2014 Emmy Awards: Picks, Predictions, and Prayers

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It’s that time of year again: the Television Solstice, the Night that is Not Like All Other Nights, the Great Reckoning of the Small Screen. The Emmys! And even though Seth Meyers is hosting this year (snoozy mcsnoozerson), the crop of nominees is varied and fascinating. We’re going to have some very close races tonight, particularly in the dramatic categories. I’m very much looking forward to sobbing during Billy Crystal’s tribute to Robin Williams. And because this is my favorite awards show, bar none, I humbly offer my predictions and my hopes below. Enjoy these sweet glistening innards of my TV-addled brain.

Because I am not thorough, I’ve excluded the throwaway categories like Outstanding Reality Program, Children’s Program, etc, as well as Guest Actors and Actresses because they’re usually such wild cards. Same goes for the writing and directing categories, the analysis of which would have tortured me to no end.

Let’s have at it.

Outstanding Comedy Series

The Big Bang Theory
Louie
Modern Family
Orange Is the New Black
Silicon Valley
Veep

I pick:
Orange. This season was vastly superior to Season 1, with more nuanced performances, better writing, and far more cultural resonance. I waffled a little bit, because I have loved Louie very deeply and for so long, but OITNB is just a solid piece that finds the black notes in the waves and quells of its humor. And its cast is just so talented.

They’ll pick:
Veep. Maybe. They could also go for OITNB, but the problem is that it’s a younger-skewing show and Veep has been performing stronger than ever. It’s a voter favorite thanks to its comedy pedigree (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tony Hale, et al) and its sharp feminist bent. Just anything except Modern Family. Stop it. Please.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Ricky Gervais, Derek
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes
Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Louis C.K., Louie
William H. Macy, Shameless

I pick:
Louie C.K. He had a phenomenal season and he really got to stretch his range, especially in his submitted episode – the jaggedly comic “Model.” Louie is going alternately to really dark and really hysterical places on his show, and although he’s up against a lot of talent, he has really proven himself as an actor.

They’ll pick:
Louie C.K. The category got kind of weird because Shameless suddenly became a comedy and not a drama, and I’m sure everyone who’s up against Bill Macy is peeing themselves. But none of these other guys have challenged themselves in these roles – least of all Ricky Gervais, whose Derek has got to put a bad taste in the voters’ mouths.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Lena Dunham, Girls
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Julia Louis Dreyfus, Veep
Melissa McCarthy, Mike & Molly
Amy Poehler, Parks & Recreation
Taylor Schilling, Orange Is the New Black

I pick:
Julia Louis-Dreyfus. I’ve watched the reviews roll in on this season of Veep and JLD has apparently been knocking it out of the park. It’s kind of cheap to pick someone based on my Tumblr dashboard, but who else in this category really deserves the win? Not Lena – weirdly, she submitted “Beach House,” which was not a great showcase episode – and not Amy Poehler, who still hasn’t won for Parks & Rec but didn’t have a stellar season.

They’ll pick:
Julia Louis-Dreyfus. They also might pick Taylor Schilling, whose performance as Piper was much more palatable this season. But JLD is tried and true, and Veep is at the zenith of its quality. She’s the safe winner.

Oustanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Andre Braugher, Brookiyn Nine-Nine
Adam Driver, Girls
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Fred Armisen, Portlandia
Tony Hale, Veep

I pick:
Tony Hale. Because his little alien face does half the work and he is a delightful little crumpet who gives Veep its heart. But I’d also be cool with Andre Braugher winning, because he’s currently giving a fascinating comedic performance by not being funny at all. Side note, I am super happy for Adam Driver just for being nominated, because although he’s still developing as an actor, he has a core of charm and honesty that can’t be taught.

They’ll pick:
Tony Hale. But I don’t trust these Emmy yahoos; if they pick a Modern Family cast member I am going to seppuku. If they come to their senses and realize the Modern era is over, I’m pretty sure they’ll go with Hale, who has a good amount of critical heat behind him for this role.

Oustanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory
Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Allison Janney, Mom
Kate Mulgrew, Orange Is the New Black
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Anna Chlumsky, Veep

I pick:
Kate Mulgrew. This is a very low-key group, and Mulgrew as prison puppeteer Red is the standout choice. She’s created the most iconic character amongst these nominees, and I think voters are pretty much over Anna Chlumsky and Mayim Bialik at this point. Mulgrew really holds OITNB together and has had some heartbreaking moments this season.

They’ll pick:
Allison Janney. I don’t watch Mom, but there’s been so much hype surrounding it. It’s my understanding that Janney plays straight drama in a funny show, which is usually an ironclad zeppelin to that great trophy in the sky. And I would never begrudge Janney any award, ever. Her bug eyes deserve their day.

Oustanding Drama Series

Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones
House of Cards
Mad Men
True Detective

I pick:
Breaking Bad. You already know why.

They’ll pick:
Breaking Bad. Not only did none of these competitors have near-perfect seasons, they also didn’t have half the cultural and artistic impact of BB. It’s a no-brainer and I’ll be thrilled to see this show go out in a blaze of glory.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Lizzy Caplan, Masters of Sex
Claire Danes, Homeland
Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Kerry Washington, Scandal
Robin Wright, House of Cards

I pick:
Lizzy Caplan. But just by a nose. This is not a strongly populated category. ARE YOU PEOPLE STILL NOMINATING KERRY WASHINGTON FOR ACTING AWARDS? Robin Wright did not submit her best episode of the season, and voters have really soured on Homeland. But Caplan still faithfully performs as sphinxy, minxy Virginia.

They’ll pick:
Robin Wright. The voters will probably be thinking about her performance throughout HoC and not necessarily the finale, and she’s up against weakly publicized contenders. I’m not sure they’ll laud a sexy (relative) newcomer like Caplan.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Woody Harrelson, True Detective
Matthew McConaughey, True Detective
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards

I pick:
Matthew McConaughey. Hear me out! Cranston was absolutely blistering in the final eight BB episodes (particularly “Ozymandias”) and I would clearly be totes fine with him carrying away his fourth emmy for his swan song as Walter White. But I think McConaughey’s work in True Detective was so raw, so tremendously human, and so bravely un-McConaughey that he should be recognized for it. TD was not my favorite show, but Mr. Bongos absolutely blew me away.

They’ll pick:
Matthew McConaughey. Not because the voters defer to me or anything like that. But they know that Matty doesn’t make it to the small screen that often, and BB will surely be decorated in many other ways. Although it’s his last chance for BB, Cranston will surely be up on the Emmy stage again.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
Jim Carter, Downton Abbey
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Josh Charles, The Good Wife
Mandy Patinkin, Homeland
Jon Voight, Ray Donovan

I pick:
Aaron Paul. Where I was cool with taking a Cranston break, I am absolutely UNCOOL with this award missing Paul. He brought everything to Jesse Pinkman this season. It’s truly rare to see acting like that, progressively more painful and wild and furious and tender and broken, mounting episode after episode. He turned himself inside out for that role. Period. That said, it still makes me speechless with shock that Dean Norris wasn’t even nominated in this category.

They’ll pick:
Aaron Paul. I think his only real competition in the category is Peter Dinklage, and although he really brought the passion as Tyrion in GoT, he just didn’t have the same level of material as Paul to work with. I doubt the voters would even touch Jon Voight or Jim Carter, or even Mandy Patinkin. Josh Charles is also a contender, but quite far in the distance.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Lena Headey, Game of Thrones
Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
Christina Hendricks, Mad Men
Joanne Froggatt, Downton Abbey

I pick:
Anna Gunn. This is actually an amazing swathe of powerful female performances, but Gunn’s submitted episode, “Ozymandias,” is just head and shoulders above everyone else in the category. Like many BB fans, I didn’t care deeply for Skyler until these final eight episodes, but Gunn really slammed it home and found new depths in her character. The shot of her collapsing to her knees, hoarsely sobbing, as Walt drives away, is indelible. My adoration for Christina Hendricks and Lena Headey aside, this award belongs to Gunn.

They’ll pick:
Anna Gunn. I just don’t think anything else is possible. There’s not enough heat behind Hendricks or Christine Baranski, the two other nominees who really acted their asses off, and Gunn had so much more to work with writing-wise. It’s a lock.

Outstanding Miniseries

American Horror Story: Coven
Bonnie & Clyde
Fargo
Luther
Treme
The White Queen

I pick:
Fargo. The fact that True Detective was (inexplicably) excluded from this category was actually a stroke of good luck for this little show that could. Nevermind the fact that these other nominees don’t hold a candle to this tight, thrilling series – Fargo stands alone as a fantastic experiment in the TV medium. It perfectly evoked Coen Brothers dark, scampy charm in episodes, which I don’t think any of us thought was possible. It was gorgeously executed and original.

They’ll pick:
Fargo. Its quality notwithstanding, it’s got a “one of these is not like the others” vibe that will work to its advantage. The confluence of its achievements in writing, directing, cinematography, and acting cannot be ignored.

Outstanding Television Movie

Killing Kennedy
Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight
The Normal Heart
Sherlock: His Last Vow
The Trip to Bountiful

I pick:
The Normal Heart. It was a lot less sappy and awards-grabby than I assumed it would be, and the acting ranged from very good to breathtaking. It also has miles and miles of publicity behind it. His Last Vow was a weird pick for Sherlock, episode-wise. They really should have submitted The Reichenbach Fall last year, if anything.

They’ll pick:
The Normal Heart. For its social resonance, mostly, and also for its film-star power cast, rare to see on television.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie

Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Coven
Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Coven
Helena Bonham Carter, Burton and Taylor
Minnie Driver, Return to Zero
Kristen Wiig, The Spoils of Babylon
Cicely Tyson, The Trip Bountiful

I pick:
Jessica Lange. To be transparent, I have seen none of these programs save AHS: Coven, but her work on it was top-notch as usual, as if she was in a completely different show that was good. She was vulnerable and self-immolating and I never took my eyes off her.

They’ll pick:
Jessica Lange. Again, maybe they know something I don’t about Minnie Driver or Cicely Tyson, but the voters love Lange and she’s the only name I’ve really seen bounced around on the internet in this category.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie

Chiwetel Ejiofor, Dancing on the Edge
Martin Freeman, Fargo
Billy Bob Thornton, Fargo
Idris Elba, Luther
Mark Ruffalo, The Normal Heart
Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: His Last Vow

I pick:
Martin Freeman. God, this category is delicious for me. As a huge Sherlock fangirl, it’s fun to see Cumberbatch pitted against Freeman – and although Cumby gave an at-times incandescent performance in His Last Vow, it’s a nomination that comes too little too late.It mostly sucks that this episode was lumped into the miniseries category, otherwise he might have stood a fighting chance. But Freeman’s performance is so tortured, so delicately layered, that I can’t imagine this victory going to anyone else.

They’ll pick:
Martin Freeman. But I also would not be surprised if they went with Mark Ruffalo, who is a fan favorite and really transformed emotionally for his role. Billy Bob didn’t do much “acting” on Fargo, for all his sinister charisma, and I think the voters will reward a small-timer like Freeman for catapulting the show into higher and higher quality.

Oustanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie

Colin Hanks, Fargo
Jim Parsons, The Normal Heart
Joe Mantello, The Normal Heart
Alfred Molina, The Normal Heart
Matt Bomer, The Normal Heart
Martin Freeman, Sherlock: His Last Vow

I pick:
Jim Parsons. I thought he was absolutely lovely and fascinating in The Normal Heart, as opposed to his THREE (!) fellow nominees. Matt Bomer was great at dying, but offered nothing surprising in his portrayal. I’m not exactly sure why Martin Freeman was nominated for His Last Vow, because it’s one of Watson’s most understated episodes, but of course I’d be chuffed to see him win anyway.

They’ll pick:
Jim Parsons. If he doesn’t win for The Big Bang Theory, he will surely win in this category, simply because the voters are smitten with him.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie

Angela Bassett, American Horror Story: Coven
Kathy Bates, American Horror Story: Coven
Ellen Burstyn, Flowers in the Attic
Frances Conroy, American Horror Story: Coven
Julia Roberts, The Normal Heart
Allison Tolman, Fargo

I pick:
Allison Tolman. I don’t know, I just want to see her win! She was quite affecting on Fargo and virtually unknown before it, and I think it would be sweet to reward an up-and-comer. Everyone else is old hat. Angela Basset was excellent, but mostly just gif-worthy.

They’ll pick:
Julia Roberts. Because they’re boring and they love wheelchairs.

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And there you have it! As a bonus, check out this awesome infographic of all things Emmy from Emmys.com, start to finish:

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Watch to Heal

It’s been a tough week so far. I like to care for myself by giving my brain comfort food: favorite movies, music, etc. But it’s hard to do that when you realize that loneliness and despair touches everyone, especially those you turn to for laughter.

I wanted to share one of my favorite things to watch when I’m really sad. Maybe you can relate to the healing power of a grilled cheese sandwich, and a TV character that feels like an old friend.

There’s an inner world we all have where there’s only the joyful, and familiar. Whatever is hurting your heart, remember that your happy place is indestructible.

The 15 Best-Ever Movie Opening Scenes

The first moments of a film are meant to amuse your bouche. Maybe you’re thrust into a time or a place, or you meet your hero, or maybe you’re completely mystified at what you’re looking at. But you get a feeling. You’re a helpless baby animal when the lights go dark and a movie begins. You will imprint on the first thing you see. The opening sequence is your mom.

Because we’re knee-deep in the doldrums of summer, it seemed like a great time for a Top Something List. So I’d like to throw my #1 Opening Sequences Of All Time out there. Many of these I wouldn’t even call my favorite movies. But in my opinion, they have the best Act 1, Scene 1s ever. Comment if I missed your faves. Except if it’s 2001:A Space Odyssey, because that’s très played out, friend.

1. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

Tim Burton’s directing debut is so oft overlooked. This Rube-Goldberg-esque opener sets the tone for a seriously odd and delightful movie full of indelible imagery. The carrot-sniffing slippers…the taped-up face…the giant bowl of Mr. T cereal. It is the morning routine of champions, before Pee Wee has even left the comfort of his tricked-out pop-culture subsconscious-trauma carnival of a home.

2. Do the Right Thing (1989)

I love this sequence, because its simplicity belies the deep tensions that Spike Lee’s masterpiece is about to explore. Rosie Perez’ furious dance moves + Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” bring exuberant life to a cityscape lit in blood red. There’s such anger and joy in these shots. It’s fun and hypnotic and powerful and real, like the rest of this devastating movie.

3. Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Gorgeous animation with a touch of Bond film and film noir. It’s so perfectly paired with the score, and sets a stage of light and shadow for a whimsical movie with surprising emotional heft at its center. I also think this sequence is an important precedent for the badass opener in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005). Hard to choose between the two, because KKBB is one of my top films ever, but CMIYC came first.

4. Being John Malkovich (1999)

This movie is really fucked up and sad, especially during its high points of existential hilarity. When it’s not any of those things, it’s just insanely confusing. A Charlie Kaufman trademark. This first scene is appropriately emotionally detached. A puppet (molded in the image of its master, John Cusack) has an existential crisis and spins out of control. You will not feel okay when you watch it.

5. Amelie (2001)

Not my taste as a movie in its entirety, but these first carefully-shot, tender scenes give me the well-ups every time. There is a prosaic and muted beauty in every small life; everything is connected by the endless human capacity for love. You can feel it in the simple narration, saturated color, and whimsical cuts between city streets and wiggling sperm cells. Don’t get me started on that adorable sad old man and his address book.

6. The Prince of Egypt (1998)

YEAH I DID. From the first plaintive ancient wailings of a horn, to the rising choral plea of ten thousand slaves, PoE‘s first minutes astound with audacious artistry. “Deliver Us” pulls no punches and leaves you breathless with the power of animated storytelling, enhanced especially by Ofra Haza’s soaring vocal. Extra points for covering, like, hundreds of Torah pages in 7 minutes.

7. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Hesitated between the genius opening credits and the actual first scene. So take both. This is probably the best use of subtitles in the history of the visual medium and I have never gotten through them without chortling. Then of course, there’s the iconic discussion of tropical birds and their migratory patterns. “A five ounce bird could not carry a one pound coconut.”

8. Blue Velvet (1986)

Whenever I talk about David Lynch I get those fangirl claw hands, because he’s a master at blending two of my favorite aesthetics, Americana and the abject. Suburbia, affluence, cultural conditioning, women bearing apple pies and men mowing lawns – he shows you how intoxicating our own artifice can be. And then suddenly…horrible death. The camera dives underneath the fresh-cut grass and assaults your eyes and ears with a mass of snakes. It’s all about the nasty, beautiful, sensual things that lie beneath.

9. Gattaca(1997)

It’s almost a ballet. You watch strange jagged forms falling through space as Michael Nyman’s score swells nobly…and eventually you realize you’re seeing hairs and skin. The building blocks of our bodies are so specific, so precious but so easily discarded. Plus, a cool easter egg – the letters of the genome sequence, A C T G, are specially highlighted in the credits.

10. The Shining (1980)

Goddamn it, Stanley. This is probably the least frightening part of the movie and it’s still terribly disquieting. Kubie’s camera swoops in and out of a beautiful but deserted mountainscape, following the slow path of a tiny car filled with tiny doomed people. It’s like National Geographic gone wrong. The off-putting bright blue titles move counter to our visual expectation (they drift to the top of the screen, too fast), and the shrieky violins frazzle your nerves from the get-go. Highway to hell.

11. A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

And then there’s the most joyful opening ever, beginning with one iconic chord. My Beatles fandom notwithstanding, this is a perfectly paced two-and-a-half minutes of youth serum. The cacophany of a thousand young girls, four sweet faces and four black suits, slapstick visual gags (Paul in that phone booth gets me every time) and a madcap chase. Just yay.

12. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Christoph Waltz’s playful Nazi, Hans Landa, is the soul of Inglourious Basterds. This first scene gives you all the colors of this character, from his official “law and order” persona, to his childlike mischief, to his cold dead heart. The iconic final line, “Au revoir, Shoshanna!” is bone-chilling. Waltz hooks you into the entire film with this performance.

13. Monsters Inc (2001)

In my opinion, this is Pixar’s best film to date. It’s not only built on a fucking inspired idea, but it’s built soundly – the storytelling is solid from start to finish. I love this first scene, the “scare simulation” – the surprise of the robot child is just genius, and the entire monster world is set up for the benefit of the audience in a smooth, funny flow. I also had to include the opening titles themselves, because they are gorgeous and so stunningly animated. This was made in 2001! It’s boggling!

14. Dazed and Confused (1993)

I can never listen to Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” without seeing that burnt orange 1970 Pontiac GTO rounding the parking lot. The short cuts of high school life in the ’70s are quite beautifully shot as we meet our cast, weird-looking and young and cool. Just hanging out. Just being. But it’s the car that sticks with me, turning in slow motion like some hazy mirage. It looks like a memory your dad probably had. So righteous.

15. Contact (1997)

This is how to kick off a film about humans, aliens, and the basic EVERYTHING of existence. There’s a great moment when you see this opening, when it clicks that the audio is moving backwards in time, and the sound starts to grow softer as our majestic planet withdraws into blackness. This is the detritus of all our lives – an invisible coccoon of words and music and lives. An epic beginning to one of the true great sci-fi epic films.

It Was Always Something: Salute to Gilda

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So 25 years ago today, Gilda Radner flew into the great Saturday Night in the Sky.

It strikes me as kind of poignant that she left this world the same year I entered it. To your face I’d say she’s my favorite comedienne, but really, she was my best friend. My first love. In my childhood TV cabinet, there nested a meticulously organized hive of SNL videotapes, the most well-worn being the 1975-1980 years. There were many reasons that I favored the early years, but Gilda was the reason, the one, my north star. What unbelievable sweetness and light. What gangly alien strangeness. What vulnerability. What big hair.

Gilda fascinated in a way no female performer has ever done. She had these huge eyes and a Cheshirey grin, sort of a manic ’70s Judy Garland thing going on, and a very odd presence that stood out during a time when funny women always had to find a workaround. Her counterparts on SNL, Jane Curtin and Laraine Newman, were respectively ice-cold and coked-out, both dripping with defensive cynicism. Not saying they weren’t special in their own right, but Gilda was…blinding. Innocent, immensely affectionate, kind of scary with her flaily-armed happiness. Like a baby giraffe.

Said Candice Bergen: “A lot of people had a real edge that comedians usually need to have in order to score with people. And she never did that. I mean, obviously, she was such a talented comedienne, but her kindness was so startling.” And from the first moment she opened her mouth, in any of a dozen different but equally shrill voices, you loved her, wildly, and protectively.

Gilda was a complicated person with gaping emotional chasms she struggled to fill, as I guess all entertainers are. Her husband Gene Wilder has always publicly remembered her with painful honesty, discussing her mood swings and ambiguity towards fame, and her self-doubt as an actor and a human being. I don’t think she would have been as funny without the pain. Sometimes, in-character as bumbling schoolgirl Lisa Loopner, Gilda would slam into walls so hard it looked like she was trying to shake something loose inside. I watched her and I knew what that felt like, to bruise yourself for the holy grail of a laugh. Didn’t Mel Brooks say something like, “It’s always funny till someone gets hurt, and then it’s hilarious?” Sadness is hilarious. Wanting, and never quite having, is hilarious. The laugh is the release of the pain valve. That was really the key to Gilda’s comedy – her loneliness. I loved her because she wanted everyone to laugh, she wanted me and you to laugh, she just wanted us all to be inside the laugh together. For just a sweet second.

Watch her here, delivering the opening number of her one-woman show Gilda Live in 1980. Her heart’s filled to bursting when she realizes they’re happy to see her. Then she starts to prance and say some really adorable, filthy shit.

It really sucks that Gilda passed away so young, only 42. At least she had Gene, the love of her life, to humor her and comfort her through the mess of ovarian cancer. She was the kind of celebrity for which people genuinely wished happiness, I think. From what I’ve read, she was a rare diamond of her time, beloved by fans and her peers, especially the Not Ready for Prime Time Players.

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I love this story Bill Murray told about the last time he ever saw her. It’s a beautiful tribute to Gilda, today and really anytime I wish to remember her like the treasured friend she was to me, through a screen, through the years.

Gilda got married and went away. None of us saw her anymore. There was one good thing: Laraine had a party one night, a great party at her house. And I ended up being the disk jockey. She just had forty-fives, and not that many, so you really had to work the music end of it. There was a collection of like the funniest people in the world at this party. Somehow Sam Kinison sticks in my brain. The whole Monty Python group was there, most of us from the show, a lot of other funny people, and Gilda. Gilda showed up and she’d already had cancer and gone into remission and then had it again, I guess. Anyway she was slim. We hadn’t seen her in a long time. And she started doing, “I’ve got to go,” and she was just going to leave, and I was like, “Going to leave?” It felt like she was going to really leave forever.

So we started carrying her around, in a way that we could only do with her. We carried her up and down the stairs, around the house, repeatedly, for a long time, until I was exhausted. Then Danny did it for a while. Then I did it again. We just kept carrying her; we did it in teams. We kept carrying her around, but like upside down, every which way—over your shoulder and under your arm, carrying her like luggage. And that went on for more than an hour—maybe an hour and a half—just carrying her around and saying, “She’s leaving! This could be it! Now come on, this could be the last time we see her. Gilda’s leaving, and remember that she was very sick—hello?”

We worked all aspects of it, but it started with just, “She’s leaving, I don’t know if you’ve said good-bye to her.” And we said good-bye to the same people ten, twenty times, you know.

And because these people were really funny, every person we’d drag her up to would just do like five minutes on her, with Gilda upside down in this sort of tortured position, which she absolutely loved. She was laughing so hard we could have lost her right then and there.

It was just one of the best parties I’ve ever been to in my life. I’ll always remember it. It was the last time I saw her.

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Gilda Radner
1946 – 1989

Mad Men Season 7: Sneak Peek

Here they are: the first images of Mad Men’s seventh and final season. Debonair flailing!

Although I think I can speak for the entire Internet when I say Season 6 was a pile of expensive doodie, I’m so genuinely excited for 7. My instinct says the season will be depressing and murky, but if Weiner veers back onto the main highway of workplace intrigue, fast-clip philosophy, and period-piece candy for the eyes and ears, we’ll be cooking with gas before the finale. Jesus. I don’t want it to go. Even with the betrayal of shitty-shit-shit Season 6, I’m rooting for a WOW. How will Mad Men end? How will this utterly ambitious series leave its mark? Things are so…UP IN THE AIR! I made an airplane joke because Don is probably D.B. Cooper. Have you read this theory yet? It’s so crazy. So crazy it just…might…work.

Let’s do what Mad Men fans do best and tear these screenshots a new analytical asshole.

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*steeples fingers*
*adjusts microscope*

Don’s wearing a brown suit and a hat. There’s a curb and a building involved. Probably a leitmotif of death, life, time…thinking…also transportation. Looking for a cab. A cab to the afterworld. Or rebirth? Did the Buddha ever reference a Big Yellow Taxi?

It’s a real red-herring pair of images, because in one he’s looking right, and in the other he’s looking left. Kind of like the Season 6 poster. Is that deliberate? Probably. Even when Mad Men is arbitrary, it’s deliberate, you know what I mean? And like, the fact that his hands are in the same position both times really indicates the growing generational gulf Don’s struggling to straddle, as well as a preoccupation with FINGERS, with POINTING, with, you know, FINDING ONE’S DIRECTION.

He’s adjusting his cufflinks but there’s no one there. Isolation. The search for God? The search for companionship? Sexual addiction. Definitely. The Madonna versus the whore. Cufflinks are signifiers, you know.

Of course, there are the earth tones of Don’s suit juxtaposed with the austere New York architecture. Is this a nature and nurture question? I mean, WHO IS MAN, really, situated amongst the byproducts of his artifice? These beautiful columns could support dreams or nightmares. And the temperature is unclear. Because that’s a jacket but not a coat. Cloudy? Sunny? Are we in the winter? Maybe the world is the winter and advertising is the sun. Perhaps the final season aims to settle questions of whence humanity’s creativity springs forth, or maybe it’s about weather and stuff like that.

Also he’s wearing black shoes and you’re not supposed to pair brown and black. Unless you’re a maverick. I suppose this could be a reference to Ayn Rand. I might be reaching, but I MIGHT NOT BE.

The diagonal tie is throwing me off, though, because that’s a clear allusion to…Kafka. A parody of straight lines, signifying a thematic shift to moral relativism. Diagonals are very crucial to masculinist ideology, clearly. I don’t have to tell YOU that. When you pair these gendered geometrics with the concept of a necktie-as-noose, you get into some very shaky nihilist quicksand.

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the shrubs. Those things are SO loaded. Who even knows, with shrubs and Don Draper.

But, you know. Phallus.

Femme Originale: “The Wolf of Wall Street” vs. “American Hustle”

The MPAA story with Wolf of Wall Street keeps extending into this bigger conversation. One of the things that occurred to me recently around this as well as American Hustle is that we have so few movies about charismatic but monstrous women. We are so far behind in storytelling that we’re still begging for heroic stories about women. Before long we may even get the right to tell epic stories about colossal anti-heroines.
– Jill Soloway

This is what one of my favorite writers had to say about the current state of affairs in U.S. cinema. Go read her interview about the MPAA double standard in cases of extreme vulgarity – in this case, between Soloway’s film Afternoon Delight and Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street. Soloway made a much quieter film about gross, foul-mouthed, powerful, human women called Afternoon Delight and she had to jump through giant flaming hoops of sexist fire to avoid an NC-17 rating. Obviously Soloway’s no Scorsese, doesn’t have his clout or his supernatural status, but that’s part of it too. What female does? When will she?

New year, new hopes, my friends. I want to open a conversation about gender and movie magic, and two 2013 films that might look the same at first glance.

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After I watched The Wolf of Wall Street, I discussed it with a friend who’s a huge Scorsese fan. We came to the conclusion that this isn’t really a Scorsese movie. Not only because it’s not very good, but because it’s unoriginal and bloodless. Scorsese is a MAN who knows MEN; in the 1970s and 1980s, his work had a big-dick-swagger, style, and a loud pain that makes it timeless to me even as it offends my feminist sensibilities. Back then, Scorsese’s biggest sin was ignoring women. I can live with that. He had things to say about masculinity, flesh, war, desire, living and dying, and made art.

Not the case in TWoWS. Protagonist Jordan Belfort is no Henry Hill or Travis Bickle. He has no history. He has nothing to say. He’s a boy and the most complicated thing about him is his addictive personality, an issue treated with peculiar kid gloves. This film is inconsequential, juvenile, and muddled. There are so many women that they’re impossible to ignore, and none of them are remotely important or watchable.

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I’m not saying that this film has nothing going for it. It’s really funny. It’s funny for guys, about guys, by guys, and women will laugh at it too because we’ve all learned to ridicule ourselves and identify with the patriarchial complex. I’m really not trying to get all liberal arts college on this either. There’s something so delicious and addictive about identifying with the male gaze. The roots of that yumminess are quite sinister, but I’ll take it anyway. If I stop trying to LOVE MYSELF SO MUCH, if I stop SEARCHING FOR FEMALE EMPOWERMENT, I can let go and admire Leo’s surprising physical comedy:

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And I can cheer for newly-minted serious actor Jonah Hill, who finally broke through the Superbad ceiling this year, proved his chops, and kind of stole the show:

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And I can feel Matthew McConaughey’s Texan warmth spread out from somewhere underneath my sternum and give thanks for his mere minutes of screen time. He’s like, the best part of this movie! Cue Dazed and Confused voice: “I love my female fans, man. I get older and they stay the same age.”

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But the laughs feel icky in my chest, because they usually come at the expense of stupid sluts with impossible boobs (NO ONE’S AREOLAS ARE EVENLY MATCHED AND TAN). And when they don’t, they come from vicarious pleasures, easy pleasures: a spectacularly photographed yacht, a beautiful suit, a manic pep talk fueled by Quaaludes and a hungry pack of stockbrokers with white teeth and shoulder pads. There’s no ending or resolution, either. There’s no comeuppance. And I don’t mind if a film has no moral center, as long as it has a POINT. And TWoWS doesn’t. This film is nonstop entertaining, it is stunning and fast-paced, and it’s a total nothing. A lazy concept and a surefire crowd-pleaser.

So when I get into the “movie headspace,” that transcendent mental leaning-in, I feel so guilty because I’m loving what they want me to love. I’m loving to hate myself. I’m learning to accept myself as a side character, comic relief, sexual relief, decoration, the weak emotional blind spot of the hero upon which I should be concentrating my attention.

And what I should really be thinking is:

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American Hustle came out around the same time as TWoWS, and for all intents and purposes they appear to come from the same tried-and-true POV (and are meant for the same demographic). I suggest that AH is a better film that actually belongs in, and to, 2014. It’s not without its problems: AH is populated with a small cast of male and female quirk factories, and the women tend to be a smidge crazier than the men, with more predictable repressed trauma. But the characterization of these protagonists – indeed, even the fact that this film has four equal protagonists, evenly divided amongst the genders, and they’re all anti-heroes – makes me feel much better about laugh-choking on Sour Patch Kids in front of this screen.

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Director David O. Russell, unlike Scorsese, is of the moment. He needs new, he is new. Although he can fall into the familiar trap of “broken man who just needs the love of a complicated woman” (side-eye, Silver Linings Playbook), I think he cares more about the human soul than the male ego. He just loves weirdos. And for this reason, I love American Hustle. Everyone’s weird and no one is an idiot. Like TWoWS, this isa story of loose morals, sex, and American crime, but the audience is not talked down to. I don’t need glittering, vapid vaginas or bumbling cops to remind me that I need to keep my eye on the slick main man. I need nuanced characters everywhere, I need interlacing stories and confused sympathies. AH is never dumbed-down to keep us invested, especially at the expense of its women. It is a complete story, not simply an attraction starring another Man We Wish We Could Be.

What I like most about this film are the infinite neuroses. Everyone has deep-seated social nausea, but they desperately yearn to be cool and to be loved. Like Jennifer Lawrence’s character Rosalyn, whose beauty and youth do nothing to abate her misanthropy:

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But she’s not the butt of the joke. She’s funny and ridiculous, but we don’t think she’s a lame pair of tits as opposed to Bradley Cooper’s effortless cool or Christian Bale’s molten sexy. These are real emotions. These are fearful, sweaty, private emotions, and a girl’s allowed to have them. Where AH‘s women are flawed and awkward, their male counterparts rise (or fall?) to meet them:

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What a dweeb! There’s nothing automatically desirable about the men in this film, any more than there is about the women. Sure, J-Law and Amy Adams look sexy, but not frighteningly sexy. Not smooth like reanimated Barbie corpses. And I swear to you, I’m not taking some tired tack like THERE’S WOMEN IN THIS FILM AND SOMETIMES THEY DON’T WEAR MAKEUP, THEY ARE REEEAL WOMEN. I know that skin-sans-foundation does not a feminist movie make. But the fact that these two female protagonists are fucked up personally, not stylized, sometimes messy, oddly charming, is a non-negotiable GOOD THING. And the best GOOD THING about this movie is that it succeeds without taking the easy way out and demonizing, victimizing, side-lining, or otherwise bullshitting its women.

Again, don’t let it off the hook entirely. This is still a mainstream pop film made to sell. When there’s sex, we still have the old trope of Unsure guy With Voluptuous Prize. It may be consensual but our gaze still wanders to the Amazing Adams Ass:

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But this ass is not magic. It doesn’t save Hero/Anti-Hero from himself; it doesn’t distract him to the point of failure, it doesn’t make us like him better. It’s not his ass to own; it’s hers to give. Feminine wiles don’t magically rescue the day, and then fall back into irrelevancy. The visual appeal of American Hustle doesn’t even lie with its women; when my senses were delighted, they were drinking in sumptuous ’70s colors and costumes and deep disco grooves. I was laughing at Bradley Cooper’s elaborate perm and reveling in the period-piece silliness without feeling bad about the souls the filmmaker crushed to get there.

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I love to lose myself in a movie. We all do, that’s why we spend the equivalent of three meals on a ticket and deal with the politics of battling strangers for the spare space on an armchair rest. A film consumes. It’s a virtual reality. Almost an out-of-body experience, because in the dark, when the 25-foot moving image of the human being is all you have, you become that character and you live that story. It’s pretty much exactly like the best psychotropic drug (or so I’m told, she chirped innocently). And even though there are many things I love about being female and negotiating that subjectivity, I also love to be a man. And when I pay for that privilege for 2 hours, it better make me think and feel something I don’t already know. Why make a movie if it isn’t new in some small way? Why invent histories and lives for the express purpose of feeding reality back to us?

tumblr_myn19qc2QS1rfaqfjo2_500To come full circle: that’s what I love about Jill Soloway’s quote, way back up there before you involved yourself in my written thought-barf. She wants what I want and what you want – a female anti-hero, larger than life, full and bursting with complexity, none of which has to do with her tan areolas. She can love sex, she can want babies, and she can fall in love, but we should treat those facets of her personality with the same wanton dismissal that we’re taught to treat female characters with now. And this is a serious, urgent problem to be solved by today’s filmmaker. If this anti-heroine is successfully written and performed into fruition, then we’ll all finally get The Woman We Wish We Could Be.

I want a bad woman. Not badass, but bad. Rotten in some way, but wonderful. Maybe beautiful. Or some version of it. Mouthy, mean, miserable, too much, all of the above. And I want her many feet high, filling a screen, thousands of frames, hours of her. I just want a new story. And we are at the cusp, I feel it. The only thing we need now is the courage to tell it back to ourselves.

Jessica Lange Has More Sex in One Neck Wrinkle Than You Do in Your Entire Body

There have been three iterations now of American Horror Story, and Jessica Lange has slain them all. I honestly believe that this miniseries would have collapsed into a supergay, supergray pile of smoldering pop culture ashes – trademark Ryan Murphy Mediocrity – had Lange not taken the helm of those three ships.

They are the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria of horror in the 2010s. And AHS both reinvigorates and redefines the genre for television, thanks to the stewardship of one of the most complex and beautiful actresses we’ll know this lifetime. Now that I have time to catch my breath after the mid-season finale, I think it’s high time that we talk about Lange’s work on the show: her old-school approach, her centralized embodiment of AHS‘s changing sexual and psychological themes, and the way she both resists and embraces The Age of GIF.

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Way back when, AHS: Murder House featured Lange as Constance, a potent but underused side character who provided a certain regal Southern spice to the LA-ness of the season. This first AHS hinged mostly on a teenage love story and the deep, soaking sense of disquiet that one feels in both a haunted mansion and a dysfunctional upper-middle-class family. It was a campy debut. The season worked pretty well as kind of a Dark Shadows homage – the main family unit was eclipsed by a much more vibrant and intriguing cast of sidekicks, drifting in an out of episodes through a Revolving Door of Bitchery.

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Constance was a good character, if not great: steely, mean, witty, miserable. Lange worked hard to nuance her despite her limited screen time, and by the end of the season it became clear that she was a fan favorite. The majority of viewers were 13-24, and had never heard of her beforeAfter Murder House, Jessica Lange the former box office star was a sensation again for the first time since the late ’80s, and even more surprisingly, television served as the pile of ashes from whence her phoenix arose.

Much of Constance’s storyline on Murder House revolved around her self-delusion, her armor-building in the face of her decaying youth and beauty. Think flashbacks. A lot of flashbacks. Lange is pretty amazing at playing these emotions as an elegant but aging former sex symbol; perhaps this is why her turn on the next season, AHS: Asylum delved into this theme so heavily. Asylum was, of course, the coming-out party for one of the most sensational, powerful, and disturbed women I’ve seen on a TV screen: Sister Jude.

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It’s hard not to celebrate that kunty Lange-tongue, but that right there is TERRIBLE writing. Even so, Lange managed to twist every clumsy feminist zinger into a deadly barb, every over-the-top freakout into a very human implosion. Sister Jude is the protagonist of Asylum, more than any of its younger, more “attractive” cast. This character developed in such a stunning way over the course of the season. Jude’s storyline was one of moral redemption, female strength, time’s slow attack on beauty, and sexuality disfigured by guilt and social pressure. And let me tell you, Murphy and Co. only know how to write that stuff in broad strokes. That’s all they know how to give an older actress to do. This performance was all Lange, all blunt honesty disguised as acting.

It was hands-down the most terrifying season. It was a true achievement of horror, especially when it came to the visual effects. Lange was often photographed with monstrously detailed lighting. But the strength in her eyes and body made Sister Jude fearsome, not grotesque. Age was slowly overtaking her physical beauty, but Jude’s raw open heart gave the character a certain incandescence that was at once so painful and so sexy.

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On the occasions we saw Sister Jude out of her nun’s habit, I was often struck by Lange’s allure. She played a kind of smoky-throated classiness that flirted with vulgarity, an unattainable kind of Old Hollywood confidence. Honestly, I’d never seen anyone be so sexy past age 60. It was a golden, electrifying, sobbing sort of sexiness. The thing is, Lange’s performance in Asylum is one that many of her peers could not have delivered. This actress’s eyes were wide open as she fell down fame’s gaping maw; now that she’s back on TV, you can feel a certain sad wisdom radiating from her, a really angry hurt. Sister Jude makes me regret how easily I disregard the spirituality and sexuality of non-Millenial women. There is nothing old about Lange, just old-school. Just real. Sister Jude is a great embodiment of aged female power in an moment of fickle young women too confused to take control of their bodies and lives. This character wonderfully illustrates that time does not degrade a woman, but the people around her surely do.

Of course, I’d also be remiss if I didn’t toss in a video of the cast performing “The Name Game.” Asylum may have been the scariest season, but it also has its fun moments and occasionally recalls the delectable camp of Murder House. Let’s play a game:

Which brings us to the current season, AHS: Coven. This isn’t a bad season, per se, but I think the showrunners got a little spooked by the mature-skewing extreme darkness of Asylum and were not sure they could keep the momentum going for the Tumblr generation. Thus Coven was born: a superficial, exciting, bright teenage supernova of witchy little bitchies whose post-modern malaise bleeds through every captioned GIF. Coven is no world for a classy faded starlet. But still, Lange uses her character, Fiona Goode, to excavate that generational divide and bring the youthful exploits of the titular coven full-circle. Fiona is another meditation on feminine power, on sex, and on heartache, nursed over long decades.

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I can’t stop watching Jessica Lange cry, honestly. Like the two Lange AHS femme fatales before her, Fiona is a failure and an egomaniac, a tragic creature who seesaws between self-loathing and self-worship. She is constantly at war, and so tired of disappointing herself and everyone around her. The party’s long over and she doesn’t know how to deal. And Lange makes it so real and so sad. When her eyes brim over, there’s a twingey reminder that Fiona’s story is pretty universal for the bad bitches of the world who have been passed over by their friends, their lovers, and their admirers.

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Coven takes this theme to an obvious place, pitting Fiona (the Supreme witch) against a pack of skinny blondies whose rising power threatens to eclipse her own. Fiona feels her mortality quite acutely, as she not only has a rapidly metastasizing gut cancer, but also an addiction to glamour. She lived fast, but refuses to die young. Or to die at all. Ever. This leads her to murder the seductive little whore Emma Roberts, in a bid to preserve her waning beauty and stop the young girl from draining her supernatural hotness. Of course, we all know where that girl-on-girl crime leads…to the biggest TV meme of the year.:

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Now, Coven is campy, but it’s not the trope-saturated, inky-dark kind of camp of Murder House. This is a very distinctly 2013 camp, aka boring camp, where ladies just snipe at each other and claw for the alpha position. It would seem that R-Murph is starting to devolve and do what he does, where he writes for some weird gay stereotype audience that watches All About Eve once a week. And even though Fiona suffers along with the rest of characters, whose writing grows more anti-feminist and pedantic with each passing episode, Jessica Lange continues to do Her Thing.

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Her impulsive, highly sensual relationship with serial killer The Axeman makes Fiona into a self-immolating stick of hot dynamite. One moment, we’re watching her decrepit cancer-ridden body crumble, her hair fall out and her papery lips tremble; the next, we’re seeing a grown tiger spread her limbs across black satin and purr with desire. Lang is still playing with the image of the mature woman, accepting of physical death but not nearly as amenable to the sexual death, the death of the soul.

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I guess I’m just awed by the fact that Jessica Lange still has so much in her, and that she is able to give it so generously when most of her scripted lines are a commentary on her own changed appearance and relevance to her audience. As an actress, she’s able to use the exhaustion and the exploitation and the violence of fame in such an interesting and multi-faceted way to inform her performance. Thank goodness someone cast her in such an incendiary project, in something that required grounding and grit to make it a true success. Horror is a tough genre: it requires the players to vibrate on an extra-human level, with the volume turned up on the joy and the pain and the sexy. This is what makes the frightful moments so delicious. Horror is feelings, universal truths, turned upon us in the most terrifying way possible. Lange innately understands this. She’s the most beautiful walking wound I’ve ever seen.

So, AHS fans, tell me: which was your fave season? Which Jessica Lange creation resonated most with you? And what should happen to Fiona when Coven resumes this January?

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Hello, Ladies: Season One

Just finished all of Hello, Ladies season 1, which was not a tall order because there are precisely 8 episodes and what I do after work is no one’s business but mine and my bed. I’m still on THE HBO PROJECT. And when it comes to Stephen Merchant’s new solo effort…I don’t hate it!

I got a similar sort of charitable pity-watch feeling from Episodes, but Merchant is a much cuter Brit than the shriveled sad sacks in that show. I actually found myself compulsively watching it because it has that rare thing one doesn’t often find in comedies, which is an undercurrent of existential sadness. I think many modern comedies try for it, but few actors have the black-hole-desperation to pull it off. I just fucking love existential sadness. Especially in the midst of cringe humor, which tends to hinge, essentially, on the human grab for love and acceptance. That’s what Ricky Gervais’ The Office was about, and it’s what his partner Merchant has similarly wrought in Hello Ladies – albeit in a more stylish, HBO-snooty, LA way.

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It’s peculiarly weightless, centering around a crop of Angelenos with zero problems except their self-worth (which is everyone living above Sunset Boulevard, I guess). Occasionally funny, always awkward, buoyed helpfully by Merchant’s insane marble-like eyes. He does a lot to carry the show, and I’m really pleasantly surprised by his subtlety and pathos in the emotional scenes. Who knew Gumby could be a leading man? Good for Stephen Merchant; best of luck, you weird tall monster. HL is not consistently well-written, but never offensively bad. And the central will-they-or-won’t-they couple is a weak but charming little ship, which I will willingly sail into season 2.

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Oh, and I almost forgot! The entire season is basically worth watching for this one line. Saving for reuse.

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I’m addicted most of all to the theme song, which does indeed lend itself to driving alone down LA freeways, feeling cool but living lame. Give it a try. Nothing says existential sadness better than Hall & Oates. *side-eyeing myself*

A Review of ARTPOP, with GIFs and Umlauts

Hands rubbing together! Mouth slavering at the chance to write again! Tissue wiping at mouth! It’s been awhile, readers (?). My bad. November is a tough month. Cold winds, calories, emotional regression, air travel. But so much has been going down in my personal pop world and it’s getting regurgitated bit by bit. YUM!

First up, ARTPOP. I’m late, but who cares. The album barely made a blip in the cultural landscape, because Gaga died long ago in a fiery tornado of production values, sometime soon after Born This Way. But because I loves me some zeitgeisty ambition and experimentation, I’ve still been poring over it. It’s really not great, but it is interesting, and for that I feel comfortable paying it minimal heed.

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I think ARTPOP is less earwormy than previous efforts, but it is lyrically a relief because Gaga’s MERCILESS preaching has stopped; it has given way to the strictly personal. In a sense, Born This Way was written for the fans – for society, really – and that kind of pandering and proselytizing makes a smash album with a shitty legacy. In ARTPOP, the pendulum has swung towards the über-esoteric and the über-grand, which feels WAY more Gaga than a bloated ode to anti-bullying. ARTPOP is a colorful and epileptic melange that fails a lot and wins a lot, and although I don’t really love it, I do love how fucking nakedly insane it is.

So let’s start with the shit that stinks.

Tracks That Sück

It would have been wonderful to see a follow-up effort in the vein of “Yoü and I,” stripping down the arrangements and making use of Stefanie Germanotta’s brassy Broadway bawling. ARTPOP‘s one ballad, “Dope,” is a shell of an imitation:

 

The melody is virtually nonexistent, and her voice sounds so drama school final showcase. And no one really buys that Gaga’s some kind of world-worn addict stalking the underbelly who can actually get off calling drugs “dope.” And what kind of dope are we even talking about here? You don’t come back from heroin to eventually pull off complex booby-grab dances. Supposedly she’s singing to her former assistant, who left as a result of Gaga’s “destructive behavior.” Which kind of also sucks the authenticity juice out of this overpostured confessional yawp.

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Hey rappers, stay away. Stay far away. Gaga has NO IDEA how to utilize rap, including simple sampling, and “Jewels n’ Drugz” absolutely buries T.I., Too $hort, and Twista in a calamitous pile of poopyshit. It’s a torturous song and I have no idea how it made it to the final cut of this album.

 

Öther tracks that sück: “Sexxx Dreams,” “Swine,” “Donatella”

Tracks That Are Jüst Ökay

There are some moments on ARTPOP that are simply middling – they have their moments of beauty but mostly just expand to take up two minutes of odd, gentle filler. Like those multi-colored sea monkey things you buy in the store, watch grow into mildly interesting lumps, and then forget about and leave to rot in your old fishtank.

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“G.U.Y.” is languid and druggy, reasonably hypnotic, and I like it because I completely get the lyrics. Some classic Gaga gendering. She’s gotten enough control over her language that her treatise on sexytimes is never offensive, always mildly pleasing to THIS lady listener who hates most things about being a lady in the sheets.

I’m gonna wear the tie, want the power to leave you
I’m aiming for full control of this love
Touch me, touch me, don’t be sweet
Love me, love me, please retweet
Let me be the girl under you that makes you cry
I wanna be that guy

“Gypsy” is a fine little soaring ballad that veers surprisingly into Bruce Springsteen territory, but the melody errs on the side of trite. It’s really only notable for the #singlegirlproblems lyric “I don’t wanna be alone forever, but I can be tonight.” I am also into “Venus” for its staccato fuckery and kooky space imagery. How can you hate a track that rhymes “Uranus” with “Don’t you know my ass is famous?”

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It’s got a bit of David Bowie vocal gymnastics, and although the intergalactic march rhythm never quite allows it to get off the ground, it’s still a fun little novelty. I also like to imagine Gaga thrashing about the recording studio, making similar faces to the one above, just to achieve the extreme enunciation that “Venus” boasts as a calling card.

Öther tracks that are jüst ökay: “MANiCURE,” “Fashion,” “Mary Jane Holland”

Tracks That Are Really Güd

Hey, let’s talk about the title track! Really, all I can say about it is “BEEP BOOP BOOP BEEP.” It’s R2D2’s wet dream, and I don’t mean one night inside C3PO’s hard drive. The mechanical sounds are beautifully muted and layered, and I enjoy Gaga’s near-academic lyrics: “Come to me with all your subtext and fantasy.” Her plaintive and detached musing, “We could, we could belong together, ARTPOP” gives me some of that old avant-garde hopefulness for a brighter and more complicated musical landscape.

 

And now it’s time for the two best gifs to come out of the “ARTPOP” promo video.

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“Aura” was leaked early and got a HUGE backlash for its politically-charged goad: “Behind the aura, behind the curtain, behind the burqa, behind the aura.” It’s gimmicky, but it’s sooo much fun. It’s over-the-top, aggressive, cool, and kitschy in a Tarantino way. Her introductory litany of “HA HA HA HA” will wend its way into your daily vocabulary faster than you think (she said to no one). I also quickly warmed to “Do What U Want,” the dark and stormy synth R&B party that co-stars R “Urine for it now!” Kelly:

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Listen, you try to do sex pushups. It’s easy, ’til you have to rotate the orientation of your entire vagina, like the groin of Gymnastic Barbie. It’s a good song. It makes you do stuff you didn’t think was anatomically possible.

And of course, there’s “Applause.” Oh, “Applause”…I hated you so much when you came out, but contextualized in ARTPOP you’re not so bad. In fact, you’re kind of infectious and thrilling. Be sure to watch the video of this song performed at the VMAs; no one really got it then. Finally, Gaga’s passion and personality come through on this track. Not only is it the most classic Gaga on the album, it’s also the most solid song, the most accessible, and the clearest in terms of message. And the music video is pretty fucking cool too.

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And there we have it! A day late and a dollar short, so they say. Anyone out there with an opinion on this thing? Leave me a comment, space mortals.