Tag Archives: off the mark

Over/Underrated 2015 – Part Ten

21 Apr

On Pointe

Gilmore Girls Revival

As a television fan, there’s nothing worse than when a show you love gets canceled too soon. Best case scenario and you’re provided with a quickly put together happy ending à la Studio 60 or Pushing Daisies. Worst case scenario and you’re simply left hanging, never to have an even hurried resolution (FlashForward, anyone?).

The ending of Gilmore Girls in 2007 was somewhere in between. When its original network, the WB, was merged with UPN to form the CW, creator/producers Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband Daniel Palladino could not come to a contract agreement with the network. Consequently, the last season of GG was executed under new showrunner David S. Rosenthal. Rosenthal did his best, but it just wasn’t the same, and the last season of GG left many fans frustrated and disappointed.

Talk of a GG movie had been floating around for years, but with varying levels of commitment and probability from its cast members. Then, in October of 2015, TVLine broke the news that a GG limited-series revival had been picked up by Netflix, and would be headed once again by Sherman-Palladino.  

Copper Boom!

Since the original announcement, exciting news and photos have been breaking almost daily, leaving fans more merry than if they’d had a whole bowl of Founders’ Day Punch. Nearly every cast member from the original series have been confirmed to appear in the revival, promising healthy doses of Stars Hollow locals (Sookie! Kirk!) and beloved “outsiders” (Paris! Doyle!) alike. If that weren’t exciting enough, the revival also hints at answers for burning questions about both Lorelai and Rory’s love lives, and promises that fans will finally hear the top secret four words that Sherman-Palladino said she intended to end the series with.

The anticipation of the revival is clouded only by the overwhelming absence of Edward Hermann (Richard Gilmore), who passed away in December of 2014. That and the fact that they couldn’t just write April Nardini off to boarding skill. Still, it’s the type of closure that fans of canceled shows can usually only dream about. Now if only it would get here sooner.


Off the Mark

“Honey I’m Good”

This particular Off the Mark entry was supposed to have been about Heroes Reborn. The fact that I gave up watching it after three episodes, and thus haven’t much to say about it, should speak volumes as to why it originally made this list. In lieu of writing about Heroes, I’ll instead rage write about the earworm of 2015, “Honey I’m Good” by Andy Grammer. (For the record, I do know that this song was originally released in November of 2014, but it didn’t take over the airwaves of U.S. radio until 2015.)

To clarify, “Honey I’m Good” has made the Off the Mark list not because it’s a “bad” song. Admittedly, it’s melody is beyond catchy, and it’s a song you can’t help but sing along to. It’s not the beat or the actual music that’s the issue. My problems with “Honey I’m Good” are strictly lyrical.

At first listen, one might be tempted to find this song to be sweet. It’s a man singing about his faithfulness to his significant other. What’s not romantic about that? When you listen to the rest of the lyrics, the answer is plenty.

Yes, the song is about a man’s desire to “remain true” to his girlfriend. But, in the same breath, he also says that if he’d give up his loyalties in a heartbeat if he had one more drink. While I understand the truth that people often make stupid decisions (like cheating) when they’re intoxicated, a truly committed adult man is not going to let one more drink lead him astray.

Furthermore, the man in question can’t stop talking about the, er, features of the temptress in the bar. Is waxing poetic about another girl’s legs and ass romantic? I think not.

And am I the only one out there wondering why the girl who’s got all of his love is sitting at home by herself while he’s out partying at the bar?

Honestly, if I were the man’s girlfriend, I’d be the one bidding him adieu. Let him take his wandering eyes and his sold-for-alcohol faithfulness and hit the road.

Again, I’ll admit that the song is quite a jam, but the lyrics should be insulting to anyone who’s ever truly been in love. If this is some sort of new-age take on monogamy, I’ll have to pass. [Honey] I’m good with the old fashioned way.


Over/Underrated 2015 – Part Nine

3 Apr

*Taps Mic* Is this thing on?

On Pointe

Jennifer Lawrence

It’s no secret that I love Jennifer Lawrence. (See 2013’s love letter here.) She’s talented, she’s hilariously personable, and she seems like an every-girl’s best friend despite her A-list celebrity status. This year, though, JLaw makes our on pointe list for a new trait: feminist.

In December of 2014, emails were leaked through the Sony hacking scandal that showed that Lawrence made less money for her role in American Hustle than her male costars. Rather than just roll over and accept this information, Lawrence wrote an open letter about pay equality for Lena Dunham’s website Lenny Letter. In the letter, she points out that qualities such as straight-forwardness and self-advocation are viewed as negatives when exuded by females, but yet these same qualities are applauded when coming from men.

Lawrence’s letter is short and to the point, but it speaks volumes to the issues that plague gender equality today. That an Academy Award-winning actress who has led two successful movie franchises still has fight for the paycheck she obviously deserves has severe implications to women everywhere who don’t have that kind of obvious bankability under their belts, but still do their jobs just as well as their male colleagues.

Since Lawrence’s letter was published, she has been praised by both male and female actors (Bradley Cooper, Emma Watson, Elizabeth Banks, and Mark Ruffalo, to name a few) for shedding light on the ongoing sexism prevalent in Hollywood. Hopefully, this light will eventually shine outward onto what is a worldwide, not just a Hollywood, issue. Someday, when people of the future look back on the factors that influenced the trend toward true gender equality, they’ll undoubtedly have Jennifer Lawrence on their list. At least I know I will.


Off the Mark

Scott Bergstrom

If you’re like most people I know, you’re probably wondering, “Who the hell is Scott Bergstrom?” Let me answer that for you: he’s a tool. A tool of epic proportions. The (perhaps) more professional answer? He’s a young-adult (YA) author. Supposedly a talented one. Bergstrom’s debut-novel The Cruelty earned him a six-figure book deal and a movie adaptation. It seemed as though the career Gods were on his side. Until he opened his mouth.

In an interview with Publishers Weekly, Bergstrom attempted to explain why he originally chose to self-publish his novel. In short, he thought his book wouldn’t be embraced by YA publishers because of the issues of morality present within his writing.

In the interview, Bergstrom said, “The morality of the book is more complicated than a lot of YA…In a lot of YA, the conflict takes place inside a walled garden, set up by outside adult forces. If you think of those stories as a metaphor for high school, they start to make a lot more sense, but that was one thing I wanted to depart from.” (Read the full interview here.)

I’m sure, that is I hope, that Bergstrom thought he was highlighting what made his work different and worth a read when compared with his YA competition. What he actually did, however, was insult an entire genre of fiction and an entire cohort of fiction writers. Furthermore, his statement carries sexist undertones as he, a male, criticizes a genre dominated by female writers and characters.

To brush salt into the wound, an excerpt from Bergstrom’s novel shows the main character herself continuing to insult the genre.

“I pull a book out of my backpack and lean against the door as the train shoots through the tunnel under the river for Queens. It’s a novel with a teenage heroine set in a dystopian future. Which novel in particular doesn’t matter because they’re all the same. Poor teenage heroine, having to go to war when all you really want is to write in your diary about how you’re in love with two different guys and can’t decide between them. These novels are cheesy, I know, and I suck them down as easily as milk.”

The only logical explanation is that Bergstrom hasn’t actually ever read any YA novels. If he had, he’d know that many of them tackle real-world issues like war and disease, which are issues as morally complicated as it gets. Even those set within the context of high school frequently address topics like mental illness, homelessness, sexuality, and gender identification, which are, again, morally complicated issues in their own right.

A Tweet from YA Books Central summarized the root issue quite nicely:

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 5.47.27 PM

Both fans and writers of YA (V.E. Schwab, Victoria Aveyard, and Ally Carter to name a few) flocked to Twitter and the internet to defend the genre using the hashtag #MorallyComplicatedYA. If you don’t have time to scroll through them all, at least check out Patrick Ness’ Tweet about eating his morally simplistic Fruit Loops. Classic.

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 5.47.41 PM

Several websites such as Buzzfeed and Bustle have also dedicated pages to recommended #MorallyComplicatedYA.

His comment about the moral complexity of YA novels aside, the description of Bergstrom’s heroine has also been read as stereotypically sexist and, in the context of the same interview, hypocritical. The Publishers Weekly interview says that “Bergstrom’s heroine is Gwendolyn Bloom, a Jewish, slightly overweight 17-year-old, who is transformed into a ‘lean warrior with hair dyed fire-engine red,’ during her mission to rescue her father, a kidnapped diplomat.” If you read this like I do, it reads something like this: “Heroine is social misfit who needs to lose weight to be successful.” How very high school.

While his success in the industry may have appeared magically overnight, his staying power is questionable. However talented a writer he may be, he’s got a lot of backpedaling and ass kissing to do if he’s going to un-piss-off an entire industry and much of womankind. At best he’s an ignorant asshole. At worst, he’s just an asshole. Either way, count me out.


Over/Underrated 2015 – Part Eight

18 Mar

So I know that we’re nearly three full months into 2016, and the need to rehash what happened last year is all but gone, but by God I will finish this blog series. I WILL.

In all seriousness, apologies for essentially neglecting this blog for a full month, but Life.

Anyway, where were we?

On Pointe

Jurassic World

If you know me, you know there’s nothing I love more than 90s pop culture. It makes sense, then, that the things I love second-best in this world are modern-day throwbacks to the 90s. This is assuming, of course, that they do my most beloved decade justice.

Enter: Jurassic World.

It was obvious from the very first trailer that Jurassic World was not created with any new-fangled intentions of reimagining the franchise. Instead, Jurassic World serves as the sequel you always wanted The Lost World and Jurassic Park III to be.

In case you spent summer of 2015 in a cave somewhere, let me fill you in on what you missed. Set 22 years after the events in Jurassic Park, Jurassic World shows a well-established and seemingly well-functioning theme park on the familiar island of Isla Nublar. This time around, there’s no inherent danger to humans interacting with dinosaurs. That’s old news. This time around, the problem is how to keep humans interested. The solution? A genetically modified dinosaur called Indominus‍ Rex. If only the scientists behind Indominus considered the fact that their enhanced dinosaur might be too smart. What happens next is thoroughly predictable, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining.

The movie is filled with perfect doses of action, humor, and suspense. There are times, sure, when the story dances dangerously on the line between creative and ridiculous. The scene that launched a thousand zookeeper memes, anyone? Still, the visual effects are on pointe, and the acting is solid. Plus, Chris Pratt. Enough said.

If all of that wasn’t enough, the film earns bonus points for not forgetting its roots. There are plenty of easter eggs and nods to the original movie to keep both film buffs and 90s nostalgics (*cough* me *cough*) happy. Who seriously could resist the flashbacks to their youth when Grey and Zach inadvertently draw attention to themselves via flashlight cellphone and find themselves protected from the most ferocious dinosaur on the island only by the glass of their transportation bubble? And that’s only one of the many references and easter eggs hidden throughout the movie. (See more examples here and here.)

There’s something to be said about a movie that doesn’t try to be something it’s not. Jurassic World won the hearts of moviegoers (and the box office) not because it revolutionized the concept of a summer blockbuster, but because it embodied all that was great about the summer blockbusters that came before it.

jurassic world


Off the Mark

Grey’s Anatomy 

Fans of Grey’s Anatomy (myself included) have been through a lot in the show’s nearly twelve seasons. We’ve seen the characters we’ve grown to love go through the emotional wringer countless times. Breakups, makeups, affairs, daddy issues, mommy issues, children issues, plane crashes, bombings, shootings, diseases, and more – the characters on Grey’s Anatomy have been through it all. Assuming, of course, that those beloved characters haven’t already been killed off or written off entirely. In fact, there were only five of the original season one main characters left employed at Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital at the start of season eleven.

Emphasis on the “were.”

You would think that after George, Sloan, Lexie, and Denny Duquette (Yes, in my mind he was a main character. No, I’m still not over it.), that we’d be used to the shock of losing the characters that are near and dear to our hearts. Even so, Grey’s is no Game of Thrones. There were certain characters that we always thought would be in it for the long haul. Sure, we knew they’d wind up at the end a darker and twistier version of their former selves, but we still thought they’d be there.

That all changed in the closing moments of season elevens’s 21st episode when Derek Shepherd (played by Patrick Dempsey), Doctor McDreamy himself, was killed in a car crash after (of course) heroically saving the lives of those involved in an unrelated car crash. Sound ridiculous? It was.

Derek’s death on Grey’s Anatomy was not just a “shocker;” it was a betrayal. Meredith and Derek had (finally) returned to happiness after two seasons of Career Standoff, and it seemed like the couple that was the backbone of the show was at long last going to experience that elusive thing called Happiness. Even worse than just feeling emotionally ripped off, was the fact that Derek’s death was a total blindside. Dempsey had signed a contract for both seasons eleven and twelve, and an actor leaving a stable television show mid-contract is nearly unheard of.

Rumors have swirled that Dempsey’s early departure from the show was a result of on-set conflicts between him and series creator/writer Shonda Rhimes. If that’s the case, all I can say is, “Seriously, Shonda? Seriously? That’s the adult way to handle a work conflict? Please.”

As if losing one of our favorite characters wasn’t bad enough, Rhimes added insult to injury by having Meredith run away for nearly a year (shown in a series of fast-forwarded vignettes), to be alone with her (surprise!) pregnancy from the one and only time that she and Derek slept together between his return from D.C. and his death. Hurray for another baby that will only appear in Meredith’s life when it’s convenient plot-wise. What a truly original concept! (Sense the sarcasm.)

So let’s pretend that Derek’s death and post-mortem offspring didn’t rip out our hearts, spit on them, shred them to bits, and then hurl Shakespearean insults at them. 2015 would still have been a disappointing year for Grey’s Anatomy. While I don’t have time to rant about the continued Arizona/Callie drama, the heartbreaking loss of April’s baby, and the arrival of one of the physicians responsible for Derek’s death to Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital, I am going to make some special time and blog space to talk about Amelia.

Amelia is a relatively new member of the Grey’s Anatomy cast. Sure, there were those couple of crossover episodes with Private Practice back in seasons seven and eight, and a recurring role on Grey’s in season ten, but Amelia wasn’t a series regular on Grey’s until season eleven. Despite this, it’s important to note that Amelia has been a presence in the Shondaverse since 2009. It’s a shame that Rhimes doesn’t give her fans more credit for knowing this, since they’ve essentially recycled Amelia’s storylines straight from the Private Practice archives. This was never more clear than in the mid-season finale when Amelia fell off the wagon. Again. For viewers only familiar with Amelia from Grey’s, this might seem like a new plot device for Amelia. (Not) Spoiler Alert – It’s not. What it is, is lazy writing.

Lazy writing wouldn’t be an unfair assessment of what Grey’s Anatomy has become in recent seasons. Grey’s seems to be proof that just because a show is on for a long time, doesn’t mean that it should be. Here’s to hoping that Rhimes doesn’t use 2016 to completely write off the show that launched her TGIT domination. Even better, here’s to hoping that she finds a way to repay Grey’s fans for all that they’ve suffered in 2015. She owes us that much.


Over/Underrated 2015 – Part Seven

2 Feb

On Pointe

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

SPOILER ALERT: This post contains mild spoilers about Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

To say that there was nothing in the entertainment universe more hyped up than Star Wars: The Force Awakens would be an accurate statement. The film was announced in late 2012, giving fans a full three years to hypothesize and theorize and fantasize about the continuation of the beloved franchise. The slow trickle of casting news, photos, and teaser trailers that essentially told audiences nothing about the overall plot of the movie only added fuel to the well-stoked fire.

Was I, too, one of those fans beyond excited to see the movie? Yes, but I couldn’t help but feel that there was no possible way the actual movie could live up to the years of excited anticipation and sky-high expectations set by fans. After all, the scene was all too familiar for Star Wars fans who waited, patiently, for 16 years between episodes VI and I only to be tortured rewarded with Jar Jar Binks.

I needn’t have worried.

The Force Awakens is the epitome of a perfect franchise sequel. The casting is great, the acting is on pointe, and the visual effects are stunning (of course). Even more important, is the story. It’s a story that looks familiar to fans – an evil regime is trying to overthrow the Republic, and, surprise!, there is a resistance – but it doesn’t feel tired. The rules of the game and the players have changed just enough to keep viewers intrigued.

And let’s talk about those players. Finn! Rey! BB8! And ok, yeah, Kylo Ren, too. Both the heroes and the villains of The Force Awakens are remarkably fresh (A Storm Trooper with feelings? Shut the fuck up!), but they fill in the empty spaces of the Star Wars family tree so naturally, it feels as though they’ve been icons forever.

Where The Force Awakens truly strikes gold, though, is with nostalgia. There is enough of the new to keep the franchise from becoming repetitive, but there are plenty of nods to the original trilogy to reward fans for their loyalty. From obvious payoffs like the return of the Millennium Falcon to more subtle gems like the voices of Yoda and Obi-Wan in Rey’s visions of The Force, there is much going on to satiate the desire for the magic of the franchise’s past. The Force Awakens somehow manages to play out as a beautiful tribute to the Star Wars universe, while at the same time paving the way for its own rightful place in iconic movie history.

The film ends on a painful punch of a cliffhanger that leaves fans desperate for December 15, 2017 to GET HERE FASTER. That gives them nearly two whole years to hypothesize and theorize and fantasize about what will come next for the franchise. This time when the moment comes for answers, though, I won’t be worried, because, finally, all is right in the Star Wars universe.  

star wars

Off the Mark

True Detective

SPOILER ALERT: This post contains plot spoilers about season two of True Detective.

It’s hard to say exactly what I hated most about season two of True Detective. But, for the sake of this blog, I’ll try.

Let’s start with the characters. There was Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell), who spent an awful lot of time fighting for custody of his son, despite the fact that he seemed perpetually embarrassed of and not really all that fond of the boy. Then there was Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn), who really did try everything he could to get on the straight and narrow before resorting back to his tooth-pulling mobster days, honest; it’s just that he loves money. Oh, and we can’t forget about Frank’s wife, Jordan (Kelly Reilly), who made this list only because she insisted on hangover-eyeliner even in her soberest moments. (Seriously, who styled that woman?) 

The worst culprit was Taylor Kitsch’s Paul Woodrugh. Woodrugh is a California Highway Patrol officer plagued by his military past. He’s also a closeted gay man. As the season plays out, Woodrugh lies to, impregnates, and proposes to his girlfriend, meanwhile sleeping with a male ex-military comrade. It’s a storyline meant to make viewers feel for Woodrugh, to see him as a tortured soul trapped by everything society tells him he should be. Except for the year was 2015, and society wasn’t telling him to be anything but honest about his true self. Woodrugh took at least 10 giant leaps backwards for LGBTQ characters, and when he was killed off in episode seven, all I felt was a whole lot of nothing.

The only even slightly tolerable character was Rachel McAdams’ Ani Bezzerides, and I only say that with a hint of I-Love-McAdams bias. Bezzerides was a character with a legitimately tragic past trying to do her best in the world. Sure she made some questionable choices along the way (sleeping with Ray, anyone?), but what anti-hero doesn’t?

Characters aside, the overall plot of season two was a mess. I couldn’t keep track of who was working for whom and because of what blackmail. Even worse than a mess? It was a boring mess. I found myself not actually caring who was working for whom and because of what blackmail. One or two moments of excitement (Ray getting shot by the man in the raven mask, the drug-induced visit to the sex party), do not an entertaining season make.

I’d like to say that at least the writing was good, but the truth is that the dialogue was shit. Poor Vince Vaughn got the worst of it, with his character spouting lines as ridiculous as, “Never do anything out of hunger. Not even eating.” It’s clear the writer’s thought they were waxing philosophical, but the lines were so ridiculous that viewers spent more time laughing at the dialogue than actually considering what the lines may have meant.

It really is a shame that season two of True Detective crashed and burned so epically, when the first season was so fabulously crafted. It was a classic case of a bar set high and over-thinking how to reach it. That being said, there are two positives to take away from what was possibly the most disappointing season of television in 2015. 

  1. It’s over.
  2. While a third season of True Detective is still a possibility, there’s nothing officially on the calendar. This gives the show’s mastermind, Nic Pizzolatto, plenty of time to ruminate on where he went wrong in season two, and hopefully turn the the ship around. After all, it’d be hard to be much worse.

true detective

Over/Underrated 2015 – Part Six

21 Jan

I’m happy to announce that the over/underrated 2015 series has reached the halfway point! That means that instead of ranting about what was over or underrated in 2015, I will now be ranting about what was on pointe and what was off the mark this past year. Enjoy!

On Pointe

Mindy Kaling

I’ve adored Mindy Kaling ever since her scene-stealing days as Kelly Kapoor on The Office. The scene where she explains to Ryan how to use Netflix? Classic. This year, though, with her show The Mindy Project making the move to Hulu, a role in the hit Pixar film Inside Out, and a new bestselling book under her belt, was clearly the Year of Mindy. So, how do I love Mindy Kaling? The ways are innumerable, but here are my top 3 from 2015.

  1. The Mindy Project
    Mindy Kaling’s role: creator, star, executive producer, writer
    I want to be Mindy Lahiri when I grow up. For one thing, she says everything I’ve ever thought (see exhibit A and exhibit B). If her spot-on commentary on life wasn’t enough of a reason to love her, she’s also a doctor and businesswoman. In short, she is smart, successful, and on top of her pop culture game, which is basically everything I aspire to be. To be clear, I do know that Mindy Lahiri and Mindy Kaling are not the same person, but it’s Kaling’s spot-on comedic timing and smart writing that make Dr. Lahiri a character that so many people can identify with. With The Mindy Project’s move to Hulu, Kaling has been able to take the show to an entirely new creative level. The dialogue is racier, the characters are crazier, and the laughs are louder. The Mindy Project was always a groundbreaking show for starring an Indian-American actress. Diversity props aside, is it worth a subscription to Hulu? Absolutely.

  2. Why Not Me?
    Mindy Kaling’s role: author
    On September 15, 2015, Kaling released her best selling collection of essays titled Why Not Me? Like her previous essay collection, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), her work in Why Not Me? is funny. Sure, we’d expect nothing less. But, her essays are also deeply relatable, touching on topics universal to women everywhere. Kaling writes with a tone that oozes honesty, and her insights into her own thought process make her even more endearing. Why Not Me? should most definitely top everyone’s to-read list in 2016. (Don’t believe me? Check out an excerpt from the book here.)

  3. Person I Want To Hang Out With
    Mindy Kaling’s role: fashion icon, social media superstar, role model
    Aside from her obvious professional prowess, Kaling has solidified herself on Twitter and Instagram as the girl that everyone wants to be. If I can’t instantly become Mindy Kaling, then I guess I’ll settle for being friends with her. And if I can’t have that, then I’ll live vicariously through photos of her wearing stunning Salvador Perez ensembles, or hanging out with friends (some of which are cast members or fellow writers on The Mindy Project) while they go ice skating, or vacation in Hawaii. Then, if I can’t do that, I’ll just longingly read her Twitter feed about watching old episodes of Sherlock, and sigh wistfully while I’m imagining that I’m watching it with her.

Whether it’s acting, producing, directing, writing, modeling, or simply being Mindy, it’s clear that there’s nothing Kaling can’t do. How do I love Mindy Kaling? I’m sorry, I’m too busy trying to craft Tweets as clever as hers to count the ways.


Off the Mark

Fiction Recycling

It’s bad enough when shitty writing somehow makes it through a publishing deal and winds up on shelves. It’s even worse when that shitty writing somehow becomes a bestseller with an even shittier movie adaptation. And worse? When that original shitty writing is revamped and redistributed to the masses, all the while disguising itself as new material.

Take, for example, E.L. James’ Grey. For those of you who may still be blissfully unaware, Grey is a retelling of Fifty Shades of Grey, told from Christian Grey’s perspective instead of from the point of view of his prospective victim submissive Ana Steele. Now I am not immediately opposed to the concept of alternating perspectives. It’s a compelling literary technique that’s wielded great narrative success for contemporary authors like Kathryn Stockett (The Help), Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), and Paula Hawkins (The Girl on the Train). But, the success of multiple perspectives hinges on the fact that each perspective needs to bring either new information/events into the fold, or a markedly different take on events that the characters have experienced together. This is where Grey fails, and fails epically.

Rather than giving fans new content, James literally rewrote every scene from Fifty Shades of Grey. There’s not a single new encounter between Christian and Ana. Even worse is that their conversations and email messages are copy/pasted straight from Fifty Shades. Ignoring the fact that the writing is heinous and Christian Grey comes across as a psychopath without Ana’s thin rationalization of their relationship, Grey is just straight up lazy writing.

James’ attempt to shamelessly keep the money train going without exerting any further work whatsoever isn’t the only example of fiction recycling to occur in 2015. In order to honor Twilight’s 10-Year Anniversary, Stephenie Meyer thought it would be a good idea to publish a companion novel to the Twilight series titled Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined. The gimic reimagining? Meyer chose to switch the genders of her characters. This time around instead of Bella, there’s Beau, and instead of Edward, there’s Edythe. Nearly every other character’s gender is changed as well. Why she chose to celebrate Twilight this way, rather than finishing the much clamored for Midnight Sun (Twilight from Edward’s perspective) is anyone’s guess.

Meyer explained the concept of Life and Death by saying it was done in an attempt to address concerns that Bella was a “damsel in distress.” As many a critic have pointed out before me, though, all Meyer succeeded in doing was showing people that she’s mastered the “find and replace” function in her word processing program. Aside from the name changes, Life and Death reads as nearly the same novel as the original Twilight. Some have argued that it’s supposed to; that the point was that Twilight would be the same story no matter the characters’ gender. I could maybe buy that if the story was exactly the same. But the changes Meyer has made (again, as critics before me have noted) have only managed to perpetrate even more traditional gender stereotypes. Beau doesn’t cry in one scene, for example, where Bella does. Meyer even admitted that she modified Beau’s scenes so that “he’s not nearly so flowery with his words and thoughts.” If that’s not sexist, then I’m a sparkly vampire.

The bottom line for both James and Meyer is that they took the easy road to quick money. To hide behind claims of giving fans what they wanted and trying to right feminist wrongs is insulting at best. Fifty Shades and Twilight fans may not always be the brightest crayons in the box, but even they know a scam when they read one.

GreyLife and Death


Over/Underrated 2014 – Part Ten

12 Jan

On Pointe



2014…also known as the year public radio went viral.

Before I really get into the meat of discussing Serial, I’d just like to point out the irony of its popularity, not because of its content (because it’s no secret that Americans are weirdly obsessed with crime stories in general, and murder stories in particular), but because of it’s delivery method. It’s a podcast. Which is essentially the modern day equivalent to tuning in to Abbott and Costello circa 1942. I just think it’s interesting that as much technology changes, some things stay the same. Serial consumed a two week period of my life. And during that time I wasn’t dying to get home to my 3D, Smell-O-Vision TV, I was dying to plug in my headphones and listen to, not watch, Sarah Koenig dissect the story of Hae, Adnan, and Jay.

But I digress.

Look at any primetime TV lineup, and it becomes instantly evident that homicide is the main source of entertainment for a lot of people, the grislier the better, and if it’s true crime, we’re all basically salivating like Pavlov’s dogs. It’s no surprise, then, that Serial became as popular as it did.

Serial tells the story of the murder of Hae Min Lee, a Baltimore-area high school student murdered in 1999, and Adnan Syed, Lee’s ex-boyfriend, who was convicted of her murder and is currently serving a life sentence in a Maryland prison.

To say that I was/currently am obsessed with Serial is an understatement. I spent every second I could in the last two weeks of 2014 listening to the podcast and reading blogs, interviews, and articles about the podcast. And I am, like the other five million weekly listeners, still no closer to cracking this case.

On it’s face, the murder of Lee isn’t particularly fascinating or interesting. There was no charismatic cult leader convincing his followers that killing people was necessary for his grand vision of the world. There was no cannibal hiding bodies in his freezer. There was only a missing girl, an ex-boyfriend, and a kid who knew more than he was letting on.

I don’t want to delve too much into detail about Serial for a couple reasons: 1) Spoilers, duh, and 2) if you haven’t listened, the details will bore or confuse you, because there are A LOT of them. But trust me. You should listen. Immediately.

Sarah Koenig does a really good job weaving together 15-year-old narratives into an enthralling story. She also does a good job fairly representing the key players, even the ones who refused to talk to her, especially the ones who claimed she “demonized” them. She even presents information in a very specific order so the audience really feels like they’re working out the case along side her. However, she inserts herself into the story a bit too much for this to be called documentary or journalism, but to be fair, she calls it storytelling.

I hoped when I started listening to Serial that by the end there would be a very clear conclusion. Either Adnan is guilty and rotting where he belongs, or he’s innocent and has been unjustly imprisoned for almost half his life

Sadly this case isn’t so cut and dry (which is what makes it so interesting), but it’s my personal opinion that, regardless of Adnan’s guilt, he has been wrongly imprisoned. There is reasonable doubt the size of Mount Everest in this case. And if the jury’s job is to convict beyond a reasonable doubt, they failed.

There is supposed to be a presumption of innocence until proven guilty in this country, but in the court of public opinion, one is guilty until proven innocent. That seems to be what happened to Adnan. And I’d like to think that beyond this macabre fascination with death, that’s why people are so invested in his story and the injustice of it all, there’s no way to know for sure what happened that fateful January day.

I am not saying Adnan is innocent. Anyone who can proselytize on his innocence or guilt is exceedingly arrogant. I’m saying I don’t think he got a fair trial, and I don’t think the prosecution proved his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Based on that, the jury shouldn’t have convicted him. You know, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

Put another way, Casey Anthony was found not guilty in 2011 of murdering her daughter Caylee, and there were mountains more of incriminating evidence against her. How about George Zimmerman found not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin, even though we know for sure it was Zimmerman who pulled the trigger, a smoking gun, so to speak, that does not exist in Adnan’s case.

What Serial does best of all is remind us that in real life, cases don’t often get the CSI treatment. They’re not always tied up in pretty, unimpeachable bows, and that’s why it’s worth listening to. This case in particular is messy, not as simple as it seems on its face, and fraught with human error, both intentional and unintentional.

I cannot even imagine how painful it was for the people involved to have Koenig dredge up this old case, and have them hash out what happened a decade-and-a-half after the fact, but that’s a small price to pay if the wrong man is sitting in prison. And Serial presents a pretty convincing argument that that could be what happened.


Off the Mark

“The Hanging Tree” Dance Remix


Before I start ranting, let me get one thing I straight. I love Jennifer Lawrence (see last year’s ode here). I think she’s a fantastic actress, and it didn’t surprise me a bit to find out that she’s not a half-bad singer either.

The scene in Mockingjay Part One when she sings “The Hanging Tree” is a poignant one. Lawrence’s character, Katniss Everdeen, sings it while staring at the remnants of what was once her home. Seeing the bombed wreckage of District 12 is what ultimately prompts Katniss to agree to become the symbol of the revolution, and her caught-on-camera singing becomes a rallying cry for rebels across Panem.

Readers of Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay novel know that the song itself has a weighty backstory. Singing in general is an emotional trigger for Katniss because it reminds her of her father. “The Hanging Tree” in particular she remembers because her mother forbade her from singing it  due to its morbid lyrics in which a hung murderer waits for his love to join him in death.

In the movie, the song is sung a beautiful a capella dirge, a haunting song for the fallen.

How, then, does a song about death sung for the dead become a dance remix?

Michael Gazzo, DJ and producer of the dance remix, told Yahoo, “My take on ‘Hanging Tree’ is much lighter, and listener friendly. Although the nature of the track is dark, I envisioned it uplifting an entire group of people to rise up. To unite.”

While it’s true that the song does become a battle cry for the people of Panem in both book and film, I am quite positive that the revolutionaries were too busy fighting to overthrow their oppressors to dance.

Dancing seems to be something plenty of Americans have time for, however, because the dance remix of “Hanging Tree” debuted at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100.

As pleased as I am to hear JLaw on the radio (like I said, I love her), as a fan of the Hunger Games series the dance remix is simply not something I can get on board with. Katniss singing “The Hanging Tree” was a spontaneous occurrence fueled by nothing but passion for all that has been and would be lost in a desperate war against the Capitol. It was a raw moment, never intended to be post-processed and overlaid with a thumping dance beat.

Somehow, I think Katniss would agree with me.

hanging tree

Over/Underrated 2014 – Part Nine

10 Jan

On Pointe

Jimmy Fallon


I think it’s pretty safe to say that if VH1 did a show called Best Year Ever, Jimmy Fallon would win 2014. Hands down.

In February he took the reigns from Jay Leno, the culmination of a very public and drawn-out late night battle that saw Conan O’Brien replace Leno, only to have Leno reinstated as Tonight Show host after O’Brien tanked it, in every sense of the word.

Leno is now retired, O’Brien is licking his wounds on TBS, and Fallon? Well, he’s pretty much the king of everything right now.

Between his epic lip synching battles with the likes of JGL and Emma Stone and using the wonders of video editing to make Brian Williams rap, Fallon has breathed new life into the Tonight Show.

Moving the show to New York helped a lot with that, too, but his set is so obviously an homage to vintage Hollywood, one gets the sense he wanted to be fresh without shaking things up too much.

And he does it all with this confident nonchalance that likely won him the job in the first place.

In his first monologue as Tonight Show host, Fallon got emotional remembering being a kid and watching Johnny Carson. He seems to understand that he’s filling some pretty big shoes but he is able to do it without succumbing to the paralyzing fear that he might not live up to some idealized version of Carsonhood.

He might not be the best interviewer, but he is the best at getting his interview subjects to engage with him in a way that’s very appealing to audiences, and we walk away from the exchange feeling like we know both of them a little better despite them never discussing anything of any real substance. And that’s all America’s obsession with Hollywood really is. To feel like we personally know our favorite celebrities.

Whether it’s “Justin Timberweek” (ok, fine, that was a Late Night bit, but the bromance between them continues) or Zac Efron and Seth Rogen dressing up as teenage girls for “Ew!”, Fallon nails it. Every time.

He’s not even a full year into his tenure as Tonight Show host, but if the run so far is indicative of what we can expect, it’s safe to say that the kid who replaces Fallon will have similar stars in their eyes on their first night.


Off the Mark

How I Met Your Mother Series Finale

Andrea & Brook 

Yes, we both felt so strongly about this topic that we both had to have our say.


There were two great rewards that came out of being a fan of the television series How I Met Your Mother. One was Neil Patrick Harris (obviously). The other was that the writers of the show treated you like one of the MacLaren’s gang.

More than any other series in television history (in our humble opinion), HIMYM embraced the concept of the running gag. Numerous references to red cowboy boots, interventions, doppelgangers, a cockamouse, a goat, and of course slap bets not only served to entertain viewers, but to invite them into Ted Mosby’s story. If you were a random, casual watcher of the show, these references would at worse confuse you, if you noticed them at all. To a loyal fan, these references served as reminders that not only did we know the punchline of the joke, but we were a part of it.

Perhaps that is why the finale of HIMYM hurt so much. For the first time in nine years, fans were blindsided by the storyline. Instead of being in on the joke, we were left feeling like outsiders.

For me, personally, the finale bothered me for other reasons as well. I’ve always been a fan of the long game when it comes to television romances. Take your Ross and Rachel or your Luke and Lorelai. Both of these classic couples got their start in the pilot episodes of their respective series. While sharing Oreos and pouring coffee may not be the clearest of indicators of romantic relationships, it was clear from the acting and scripts that these were couples that were meant to be together. They were each others’ lobsters. Sure, there were complications and relationships between those pilot moments and the Finale Ever Afters, but there was never any doubt in my mind that those couples would go the distance.

I felt the same way about Robin and Ted. Ted meets and falls in love with Robin all in the first thirty minutes of the series. I spent eight years of my life shipping them and loathing the idea of a Robin/Barney match up. All the “Aunt Robin” references in the world couldn’t shake my belief that somehow Robin and Ted would find a way, and I went into season nine of the show determined to hate The Mother (aka Tracy). After all, she wasn’t Ted’s lobster.

During the premiere of season nine, “The Locket,” I had to admit she was kind of cute. By “The Lighthouse” I could maybe see why she and Ted would be good together, and by “Gary Blauman” I had finally made peace with the fact that Ted would wind up with Tracy instead of Robin. Damn that Cristin Milioti for being so darn likable.

I would just like to point out that for all the things the showrunners got wrong in our estimation, they got a couple things right, especially pertaining to The Mother. First, just in casting Milioti as Tracy. When I first saw her asking for “One ticket to Farhampton, please,” I was less than impressed. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I made a snap judgement about her compatibility with Ted, and by extension, me, based almost solely on her physical appearance. In five words I wrote her off as, like my esteemed colleague so astutely noted, “not Ted’s lobster.” But after season nine really got rolling, I changed my mind about her. By the end of “How Your Mother Met Me” as Ted listens to, but can’t see, Tracy play the ukulele and sing “La Vie en Rose,” I hadn’t just made my peace with her, I was in love with her (not to mention a sobbing mess).

Second, I really don’t think that there has ever been a more perfect first meeting for two characters in the history of television than the one Carter Bays and Craig Thomas so beautifully created for Ted and Tracy. Their rapid fire repartee using the letters T and M beneath the yellow umbrella was pure brilliance, and indicative of how meant to be be Ted and Tracy really were.

How cheated did I feel, then, when in that last rushed hour of the series not only does Tracy’s character die, but Barney and Robin get divorced, and Ted does wind up with Robin after all. It makes one wonder, what was the point? What was the purpose of the whole series, nevermind the last season which focused only on the Barney/Robin wedding and the eventual mother-meetup?

I really think what happened here was that Bays and Thomas sort of painted themselves into a corner. I know from reading stuff about the show that the ending they ultimately used was filmed while season one was still in production, before they even knew if they were being picked up for a season two. So that awkward exchange between Ted and his kids telling him to “go for it” with Aunt Robin is so awkward because a) the footage of the kids is almost 10 years old,  b) it’s the ending they planned in case they didn’t get picked up, and would’ve been appropriate pre-spending an entire season at Robin’s and Barney’s wedding and c) almost 10 years later, it’s the ending that almost no one wanted.

It seems to me that they, too, had shipped Ted and Robin straight from the beginning. The problem with the finale was their total unwillingness to change course, and be open to the beautiful ending that just sort of happened while they were busy figuring out how to get rid of a character we had spent almost a decade dying to meet. They underestimated the gold mine they found in Milioti, and that is why the ending fell so flat for so many viewers.