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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Quentin Tarantino loves history. Sometimes it's personal history: flashbacks and forwards allow movies like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Kill Bill to fluidly bounce around time, the juxtaposition of the "then" and "now" creating illuminating collisions. Sometimes it's grander history: Inglorious Basterds and his new film, Django Unchained, unveil the grimmer truths of World War II and the slave-owning American South, respectively. But it's hard to call Tarantino a historian, as the film-buff-turned-filmmaker filters his explorations through exploitations. This is the guy who had his violent Jewish band of brothers tommy gun Hitler in a burning movie theater. Tarantino loves history, but offers his own imaginative version of it.
Tarantino has taken liberties once again with Django, prioritizing the magic of cinema over striving for truth, while never driving the film into unbelievable territory. Obviously, it's enraging a few choice people — Spike Lee won't even see the movie, which depicts a slave-turned-bounty-hunter blasting his way to his enslaved wife — but Tarantino sticks to his guns. As he writes in an essay for the New York Times, "Any of the Western directors who had something to say created their own version of the West ... When you learn of the rules and practices of slavery, it was as violent as anything I could do — and absurd and bizarre. You can’t believe it’s happening, which is the nature of true surrealism."
One of the movie's major quick-call-the-fact-checker moments is a brutal scene involving "Mandingo Fighting." A gambling pastime of the wicked plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), the sequence boils down to a wrestling match to the death, with two slaves punching, kicking, and slamming each other until there's a victor. The sequence prompted historians to speak up about the troubling sport. David Blight, the director of Yale’s center for the study of slavery, explained to Slate that sending slaves to fight didn't make monetary sense. Edna Greene Medford, chairperson of the history department of Howard University, told NextMovie that after years of studying slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction, she had never encountered anything resembling "Mandingo Fighting." Knowing these facts only plays to Tarantino's intentions with the scenes: they may not factually true, but they feel like they could be in the frightening world of the Antebellum South.
Tarantino's inclusion of the wrestling match is likely born from his enjoyment of the 1975 blaxploitation film Mandingo, which he cites the book Quentin Tarantino: Interviews as one of his favorites. Tarantino shaped a career out of paying homage to the films he deems classics, using them as seeds for his own wild concoctions rather than spoofing them sloppily. Following the Western genre's basis of truth (the West was truly wild after the 1873 Supreme Court Case Taylor vs. Taintor expanded the roles of bail bondsmen and bounty hunters), Tarantino had freedom to collage Spaghetti Westerns, specifically the works of original Django director Sergio Corbucci, with iconography of the South. Django also takes its cues from other blaxploitation — from camera zooms to the anachronistic music cues, Tarantino lays on a level of badassery common the '70s into into his period film. Many cineastes see a connection to 1972's The Legend of Nigger Charley, which made similar attempts to blend gunslinging and blaxploitation.
One of the most fascinating and divisive characters in the film is Samuel L. Jackson's Stephen, an older house slave who acts as a puppeteer to DiCaprio's Candie. Stephen doesn't pull any punches with his fellow slaves, more master than companion to the "lower class" that worked on Candie's plantation. As mind-boggling as Stephen's relationships might seem (Jackson's quotes in interviews acknowledging his study of the film slavery exploitation film Goodbye Uncle Tom as a reference for the character), it's Tarantino exaggerating an actual social ladder that actually existed at the time. Ira Berlin's 2003 book Generations of Captivity, the author elaborates on the lives of black slaveholders and their general emergence into slave-owning culture. As he puts it, "In slave societies, nearly everyone – free and slave – aspired to enter the slaveholding class, and upon occasion some former slaves rose into slaveholders’ ranks." Django's aggressive campaign to win back his wife without any bloodshed also speaks to this established hierarchy. While it does end in a big Western shootout, the setup calls back to the history books.
In the end, going through Django Unchained with a fine-toothed comb looking for authenticity is a fleeting effort. In some places it's there, but Tarantino is a cowboy when it comes to working with "facts." He'll take them when he needs them, but his real goal is finding an emotional core and crafting great cinema. If that means Django's wife Broomhilda is written as a sexually abused runaway slave (which has historical accuracy), then in the world of Tarantino, she can also be the distant relative of blaxploitation icon Shaft (and she is). Anything goes in the in the Wild West world of Tarantino.
[Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company]
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It was the trickle of pee heard around the world. Cannes attendees were aghast and/or amused an infamous scene from The Paperboy that shows Nicole Kidman urinating on Zac Efron; this is apparently a great salve for jellyfish burns which were covering our Ken Doll-like protagonist. (In fact the term protagonist should be used very loosely for Efron's character Jack who is mostly acted upon than active throughout.)
Lurid! Sexy! Perverse! Trashy! Whether or not it's actually effective is overshadowed by all the hubbub that's attached itself to the movie for better or worse. In fact the movie is all of these things — but that's actually not a compliment. What could have become somethingmemorable is jaw-droppingly bad (when it's not hilarious). Director Lee Daniels uses a few different visual styles throughout from a stark black and white palette for a crime scene recreation at the beginning to a '70s porno aesthetic that oscillates between psychedelic and straight-up sweaty with an emphasis on Efron's tighty-whiteys. This only enhances the sloppiness of the script which uses lines like narrator/housekeeper/nanny Anita's (Macy Gray) "You ain't tired enough to be retired " to conjure up the down-home wisdom of the South. Despite Gray's musical talents she is not a good choice for a narrator or an actor for that matter. In a way — insofar as they're perhaps the only female characters given a chunk of screen time — her foil is Charlotte Bless Nicole Kidman's character. Anita is the mother figure who wears as we see in an early scene control-top pantyhose whereas Charlotte is all clam diggers and Barbie doll make-up. Or as Anita puts it "an oversexed Barbie doll."
The slapdash plot is that Jack's older brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey) comes back to town with his colleague Yardley (David Oyelowo) to investigate the case of a death row criminal named Hillary Van Wetter. Yardley is black and British which seems to confuse many of the people he meets in this backwoods town. Hillary (John Cusack) hidden under a mop of greasy black hair) is a slack-jawed yokel who could care less if he's going to be killed for a crime he might or might not have committed. He is way more interested in his bride-to-be Charlotte who has fallen in love with him through letters — this is her thing apparently writing letters and falling in love with inmates — and has rushed to help Ward and Yardley free her man. In the meantime we're subjected to at least one simulated sex scene that will haunt your dreams forever. Besides Hillary's shortcomings as a character that could rustle up any sort of empathy the case itself is so boring it begs the question why a respected journalist would be interested enough to pursue it.
The rest of the movie is filled with longing an attempt to place any the story in some sort of social context via class and race even more Zac Efron's underwear sexual violence alligator innards swamp people in comically ramshackle homes and a glimpse of one glistening McConaughey 'tock. Harmony Korine called and he wants his Gummo back.
It's probably tantalizing for this cast to take on "serious" "edgy" work by an Oscar-nominated director. Cusack ditched his boombox blasting "In Your Eyes" long ago and Efron's been trying to shed his squeaky clean image for so long that he finally dropped a condom on the red carpet for The Lorax so we'd know he's not smooth like a Ken doll despite how he was filmed by Daniels. On the other hand Nicole Kidman has been making interesting and varied career choices for years so it's confounding why she'd be interested in a one-dimensional character like Charlotte. McConaughey's on a roll and like the rest of the cast he's got plenty of interesting projects worth watching so this probably won't slow him down. Even Daniels is already shooting a new film The Butler as we can see from Oprah's dazzling Instagram feed. It's as if they all want to put The Paperboy behind them as soon as possible. It's hard to blame them.
No 90210 fan wonders what Megan Fox sees in husband Brian Austin Green, and according to Ali Larter, your decade-long crush on David Silver was entirely justified.
Larter has a sex scene with Green in the pilot for the drama The Asset, and she reports, "It was fantastic." Larter, who plays a CIA agent who goes undercover as a photojournalist, adds, "There are lot of very sexy, dark, disturbing situations ... It's very complicated. It's just very dark, so we'll see if it goes or not. Fox [the television network, not Megan] may be a little bit scared of it."
Larter's endorsement is even more impressive, considering that actors usually complain about how uncomfortable and unsexy it is to hit the sheets with their co-stars. Green definitely deserves a spot on our list of Hollywood's best on-screen lovers — alongside Shia LaBoeuf, who was called "the best kisser ever," by none other than Fox.
Twilight star Ashley Greene has had a chance to makeout with Kellan Lutz and Jackson Rathbone, but she says she had the most fun filming her love scenes with Olivia Wilde in their film Butter. When asked to name the best kisser in Hollywood, Green said, “I'm going to go with Olivia. Sorry guys. Ours was much more intense than either of the boys, so they need to step up their game." She added, "She is a good kisser. And I would know this because we had to do several takes."
Timberlake has received some mixed reviews. Though his Friends With Benefits co-star Mila Kunis said two weeks of filming sex scenes with JT was "uncomfortable" at first, Amanda Seyfried loved getting romantic with him on the set of In Time. “Sex scenes are great," she said. “A lot of my co-stars have been sexy guys my age, and so, why not? I’m not going to pretend it’s not fun. Justin was great. He had come from doing Friends With Benefits, where he basically had sex every day at work so it was easy for both of us. We just kind of got it on, and then were like, ‘That was good!’"
Real life couple Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson play it coy on what it was like to film their Twilight love scenes, but Reese Witherspoon wasn't shy with her praise for her Water for Elephants co-star. “He’s super duper sexy,” said Witherspoon, adding that she didn't even mind being cold during filming. “Let’s just get something straight, it’s still a sex scene with Rob Pattinson! I was having a very good time.”
While pretty much every lady would jump at the chance to make out with Don Draper (though they probably shouldn't), Jon Hamm actually got more out of his ridiculous Bridesmaids sex scenes with Kristen Wiig than she did. While the SNL funny lady recalls, "We just kind of made up all these different horrible things that he could do to me and ways he could throw me around the room," Hamm says he tried to make the most of the scenes. "It's like running in the rain. There's a certain point where you go, 'F**k it, I'm already wet. I'm not going to get any less wet, so I might as well just enjoy how this feels.'" He reports that after the initial awkwardness faded, "You think, All right, we're doing this, so let's have fun with it ... You're in that moment and it's happening and it's not going to get any better, so you might as well enjoy it."
Zac Efron may have throngs of tween admirers, but he's enamored with a (very married) woman 20 years his senior. He says of his sex scenes with Nicole Kidman in The Paperboy, "It was everything you dreamed of. She was such a lovely person. I pinched myself every day, especially after doing love scenes with Nicole Kidman. Nicole is so gorgeous!"