Author

Jon Lisi
  • 10 Short Films to Watch Online This April
    By: Jon Lisi Mar 28, 2014
    Jordana Spiro/Skin The Short Film/Facebook On the web, filmmakers from around the world are releasing short films to express themselves and to garner a wide audience. Each month, we're going to present 10 of the best short films that you can watch online immediately. Below are our picks for April 2014 (click the title of a film to watch on YouTube or Vimeo). 1. 7:35de la Mañana Who made it? Nacho Vigalondo What is it? A charming romantic musical that will put a smile on your face How long is it? 7 minutes and 44 seconds 2. Zombinladen - The Axis of Evil Dead Who made it? Clément Deneux What is it? A fake exploitation trailer that would make Quentin Tarantino proud How long is it? 4 minutes and 16 seconds 3. Remote Who made it? Marc Roussel What is it? A surreal story about a man who tries to prevent the murder of a young woman living in his house... 30 years in the past How long is it? 19 minutes and 24 seconds 4. Asience: Hairy Tale Who made it? Kazuto Nakazawa What is it? The best shampoo commercial you'll ever watch. How long is it? 1 minute 5. Moonbounce Who made it? Michael Kefeyalew What is it? A film about a young boy who witnesses a horrific sight How long is it? 6 minutes and 37 seconds 6. Dirigo Who made it? Julia Haltof What is it? A poetic, esoteric story about solitude How long is it? 12 minutes and 25 seconds 7. Flo Who made it? Riley Hooper What is it? A documentary about Flo Fox, a blind photographer in New York City How long is it? 9 minutes and 44 seconds 8. Set No Path Who made it? Brooks Reynolds What is it? A beautifully shot film about friendship How long is it? 17 minutes and 10 seconds 9. The Last Three Minutes Who made it? Po Chan What is it? A day in the life of a dying man How long is it? 5 minutes and 18 seconds. 10. Photograph of Jesus Who made it? Laurie Hill What is it? A strong look inside Getty's Hulton Archive How long is it? 6 minutes and 49 seconds Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • How Meryl Streep and Judi Dench Are Changing the Film Industry
    By: Jon Lisi Mar 26, 2014
    20th Century Fox via Everett Collection Meryl Streep and Judi Dench are changing the film industry. The story began in 2006 when Streep starred in The Devil Wears Prada. Her now iconic performance as Miranda Priestly introduced her talent to a new generation of moviegoers, and turned the film into a box office sensation. Since then, Streep has been straddling the line between character actress and movie star, and she often appears in one film for prestige (Doubt) and another for profit (Mamma Mia!). Not all of Streep’s films are successful at the box office or with critics (Lions for Lambs was a bomb), but most of them are. Dench’s trajectory is similar. Like Streep, she’s been a fantastic actress for most of her life, but her career was reinvigorated in 1997 with Mrs. Brown. Since then, Dench has received seven Oscar nominations, and the surprise success of films like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Philomena prove that she can attract an audience. So what are Streep and Dench doing that is so revolutionary? Unlike most actresses their age, Streep and Dench are sought out by studio executives, and films are often built around them. For instance, Julie & Julia, It’s Complicated, The Iron Lady, and August: Osage County were made for Streep, as with Philomena for Dench. Each project earned the appropriate amount of money required for studios to profit, and gave the actresses more autonomy for future projects. Similarly aged actresses like Julie Christie or Diane Keaton may appear in one successful film to remind audiences of their early A-list status, but the demand for Streep and Dench increases with each subsequent project.  For the most part, this is because Streep and Dench appear in adult-oriented films with complicated female characters at the center. They choose films that will appeal to critics and awards groups, but also ones that will generate interest with audiences. They aren't art-house actresses who make films that are too somber and dramatic, and they understand that financially successful films need to strike an approriate balance between art and commerce. Hope Springs, for example, is a smart romantic comedy in which Streep stars opposite Tommy Lee Jones as a woman stuck in a loveless marriage. Made for just $30 million, the film grossed over $100 million worldwide. As a summer release, Hope Springs offered adult audiences an alternative to the typical comic book fare. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel follows this model. The $10 million comedy grossed over $130 million worldwide, and gave adult audiences a reason to go to the movies during the summer season. To the delight of many, a sequel has already been filmed.  This is not to say, however, that Streep and Dench are unwilling to appear in mainstream movies. In 2014, for instance, Streep will star in The Giver, and if the trailer is any indication, it’s an attempt to appeal to Divergent fans. Dench, on the same token, has been excellent as M in the James Bond films, and her central role in Skyfall had audiences around the world talking about her character’s shocking resolution. Streep and Dench are smart enough to realize that they can appear in mainstream films without undermining their status as thespians, and as a result, they attract a diverse audience to their movies.  By offering adult-oriented, entertaining films to counterprogram the glut of vapid tent-pole pictures, Streep and Dench have opened up the doors for other older actresses to achieve a comfortable level of stardom. Their success debunks the familiar myth that older actresses can’t carry a film at the box office, and suggests that audiences are ready and willing to see films with older women at the center. June Squibb, for example, has become a household name at the age of 84 thanks to her Oscar-nominated performance in Nebraska. Squibb isn't in the same league as Streep or Dench, but she's surprisingly become a famous movie star later in life, appealing to an audience looking for meatier, more character-driven work. This issue is complicated and by no means a science. Actresses still face many hurdles in Hollywood, and Streep and Dench don't solve the larger gender issues that plague the film industry. However, their unprecedented success is a refreshing disruption of the paradigm, and they’ve made it easier for other actresses to follow in their footsteps. What do you about Streep and Dench's impact on the film industry? Cast your vote below.  Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • 5 Ways Hollywood Capitalizes on FOMO
    By: Jon Lisi Mar 25, 2014
    Netflix If we are living in the age of social media, then we are also living in the age of FOMO. The four-letter acronym refers to the Fear of Missing Out, a term psychologists have used to describe the feelings of social anxiety that plague the majority of social media users. Essentially, FOMO occurs when George logs onto Facebook and sees all of the pictures that Sally posted of her wonderful birthday party, and then George becomes emotionally impacted because he wasn't able to attend Sally's party. FOMO is why some people can't stop checking their cell phones, and why others always have their email open while on the computer. FOMO causes teenagers to text during a movie and mom and dad to take phone calls during dinner. However, not all feelings of FOMO relate to social events per se. For example, FOMO can occur when "everyone" is talking about that latest television show or film that you haven't seen. In this case, there isn't a specific party or concert that is being missed. Instead, you're missing out on the conversation, and in order to be socially included, you feel like you must watch the latest trending program. It's certainly important to engage in intelligent discussions about art, and there's nothing more satisfying than watching a great film or television show. However, instant access to media content cannot disguise the fact that one individual cannot consume it all in one lifetime. To put it plainly: there are many great television shows and movies that you are missing, and there's nothing that you can do about it. Media industries don't want you to know this, however, and they have developed a number of techniques that tap into the technological climate and capitalize on FOMO. Below are five of them.  Different streaming services Digital streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and Fandor are a cinephile's dream. They offer instant access to a plethora of fantastic television shows and films, and you can watch them all from the comfort of your living room at an affordable subscription fee. However, each streaming service is competing with one another, and they entice consumers by offering exclusive "must-see" content. Netflix, for example, has AMC hits like Breaking Bad and Mad Men, as well as original programs like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Amazon, on the other hand, has Downton Abbey, Justified, and The Americans. These streaming services offer an array of different content to keep you subscribing, and just when you think you've watched everything, they recommend something else you've never heard of.  Awards shows I love the Oscars as much as anyone else, but it's important to remember that the many televised awards shows like the Oscars, the Golden Globes, and the Emmys exist to a sell product. In this case, the product is the latest film or television series that is considered award-worthy by these various groups. The many prizes bestowed upon certain films or television shows elevate them into something significant that must be seen. 12 Years a Slave, for example, is deemed an "important" film, and Hollywood gives it a bunch of awards to make you feel like you are missing out if you don't see it.  Twitter marketing In this new industry practice, certain companies incorporate user-generated tweets into their promotional materials. A trailer for Muppets Most Wanted, for example, tapped into the social media market by showing what Twitter users have said about the film. The marketing team does this to build anticipation, and the goal is to construct a narrative around Muppets Most Wanted that it is a trending topic that must be seen if you want to be included in the conversation.  Exciting the hashtag generation Similar to the promotional practice described above, this refers to a more general attempt to excite the social media generation. Nearly every film and television show has a Twitter account and Facebook page, and certain ones will call for interactivity to engage the consumer. The Syfy movie Sharknado, for example, retweeted what fans and celebrities had to say about the program, thereby constructing a social phenomenon. The industry includes the audience in the conversation, and more people participate in the hope that their tweets, too, will gain exposure.  More content in a shorter timespan According to A.O. Scott of The New York Times, nearly 900 movies were released in 2013. Add to this the 30 or so great television shows each year as well as the older movies and shows to catch up with, and you're left with a bunch of content and so little time to watch it all. Therefore, a cycle is constructed in which you binge-watch everything in order to remain socially relevant, and just when you've finished the latest season of Game of Thrones, there's Homeland waiting for you. You've finally watched the films of Quentin Tarantino, but then a friend mentions Martin Scorsese and you have to begin again.  Our media culture is at a point where companies are producing more content than we can possibly handle, and since we want to be in the know, we make an effort to see everything at once. At some point, though, the conversation becomes diluted, and we're left with a society that brings up True Detective for the sake of bringing it up, without saying anything remotely interesting or intelligent about it.  Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Does Jonah Hill Represent a New Kind of Movie Star?
    By: Jon Lisi Mar 25, 2014
    Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection Jonah Hill is the most unlikely movie star. He isn't particularly "handsome" like those who came before him, such as Rudolph Valentino, Cary Grant, or even George Clooney. Hollywood producers don't develop movies for him, and he is rarely given the leading role. In another time, Hill might have been a consistently reliable character actor like Harry Dean Stanton whose presence elevates certain films but whose name is largely unrecognized by the general moviegoing audience. Today, however, Hill is a household name, and his appearance in more films signifies a change in both industry and audience practices.  Unlike most character actors who express their versatility in diverse supporting roles, Hill presents a star persona that is specific to his skills as a performer. In his scene-stealing cameo in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, for example, Hill creates humor out of an awkward encounter. Hill's deadpan delivery forces the audience to laugh at his character's cringeworthy interactions. The character is painful to watch, and the audience is embarrassed for him, but Hill's ability to own the absurdity of the situation turns the scene into comedy gold.  The same can be said about Hill's supporting turn in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Hill plays a different character in the film and is given more screen time, but he similarly finds humor in awkwardness. He approaches the scene as a serious actor would, but the combination of his intention (to promote his music) and the situation (intruding upon an intimate conversation between two characters) creates an embarrassing moment that is so absurd the audience can't help but laugh.  Hill would push this persona to the extreme in Cyrus, a hilarious comedy in which he plays a young man who still lives with his mother Molly (Marisa Tomei). John C. Reilly's character begins dating Molly and must deal with Hill's abnormalities. In the scene below, Hill threatens Reilly to back off, and as usual, he turns an awkward situation into comedy. Hill plays the scene intensely as if it were a drama, but the absurd premise of the film and Hill's association with it triggers the audience to laugh.  Hill would continue to develop and expand this persona in other films, including his Oscar nominated turns in both Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street. In the former, Hill is as subdued as he's ever been, but there's always an element of humor in even the simplest line readings. By contrast, his work in the latter is over-the-top, and although he shows a side of himself moviegoers have never seen, he still manages to sneak in his awkward screen persona. Consider, for instance, the scene below in which Hill explains to Leonardo DiCaprio's character his abnormal relationship with his cousin. The combination of Hill's physical appearance (those teeth!) and his earnest delivery once again force the audience to laugh at the absurdity of the situation.  This is not to say that Hill lacks talent, because I personally think that he's one of cinema's most exciting performers. However, with each film appearance, Hill cultivates a unique star persona that is unlike anything we've seen before. He lacks the traditional handsomeness of other male movie stars and he isn't expected or required to play the leading role. Yet his signature is always stamped on each film he's in, and all of his performances adhere to his persona while simultaneously expanding it. Like some of Hill's more famous co-stars such as Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, Hill has become a beloved household name. Unlike them, Hill is carving a new path for movie stars of a different kind, and it will be exciting to see where he goes next.   Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Why Isn't Carly Rose Sonenclar More Famous?
    By: Jon Lisi Mar 17, 2014
    Getty Images When Carly Rose Sonenclar appeared on the second season of The X Factor in 2012, judges and viewers were in awe of her singing ability. We all wondered how a 13-year-old could possess such a powerful voice, and it seemed from the very beginning that Sonenclar would be the frontrunner to win the competition. To the surprise of many viewers, Sonenclar wound up losing to Tate Stevens. However, considering that other X Factor alums like One Direction and Cher Lloyd didn’t win and still became superstars, it’s only logical to assume that Sonenclar would do the same. But this hasn’t happened and I’m wondering if anyone can tell me why. I have a few ideas about this topic. For one, a fantastic voice unfortunately doesn’t guarantee success in the contemporary music industry. One Direction has the heartthrob factor, Cher Lloyd has the cool factor, and recent winners Alex & Sierra have the OMG-I-want-their-relationship factor. In the age of catchy pop tunes and calculated star images (Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, and Katy Perry, oh my!), Sonenclar’s old-fashioned vocal talent isn’t going to cut it for most consumers.   This calls attention to the biggest problem X Factor contestants face. It’s a problem that similarly plagues many back-up singers as demonstrated by the recent Academy Award winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom. How does one stand out in a sea of talent? The stagnant career of Sonenclar thus far suggests that reality competition programs require more than talent from their contestants, and if an individual is to truly succeed after the show, he or she needs to grab the audience’s attention with some kind of shtick. Sonenclar doesn't have this, so she hasn't become as famous as she deserves to be. Could it be that talent no longer rules the day? Is Sonenclar's lack of success since The X Factor indicative of a culture that rewards headline-making gimmicks over the ability to hit a high note and play an instrument? Cast your vote below, and don't forget to watch Sonenclar's performance of "Over the Rainbow" during her tenure on The X Factor. Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • 10 Cate Blanchett Performances to Watch After 'Blue Jasmine'
    By: Jon Lisi Mar 16, 2014
    Sony Pictures via Everett Collection Cate Blanchett recently won her second Academy Award for her brilliant performance in Blue Jasmine , which means that a younger generation of moviegoers is becoming familiar with her work for the first time. Prior to this, Blanchett has been relatively absent from the film industry, devoting her time instead to the Sydney Theatre Company which she co-directed with her husband for six years. Moreover, most moviegoers recognize Blanchett for her brief appearances as Galadriel in the beloved The Lord of The Rings trilogy, or for her performances in more mainstream films like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) and The Aviator (2004), for which she won her first Academy Award as legendary actress Katharine Hepburn. All of this is fine, but Blanchett’s greatest performances can be found in lesser-known, independent films that mainstream audiences tend to overlook. Below is a list of 10 of these performances to remind us once again why Blanchett is one of the most captivating screen actresses of our time. 1. Jude in I’m Not There. (2007) In Todd Haynes’ wildly inventive “biopic” of Bob Dylan, Blanchett owns the film as a version of the musician during his electric years. Since the film isn’t told in a linear fashion, audiences didn’t bother to see it, but within seconds it becomes clear that Blanchett is the only performer — male or female — who could have played this role. 2. Philippa in Heaven (2002) Blanchett is a revelation as a woman who is arrested for terrorist acts and subsequently falls in love with the officer (Giovanni Ribisi) who is supposed to look after her while in a holding cell. Heaven begins as a thriller and ends as one of the most romantic films ever made, with Blanchett taking the audience on this riveting journey every step of the way 3. Sheba Hart in Notes on a Scandal (2006) Blanchett goes toe-to-toe with acting legend Judi Dench in this taut psychological drama about a teacher (Blanchett) who has an affair with a student and is found out by one of the senior teachers (Dench) at the school. Few films are as impeccably acted as this, and during the film’s intense, climactic showdown, Blanchett shows a side of herself that audiences haven’t seen since. 4. Cate and Shelly in Coffee and Cigarettes (2003) Coffee and Cigarettes is an anthology film by Jim Jarmusch, and in one of the vignettes entitled “Cousins,” Blanchett stars opposite herself as both Cate and Shelly, two wildly different cousins who reunite over a cup of coffee. Not much happens here, except that we are shown Blanchett’s incredible range as she inhabits both of these characters with equal skill. Who else can pull something like this off and yet make it so watchable and believable? 5. Tracy in  Little Fish (2005) Blanchett is riveting as a drug addict struggling to rebuild her life in this excellent Australian drama. Those who marveled at Blanchett’s ability to confront addiction head-on in Blue Jasmine might be surprised to find that she’s just as fierce in Little Fish, a film that might have earned her a Best Actress Academy Award if it were more popular in the United States. 6. Charlotte Gray in Charlotte Gray (2001) Blanchett is lovely as a young Scottish woman who joins the French Resistance during WWII to find her boyfriend who is lost in France. Director Gillian Armstrong is known for her beautiful restraint, and Blanchett matches her with a performance that feels so authentic we almost forget she’s acting at all. 7. Kate Wheeler in Bandits (2001) Who knew Blanchett could be so funny? Bandits is a ridiculous caper that stars Billy Bob Thornton and Bruce Willis as two bank robbers who kidnap Blanchett and fall in love with her. Unlike Heaven, which is somber and serious, Bandits is a playful romp. For those who admired Jennifer Lawrence’s “Live and Let Die” moment in American Hustle, remember that Blanchett did it years ago while dancing to “I Need a Hero” in this film.   8. Veronica Guerin in Veronica Guerin (2003) In this true story, Blanchett plays Veronica Guerin, an Irish journalist who was murdered by drug dealers when she exposed their crimes in her articles. This is a heartbreaking tale about an ordinary hero, and Blanchett’s riveting turn pays proper homage to Guerin while simultaneously allowing her legacy to live on in the hearts and minds of those fortunate enough to who watch this courageous film. 9. Petal Barr in The Shipping News (2001) The Shipping News isn’t a great movie, but it is worth mentioning for Blanchett’s scene-stealing turn as Kevin Spacey’s reckless lover who leaves him in the beginning of the movie. Her part is small, but she makes an undeniable impact, and shows how she can make the most of even the slightest roles. For the few scenes she’s in, Blanchett makes us feel like we’ve been with this character forever. 10. Queen Elizabeth I in Elizabeth (1998) One of the biggest injustices in Academy Awards history is when Gwyneth Paltrow won the Best Actress Oscar for Shakespeare in Love in the same year that Blanchett gave us her rendition of a young Queen Elizabeth in Elizabeth, one of the finest lead performances in the history of cinema. Paltrow is fine, but Blanchett’s work in this film is in a class by itself. This is the one that started it all.   Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Is Lena Dunham's Molestation Joke Acceptable?
    By: Jon Lisi Mar 16, 2014
    Universal Pictures via Everett Collection On March 10, 2014, Lena Dunham tweeted a joke about molestation in response to criticism about her on-screen nudity. “You don’t always have to get naked,” one Twitter user said, to which Dunham responded, “Please tell that to my uncle, mister. He’s been making me!” Dunham has since deleted and apologized for the tweet after other Twitter users deemed it offensive and inappropriate. My purpose here isn’t to suggest that Dunham deserves more criticism, because she doesn’t. Instead, I believe that the response to Dunham’s tweet is indicative of a culture in which celebrities are too often scrutinized and shamed for what they say. The debate about whether or not certain topics should be joked about and who should be allowed to make these jokes has existed for decades. However, in the age of social media where celebrities are quickly called out for offensive remarks on Twitter and then tried for these remarks in the media, the question needs to be asked again: What responsibility do celebrities have to the public, and how mindful should they be about their words? This question is especially relevant because certain celebrities get away with offensive remarks and others do not. Comedian Louis C.K., for example, uses the “N word” and other offensive terms in one of his stand-up specials in 2008. Since C.K. is a comedian, and one that many consider to be among the best in the business, he is granted more freedom with his words than, say, a politician. Meanwhile, another comedian Michael Richards infamously made racist remarks in a stand-up comedy show in 2006, and this incident ruined his career. Why does one get a free pass and the other not? Does it come down to who’s funnier, or is there something else going on? Most of it, I think, depends on the particular person involved and the particular situation in question. C.K. has made a career of finding humor in offensive language, whereas Richards is known to most audiences for the sharp but network-friendly Seinfeld. In other words, we expect C.K. to be provocative but we don’t see it coming from Richards. C.K. and Richards are just two of many examples one can use to highlight this discrepancy.   Dunham rightfully isn’t being punished in the court of public opinion for her tweet about molestation because her apology reminds us that she’s a feminist who supports rape victims. And good for her, but is it possible to live in a world where a celebrity like Dunham can understand rape is a horrible thing and yet still find humor in it? Why must she be pressured to apologize in order to be admired, and why do other celebrities make similar remarks without receiving backlash and pressure to apologize? Moreover, how do we come to terms with the many celebrities who have apologized and still remain blacklisted in Hollywood and guilty in the public’s eyes? I don’t have the answers, but there’s a problem when some celebrities are punished and others aren't for using similar offensive language. What do you think about Dunham’s joke? Cast your vote below. Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Why 'The View' Is Problematic
    By: Jon Lisi Mar 16, 2014
    ABC Television Network There’s no doubt that The View  has cemented its place in popular culture since its premiere in 1997, and that its co-creator Barbara Walters is a legend who has paved the way for women in journalism. However, as we consider the positive impact the show has had on American society and the world at large, we must also come to terms with some of its problems as well. For those who don’t watch, every morning the hosts debate about a variety of “hot topics” in an attempt to tap into the zeitgeist. One morning the hosts will discuss Justin Bieber’s legal troubles, for example, and another morning they’ll talk about the crisis in the Ukraine. The hot topics are responsible for the show’s continued success with viewers and its presence in the mainstream American media, as they have famously incited some heated on-air arguments between the co-hosts. Below is a video of one of the more memorable fights.  At which point do we decide what merits a legitimate “hot topic” worth debating and what contributes to gossip and the general lynch-mob mentality that has taken form in the Twittersphere? Case in point: the recent discussion about Kim Novak’s Academy Awards appearance. Walters brought it up on Monday, March 3, asking in a condescending tone whether or not Novak should be put on television, as if she’s some abnormal creature who shouldn’t leave the house. By contributing to the conversation, the co-hosts of The View implied that cruelty is acceptable and that insulting another human being for the way she looks and talks is a worthy endeavor. This isn’t the only example. During discussions of the recent child molestation claims against Woody Allen incited by the Farrows (first Ronan and Mia and then Dylan), co-hosts Sherri Shepard and Jenny McCarthy expressed their willingness to believe the Farrows while simultaneously attacking Allen for “having a track record” of liking younger women, as if that is synonymous with pedophilia. I’m not saying that they’re right or wrong because I don’t know what happened either, but why should they even discuss this in the first place? Why should they claim such certainty about another person’s private life with the same speculative information the rest of us have? The short answer is that they wouldn’t have a show if they didn’t, and the long answer is that The View is a product of a culture and society that thrives on making rash judgments against other people without knowing anything about them. Walters and company aren’t the only ones doing this — they’re not even the only ones on television who profit from gossiping about others — but given Walters’ journalistic integrity, she should know better. After all, the co-hosts have a responsibility to their viewers, and if they want to create a show that revolves around your average American offering an opinion about the latest news story, they should be more selective in their choosing of hot topics. Many viewers turn to the co-hosts to learn about what’s relevant and important in the world, and by using their airspace to cast judgments about other people’s private lives (Allen) or to criticize the way certain people carry themselves publically (Novak), they send the wrong message that it’s acceptable to offer an opinion about other people without knowing anything about them or the situation in which they’re placed. Don’t be fooled, folks. This is never acceptable, especially on television. Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Who is 'Girls' Made For?
    By: Jon Lisi Mar 14, 2014
    HBO There's no doubt that Lena Dunham's HBO series Girls is one of the best shows on television. The performances are spot-on, the writing is witty and biting, and the overall direction is confident and assured. Season 3, in particular, highlights the show's ability to portray characters that are simultaneously endearing and despicable. Still, critical viewers are left wondering why a show about financially struggling twenty-somethings in New York City airs on HBO, one of the most expensive pay television services in the United States. For the creators of the series, a partnership with HBO guarantees a level of respectability. HBO is known for its sophisticated programming, and any showrunner would dream to be associated with the established brand. Moreover, Dunham maintains creative and artistic freedom with HBO, as she can fill her show with nudity and profanity without fear of censorship. On the surface, HBO is a dream employer. However, if we probe deeper, we start to realize that the audience who would benefit most from Girls most likely cannot afford to watch it. Although there are exceptions, young adults are more inclined to subscribe to Netflix than cable, and those who do have cable are not likely to have HBO. The exceptions, of course, are wealthier individuals who can spring for the monthly payments. Speaking from personal experience, I see more Facebook status updates from recent graduates about House of Cards than Girls, and these graduates live in the same neighborhoods as Hannah Horvath and company. Further, those who do watch the series typically use their parents' HBO GO passwords. In any event, there's clearly a disconnect here. When critics debate the type of audience Girls is aimed at, and when Dunham herself stresses that she's developed the series to "illuminate what it feels like to be a young woman in America right now," one has to wonder if she's reaching her audience through HBO. Girls, like the recent film Frances Ha, portrays a specific kind of youth culture: the young city-dweller who is highly educated, incredibly narcissistic, and desperately unemployed. Unlike Frances Ha, which is available on Netflix streaming, Girls can only be viewed on HBO or DVD for a much higher price. Dunham acknowledges on Charlie Rose that her show isn't trying to speak to every woman, but how can it even speak to the struggling twenty-something when most struggling twenty-somethings in America don't subscribe to HBO?  Girls indeed has a loyal following of fans and critics, but as its ratings indicate, more people in popular culture talk about the show than actually watch it. Some may attribute this to Dunham's polarizing feminism, and others may suggest that the show's content and execution aren't mainstream enough. But neither is House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, or Breaking Bad. The problem, ultimately, stems from the fact that the type of audience who would enjoy watching Girls the most can't afford to do so, and unlike Hannah Horvath, they're willing to sacrifice important artistic and cultural products for food and rent. Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Ariana Grande vs. Mariah Carey
    By: Jon Lisi Mar 13, 2014
    Getty Images/Getty Images I was wrong about Ariana Grande. When everyone was calling Grande the next Mariah Carey in 2013, I immediately dismissed such claims as hyperbole. Grande can sing, I would admit, but Carey is a legend. As time passed, however, I began to understand more clearly what people were talking about. Grande's debut album Yours Truly is an R&B masterpiece, and her live performances prove that she's one of the best vocalists in the music industry. Carey was recently asked about Grande in an interview, and although she didn't specifically acknowledge the comparison, she did wish all emerging artists like Grande the best. Some media outlets are trying to create a controversy by suggesting that Carey was throwing shade at Grande. If anything, Carey just comes across as an oblivious superstar who doesn't have time to listen to new music. She also claimed that she hasn't heard Beyonce's “Drunk in Love.” Carey is clearly missing out, as Grande is both a talented new artist in her own right and a worthy successor to Carey's throne. Few female vocalists have ever been able to hit the high notes like Carey, and Grande is arguably the only one to do so who has also captured the public's attention with such force. The case for Carey is obvious. She has a proven track record and longevity in a competitive business. However, her live performances have been lacking lately, and she hasn't really done anything relevant since The Emancipation of Mimi in 2005. Grande, on the other hand, hasn't been around long enough to overthrow Carey. Despite this, however, her graceful candor is refreshing, and her music relies on her excellent voice, thereby separating Grande both from young artists like herself as well as a contemporary Carey. In addition, Grande has mastered social media marketing and has garnered an impressive following.  So let's settle this dispute once and for all. Who's better: Ariana Grande or Mariah Carey? Cast your vote below. Follow @Hollywood_com //