What Happens When a TV Journalist Experiences His Own Tragic Love Story? ‘Spoiler Alert’!

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Spoiler Alert: These guys are in the movie (CREDIT: Giovanni Rufino / © 2022 FOCUS FEATURES LLC.)

Starring: Jim Parsons, Ben Aldridge, Sally Field, Bill Irwin

Director: Michael Showalter

Running Time: 112 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Straightforward Talk About Adult Relationships and Serious Illness

Release Date: December 2, 2022 (Limited Theaters)/December 9, 2022 (Expands Nationwide)

What’s It About?: Michael Ausiello probably would’ve been perfectly fine writing about TV and living on his own for the rest of his life. Or maybe I’m being a little presumptive… Either way, the version of him played by Jim Parsons in Spoiler Alert (based on Ausiello’s memoir of the same name) seems pretty content with his cushy TV Guide gig and heading home on his own to his Jersey City apartment at the end of every workday. But then he goes out drinking one night and just happens to really hit it off with a fellow by the name of Kit Cowan (played here by Ben Aldridge). It’s the early 2000s, so it’s becoming a gradually easier time for a gay couple to be visible in America. But just as soon as Michael and Kit become comfortable in their togetherness, Kit is suddenly struck by terminal cancer. And there’s nothing for Michael to do except constantly be by his side, and then adapt their story into a big screen-worthy romantic journey.

What Made an Impression?: Parsons and Aldridge’s chemistry is low-key and pretty dang believable, surely partly because Ausiello was on hand as one of the producers. There’s not really any effort to make this story representative of all queer love stories, and it’s nice to be free of that burden. There can be value in speaking for the community at large, but in this case it just makes the most sense for it to be only Michael and Kit’s story, and their story alone

But what really sells Spoiler Alert to me are the flashbacks to Michael’s childhood with his brothers and widowed mother. They’re presented like a stereotypical cheesy family sitcom, which is basically catnip to a generation that was raised on the likes of Growing Pains and Full House. Of course, it also speaks right to my heart as a fellow professional connoisseur of entertainment. But I think this approach can also work for any adult who stays in touch with their inner child by searching for a way back to a comfortable home.

And it also helps that Sally Field and Bill Irwin are on hand as Kit’s fully supportive parents. Field is a veteran of director Michael Showalter’s oeuvre, and well, if you’ve been paying attention to cinema of the past 40 years, you know that her casting makes 1000% perfect sense. Irwin is a bit more of an oddball choice, as he’s known primarily for mind- and body-bending roles, like a mutant scientist on FX’s Legion and the voice of TARS in Interstellar. But weirdos have hearts too, and some of them grow up to be dads, so he proves to be an inspired choice. Overall, the tone is just spot on throughout. Spoiler alert: your heart will swell full-to-bursting by the end.

Spoiler Alert is Recommended If You Like: Bittersweet romcoms, 80s Sitcoms, 90s Sitcoms, The rise of Peak TV culture

Grade: 4 out of 5 Doctor’s Visits

This Is a Movie Review: Hidden Figures

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This review was originally published on News Cult in December 2016.

Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Kirsten Dunst

Director: Theodore Melfi

Running Time: 126 Minutes

Rating: PG for the Everyday Realities of Racism

Release Date: December 25, 2016 (Limited), Expands Nationwide January 6, 2017

Hidden Figures tells the true stories of African-American mathematicians Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, who were essential employees to NASA during the Space Race. Let me reiterate: this is a TRUE story, but somehow these ladies are not an iconic part of the fabric of American history. Surely, there is institutional sexism and racism at play here, but less insidiously, there is also the fact that most workers at NASA who remained on the ground are not household names. But also, come on! – Katherine Johnson was John Glenn’s trusty confidant, relying on her for accurate calculations during his time in the stars.

As Hidden Figures kicks off, we know we are in good hands. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe (Johnson, Vaughan, and Jackson, respectively) are stuck on the side of the road due to a broken-down car while on their way to work. I think I speak for most of humanity when I say I would happily watch these ladies just hang out and do anything. The white Virginia traffic cop who pulls up to inspect their situation apparently feels the same way. This scene looks like it is about to play out like a typical example of civil rights-era Southern racism, but instead the officer is impressed that these ladies know their science and offers them an escort service.

This is how much of the film plays out. The racism and sexism these “hidden figures” experience are institutional and not personal except insofar as any instance of discrimination is personal. Everyone in this story wants to see America succeed above the clouds, and these women meet resistance only when their efforts get in the way of standard practice. For Henson, that means a hilarious/heartbreaking routine of racing 20 minutes each way across the NASA campus to the nearest colored restroom. Indignities like these are eventually beaten into submission, and the crowd-pleasing meter is constantly at its highest level.

I would be remiss not to mention the wholesome and sweet love story between Katherine, a single mother widower, and her second husband Jim. I don’t know if the real-life Johnsons are as gorgeous as Taraji P. Henson and Mahershala Ali, but I am convinced that they must have been. Otherwise, Henson and Ali are miracle workers.

Hidden Figures is the sort of movie that you take your mother to see because you know she is going to love it. It is also the type of movie whose relatively unambitious filmmaking techniques you might criticize, or at least excuse. But in the case of a story as inspiring as this one, that feels unnecessarily petty. Hidden Figures does not gussy itself up, because it will be inspiring even without all the frills. Besides, putting on such airs would be anathema to its humble origins.

Hidden Figures is Recommended If You LikeApollo 13A League of Their OwnThe Help

Grade: 3.75 out 5 Hammers to Racism


2015 Emmy Nominations Predictions and Wishlist

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For my detailed thoughts on my predictions and wishlists in the major Drama, Comedy, and Variety categories, check out these links:

Guest Actor, Comedy
John Hawkes, Inside Amy Schumer
Michael Rapaport, Louie
Chris Gethard, Parks and Recreation
Dwayne Johnson, Saturday Night Live

Guest Actress, Comedy
Susie Essman, Broad City

Guest Actor, Drama
Mel Rodriguez, Better Call Saul

Guest Actress, Drama
Allison Janney, Masters of Sex
Linda Lavin, The Good Wife

Directing, Comedy
Rob Schrab, “Modern Espionage,” Community

Directing, Drama
Adam Arkin, “The Promise,” Justified

Writing, Comedy
Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna, “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television,” Community

Writng, Drama
Thomas Schnauz, “Pimento,” Better Call Saul

Animated Program
Bojack Horseman – “Downer Ending”
American Dad! – “Dreaming of a White Porsche Christmas”
The Simpsons – “Treehouse of Horror XXV”

Android – “Friends Furever”

Host – Reality/Reality Competition
RuPaul, “RuPaul’s Drag Race”

Interactive Program
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Main Title Design
Man Seeking Woman

Single-Camera Picture Editing, Comedy
Bojack Horseman – “Downer Ending”

Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Program
Too Many Cooks
Billy On The Street With First Lady Michelle Obama, Big Bird And Elena!!!

Stunt Coordination for a Comedy Series or a Variety Program

Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role
Man Seeking Woman – “Traib”

SNL Recap March 1, 2014: Jim Parsons/Beck

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A mish-mash, as is typical of cold opens lately.  Some parts worked, including Jay’s freakishly good and ornamentally unnecessary Barkhad Abdi impression.  “Oscar hosting the Ellen’s” made me laugh to an unfathomable degree. B-

Jim Parsons’s Monologue
Jim Parsons pronounces Texas “Tex-IZ.”  This monologue made a strong enough point to justify the umpteenth musical monologue, though the lyrics themselves were whatever. C+