Things that still bother me…Benjamin Button edition

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As my friend Tessa can tell you, things that bothered me, say, ten years ago often still bother me today. One of these things is a non-crucial plot point from the movie “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Spoilers for people who haven’t seen a nearly ten-year-old movie to follow.

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New York Movies

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This past weekend, my family and I were discussing this article whose central conceit is the following question: “But what if you wanted to just pick one: a single movie [set in/about New York] that the whole city could watch together?” And let me tell you, the movies that they chose to answer that question are not the ones that I’d suggest. First, the Times’ suggestions, and then a much better list after the jump. For a Martin Scorsese movie, they chose “New York, New York” – a fine film, sure, but not anywhere as good or capturing of a New York spirit as “Mean Streets,” “Wolf of Wall Street,” “Gangs of New York,” or “The Age of Innocence.” The critics also chose “Crooklyn,” a fine Spike Lee movie, sure, but is it even as good a statement of New York as “Do the Right Thing” or the best post-9/11 movie, 2002’s “25th Hour”? And then they nominated “Desperately Seeking Susan,” which…ok? I mean, is that a movie that, when you see it, you think, “That truly captured the spirit of New York”? And the last nominee? Ang Lee’s “The Wedding Banquet.” I’ll pause here to let you google that movie, because that’s how memorable it was for me. And now for some movies that should have made the list. Continue reading

Top 30 Challengers

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Tonight is the premiere of the thirtieth (!) season of The Challenge, nee the Real World/Road Rules Challenge. Everyone has their own opinions, of course, but in my mind, here are the top 30 players in Challenge history. Note: I’m considering how entertaining the person was, how many victories he or she has, and appearing on multiple seasons is inherently valuable. For instance, someone like Carley won her only challenge (Fresh Meat II) – but does anyone really remember Carley? Continue reading

In Praise of Marisa Tomei

I recently saw “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and while a lot of the movie is very good, my first comment walking out of the theater was, “Man, I wish Aunt May [Marisa Tomei] was in it more.” And it’s not the only time that Tomei has had a (small) part in a movie, done a lot with it, and left the audience wanting more. In fact, let’s take a look at her IMDB page. You may be like me and forget in just how many roles she’s been really excellent.

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20 Funniest Shows….Ever

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A few weeks ago, my friend Kim and I went to see a live performance of Tituss Burgess (“Titus” from “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”). While waiting in line, Kim mentioned that one of her friends had asked why she and I would go to something like that, considering that “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” isn’t one of the 20 funniest shows ever. I don’t disagree with the unnamed critic, at least as far as rankings go (though, as long as it’s a show that I enjoy, why wouldn’t I pay to see Tituss (and Jane Krakowski) live?). But of course, it got me thinking about what shows actually are the 20 funniest ever.

A few caveats: 1) I purposefully did not count talk shows, so you won’t see shows like Late Night with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, or the Daily Show with Jon Stewart on here. 2) Shows get dinged for going on past their natural expiration date. For instance, I have “How I Met Your Mother” off of the top 20 – had it ended after, say, season 4, it easily would have sailed into my top 20. 3) This is a list about funny shows. I know there are good shows, especially on cable, that are categorized as comedies (“Transparent,” “Shameless,” etc.). These are not funny shows. They are purposefully not included. No show has ever been more liberally described as a comedy than “Girls.” Yet there’s not one laugh in any of the episodes I watched. 4) My (long) list of Honorable Mentions is beneath the Top 20, presented in alphabetical order.  5) This endeavor is wholly personal. Please feel free to disagree with me in the comments below. Without further ado, my top 20:

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The Five-Timers Club

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I love SNL. I still watch it religiously every week. Though some episodes drag, for the most part there are still two or three sketches per week that crack me up. Obscure returning characters like Gemma? Sign me up. But there’s something that’s bothered me the last few seasons: The same people hosting over and over again has resulted in a recent significant uptick into the five-timers club. Continue reading

Movies and Memories

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“Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They’re just an interpretation, they’re not a record, and they’re irrelevant if you have the facts.” – Leonard Shelby, Memento

I recently got sucked into one of those “Bourne” marathons that are on cable every so often, and I started thinking about the concept of memory as it applies to movies. My friends often tell me that I have a very good memory, with one even saying that I remember his own life better than he does. And yet somehow, I am drawn to characters who are the opposite – amnesiacs and people who have willfully twisted or deleted their own memories. I had an English teacher in high school who said that the two most important things you could give a character that you were writing were a name and a birthdate; without those, a character didn’t have an identity. Yet in a movie like “Drive,” where Ryan Gosling’s protagonist is known only as “Driver,” or “Fight Club,” where Edward Norton’s protagonist is essentially nameless (though 18-year-old spoiler alert notwithstanding, he really is Tyler Durden), the character’s lack of identity isn’t detrimental; in fact, it’s essential to how they act. If Gosling’s character were tied down in any way, he wouldn’t be able to, well, drive as well as he does. If Edward Norton’s character were more fully formed, you wouldn’t believe that he’d invent a Brad Pitt alter ego to change the world.

With that in mind, I think the three movies/franchises that best deal with a lack of memory are the aforementioned “Bourne” movies, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” and, of course, “Memento.” Continue reading