“Room” deserved better than Sacha Baron Cohen


Looming over the Academy Awards, a diversity issue. The Academy nominated an all-white group of actors and directors for the second year in a row. Chris Rock, the show’s host, did a really good job framing his monologue and subsequent bits around this topic. The pre-produced sketch inserting black actors into scenes from some of the nominated films (The RevenantJoy, etc.) was hilarious, so was the Compton one.

Knowing Chris Rock would talk about this issue, I was worried about it overshadowing the performances and films actually nominated. They were nominated for good reasons, guys. Chris Rock wasn’t the problem. Some presenters took it upon themselves to push the issue forward. Do you think Kevin Hart’s spiel was scripted?

And then Sacha Baron Cohen took the stage as one of his famous characters, Ali G, to introduce Best Picture nominee Room. What he did pissed me off.

First of all, it wasn’t even supposed to happen.

Much like the character, Ali G, he brought back to the stage and the movies he’s made, his rant was dumb, rotten and awful. Trying satire, he threw shade at the diversity issue by making jokes that missed big-time, when all he had to do — all the producers asked him to do — was introduce an excellent film about something very serious and terrifying.

Maybe the producers are a little to blame, because the people they chose to introduce the Best Picture nominees seemed rather random. But, again: Cohen wasn’t supposed to do that. Go back to that Daily Mail article. They warned him.

But I don’t blame the producers. Yeah, let’s do it different next year. But some presenters gave wonderful introductions. On the red carpet pre-show, Olivia Wilde explained that she was very excited and honored to present Brooklyn as a nominee. It was a film she loved, so the Oscars were an appropriate vehicle for her to go on stage and honor it.

She did, so eloquently.

Cohen acted like he didn’t even know what Room was.

When he finally needed to introduce it, he said: “… and now here’s a movie about a room full of white people.” How disrespectful can you be? A lot of people worked very hard to make this film and, let’s go there, every other film. And yet, Cohen goes up there making jokes, being an idiot. Room deserved way, way more than that disgraceful minute.

And guess what? Everyone knows it.

Did you notice how uncomfortable Olivia Wilde was standing next to him on stage? That’s the way Cohen made me feel, and I hope you, too.

Cohen robbed a wonderful film of the acknowledgement it deserved. To the people watching the Oscars who maybe haven’t seen these films, the introductions can be important endorsements. By introducing Brooklyn, Olivia Wilde is generally saying, “You should see this movie. I loved it. You will, too.”

Thank goodness Brie Larson won Best Actress only a few minutes later.

Chris Rock had the topic under control. It only took one bonehead to ruin it, and that was my concern. Cohen is that guy at a party who steps into a storytelling late and makes a joke that takes it too far. That guy thinks he’s being funny. Cohen was tone deaf to the issue and disrespectful to a great film and the people who made it.

On summer, blogging and the fall

From-the-Editors-desk4-300x193The best advice on blogging I ever received was from a college professor, but it took me all of this summer to realize why it was so important. Because a lot happened this summer. To my readers, it didn’t look like much happened. But behind the scenes I was having a major identity crisis for no reason, swapping out WordPress themes like trading cards. I even purchased one and quickly went away from it.

This professor said, on blogging, worry about your writing, not how it looks. That my friends is why I’ve returned to the Oxygen theme. Stay for the Credits began with Oxygen and it lasted the longest. I can’t remember now why I changed it in the first place, but it wasn’t a good enough reason. So it’s back and slowly being rebuilt.

My goal this fall is to get back to focusing on the content I’m producing for my readers. I didn’t generate as much text this summer as I’d planned in my head and that’s because I often felt distracted by the appearance of my blog. This theme is too complex. This theme is too simple. I don’t know how to customize this theme properly. This. That. The other thing. Maybe one day in the future I’ll pay to have someone build me a site to my liking, but I’ve realized attaining that goal at this time is entirely far-fetched. It’s a pipe dream, and it’s not happening.

So my advice to you, if you’re a blogger, is the same as I’ve been told in the past. Don’t waste time worrying about how your blog looks. Spend time carefully considering and writing the content you’re producing. Your readers are coming for the writing anyways, and that’s what I originally set out to do. I wanted to talk about TV, movies and other stuff involving entertainment. I wanted to bring people to the site because of my writing. I didn’t want to care about its appearance.

Here’s hoping I can break up with the blog’s appearance and start writing again.

As for the fall, expect things to pick back up as usual. My shows will be back on, and without Parks and Rec there’s room to add some. I’m looking into Scream Queens and Fargo. In the spring, my Girls posts will return as usual. And I’ll be adding some kind of Game of Thrones content to the blog. My fiancé and I binged it this summer on HBO Go, and now we’re obsessed.

The plan is also to continue reviewing movies. Ideally, one review a week. Anything additional is a gift. I’d like to reopen a pathway for feature pieces, which long ago became some of my most popular posts — like “Pixar’s best directors so far” and “The essential history of Emma Watson’s path to hotness.” There, I’d like to do more.

Sorry if you were confused when you visited this blog and saw a different appearance every week. It’s just because I don’t really know what I’m doing in that side of things. It’s time to get back to doing what I do best — writing.

One big, heartfelt goodbye to Sally Draper

To say goodbye to a long-running television show is to see the characters you most adore fade away into a black screen and out of your life. For Mad Men and my attachment to it, that character is Sally Draper — in past, present and future tense — so it’s appropriate now to bid adieu to this show, which has one episode left, because, to me, it was always a Sally Draper special. “The Milk and Honey Route” was her farewell.

Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner chose a less celebratory, more judicial to slowly ease the show and its characters away, and not until Joan’s exit in “Lost Horizon” did I catch on, though I’m appreciating the technique.

(Since then, I’ve grown rather fond of what Don’s abrupt McCann exit did for Ted’s final scene, with him looking over his shoulder, cracking a peaceful smiling as Don walks out seemingly unnoticed by everybody except him.)

“The Milk and Honey Route” includes stories coming to an end for Sally, Betty and Pete. For Campbell, it’s a surprising but nice end. He’s swayed away from McCann (unbelievable, really), for a high-paying job with a private jet company in Kansas. He’s attracted to how much he’s desired, of course, but the opportunity lands him back invested in a reborn relationship with Trudy, which I actually admire.

(The city always had a stigma about it, like the place relationships go to die.)

For Sally comes a bitter end, spurned by Betty’s aggressive lung cancer. In no way is what happened fair on any level, in this instance focusing specifically on Sally. First, she must carry Henry’s burden because he can’t face it. He shows up at school unannounced to tell her the terrible news and weep at her side to be consoled when he should be the one doing that for her. She’s so rattled by it, she quickly covers her ears (not quickly enough). Such a gesture is painful to watch, especially for a character I adore so much.

Second, she must take on the responsibility of organization after Betty passes. But neither of these dramas can Sally not handle. She’s had enough familial scuffles to last a lifetime and she’s only approaching the good parts.

Her experiences through seven seasons of Mad Men, or life under a Draper or Francis roof, hardened her to her core, but that’s one of the reasons why I found Sally so appealing. She harnessed the rough-n-tough attitude of a bitter, argumentative, independent young woman of that generation. It’s what made so many of her sassy interactions with her parents and subtle retorts so on point.

And yet, as we recognize from watching her grow up, she’s taken on more traits from her mom and dad than she cares to know. Betty references it in her heart-warming letter to her, that attitude to go against the grain so to speak. That’s what Betty’s doing in refusing treatment and often what Sally did, this or that in spite of Don or Betty. She’s a gritty one, but she’s smart and intuitive. That’s why I know she’s going to be all right, even though the last we see of her is the saddening image of her crying bedside through Betty’s letter.

(Of course she’s going to open it before Betty dies, if not only for flat-out teenaged intrigue regarding what’s written but also for narrative closure on those characters’ lives.)

I’d be remiss in saying goodbye to dearest Sally not to consider where the character would be headed.

(Even though I’d certainly pay to see a spinoff divulging what Matt Weiner had in mind for her, I don’t think it’d be the strongest career choice for Kiernan Shipka, who’s warranted a terrific career after Mad Men.)

Generally, I think Sally could do whatever she wanted. I don’t think she’d ever end up like Betty — I don’t want her to, and I don’t think she wants to either. What Don says to her at the end of “The Forecast,” before she gets on the bus, emphasizes that. He tells her she’s very beautiful and smart and it’s up to her to be something more than that. I hope she blazes a trail through the world in whatever way she chooses.

One day I’ll watch this series again and enjoy once more all of Sally’s moments. We saw her with a plastic bag over her head first and as a cute ballerina. She threw a tantrum at SC&P and met a stranger claiming to be a relative in Don’s penthouse. She knows all of her dad’s secrets, from his torrid affairs and where and how he actually grew up. The way she looked up at him at the conclusion of that episode (“In Care Of,” season six) is unforgettable, and the way she poked her head back into his car to say “I love you,” (“A Day’s Work,” season seven) visibly throwing him for a loop is both sweet and perfect.

And while I’ll miss Mad Men as a whole, a show too smart for my own good sometimes, I’ll most miss that sassy Sally. So often, people wondered if this was Sally’s story all along. That’s always how I experienced it.

At times, its characters were groggy, and although that was fun to follow, what Sally proved Don had and, most importantly, what she provided the show is something nobody else could. She gave Mad Men a heart.

How Jessa won the fourth season of “Girls”

During the first three seasons, Jemima Kirke’s character, “Jessa,” was an extreme example of a girl in her 20s trying to find her way in the world. Compared to her friends on Girls, she’s an action taker and love maker. Or, as Adam astutely observed this season, she romps around the city like societal rules don’t apply to her, point a finger at pencil pushers who haven’t build more public ladies rooms. She’s the type of person you’d find leading a rebellion for babysitter wages.

As a close study of the series, it felt like there was a cloud hanging over her head. Shosh has her innocence, Marnie her tears and Hannah her often-discussed tool shed of life crutches, but the one thing those three always leaned back on was an unspoken truth: At least they weren’t gallivanting about their lives like Jessa, although sometimes Hannah follows along to escape her problems; though, Elijah has emerged as an even poorer influence the last two years.

Her actions have always made her a difficult character for me to break down, but what everyone needed to understand about her was that her hardened outer shell was protecting a vulnerable, lost person. She needed a good kick in the ass.

At the end of season three, I thought she might have an awakening. She tried to help someone commit suicide and had to save that person at the last second. But the way she acted with Beadie in “Iowa” this season, joking and messing around, made her look naive to the whole thing. Whether it was because of the lecture from Beadie’s daughter Rickey (the great Natasha Lyonne) or the aforementioned one she gets from Adam in “Female Author,” Jessa grew up in Year 4.

Kirke’s character took a backseat to the work Lena Dunham and Allison Williams were doing with Hannah and Marnie, respectively, this season. By accident or by some well thought out stroke of genius, Girls tapped into where Jessa rides most comfortably — not shouting loudly in the front seat, but calmly in the back.

Match-making with Adam and Mimi-Rose for her own secret intentions was cruel and her emotionless attitude toward Hannah moving was painful, but I can’t sit here and say I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it. She blatantly overlooked mentioning her and Adam’s meetings to Hannah, but what she was doing with him was noble at heart.

This was the first season in quite a while that I can remember really having fun with Jessa. I couldn’t stand her last season, but wanted more and more this year.

Her pursuit of Ace was fun, slapping Hannah was memorable, the interactions with Shosh were fresher than ever, her grittiness and spitefulness was better, and pulling Adam from Mimi-Rose’s kung-fu grip was passionate and heroic.

By the end of this fourth season, the trajectories of the girls were skyrocketing. They’re growing up and ascending into better lives. Everyone got there by the season finale, but it feels like Jessa’s been there for a while. She’s clean. This recovering addict made it. She’s better and more colorful on the other side.