The Fascinatingly Conflicted ‘Bombshell’ Documents the Downfall of Roger Ailes

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CREDIT: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle SMPSP

Starring: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Rob Delaney, Kate McKinnon, Connie Britton, Mark Duplass, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Liv Hewson, Allison Janney, Malcolm McDowell

Director: Jay Roach

Running Time: 108 Minutes

Rating: R for Powerful Men Behaving Badly

Release Date: December 13, 2019

Most of the audience who will see Bombshell are probably not regular Fox News viewers. Although I don’t want to assume anything too definitively. Maybe there are actually some people who have the mental capacity to watch both a notoriously conservative news network and a movie that is fundamentally critical about it. Bombshell makes a similar argument against rushing to judgment when being critical seems like the most obvious correct approach to take, especially in one key scene when a woman confronts Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) in a grocery store, and Carlson shoots back about the virtue of treating with respect the people you disagree with. That could easily be a shallow bromide, but when you consider what Carlson is going through, it has unexpected resonance.

What Carlson is going through is a fight against the systematic misogyny at Fox News, a workplace whose initiation for its female employees apparently includes a signature piece of harassment from founder Roger Ailes (a gluttonously made-up John Lithgow). After Carlson is let go from the network in 2016, she files a lawsuit alleging harassment against Ailes, prompting the other women at Fox News to consider if they will support her. Many of them are reflexively Team Roger, but a few of them actually have a crisis of conscience, especially Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and a fictional character named Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie).

The filmmaking trick here is generating empathy, which is generally pretty easy to do for people who have clearly been harassed and abused. But matters are complicated by the fact that these women so resolutely insist that they’re not feminists as they come to terms with speaking out against the misogyny they’ve endured. I certainly believe it is possible to extend humanity to someone you deeply disagree with, but the struggle is even deeper than that. Even if these women leave and renounce their employer, they can’t ever escape the mark of having once worked at Fox News, so far removed is the network from the rest of the media landscape. It’s a sort of original sin that traps them in an infinite labyrinth. For a film that could have so easily been straightforward in many ways, I appreciate the complexity at its heart.

Bombshell is Recommended If You Like: Feeling disgusted and empathetic at the same time

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Lawsuits

Jeff’s Wacky SNL Review: Jennifer Lopez/DaBaby

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CREDIT: Rosalind O’Connor/NBC

If it’s the end of a decade or the start of a new one, it must be time for Jennifer Lopez to host SNL. Her first two times were in Februarys 2001 and 2010, and now we have her again in December 2019. Meanwhile, DaBaby is joining her for his first jaunt as musical guest. Hey, if he makes some more appearances after this one, are we going to have to start calling him “DaChild” and then “DaAdult”?

When 11:30 (or actually 11:29, according to the channel guide) rolls around, it’s time for the show to start, not because we’re ready, but because we can. (But if you record it, it’ll be waiting for you the very next morning on your DVR!) So as 11:30 hit on December 7, 2019, Alec Baldwin was unsurprisingly in his Trump costume, but he was joined at NATO (Grade: 2.5/5 Merkel Moans of Ecstasy) by a couple other guests, i.e. Jimmy Fallon as Justin Trudeau and Paul Rudd as Emmanuel Macron, and while it’s nice to see some old friends, I’m not in favor of guests always playing such high-profile roles. You gotta develop your farm talent! Although, the James Corden-as-Boris Johnson of it all wasn’t so bad, since he’s an SNL noob. J. Lo comes out for her Monologue (Grade: 3.5/5 Gravity Defiers), and we’re all expecting her to dance, WHICH SHE DOES!, but how many of us also expected her to rock that green dress again? Wowza.


Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 12/6/19

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CREDIT: Adult Swim

Every week, I list all the upcoming (or recently released) movies, TV shows, albums, podcasts, etc. that I believe are worth checking out.

Little Joe (Limited Theatrically)
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Limited Theatrically)

Fuller House Season 5 Premiere (December 6 on Netflix) – I still hope to be fully caught up one day!
Joe Pera Talks with You Season 2 Premiere (December 6 on Adult Swim) – I guess it’s Joe Week.
The SpongeBob Musical: Live on Stage! (December 7 on Nickelodeon)
-“Crisis on Infinite Earths” Arrowverse Crossover (Begins December 8 on The CW)
Mike Tyson Mysteries Christmas Episode (December 9 on Adult Swim)

-Camila Cabello, Romance

Bring the Extinguishers When You See ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’

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CREDIT: Lilies Film

Starring: Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, Luàna Bajrami, Valeria Golino

Director: Céline Sciamma

Running Time: 120 Minutes

Rating: R for The Nudity That Emerges When Two Young Women Discover Their Passion for Each Other

Release Date: December 6, 2019 (Limited)/Expands February 14, 2020

When I saw the title Portrait of a Lady on Fire, I had a feeling this was going to be a passionate love story. That sense was certainly bolstered by a poster that showed exactly what was being advertised, as the embers whipped at the bottom of Adèle Haenel’s luscious green dress. Then as I finally began to watch the actual movie, I was introduced to the painting entitled “Portrait of a Lady on Fire.” To which I thought, “Oh, is this the literal story behind the creation of the portrait?” And indeed it is, but that doesn’t mean the metaphorical meaning doesn’t also apply, and oh my, this movie is so very ravishingly inflammatory.

Héloïse (Haenel) is the titular lady on fire, but honestly, a more accurate title would have mentioned the second lady who is equally engulfed by a burning desire: Marianne (Noémie Merlant), the woman who has been commissioned to paint Héloïse. Taking place in the eighteenth century, this film is almost a two-hander, with Haenel and Merlant sharing the vast bulk of the screen time and just a couple other characters popping in occasionally. The settings are equally tight, as most of the running time takes place in a few locations that are not very far from each other on a remote island: the painting room, the bedroom, and the beach. These circumstances of close quarters make it feel almost inevitable that Héloïse and Marianne will develop a deep passion for each other. They also warp any sense of temporality. You might find yourself wondering how much time passes while they’re together. Days? Months? Hours? Weeks? Or maybe even decades, and they only appear to remain the same age because they are slipping through various dimensions.

Writer-director Céline Sciamma references and draws heavily upon the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, the story of two lovers separated by death and fleetingly working their way back to each other through the whims of the underworld. Héloïse and Marianne are fully aware of the impernance of their entanglement, but they still enter into with the entirety of their souls. They take an almost Buddhist approach to their situation, existing both fully within and outside of time. It’s a fitting achievement for a film taking place within a painted portrait.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire is Recommended If You Like: Persona, Cold War, Carol, Orpheus and Eurydice

Grade: 4 out of 5 Sitting Sessions

The 4 Types of TV-to-Film Adaptations

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Adapting TV shows into feature-length films is one of the many regular ways that the cinema industry keeps the reboot process alive. As a devoted Human Being, I am particularly invested in the possible of a Community adaptation to complete the #sixseasonsandamovie prophecy. This has led me to consider two important quandaries: 1) what different types of tv-to-film adaptations exist, and 2) which ones are most likely to result in box office and/or critical success? Over the course of pondering this topic, I have come up with the following taxonomy:


Ford v Ferrari = Friendship!

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CREDIT: Twentieth Century Fox

I’m not sure what the message of Ford v Ferrari is, and I’m not sure if that’s a mostly good or mostly bad thing. (We could be doing a lot worse in this world!) Is it about how you can’t ever stop American individualism from being as individual as possible? Or is it about how the United States won’t ever stay an underdog for long, even in pursuits usually dominated by the Europeans? If it’s either of those, then why is the main character an Englishman? Maybe it’s about how teammates stick with each other no matter what, and the whole American-ness of it all just be how it be. Certainly what stuck with me the most is the friendship between Christian Bale’s vroom-vroom-goer Ken Miles and Matt Damon’s vroom-vroom-guider Carroll Shelby. It’s an oft-contentious relationship, which only makes sense when you’re gearing up for a race that lasts a full day. Such competition, such support, such politics behind the whole affair – I saw it all!

I give Ford v Ferrari 240 out of 360 Laps.

‘The Irishman’ Is What an Irishman Does

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CREDIT: Netflix

I would venture to say that the most essential moment of The Irishman is when Frank Sheeran is trying to tell Jimmy Hoffa that it has been decided it’s high time for his ambitions to come to an end, and their conversation consists almost entirely of tautologies like “It is what it is.” If you don’t know the context, this discussion is essentially meaningless. If you do know the context, the implications are clear, but it is still striking how much these guys are slaves to a thick, suffocating tangle of codes. That point is made abundantly clear in those few minutes. In just a few seconds, even. So does The Irishman, then, really need to be three and a half hours long? Well, other points are made throughout, but that length also underscores this major point. The guys who paint houses and their associates are imprisoned in a ceaselessly brutish life that can feel mightily oppressive, and we start to feel that, too. So I enjoyed The Irishman in much the same contemplative way I enjoyed Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I’m not so excited that I’m screaming about it, but I can imagine that it’ll stick with me in the ceaseless time to come.

I give The Irishman My Radical Empathy.

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