David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
The 30 Rock actress/writer is famously coy about discussing the blemish on her left cheek, but in 2008 her husband Jeff Richmond revealed the injury is the result of a knife attack when she was five years old.
Fey fears she will be "exploiting and glorifying" the incident if she discusses it - but now she's opened up about the effect the scar had on her as she grew up.
She tells The Sunday Times Magazine, "It wasn't until years later that I realised people weren't making a fuss over me because I was some incredible beauty or genius; they were making a fuss over me to compensate for my being slashed. I accepted all the attention at face value and proceeded through life as if I really were extraordinary."
Jewish and Hindu leaders have joined forces and are demanding an apology from the funnyman and network bosses at NBC after Carrey and SNL regular Kenan Thompson created a sex act on the show named after the deity.
Leading Hindu statesman Rajan Zed tells WENN, "Lord Ganesh is highly revered in Hinduism and is meant to be worshipped in temples or home shrines, not to be thrown around loosely in reimagined versions for dramatic effects in TV series.
"Such an absurd depiction of Lord Ganesh, with no scriptural backing, is hurtful to devotees. It's also disturbing and offensive to the one billion Hindus around the world.
"We are requesting NBC immediately removes footage of the comedy skit from all its websites and other links, and we think Jim Carrey, Kenan Thomson, NBC Universal President and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Zucker and SNL Executive Producer Lorne Michaels should tender a public apology."
In the skit, which first aired earlier this month (Jan11), Carrey played an erotic shaman who had developed new sex positions with Thompson's elderly character.
The Hindus aren't the only group upset by the comedy routine - leading Jewish advocate Rabbi ElizaBeth W. Beyer has released a statement criticising the parties responsible for the skit.
She writes, "Portrayal of a religious group's deity in a form that is condescending and low is a serious affront to the many Hindus who worship Ganesh. Making fun of someone's religion or god is not within keeping with our ideals as members of a civilised community.
"This skit, The Wrath of Ganesh, should be removed from the NBC website. Jim Carrey, NBC and others responsible for lampooning Lord Ganesh should provide public apologies.
"We Jews fully support Rajan Zed’s protest initiative on this issue and urge others involved in television and film industries to be more considerate to the feelings of devotees of all religions in the future."
Meanwhile, officials at the Forum for Hindu Awakening have called the skit a "grave denigration" and "vulgar mockery of Sri Ganesh", appealing for devout Hindus worldwide to protest against it.
Every week, I gush about the wondrous creation that is NBC’s Community in my recaps. I’m barely able to contain myself, trying to squeeze in every hilarious one-liner and often surpassing a reasonable word count just so that I can talk about each glorious and often tiny detail. Why so much love? If you’re a fan of the show you probably understand, but I’m focusing on those who’ve yet to experience the awesomeness. Fans of the show are so emphatic about how great Community is, but it’s hard to know why without diving into at least a few episodes yourself. With that in mind, perhaps I can tip the scales and make the decision to fall madly in love with this unique sitcom that much easier with a guide to one of the best (albeit sadly underappreciated) shows on television.
“There is a time and a place for subtlety, and that time was before Scary Movie.” – Troy
Yes, there are many shows that have a knack for pop culture references, and I’m not here to downplay their accomplishments, but when it comes to movie and television references, Community is king. The writers don’t just throw in witty quips that exhibit their extensive knowledge (we’re talking to you, Gilmore Girls). Nope. They don’t just insert their characters in wacky recreations of iconic movies scenes (Family Guy, you do this cleverly most of the time but let’s face it, Community kicks your ass). Creator Dan Harmon’s abnormal sitcom feeds off of pop culture references, taking the films and television shows the writers love and combining it with a ridiculous sense of humor to create something that pays homage to its source while still creating something completely unique.
Here’s an epic scene from the most well-known and action movie reference-heavy episode of the show, “Modern Warfare.” When I say it’s epic, I mean E-P-I-C. Enjoy.
“And that was it. It was that simple. At that moment we stopped being a family and started being a family …in italics.” - Abed
The integral piece of the pop culture element is one of Community’s best characters, Abed (which is saying a lot because I couldn’t banish a single character from the show if I tried). He’s your run of the mill confuses-TV-with-real-life character with an almost robotic ability to absorb and recite detail from life and film and television – oh, you’ve never heard of that character trait? Exactly.
On one level, he provides context for the unending film and TV references and brings a metaphysical element to the show by constantly referring to the fact that the characters are taking part in episodes and storylines in his normal character dialogue. On a much simpler level, but one that provides infinite entertainment, is the fact that Abed’s nature makes him a bit odd, to put it lightly. He’s not one to laugh normally with everyone else and his birdlike awkwardness is entertaining in itself. This base character takes those moments where he fully commits to his spur of the moment and spot-on impressions and movie reenactments from good to uproarious.
“To be blunt, Jeff and Britta is no Ross and Rachel. Your sexual tension and lack of chemistry are putting us all on edge...” –Abed
Season one was a little lighter on this concept, but the switch to season two made this point all too clear. Basically, Jeff and Britta are the leading man and lady of Community – at least as much as two people can be on an ensemble show – but unlike the flawed but ultimately lovable small screen couples like Jim and Pam or Ross and Rachel, Jeff and Britta are awful, dysfunctional people.
Now before I anger anyone, just know their bad qualities are what make them so awesome; it’s this sick relationship that keeps the Jeff/Britta connection from spiraling downward into sitcom mediocrity. Their terrible qualities are what tie them inextricably together and create constant angry, power-driven sexual tension while still letting them act as the antithesis of the on-again off-again relationship that seems to plague every sitcom. Even when the natural progression of the show drives them together, watch as Jeff and Britta have almost allergic reactions to the story pop culture has determined they must follow.
“I hope I get multiple personalities. I get lonely in long showers.” –Troy
Now the beauty of Troy Barnes is not just the show’s apt take on the typical dumb, self-centered yet completely lovable jock. The reason Troy (who mostly acts as a supporting character) should single-handedly motivate you to watch Community is that he’s played by one of the funniest comedians out there: Donald Glover. I’ll spare you all the details about his time as the youngest writer for 30 Rock and the fact that he’s actually a pretty decent rapper, and stick to the content at hand. Glover’s comedic delivery is uncanny and, as far as I can tell, unmatched. He brings his own brand of joyous, spastic voices and movements to everything he does, and if he doesn’t make you laugh there’s probably something wrong with you. Glover is also known among the cast for adding witty improvisations to the writers’ already hilarious lines, taking his well-crafted character to a whole new level of funny. Check out this scene where he takes what could have been an amusing plot twist and turns it to something absolutely hilarious. Just try and tell me you don’t love this guy. I dare you.
"I'm Doctor Doogie Seacrest. I think I'm better than everyone because I'm 40." -Troy
Just as with any episode of Community, you can’t end without a great tag. Usually Troy and Abed treat us to a mini-episode of their bromantic relationship, so without further ado, enjoy the one that started it all.
Community returns with new episodes this Thursday night at 8 p.m. on NBC.
S2:E11 It’s got to make other sitcoms feel sort of inadequate when Community can do an animated Christmas special and not only make us laugh uncontrollably, but also teach us something about the real “true meaning of Christmas.” I don’t see Charlie Harper pulling that off anytime soon.
Last night’s stop-motion animated Christmas episode has been popping up in the press since September and fans have been waiting all season to see what all the fuss was about. With all that hype, we could have had a mildly entertaining, cute little special that merited a sweet little smile, a sigh, and nothing more. Instead we got an episode that not only combined the ridiculous style of humor that characterizes most episodes of Community (see: Cartoon Toys with Christmas guns, Teddy Bear Chevy Chase), but also hearkens back to the old stop-motion Christmas movies we all know and love. By the time we reach Abed’s holiday conclusion, we’ve got enough warm and fuzzy to keep us going through New Year’s. Community has truly accomplished something wonderful: a stop-motion Christmas story for adults. Once again, my hat is off to you, Dan Harmon. (If you keep this awesome streak up, I’m never going to get to wear my hat.)
We’ve seen the photos that NBC has been releasing for weeks, showing Teddy Pierce, Troy Soldier, BallerAnnie, Baby Doll Shirley, Britta Bot, Jeff in the Box and Professor Duncan, the Christmas Wizard frolicking around in a snowy winter wonderland. How did our community college crew find themselves there? Well, Abed’s got the answer. Due to a repressed Christmas wish and a clear lack of holiday spirit from the gang and especially the Dean (“You may celebrate in designated holiday areas?” really?), Abed starts to see the world in stop-motion animation a la Burl Ives’ Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
To make use of his stop-motion vision, Abed dives into a song, adding Christmas lyrics to the Community theme song while dancing on cars in the parking lot until he gets tazed (see, Christmas movies for adults) by campus police. Ahh Christmas. Of course this doesn’t fly with the college, so Professor Duncan takes it upon himself to cure Abed to keep him from being kicked out of school (and to publish a lengthy research report). Abed doesn’t think it’s a delusion, and sees it as a call to find the true meaning of Christmas (he also takes a moment to clarify that they aren’t in fact, clay puppets, they’re silicone with foam bodies – good to know). This puts the whole gang in an imaginative exercise that takes them through Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas land on Planet Abed (its atmosphere is 70 percent cinnamon and it’s the most Christmasy place ever) – hence the title.
Though Duncan tries desperately to control Abed’s journey, Abed has an incredible knowledge of his imaginary Christmas land and with a song, he takes his misfit cohorts along with him on his quest for holiday truth. The gang is actually sitting in the study room as Abed’s imagination runs amuck, so Duncan comes in and out of the imagined land to check on Abed’s progress, but because it’s all Abed’s imagination Duncan’s constantly foiled by the endless supply of twists and turns Abed dreams up. Don’t worry Christmas Wizard, he’s got this.
The gang trots along the gum drop path and Abed warns them that the journey will be dark and dangerous, “like Wonka dark.” They head towards the Cave of Frozen memories, Shirley is upset that she’s a baby in Abed’s imagination. This brings up a squabble between the ladies about why they’ve each been given different Christmasland personas, and Shirley breaks the spell by calling out the session as therapy. Abed is scandalized and Duncan removes Shirley from the study room (or sends her away with his freeze wand and his Christmas Pteradactyl) because her dissent isn’t helping Abed. In a Wonka-esque twist, Abed sings Shirley off like he’s an oopma loopma and she just fell into the chocolate river.
Then, one of my favorite Abed inventions of the episode descends upon the group; humbugs. Oh yes, it's a scroogism brought to life; what a Christmas miracle. Humbugs are attracted to sarcasm (ha!) so of course, Jeff can’t manage to shut up (because he knows he’ll have to leave and he can go get laid instead, bastard) and he’s devoured by the cranky bugs. Annie takes on the singing duties, using a play on words with “presents” and “presence” and desperately seeking approval for her clever lyrical invention. See guys? I can do it too!
As the gang continues along the path, they reach a canyon where the plants produce Christmas songs instead of oxygen (can I live in Abed’s Christmas world?) but don’t worry, it won’t cost anything because they only sing public domain Christmas songs. Britta reveals herself as a total scrooge – but are you really surprised? – and reminds us all that there are just about a million conspiracies behind the Christmas story. The episode uses her as the personification of all that humbug mentality that seems to be going around everywhere – Christmas is just a commercial holiday, or Christmas is a religious hoax, blah blah blah. When they reach the Cave of Frozen memories, Abed finally (with sadness) expels her from his winter wonderland not because her overwhelming logic can’t grasp the holiday spirit, but because she tricked him into group therapy. Abed’s send off song is surprisingly touching and Britta Bot’s teary eyes are almost more than I can handle. Abed, Troy, Annie and Pierce all escape to a Christmas train where Abed admits that he has a yearly tradition with his mom – they watch Rudolph every year on December 9. Troy notes that it is December 9, but Abed won’t acknowledge it. Duncan reappears and tells Abed he found his mother’s note – she’s not coming this year. Troy and Annie realize how deeply Abed is hurt and agree to hold back Duncan so Abed can finish his holiday quest for meaning.
As Annie detaches the rest of the train, Pierce bursts out of the bathroom; he's stuck in the first train car with Abed. He’s surprisingly disarming as a little elderly bear whose feet squeak every time he steps (this serves to provide way more giggles than I should admit being a grown woman) and he admits that Christmas is sad when he’s home alone (his mother died earlier this year); for the first time all season, Pierce is actually lovable and I actually felt for the poor old guy. He helps Abed find Santa’s workshop where Abed bursts through the door like he’s going to bust some skulls, Pierce points to a random location and that’s where the present wrapped as the meaning of Christmas sits. Abed unwraps the box within a box within a box only to find that the meaning of Christmas is season 1 of LOST? He explains it’s a metaphor – “lack of payoff.” Burn. Too soon?
Duncan reappears, this time brandishing the actual apology Christmas card from Abed’s mother. He reads the message and Abed freezes in sadness. Of course, in true Community fashion, the whole gang reappears, ready to give Duncan the boot and help keep Abed’s Christmas spirit alive. Of course, being that this is Community and not an actual Christmas cartoon, they’re all brandishing “Christmas weapons” in a jollier version of last year’s modern warfare. They deliver a short and sweet message about not making Christmas about being logical, or right, or even (necessarily) religious; it’s about making one of the most dreadful times of the year one of the best times of the year and as long as they all support that delusion, they can enjoy the wonderful effects of Christmas. Aww. As they blow Duncan and his anti-Christmas mission away with their sparkly joy-filled guns, they sing a little sweet Christmas song; BallerAnnie even pirouettes her way into kicking Duncan in the face while singing about love. Kickass Christmas all the way.
This warms Abed’s heart and melts his little ice bubble. They all regain consciousness in the study room, but they’re still stop motion – ‘tis the season still! Abed thanks his Lost DVD and says he realizes that the study group is his new family. They all snuggle and watch Abed’s favorite Christmas movie together, and if you watch carefully as the end of the movie fades to black, you can see the reflection of the casts live-action selves in the television. Yes, this episode wasn’t an epic battle over chicken fingers and it took a little getting used to missing out on a bit of the physical comedy element of the show (although the animators’ ability to capture the cast’s expressions is sort of uncanny), you’d have to be a special kind of Grinch not to appreciate this wonderful little slice of Christmas comedy heaven.