Review: Ricki and the Flash

Lucky for me I’m not a critic. It seems to me that the main job of a critic is to watch a fun and enjoyable movie or TV show and find things wrong with it so as to make it unenjoyable for anyone else to watch. Which leads to my point: Ricki and the Flash is fun and enjoyable. Lukewarm reviews be damned.

Spoilers ahead. Continue reading “Review: Ricki and the Flash”

Gloria Steinem on “Chick Flicks”

Gloria Steinem blogs about books at Open Roads Media. The blog is called “Reading our way to the Revolution.” The once monthly column looks at a timeless and timely book.  Her latest review is about The Group, a 1963 novel by Mary McCarthy.  The Group is the latest review of a book that helped start the feminist revolution.

The Group book cover

I read The Group back in 1963. If you haven’t read it, I recommend you do. It’s a great read. This story of 8 women who graduated from Vassar in 1933 lead directly to the more current Sex and the City. And it was a bestseller, destroying the myth that chick lit would never make it. The Group was made into a movie, dubbed a chick flick.

I love what Gloria Steinem has to say about chick flicks and want to quote it:

In truth, anything that has more dialogue than deaths, more emphasis on how we live than how we die, may be called a “chick flick.” Hollywood’s preference for movies full of high-tech chases and gun battles rests mainly on the fact that they can be exported without language problems. Yet dollar for dollar spent on production, so-called “chick flicks” are equally or more profitable than those “prick flicks” seen multiple times by teenage boys.

I am so sick and tired of prick flicks. All that killing, all that shooting, all that violence. And for what? How does it help anything, fix anything, cure anything, change anything?

It’s the stories about people, about real life, that change the world. Stories that reach into our hearts and make us think. Stories create change. Think about The Color Purple or Glee or Transparent or My Left Foot or The L Word or Selma or a hundred other stories that impacted our culture in a positive way. We need more stories that help us understand each other, see each other, accept each other, learn from each other.

Long live the chick flick! Thank you to every filmmaker, every writer, every director, every actor who tells a story that would qualify as a chick flick.

Glee Goes Elder

Last week on Glee it was Shirley Maclaine singing along with Darren Criss. They sounded terrific together.

Shirley Maclaine and Darren Criss
Shirley Maclaine and Darren Criss

They sang of “Piece of My Heart.”

This week June Squibb was there, singing and dancing with Chris Colfer. The woman can belt! Not only was June Squibb there, but Tim Conway and Billy Dee Williams were also in the cast.

Image from Chris Colfer's Instagram account
Image from Chris Colfer’s Instagram account: http://instagram.com/p/nqyX5xtdYn/#

I cannot find a video of last night’s show, but you can give a listen to June and Chris singing “Memories.”

 

There are a lot more images Chris Colfer’s Instagram account, where he commented that Tim Conway was so funny it made him mess up hundreds of takes.

I don’t know how you feel when you see legendary elders like Shirley Maclaine and June Squibb singing along with the young folks on Glee, but it thrills me in many ways. They’re old, but they ain’t dead! The elders still have it, whatever it is. Age does not hold them back from being fabulous. It’s brilliant of Glee to honor the musical theater stars of yesterday and the traditions from which a show like Glee springs.

A hallmark of Glee‘s success is it’s ability to be inclusive. Gay, staight, trans, differently abled, young, and old – we all celebrate the joy of music and performance and everyone can be part of it. Thank you for going elder, Glee!

Brain Dump from a Teeming TV Filled Mind

Random thoughts and observations on this and that as seen on my teevee.

The Walking Dead

Did you see the episode of The Walking Dead called “The Grove?” Brighton Sharbino and Kyla Kenedy as the two young girls were fantastic. Brighton, in particular, was 100% convincing. Very impressed to see such outstanding acting from two young actors.

I’m loving what they’ve done with The Walking Dead this season: splitting everyone up and charting their journeys to find each other again. (Assuming that they will be reunited at Terminus.) It’s given them a way to let characters develop with full episodes devoted almost exclusively to just one or two characters.

Glee

Brittany and Santana kiss on Glee
Brittany and Santana kiss on Glee

What about this kiss in the episode “100” of Glee. Glee has never been about grown up sex. Yes, there have been relationships but they are immature high school kinds of things. Even the teachers have immature relationships on Glee.

But in the episode called “100” (as in the 100th episode) we see a grown up Brittany, (Heather Morris) dragged into adulthood by numbers and a failure of joy.

Brittany evolved. Who’d a thunk that?

Couple that with a sort-of-grown-up Santana (Naya Rivera). I say sort of grown up because Santana still has a mouth on her that needs to embrace tolerance and forgiveness – mature ideas she hasn’t mastered yet. Nevertheless, Brittany and Santana exchange a kiss that is the first grown up, adult looking kiss I’ve seen on Glee.

Person of Interest

A whole episode of Person of Interest was built around Root (Amy Acker). The episode was called “Root Path.” Most of the time, Root is only on the screen for a few seconds. Even then she’s the most interesting thing in the show – mysterious, powerful, illusive. You know what would make me really happy? An episode that featured only Sarah Shahi and Amy Acker together for a whole show.

Castle

Is Castle getting better this season? It seems like the writing has improved. The stories are flat out good. Last year Castle frequently put me to sleep, but there is none of that this year.

The Fosters

The crazy adjustable bed that Stef’s mom gave Stef and Lena as a wedding gift on The Fosters is keeping them apart. I say we start a Kickstarter campaign to get Stef and Lena a new bed. A nice flat one. Or, as they put it on OITNB,

The Americans

This show gets more fascinating each week with all kinds of complicated loyalty questions and emotional issues. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys impress me in a new way in every episode. Keri Russell’s character slamming that guy’s arm over and over again with a trunk lid was really intense and surely will make her face the fact that she’s cracking. Plus Margo Martindale was back this week, which is guaranteed to make me happy.

Still ahead this week are Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. Must dump brain before then!

What is burning in your brain from this week’s TV?

Random Thoughts from a Teeming TV Filled Brain

The TV is brewing a brain full of random ideas in me this week. It’s a mish-mash.

  • The Americans season 2 started last night on FX and it’s extra good. Don’t ask me why I care so much about Russian spies, but Kari Russell and Matthew Rhys make me care. The stakes are so high in this show, the situations so tense, and the drama so tight. I can’t tell from the first episode if Margo Martindale will be back in season 2, but they were talking about her as if she won’t. She’s off on another show now, and I’ll miss her here.
  • With so many shows, I have to record a bunch of them. When I play them back I fast forward through the ads. I really appreciate the shows that have a second or two of something recognizable before each new segment starts. That brief cue lets me stop in time to get the beginning of the action. For example, Person of Interest often shows cityscapes and camera locations just before the action starts. Could all shows please do something like this? Thank you.
  • Why do actresses decide to have a baby while they are on a hit show? Jennifer Beals and Lauren Holloman both did it on The L Word. Anna Silk did it on Lost Girl. Kerry Washington is having a baby soon with Scandal in the middle of astronomical popularity. There has to be some logic to this, but what is it?
  • Wow! Did Naya Rivera ever knock “Don’t Rain on My Parade” out off the ballpark on Glee this week! The Barbara Streisand franchise on Glee up to now belonged to Lea Michelle – as well it should, she’s got it locked – but Naya can belt, too. Indeed.
  • Can you tell Lady Mary’s (Michelle Dockery) two suitors apart on Downton Abbey? Me either.

Image Credit: Still from The Americans by Craig Blankenhorn via IMDB

Glee: The Quarterback

Thursday evening when Glee’s The Quarterback episode in memory of Cory Monteith aired, I was at a reading by writer Terry McMillan about her new book Who Asked You? I watched Glee the next morning. I’ll get to it in a minute, I want to tell you a story first.

Before Terry McMillan spoke, there was a reception with food and music by vocalist Catherine McGill. I was seated at a table with a friend and several women I didn’t know. One of the women hummed along, kind of under her breath, with the music and I noticed what a lovely voice she had. Later we went in the auditorium where Ms. McMillan would read. While we waited, recorded music played. I wasn’t far from the woman with the lovely voice and I heard her again quietly singing a note or two with the recording. After the talk, a line formed to get books autographed, and I was standing behind the singer. I asked, “Do you sing somewhere?” She smiled and said she was raised up in the choir but she had horrible stage fright and only sang in the car and the shower. (I don’t think she realizes how much music leaks out of her by accident.) She indicated that she had given up on the idea of performing because she was so paralyzed by stage fright. She said it was the most vulnerable feeling in the world.

As a writer, I’m aware of how hard it is to read your own words – to give voice and breath to words. I said something to her about how you can’t sing without emotion and we talked about how you can’t hide when you sing, the emotion is there in your voice whether you want it to be or not.

It was a short conversation, really, but it came back to me the next morning when I sat down to catch up with Glee.

Cory Monteith as Finn Hudson
Cory Monteith as Finn Hudson

At the end of the episode, Lea Michele as Rachel Berry presented Mr. Schue (Matthew Morrison) with a plaque for the Glee club room with a photo of Finn and a quote about “the show must go on.”

The show must go on seemed to me to be the real theme for this episode. What plot there was to the episode explored how every person deals with grief in a different way. Everyone showed up and sang, they went on with the show, because they had to.

The show felt very personal. The emotion in the voices and in the music cut close to the bone. It almost felt as if the writers asked each person what they wanted to say and let them say it or sing it.

Lea Michele
Lea Michele

Lea Michele showed up and sang, how she managed I’ll never know. She clutched herself as she sang, as if her grip was the only thing holding her together.

Jane Lynch
Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester

In one scene with Santana and Sue Sylvester, as Sue talked, Jane Lynch’s lines about loss and lost potential sounded like the thoughts of everyone involved in the show.

Glee
Romy Rosemont as Finn’s mother, Kevin McHale as Artie, Naya Rivera as Santana, Chord Overstreet as Sam

There was a lot of pain in people’s faces, in their voices, in their music.

Glee couldn’t ignore Cory Monteith’s death. Something had to be done. The show had to go on. As a fan of the show, and for all of us out here on our couches, I want everyone involved with Glee to know that you are troopers – everyone who sang, spoke and appeared in “The Quarterback” –  you honored your friend, and you did it beautifully with every vulnerability you possess ringing in your voices.

It must have been hard as hell to do. Thank you.

New TV season shows I can’t wait to see

The summer shows are fun and I love quite a few of them, but I’m eager for the new seasons of some old favorites. Here’s what I’m looking forward to. What about you?

Lost Girl

Season 4 can’t get here soon enough for me. It airs first in Canada on Showcase beginning in November. Then there’s an agonizing wait for the U.S. showings on SyFy. At the end of season 3, Bo was off somewhere unknown meeting her father – maybe. Dyson and Tamsin disappeared in a puff of black smoke when their truck went over a cliff. Lauren was in a science lab creating Fae from humans and nobody knew where she went after everyone else escaped. Kenzi was driving a hot car with Bruce beside her. Trick had gone to Scotland with his lady love. And where the heck was Hale? Obviously the beginning of season 4 requires explaining where everyone has been and how they all get back together.

Guest stars that have been mentioned for season 4 include George Takei (from Star Trek), Mia Kirshner (from The L Word), and Ali Liebert (from Bomb Girls). If the guest stars are any indication, things should be fun on Lost Girl.

Here’s a bit of a teaser for season 4. Lost Girl season 4 is currently filming in Toronto.

House of Cards

House of Cards was Netflix first attempt at original programming and it was superb! (I can’t wait for season 2 of Netflix’s other great series, Orange is the New Black, either.) House of Cards won’t show up until sometime in the spring of 2014, but it is definitely worth the wait if it maintains the quality it had in season 1.

This political drama felt completely real. Or if not real, at least valid and true. Stars Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, and Kate Mara were especially good, but the cast was large and there were many compelling performances.

Netflix released this trailer for season 2, which is currently filming in the Baltimore area.

Nashville

Nashville season 2 begins in September 25 on ABC, less than a month away. I love anything with singing (Glee, Smash, Nashville – I’ll watch ’em all.) People we don’t normally think of as musicians are leading the cast of this show and doing a really fine job as Nashville singing stars: Connie Britton, Hayden Panettiere, and Charles Esten in particular. Clare Bowen is my favorite in terms of singing. She plays Scarlett, a folky type who reminds me of Emmy Lou Harris.

A theme of the show has been the conflict between young and old country music, personified by Hayden Panettiere and Connie Britton. They get forced together in ways they don’t want and are very different. Both have confused personal lives and troubled love lives. A troubled love life leads to the finale of season 1, which was a disastrous car wreck.

I don’t know if you were a fan of Friday Night Lights (if you weren’t, you should have been) but there is just something completely wonderful about Connie Britton. She’s fabulous. I’m so glad we get to see her in another great series – with SINGING.

Here’s a teaser for season 2.

Grey’s Anatomy

Season 10. Can you believe it? We’ve been watching Grey’s Anatomy since Shonda Rhimes only had one show on TV. They announced recently that Sandra Oh is leaving the show. What will Meredith do without her person?

The new season begins in September with a 2 part opening episode. At the end of season 9, Arizona and Callie were in danger of breaking up, Richard was possibly electrocuted, Meredith was pregnant – the usual Grey’s drama. Over the years Grey’s has had its wins and losses, people have come and gone, story lines have succeeded and failed. But it’s always been engaging and I keep going back.

I couldn’t find an actual preview video for season 10, but three of the cast members do talk about season 10 in this video.

The Good Wife

I say that I want to see the new season of The Good Wife with some trepidation. Season 4 wasn’t good. They lost their way a bit. There were fabulous guest stars, but those guest stars got too much of the screen time, there were too many court room scenes, Kalinda’s (Archie Panjabi) story was just dropped, and Alicia (Julianna Margulies) can’t figure out what the holy hell she’s doing. I think Alicia is fascinating in her own guarded and self-contained way. However, the queen of self-contained and guarded is Kalinda. She is the most interesting character in The Good Wife. If we don’t see more of her in season 5, I think it’s going to be the end for me and The Good Wife.

When season 4 ended, Alicia was leaving Lockhart Gardner to start a new firm with Cary. That will add some drama to the relationships we already have going on the show. We don’t know where Kalinda will end up – I sincerely hope it’s with Alicia and Cary, but there haven’t been any clues.

The new season starts in September. Here’s a teaser. It seems to acknowledge that the show went off the rails a bit in season 4 with its claims to be back.

Scandal

Scandal, like House of Cards, has a ring of truth about politics and Washington that makes it fascinating. This Shonda Rhimes series begins in September with season 3.

I could talk about Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn and the other excellent cast members. They deserve the attention. Instead, I want to make a big fuss over Guillermo Díaz.

Guillermo Díaz has been around a while. You may remember him from Mercy or Weeds. There are currently 78 titles on his filmography page at IMDB, so I know you’ve seen him before in more than one thing. But the job he’s doing as Huck on Scandal is phenomenally outstanding. He should have had an Emmy nomination for best supporting actor, but he didn’t get one. As a defender of justice I’m here to announce that Guillermo Díaz is doing amazing work on Scandal and he should get a million awards for acting.

Now that I’m finished with my Guillermo Díaz rant, I can get back to the bigger picture on Scandal, which is the steely and powerful Olivia Pope and her Machiavellian schemes to control situations for people in Washington who screw up, including the President. I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next.

This promo video is more about Kerry Washington’s Emmy nom than season 3, but it’s the only thing available right now.

I haven’t even mentioned The Walking Dead or How I Met Your Mother, which is on its last season, or Elementary, or Castle or a whole lot of other good shows. Which of your favorites are you most eager to see?

Guillermo Diaz image from The Jasmine Brand.