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.
  • Review: 'Whiplash' Could Be One of the Great Music Movies of All Time
    By: Michael Arbeiter Sep 12, 2014
    Sony Pictures Classics via Everett Collection A basic command of rhythm will make your film watchable; kinetic proficiency will make it dramatically effective. But the aural language instituted by Damien Chazelle in his second directorial feature, Whiplash, lands you with a goddamn symphony. Chazelle constructs what might wind up being one of the great music movies of all time, conducting each tier of his film with an active ear. Whiplash opens with a literal drum solo — courtesy of driven Schaffer Academy student Andrew (Miles Teller) — setting precedent for a collection of tremendous jazz numbers to follow throughout. Immediately afterward, we watch Chazelle weave scenes together via the harmonies of brass, building an atmosphere that he molds and contorts as the picture progresses. But the most impressive symphonic feat is that which follows Andrew’s chaotic run toward a stature as jazz prodigy, and the tutelage, camaraderie, and enmity he earns from his no-nonsense-is-putting-it-lightly teacher Mr. Fletcher (J.K. Simmons, playing the gruffest, fieriest, most intimidating role yet in a career that has tossed him no shortage of opportunities of the like). Sony Pictures Classics Andrew’s story unravels, ribbons out, leaps, explodes, and recollects at such an absolutely delightful pace. Character beats are inset with such expert timing, that we occasionally get the rush of watching a live performance. Ultimately, Andrew’s story breathes and moves like a song — a jazz number, naturally — which renders every turn, reveal, and twist of perspective a tremendous showstopper. And what it has to say about music? Everything that jazz might entail: how beautiful it is to love the art so wholly, and how toxic and destructive it is to devote yourself entirely to its whims. Whiplash doesn’t shove us to either side of favor regarding either of its central heroes/villains (they are equal parts each, and merrily so), nor to either side of the dividing line on whether succumbing altogether to the corrosive call of the drumsticks is, to put it reductively, a “good idea.” With such gratitude we can affirm that the movie doesn’t want to teach us a lesson. It just wants to play us a song. 4.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'The Skeleton Twins' Is a Nice Time with Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, But Lacks Depth
    By: Michael Arbeiter Sep 12, 2014
    Lionsgate via Everett Collection I wasn’t entirely sure I’d be able to get past the fact that Bill Hader’s name is Milo. This was the forerunner of a number of elements that seemed to introduce The Skeleton Twins as an aggressively “Sundancey” picture: Hader and Kristen Wiig, estranged siblings living a country apart, both attempt suicide at the precise same moment, executing their mirror glowers and macabre goodbye letters in nearly perfect harmony; it’s that combination of dark and cute on which a generation of independent film was founded. But once the distance is mended — Maggie (Wiig) is brought to the bedside of her hospitalized brother — Skeleton Twins finds its pulp: the chemistry between the titular sibs. A film like Skeleton Twins rests its weight on whether or not its principal characters can be believed (and loved) as family. Where many fail, Twins strikes gold: we’ve seen Hader and Wiig play husband and wife, Californian lovers, game show host and incompetent contestant, and phone sex perpetrators rivaling for the vocal company of Joaquin Phoenix, but history does not dissuade entry into what makes for a touching, challenging fraternity in this film. Lionsgate via Everett Collection Individually, their performances sparkle too. Hader is fun as the frustrated, pithy fish-out-of-water (back in his hometown, appropriately) failed actor Milo, and Wiig duly charming as a woman suffocated by her marriage to the impossibly nice Lance (Luke Wilson, being tolerable). But it’s the togetherness — and the film’s permission to let the old friends play to their hearts’ content — that wins us over. The banter, the shtick, the “up” moments. But this dynamic chemistry comes at a price: Hader and Wiig are so effortlessly good together, we find it difficult to believe they ever might have let the years pass by without contact. Each is so readily funny that it is difficult to understand what brought them both to suicide at the film’s dawn. Skeleton Twins is so good at the up moments that it practically uproots the down, rendering its emotional core something of a nonentity. Still, Skeleton Twins lives up to its principal promise: a funny, sweet, more or less impressive platform for Hader and Wiig. They show off what we love about them and what we’ve long hoped we’d get to see, leaving plenty of room for growth in the next optimistic installment. And, miraculously, they manage to overcome the anchors of a movie that introduces itself as insistently “indie” as this one does. 3/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'Memphis' Is Beautiful to Look at, But Has Nothing Else Going for It
    By: Michael Arbeiter Sep 10, 2014
    Kino International via Everett Collection While it's not an entirely unenjoyable movie, Memphis is a tragic waste of all the talent evident in its creative team. We are ushered into the titular city — treated more like an extraterrestrial world by filmmaker Tim Sutton — through a collection of beautiful establishing shots, welcomed to meet the molting town, its fraying residents, and the general fog of shortsighted malaise that hangs above the lot. But the promise made by these early images is one that Sutton has no intention of keeping; it appears that with Memphis, Sutton wants to give his audience something to look at and nothing more. The writer/director doesn’t seem to have any intention of bringing us closer to Memphis, to its inhabitants, or even to the de facto hero of the picture: the dangerously eccentric musician Willis Earl Beal (playing an apparently non-fictionalized version of himself). We watch — and that’s the operative word — Willis struggle with his art, his relationships, and his sanity, though we are never beckoned close enough to feel any of his pangs or toils on a personal level. He, like the beautiful scenery of Memphis, is just something to look at. And, in the film’s more malicious moments, something to point at. Kino International via Everett Collection Beyond resulting in boredom (inevitably, no matter how striking the vision of cinematographer Chris Dapkins or how vivid the canvas with which he is blessed, we can’t help but long for something, anything to happen) the film even winds up feeling like an act of cruelty. Sutton’s distance from his characters — subjects, more accurately — is palpable throughout as his journey into Memphis seems more like a trip to an aquarium than a stay among this community. But the potential is real. Sutton’s command of rhythm is present; Dapkins’ artistry is remarkable. It’s a shame that with these tools at their disposal — including the enchanting land of Memphis itself — the team members didn’t set out to create a world that their viewers might actually get to visit. 2/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'Dolphin Tale 2' Is a Sweet, Occasionally Boring Film About Growing Up... and Dolphins
    By: Michael Arbeiter Sep 10, 2014
    Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection While it would take a special kind of bravery (and madness) to attempt a film adaptation of Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, its “world of possibilities” message is one that can find a cozy home in most any story about growing up. Cozy is just the word to describe Dolphin Tale 2 and its endeavor to carry forth the spirit of Dr. Seuss' final book. The clean-as-a-whistle family film uses its effectively flawless hero, the high school-aged Sawyer (Nathan Gamble), to celebrate the bounties of stepping out of your comfort zone and into the world. Throughout the film, Sawyer wrestles with a tough decision: does he accept a fantastic opportunity to spend a semester studying marine biology at sea through Boston University, or does he keep anchored to his work at the Clearwater Marine Hospital for fear of leaving his friends — both human and dolphin — behind when he fears they might need him the most? Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection Sawyer’s conflict carries forth as he and his colleagues (Cozi Zuehlsdorff and Harry Connick Jr.) search for a new cohabitant for amputee dolphin Winter, whose aged pool-mate Panama passes on in the beginning of the movie. The time spent with the animals is the movie’s greatest asset: Tensions hike whenever the team apprehends an ailing dolphin — one bears visible skin injuries, one is undersized and initially contentious with Winter — and the well-being of each rescued creature makes for consistent, palpable drama. Much lighter but perhaps doubly as charming fare surrounds a wounded sea turtle that Hazel (Zuehlsdorff) takes special attention to… and with whom Clearwater’s unofficial mascot Rufus the pelican falls ostensibly in love. Near lethal levels of cuteness ensue. While the wildlife material thrives on this kind of potent wholesomeness, the human stories suffer just a bit from a complete lack of teeth, incurring boredom on two or three occasions. Nevertheless, Dolphin Tale 2’s heart is admirable and more often than not affective. Saywer and Hazel collect life lessons courtesy of their family, colleagues, aquatic friends, and an occasional Morgan Freeman speech (he’s got a doozy involving a pocket watch metaphor), all to the thematic end of growing up. Founding itself on the values of seizing responsibility and setting sail out into the world, the saccharine, sleepy sequel could actually be a pretty valuable experience for young viewers. 3.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Joan Rivers: Always Controversial, Always Funny
    By: Michael Arbeiter Sep 04, 2014
    Bravo Media via Getty Images Odds have it that you’ve been put off by Joan Rivers at one point or another. Just a few weeks back, before health problems took way for the 81-year-old comedian, a good chunk of society took umbrage with a her expression of antipathy for the Palestinian civilians killed in a military attack. Throughout her years in film, television, the stage, and every red carpet we can remember, Rivers has taken heat for a wide variety of jokes that the world deemed too crass, insensitive, or otherwise politically incorrect. But Joan, who believed in comedy above all else — whose principal devotion was not to any one individual, group, or political leaning, but to the very idea of the laugh — never let up. Rivers must have understood that this was the kind of attitude — no, ideology —necessary to weather the challenges of starting a career in the boys’ club that was the comedy world of the 1960s… hell, that remains the comedy world to this day. But the vigor with which Rivers established herself was wholly important for not only the future of women in comedy, but for the very idea of comedy altogether. This bravado demanded that her targets be indiscriminate: she’d mock individuals as beloved as Elizabeth Taylor and Adele, mine comedy from events as sensitive as the Holocaust and the Ariel Castro kidnappings. With each new “crossing of the line,” as it were, Rivers would face more and more backlash. Rivers carried through in the face of professional setbacks — like the cold shoulder of Johnny Carson (after she accepted a television series opposite The Tonight Show) and 18-year-long banishment from the late night institution where she got her start — as well as personal tragedy, notably the suicide of her husband Edgar Rosenberg. Throughout all, Rivers entrenched herself in comedy and vice versa, proving often that she was her favorite thing to make fun of. It is unlikely that Rivers, an active force in comedy for more than half a century and riddled with tenacity up to the end of her life, didn’t offend each of us at one time. While her legions of watchers and listeners might hold true to the ideals of sensitivity, compassion, and courtesy — all perfectly legitimate values, in fact — Rivers’ allegiance was to one thing only, and she held true to this maxim without a hiccup. Whether it was a conscious decision to remain strong and convicted in the face of adversity, attack, and the relentless erosions of life, or simply the nature of the acerbic and cunning Brooklynite, Rivers wore the philosophy like a glove: making people laugh is what she was here for. And she sure as hell made sure to do it. Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • The Best and Worst Directorial Debuts of 2014
    By: Michael Arbeiter Sep 03, 2014
    We opened 2014 with heated anticipation for the next great turns from Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, Christopher Nolan, Lars von Trier, and a number of other cinematic vets. But the year has also treated us to a hefty sum of noteworthy first timers. We've caught a wide variety of debut attempts over the course of these past eight months, with enough qualitative range to incite reactions from "The next Hitchcock!" to "I might be able to get you a gig with my friend who does wedding videos, but don't tell him you know me." Here's a quick rundown of the debut flicks we've seen so far in '14, from great to terrible. THE GREAT Tribeca Film via Everett Collection Palo AltoDirector: Gia CoppolaWhy we're already on her bandwagon: In the vein of her aunt Sofia, the young Gia Coppola showcases an indubitable understanding of upper class ennui.  Hide Your Smiling Faces Director: Daniel Patrick CarboneWhy we're already on his bandwagon: Carbone's primarily wordless coming-of-age drama shows off his patience and pensiveness, not to mention his ability to skirt the self-importance than many films of Smiling Faces' ilk seem to bear. Obvious ChildDirector: Gillian RobespierreWhy we're already on her bandwagon: It's funny as hell even within the margins of genre tradition, and sweet without succumbing to Hollywood sugar. THE VERY GOOD Zeitgeist Films Zero MotivationDirector: Talya LavieShows promise of: A knack for absurdist humor and grounded character relationships alike. It Felt Like LoveDirector: Eliza HittmanShows promise of: A uniquely keen empathy for how young people conduct themselves, both internally and among one another. THE GOOD Tribeca Film via Everett Collection The Bachelor Weekend/The StagDirector: John ButlerShows potential in: A good sense of humor, especially when it veers closer to Apatow than McKay. Are You HereDirector: Matthew WeinerShows potential in: Social commentary through character construction, but Weiner needs a better handle on cinematic pacing. The One I LoveDirector: Charlie McDowellShows potential in: Big ideas, and the presentation thereof, but lacks in the ultimate execution of where they can and ought to go. THE SO-SO Drafthouse Films via Everett Collection Beneath the Harvest SkyDirector: Aron Gaudet and Gita PullapillyThere's room for improvement regarding: A sharper attention to the characters and story, which occasionally fade out of focus at the behest of a vivid North Maine setting. LullabyDirector: Andrew LevitasThere's room for improvement regarding The acerbic but knowing humor shared by the central family members, in favor of the intense melodrama that the film feels impelled to stuff itself with from time to time. Cheap ThrillsDirector: E.L. KatzThere's room for improvement regarding: The energy set toward invoking a truly interesting story or course of events, rather than the allowance of the "weird" or "dangerous" to take the wheel altogether like it does here. TammyDirector: Ben FalconeThere's room for improvement regarding: An authentic commitment to the sincerity in the characters, in place of wild and wacky antics like jetski crashes and deer mouth-to-mouth... though these were probably studio notes, we have to assume. THE BAD Music Box Films via Everett Collection Winter’s TaleDirector: Akiva GoldsmanWhat we hope he gets right next time: A more defined storytelling goal. While some of the film's elements worked in a vaccuum, Goldsman had been gestating a Winter's Tale adaptation for years, coming out the gate with something that is oddly both convoluted and terribly narrow.  MaleficentDirector: Robert StrombergWhat we hope he gets right next time: More Angie. A Coffee in Berlin/Oh BoyDirector: Jan Ole GersterWhat we hope he gets right next time: A better understanding of the fine line between cheeky and irritating. Earth to EchoDirector: Dave GreenWhat we hope he gets right next time: Ditch the essentially pointless found footage antic and hone in on the fleeting spirit of the kids. THE WORST Vertical Entertainment TranscendenceDirector: Wally PfisterWhy we're nervous for his future: Pfister is a skilled cinematographer, but his grasp of character, story, and ambiance seem dangerously absent. Goodbye to All ThatDirector: Angus McLachlanWhy we're nervous for his future: Ambitions seem to fall shy of originality, settling instead on retreading the same indie dramedy territory we've seen time and time again, but without any discernible charisma. If I StayDirector: R.J. CutlerWhy we're nervous for his future: A dastardly aesthetic, paper-thin characters, a devoted marriage to teen movie cliches, and a potentially dangerous mentality driving the story altogether do not bode well for Cutler's future behind the camera. Behaving BadlyDirector: Tim GarrickWhy we're nervous for his future: Because he thought this horrible thing could work. Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'The Congress' Is a Powerful, Weird Exploration of Sadness
    By: Michael Arbeiter Aug 29, 2014
    ARP Selection The Congress’s imperfections will not go unnoticed. Some of the movie’s more ambitious antics betray the fraying margins of a somewhat unfocused scope — when a film’s principal conquest is to channel the ubiquitous pains of simply being, you’ll have to expect a few loose ends or ruffled patches. Palpable missteps notwithstanding, we never lose view of the heart of the The Congress, a creative masterpiece with one ideological giant of a mission. On the surface, The Congress is specifically about show business and the vanities inherent therein. Robin Wright plays an alternate version of herself with an ailing son (Kodi Smit-McPhee), ostensibly no House of Cards to speak for (though all of her classics are in check — Forrest Gump and The Princess Bride are cited a handful of times), and a divisive deal on the table from super-studio MiraMount: sell her image for use in whatever productions they might deem a computer generated Robin Wright apropos, thus completely relinquishing her personal likeness to the control of the industry and agreeing never to act again. Independent One step deeper, and it’s about youth. Vanity, ageism, mortality, and all the ugly facets that play into our culture’s obsession with staying under 40. But in earnest, these (admittedly grand) themes act as courier into the film’s far vaster intentions. After agreeing to the deal in order to fund her son’s cryptic medical expenses, Wright visits a veritable afterlife in the form of a psychedelic cartoon, one designed to effectively “replace” life on Earth. There, the questions and concerns jump to true majesty. The film tackles the theme of heartache with such bite and dynamism that you’ll happily trudge through its technical dysfunctions or narrative slip-ups in order to be a part of everything it has to say, and of the magnetic world it is building. It’s hard to identify which aspect of The Congress is more exciting: its colossal essay about the crevices of human sadness or the explosion of visual and conceptual imagination that it builds in Wright’s second act cartoon journey. Thankfully, they work in perfect harmony, rendering The Congress one of the most wonderful, important, and wholly original pieces you’ll see this or any year. 4.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • 'November Man' Director Roger Donaldson May Have Predicted Drones and Stealth Submarines
    By: Michael Arbeiter Aug 28, 2014
    WENN/Nikki Nelson With such a hostile political climate existing beyond the scope of cinema, it takes a good deal of skill to keep the spy genre of today feeling exciting, original, and up-to-date. Director Roger Donaldson aims for this with The November Man, a film that draws from the best traditions of the genre — packing twists an employing none other than James Bond, Pierce Brosnan, to play the lead role — and employs new devices as well (this might be the first film we ever saw to use drone technology to catch a criminal). We chatted with Donaldson about the state of the genre, what role it plays in contemporary pop culture, and how films like November Man reach beyond the screen to contribute to the political scope. Roger Donaldson: I’ve done a few films in the genre. I did No Way Out many years ago, I did The Recruit with Al Pacino and Colin Farrell. I think what I love about making these sort of films, as well as seeing them, is the suspense. I'm intrigued by characters [pretending to be] somebody other than they really are ... Espionage is very much a part of our world, the real world.  Where does the real world meet the world of the spy genre? RD: I think the two are sort of intertwined. I was definitely intrigued by the idea of shooting this film in Serbia. Serbia having been at the crossroads of history, monumental moments of history, for many years. You know, the Ottoman Empire up against the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Now the influences of Russia South, various parts of Europe moving towards the East. Turkish influences. Muslims moving up from Albania, Turkey. It’s still right at the crosshairs of international politics as part of the world. And yet I was sort of appalled at how ignorant I was about Serbia and Belgrade, having not been there. I’ve been to Croatia before, but my knowledge sort of came out of reporting that happened around the war 10 or 15 years ago. The reality now is very different. They’ve moved on, Croatia is now in the EU. Serbia will soon be, probably. There are still those underlying currents that are still working their way — Hungary is up against Serbia, and Austria, and Slovenia… so it’s still a fascinating part of the world. Do these kinds of movies work to teach us anything about our political climate? RD: Well, I think political thrillers often have a sense of irony, and they’re a little cynical about the goings on of how countries and interact with another. When we made this film, it was a year ago. Just in that last year, the geopolitical events that have been happening… while this movie is not ... 100 percent [reality, it] speaks to the monumental changes that are always ongoing in the world of politics. Relativity Media via Everett Collection Speaking of real world advancements, this might be the first movie I have ever seen to use drones. RD: I know. As a matter of fact, when we decided to put drones into the film, it was stuff that wasn’t quite like it is right now. I anticipated, I guess, that this sort of technology was going to become more and more important. Both in filmmaking and in [politics]. That’s one of the reasons I put it in the film; I thought it was technology that we’d see more and more of. That’s the challenge of making films about what’s happening right now. The technology is such a part of a spy story, one has to try and embrace it. You know that the technology is probably ahead of where we are already. Now, when I did No Way Out, we talked about a stealth submarine. That was just pure fiction that came out of writing the script. Some time later I was talking to somebody who was in the know, and he was like, ‘How did you know about this stealth submarine?’ Well… we didn’t! We just assumed that there would be that sort of technology and development, and that you’d try and keep things a secret. One tries to guess, sometimes, what’s out there, and sometimes when you think of the need, what technology could provide, you put it into the story… and suddenly, it does exist, because there is that need for it ... There was a period of time when military would talk to filmmakers and say, “Hey, what bright ideas have you got that could become of interest to us?” You mentioned earlier your love of twists. Is it difficult to pull off movie twists when audiences are so savvy now, and are always expecting them? RD: It is a challenge to surprise. When [people] sit down to watch a movie like this, they know there are twists in the story, and they know that twists can only come from characters that are in front of them. So they start to try and put together the scenarios of who’s going to do what to whom. So it’s a challenge as a filmmaker to keep the audience guessing, and part of the pleasure of watching a film like this is trying to be ahead of the story. “I know where it’s going to go,” and when it doesn’t go there that’s always a feeling of satisfaction from the audience, like, “I didn’t see that coming!” And yet, you also try to do it with logic, so that when it does happen, they don’t go, “Well, that was a load of bulls**t, wasn’t it?” It’s got to make sense as well as surprise them. How do you surprise the audience, how do you entertain them? And how do you, at the very end of a movie, keep it going right through? Was there ever a twist that didn't work out for you? RD: There was a twist in [No Way Out], after I had made the film, a studio executive said, “If you didn’t have that twist on the end I think you would have done more business.” And I was like, “But I wouldn’t have made the film!” That twist was what I was attracted to about doing the film. Maybe he just felt like it just didn’t need that extra twist on the end. But for me, that was the pleasure of that whole film. It surprised right up to the end. Did you ever worry that a Pierce Brosnan spy thriller would suffer from the shadow of Bond? RD: I hope it doesn’t. To me, this film has nothing to do with Bond. Pierce has real star attraction. I think there’s a side to Pierce that hasn’t been exposed in his work, and I think this film shows what an interesting, complicated character he can pull off onscreen. That was the appeal to me about working with him on this movie. Of course, that's why he's a star. Bond's one of those movies [that made him a star], and he was a spy in that movie. But the truth is, this is a very different sort of spy movie to a Bond movie. He's playing a character who's got sort of a dark side to him, too. He's been through hell and seen all sorts of things. That sort of cynicism comes to the forefront. In the scene where he's confronting the [character] that he's got hostage, that's a very demanding scene to do as an actor. I think that scene really helps the movie [become such that] you don't really know where the movie's going to go. The November Man is in theaters now. Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • The Best and Weirdest of 'Friends' Fan-Fiction
    By: Michael Arbeiter Aug 28, 2014
    Let’s not allow Jimmy Kimmel to soil the good name of Friends fan-fiction. Although the late night host’s heavily funded but halfhearted attempt at the time-honored art form warranted few laughs, it did remind us that there are plenty of worthwhile pieces of writing floating around the Internet devoted to the West Village sextet. Some are admirable in quality, others in sheer passion. And some deserve a hat tip simply because of how damn weird they are. Following Kimmel’s reunion of Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, and Lisa Kudrow, we hit the dark corners of the web to round up the strangest pieces of Friends fan-fiction we could find. Some rearrange the narrative of the beloved show in creative ways, some test the very fabrics of the laws of reality… and some simply vie to be as disturbing as conceivably possible. Take your pick. "Mondler: The Story of a Survivor" by cvlax14Or: The one where Richard attacks Monica with a baseball bat and Chandler comes to her rescue. "'Mon we really should not be doing this.''I know Chandler, it's fun sneaking around though.''That is a lot of fun, but what about you and Richard''Richard and I are having problems.''What do you mean Mon''I really shouldn't he will get mad.''Richard will get mad?''Yes Chandler I have to go I'm sorry.'Then Monica got up and walked out of my apartment. What is Richard doing to her, I thought. I wonder if Rach knows. So I got up and walked to Rachel's apartment. She was able to get an apartment two doors down from ours." [sic] Read the full story here! "The One with Joey's Daughter" by friendslover99Self-explanatory. "'You have a daughter?' asked Monica. 'Yeah' Joey replied. 'and she just moved to the apartment last week'. 'Wait, isn't Kate that actress you dated?' Chandler asked. 'Yeah. I can't believe she's dying' said Joey. 'Well, what's your daughter's name?' asked Phoebe." [sic] Read the full story here! "Prom Makes a Difference" by KateToastOr: The one where a teenage Rachel goes to prom with Ross instead of Chip, thus changing the course of their joint romantic journey entirely. "They neared the Green mansion, as people in the neighborhood called it, since it was so large. Ross felt the all-too familiar flip-flop in his stomach as he and Rachel brushed sides. It had been happening all night, specifically when they had been dancing. He was still slightly in shock that she had agreed to dance with him at all. 'Well, this is it,' Rachel said as they reached her door. She looked up at him. 'This was really nice, Ross. Thank you for bringing me.'" [sic] Read the full story here! "Ben Becomes a Man" by rachelgreengellerOr: The one where Ross’ son Ben prepares for his Bar Mitzvah, and employs the help of his father, Chandler, and Joey to find a girlfriend. "Ben sat in the rabbi's office as he read the remainder of his lesson. He was soon going to be turning thirteen. According to jewish law, he would become a man, so he would be having his bar mitzvah soon. Ross sat with Carol by his side, his face glowing with pride as his son spoke the ancient Hebrew." [sic] Read the full story here! "The One Where Chandler Finally Experiments" by JanaSelf explanatory. "Chandler didn't know how he was going to face his friend in the morning. If he was this uncomfortable, just after having a conversation, he could only imagine how awkward things would be between them if he actually took him up on his offer. It was out of the question. Sex with friends was always a bad idea, anyway. Besides, he wasn't gay. He never imagined Joey was gay, either." Read the full story here! “Neverland” by Melanie GellerOr: The one where Phoebe’s childhood and mysterious past are imagined through an extended Peter Pan metaphor. "My stilettos clatter against the sewers I dash out into the street lights, covering my face with my hood. Both Benny and I know I'll be back, I can't live without his pills. He can't live without my money. We both, therefore, cannot live without the men." Read the full story here! "TOW the Smurfs" by tini243Or: The one where everybody talks about Smurfs. "'Joey, no one had sex with Smurfette,' Monica said matter-of-factly. Grinning lewdly Joey replied, 'See, that's how bad she needs a Joey smurf.'" [sic] Read the full story here! "I'm Your Sister" by HikaroOr: The one where Ross and Monica have incestuous feelings for one another. "'Monica...for the past few days I've just been all over the place, unsure of the things I might do. And I know it's wrong, but I think...I think I want you.' She was starting to get even more speechless and infuriated by the second. He wants her? Does he not see the huge problem in that?" [sic] Read the full story (at your own risk) here! Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Answering 'Did Tony Die?' and Other Ambiguous Movie and TV Ending Questions
    By: Michael Arbeiter Aug 27, 2014
    HBO We got 86 hours of genre-defining television to digest, examine, ruminate on, live in, and yet we’ve still barely managed to pull our minds away from the last three seconds. The Sopranos may be regarded as the greatest dramatic TV series of all time, but four out of five conversations about the show these days surround its divisive ambiguous ending: “So what do you think,” we inevitably say to whomever we’ve found ourselves trading Sal impressions and praise of the “Pine Barrens” episode, “is Tony dead?” On Wednesday, the world found Sopranos creator David Chase’s — so fed up with the resilience of the question that he finally caved in a conversation with Vox writer Martha P. Nochimson — perspective on the matter: (and here’s his answer, for those wishing to stay in the dark) Of course, Chase maintains that his is not the definitive ruling, that each and every viewer has equal authority on the case of Tony’s survival. Personally, I’ve always held to the belief that the family man/family man never made it out of that Italian restaurant, though I’ve had friends plead the alternative with terrific cases. More important to you than what anyone else thinks (be he a fellow viewer or even the creator of the series in question) is what you think, as your experience and relationship and with the show is yours to understand as you see fit. So what do you think about The Sopranos, and other shows and movies bearing likewise ambiguous conclusions? Let us know! THE SOPRANOS: Did Tony die? Yes: As Bobby Bacala said about death, “You probably don’t even hear it when it happens, right?” No: That would be a thematic copout! Tony lives on with the demons he’s collected. INCEPTION: Does the movie end in a dream? Yes: Leo finds himself stuck in the prison (or paradise) of his own subconscious, destined to live forever with the mental projections of his children. No: Cobb puts the incepting game behind him and returns home to the loving embrace of his children. BLADE RUNNER: Is Deckard a replicant? Yes: Just follow the unicorn. No: But the jury’s out on Harrison Ford himself. AMERICAN PSYCHO: Was it all in his head? Yes: The Bret Easton Ellis adaptation is just a metaphorical glimpse into the menace and greed that lines our materialistic society. No: That much Huey Lewis could turn anyone into a murdering lunatic. SHUTTER ISLAND: Was it all in his head? Yes: Man, Leo really needs to start playing folks with a better grip on reality than these dudes seem to have. No: Trust us, Ashcliffe ain’t no Maui. TOTAL RECALL: Okay, but was it all in HIS head?! Yes: The whole thing was a falsified memory… just like we choose to believe about the remake. No: We don’t want to live in a reality where “Consider this a divorce!” never happened. BARTON FINK: Speaking of heads, was there a head in Barton's box? Yes: What else could it be? John Goodman practically told us that outright! No: The whole episode was a conconction of the writer's own imagination anyhow. DAWN OF THE DEAD: Do Peter and Francince make it to safety? Yes: There's gotta be somewhere out there that they can lay low to wait out this nightmare. No: Humanity is doomed. They're no exception. LOST: Were they dead the whole time? Yes: Plane crashed. Passengers died. Island gave them the sort of afterlife they don’t tell you about in Hebrew school. No: What, you can’t believe in a few smoke monsters, teleporting polar bears, mystical numeric patterns, omnipotent lighthouses, and a pair of immortal twins? THE SHINING: Do you have any idea what happened at the end of that one? Yes: Sure, it’s clear as day! He — whoops, gotta go! No: For that matter, what the hell is going on in this scene?