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.
  • What Is Really Behind the 'Alone Yet Not Alone' Oscar Nomination Reversal?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 30, 2014
    Alone Yet Not Alone/Facebook Alone Yet Not Alone gets an Oscar nod — controversy stirs. The Oscars take the nod away — controversy grows. The just-shy-of-unknown picture earned a Best Original Song nomination for its title number, "Alone Yet Not Alone," written by Dennis Spiegel (lyrics) and Bruce Broughton (music). Technically speaking, the nomination should furrow some brows: For one, Alone Yet Not Alone only had a 21-day (and largely overlooked) theatrical run in 2013, a move to option it for awards eligibility — enough to color the film with a puzzling rouge, maybe, but not quite to support accusations of wrongful nomination... as proven by the fact that a yet unnamed organization hired a private investigator to confirm the legitimacy of Alone's eligibility. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the investigation — which focused specifically on the existence of print advertisements during its theatrical run, which are necessary for a film aiming for an award — deemed the film A-OK for nomination. Far more important is the official reason for the song's disqualification: a specific degree of campaigning conducted by Broughton, who just so happens to be a former Academy governor. Reports following the removal of "Alone Yet Not Alone" from the nominees list share a message sent by Broughton to Oscar voters during nominations week, courtesy of CBS News. Anybody who remembers Melissa Leo's Best Supporting Actress candidacy back in 2010 knows that awards campaigning is hardly taboo practice. Off-putting, maybe, but not against the rules, which is why the official ruling on Broughton's actions might perplex. According to Academy President Cheryl Boone, it wasn't so much what he did, but who he was. The mere fact that Broughton's name, as a former Academy governor, appeared at the head of the aforesaid email would have been enough to sway voters, as she articulates in her statement: "No matter how well-intentioned the communication, using one's position as a former governor and current executive committee member to personally promote one's own Oscar submission creates the appearance of an unfair advantage." Unsurprisingly, Broughton has responded with dismay, affirming that his intentions were never to use his professional history to sway voters, but only to ensure their awareness of the film and song, a practice he asserts is within the parameters of traditional Oscar campaining. So... who's right? An even more pressing question might be if there were any additional factors that went into the decision to oust the Alone Yet Not Alone title song from the running. Although the above mentioned private investigation was conducted, presumably, by a third party (Cinemablend writer Sean O'Connell jokes — or hypothesizes? — that "it's got to be the people behind Inside Llewyn Davis"), it indicates the overarching suspicion associated with Alone But Not Alone's nomination from the beginning. When you take a look at the film itself, you might understand the contentious feelings. Alone Yet Not Alone is a self-decreed "faith-based" film that has garnered criticism for manipulative religious viewpoints and racist depictions of Native Americans. Before even stirring unrest over its eligibility, the new publicity for Alone Yet Not Alone stirred allegations of prejudice. And we've got to wonder if the public response to the film being considered for an Oscar in any way influenced the Academy's decision to pull the plug. Already the nature of the debate is shaky. Some are defending the legality of Broughton's actions (like Hitfix columnist Kristopher Tapley) and highlighting arbitrariness in the Academy's decision. And considering the holes in the organization's defense of the nomination removal as well as the private investigation and the Alone But Not Alone outcry that preceded this new development, we're left to question just what factors pushed the Academy into such a rare action, and to ask ourselves if whatever feelings we may have about Alone But Not Alone should in fact impact our outlook on its disqualification. Again: who's right? Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Rejected TV References from President Obama's State of the Union Address
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 29, 2014
    AMC Wednesday night treated America to President Barack Obama's fifth State of the Union address, a speech lined with criticism of our country's immigration system, economic policies, and established plans about how to move forward regarding the Middle East crisis. But towards the tail end of the speech, the Commander-in-Chief spouted a moment of levity, proving himself to be (at the very least) this generation's president when he tossed in a television reference. And no, not a square one, like Bush Sr.'s castigation of The Simpsons — Obama made a Mad Men joke. "Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it's an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work," the president said. "She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too. It's time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a Mad Men episode. This year, let’s all come together — Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street — to give every woman the opportunity she deserves. Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds." The proclamation invoked a sweeping applause in house and throughout the country — there's nothing like a good new media allusion to drive home a point. But less is more, in this case. We have it on good (fake) authority that Obama had to edit out a few other television references from the first draft of his latest SOTU... Getty - "Estiven Rodriguez couldn’t speak a word of English when he moved to New York City at age nine. But last month, thanks to the support of great teachers and an innovative tutoring program, he led a march of his classmates — through a crowd of cheering parents and neighbors — from their high school to the post office, where they mailed off their college applications.  And this son of a factory worker just found out he’s going to college this fall. And if you think that's impressive, let me tell you about a simple chemistry teacher who turned himself into a billionaire by pioneering his own crystal meth empire..." - "Today in America ... a farmer prepared for the spring after the strongest five-year stretch of farm exports in our history. A rural doctor gave a young child the first prescription to treat asthma that his mother could afford. A man took the bus home from the graveyard shift, bone-tired but dreaming big dreams for his son. And in tight-knit communities across America, fathers and mothers will tuck in their kids, put an arm around their spouse, remember fallen comrades, and give thanks for being home from a war that, after 12 long years, is finally coming to an end... just like How I Met Your Mother. Thank God, am I right? Seriously, that show feels like it's been on forever. Come on, Ted, finish the story already." - "Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead. And too many still aren't working at all. I mean, look at Marnie. She can't even hold a job at Ray's coffee shop — and no, Boehner, it doesn't count as a spoiler if it's been 48 hours since the episode aired!" - "Tonight, I ask every business leader in America to join us and to do the same — because we are stronger when America fields a full team. Even if you get a lousy draft, you can always propose an eight-way trade. That's what Ruxin has taught us." - "These negotiations will be difficult.  They may not succeed.  We are clear-eyed about Iran’s support for terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, which threaten our allies; and the mistrust between our nations cannot be wished away.  But these negotiations do not rely on trust; any long-term deal we agree to must be based on verifiable action that convinces us and the international community that Iran is not building a nuclear bomb.  If John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union, then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today. And if Francis Underwood can convince all of those people to keep their mouths shut about that murder... dammit, Boehner, it's been like a year, catch up already!" - "What Andra and her employees experienced is how it should be for every employer — and every job seeker.  So tonight, I’ve asked Vice President Biden to lead an across-the-board reform of America’s training programs to make sure they have one mission: train Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now. Like spying, and killing, and planting bugs in Senators' offices in the name of Mother Russia ... you guys get it? That's a The Americans joke. Because I said "Americans." They're spies. You guys watch that show? No? It's pretty good." - "My fellow Americans, no other country in the world does what we do. On every issue, the world turns to us, not simply because of the size of our economy or our military might — but because of the ideals we stand for, and the burdens we bear to advance them. And that's why we are the most a-mah-zing country in the world ... God, I miss Happy Endings." If only... Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • How Elizabeth Banks Can Make 'Pitch Perfect 2' Better Than the Mean-Spirited, Bigoted 'Pitch Perfect'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 28, 2014
    Universal via Everett Collection Somewhere inside of Pitch Perfect there exists the movie it wants to be. Buried beneath the scathing send-ups of the dreamer genre, there are actual dreamers. Ones we're charged to root for — after all, we are hinged to their story about "making it to regionals," or whatever — but that we can't. Because the film itself refuses to do so. At once, it's a celebration of the socially disbarred and a satire of all the sugar-coated entertainment that has been devoted to it... okay, mostly Glee. And while this marriage isn't necessarily doomed, too often does Pitch Perfect find itself torn between asking us to root for its heroes and asking us to laugh at its victims (the same people). We can't say for sure whether something was lost in translation from script to screen, or of Kay Cannon's original screenplay was laden with the troubles we find on the screen, but we're hoping that the upcoming sequel's new director, actress Elizabeth Banks, can figure out her animal better than first installment helmer Jason Moore could. In order to do so, she'll have to know when the movie need to stop laughing at these people. And here's a good indicator: if it is laughing at them for being fat or gay, you've probably taken a wrong turn. The film offers glimpses of its potential — loner Anna Kendrick identifying Brittany Snow's shared familiarity with David Guetta's "Titanium" as awe-inspiring (one of the film's better attempts at tackling a genre staple) — but undoes its own mission when it turns the trope battering in on its characters. Pitch Perfect sets up its underdog a capella clique as a group of eccentrics with whom we're supposed to relate: genuine talents unappreciated due to weight, race, sexual orientation, and a laundry list of personality defects. But just when you think the movie is on their side, it jumps right on in, poking fun at Rebel Wilson's character for her size and Ester Dean's for her homosexuality. And one might spout the defense, "But these girls are making fun of themselves!" Well, that's the problem. They think they have to. Wilson's breakout character goes by "Fat Amy," underlining her self-assigned moniker with the rationale, "So twig b**ches like you [she's talking to Anna Camp] don't do it behind my back." Therein lies the film's defeat. It thinks that these girls have no shot at dignity, so they have to succumb to self-parody. This is not simply embracing a sense of humor about yourself (a valuable characteristic) but becoming the joke that everybody says you are because you don't see any other choice. And Pitch Perfect doesn't just limit this fate to "Fat Amy," but to its excessively marginalized gay character, Cynthia Rose (Dean). Universal via Everett Collection The joke about Dean? The same joke that has been assigned to gay characters since before the days of Three's Company, and that still, by some grace of ungodly ignorance, works its way into network television and blockbuster cinema today. Her sexual orientation is her punchline. For the length of Pitch Perfect, we're offered "hints" that Cynthia Rose is attracted to women — the way she dresses and carries herself are brandished as lesbian stereotypes, and we even get a scene of her groping fellow a capella band member Stacie (Alexis Knapp) for good measure. And then, finally, concrete evidence: "When I broke up with my girlfriend..." followed by a de facto rimshot from Rebel Wilson. Of course, Pitch Perfect was a hit, and this is owed to a very simple, very convenient allowance made by its story: the singing. Yes, these girls can sing. And when they get up on that stage at the end of the film and belt their heroic ballads, it's as if the film is saying, "See? We were behind them all along!" But giving stars like Wilson and Rose solos doesn't retroactively make Pitch Perfect's mean-spirited attitude about their identities "good natured ribbing." We were still asked to look at Fat Amy as a fat girl first, swelling with laughter at her inability to run, her propensity for falling down, and — most riotous of all — the inscrutable idea that she might consider herself sexy. You can endorse this material all you like with defenses that Fat Amy and Wilson herself were on board with the gags, but the simple fact that the one overweight young woman in this movie feels no other course than to dominate her screen time with fat jokes is unforgivable. Some would call it wise advice to garnish an embarrassing faux-pas with some self-effacing humor; this is not how heavy people should made to be felt about the way they look. In earnest, there's optimism attached to Banks' ascension into the director's chair. Although she has never handled a feature on her own, her comic sensibilities as an actress, and as a woman, might be more conducive to a little bit of respect for the young ladies at the center of this story. We can hope, anyway — with a wealth of talent in stars like Kendrick, Wilson, Dean, Camp, Snow, and the rest, and in a writer like Cannon, there's too much good to let the end product wind up so misguided. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • 'How I Met Your Mother' Recap: The Episode That Made Everyone So, So Happy
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 28, 2014
    Ron P. Jaffe/Fox I got into the game of How I Met Your Mother recaps just three seasons ago, a good deal past the CBS sitcom's prime but not so deep into its qualitative black hole that my negative reviews of episodes wouldn't still drive commenters wild with rage. People love this show. What's more interesting is that people commit to it in a week-to-week format the way television fans did back in the '90s. But they don't love How I Met Your Mother in the way that people loved Seinfeld — from a removed, critical, "Man this is good comedy!", laughing-at-them sort of way — rather in the way that people loved Friends — personally, inclusively, "I feel like they're my friends!", laughing-with-them sort of way. In the post-Central Perk era, we've flocked to MacLaren's to live vicarious through this considerably more adventurous and quirky clique. And we've hinged ourselves quite adherently to the hijinks, the love stories, and most of all the tenable camaraderie of the fivesome, all the while awaiting our introduction to No. 6. Of course, we met the future Mrs. Mosby (still unnamed, although the title of the series finale might be a hint) at the very end of Season 8, and have since come to know a few things about the amicable wayfaring troubadour. But this week's episode, the big 200, appropriately (albeit somewhat misleadingly) titled "How Your Mother Met Me" was our first opportunity to really get to know... whatshername. And from the looks of it, nobody was disappointed. The half hour launched us back to 2005 at an entirely separate MacLaren's Pub across town, where Mother-to-be celebrated her 21st birthday with her best friend Kelly (Ahna O'Reilly), awaiting the arrival of her perfect, beloved boyfriend and his undoubtedly terrific gift... but he died. Yeah, that hit us (and Mother) like a ton of bricks, the killing off of this young woman's one true love. But in earnest, it's a really sophisticated move. While Ted celebrates himself as a hopeless romantic who believes there is only one perfect woman out there for him, How I Met Your Mother itself has a more mature approach, allowing its characters to find happiness in more than one place. While our titular lady might have lived many happy years with the deceased Max had he not passed suddenly, that doesn't mean she should be deprived of this same lifelong joy just because of some commercially romantic ideal like "the one." Way to class up your act, HIMYM. You've always been a bit angelic (you know, when you're not making light of Barney committing sex crimes), but this grounds the entire story of Ted and his bride-to-be in a very real, very important way. Of course, we're still dealing with a nameless, doe-eyed, ukulele-plucking sprite with a forgiving heart, a calligraphy set, the voice of an angel, and the aspirations to end poverty (as she announces in this episode), so we might still be treading a bit too far into hippy dippy Liberal Arts MPDG territory... but in an episode this sentimentally stalwart and mathematically sound — we watch Mother ascend from that night of grief in 2005 to the present day (where we find her turning down a wedding proposal from Lou Ferrigno's son, whom she has dated for a few years in a half-hearted attempt to get over the death of her old beau but never really fallen in love with), nearly crossing paths with Ted and the gang at many a gleeful interval (they had St. Patrick's Day, economics class, the Naked Man, and Rachel Bilson in common, for starters) — it's difficult to walk away with too many gripes. I've championed the vast majority of Season 9, and am thrilled to be on board with its most important episode yet: not so much how Ted met the mother, nor how she met him, but how we did. And even more pleasant than seeing Carter Bays and Craig Thomas pull off this victory was seeing How I Met Your Mother fans respond to it so favorably on Twitter. Although I would still feel the scorn of devotees at the bottoms of my scathing Season 7 episode reviews, we've all seen the morale of the entire fanbase dip quite a bit in the past two-and-a-half years. People lament the good old days of Ted and co, wishing for a return to the funny, or a freshening up of the story, or just some damn closure already. But there were no harsh words to be found on the 'net following "How Your Mother Met Me." As Cristin Milioti strummed her Hawaiian strings on the balcony beside a listening Ted's (oh, Roger Bart, you conniving but big-hearted concierge!), we rushed with excitement over the knowledge that these four sad eyes would soon be happy. So now, we can be too. Oh, and Barney ran off. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Quentin Tarantino Lawsuit and 'Girls' Criticism Hit Gawker on the Same Day
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 27, 2014
    HBO One celebrity throws some shade your way on her television program? Meh, sleep it off. Another celebrity files a lawsuit against you the morning after? Okay, you're not having the best start to this week. New York-based media website Gawker was the subject of Lena Dunham's criticism on this week's episode of Girls. Hannah, Dunham's mouthpiece for all things misguided, celebrated the website's pithy report of an in-universe death, while her boyfriend Adam chastised the blog for its carnal nature. Attention was diverted away from Gawker when the scene's conversation jumped to feminist site Jezebel, which recently caught fire for chastising Dunham's touched-up Vogue cover and subsequently sharing a selection of "authentic" photos of the writer/actress (the episode was, of course, completed prior to Jezebel's article). On Monday morning, Gawker found itself the subject of controversy, and not just in the comments sections of Girls recaps. News spread that venerated filmmaker Quentin Tarantino had opened a lawsuit against the website for the publication of a link to his leaked screenplay The Hateful Eight, which we heard just last week was making its rounds throughout Hollywood against the director's wishes, on its subsidiary Defamer. A Deadline report shares a piece of Tarantino's suit: "Gawker Media has made a business of predatory journalism, violating people’s right to make a buck. This time they’ve gone too far. Rather than merely publishing a news story reporting that Plaintiff’s screenplay may have been circulating in Hollywood without his permission, Gawker Media crossed the journalistic line by promoting itself to the public as the first source to read the entire screenplay illegally. Their headline boasts, ‘Here is the leaked Quentin Tarantino Hateful Eight Script’ — here, not someplace else, but ‘here’ on the Gawker website. The article then contains multiple direct links for downloading the entire screenplay through a conveniently anonymous URL by simply clicking button-links on the Gawker page, and brazenly encourages Gawker visitors to read the screenplay illegally with an invitation to ‘enjoy’ it. There was nothing newsworthy or journalistic about Gawker Media facilitating and encouraging the public’s violation of Plaintiff’s copyright in the screenplay, and its conduct will not shield Gawker Media from liability for their unlawful activity." Weinstein Company via Everett Collection As such, not exactly a Monday to be celebrated by Gawker, although in absence of the Tarantino news the site might well enjoy Girls' critiques as a kind of backhanded homage. A site experienced in controversy would likely have foreseen some retaliation from a media-literate outspoken force like Dunham, and perhaps even some backlash from Tarantino, although the manifestation of each responses (well, premeditated response in the Girls situation) is somewhat unexpected. But hey, Tuesday should be calmer... Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Does the DGA Win for 'Gravity' Predict a Best Picture Oscar?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 27, 2014
    Warner Bros via Everett Collection Last week, we took a look at each of the awards circuits that have announced their winning picks for 2013, calculating just how good an indicator each one might be at predicting the Academy Awards top prize. Unsurprisingly, 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle were the most common titles to take awards from venues like the Golden Globes, New York Film Critics Circle, Critics Choice Awards, and others. With the organizations carrying a variety of insight, statistically speaking, into what will be the Oscars' big winner, we named 12 Years our Most Likely to Succeed at the 86th Annual Academy Awards... but that was before today's news. See, this morning gave us the winner of the Director's Guild of America Awards — historically, the best indicator of the Best Picture Oscar with a 90% consistency over the past 10 years and an 81% consistency overall — and it is third party candidate Gravity. Alfonso Cuaron's blockbuster has snagged the DGA, putting it in the company of Argo, The Artist, The King's Speech, The Hurt Locker, and many other features that went on to win Best Picture. In fact, the last movie to take the DGA but lose out on the top Oscar would be Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain, a rarity as well for winning the Best Director Oscar but not Best Picture. Averaged with the precognitive capabilities of the Producers Guild of America (middling) and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (dismal) — in which Gravity tied as winner with 12 Years and Her, respectively — the space-set thriller is about even with Steve McQueen's slavery epic in its chances to take home the Oscar. Of course, math can only take you so far (despite what they tried to drill into your heads in grade school). The separating factor, come Academy season, will be that indefinable quality that makes something an "Oscar movie." Not necessarily the best movie, but the one most palatable to the Academy's appetite. Gravity and 12 Years a Slave are both terrific films, but the latter has a few points on its side. Although they might share the DGA with Gravity, movies like Argo, The King's Speech, The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire, Million Dollar Baby, et al have far more in common with 12 Years a Slave: they're tales of history, adversity, injustice, human ugliness and human perseverence. Stories very much grounded on this Earth... something that Gravity, quite literally, might not be considered (at least by some). But we applaud the DGA for recognizing Cuaron's movie, and its other deserving winners (with special notice for the finales of Breaking Bad and 30 Rock). Peruse the winners list below! The Directors Guild of America Awards Feature FilmWinner: GravityNominees: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, The Wolf of Wall Street DocumentaryWinner: Cutie and the BoxerNominees: The Act of Killing, The Crash Wheel, The Square, Stories We Tell Dramatic SeriesWinner: Breaking Bad: "Felina"Nominees: Breaking Bad: "Blood Money," Game of Thrones: "The Rains of Castamere," Homeland: "The Star," House of Cards: "Chapter 1" Comedy SeriesWinner: 30 Rock: "Hogcock!/Last Lunch"Nominees: The Big Bang Theory: "The Hofstadter Insufficiency," The Big Bang Theory: "The Love Spell Potential," Modern Family: "My Hero," Modern Family: "The Old Man & the Tree" TV Movie/MiniseriesWinner: Behind the CandelabraNominees: Killing Kennedy, Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight, Phil Spector, The Sound of Music Live! Variety/Talk/News/Sports ProgrammingWinner: Saturday Night Live: "Justin Timberlake"Nominees: The Colbert Report: "#10004," The Daily Show: "#19018," Jimmy Kimmel Live: "#13-1810," Late Night with Jimmy Fallon: "#799" Variety/Talk/News/Sports SpecialWinner: The 67th Annual Tony AwardsNominees: 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, The 55th Annual Grammy Awards, The 85th Annual Academy Awards, Louis C.K.: Oh My God Reality ProgramsWinner: 72 Hours: "The Lost Coast"Nominees: The Amazing Race: "Beards in the Wind," The Biggest Loser: "1501," The Hero: "Teamwork," Top Chef: "Glacial Gourmand" Children's ProgramsWinner: An Apology to ElephantsNominees: A.N.T. Farm, Jinxed, Swindle, Teen Beach Movie CommercialsWinner: Martin de Thurah (The Man Who Couldn’t Slow Down, Hennessy VS/Human Race, Acura MDX 2014)Nominees: Fredrik Bond (Voyage, Heineken; From The Future, Johnny Walker), John X. Carey (Real Beauty Sketches, Dove), Matthijs van Heijningen (Perfect Day, Sony Playstation; #Forty Eight, Verizon), Noam Murro (Basketball, Guinness; Kids, DIRECTV; Mask, Volkswagen) Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • 'Girls' Recap: Death.
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 26, 2014
    HBO This week, on a very special Girls... One of the most interesting things a television program can do to take advantage of a diverse ensemble is throw a universal theme at the bunch and observe how each character reacts differently. And there’s no theme more universal than death. Maybe Game of Thrones, but that’s out of season. So this week, Girls thrives on the disparate ideologies of its collection of Brooklynites by killing off pseudo-character David Pressler-Goings. So how does each character react, what is her or his relationship with death, and — most importantly — what does this tell us about the lot of ‘em? Let’s start with Jessa this time… …partially because she’s the first person Hannah breaks the news to (after she herself is hit with the tragedy after showing up to David’s office for a meeting), and partially because she’s the only other character who has a tangible story in this episode. Jessa’s thoughts on death tread on the grand, philosophical side:“It’s something that happens. Like jury duty or floods.” “It must have been so heavy. That moment that it was all going down.””I kind of look forward to the day I die. If you think about it, time isn’t linear. Every moment that has ever happened, or that will ever happen, is happening right now. We just choose to live in this moment to create some illusion of continuity. So, really, we have already died, and also have not yet been born. But there’s reason to believe that Jessa might not entirely buy into this quantum ideology, at least emotionally. As she reveals to Shoshanna over a subdued lute-plucking, Jessa had a friend named Season who died a long time ago. "My favorite friend," she sweetly reflects. A young woman who she cherished, suffered with, and comes to learn in this particularly eventful episode, is still alive. After thinking about Season drums up some heavy feelings, Jessa calls Season's mother to get some emotional closure (the usually stoic Jessa is so vulnerable over this situation that she has a difficult time just saying the word "grave"), learning that her deceased friend and fellow addict faked her death long ago in order to get the problematic enabler Jessa out of her life for good. Rattled, angered, and hurt, Jessa tracks Season down to her Brooklyn brownstone, where she lives with her husband and baby, losing her s**t over the revelation that somebody she loved desperately pretended to die in order to get away from her. So far this season, Jessa has been able to keep her issues of loss and loneliness in relative control, but we can't imagine she'll be recovering from such a puzzling punch to the gut so easily.  Now, Adam... Though a stranger to David, Adam's heart sinks when he hears about the death of Hannah's editor. What's more, he cannot fathom how his girlfriend is exhibiting such a dearth of emotional sensitivity to the issue (she's primarily concerned abou the fate of her eBook). Adam's thoughts on death are far more visceral, to the point where he can't even spell them out beyond unsettled groans in response to Hannah's detachment for most of the episode. Until:"If I died, would you just be like, 'Oh, I hope I can make rent"? If you died, the world would blur. I wouldn't know what a tree was." We don't get any insight into whether or not Adam has a personal experience with a close friend or family member's death, but clearly his sensitivities to the issue are especially potent. Shoshanna, for a quick sec... Shoshanna is roped into the story only via the aforementioned scene in which Jessa reveals her Season story, but she does have a lot to say. See, Shoshanna lost a friend too, back in high school, and the experience drummed up enough sadness to inspire her to write a book of poems. Of course, it also allowed her to usurp her role in their social clique, so win some lose some. Ditto Ray... He really just shows up to provide another, definitively more surprising, foil to Hannah's attitude. Ray, who intellectualizes every concept, genuinely feels over the death of David (who he only met during last week's bar tustle) and insults Hannah for own "sociopathic detachment." But he spends the rest of his screentime laughing with Colin Quinn at Marnie's music video, so maybe don't consider him such a saint just yet. Laird! "My whole life has been death," Laird says to Hannah. "Sometimes at dinner, when I am sitting at my table, I imagine I am in dialogue will all my dead ones." While Laird also tells Hannah that "you're just going to get number when it all comes like a waterfall," he also breaks down in tears during the tender, painful story of a young girl's death bequeathed unto him and Hannah by Adam's crazy, possibly psychotic sister Liney, from whom Hannah might not be too far a cry... That Liney... Hannah opens up to Liney about David's death and about the more pressing issue (in her mind) of Adam's disappointment with her reaction to it. Liney responds by instituting an ad hoc death-themed adventure, leading Hannah and Laird through a cemetary romp and challenging the depths of Hannah's detachment with a tragic story about her and Adam's young cousin who died of cerebral palsy. When she recognizes that Hannah doesn't even grow misty over the story, Liney cackles with delight, admitting that it was all made up, and celebrating Hannah's demented lack of feeling. But it's not the cemetary frolicking or crazy Liney's endorsement of Hannah's callous ways that are especially unsettling. Not compared to the grand finale... Hannah. In truth, there could be no character better used as a vehicle for this story than Hannah. Firstly, because she is our vessel into this world, and thus the character we most automatically empathize with (even when we're disapproving of her). But secondly, because Hannah's exhibition throughout and at the end of this episode is a horror story not limited to the parameters of the subject of death, but to the all encompassing reach of life. We see Hannah alter the way she introduces the news of David's death to her friends as the day goes on. First, she tells Jessa, complaining straight away about the uncertain fate of her eBook. She works up a softer approach for Adam, but still jumps into the selfishness quite abjectly. Afterwards, we see Hannah toss in phrases like "I lost a close friend" and pass off her lack of empathy as numbness, knowing full well that she couldn't possibly care less about David's passing. But the culmination of her chilling behavior comes when she, hoping to restore the favor of Adam (the person she claims to love and treasure), recounts the very same fake story that Liney told to her, provoking authentic tears from the sensitive Adam as she produces her own set of synthetic waterworks. It's a horrifying scene because of how much it does hit home, on both sides. It takes a special kind of person to pull what Hannah pulls here, but the idea of emotional manipulation is not a strange one to anybody in any kind of relationship. Really, it's scary to see how close some of us might be to the capability of this act. Saying whatever possible to get things back to the way we're comfortable with them, convincing others (and ourselves) of outright lies in order to restore order or feel better. If you don't shudder with the familiarity of the final scene of this week's Girls, then good for you for living honestly so far. But although Hannah does take a very extreme and dark measure here, it's just a smidgen too close to home, and it's not a pretty sight. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • 'New Girl' Vs. 'Girls': The Birthday Episodes
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 22, 2014
    Patrick McElhenney/FOX Maybe it’s because they premiered within six months of each other, because they each gave a starring series role to an on-the-rise voice of female comedy, or — most simply, and most plausibly — because of the similarities of their titles. But New Girl and Girls have earned, and will continue to earn, comparison. “I’m not a big fan of Girls,” someone will say, “but I do love New Girl!” And vice versa. In a lot of ways, the shows provide an antithesis of one another, and this has never been clearer than after this week’s release of episodes for the HBO and Fox programs. By coincidence, the latest episode for each show took the form of a birthday story, with each celebrating a “coming-of-age” for its main character. But of course, as anyone familiar with the diametrically opposite comedies would predict, the stories could not have been more different. Observe, and decide once and for all which camp you fall in (or, you know, cherish the disparate treasures of both, but that’s less fun)… NEW GIRL VS. GIRLS: THE BIRTHDAY EPISODE Whose Birthday Was It? New Girl: The incurably peppy protagonist Jessica Day (Zooey Deschanel). Girls: The anxious, self-satisfied Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham). How Old Did She Turn? New Girl: 33. Girls: 25. Was She Worried About Having a Bad Birthday?New Girl: Yes. Jess admitted at the beginning of the episode that she always expects too much from her birthdays.Girls: Yes. Hannah tells her boyfriend Adam (Adam Driver) that bad birthdays are "kind of her thing." How Did She Spend the Day? New Girl: By cooking an omelet, having sex, going to a drug store, walking around a park, crying on her couch, and going to the movies (where she was met by a surprise party). Girls: By welcoming her boyfriend’s lunatic sister (Gaby Hoffmann) into her home and then attending a bar party. Where Was the Ultimate Celebration Held? New Girl: A local Chicago movie theater. Girls: Matchless, a real bar in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. HBO Who Organized the Party? New Girl: Jess’ loving but perpetually harried boyfriend Nick (Jake Johnson). Girls: Hannah’s emotionally destitute best friend Marnie (Allison Williams), funded by the Horvath parents (Becky Ann Baker and Peter Scolari). What Is the Most Telling Representation of This Person’s Feelings About the Birthday Girl? New Girl: Nick loses his mind trying to make Jess happy, rallying everyone together to create a loving video tribute to his ladyfriend — an act that she deems the nicest thing anyone has ever done for her. Girls: Marnie passive-aggressively insults Hannah’s appearance, then forces her to sing a humiliating duet from Rent as a means of accessing her own long-gone glory days. How Does the Birthday Girl React to Her Guests? New Girl: Jess is thrilled to see that Cece (Hannah Simone), Schmidt (Max Greenfield), Winston (Lamorne Morris), Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.), and others have all taken the time to show her their affections. Girls: Hannah offers disinterested greetings to just about everybody before retreating into a back room with Marnie, Jessa (Jemima Kirke), and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet). What About Her Parents? New Girl: Although they can’t be there, Jess’ mom (Jamie Lee Curtis) and dad (Rob Reiner) showcase their boundless love for their daughter in video form. Girls: Hannah’s mom and dad travel to Brooklyn to pay for their daughter’s party, and dance embarrassingly… okay, so this one isn’t too negative! Although Hannah’s dad does (unwittingly) kiss Adam’s sister. Are There Any Stories of Post-Breakup Heartbreak Going on in the Sidelines? New Girl: Yes! Schmidt and Cece. Girls: Yes! Shoshanna and Ray (Alex Karpovsky). How Does That Go? New Girl: After months of distance between them, Schmidt and Cece finally make headway in restoring their friendship when he helps her make an Old Fashioned. Girls: Ray wallows in his misery, tells Shoshanna that he doesn’t want to be friends with her, chastises her (passive-aggressively, of course) for smoking, and then gets into a fight with Hannah’s manic editor (John Cameron Mitchell) Are There Any Cantankerous Bar Employees? New Girl: Sure! The goofy, hilarious Ben Falcone plays a bartender who hates Cece. Girls: Yep! A Matchless DJ fights with Ray after he sullenly accosts her for turning off his song (“Today” by the Smashing Pumpkins). Does the Birthday Girl Have a Moment with Her Boyfriend at the End of the Episode? New Girl: Of course. Jess thanks Nick for giving her the sweetest birthday present she might ever have asked for, and they express their love for one another. Girls: Of course. After Adam’s nutty sister crushes a glass in her hand, he and Hannah sit on their shared bed solemnly. What Note Does the Episode End On? New Girl: Heartwarming. Girls: Chilling. Unsettling. Bizarre. Oh, Does Anyone Walk Away from an Exploding Car? New Girl: Yes, Schmidt. Girls: No, sadly. Happy birthday, New Girl! And happy nihilism, Girls. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • 'How I Met Your Mother' Recap: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Barney Stinson
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 21, 2014
    Ron P. Jaffe/Fox This week's episode of How I Met Your Mother offers up a few interesting tidbits about our pal Barney Stinson. Long swathed in mystery, Barney found himself embraced by a new level of drunk: "truth serum drunk." Desperate to unmask the pathological nutjob, Barney's best friend and fiancee took advantage of his intoxication to finally seize the honest answers to the many questions they have long held (oh, what healthy relationships). So, here's what we now know about Barney, in ascending order of intrigue value... -He split a cab once-His "Triple X-Ray" goggles do not actually work-He has especially long ear hair-He buys dehydrated doves in Chinatown-He always carries sexual stimulants with him-His genitalia measures to 6 and 3/64 inches-He has had sex in Ted's bed 14 times (this was actually an unprovoked revelation)-He slept with four women in one night-He slept with three women in the same family-He spends "a crapload" on suits, and makes 16 craploads a year-Has slept with two of the following former Secretaries of State, but not while they were in office: Madeline Albright, Condoleezza Rice, and/or Hillary Clinton-Robin's family is massively rich (she's worth about 600 craploads... not a truth about Barney, but interesting nonetheless)-Made out with Ted's mother, and tried to take things to "second base" before getting rejected-He attended the Magicians Institute of Teaneck (where he aced the Advanced Card Tricks test)-His job is to "Provide Legal Exculpation and Sign Everything" (P.L.E.A.S.E.) for his duplicitous company, which he has been doing since 1998 all the while conspiring with the federal government as a long-term plan to get revenge on his boss, the very many who stole his girlfriend so many years ago One mystery that remains: the true identity (and species) of Trevor Hudson, Barney's so-called ring bear(er). But we'll find that out soon enough. Meanwhile, on the other side of the hotel, Marshall and Lily engage in a shockingly raw, cruel, and humorless back-and-forth, in which each party bares teeth and maliciously attacks the other for accounts of selfishness. Lily castigates Marshall for his duplicity, and Marshall digs up old hostility about Lily's San Francisco bout (not healthy to hold onto this sort of thing, chief). The story concludes with Lily hopping into a dark car with an unidentified party... we're betting it's her father, finally coming through in the clutch, mostly because we can't think of anybody else who'd be interesting enough for Lily to run away with in the night. But again, we'll find out soon enough. Oh, and as for a couple more revelations, we have Ted's childrens' names: Penny (the girl, who is older), and Luke (natch). Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • 'Girls' Recap: Meet Adam's Crazy Sister
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 19, 2014
    HBO Birthday episodes are a good opportunity to showcase the extremes of your characters’ emotionality. Internal stakes are always higher on birthdays. For the central figure, there’s the unwitting assignment of importance to the date — the hope and expectation that the night in question will carry some symbol of new beginnings, or that it might quell long held insecurities. For the surrounding parties, there too is heightened sensitivity, be it due to the observation of a friend ascending in contrast to one’s own stagnancy or maybe just a little too much booze. Whatever the reason, birthdays are a miserable catastrophe, both on television and in real life. And this week on Girls, we endure Hannah’s. The big 25, no less. Let’s begin with our new character: CarolineDespite the fact that the episode takes place on Hannah’s birthday, Lena Dunham’s character is really secondary to her supporting players this week. Hannah meets Adam’s manic older sister Caroline (Gaby Hoffmann) when she shows up at their apartment after being fired and dumped, much to Mr. Sackler’s chagrin — he warns Hannah that his sister is a toxic presence and is altogether evil, but Hannah insists on inviting the ostensibly vulnerable young woman to her birthday party and winds up allowing her hospice in their apartment (though not without recognizing, at least just a bit, that the girl is trouble). Caroline exhibits her dangers by kissing Hannah’s father, provoking (and biting) a downtrodden Ray, instigating a great deal of frustration from her brother Adam, and to top it all off, crushing a drinking glass in her hand in a shocking, frightening scene of mental vacancy. Although she easily warms her way back into Hannah’s heart with a sweet smile and some soft words, Caroline showcases all of the darkness inside of her in her brief time onscreen. (Her episodes to come should only up the ante.) And on we go to MarnieUgh, poor Marnie. Hannah also plays a reactive party to Marnie’s slow decline into hopelessness as we watch the desperate Miss Michaels insist upon a nostalgic duet of Rent’s “Take Me or Leave Me” (the very idea of this horrifies and humiliates Hannah, but Marnie insists). Funnily enough, it all seems like a grab at some long dissipated self-worth, but winds up being anything but. We open Marnie’s story this week in the midst of a phone call with YouTube; she begs them to recall an embarrassing music video — starring Marnie — that Charlie posted while they were dating, to no avail. Continuing with the elements planted in last week’s episode, all we see in Marnie’s future is more despair, but something about this week’s episode makes her story a bit more interesting. Maybe it is because we aren’t used to seeing television shows (comedies, especially) avail such rawness and humanity in actresses who look like the beautiful Allison Williams. Network television has long kept them from falling to personal “ugliness,” for fear of turning off viewers to the ultimate power of object attraction. And here Girls is, handling in the game of making viewers nauseatingly uncomfortable whenever Marnie is onscreen. As much as we might like shows like New Girl, it’s easy to find truth in arguments that they propagates infantilization of women (a nasty, really troubling practice). While Marnie is hardly a character of strength, she is a step toward the idea that female characters aren’t here to abet an audience’s craving for something adorable. She might be one of the least enjoyed characters on Girls, but there’s a good reason for that — her presence is not meant to be comforting, and that’s a good thing. Finally, Ray!Good ol’ Ray, who we missed out on last week, gets his moment to shine as he laments the fears of becoming a boss (Colin Quinn doles out some sage wisdom) and sobs over the idea of Shoshanna moving on from him. The two encounter one another at Hannah’s birthday, with Ray running into his ex’s date, attempting awkward conversation with the young lady, and then getting into a fight with Hannah’s lunatic editor. We also get a good taste of Ray’s ideology when he delves into his didactic devotion to song queues. Although his professionalism is on the rise, Ray is a wreck after losing his first love — as a staunch intellectual, he has no idea how to handle this ribald emotional chaos within him, which makes his upcoming story arc a terrifically exciting one for anybody who loves the character (like I do). Not much in the way of Shoshanna or Jessa this week, but we’ll be seeing more from each in episodes to come. Chime in with your thoughts below!