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

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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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

The Best Movies of the 21st Century

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A few months ago, the BBC published a list of the “best” movies of the 21st century. While these lists are nothing if not subjective, let’s be clear: that list is wrong. Way wrong. Horribly, terribly wrong. So, why not come up with my own list? It may not have the seal of approval from the Queen’s official network, but it’s certainly better than the drivel they published. (Seriously – check out that list. It’s atrocious, or as I would say to my friend Kim, “atrosh.”) N.B. that the BBC’s list considers the 21st century as starting in 2000, so I will use that format. Read that ridiculous list and then check out mine, below, and you tell me (in the comments or on twitter or Facebook) which movies you’d actually rather (re-)watch. Without further ado, the real 100 best movies of the 21st century, presented in alphabetical order: Continue reading

Oscars 2017: Who Will (and Should) Win

The morning of Oscar nominations is one of my favorite of the entertainment year. As always, I make my choices morning-of, so as to not be too swayed by narrative. The past few years, that’s become more difficult, as Oscar punditry has become more popular (and started earlier in the year to boot.) Some of these choices are shoo-ins, some of these are dark horses, and each contains who *should* win as well. As always, feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments.

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If I had an Emmy Ballot 2016

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Emmy nominations are nearly out for the 2016 telecast, so I thought I’d make a quick post for what shows and actors I would nominate, if I were lucky enough to have a ballot. Feel free to disagree or make suggestions in the comments. Continue reading

Comedy Sequels Prove Lightning Won’t Strike Twice

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For my movie-going entertainment, nothing is better than a good comedy. And so, when announcements of sequels to my favorite funny movies are made, I get excited. I hope the key members of the original will be back, and that random throw-away lines will be expounded upon. I hope that the movie recaptures the magic of the original, and provides its own laugh. And, generally speaking, that doesn’t happen.

Recently, Nicholas Stoller, director of funny movies such as “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “The Five-Year Engagement,” and “Neighbors,” spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the art of directing a comedy sequel and crafted rules for directing a comedy sequel, rules which include “the story should be different, but the themes should be the same” and “cut out the fan service.” While I respect Mr. Stoller’s work, both “Get Him to the Greek” and “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” show that directing a comedy sequel inevitably leads to these fatal flaws. Let’s take a look. Continue reading