I've been behind in posting my Bustle articles—very behind—but here are some of my favorite posts I've done in the meantime:
Here are the rest of the TV shows I've covered since I last posted:
AD: The Bible Continues (2); Agent Carter (2, 3); American Odyssey; The Americans; Aquarius (2, 3); Battle Creek; Between; Black-ish; The Blacklist; Blood, Sweat, and Heels; Brides Gone Styled; Catfish; The Casual Vacancy; Cleveland Abduction; The Critics' Choice Awards; The 87th Academy Awards (2); Dancing with the Stars; Empire (2, 3, 4); Gotham; 500 Questions; Forever; Halt and Catch Fire; Hindsight; The Josh Wolf Show; Lake Placid vs. Anaconda; Labor Games; The Last Man on Earth (2); Little Women: NY (2); The Lizzie Borden Chronicles (2); Mad Men; The Making of the Mob: New York (2); The Messengers; MTV's Scream; New Girl (2, 3); Nickelodeon's Kids Choice Awards; Orange Is the New Black; Parks and Recreation; The Prancing Elites; Proof; The Returned (2); Saturday Night Live (2, 3); Seeds of Yesterday; Sense8; Shark Tank; Stitchers; Sons of Winter; Swab Stories; Texas Rising; 'Til Death Do Us Part; The Tony Awards; 12 Monkeys; Turn: Washington's Spies (2); Undateable; Weird Loners; The Willis Family
I also got to spoil Fifty Shades of Grey for people who didn't want to watch the movie and just wanted to know if the ending deviated from the book.
Image: Justina Mintz/AMC
For its 1995-themed week, The A.V. Club let me write about one of my favorite film subgenres: mid-'90s internet paranoia movies.
"...The internet and virtual-reality films of 1995 also show the emergence of a problem that filmmakers are still struggling with today: how to represent a digital world on screen. You can see early attempts to create some sort of cohesive visual language to stand in for the internet. Status bars, for example, are used in more than one of these movies as a quick way to ratchet up tension; the heroes have to wait until the bar reaches 100 percent before they can flee to safety. It’s a cheap thrill, and one we sadly haven’t outgrown yet.
Mostly, though, attempts to create a new look for the internet are hideous, trafficking in cheesy, psychedelic swirls of numbers and symbols and environments that look like video games circa Nintendo 64. Hackers andVirtuosity both fall victim to the allure of pop-art colors: Virtuosity makes is virtual exit quickly, bringing SID 6.7 into the real world, but Hackers often goes into the “architecture” of circuitry, with skyscrapers of squares and rectangles standing in for the systems they’re trying to break into, and dreamy-looking equations standing in for the data they want to collect. Today, it looks dated..."
Click through to read the full essay at The A.V. Club, or download the PDF.
...With a period setting and a story centered on family, it seems like Annabelle is attempting to replicate some of the The Conjuring‘s strengths; it also duplicates the first film’s eerie moods and tense setpieces. In some places, it succeeds; Leonetti makes great use of deep focus, with threatening figures crossing the way, way back of the frame. These moments are startling without resorting to the typical, easy jump scares.
Leonetti doesn’t have Wan’s way with imagery, however, and these moments fail to build on one another. It seems at times like Annabelle is trying to imply that domesticity itself is under attack: sewing machines start by themselves, a bedroom television can’t get reception, and baby dolls are tampered with. But then it finds itself dabbling in pretty much any kind of horror-movie elements it can get its hands on, throwing in all different kinds of religious symbolism, other creepy children who have barely anything to do with the story, and an all-knowing bookstore owner (a thankless role for Alfre Woodard), so that its message, such as it is, becomes diluted....
...researched the music behind some of the biggest Super Bowl ads, figuring out what band does the "500 Miles (I'm Gonna Be)" cover in the Budweiser ad, the "Pretty Woman" cover in the Nationwide ad, and the song in the BMW i3 commercial.
...found out when Better Call Saul takes place in relation to Breaking Bad.
...explained why I want to be Shark Tank's Barbara Corcoran when I grow up.
...detangled the Dr. Crane/Scarecrow connections in Gotham.
...put a few things on the wedding registry for Donna Meagle on Parks and Recreation.
...figured out where I might have seen Allegiance's Gavin Stenhouse before (opposite Kevin Spacey).
...distinguished Paz Vega from Paz de la Huerta, Alexa Panvega, and other actresses with sound-alike names.
...investigated what Little Women: LA's Briana Manson does for a living (apart from being on a reality show).
Image: Ben Leuner/AMC
The Imitation Game
Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) kept lots of secrets during his time at the United Kingdom's Bletchley Park, where he and other MI6 agents and mathematicians worked to break German codes during World War II. If he were alive today, he might be shocked to find out that now the whole complex is open to the public. The site may look more like a Victorian weekend retreat than an army base—but that was exactly the point. Today, the area has been restored with exhibits dedicated to the secret codebreaking operations that went on at the site. There, you can find examples of the "unbreakable" German Enigma machines, as well as a fully operational reproduction of the machine Turing help build to break the Enigma codes. Hut 8, where Turing worked, features a re-creation of his own office, and the park also hosts an exhibition dedicated to The Imitation Game, with props and costumes from the movie.
Image: The Weinstein Company
...investigated whether or not Agent Sousa could end up marrying Agent Carter (because she deserves the best).
...argued that Nasim Pedrad deserves better than Mulaney.
...flexed my 12 Monkeys fan muscles, explaining the movie's inspiration (La Jetée!), comparing the movie to the TV show, and looking into how the show changed Brad Pitt's character in a major, major way.
...tried to find a new career for April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation without defaulting to Moon Ambassador.
...remembered the good, the bad, and the Gosling-filled films of George Clooney's directing career.
...basically wrote a love letter to Lee Pace, who played Mindy's ex on an episode of The Mindy Project.
...recapped the fifth season of Justified, the one with all the Crowes, so that fans can be fresh for the final season.
...looked behind the curtain at the HFPA, the shadowy organization behind the Golden Globes.
...appreciated Jon Hamm's cameo on Parks and Rec, and guaranteed his character's return.
...told true history buffs to stay away from Sons of Liberty and its lack of historical accuracy.
Image: Gavin Bond/Syfy
...There are wisps of other plot threads—about how they relate to their families, feel about aging, and traverse through their careers—but most of the movie passes without too much incident. And, ultimately, it’s a genial way to pass a couple of hours. In the film, Brydon complains that people find his stage persona “affable”—a hard reputation to live up to in person—but “affable” is the best way to describe the film. It doesn’t require too much thought; audiences just have to sit back and let the jokes wash over them. There’s a teeny bit of literary history, a slight bit of drama, a smattering of food porn, but mostly jokes...
I love contributing to year-end lists! I wrote a few blurbs for PopMatters' list of best films of the year.
No. 29: Only Lovers Left Alive
Vampires are overused. Scrubbed up and prettified to the point they can
be nonthreatening romantic partners for teenagers, today’s cinematic
vampires are, well, pretty toothless. With Only Lovers Left Alive,
director Jim Jarmusch has managed to salvage the vampire mystique. His
vamps are sexy, mysterious, brooding, and dangerous in equal measures.
Adam (Tom Hiddleston, proving he deserves the admiration of a thousand
Tumblrs) and Eve (Tilda Swinton, in one of her many standout
performances this year) don’t do much throughout the course of the
film—the two reunited lovers mostly bum around Adam’s Detroit home—but
throughout their conversations, Jarmusch manages to slip in
elbow-to-the-ribs jokes about history, ruminations about marriage, and
most importantly, a meditation into the creation of art itself. And Hiddleston and Swinton make it look so, so cool.
No. 22: Whiplash
In Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash, music student and jazz drummer Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) tells his girlfriend that he strives to be one of the greatest performers of all time. In reality, it’s actor Teller and his co-star—J.K. Simmons, playing Terence Fletcher, Neiman’s teacher and bandleader—who really seem to be making a play at greatness. The film is about their conflict, and how Neiman believes he deserves greater acclaim as a drummer, with Fletcher arguing Neiman needs to pay more dues. Their back-and-forth brings the movie to a fever pitch—whiplash, indeed—with Teller and Simmons portraying the extremes of anger, frustration, and ambition without being afraid to show the egoism and callousness that go with them. It all builds to a climax that’s nothing short of virtuosic, both musically and cinematically.
No. 5: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson has a reputation for being constricting. His shots are so composed and his aesthetic so specific that his stories barely have room to breathe. The Grand Budapest Hotel refutes this generalization. Anderson pulls back and widens the scope of his film, spanning multiple time periods (with different casts of actors for each), countries (imagined ones, at least), and even aspect ratios (with frame sizes changing to denote the different timelines). Along with the broadened scope comes a certain looseness not normally associated with a director as controlling as Anderson; the actors, for example, each speak with their own accents, whether or not it makes sense in the context of the film. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t pack the same emotional punch as Anderson’s other films; it subtly moves from sequences of light farce to moments of real grief, sadness, loneliness, and anxiety about an approaching war. It adds up to a masterpiece on par with Johannes Van Hoytl the Younger’s Boy with Apple.
No. 4: Birdman, or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
If there were a theme to 2014’s best movies, it would be about the struggle of creation. From the generation of music, as seen in Whiplash and Only Lovers Left Alive, to the art of Mr. Turner, the year was full of characters fighting to get something out into the world. Birdman is no exception. Not only is Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) trying to mount a play (a stage adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”), he’s also trying to complete an act of self-invention. Along the way, director Alejandro González Iñárritu completes his own metamorphosis, from a director known for cross-cutting to one crazy enough to make a movie that looks like it was all one take. The subtitle of the movie is “The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance”, but it should instead be “The Unabashed Joy of Ambition”.Click through to read the full list at PopMatters
Recently on Bustle, I...
...lamented that Ben Folds, the best judge, wouldn't be returning to The Sing-Off, the charted the rise and fall of Sing-Off super-group The Exchange.
...investigated when True Detective would return for its second season.
...speculated about renewal chances for State of Affairs.
...explained why the Madison Square Garden performance of the iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Tour was the best one to televise.
Photo credit: Prashant Gupta/FX