Michael Arbeiter
Staff editor Michael Arbeiter’s natural state of being can best be described as “mild panic attack.” His earliest memories of growing up in Queens, New York, involve nighttime conversations with a voice from his bedroom wall (the jury’s still out on what that was all about) and a love for classic television that spawned from the very first time he was allowed to watch “The Munsters.” Attending college at SUNY Binghamton, a 20-year-old Michael learned two things: that he could center his future on this love for TV and movies, and that dragons never actually existed — he was kind of late in the game on that one.
  • Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /media/www/hollywood/Web/releases/20150325105258/vendor/doctrine/common/lib/Doctrine/Common/Annotations/FileCacheReader.php on line 202 Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /media/www/hollywood/Web/releases/20150325105258/vendor/doctrine/common/lib/Doctrine/Common/Annotations/FileCacheReader.php on line 202 Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /media/www/hollywood/Web/releases/20150325105258/vendor/doctrine/common/lib/Doctrine/Common/Annotations/FileCacheReader.php on line 202 Hand-Picked Flix: Watch 'Battle Royale' for Your Saturday Night Fever
    By: Michael Arbeiter Mar 08, 2014
    Anchor Bay via Everett Collection It's Saturday night. The game is on. The town is yours. You're ready to go. But you need a little cinematic pep-talk. A movie that'll get your adrenaline rushing top speed. Something with action, adventure, excitement... hell, maybe even something fantastical every so often. This week, our Netflix Hand-Picked Flix recommendation for Saturday Night Fever is Battle Royale. It says a lot when a movie's title becomes a permanent fixture in the international lexicon. The 2000 Japanese action movie Battle Royale is an unmistakably influential piece of cinema, predating America's fight-to-the-death franchise The Hunger Games by more than a decade. The movie, itself adapted from a 1999 novel, centers on a junior high school student who is thrust into a lethal competition with his classmates at the whim of the government. Making everything in American cinema look tame by comparison, Battle Royale is not only brutal but skillfully delivered, with dazzling aesthetics, fun characters, and the emotional throughline of the hero's journey to overcome the death of his father. There are few films as capable of kicking up your pulse, and even fewer that can do so and still maintain an artistic air. You can watch Battle Royale on Netflix, and check back tomorrow for our Lazy Sunday pick. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Review: 'Mr. Peabody & Sherman' Is Somewhat Sloppy, But with Heart, a Message, and So Many Puns
    By: Michael Arbeiter Mar 07, 2014
    DreamWorks For the bulk of every Rocky and Bullwinkle episode, moose and squirrel would engage in high concept escapades that satirized geopolitics, contemporary cinema, and the very fabrics of the human condition. With all of that to work with, there's no excuse for why the pair and their Soviet nemeses haven't gotten a decent movie adaptation. But the ingenious Mr. Peabody and his faithful boy Sherman are another story, intercut between Rocky and Bullwinkle segments to teach kids brief history lessons and toss in a nearly lethal dose of puns. Their stories and relationship were much simpler, which means that bringing their shtick to the big screen would entail a lot more invention — always risky when you're dealing with precious material. For the most part, Mr. Peabody & Sherman handles the regeneration of its heroes aptly, allowing for emotionally substance in their unique father-son relationship and all the difficulties inherent therein. The story is no subtle metaphor for the difficulties surrounding gay adoption, with society decreeing that a dog, no matter how hyper-intelligent, cannot be a suitable father. The central plot has Peabody hosting a party for a disapproving child services agent and the parents of a young girl with whom 7-year-old Sherman had a schoolyard spat, all in order to prove himself a suitable dad. Of course, the WABAC comes into play when the tots take it for a spin, forcing Peabody to rush to their rescue. Getting down to personals, we also see the left brain-heavy Peabody struggle with being father Sherman deserves. The bulk of the emotional marks are hit as we learn just how much Peabody cares for Sherman, and just how hard it has been to accept that his only family is growing up and changing. DreamWorks But more successful than the new is the film's handling of the old — the material that Peabody and Sherman purists will adore. They travel back in time via the WABAC Machine to Ancient Egypt, the Renaissance, and the Trojan War, and 18th Century France, explaining the cultural backdrop and historical significance of the settings and characters they happen upon, all with that irreverent (but no longer racist) flare that the old cartoons enjoyed. And oh... the puns. Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a f**king treasure trove of some of the most amazingly bad puns in recent cinema. This effort alone will leave you in awe. The film does unravel in its final act, bringing the science-fiction of time travel a little too close to the forefront and dropping the ball on a good deal of its emotional groundwork. What seemed to be substantial building blocks do not pay off in the way we might, as scholars of animated family cinema, have anticipated, leaving the movie with an unfinished feeling. But all in all, it's a bright, compassionate, reasonably educational, and occasionally funny if not altogether worthy tribute to an old favorite. And since we don't have our own WABAC machine to return to a time of regularly scheduled Peabody and Sherman cartoons, this will do okay for now. If nothing else, it's worth your time for the puns. 3/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Review: 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' Is Flawless — Funny, Touching, Shocking, and Truly Adventurous
    By: Michael Arbeiter Mar 07, 2014
    Fox Searchlight You don't arrive at the Grand Budapest Hotel without your share of Wes Anderson baggage. Odds are, if you've booked a visit to this film, you've enjoyed your past trips to the Wes Indies (I promise I'll stop this extended metaphor soon), delighting especially in Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and his most recent charmer Moonrise Kingdom. On the other hand, you could be the adventurous sort — a curious diplomat who never really got Anderson's uric-toned deadpan drudgings but can't resist browsing through the brochures of his latest European getaway. First off, neither community should worry about a bias in this review — I'm a Life Aquatic devotee, equally alienating to both sides. Second, neither community should be deterred by Andersonian expectations, be they sky high or subterranean, in planned Budapest excursions. No matter who you are, this movie will charm your dandy pants off and then some. While GBH hangs tight to the filmmaker's recognizable style, the movie is a departure for Anderson in a number of ways. The first being plot: there is one. A doozy, too. We're accustomed to spending our Wes flicks peering into the stagnant souls of pensive man-children — or children-men (Moonrise) or fox-kits (guess) — whose journeys are confined primarily to the internal. But not long into Grand Budapest, we're on a bona fide adventure with one of the director's most attractive heroes to date: the didactic Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes mastering sympathetic comedy better than anyone could have imagined he might), who invests his heart and soul into the titular hotel, an oasis of nobility in a decaying 1930s Europe. Gustave is plucked from his sadomasochistic nirvana overseeing every cog and sprocket in the mountaintop institution and thrust into a madcap caper — reminiscent of, and not accidentally, the Hollywood comedies of the era — involving murder, framing, art theft, jailbreak, love, sex, envy, secret societies, high speed chases... believe me, I haven't given half of it away. Along the way, we rope in a courageous baker (Saoirse Ronan), a dutiful attorney (Jeff Goldblum), a hotheaded socialite (Adrien Brody) and his psychopathic henchman (Willem Dafoe), and no shortage of Anderson regulars. The director proves just as adept at the large scale as he is at the small, delivering would-be cartoon high jinks with the same tangible life that you'd find in a Billy Wilder romp or one of the better Hope/Crosby Road to movies. Fox Searchlight Anchoring the monkey business down to a recognizable planet Earth (without sacrificing an ounce of comedy) is the throughline of Gustave's budding friendship with his lobby boy, Zero (newcomer Tony Revolori, whose performance is an unprecedented and thrilling mixture of Wes Anderson stoicism and tempered humility), the only living being who appreciates the significance of the Grand Budapest as much as Gustave does. In joining these two oddballs on their quest beyond the parameters of FDA-approved doses of zany, we appreciate it, too: the significance of holding fast to something you believe in, understand, trust, and love in a world that makes less and less sense everyday. Anderson's World War II might not be as ostensibly hard-hitting as that to which modern cinema is accustomed, but there's a chilling, somber horror story lurking beneath the surface of Grand Budapest. Behind every side-splitting laugh, cookie cutter backdrop, and otherworldly antic, there is a pulsating dread that makes it all mean something. As vivid as the worlds of Rushmore, Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Moonrise might well have been, none have had this much weight and soul. So it's astonishing that we're able to zip to and fro' every crevice of this haunting, misty Central Europe at top speeds, grins never waning as our hero Gustave delivers supernaturally articulate diatribes capped with physically startling profanity. So much of it is that delightfully odd, agonizingly devoted character, his unlikely camaraderie with the unflappably earnest young Zero, and his adherence to the magic that inhabits the Grand Budapest Hotel. There are few places like it on Earth, as we learn. There aren't many movies like it here either. 5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: I Have Nothing Good to Say About '300: Rise of an Empire,' So Turn Back Now
    By: Michael Arbeiter Mar 06, 2014
    Legendary Pictures Gun to my head, I might be able to say something positive about 300: Rise of an Empire. In a vacuum, I suppose I'd call its aesthetic appealing, its production value impressive, or its giant rhinos kind of cool. But these elements cannot be taken alone, embroidered on a gigantic patch of joyless pain that infests your conscious mind from its inceptive moments on. It's not so much that the 300 sequel fails at its desired conceit — it gives you exactly what it promises: gore, swordplay, angry sex, halfwit maxims about honor and manliness and the love of the fight. It's simply that its desired conceit is dehumanizing agony. Holding too hard and too long to its mission statement to top its Zack Snyder-helmed predecessor in scope, scale, and spilled pints of blood, Noam Murro's Rise of an Empire doesn't put any energy into filtering its spectacular mayhem through whatever semblance of a humanistic touch made the first one feel like a comprehensive movie. Legendary Pictures Now, it's been a good eight years since I've seen 300, and I can't say that I was particularly fond of it. But beneath its own eye-widening layer of violence, there was a tangible idea of who King Leonidas was, what this war meant, and why Sparta mattered. No matter how much clumsy exposition is hurled our way, all we really know here is that there are two sides and they hate each other. When Rise of an Empire asks us to engage on a more intimate level, which it does — the personal warfare between Sullivan Stapleton (whose name, I guess, is Themistokles) and Bad Guy Captain Eva Green (a.k.a. Artemisia) is founded on the idea that she likes him, and he kind of digs her (re: angry sex), and they want to rule together, but a rose by any other name and all that — we're effectively lost. With characters who don't matter in the slightest, material like this is just filler between the practically striking battle sequences. Legendary Pictures But when the "in-between material" is as meaningless as it is in Rise of an Empire, the battles can't function as much more than filler themselves. Filler between the opening titles and closing credits. A game of Candy Crush you play on the subway. Contemptfully insubstantial and not particularly fun, but taking place nonetheless. Without even a remote layer of camp — too palpably absent as Rise of an Empire splashes its screen with so much human fluid that "The End" by The Doors will start to play in your head — there's no victory in a movie like this. No characters to latch onto, no story to follow, no joy to be derived. Yes, it might be aesthetically stunning (and really, that's where the one star comes in... well, half a star for that and half for the giant rhinos), but the marvel of its look shrinks under the shadow of the painful vacancy of anything tolerable. 1/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • All the Awkward Shots of Mark Wahlberg's Gigantic Arms in 'Transformers 4' Trailer
    By: Michael Arbeiter Mar 05, 2014
    There is one thing that really sticks out in the new trailer for Transformers: Age of Extinction — not the robots, not the Texas, not the Tucci. It's the arms. Mark Wahlberg's hulking limbs, clumsily on display in the vast majority of the video's runtime. Unbound by fabric, Wahlberg's arms play central protagonist in Michael Bay's latest teaser, showcasing an unprecedented range of joy, frustration, and pushing as Bay's camera awkwardly slips them into every other frame. It seems we have finally met this Transformers movie's true hero. Take a look — In case you missed a few, here's a quick rundown of all the awkward arm shots: We first meet our main character, Wahlberg's Arms, at about :19, thrusting himself toward a clear Texas sky as his veins course with an optimistic vigor. Transformers: Age of Extinction/YouTube Just a few seconds later (:25), Wahlberg's Arms sets to work, employing the only element as powerful as they — fire — to uncover the mystery of something far less visually stimulating than a flexed appendage. Transformers: Age of Extinction/YouTube "Now wait just a minute!" cries Wahlberg's Arms at :33, fastening their face-bases at the hips of the braindead organism they use as transport, and taking issue with whatever is going on at the other side of this room. Was it something to do with that truck? Can we just take a peek? No, no, stay focused on the biceps. Transformers: Age of Extinction/YouTube Finally, Arms sees some action! At :39, W.A.'s chief adversary — a heavy door — makes its first appearance, setting off what could be Bay's most exciting combat sequence yet! Transformers: Age of Extinction/YouTube Hey, what's that pesky metal bar doing getting in the way of Wahlberg's Arms at :47? Transformers: Age of Extinction/YouTube Oh, thank God. (:51) Transformers: Age of Extinction/YouTube Bay knew that sacrificing the aesthetic of a clear background would be a risky move for Transformers 4, but it proves successful when Wahlberg's Arms takes center stage at :59, hanging low and stiff in a yet unseen dramatic turn for the actor. Transformers: Age of Extinction/YouTube Wahlberg's Arms exhibits his most impressive feat yet at 1:48, taking on a sleeved look for a darker, more cerebral performance. You hear it here first: mark 2014 as the Armaissance. Transformers: Age of Extinction/YouTube Have a great day, everyone. Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Hand-Picked Flix: Watch 'Cutie and the Boxer' for Your Docu-Wednesday
    By: Michael Arbeiter Mar 05, 2014
    Everett Collection It's the middle of the week, and your brain has all but lost its functional juices. You need an intellectual jump — a compelling lesson in history, science, or art, but without entailing that troublesome task of reading. What you need is a documentary. This week, our Netflix Hand-Picked Flix recommendation for Docu-Wednesdays is Cutie and the Boxer. Nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature at this year's Academy Awards, Cutie and the Boxer is a personal look at art and marriage, and how the two are often at odds with one another. We meet octogenarian experimental painter Ushio Shinohara, who has devoted his life to his work at the expense of financial stability and, more focally, his wife Noriko's passions. An artist as well, the much younger Noriko has sacrificed her own drive in an effort to play the supportive figure to Ushio, although we get a glimpse into her imagination via Cutie and the Boxer. Intercut with animated segments created by Noriko, the film is as emotional as it is cerebrally inspiring, cutting to the core of the struggles entailed by devotion to one's art and devotion to another human being. You can watch the movie on Netflix, and check back tomorrow for our Throwback Thursday recommendation. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Will Forte Tells Us His Favorite Scene in Movie History
    By: Michael Arbeiter Mar 04, 2014
    Paramount via Everett Collection Most folks would sooner call Will Forte "the guy from MacGruber" than they would "the guy from Nebraska." Although his comedic chops as the Saturday Night Live action hero are awe-inspiring, Forte's work in Alexander Payne's Oscar nominated father-son story shows off a special talent for the dramatic. According to Forte, there's not a great deal of difference between the two kinds of acting — in chatting about the Blu-ray release of Nebraska (which you can purchase now), Forte blurred the lines of comedic and dramatic performance and clued us into his favorite scene in movie history. I think a lot about when I first heard you were going to be in Nebraska. When a comedic actor takes a dramatic role, people always ask, "Are they moving to drama?" as if it's a diametric shift. But I was wondering, since you balance comedy and drama in this movie, if you think that the different types of acting coexist, or if you do view them as separate?Well, coming into the process, I was nervous because I looked at them as two very separate things. After going through it, I realized there are a lot more similarities than I thought. In fact, at the end I just realized, "Oh my god, it's the exact same thing!" Bruce Dern would always say during this process — he would give me this advice, because I was really intimidated and nervous in the beginning — he'd say, "Don't worry. Relax. Just listen and find the truth of the scene. Listen and be in the moment." At first, I thought it was all just drama school mumbo jumbo, but then it really, really started to make sense the further we got in. I just realized that it was exactly right. If you're really listening and trying to be real in every moment… that's all anything is. That's all you're doing in comedy, too. The situations may be a little more absurd, but you're still just trying to find whatever the truth is in that scene and then commit to it a hundred percent. And lock in. After a while, it was like I was inside the Matrix. [Laughs] I'm not fully there yet! I have a ton of work to do, by the way. I think you're known best for your deadpan style. Do you think specifically being a deadpan comedian lent to this kind of role in a movie that balances comedy and drama so adeptly?That's so funny you say that — and I'm happy to hear you say that! Because I remember when I was first starting at the Groundlings, I loved doing deadpan stuff. But then the further I went through, I would think a lot of people would think of me as this loud, obnoxious person who does crazy, crazy stuff. So I love to hear that you think of me as deadpan, because that's something I've always loved doing. And absolutely. I think the best way to answer that — and I don't know if it's an answer at all — when I was starting out in comedy at the Groundlings, everyone would write and act in their own stuff. So you would write your stuff on your own, you would be the crazy person, and you'd have your friend as the straight man for you. And then you would do them that favor in their stuff. I guess had some experience being the straight man from that. And you know, you learn little bits along the way as you're going. I've learned so much through Saturday Night Live. You're doing so many different sketches each week that you're really getting some kind of training in all this without even knowing it. It was so much fun to get a chance to do a role like this. I would always think, "God, I wonder if I could ever do something like that," when I was watching a more dramatic movie. But I never thought I'd get a chance to see if I could. So this was such a wonderful, rewarding experience for so many different reasons. But it was also fun to have this challenge to see if I could do something like this. Paramount via Everett Collection Thinking about this movie, and Bruce Dern's Oscar nomination, he’s obviously the showy role. When a lot of people think of the best roles in cinema, they think of Raging Bull and Streetcar Named Desire. I think that's the kind of role that Bruce Dern is doing here. But I think there is something so mathematical about what you're doing in this movie — takes that you do, the way you look at Bruce when he says something heartbreaking. I was wondering if you had a specific reverence for downplayed dramatic performances, and if there are any particular ones that you hold close to your heart?Oh man. That is such a tough question. One thing I will say … getting to watch Bruce deliver this performance with my own two eyes is something I will never forget. It felt so special while we were making this — his performance — and then when I got to see it on the big screen for the first time after Alexander had finished putting it all together, it was every bit as special as I remembered. What a gift to be able to able to experience that from that proximity. As for appreciating [downplayed roles]… Man, it's the old thing where you — well, record stores don't really exist anymore — but I'd go into a record store, and for months and months I'd think about all these records that I'd be wanting to get, and then you find yourself in the record store and you can't remember a single one. So you just invited me into the record store and I can't think of the records I want to get. What are your favorites and I'll tell you if I like them! I always think of Dustin Hoffman in Kramer vs. Kramer. He goes a little nuts, but he's a little bit more tempered than those other characters.Oh yeah! Wow. Yes. I remember seeing that movie in the theaters with my parents. My God, was that '78, '79, something like that? Yeah, '79.God, yes. Well, anything he does is amazing. I don't know if this even qualifies, but my favorite scene of any movie of all time is the scene in Dr. Strangelove when Peter Sellers is calling Dmitri — right? It's Dmitri, right? — Peter Sellers is the President of the United States calling him to apologize for having all the bombs sent over. Yes! "It's great to be fine."I know that's not the answer to your question, but that's all I could think of. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • How Pissed Were You About Last Night's 'How I Met Your Mother'?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Mar 04, 2014
    CBS If you haven't seen this week's How I Met Your Mother episode "Vesuvius," turn back now... the ep, and as such this post, contains what is likely the biggest spoiler in How I Met Your Mother history (which places it somewhere around the area of Kristin shot J.R./The hospital is in a snowglobe/The numbers meant nothing). A quick summary... By the time we hit 2030 and meet a long-winded Future Ted recounting his youthful forays to two closed-mouth Mosbiettes, the woman we spent eight years waiting to meet and one season getting to know will be dead. This was all but confirmed outright in this week's episode "Vesuvius," in which the usual framing device shifts to a matted-haired Josh Radnor chatting with Cristin Milioti at the Northampton hotel where they met many years prior. The reveal — which, we might note, was suggested by series creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, who insisted that the series finale would be "heartbreaking" —  is peppered gradually throughout the episode, hinted at when The Mother insists that she doesn't want Ted to "live in his stories," and emboldened when Ted breaks into tears over the thought of a mother not being around for her daughter's wedding day. By the end of the episode, it was terrifically clear that Milioti's character would not be long for this world. That Ted spent more time chasing the woman of his dreams than he might end up getting to spend with her. Reactions took the form of rage, sorrow, and your series-appropriate skepticism. Each side is at once differently valid and uniquely psychotic, and we wouldn't be a complete fan base were not for all components. So here's what sprung from the id-heavy minds of the HIMYM loving (and hate-watching) community last night. Anger"She's dead?! The mother is dead?!? What the f**k?!?" Nine seasons spent waiting to finally meet this lady, to watch her yank Ted out of his lifelong melancholy for an ultimately happy and loving life. To institute the idea that true love is not something that makes you feel sick and lonely (re: Ted's feelings for Robin) but whole. We waded through the Scherbatsky-induced misery, holding fast to the idea that one day Ted would meet someone who puts this whole ordeal to shame, who exhibits his relationship with (or, more accurately, "at") Robin for what it is — toxic, immature, and not the best that he can do. And now, all that has gone to s**t. Mother dies. Ted's alone again, nursing his wounds with meaningless distractions like stories and his children. But wait, brief hope: does this mean he can end up with Robin? That after the death of Milioti, Ted rekindles things with Ms. Scherbatsky (free of Barney for some inevitable reason) and spends his life with the love that he always knew to be his one and only? ... No, that's dumb and ridiculous. He's probably going to be alone. Or, as foreshadowed by Miloti's own brush with loss, forced to trek out again to find happiness once more.  On the side of this troupe is Alan Sepinwall, all but retired from HIMYM recaps, who felt it necessary to take to the web to pronounce his impassioned distaste for this choice. A great husk of Twitter echoed his sentiments. After investing so much time in a comedy series that, while impressive in its subversion of "traditional love" in the past few weeks still promised a "happy ending," we get this. Nothing shy of betrayal. Sadness"She's... she's dead? The m-mother is... dead? Oh... my God..." We hadn't seen this coming, despite warnings from Bays and Thomas. We didn't want to believe it. We wanted Ted to be... happy. This isn't quite what we had expected. But, in earnest, it's a touch of beauty. It's hurtful, jarring, and mean. But it sure is doing its job: making us well up.  See, it actually kind of makes sense. Ted's whole story is about putting one love behind him to find another. To find someone who can make him happy now, in real life and real time, rather than relying on fantasies and memories... and stories, as Milioti puts it ever so warmly. His quest to overcome Robin is really just a precursor to his quest circa 2030, to overcome the loss of The Mother and again set out to find happiness, and bring this happiness to his children. It might be tough, but it works. And it's going to drum up some tears... but that's what a good series finale does. Skepticism"Psh. She's not dead." We've seen this before, How I Met Your Mother. You make it REALLY OBVIOUS that something is going to happen, and then BAM. The other thing happens. Well, not this time. She ain't dyin'. There's no way you'd be crazy enough to end your CBS comedy series on such a bleak note. Maybe she's sick now, but gets better. Maybe the vague hints at death were in reference to someone else (hey, maybe Robin's dead, or something ... somehow, that doesn't bum us out as much, and we like Robin!). There are plenty of possibilities here. But The Mother dying ain't one of 'em. So which camp do you lie in? Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • 'Girls' Heads to 'Nebraska' ... Thematically Speaking
    By: Michael Arbeiter Mar 03, 2014
    HBO Last week, we delved into the theory that Girls was tackling the same themes as Spike Jonze's latest film Her — which we can now call Spike Jonze's Oscar winning film Her. This time around, the HBO series borrows a few elements from another Academy highlight, Nebraska: most obviously, the casting of June Squibb as Hannah’s ailing grandmother Flo, the going-home-again story that frames the episode, and more subtly, in the soft touches of humanism that we don't often see in Girls, but which were plentiful in Alexander Payne's spectacular dramatic comedy. If you didn't see Nebraska, you should (it's just as necessary as Her), but here's a brief recap: delusional octogenarian Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) believes himself to have won a million dollar sweepstakes and heads back to his home state of Nebraska to claim his prize money, stopping in his old neighborhood along the way with his put-upon son (Will Forte) and belligerent wife (Squibb) in tow. It's not as deftly connected, thematically, to Hannah's exploits this week as Her was last time, but there are certainly similarities. Hannah heads back home, at her mother's behest, to say goodbye to her grandma in the hospital before she passes. We meet Hannah's aunts Margot — high-strung and hostile — and Sissy — frazzled and spacey — and her contentious med student cousin Rebecca (Sarah Steele), with whom Hannah attempts a friendly connection that turns into a bitter argument and eventually a minor car accident. But the seasonal throughline is Hannah and Adam's relationship, which is brought to the forefront when Mrs. Horvath asks Hannah to tell her dying grandma that she and her bozo boyfriend are getting married. Hannah resists on the grounds of progressivism at first, but her mother's request Hannah with an abrupt realization of her own desires to maintain a life with Adam — a desire she defends when Mrs. Horvath suggests to Hannah that she might want to consider "other options." After Hannah and her cousin incur a fender bender — the result of an in-car argument about preadolescent masturbation — Adam rushes into down via the good graces of Desi's motorcycle to make sure that she's okay. Hannah's mother notes appreciation for his kindness, but dubs him "such an odd man," as well as "angry" and "uncomfortable in his own skin." It's actually a very ominous scene, building upon last week's subtle hint that Hannah and Adam will, soon enough, grow apart... but this time around, it's Hannah outgrowing Adam that is suggested. But she won't hear any of it — she's committed to him. Even Hannah's protests seem sad, implying that she's adhering to this man not out of genuine love but perhaps out of something a bit darker, like fear. The idea that Hannah is masking inner turmoil is noted in her grandma's final scene, when Flo curtly but caringly says, "You don't look good." Hannah responds with a sullen hesitation, a quick review of her own life and inner makeup, trying to take a glance from the kind of earnest perspective that only a grandmother can boast. She's not happy with who she is, but she's not ready or capable to come to grips with an honest look at herself just yet. Still, it's perhaps the most tender episode of Girls we've seen in ages, hearkening back to the demeanor of Squibb's latest big screen foray. We've come to expect a cynicism from Lena Dunham's series, but we're pleased to see that it can still hit its marks just as effectively when playing it soft. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • '12 Years a Slave' Wins Best Picture at the 86th Annual Academy Awards!
    By: Michael Arbeiter Mar 03, 2014
    Fox Searchlight Pictures via Everett Collection Just as many of us had expected and most of us had hoped, 12 Years a Slave has won the Best Picture Oscar at the 86th Annual Academy Awards. It is a move that a select few can take great issue with (Armond White among them), as director Steve McQueen's American slavery epic is as technically masterful as it is emotionally harrowing. And while it might seem the obvious choice in hindsight, there was a period during which we weren't altogether sure that the top trophy would land in the deserving hands of 12 Years. In the weeks leading up to the race, skeptics wondered if the top honor would in fact go to David O. Russell's American Hustle, a far lighter picture that grabs at the Academy's love for pizzazz and showmanship. But McQueen's far more dire but equally artful 12 Years did indeed earn the prize, and rightfully so. Taking the stage to accept the award, producer Brad Pitt spoke briefly before handing the mic to director Steve McQueen. Visually affected by the win, McQueen rifled off his gratitudes at a rapid fire rate, articulated the efforts of his production team and staff, and ultimately dedicating the award toward the spread of knowledge about slavery of past and present. Congratulations to 12 Years a Slave, a uniquely powerful film that more than deserved the Academy Award this year.