Almost everything, even if it’s too little to notice or too mundane to consider, has a million little reasons behind it.
If someone reedited the whole Mad Men series leaving ONLY the office stuff, it would be the best show in history. Everything related to Don’s tortured childhood, insane backstory of pre-computer government disorganization, compulsive fingerbanging, Betty, Megan, even Sally (sorry Sally, you deserve a spinoff), and the alcoholism (which ebbs and flows for some reason, tbh that’s not the trajectory of addiction that I’m familiar with) - cut it. It would leave so much more room for Pete and Harry and JOAN and all the other solid characters.
So, my #1 favorite thing on earth (not an overstatement) is an interview. Interviews, plural. A group of things that I love the most. I love interview podcasts, magazine interviews, I love Charlie Rose, I love talking to someone 1-on-1 in interview form (fyi people don’t love being ambushed and asked direct probing questions). I love how Ira Glass interviews people, he’s at the very very far end (not the very end, though) of this spectrum:
Questions I Have, feat. My Ego<————————>If I Were the Audience
Ira Glass asks questions that an informed, curious, normal audience member would have hearing the interview. Some interviewers, many interviewers, ask completely self-involved questions. Pete Holmes. Early WTF with Marc Maron was insanely painful for this reason - he’d acknowledge a begrudging respect for his interview subject, bely a mountain of preconceptions, touch on some assumptions based off a mis-remembered past history, then veer into jealous over-comparison.
It’s kind of a Cinderella story, though, because Marc Maron seems to have found the switch. He seems satisfied, finally. He finally doesn’t need to excuse himself or justify himself. He took his feelings about himself out of his interviews, and it’s a beautiful thing to hear, because it means that he’s probably pretty happy in his life. And that’s the perfect feeling to get from an interviewer, too. The ideal interviewer is open, curious, and MOST IMPORTANTLY not indoctrinated in one way of thinking, or carrying around any biases or weird allegiances that blind them from being fully open to all possibilities, because great interviews can branch off. A good interviewer doesn’t have anything invested in the answers to any of the questions, it’s someone who just wants to see how things work. What works for the person in whatever they’ve done. A good interviewer facilitates that. A bad interviewer interrupts it to talk about something less interesting.
The worst kind of interviewer is a late night talk show host. As interviewers, they’re not self-conscious (I mean, they totally are, but that doesn’t bleed into the tenor of the questions, which have been prepared beforehand to make the upcoming interview as hermetically sealed as possible), but they are unfocused. The pre-prepared questions lead awkwardly into anecdotes, the audience laughs crazily because every questions seems to detour from the previous one, new themes are randomly sprouting up, it’s overwhelming. The laughing and clapping and music are all mania, because there’s nothing else. There’s no meat. Just running from one thing to another. That’s why Billy on the Street is the apotheosis of this form. Let’s not pretend we’re civilized here, with our suits and our full band and our venerable legacy. We’re all just screaming about one thing and then another until the timeslot ends.
Great interviews should lead in unexpected directions.
The Good Wife has the worst title of any entertainment ever. No one in the English speaking world is not bored to tears by the implications of the words “good” and “wife”. They evoke the very apotheosis of boringness. But the show itself is unbelievably incredible.
The Good Wife = Law & Order: CI (the best Law & Order hands down, idk why this isn’t a more popular opinion. Also Vincent D’Onofrio, I mean come on) + SportsNight + The West Wing
It’s like Scandal but +5 IQ points and -5 ridiculous soap opera points.
It’s also a successful contemporary feminist work because it doesn’t get caught up in its own feminist hall of mirrors. It presupposes that women are competent and have a separate but just as effective set of strengths. There’s not a lot more that actually needs to be said, at this point. Anyone that’s not a feminist at this point… the train has left the station. Anyone not on board is just left behind. The main thrust of the show is just smart people doing awesome shit all the time.
I would start at Season 3 if I were you. And I’d enjoy the fuck out of it.
I fucking hate Facebook, I’ve had a longstanding hateaffair with it. Ever since I joined - so excitedly - upon receiving my official college email address (back when The Facebook was for kids from select colleges ONLY), Facebook has been a powerful beacon of FOMO, shining right into my eyes practically blinding me.
When Facebook IPOed, I was so fucking confused. How can something with no intrinsic value have a billion dollar valuation? My job in finance is very respectable and I’ve attained a measure of success but my actual knowledge of finance is… incomplete, to say the least. But I haven’t yet heard a single compelling explanation as to why Facebook is worth so fucking much. A stock price is the present value of future cashflows. What is the present value of zero? Because of all of Facebook’s future cashflows peter out to nothing, in my estimation. Before long all its advertisers will realize OH WHOOPS no one actually buys anything through Facebook. If the ads for engagement rings and cars are any indication, I literally will never spend money on anything in the neighborhood of what Facebook is advertising to me, nevermind actually clicking through from the website to purchase it. BUT OK maybe some people will sometimes use those ads, and Facebook will make some nominal amount of money from advertising. But surely not a billion fucking dollars. Not to mention that Facebook’s userbase is fickle - just like every internet userbase ever - and is just waiting to jump ship to some other better less horrific option.
Facebook is the internet equivalent of a really trashy debutante ball. Facebook presents everyone’s idea of their best selves and - guess what??? Everyone’s idea of their best self is very fucking sad. Like, exceedingly tragic. And these aren’t unattractive people, or unintelligent people, or people who are unnecessarily bombastic or narcissitic in real life. But on Facebook for some reason everyone acts monstrous. Out come the oddly-angled photos (trust me - everyone on earth - all your Facebook photos tell me is that you think you know your best angle and you most assuredly do not), the thinly sourced political opinions, the poorly worded and grammatically bereft thoughts, the check-ins at establishments of questionable coolness, and the constant endless commenting and liking and !!!!! and hahahahaha. It can drive a person crazy, reading Facebook for 10 minutes. But yet people are addicted! I know some people who spend hours on Facebook at a time. HOURS. You know what you could spend hours doing? Jumping off a bridge! Stabbing yourself to death Elliot Smith style! Calling up all your closest friends and telling them you’ve never respected them! All better uses of time than Facebook.
Because looking at Facebook will never make you happy. Participating, racking up birthday wishes, getting likes on a picture of your engagement ring, that shit will make you happy for like 10 minutes, sure. But then you’ll be miserable, if you spend one more second on Facebook after that. You’ll be goddamn miserable. Facebook is the worst kind of addiction, because the high is so much less extreme than the low. The high is temporarily reaffirming; the low is so so suicidally terrible. Why do we do this to ourselves? We’re so much better than this kind of interaction, we’re so far beyond relating to each other in this way - so aggressively othering each other.
Facebook is designed to encourage you to compare yourself, and comparison is the quickest ticket to unhappiness. Therefore Facebook will only make you unhappy. You’re not more connected, you’re not more involved in your friends’ lives, you’re not more invested in others’ happiness, or maintaining a stronger bond. Facebook is the water and the sun that feeds the seed of hate that grows in your heart. It is the enemy of humanity.
I fucking HATE black comedy and I’ll never understand how people can enjoy it. I watch black comedy (that makes it even worse, because I won’t not watch it - I’ll watch it and be upset) because I can’t help it, because every episode you think it’ll be that thing you want. That great hilarious critically acclaimed show that stars fucking Julie Louis-Dreyfus! Matt Walsh is in it, Tony Hale, Jessica St. Clair, fucking grown up MY GIRL looking so foxy you’re even more jealous than when Dan Aykroyd AND Macaulay Culkin were BOTH totally in love with her that bitch. You love politics, you think every one of these people is hilarious, you’ll turn a corner with it this time! But nope, it never turns around, because Veep is fucking depressing, and no matter how many times JLD makes me want to John Malkovich her, I still can’t help being disappointed.
Black comedy is comedy in spite of something, usually something major. It asks you to laugh (which entails emotional engagement) while at the same time being able to stomach something horrible. With Veep, it’s the fucking too-familiar downhill fumble of our government and the portrayal of all of its employees as egomonster morons with nothing else going for them. For the most part, I don’t want to inhabit the reality of this premise. And if I AM inhabiting that reality (House of Cards), please don’t ask me to chuckle along. In another case, something like Shameless, the show asks you to laugh as you watch real human misery unfold (oh but they LOVE each other. yeah but I could be watching the Mindy Project), often in grotesque detail. Even the thick muddy greys and greens of the color palette are asking you to stomach what you’re watching, and then also have a laugh! That’s not actually entertainment.
The comedy has to make up for the rest of it. The comedy can’t be in spite of the horribleness, sitting side by side with it in your heart. I’m sad for all of humanity but LOL Joan Cusack is making a hilarious face. Even worse, the comedy can’t feebly wave along next to the horribleness, trying to at least catch your attention when you’re not dry heaving from imaging the way the depiction would probably smell in real life.
Black comedy doesn’t diffuse the horror of the real thing, it doesn’t counterbalance it or satirize it or propose a solution, god forbid. It makes it grotesque, pushes it out so far, reaching reaching to try to find the line between tragedy and comedy (surprise! that’s not a line, it’s a dimension, and it’s TIME).
Fucking Dr. Strangelove reminds me a lot of Veep, except none of my self important ex-boyfriends ever watched Veep with me searching my face for a hint of a laugh as some sort of compatibility test. They cover a lot of the same ground, but Dr. Strangelove is even scarier because it implicates more groups of people (including engineers which is weird because I thought we were all thumbs up about engineers) into a much more expansive problem. In the world of Dr. Strangelove. anyone who isn’t an aggro dumbass is not a valid member of society. Literally a more terrifying movie than Hostel. At least the ex-boyfriend who took me to see Hostel held me close the entire time and didn’t demand that I LOVE the movie. At least Hostel gives you a denoument. Dr. Strangelove gives you a downhill luge from horror to abject empty hopelessness. Lights come up, music plays. A masterpiece! Truly the greatest nightmare fuel we’ve developed as a civilization.
The Wolf of Wall Street is a good movie. It’s not real, which works in its favor because it doesn’t have to prove anything. Finding a plothole in this movie is like getting off the roller coaster to inspect the machinery, but with no serious safety implication. Who gives a shit if it literally makes no sense whatsoever? Most movies don’t makes sense; at least this one doesn’t wind down for exposition time to insist that ‘no this is totally how it would happen!’
One of the best things about the deterioration of culture (which may just be the progression of culture and I’m choosing to have a bad attitude about it) is that it brings about stuff like this. The economy is shitty, the world is scary and unstable, reality shows are giving people permission to stop behaving like human beings, but goddamnit look at this shit! Wish fulfillment with no attempt at anything else; who needs themes when you’ve got BOOBS. We’ve got beautifully composed montages! We’ve got gorgeous people looking so happy! It’s like an episode of Cribs but with women strewn around like popcorn!!
People have been “defending” the movie, though. Because it’s American Hustle without the microscopic layer of morality (we’re adults, we don’t need a movie to tell us not to start a Ponzi scheme - we’ve already made up our minds one way or the other), which is a sign of inferiority for some really backwards reason with very condescending implications. There’s no need to defend a Martin Scorsese movie, though. It’ll be OK. But so they’ve been “defending” it (From what? Who is criticizing this thing? I’ve heard a lot of praise for various individual elements and absolutely zero about Leo Gilbert Graping it up in a scene I found hilarious ONLY for the idea that anyone could possibly think they’d get an Oscar for so much as reading the page that scene was described on. If there was ever a reason to criticize, it’d be for that) by calling it a “comedy”.
First of all, fuck all those people because comedies aren’t the “other” category for shit that’s too broad to categorize. It’s like calling Twin Peaks “comedy”. I get it, absurdism is confounding. But come on, it’s, at best, comedy’s second cousin. Comedy is an amazing genre containing some of the most revelatory works of our time (50/50 anyone? Knocked Up? Mean Girls??), it’s not the island of misfit toys. Have some respect. It’s fine for something to defy categorization, no need to be nervous. It just means our tastes are evolving!
Anyway, this isn’t a funny movie. At best it’s a black comedy (ugh black comedy don’t even get me started) but if you’re laughing you’re either an asshole or completely disconnected from the emotional life of the characters (which, in this case, you probably should be. Even though usually if you are, you’re too good at disconnecting emotionally while staying engaged and maybe talk to someone about that), because nothing funny is happening. Or, when it is, it’s attached to something so awful that laughter should be the furthest thing from your mind. Like watching your grandma slip and fall over. This isn’t that. It’s a story (a plot), attached to a firecracker (the momentum and energy and visuals). That’s enough for a great movie.
I don’t really ‘get’ Community. I’m missing something and I want to know what it is.