Diablo Cody recently declared that Girls star/creator Lena Dunham is this generation's "new Woody Allen" and while the statement brought divided opinions (as all things Dunham-related tend to do), after watching this week's devastating, brilliant, and very New York Woody Allen-esque episode of Girls, the Juno writer might just be on to something.
While I'd argue that Louis C.K. has actually perfected the art of New York comedian neuroticism — I hesitate slightly in calling him the new Woody Allen, though, as Louis C.K. romanticizes the city much less than he embodies its oft-unforgiving reality — last night's episode of Girls, titled "One Man's Trash," felt as much a Woody Allen homage as it did a Louie homage.
The episode started off as typical and inconspicuous as any episode of Girls. Hannah, dressed in an outfit as unflattering as any other she'd worn before, was once again letting someone know just how clever she is. This time she claimed that she'd coined the next big phrase: "sexit," which means to make a sexy exit. The only problem was that the term already existed on Urban Dictionary (there it means "to make a speedy exit during the middle of sexual intercourse). Plus, she told this all to Ray, the most humorless, joyless person in existence. (I still don't quite see what Shoshanna does.)
Mid-conversation Ray and Hannah were interrupted by the sudden presence of a tall, dark, handsome stranger (played by Patrick Wilson). He was a local neighbor who came into Grumpy's to complain that one of the employees has been dumping the coffee shop's trash into his trash cans two blocks away. Rather than try out the tactic of "customer is always right" or basic human decency, Ray immediately went on the defense, called him a "f**king pinko," and did nothing to alleviate the situation. Hannah, who had been looking guilty the minute the word "trash cans" was uttered, rightfully told Ray he was rude and quit on the spot because she no longer wanted to work in such a "toxic work environment."
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Cut to Hannah standing at the foot of the steps of a very beautiful brownstone, presumably the home of the upset neighbor, meaning she was the guilty culprit, as expected. (Quick, annoying New Yorker sidebar: Grumpy's famously resides in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenpoint, but this scene was filmed over the summer in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Fort Greene, which is a full three-and-a-half miles away. Moreover, both neighborhoods have noticeably different aesthetics and if you're a Brooklynite, you knew the minute she showed up at that house, she wasn't in Greenpoint anymore, Toto. A minor annoyance, maybe, but for a show that gets a lot right about New York City, this one was a pretty obvious blunder. End of annoying New Yorker sidebar.)
After knocking on the door, the handsome stranger answered and Hannah apologized for Ray's deplorable behavior and said she had something to tell him. He invited her in, to which she responded, "I could really be putting myself in a Ted Bundy situation. He also looked clean, handsome, and probably had…a brownstone." And with that, she realized this man was certainly no Ted Bundy, ducked past him and entered his home as if she'd done it a million times before. He looked equal parts confused and amused.
Hannah was stunned when she stepped inside, and understandably so. He lived in an elegant, enviable, and very-grown up home. She joked that she felt like she was "in a Nancy Meyers" movie. The two, despite their wildly different socioeconomic statuses and general disposition, already had a instant rapport with each other. He was surprised by her, in a good way, and she said things in her very unfiltered Hannah way ("You're probably a little insane, we all are") but wasn't met with snide resistance like she usually does when she talks to someone her age.
Eventually she admitted that she dumped the trash in his cans, not only because she lost the Grumpy's dumpster key and didn't want to admit it to Ray, but because putting trash in places it isn't legally supposed to go is her vice. It's a pretty rare thing to see Hannah willingly, humbly admit she was wrong, and even more rare for Hannah to be forgiven for her mistakes, which is exactly what the stranger did when she apologized. Whether she felt safe in his picturesque Brooklyn brownstone or that she could be raw and real around this man or that he's just so damn beautiful (probably a little bit of everything), Hannah bravely, impulsively kissed him…and he kissed her back.
Within moments he put her on his kitchen counter for a very sexy make-out session, and between passionate kisses they traded statistics (he was 42 to her 24) and flirtatious banter (he adorably guessed her name is Daisy). I know there will be naysayers that will argue this sort of thing doesn't happen, and some will inevitably argue for sadly shallow reasons that it wouldn't happen between these two (so wrong), but remember, this is New York, anything can and does happen at all hours of the day.
Post-weird (but not in a bad way) hookup, Hannah learned that his name is Joshua (not Josh) and he learned that she is Hannah, not Daisy. She also learned that he is recently separated from his wife, he's a doctor, and that cooking steaks and drinking wine on a glamorous back deck isn't something that only happens when planned guests come over. The two, despite having just met and having sex, were instantly comfortable with one another. Hannah looked, oddly enough, at home there, maybe even more so than Joshua, who joked that he's an "old ghost" in the hip, young neighborhood. Perhaps her comfort was because, for the first time ever, we've actually seen what Hannah can be like when she's being herself around a man, not what she wants to project to him.
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I say man because that is exactly what Joshua is: a grown-up man. He didn't play mind games or speak in riddles, when he told Hannah he wanted her to stay he meant it. When Hannah tried to make things difficult or blurry, he pus her in her place and asked her to say and do what she actually wanted. When she asked him to beg her to stay, he obliged in a moment that was hilarious ("Not like you're in Toy Story") and romantic and exhilarating. When they began to have sex again, it was authentic (boy, Patrick Wilson as good at these kind of scenes, isn't he?) and actually sexy. Girls has a lot of sex in it, but rarely is it as sexy as it is uncomfortable or depressing. Then again, Hannah has never had sex with anyone who actually knew what they were doing (he told her she's beautiful, and meant it, and he was damn good at dirty talk, too) and wasn't just there for his own pleasure. Hannah, for the first time ever, wasn't faking it, in every sense of the word.
The next morning Hannah woke to find Joshua lounging in his sun-drenched, impeccably decorated living room. He'd called out of work to spend the day with her ("What happens when a doctor calls in sick?" Hannah asked, to which Joshua, not skipping a beat, replied "Ten to twenty people die" and Hannah let out the most genuine laughter we've ever heard come from her) and demanded she do the same. They spent the day playing ping pong, making love, and genuinely enjoying each other's company.
When she later joined him on the back deck, draped in his lovely, expensive sweater, she marveled at him. Wordlessly, we saw a mixture of sheer happiness, knowing sadness, and a lifetime of realizations sweep across her face. He was everything she'd been missing, everything she was supposed to be looking for in this world. He treated her the way she was meant to be treated. He sent a calm, flirtatious glance her way and she smiled shyly. It was maybe the most romantic scene on television in a long time.
By nightfall, however, it all changed. After Hannah accidentally passed out in his shower ("I thought I was a gummy worm for like seven minutes"), either from the heat or the overwhelming emotional heft of the day (I'm guessing both), she lay her head on his lap in his bed as he stroked her hair and calmed her down. I take it back — maybe that is the most romantic scene on television in a long time. Hannah, totally immersed in the moment, began to cry. When he asked her what was wrong, she told him she'd had the life-changing realizations that she actually wants to be happy, that she was sicking of living a life of experiences for the enjoyment of other people who walk all over her, that she wanted the stability and normalcy she has fought so hard against. It's a lot to take in.
But even in a moment of clarity, Hannah was still just a 24-year-old trying to figure it out and still, as she put it, was "broken inside." She realized that, at the core, maybe she was "the crazy girl" who quotes Fiona Apple in conversation and over-shares embarrassing or downright horrific stories and turns away the genuine feelings of others because she's too wrapped up in her own. In the most excruciating five minutes of the show, Hannah made everything unravel, and despite realizing that she was "deeply lonely" did things to push away and scare off someone like Joshua for good. They wouldn't have worked, in the end, but Hannah self-sabotaged it before it even had a real chance. But that's who she is, at this age and at this moment in time, and that also makes it okay.
Despite the awkward moment, Joshua still had her stay the night, because he was a well-meaning man at the core, if not one in the middle of his own crossroads and one who did something impulsive while he was still technically married. Hannah was just as much an escape for reality for him as he was for her. He got to be young and cool and needed in the eyes of someone who was young and cool. There were no harsh realities (like his marriage) until Hannah made him remember that no one was perfect and going to make his life carefree as it once was.
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The next morning Hannah woke up alone to a quiet, empty house. The light outside was not as bright, and thus the house felt darker, sadder. In a sequence that was reminiscent and worthy of a sequence in Louie, Hannah spent the morning soaking in the last few moments of a life that was not hers….just yet. (Like Louie, this was also set to a terrific score, here set to the music of Michael Penn). She read the paper, ate toast with fancy jam, wore the shirt of the sensitive, sexy doctor whom she shared a bed with. It was wonderful and sad and lovely all at once, and Dunham deserves all the credit in the world for penning a scene that said so much with saying nothing at all.
Whenever I find it hard to love or connect to Hannah it's usually because she's too self-involved and shows no signs of caring about anyone other than herself. But in one simple gesture — taking out Joshua's trash after taking one thoughtful last look at his home —she changed my mind. There's something deep inside of her that does have the capability of caring about someone other than herself, doing something for someone that doesn't benefit her. I realized that, and perhaps she realized that, as she walked away from Joshua's place on a breezy summer afternoon. (Now that was a Woody Allen moment on the show if there ever was one).
This was, far and away, my favorite Girls episode to date. It was sexy, funny, moody, and told an important story in just thirty minutes. It showed us that we can connect with the most unexpected people in the most unexpected circumstances. That we can randomly walk into people's lives and change them forever. That we'll have experiences with some people whom we'll never see again but will leave an indelible mark on us. (I can't imagine Hannah and Joshua will ever see each other again, but I have no doubt they'll always cross each other's minds for the rest of their lives). That doesn't make Dunham the voice of a generation, that makes her a voice any generation.
[Photo credit: HBO]
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There is something particularly unnerving about demon possession. It's the idea of something you can't see or control creeping into your body and taking up residence eventually obliterating all you once were and turning you into nothing more than a sack of meat to be manipulated. Then there's also the shrouded ritual around exorcisms: the Latin chants the flesh-sizzling crucifixes and the burning Holy Water. As it turns out exorcism isn't just the domain of Catholics.
The myths and legends of the Jews aren't nearly as well known but their creepy dybbuk goes toe-to-toe with anything other world religions come up with. There are various interpretations of what a dybbuk is or where it comes from — is it a ghost a demon a soul of a sinner? — but in any case it's looking for a body to hang out in for a while. Especially according to the solemn Hasidic Jews in The Possession an innocent young person and even better a young girl.
The central idea in The Possession is that a fancy-looking wooden box bought at a garage sale was specifically created to house a dybbuk that was tormenting its previous owner. Unfortunately it caught the eye of young Emily (Natasha Calis) a sensitive artistic girl who persuades her freshly divorced dad Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan of Watchmen and Grey's Anatomy) to buy it for her. Never mind the odd carvings on it — that would be Hebrew — or how it's created without seams so it would be difficult to open or why it's an object of fascination for a young girl; Clyde is trying really hard to please his disaffected daughters and do the typical freshly divorced parent dance of trying to please them no matter the cost.
Soon enough the creepy voices calling to Emily from the box convince her to open it up; inside are even creepier personal objects that are just harbingers of what's to come for her her older sister Hannah (Madison Davenport) her mom Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) and even Stephanie's annoying new boyfriend Brett (Grant Show). Clyde and Stephanie squabble over things like pizza for dinner and try to convince each other and themselves that Emily's increasingly odd behavior is that of a troubled adolescent. It's not of course and eventually Clyde enlists the help of the son of a Hasidic rabbi a young man named Tzadok played by the former Hasidic reggae musician Matisyahu to help them perform an exorcism on Emily.
The Possession is not going to join the ranks of The Exorcist in the horror pantheon but it does do a remarkable job of making its characters intelligent and even occasionally droll and it offers up plenty of chills despite a PG-13 rating. Perhaps it's because of that rating that The Possession is so effective; the filmmakers are forced to make the benign scary. Giant moths and flying Torahs take the place of little Reagan violently masturbating with a crucifix in The Exorcist. Gagging and binging on food is also an indicator of Emily's possession — an interesting twist given the anxieties of becoming a woman a girl Emily's age would face. There is something inside her controlling her and she knows it and she is fighting it. The most impressive part of Calis's performance is how she communicates Emily's torment with a few simple tears rolling down her face as the dybbuk's control grows. The camerawork adds to the anxiety; one particularly scary scene uses ordinary glass kitchenware to great effect.
The Possession is a short 92 minutes and it does dawdle in places. It seems as though some of the scenes were juggled around to make the PG-13 cut; the moth infestation scene would have made more sense later in the movie. Some of the problems are solved too quickly or simply and yet it also takes a while for Clyde's character to get with it. Stephanie is a fairly bland character; she makes jewelry and yells at Clyde for not being present in their marriage a lot and then there's a thing with a restraining order that's pretty silly. Emily is occasionally dressed up like your typical horror movie spooky girl with shadowed eyes an over-powdered face and dark clothes; it's much more disturbing when she just looks like an ordinary though ill young girl. The scenes in the heavily Hasidic neighborhood in Brooklyn look oddly fake and while it's hard to think of who else could have played Tzadok an observant Hasidic Jew who is also an outsider willing to take risks the others will not Matisyahu is not a very good actor. Still the filmmakers should be commended for authenticity insofar as Matisyahu has studied and lived as a Hasidic Jew.
It would be cool if Lionsgate and Ghost House Pictures were to release the R-rated version of the movie on DVD. What the filmmakers have done within the confines of a PG-13 rating is creepy enough to make me curious to see the more adult version. The Possession is no horror superstar and its name is all too forgettable in a summer full of long-gestating horror movies quickly pushed out the door. It's entertaining enough and could even find a broader audience on DVD. Jeffrey Dean Morgan can read the Old Testament to me any time.
After a few years experimenting with a gamut of host types — from Tony-approved A-Lister Hugh Jackman, youth-skewing It-persons Anne Hathaway and James Franco, and the older than old school Billy Crystal — the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has proven they'll give anything a try in hopes of luring eyes to their annual Oscar broadcast. With planning for next year's ceremony currently underway (the show already has a set date of February 24, 2013), news of the AMPAS hunt for a frontman is starting to trickle out with a big name leading the pack.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Jimmy Fallon is in talks to host the 2013 Oscars, with his Late Night and Saturday Night Live mastermind Lorne Michaels also in discussions to produce the show. The Academy Awards wouldn't be Fallon's first awards rodeo: the comedian previously wowed audiences as the host of the 2010 Emmys.
While neither Fallon nor Disney (the parent company of Oscar's TV home, ABC) could be reached for comment by the Times, the report does mention that a few factors could keep Fallon from landing the job. The responsibility of securing a host and producer for Hollywood's biggest night traditionally falls on the president of the Academy. That job's only just been filled — former head honcho Tom Sherak was replaced by Hawk Koch this past Tuesday. Sherak was in talks with Fallon previous to his departure, but according to the ex-Prez, he couldn't seal the deal before his term was complete. "I couldn't meet that deadline, so I stopped all negotiations." Whether Koch will continue with the discussions is unknown.
The other hurdle is just plain business smarts. Fallon's home is at NBC. ABC has their own late night funnyman: Jimmy Kimmel. Although Kimmel is slated to host the Emmys and is therefore out of the running for the Oscars gig, ABC may choose not to hire Fallon just to avoid promoting another network. While ABC's deal with the AMPAS does not allow them to veto the Academy's choices, their demands are taken seriously ("I felt that we were partners, and I included them in our decisions, even though I didn't have to," he said," Sherak tells the Post.) According to the Times, the network pays the Academy $70 million for the rights to air the Oscars. That's a fat check that Fallon's comedic stylings may not outweigh.
Hiring Fallon would be a catch for the Academy, who routinely struggles with finding a host that can play to both the house crowd of Hollywood elites and viewers at home. The actor's late night show is a blend of new and old, a time-honored format injected with a heavy dose of millenial energy. That's exactly what the Academy needs — but since when do people get what they want?
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: WENN.com]
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Best of Seven: June 28 - July 4
Welcome to a new week, friends. This week is the first week of the rest of your lives. So let's see what's on TV, right? Here's the Best of Seven:
7:30PM: Seinfeld, TBS. "The Butter Shave." Jerry and George's attempt to "take a vacation from ourselves" by growing mustaches fails; Kramer experiments with butter as a moisturizer, awakening a cannibalistic hunger in Newman.
9PM: Entourage, HBO. This is Sex in the City for guys. If you missed the 7th season premiere Sunday night, drop by HBO2 on Monday to see Vince, Drama, Ari, and the rest as they suffer the indignities of wealth, women, and all the attendant ennui.
10PM: Rescue Me, FX. If you're a fan of Denis Leary's Emmy award-winning, emotionally intense firefighter drama, make sure to catch the sixth season opener, "Legacy." If you haven't seen Rescue Me before, now might be a good time to start.
11PM: Louie, FX. The spiritual successor of HBO's Lucky Louie. Comedian Louis C.K. debuts the first episode of his new half-hour show, based on his experiences as a stand-up comic, plus a healthy dose of Curb Your Enthusiasm-esque sad-sack pratfalling.
8PM: So You Think You Can Dance, FOX. Do you think you like dance? If you do, you'll probably enjoy this show, if you're not watching already. American Idol is over, so you might as well tune in. Only nine contestants remain!
10PM: The Real World: New Orleans, MTV. There are few shows on television that are less like the 'real world,' which is exactly this MTV staple's appeal. Can you believe this season's premiere in New Orleans marks the show's 24th incarnation? For over 18 years now we have watched house after house of walking stereotypes approximating real human beings drink, fight, and screw. Expect nothing different for no. 24.
9PM: Enchanted, SyFy. An animated Disney princess turns into Amy Adams and is seduced by some Grey's Anatomy doctors in this smart 2007 musical comedy. You'll enjoy it more than you think.
10PM: Futurama, Comedy Central. In case you didn't hear the news, Futurama has been uncanceled and is now on Comedy Central! In "Attack of the Killer App," an unflattering video of Leela makes the rounds online, thanks to Fry.
8PM: Friday Night Lights, NBC. Everyone I know seems to like this show. I'm going to start watching it and you should too! Or, switch over to Space Jam on Encore, starring the unlikely comedy stylings of Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny.
11PM: Freaks and Geeks, IFC. The Independent Film Channel will begin airing the Judd Apatow-produced comedy-drama this Friday, starting with the pilot episode, which introduces us to Lindsay Weir, a disaffected teen who loses interest in academics and begins hanging out with a crew of burnouts that includes Seth Rogen, James Franco, and Jason Segel.
8PM: Men In Black, TBS. Revisit the movie that helped launch Will Smith into super-stardom and prepare for the upcoming Men In Black 3 (in 3D, natch). Tommy Lee Jones co-stars in this tale of a top-secret organization that keeps tabs on all of the alien refugees living on Earth, and must help maintain intergalactic peace.
11PM: Point Break, TNT. Keanu Reeves goes undercover as a California surfer dude to solve a string of bank robberies in this 1991 cult flick, also starring Gary Busey and Patrick Swayze. Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) directs.
9PM: Dave Chappelle: Killin' Them Softly, Comedy Central. This is Chappelle's best standup special, hands down. Features the comedian's take on politics, Sesame Street, gender, and race. Bonus: extensive use of Dave's hilarious 'white guy' voice.
11PM: Casino Royale, USA. Forget all about Quantum of Solace with the film that revitalized the franchise and brought us one of the best Bonds in decades. Daniel Craig stars in this smart thriller, with Bad Guys and Bond Girls aplenty.