt who was like a second mother. We were loud and overbearing and we shared a fierce bond. We were entwined in each others’ lives in a way that seemed inseparable, until we weren’t. I’m told now, as an adult, that the problems were always there and that I was just too young to see them. Maybe that’s true, but it doesn’t change the fact that the picturesque family I remember was real to me in those moments.

I’ve always wanted a large family, a close family, that family, and I want it now for my own children. I want them to have cousins who are like siblings and aunts and uncles who are like second parents to them. Furthermore, I want to be that second parent to someone. As my children’s first in-state cousin (the others are in Texas, which makes smothering with love rather difficult), Emma might be the start of that. I so hope that she is the start of that.

I’m fortunate in that I love my brother-in-law and his wife as though they were my own siblings. I’m now even more fortunate to have a niece to love as well. I decided before she was even born to be the Best Aunt Ever. It will be hard because she has two aunts on her mom’s side that are going to be fighting for that title, but damn if I won’t try to clinch it. I will love and adore that little girl and you bet your ass I am going to spoil her. Rotten. To sort-of-quote my Friend Monica, “Hi Emma. I’m your aunt Andrea. I will always have gum.”



Over/Underrated 2013: Extras

14 Jan

Because we didn’t quite finish what we had to say…

On Pointe

Downton Abbey

— Brook (@brooklynhofstad)


Written 01/12/14

Tonight marks the second episode of season four for US watchers of Downton Abbey, and I, for one, couldn’t be more thrilled.

Last week’s premiere may have gotten off to a slow start, but its ratings were anything but: it drew in 10.2 million viewers, up 22 percent from last year’s premiere, according to Entertainment Weekly. The number is a record high for PBS.

I hate to knock anything put out by the criminally underrated PBS, but Mary in mourning did get old old fast. Despite that, there were a few surprises in last week’s episode that prove Downton deserves every bit of rabid fangirling (sorry, there’s no gender neutral equivalent).

From Sybbie and George’s nasty mean nanny to the newly made-over Edith who is not playing second fiddle to Mary anymore (which I love! Go Edith!), season four is off to a great start.

The Dowager Countess’ one-liners are as scathing (and brilliant) as ever. All hail Maggie Smith. Seriously.

Between her and the beautiful costumes and luxe set designs, I can *almost* overlook the gaping plot holes (i.e. If Matthew could name Mary as his heir, why couldn’t Lord Grantham? Help a sister out!) and the fact that Thomas Barrow refuses to show any signs of character development (I’d lump O’Brien in there, but she’s sadly not present).

Those things aside, I can’t wait for tonight’s episode. The only problem is that tonight is also the return of Girls, the debut of True Detective, and the Golden Globes. What’s a TV aficionado to do? Thank the seven gods for DVR!


Off the Mark

Jennifer Aniston

— Brook

Written 01/12/14

This might sound harsh, but Jennifer Aniston needs to stop making movies.

I don’t particularly enjoy change, so in a perfect world she would play Rachel Green forever and break-up with Ross every so often and make him jealous by going out with another guy.

Unfortunately the world is not perfect, as exhibited by Aniston continuing to be cast in “funny” movies despite her utter lack of comic chops.

Her girl-next-door good looks and ability to play the girl who wants to fall in love are what make her a bankable actress (sounds just like Rachel). That’s why she was great in films like Bruce AlmightyMarley & Me, and Office Space.

But with her newer films like We’re the Millers and Horrible Bosses she strays too far from what she’s so good at and doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

And we’re not even going to talk about The Good Girl.

Forbes recently named her one of the most overpaid actresses in Hollywood because her films draw in pennies on the dollar for what she is paid to star in them.

I know that she has bills to pay, but maybe she’d be better off as the next Vanna White. She doesn’t really have to say anything. She can just stand there and look pretty-maybe with a fan to blow around those admittedly gorgeous locks-which we all know that’s what she excels at anyway.

Hey, maybe Melissa McCarthy can join her.


Over/Underrated 2013: Part Ten

11 Jan


Splitting TV Seasons

— Brook (@brooklynhofstad)

In September AMC announced that the final season of Mad Men would be split in two. The first set of seven episodes will air this spring, and the final seven will air in 2015.

AMC president Charlie Collier said the following in defense of the network’s decision: “In an era where high-end content is savored and analyzed, and catch-up time is used well to drive back to live events, this decision makes sense.”

AMC made the announcement shortly after the premier of the final season of Breaking Bad (which was also split in two), which became a bonafide pop culture phenomenon, raking in over 10 million viewers (a network high) for the series finale.

Sorry, lots of parentheticals in that last sentence.

Those of us who don’t make money from the shows or networks were left rolling our eyes in disgust.

I’ve heard some people talk about this as if it’s some new fangled idea devised in the wake of the popularity of binge watching.

It’s not.

I hate to break it to you, but networks have been doing this for at least 10 years, if not longer. For example, the final season of Sex and the City was split in half, and the final season aired in 2004. The Sopranos did the same thing two years later. (HBO, you trailblazer you…)

TV has always been split into seasons, but seasons historically haven’t functioned as a conceptual tool of the audience’s experience of long running programs the way they do today (think: cliffhanger like Dexter finding Rita’s dead body in the tub). They functioned as a way to give the cast and crew a break.

The point here is that, sure, the final season of Mad Men will technically be longer by four episodes, but fans will have to wait an additional year for the curtains to close on our favorite ’60s era drunkards.

It’s not that I want that show to end, per se. It’s just that in the current climate of binge-watching (which, according to the Collier’s statement, is exactly what the networks want) the whole point is that a viewer DOES NOT HAVE TO WAIT for the next episode, or even the next season.

I understand that in order to survive the networks have to make money. So please, call a spade a spade. Stop spinning this BS about wanting to give the public a chance to effectively savor, dissect, and appreciate the “art” before making the next installment available. It’s nothing more than a ploy designed to drive sales.

Or better yet, take a page from Netflix’s playbook and just make entire seasons available all at once. I promise, we, the adoring fans from whom you’re squeezing every last dime, won’t mind a bit.



Neil Gaiman

— Andrea (@prettyandink)

Neil Gaiman has written over thirty comic books, graphic novels, picture books, books for young people and books for adults. He penned one of the most well-received episodes of Doctor Who in the franchise’s history. His work has been adapted to film, radio, the stage and television. He has won countless awards, including four Hugos, the Newbery and the Carnegie Medals. With his hands in so many proverbial pots, how is it, then, that the most common response when I mention his name is, “Who?”

While his name may not be a familiar one, his work most certainly is. Works like Coraline, Sandman, The Graveyard Book and American Gods have garnered him a devout cult following that seems willing to follow their eccentric leader anywhere.

Neil Gaiman is to the literary world what Tim Burton is to movies. Gaiman is known for creating art that is equal parts kooky, frightening, intelligent and bewitching. His work is saturated with mythology and fantasy, and then steeped in a sinister darkness that is intoxicating to consume. He manages to take our wildest fantasies, mix it with our most hideous nightmares and turn it into something dangerous in its beauty. To say he is a creative genius doesn’t quite cover it.

2013 was another year of accolades and acclaim for Gaiman. His picture book Chu’s Day has delighted toddlers and parents alike, while his Roald Dahl-esque tale Fortunately, the Milk is quickly becoming a favorite amongst those familiar with his children’s books. A dramatization of his book Neverwhere featuring James McAvoy and Benedict Cumberbatch aired on BBC radio. He also released An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer, a compilation of live performances from the tour he did with his singer/songwriter/wife. Then, of course, there was The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

A book with a deeply personal background, The Ocean at the End of the Lane weaves together everything fans love about Gaiman and manifests them in a concise 178 pages. With themes of overcoming evil, adventure, friendship and the loss of childhood innocence, Ocean is the story of a boy growing up, and it’s haunting in its tragic beauty. Written with poetic elegance, Gaiman’s words dance across the pages in the effortless and mesmerizing style his readers have come to expect. Ocean premiered at number one on The New York Times Best Seller list, and it was voted Book of the Year in the British National Book Awards. It also was the 2013 Goodreads Choice for Fantasy book.

Neil Gaiman is not just an author; he’s an artist. His imagination and ingenuity know no bounds, and to read his books is to experience the otherworldly. If you are not yet familiar with his work, right that wrong immediately. Your soul will thank you for it.


On Pointe

Benedict Cumberbatch

— Andrea

It’s hard to believe there was a significant portion of my life when I only knew Benedict Cumberbatch as “that guy who played the rapist in Atonement.” It’s also hard to believe there was a significant portion of time in my life when I only knew Benedict Cumberbatch as “that guy who was in The Other Boleyn Girl and played the rapist in Atonement.” It’s a shame because not only does he possess possibly the most delightfully British name of all time, but also because he’s one of the most talented actors of the 2000s.

If 2013 was the year that Jennifer Lawrence was Master of the Universe, it’s only because Cumberbatch was such a gentleman that he let her walk away with the title. Cumberbatch starred in five movies this year (Star Trek: Into Darkness, 12 Years a Slave, The Fifth Estate, August: Osage County, and The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug). If that wasn’t enough, he also basically broke the internet when a webisode prequel to the next season of his BBC show Sherlock aired.

I think it’s fair to say that Cumberbatch was the face of EVERYTHING in 2013, and it’s easy to see why. He’s highly blessed with both talent and charisma, and he’s got a voice that seems to command devotion. Plus, Buzzfeed called him King of the Internet, for good reason.

It may have taken me awile to learn the name Benedict Cumberbatch, but it’s one I won’t soon forget.


Over/Underrated 2013: Part Nine

9 Jan


Fifty Shades of Grey Casting

— Andrea (@prettyandink)

It’s no secret that fans of popular book series are harsh critics when it comes to the casting choices made in the movie adaptations of their beloved books. Fans of the Harry Potter, Twilight and Hunger Games series all voiced their very loud opinions, good and bad, when it came down to who would play those coveted roles. Up until recently, I thought that becoming so invested in such acting choices was an activity confined to the realm of young adult literature movie adaptations. Nope. Turns out that adults, particularly women, are just as wildly opinionated when it comes to their erotica series as well.

Speculation over who was going to play the coveted roles of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele had been an ongoing pop culture topic ever since fans found out a movie adaptation was in the works. Okay, let’s be honest; for all intents and purposes it’s really only the casting of Christian Grey that middle-aged women people were concerned about. Names like Ryan Gosling and Matt Bomer were tossed around enough times that it almost seemed certain to go to one of them. Middle-aged women The world waited with bated breath for the official casting news, but it was groans of disappointment that were let out when it was finally announced that Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam had snagged the role of Christian with Dakota Johnson to accompany him as Anastasia Steele. Fans seemed fine with Johnson’s casting, but immediately after the announcement the internet was flooded by middle-aged women fans ranting about how Hunnan didn’t fit the build, the look, the charisma of one Mr. Grey.

It seemed awfully coincidental, then, when it was announced just weeks later that Hunnam had dropped out of the project. Hunnam reportedly dropped out due to his busy Sons of Anarchy filming schedule. Yeah, sure.

Once again, fans were forced to wait to find out who would play Christian, and once again the Matt Bomer rumors started. Fans even petitioned Matt Bomer to play Christian on Yup. Because that’s a serious cause.

Throughout all the fan fervor I was so tired of hearing about the movie casting that almost anyone would do. I silently prayed please God just let them pick someone so I can be done hearing people talk about this infernal movie. Thankfully I only had to wait a couple of weeks before news that the role of Christian had once again been cast, now with Jamie Dornan snagging the role. This time around, fans were split. It’s true the man has the smoldering eyes, and have you seen him in his underwear? But being a relative unknown, fans were unsure of whether or not his acting chops could do the role justice. How they think Dornan’s portrayal could possibly be more poor in quality than the written work the character comes from is beyond me. (For more on my literary critique see last years overrated entry here.)

Personally, I’m on team Dornan. I’ve seen him act on Once Upon a Time, and I know the man can rock a pair of skivvies. I’d like to say that this is the end of the Fifty Shades of Grey fandom drama, but that would be wishful thinking. I’m no fortune teller, but with pictures from the movie set being leaked and its rating still up in the air, I’m thinking its likely this won’t be the last time Fifty Shades makes the overrated list.



Lana del Rey

— Brook (@brooklynhofstad)

I’m not hip. There. I said it. The time has come to face the music. I am getting old. That’s how I know Lana del Rey is underrated.

Here’s my test:

1. I know who the artist is.
2. I know more than one of their songs.
3. The artist is currently not enjoying Katy Perry-esque levels of fame (meaning they’re not being played every other song on every Clear Channel station).

Lana del Rey is sort of like Justin Bieber, only less douchy. Although she had already signed a record deal, she gained popularity by putting music videos on YouTube. Her first single, “Video Games,” went viral with over 20 million views.

She’s gone on to sell millions of records and she was nominated for a Grammy for her version of “Young and Beautiful” on the Great Gatsby soundtrack.

Her voice is beautiful, and it has an old-timey feel to it, which works well with her retro, Hollywood glam style. She has this smoky, mysterious aura about her that makes her seem almost Marilyn Monroe-like.

She has all the makings for A-list stardom, but she has yet to be household name.

Another thing I know for certain, since my mom has no idea who she is.

“Lana del-WHO?”


On Pointe

The Red Wedding

— Brook


Back in June people talked about the Red Wedding as nauseum. Now that a few months have passed, I think it’s fair to say that the Red Wedding was easily the most shocking television event in 2013 (Matthew Crawley’s death ain’t got nothin’ on the ruthlessness of GRRM).

From what I gather, HBO’s adaptation is as true an adaption that a fan could hope for. Having never made it through the books myself (yet!), I rely on others to tell me how great the show is in comparison.

Other popular shows like Dexter and True Blood are also novel adaptations, but both shows departed majorly from their respective source material, especially after season one.

Not GoT.

Game of Thrones producers proved they were aiming to meet and even exceed fan expectations when they didn’t shy away from the first (OF MANY) major deaths in the series: the beheading of Ned Stark.

The reason the Red Wedding from last season was so amazing was not because GRRM slaughtered many beloved characters (RIP Robb), or even that the showrunners decided to stay true to the novel and also render unemployed a great many actors. It was so brilliant because people were so surprised by it.

One thing you might not know about me is I LOVE spoilers. It drives my friends crazy, but I want to know everything before it happens. I knew the Red Wedding was coming ages in advance. But that’s only because I sought them out. Had I wanted to go along blissfully unaware, I could have. There were not trolls on the internet warning of the upcoming bloodbath (at least not that I saw).

In this day of technological ubiquity, it’s amazing that readers of the series were able to keep quiet about the event and not ruin it for everyone (unlike those Harry Potter a$$holes who made the t-shirts letting people know on which page Dumbledore died).

The Red Wedding in itself was shocking, but the most amazing thing was that watchers of the show were allowed the simple courtesy of being shocked.

redImage Credit: Lego Genre

Over/Underrated 2013: Part Eight

8 Jan


Melissa McCarthy

— Brook (@brooklynhofstad)

I’ve been avoiding writing this post because I was trying to figure out a way to critique Melissa McCarthy without mentioning her weight. I hate to say it, but I don’t think there’s another way.

The last thing I’d ever want to do is fat-shame someone. Melissa McCarthy is beautiful, and I couldn’t be more happy with Hollywood branching out and giving leading roles to women who might be considered conventionally beautiful (and sorry, JLAW DOES NOT count).

Besides Melissa McCarthy, there is another plus-sized actress making a name for herself in Hollywood: Rebel Wilson.

The difference between the two is that we the audience laugh WITH Rebel. We laugh AT Melissa.

There’s a scene in The Heat where Melissa McCarthy’s character parks her car in a very tight spot. She is too large to open the door and get out of the car, so she is forced to crawl through the window into the neighboring car, and open its door and finally exit the car. What is set up to be humorous comes across as sad because McCarthy’s size is clearly the butt of the joke.

But fat jokes can be funny…

In Pitch Perfect Wilson’s character calls herself “Fat Amy.” (Yeah, so twig bitches like yourselves don’t do it behind my back.) The two girls in the scene would’ve dubbed her that if they had been given the chance, but Amy throws their narrow-mindedness back in their faces. We laugh at Aubrey’s and Chole’s discomfort, not Amy’s “fatness.”

The reason that McCarthy’s brand of comedy so consistently falls flat while Wilson’s works is because McCarthy is the punchline; Wilson is the set-up.

However, that’s not the only problem with McCarthy’s brand of humor.

She has a tendency to overact in every scene. She continues with a bit long after it can be considered even remotely amusing, and the whole joke leaves a bad taste in the viewer’s mouth. I know a lot of her scenes are improv, and the key to improv is understanding the importance of timing. Part of that is knowing when to stop, especially after the joke has died.

It’s even worse when this schtick involves a co-star. McCarthy’s character typically antagonizes the other to the point of frustration, and they “fight.”

When I watch her movies I feel like I am watching bickering children. Instead of laughing, I want to knock some heads together just to make them shut up.

When Bridesmaids came out, I was thrilled to see that there was life after Gilmore Girls for McCarthy (not a Mike and Molly watcher, sorry). Yet each time the credits role at the end of one of her terrible movies, I’m left wanting my favorite, harebrained chef to make Lorelai a snack and convince her to work things out with Luke.



James Wolk

— Brook

James Wolk is the best actor whose name you probably don’t know.

On the last season of Mad Men, he had a recurring role as Sterling Cooper peeon and Pete Campbell’s nemesis, Bob Benson.

Bob Benson had fans captivated, and the theories began to fly. Maybe he’s a government spy. Maybe he symbolizes a young Don Draper. Or maybe he’s an investigative journalist hellbent on bringing Sterling Cooper down.

Whoever he is, he walked onto the screen in those itty bitty board shorts and walked away with all our hearts.

With leading man good looks and the ability to seamlessly become his character, Wolk is clearly just getting started.

His rise to fame hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing. His “big break” came five years ago when he starred in Front of the Class, a Hallmark movie about a teacher with Tourette’s. He went on to star in the the ill-fated Lone Star, a Fox show that was axed after only two episodes.

He also had guest roles on Showtime’s Shameless and ABC’s Happy Endings.

Now he can be seen in NBC’s The Crazy Ones, and his performance proves how much he’s grown in a relatively short amount of time.

Going up against the likes of Robin Williams, he holds his own and even steals the show occasionally.

He has the uncanny ability to up the ante for a supporting character when they might otherwise have just been forgettable.

This will serve him well as he continues to grow in popularity.

And James, if you’re reading this, please break the short-shorts out every once in a while. I mean great acting is one thing, but give the fans what they really want.


Off the Mark


— Andrea (@prettyandink)

Since first airing in 2009, FOX’s Glee has a history of taking serious issues and greatly downplaying them before wrapping them up with a tidy little bow and never speaking about them again. Remember when Blaine thought he might be bisexual? Or when Coach Beiste was being domestically abused? Or when Marley had that eating disorder? Or when Ryder was dyslexic? Neither does anybody else. Anyone who has any personal experience with these issues knows that they’re the type that don’t just go away after you sing a song about them. Often there are related struggles that last a lifetime. To excuse them after two-three episode arcs seems ignorant and callous.

What made me willing to overlook Glee‘s insensitive storytelling was the music and the cast. I fell in love with Lea Michelle’s ambitious Rachel Berry and with Cory Monteith’s self-doubting Finn Hudson. Throw in Jane Lynch, Chris Colfer and Darren Criss and I’d stick around for almost anything.

2013, however, brought the airing of some Glee episodes I find too maddening to ignore. Glee hit an all-time low with its episode entitled “Shooting Star,” which originally aired on April 11, 2013. In this episode, the glee club is forced to take cover in the choir room after gunshots are heard somewhere in the school building. The students cry and record goodbye messages to their families on their cell phones while irresponsible heroic Mr. Schuester goes out into the hallway to find a missing student. At the end of the episode, students are given the all clear. There were no injuries and no fatalities.

Who, then, was the shooter? Coach Sue Sylvester takes the blame, saying that she keeps a gun in her desk for protection and it accidentally misfired. Viewers know, however, that the “shooter” was none other than McKinley High’s handicapable Becky Jackson, a student with down syndrome. Becky had brought the gun to school in order to feel more “prepared” for the future and accidentally shot it when showing Coach Sue. Sue is fired for all of about three episodes until Becky, overcome with guilt, admits it had been her all along.

Glee is not the first television show to feature a school shooting. On One Tree Hill, for example, a school shooting was used as a platform for the characters to discuss bullying and the price paid for popularity. By comparison, the Glee school shooting was used to…Oh that’s right, it wasn’t used for any purpose whatsoever. It didn’t advance a single overarching plot point, and the couple of revelations that were made by the characters in the stress of the situation seemed disingenuous and belittling Being a teacher myself, school shootings are not something I take lightly. In the wake of Sandy Hook, the senselessness of such acts is all too prevalent, and not something I want to see acted out on television for absolutely no reason.

I wish I could say that “Shooting Star” was an isolated incidence of script writing gone wrong, but now that Cory Monteith’s death has changed the end game of Glee it’s almost as though the writers of the show have just flat out quit trying. The show has contained a serious case of Catfishing, yet another prom (how many years have these kids been in school?) and a stripping Santa Claus. If that weren’t bad enough, in a recent episode, Mr. Schue yet again decides to play friend instead of teacher and happily twerks his way down the hallway with his students in order to defend the dance craze. I have nothing against twerking, but would I do it with my students? I think not.

Glee used to be an amusing show about following one’s passions and accepting who you truly are. Now it’s just a disappointment.


Over/Underrated 2013: Part Seven

7 Jan


Coverage of Cory Monteith’s Death

— Andrea (@prettyandink)

When it was announced that Cory Monteith, the actor who portrayed Finn Hudson on the popular FOX show Glee, had been found dead in his hotel room on July 13, 2013, I was as shocked as the rest of the world. Monteith was a handsome and charismatic actor, and he was only 31 years old. A combination of heroin and alcohol took him from this world too soon, and there’s no denying that his death was a tragedy.

But, and please don’t hate me for saying this, was his death really worth the insane amount of media coverage that followed? I’m not so sure. It’s always a sad event when someone so young with so much promise dies, but Monteith was hardly the first celebrity to pass away unexpectedly due to an addiction-related death. And yes, the guy had promise, but he was hardly the stuff of legends. He wasn’t exactly raking in the Emmys.

He may not have garnered any actual Emmys, but he was the recipient of an extended in memoriam tribute at the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards this past September. And here is really where I really take issue. There were only four other celebrities who received extended tributes: Jonathan Winters, Jean Stapleton, Gary David Goldberg, and James Gandolfini. These other four tributes were leaving behind well-established legacies in Hollywood. In their time spent in the spotlight, they had changed the face of the entertainment industry. Again, please don’t hate me, but the same cannot be said of Monteith. The pilot episode of Glee aired in 2009. Before that, no one knew who Monteith was. Is four years on a creative but mediocre teen musical dramedy worth the same amount of mourning and prestige as the death of legends? I’m sorry, but the answer is no.

I’ll miss Monteith’s chracter Finn as much as the next Gleek, and the series is undoubtedly not the same without him. But, while the Emmy’s and the tabloids presented his death as the passing of an entertainment luminary, to me he’s just another man, one of hundreds, who died too soon.



Secret Acts of Celebrities

— Brook (@brooklynhofstad)

When Paul Walker died just over a month ago, we were all pretty shocked. Gone was the 90s heartthrob I first fell in love with as Lance Harbor, star quarterback of the West Caanan Coyotes in Varsity Blues. Walker went on to enjoy celebrity status in spite of a largely flawed movie career (Varsity Blues and She’s All That were clearly the high point of his career).

His bad taste in scripts does not make it any less tragic that he is gone way before his time, and the more I learn about his life, the more I am bummed about his passing. But after he died, reports started to circulate that in 2004 he purchased an engagement ring for an Iraqi war vet to give to his girlfriend.

Here it is, essentially ten years later, and we haven’t heard about this until just now. And that’s the way it should be!

This right here is a perfect example of why I have a ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY for celebrities who complain about their lives in the spotlight. They are insanely privileged brats who pull PR stunts for attention, bitch about the fact that they are followed, then leave bags of dog poop on paparazzi vehicles (I’m looking at you, Anne Hathaway).

It’s so unbelievably hypocritical, and I wrack my brains to try and understand why we glorify and idolize Kim Kardashian.

It is possible for celebrities to keep things under wraps and enjoy a private life. Beyonce recently dropped a secret album, and JK Rowling wrote another hit novel under a pseudonym.

When I see how easy they make it look, I can’t help but assume that the latest Katy Perry single that was “leaked” was leaked by non other than the ex-Russell Brand herself.



Off the Mark

Television Specials

— Andrea

Specialized television events are as much a part of my childhood as edible playdough and library books. That is to say, a large part. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was more important in my head than the turkey itself, and dang it if I didn’t wait all season for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to be on TV. These television events are staples of the holiday season. Nevermind the fact that I can now watch Rudolph on DVD anytime I feel like it, it’s just not the same. These events on television were merely pit stops on the way to the big event, and for that reason I waited with childhood joy and anticipation every single year.

Now that I’m a parent myself, I am so happy to share these TV specials with my own child. It’s a bonding experience that proves that these television classics can transcend years and still be beloved despite their lack of CGI. As with most things that are sacred to my youth, the 21st century is trying to capitalize by modernizing these things that are meant to be timeless.

Take, for example, the Muppets. I love and adore the Muppets. A Muppet Christmas Carol is one of my all-time favorite Christmas movies, and I laugh more than a full-grown adult should at their slapstick and classic humor. I even loved Jason Segel’s 2011 reincarnation The Muppets. But Lady Gaga & The Muppets Holiday Spectacular? No thank you. The Muppets are revered, and should only be tampered with by someone who truly understands their very special brand of camp. Lady Gaga is no such person. She spent most of her onscreen time with the Muppets looking uncomfortable, and the best parts of her “spectacular” were when she was absent from the screen and the Muppets were allowed to be the sole focus of the screen.

Even more painful was NBC’s The Sound of Music Live!, which aired to massive ratings on December 5, 2013. As I’ve said before, some things should just not be messed with. The Sound of Music is one of those things. No one can perfect the childish innocense of Maria quite like the incredible Julie Andrews. Don’t get me wrong. I like Carrie Underwood. I think she’s an amazing singer. But is she Maria? Uh, no. I give her and the rest of the Sound of Music Live! cast mad props for taking on something as stressful as a three-hour live performance. That takes balls. But watching them perform was like watching a high school production of something meant for The Great White Way. It was awkward and just all kinds of wrong. Even more maddening is that NBC chose to bump the Jimmy Stewart classic It’s a Wonderful Life from its scheduled slot in order to replay it. Why NBC would subject viewers to such torture twice is beyond me.

So to you, television networks, I say, “Shame!” Stop trying to replace childhood staples with newfangled notions of family “classics.” TV Specials like Lady GaGa and the Muppets Holiday Spectacular and The Sound of Music Live! are things I would prefer to forget, not remember, and certainly not experience year after year.


Over/Underrated 2013: Part Six

6 Jan


The Royal Baby (Prince George)

— Andrea (@prettyandink)

When Minnesota manages to thaw itself to a temperature reasonable enough for my students to return to school, they’ll be greeted with an assignment asking them to write a persuasive essay on who they thought should have one the Time for Kids (TFK) Person of the Year poll. One of their choices this year will be Prince George. That’s right, folks. Alongside such powerful figures as Pope Francis, Michelle Obama and and Malala Yousafzai sits a baby not yet cognizant of his own existence.

This brings up the question: does a person need to be self-aware in order to be influential? According to TFK, apparently not. The nomination article on the TFK website claims that Prince George is a “fashion icon,” already driving the sales of items like swaddling blankets and christening gowns. Ok, I could maybe buy that the little tyke is influencing the baby product market, but is that really his own doing? I think not. Credit here should go to Prince William and Kate Middleton, or whichever friend was nice enough to buy them such stylish items as a baby gift. Prince George himself is an innocent bystander when it comes to his wardrobe. When it comes to most things, really.

The media coverage leading up to the prince’s July 22, 2013 birth was extensive, to put it mildly. Tabloid magazines and talk shows couldn’t speculate enough. Was Kate at the hospital? Was she at home? Was she having contractions? Was she having William by her bedside? Was she going to take a poop that day? Ok, so maybe I made that last one up, but you get my point. It was as though no other woman in the history of our species had given birth before. Considering I was pregnant at the time, I found this to be particularly annoying. I didn’t need to turn the television on to hear about her swollen ankles. I had swollen ankles of my own, gosh darnit.

The only question I found even remotely interesting regarding Kate’s pregnancy was the question of her baby’s gender. If her child had been a girl, she would have been the first female to sit directly in the line of succession. From a female perspective, that was exciting shit.

Sadly, in my opinion, Kate did not have a girl, so all of that speculation about a female heir to the throne had been for naught. Which brings me to my next point. There are some that might argue that the young prince is an influential figure because of his role as future King of England. The operative word there is future. As of right now, both Prince Charles and Prince William have to perform their kingly duties before little Georgie even gets to glance at the throne. Giving him preemptive credit for ruling a country seems ridiculous to me. When he actually is ruler of his country, or even old enough to pick out his own duds, then we’ll talk. Until then, I’ll just be over here looking at pictures of Kate Middleton’s shoes. Now that’s a woman with influence.





The concept of a television show geared around a family is not revolutionary. After all, families have been the center of sitcoms for decades (Who’s the Boss, Roseanne, Growing Pains, Full House and Modern Family, to name a few). Where television generally fails, however, is creating a successful family-centric drama.

Maybe it’s because a “normal” American family typically has enough drama in it in real life, so there’s no point in watching it play out on television. Maybe it’s because the demographic that typically watches dramas are looking to television as a way to escape the ordinary. For whatever reason, unless your drama is about cops, doctors or lawyers, it’s likely not going to make it on network television. There are only a handful of exceptions I can think of to this TV “rule,” one of which was ABC’s Brothers and Sisters, which aired from 2006 – 2011. The other is NBC’s Parenthood.

Parenthood centers around the Braverman clan. Patriarch Zeek and his wife Camille have been blessed with four children who are now all adults with their own families. What’s unique to Parenthood is that its storylines focus on all three generations. While a multigenerational show is not necessarily unheard of, where Parenthood succeeds is in making the conflicts represented in each generation authentic ones that viewers can invest themselves in. I cared just as much about Zeek and Camille trying to adjust to being empty nesters as I did about Kristina battling breast cancer as I did about Victor trying to catch up to his grade’s reading level.

Not only are the issues tackled on Parenthood ones faced by actual parents, the resolutions to these conflicts are often as blunt and stark as the issues themselves. Parenthood doesn’t shy away from the truth that not every situation results in a happy ending. Not every relationship is destined to lead to true love. Not every endeavor started is one that will lead to triumph. Failure is just as much a part of life, and parenting, as success is, which is something that Parenthood embraces with beautifully painful honesty.

The themes presented in Parenthood are ones that are made even more relatable by its superbly talented cast. How these actors have been largely overlooked during award season since its premiere is beyond me, and I am beyond thrilled that Monica Potter has finally finally been nominated for a Golden Globe this year. Parenthood’s ensemble also includes television veterans Craig T. Nelson and Peter Krause. Of course, I couldn’t conclude this article without mentioning the reason (I admit it) I started watching the show in the first place: Lauren Graham. Hey, what can I say? Where she leads I will follow, and trust me. Parenthood is a worthwhile destination.

Parenthood - Season 4

On Pointe

Jennifer Lawrence

— Andrea

Let me be clear. When 2013 started, I didn’t think I could love Jennifer Lawrence anymore than I already did. I had already been impressed with her honest portrayal of Katniss Everdeen, for once a female heroine in a YA novel that was worth emulating (I’m glaring at you, Bella Swan). I had already been thrilled by her role as the emotionally tarnished but pure-at-heart Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook. And, I had already admired her candid comments about body image and her desire to be a healthy role model. I thought I loved her as much as any person could realistically love an actress.

But then she did this.

JLaw Fall

Followed by this.

JLaw Finger

And then I knew my love for her would be eternal.

Like a fine wine (or so people tell me; I don’t actually drink fine wine), Jennifer Lawrence just keeps getting better as her celebrity status gets bigger. The year 2013 was a banner year for Lawrence. She reprised her role as Katniss Everdeen with even more conviction than in the Hunger Games; I truly felt her desperation and unbearable weight as she found herself in the arena a second time. Once again I thought it would be impossible to love her more.

But then I saw American Hustle. There’s buzz that JLaw might score her third Oscar nomination for her role as Rosalyn, the naive wife of Christian Bale’s conman Irving, and for good reason. Lawrence plays Rosalyn to perfection. She’s a woman beautiful and easy to love despite the fact that she comes with a good dose of crazy. All she wants is to be needed, and in her efforts to assert her importance she often finds herself getting in the way. Lawrence portrays Rosalyn in such a way that we love her for her imperfections, and like her intoxicating nail polish in the movie, she’s a perfect blend of “sweet and sour.”

To me, Jennifer Lawrence can do no wrong. Buzzfeed even called her Master of the Universe in 2013. In American Hustle there’s a scene where Rosalyn sort-of-accidentally sets the microwave on fire. Lawrence looks at Bale’s character with wide and imploring eyes, telling him that really he should be grateful because the “science oven” takes all the nutrition out of his food. “Thank God for me,” she quips. Yes, Jennifer. Thank God for you.