Author

Shannon Houston
  • YouTube Star Tyler Oakley Helps Launch the New Beamly App
    By: Shannon Houston Apr 15, 2014
    Tyler Oakley/Facebook So exhaustingly all-encompassing is social media that certain folks are actually beginning to explore new platforms tailored more specifically to their needs. Beamly, for instance, is a social media platform built with a pop culture (TV, in particular) brain as its model. The new app, which launches today, is designed to help users hone in on the stars and television shows they love, offering the opportunity to follow, learn about, talk about, and interact with them. Beamly has over 100 TV and pop culture icons on board with the big launch, including Kandi Burruss of Real Housewives of Atlanta (she says all of us Gladiators can meet her in the Scandal TV Room), and YouTube sensations like Tyler Oakley, Sawyer Hartman and Kalel Cullen. Tyler Oakley first started rocking the viral world when his tongue-in-cheek video about the problematics of gay marriage opposition became a huge hit. Three hundred videos and over four million YouTube subscribers later, Oakley is working with Beamly to bring us this exciting new app, and even made some time to share details about the project with Hollywood.com in an exclusive interview. First off, I was watching your “100 Things That Happened in 2013” video and that was such an amazing recap! How's your 2014 looking, in comparison to last year? Thanks! 2013 was an amazing year for me, but so far 2014 hasn’t been too shabby either. I raised half a million dollars for a charity for my birthday, advised President Barack Obama on social media strategy, and got to attend the MTV Movie Awards. Not too bad so far.  Before we get into Beamly, I'd love to hear your take on your own position right now, for people who may not quite get it. What does it take to become a YouTube sensation? How would you explain your job to others? Basically, I just try to live my most adventurous life, and then come back to my computer and share it with my audience. I never thought of YouTube as a career, but after college I decided to leave my job and try it full time. At the end of the day I am just a guy, living his dream. What can you tell us about the Beamly app? I'm especially curious to know how it's different from Twitter in terms of fan interaction. What I like about Beamly is it allows me to connect with my viewers around TV shows that we’re passionate about. With Twitter, everything is happening at once. Beamly helps you filter out the noise so you can really dig in with the particular show you are interested in.  Now, I'm a total Scandal freak... like to a creepy degree. How will Beamly help me get closer to my favorite Gladiators? And by "closer" I mean, like, "in the CIA office with Jake, making out with him." Beamly allows you to give your point of view on something happening in a show, or weigh in and discuss a particular character. I don’t know if it will help you make out with Jake, but it certainly allows you to talk at length with other super fans about his every detail. Do you have a favorite feature on Beamly? Just being able to actually have conversations with my people all about our favorite TV shows.  Sometimes it’s a bit one-sided, but on Beamly, I can actually discuss. What's next for you in the coming months? Any big events that we should know about? I like to have realistic dreams, so obviously next is world domination. Follow @Hollywood_com Follow @shannonmhouston
  • We Can Actually Learn Something from Human Barbie and Human Ken
    By: Shannon Houston Apr 15, 2014
    ValeriaLukyanova/instagram Valeria Lukyanova and Justin Jedlica are easy to judge. They are better known as the Human Barbie and the Human Ken, and because they've gone to great lengths to make themselves look like plastic dolls, it can be difficult to take them seriously. And if that wasn't strange enough, they recently posed together for a photo shoot and ended up sort of dissing each other. Jedlica actually attacked Lukyanova's authenticity (if that ain't the pot calling the kettle black), claiming that because she uses "stage makeup" and wears "extensions" she's not as interesting as someone like him, who is truly dedicated to the cause, having invested $150,000 in plastic surgeries. But let's forget for a moment the craziness therein, and consider what we're looking at here. Essentially, we're looking at two people who take pop culture and contemporary ideals of beauty very, very seriously. The journalist behind Lukyanova's GQ interview explained it well: "Her features are the features we men playfully ascribe to ideal women; it's how we draw them in manga and comics and video games."Lukyanova does what women everywhere do — she takes an ideal of beauty and aspires to it. Like many of us, she plays dress-up and puts on a face that she's comfortable with... and it's not the one she wakes up with in the morning. That's, actually, quite typical."  And Jedlica, like plenty of men with the resources and desire, has surgically altered his look to make himself more attractive (by his own standards and by standards set in place by others). You could say that these two are like a fun house mirror of sorts — the image is wonky, but it represents and reflects something very real. If Jedlica and Lukyanova seem ridiculous, it's probably a reflection of the ridiculous standards of beauty (to which we all subscribe, in some way) that have less to do with the human body and more to do with a plastic mold. The fact that they have been nicknamed for two cultural icons with which we are all familiar speaks volumes. There is plenty we can learn from Human Barbie and Human Ken. As difficult as it may be to admit, they are products of an environment in which we all participate on some level. There's nothing wrong with loving, or appreciating beautiful people, celebrities, and fashion movements. But when our ideals of beauty are limited (and Lupita Nyong'o and other women of color in the industry have proven that this is still very much an issue), or we only celebrate a particularly impossible ideal, we have to admit that we've helped create two monsters — two dolls. Such a dangerous creation should open up our eyes about the messages we are clearly sending out to the world. Follow @Hollywood_com Follow @shannonmhouston //
  • People Are Furious About Jake Gyllenhaal's Latest Project
    By: Shannon Houston Apr 15, 2014
    Splash News Jake Gyllenhaal has a big year ahead of him. His second film with French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (Enemy) had a lot of critics talking last month, and he's got some exciting upcoming projects as well. A movie with David O. Russell, another one with The Bourne Supremacy screenwriter Dan Gilroy, and one exciting venture that a lot of people are actually furious about (if you can imagine a world where people are furious about something Jake Gyllenhaal is doing). The Oscar-nominated actor is, apparently, trying his hand at high theory. Columbia University is launching its installment of The Year of James Baldwin and they've enlisted Gyllenhaal and Colm Toíbín, and Irish writer and literary critic, as speakers on the subject. As people saw this news flashing across their Facebook feeds, a collective "Huh?" was emitted, followed by some real anger. What does Jake Gyllenhaal have to do with James Baldwin? Part of the concern was linked to the issue of race, which is indeed a relevant issue here — as a giant in black literature and an author born during the Harlem Renaissance, it's relevant to question a celebration of his work that begins with a white American actor and an Irish author. But the outrage wasn't just related to race, and the response inspires another question: Can people accept celebrities as intellectuals? It seems that we connoisseurs of pop culture like our celebrities to stay in their lanes — frivolous drama, yacht parties, hot messery. And many of them fit the bill. But what happens when one surprises us and starts voicing political opinions, or tries out literary and cultural theory? People tend to get judgmental, going so far as to assume that celebrities, like Gyllenhaal, couldn't possibly have anything to contribute to an intellectual conversation.  Granted, certain actors have a little more leeway in the legitimacy department. Gyllenhaal speaking on Baldwin probably induced fewer eye-rolls than the Miley Cyrus college course (and the fact that she wasn't even directly involved with the class tells us that there's a general distate for all things that seek to link the celebrity world with academia). But pop culture fans and members of academia would likely benefit from a more accepting stance. The intellectual community could become more inclusive in terms of content (without losing whatever high-brow, exclusivity it may rightfully hold dear), and the celebrity world could expand into other areas, allowing both fans and stars to broaden their horizons. Ultimately, a meshing of the two worlds could inspire a wide variety of possibilities, some of which might prove to be truly fascinating. You can learn more about the upcoming Columbia talk featuring Gyllenhaal and Toíbín here. Follow @Hollywood_com Follow @shannonmhouston //
  • 5 Hilarious 'Mad Men' Spoofs
    By: Shannon Houston Apr 14, 2014
    FOX As we ruminate over the Mad Men premiere, we think not only of the bleak sorrows that have befallen Don and Peggy, but of the joys this show has inspired. Getting into the spirit of things, Seth Meyers recently shared a parody video called Bad Men. Whether or not his was especially funny is debatable, but here are some Mad Men parodies and spoofs that totally hit the mark. The Simpsons When Homer Simpson went Don Draper, even if it was only for the opening credits, all felt right in the world. Saturday Night Live: "A-Holes: Pitch Meeting" Finally, someone said what we'd all been thinking: "All of the clients on Mad Men are total a-holes." Kristen Wiig and Jason Sudeikis played their recurring characters (Two A-Holes), and along with the real Don Draper, Peggy Olson, and Roger Sterling we got some hilarious SNL-ified versions of the rest of the folks at Sterling Cooper. MA Men It's all of your favorite things in one place: Mad Men, Joey McIntyre from New Kids on the Block, and Boston accents laced with NSFW language (AKA Boston accents). Enjoy. Sesame Street FTW If you have children (hell, even if you don't), this video is a joy! Finally, you can share the magic of Mad Men with your kids without questioning your parenting skills.   Saturday Night Live: "Black Mad Men" Who in the world would think to connect hummus to sexuality and desegregation? Why, the black Mad Men of SNL. And just as Saturday Night Live made moves to diversify their cast and their sketches this year, we're hoping Mad Men makes similar moves in this final season. Follow @Hollywood_com Follow @shannonmhouston //
  • 7 Times Peggy Olson Stole the Show On 'Mad Men'
    By: Shannon Houston Apr 11, 2014
    AMC The first episode of the final season for AMC's Mad Men airs this Sunday (finally!) and we all know what that means: more Peggy Olson. Now, some folks are calling her "the new Don Draper," and while that's all fine and good, we're quite content knowing that she's just plain Peggy. Plain, old, copy-writing, ass-kicking, forward-thinking, marijuana-smoking (occasionally), brilliant, amazing, everything-that-Don-Draper-could-never-be Peggy Olson. And the actor who portrays her, Elisabeth Moss, is just as awesome for that matter. Here are seven times (of many) when Peggy Olson — the only employee at Sterling Cooper & Partners who can legitimately work and drink at the same time — totally stole the show. Basket of Genius When Peggy hit Freddy Rumsen with the "basket of kisses" line that went on to become the Belles Jolie ad, we knew she was something special. She stood out in a room full of women trying on lipstick because — like the men behind the glass — she was more interested in observing than anything else (you can see this at the 4:02 mark). Unlike the men, though, she was attentive to nearly every detail of the experience. As a result, she was able to come up with the brilliant copy that would mark the beginning of her career. Bye Bye Peggy We all remember the episode that opened with the clip of Ann-Margret belting out Bye Bye Birdie. But just as memorable was the moment when Peggy — a solitary girl in her dark apartment — sang the song in her mirror while no one listened. Peggy Olson Meets Mary Jane She knows who she is, and knows what she wants. "I'm Peggy Olsen. And I want to smoke some marijuana." This is still one of the most important lines of the series. Not because marijuana was so important (although it does function as this strange sort of guest character), but because it was one of the first times when she firmly asserted herself. It was the beginning of a new era of Peggy who wasn't just going to speak up about "brassieres and body odor and make-up."  The Nudist Experiment "I can work like this. Let's get liberated." Another hugely important line in Mad Men history. When Peggy stripped down in front of Stan Rizzo and totally called his bluff, it was nothing short of epic. After hours of babbling about wanting to be free and nude, he couldn't handle a little Peggy O sans threads. And let's face it, neither can we. You can see a clip from the scene at the 2:45 mark of this video. Calling "Bulls**t" Truthfully, Joan and Peggy are a perfect team here, but it is important to note that this is a rare moment when someone calls the incomparable Joan Holloway on her "bulls**t" and even Joan can't argue back. She, like Peggy, is guilty of loving her job way too much. That Moment We Realized What Peggy Olson Really Means to Don If this doesn't bring tears to your eyes than you are either a) someone who has never watched Mad Men and has no understanding of the significance of Peggy quitting, or b) a humanoid robot, devoid of feeling and emotion. Every Moment Compiled in This Montage Even when she was apologizing all over the place and super-mousy, you couldn't help but want to know more about her. And when she yelled at her secretary for more coffee? Man, we love everything you do, Peggy. Sidenote: Nobody has seen fit to make a video or GIF of the moment from the Season 6 finale, when Peggy walked in wearing that teeny, tiny black dress with the pink bow. And Chanel No. 5. Obviously. This needs to be remedied as soon as possible. Follow @Hollywood_com Follow @shannonmhouston //
  • This Season's 'Grimm' Monsters Are Officially the Worst
    By: Shannon Houston Apr 07, 2014
    NBC Universal Media If you've been watching NBC's Grimm for the past few years, then you're no stranger to creepy, nightmare-inducing monsters that make you want to run, hide, and sleep with the lights on. Grimm has always been good for that. But there must be something in the water at the Grimm writer headquarters because this season's wesen (and other monsters) are on some next level stuff. They are officially the show's most horrific, unpleasant, disturbing creations yet... and we don't know whether that's a good or a bad thing. Here are the top five most horrifying things we've seen Nick, Hank, Monroe, and Rosalee come up against so far in Season 3. 5. Naiads These mermaid-like wesen are actually gorgeous... that is, until they've stayed out of the water too long and their skin starts to shed. This season’s “One Night Stand" taught us that water nymphs can be pretty gross, especially when you get a closer look at those neck gills. 4. Anubis The ancient Egyptian mummies and tombs have always been completely fascinating and quite beautiful, until this season's "Once We Were Gods" episode reminded us of the major creep-factor at work here. The Anubis are dog-like wesen who are very protective of their history, which is admirable, but they're also so creepy to look at! The hairless body and that snout? No thanks. 3. El Cucuys El Cucuy wesen mean well. They're actually vigilante wesen, and they only kill bad guys. But the fact that the first one we met this season was old enough to be a grandma made the beast all the more frightful. Grandma cucuy's advanced age didn't stop her from tearing those criminals to pieces. Sure, she kept the neighborhood safe, but those sounds of her hunting her prey, then slashing them to bits? Yes, those will haunt your dreams. 2.  Wildesheers It's all very Silence of the Lambs when the Wildesheer are in town. They scalp the strongest men around, then they make pretty little coats out of the hair they collect. Buffalo Bill would be proud, but we're just terrified. Every shot we saw of these guys (also known as Berzerkers) in "The Wild Hunt" episode was absolutely cringe-worthy, because there's really nothing worse than watching someone get scalped. 1. Aswangs Scratch that. There is something worse than watching someone get scalped. Enter, the fetus-eating wesen from hell. Here's hoping nobody watching the "Mommy Dearest" episode was anywhere near their third trimester, because seeing this beast plunge its tongue into the belly of pregnant women feast on her unborn baby? Absolutely, without a doubt, the number one most disturbing wesen of the season. We love Grimm, but it may get difficult to watch this show if anything more horrifying than the Aswangs show up. Follow @Hollywood_com Follow @shannonmhouston //
  • Does a Tame 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Movie Send an Anti-Feminist Message?
    By: Shannon Houston Apr 07, 2014
    www.splashnews.com Although the general public hasn't seen it, a trailer for the Fifty Shades of Grey movie recently screened to a bunch of fancy film people at Las Vegas Comic Con. And some of those fancy film folks were kind enough to take to Twitter and share their reactions. Unfortunately, many of those reactions tell us that the film looks like a really sweet, really adorable love story focused more on romance than the red room sexcapades many of us were hoping for. Seeing as how all of the other promo photos that have been released look insanely tame, we shouldn't be surprised. But if the trailer and promotional images are true reflections of what we can expect from the film, what might this say about American film and a desire to strongly regulate and censor images related to sexuality and sexual expression? This isn't just a question of filmmakers and producers "leaving out the good stuff" (although that is a huge issue here), it's one about whether or not Hollywood and America have a very big problem with female sexuality. A few years back, similar discussions arose over the NC-17 rating given to Derek Cianfrance's brilliant film Blue Valentine. The stars of the complicated and intense love story spoke out against the MPAA (who later reversed their ruling and gave the film an R-rating), and what Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams had to say four years ago is still very much relevant today. Gosling: You have to question a cinematic culture which preaches artistic expression, and yet would support a decision that is clearly a product of a patriarchy-dominant society, which tries to control how women are depicted on screen. The MPAA is okay supporting scenes that portray women in scenarios of sexual torture and violence for entertainment purposes, but they are trying to force us to look away from a scene that shows a woman in a sexual scenario, which is both complicit and complex. It's misogynistic in nature to try and control a woman's sexual presentation of self. I consider this an issue that is bigger than this film. Williams: Mainstream films often depict sex and violence in a manner that is disturbing and very far from reality. Yet, the MPAA regularly awards these films with a more audience friendly rating, enabling our culture's desensitization to violence, rape, torture and brutality. Our film does not depict any of these attributes. It's simply a candid look at the difficulties couples face in sustaining their relationships over time. Blue Valentine opens a door for couples to have a dialogue about the everyday realities of many relationships. This film was made in the spirit of love, honesty and intimacy. I hope that the MPAA will hear our pleas and reconsider their decision. Gosling and Williams both highlight an issue we've seen unfolding over the years in cinema and media. As an American culture, we find far more controversy and danger in images concerned with sexual experiences than in images depicting violent acts. You could argue that we are more afraid of exposing young people to sex and sexuality than we are of exposing them to murder and death. But the fact that the MPAA took issue with a scene where a woman was on the receiving end of oral sex also suggests that Hollywood has a specific aversion to female sexuality. While many readers found Fifty Shades of Grey to be an anti-feminist text, others have argued that because the focus is ultimately on Anastasia and her own sexual discovery, this is a story about a woman and her desires and pleasures. As such, it is a feminist narrative at its core. Ana experiences her own sexual revolution (among other things) throughout the course of the trilogy, and to quell that sex-based revolution and turn it into a mere romance where girl-meets-boy would really be a tragedy. It'd be like turning The Hunger Games into a story about a young girl who has a really tough time deciding between two loves. It's not totally out of left field, but it removes the most powerful aspect of the story; the girl is Katniss and Katniss is a warrior. Let's hope Ana's ever-important inner goddess (a "character" in the book who may have sounded totally ridiculous at times, but functioned as the one, true, unrepressed portion of Ana's psyche) does not get left out. Sure, Fifty Shades of Grey is, at the end of it all, a love story. Then again, so was Blue Valentine, and more recently Blue Is the Warmest Color. But the latter is a powerful love story because of its stark depictions of desire and female-centered erotic experiences. Fifty Shades could have been a bold, excellent movie (regardless of the literary value of the original text) that highlighted a young woman's introduction into sex and so-called sexual deviance — and it still could be! But right now it sounds like it's shaping up to be one of a million romantic dramas. Entertaining enough, but ultimately forgettable, and in no small way problematic. Here's hoping director Sam Taylor-Johnson proves us wrong, avoids some of the clichés, and brings us something a bit more interesting. Follow @Hollywood_com Follow @shannonmhouston //
  • Life Lessons from TV Moms: Julianne Margulies' 'The Good Wife' Character Alicia Florrick
    By: Shannon Houston Apr 06, 2014
    CBS Alicia Florrick (played by Julianna Margulies) from The Good Wife is and is not your typical TV mom. She might seem like your average matriarch at first glance: she's a good provider, she's always down for some homework help, and she listens with a fairly open mind. She's pretty awesome and we don't often see her losing her temper with Zach or Grace. But then there's this other side of her... 1. Sometimes, Your Kids Should See You as This Really Interesting Person Who Lives in Their House Zach nailed it in this season's 10th episode ("The Decision Tree") when he cocked his head to the side, looked at Alicia and said, "Sometimes I think of you as Mom, and other times just as this interesting person who lives in our house." This was in reaction to learning that his mom was the defense attorney to known drug kingpin Lemond Bishop. Zach honed in on what is, for many mothers, a truly important facet of the child/parent relationship. At some point you want your children to see you as an actual human being with actual interests and a life. This doesn't mean that they need to see you at the club, dancing like a 22-year-old to Beyoncé's "Drunk In Love" (there are very few circumstances where that would be beneficial). It just means that kids get a little thrill when they catch a glimpse of the world you exist in either in you your career or in your creative life. 2. A Little Mystery Goes a Long Way Alicia's not an open book mom, she's not a friend mom. She's a mom mom. Zach and Grace respect their mom in part because they know they don't know everything about her — and they know that they probably never will. Even though her children know what she does, and they have some access to it, her personal life is shrouded in mystery. 3. Don't Be Afraid to Get Gangsta, Where the Kids Are Concerned We love Alicia because, while she's calm for the most part she can turn into a lioness at any moment. Did you see the way she snatched her daughter out of the kitchen when Grace was going through that "hot" phase and every guy within a 20-mile radius could smell it (that was the episode when they were running Florrick Agos out of her house)? We saw a similar reaction when Eli got a little too close to Zach during Peter's campaign. As composed as she usually is, when it comes to the kiddies, Alicia doesn't play around. And for that, we thank her. And we kind of want to be her. Follow @Hollywood_com Follow @shannonmhouston //
  • Can Jon Hamm Ever Be a Movie Star?
    By: Shannon Houston Apr 04, 2014
    AMC The final season of Mad Men premieres on April 13th, and as we prepare to say goodbye forever to our beloved Don Draper, a few questions come to mind. What does a world without Sterling Cooper & Partners look like? How many fabulous outfits will Joan fit into this last season? And how will we get our Jon Hamm fix going forward? Even with multiple film projects lined up, including a comedy with Zach Galifianakis (Keeping Up With the Joneses), Disney's sports biopic Million Dollar Arm, and with James Franco's adaptation of The Sound & The Fury, one question looms over the future of Hamm: can the man we know as Don Draper make it in film? Will audiences be able to watch his performances without wondering why he isn't smoking and/or yelling at Peggy Olson for something or other? Will we find it impossible to divorce the actor from his pivotal role? This often happens when television stars try to move over to the big screen. On the one hand, it's a testament to the talent of these actors; they were so convincing in their performances, fans could not see them any other way (Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers, Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, John Krasinski as Jim Halpert, 85 percent of child actors everywhere). Only time will tell, but for right now it's very difficult to see Jon Hamm exorcising himself from the spirit of Dick Whitman. Even in the 2011 movie Friends with Kids, it felt like we were experiencing some contemporary version of his Mad Men character. Perhaps the issue was that he played this hot, douchey husband, and it was all a little too close to Don Draper for comfort.  Hamm may have to pursue some seriously anti-Draper: super-indie, dark, and artsy stuff, so that we can forget about his past life. And there's always the chance that he could land another big television role that takes off like Mad Men did. And 10 or 15 years from now, our kids will be shocked to learn that before he was... whoever he winds up being, Jon Hamm actually played a guy named Donald Draper. And we'll just shake our heads, full of nostalgia as we remember the good ol' days. Follow @Hollywood_com Follow @shannonmhouston //
  • 4 Movies You Must Watch Before The 'Yves Saint Laurent' Biopic Comes Out
    By: Shannon Houston Apr 03, 2014
    Warner Bros. via Everett Collection The Yves Saint Laurent biopic is headed our way, and there are high hopes for the film about the French fashion designer's rise to fame. But before you lay eyes on Jalil Lespert's upcoming feature, there are a few flicks every fashionista should experience first. Here are four other must-see films that delve into the highly complex and powerful world of high fashion and the people who run it. Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel The hugely influential fashion editor of Harper's Bazaar started a fashion revolution that has probably had an effect on your life, whether you know it or not. A woman who "wanted to get where the action was," she also brought a new sense of celebrity to the world of fashion and editorials. Coco Before Chanel Another biopic about a brilliant French fashion designer (though Coco has a very different story), you simply cannot understand the legacy of YSL without experiencing the beginnings of Chanel. Yves Saint Laurent once said, "Chanel freed women, and I empowered them." He stood on the shoulders of one giant woman before creating his own empire, and Audrey Tautou's performance as young Coco helps to contextualize the genesis of that giant. McQueen and I Don't take our word on how awesome this profile of the late, great Alexander McQueen is. You can watch the entire TV movie right now. Director Louise Osmond delves into the compelling story of the British fashion designer's rise, his relationship with friend and muse Isabella Blow, and the two tragic suicides that brought both of their lives to an end. Zoolander The fashion world, like every other industry, doesn't always have to be taken seriously. Sometimes you just need to step back and take a moment to laugh at some of the inherent ridiculousness of it all. Enter Ben Stiller as the unforgettable Derek Zoolander.  Follow @Hollywood_com Follow @shannonmhouston //