Posts Tagged Comedy

Sean Astin Thinks Bill Maher Is Too Mean To Religious People

Some of the most tired arguments by religious people against atheism and atheists is that atheists are “too harsh”, “not accommodating enough”, that we are “mean”, “disrespectful”, that we enjoy being smarter and more rational than everyone else” (like that was an insult), that we “ask too many questions”, are “haters”, that with our repeated questioning and inquiring we “kill the positive mood”, that we rather be “right than loved”, that we are “intolerant”, “trolls” and enjoying telling little girls and boys that Santa is not real.

astinSuch accusations are usually thrown around by people who have either failed to or refuse to argue atheists based on merit, instead resorting to sophistry to derail the discussion and obfuscate in order to, ultimately,  cover the fact that they really do not have a valid argument.

Using fallacious arguments result in the discussion no longer being about content, but about tone, and how something is said, and that what they what is said just doesn’t sound after-school special – that it makes religious people feel bad etc.

Another similar type of argument, if one can even call it a “argument” – or line of “arguing” are ad hominem attacks and other petty personal attacks.

In this case, the obfuscation and diversion is achieved by going for the low blow, by trying trying to “invalidate” the atheist by not commenting on the content of their message but their personality and mind-set, the point being that if you poke enough holes (imaginary or not) into an atheists person and character, you can show how invalid they as peoples are altogether.

Like being an atheist was some sort of a pathology – a flaw, a defect  – that was only brought on by some kind of a dysfunction. “You sound bitter”, “you sound angry” , “you sound like an asshole”, “I feel sorry for you”, “you seem to have no love in your life” blah blah yawn are the common retorts of religious folks who harbor a special kind of loathing for atheists.

One such especially loathed atheist under a constant barrage for being very outspoken about religion is Bill Maher.

People think he goes too far, that he displays “unmitigated bigotry”, that he is too disrespectful or not respectful enough of religion and religious people. That he is “mean”, a “hater”, “too harsh”.

In a recent interview with TheBlaze, actor Sean Astin, who is famous for starring in such classics as “The Goonies“, “Son in Law” and “The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy, remarked that Bill Maher is a “cripplingly intellectually abusive atheist” who does a disservice to thoughtful people with his “excessive need to promote atheism.” He went on to say that dismissing “a feeling that millions of people are having is not very generous of spirit.”

Now, I admit that Bill Maher’s particular brand of humor is not for everyone. If you watch his show and expect to find politically correct assertions, a “balanced view” on unmitigated and institutionalized Conservative racism, misogyny, hypocrisy and harmful policies or if you expect him to talk politely about religion, then you will be sorely disappointed. Maher says it like it is and he doesn’t hold back.

That said, the issue with Astin’s assertion is not really so much Maher’s brand of humor  – which may or may not be palatable to some – but that behind Astin’s sentiment that Bill Maher is “intellectually abusive” because he dismisses the “feeling that millions of [religious] people are having” lies a fundamental failure to understand criticism of religion in the first place.

maher religion

The fact that Astin frames Maher’s mocking and dismissive attitude towards religion and god as being problematic because it doesn’t take into account the boo boos of its followers tells me that Astin, just as a lot of people who criticize atheists, simply does not understand religion and its harms, because if he did, he would not try to give it credence or worse, defend it.

Because, the thing is, behind Maher’s tongue in cheek attitude towards religious people and religion in general, lies the understanding, which I share with him, that religion is harmful – a point which a lot of people miss.

If you have to ask me why I am contemptuous of religion, mock it, speak out against it, advocate against it, write about it and critique it as much as I do, then you simply have not understood why religion is a problem in the first place.

The problem with such an approach is that by turning perpetrators and transgressors into victims – which is essentially what Sean Astin and other religion-apologists do all the time, you disappear those that have been harmed by those perpetrators.

In other words, instead of asking about all the people who are hurt and killed, discriminated against, dehumanized, their Human Right’s trampled on and otherwise harmed by religious people and their “feelings” every day, the victim in this scenario suddenly becomes the very entity doing all the killing, discriminating, dehumanizing, harming and subjugating.

So Maher’s words offend a bunch of religious people – boo fucking hoo – but what about all the myriad actions, in the form of policies and laws, regulations and penalties by religious people that have been harming, and continue to harm, countless of other people? What about their rights to not be subjugated, oppressed and discriminated against? What about their feelings?

Frankly, dear Sean Astin, if you are more concerned about not ruffling the feathers of religious people than you are about the detrimental consequences of religion and religiously influenced policies, then clearly, you missed the point.

maher religion 2

What Sean Astin is advocating is basically a watered down, neutered and wishy-washy type of atheism, as if atheism and religion were not mutually exclusive and fundamentally at odds with one another, as if religion wasn’t harmful and as if atheism could just embrace religion and go with it.

What Sean Astin and people like him who keep commenting on someone’s tone when it comes to the subject of religion ultimately want is silence; say it once and shut up. Only speak when asked. He wants  atheists to stop speaking up, to stop “promoting” rational thought and fact-based knowledge, to stop pointing out and fighting against the dangers inherent in religion.

The thing is, silence empowers bullies. It empowers  ignorance, oppression and wrongs. So does a false sense of decorum and phony PCness.

Religious Supremacy

Let’s do a little mental exercise here and imagine Sean Astin criticizing anti-racists, for example, wondering why they “dismiss the feelings that millions of [white supremacists]  have. ” Most people would be outraged and cry racism if that were the case. That is because it not only would be racism but because decent people know that racism is wrong and harmful and that there is no acceptable amount of racism.  Such people would not think that we somehow owed it to racists to remain polite and respect their racism and their (harmful) feelings and assertions born out of racism.

Yet religion and its followers get all sorts of leeway and passes even though religion is just as harmful to people as something like racism.

This is religious supremacy and it happens all the time: religion and its followers, despite harmful actions, directives and messages, are not viewed as harmful and detrimental – instead, they are sympathized with as these unjustly judged people who have feelings  they do not want to see bruised and questioned,  even if those “feelings” cause real harm.

Again, if Sean Astin understood that religion was harmful (just as racism is harmful), he would not be defending the feelings of its followers  In fact, I doubt he would even consider their feelings worth defending because there is no virtue in defending harm.

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At any rate, the message atheists give, if you shave off the tone, is ultimately a positive one and I would say that it, in fact, is incredibly “generous in spirit” to assert to the religious that not only can they be good without god, but that their thinking minds are capable of more than believing in fairy tales. That they can conquer the world by intelligence and not merely by being slavishly subdued by the terror that comes from it.

That the concept of god and religion and the fairy tales, bigotry, hate, genocide, and ignorance entailed in them is a conception quite unworthy of self-respecting human beings who constantly debase themselves as miserable sinners.

Suggesting that we ought to stand up and look the world frankly in the face; that we ought to make the best we can of the world without god(s) and if it is not so good as we wish, try to change things by employing knowledge, kindness and courage,  instead of superstition and fairy tales; suggesting that we do not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men, that our intelligence and empathy can create a meaningful future, thus extending to the religious the same capacity for intellectual authenticity and rigor that atheists celebrate, is hardly offensive or abusive.

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Goodbye Harold Ramis

ramis

If you, like me, grew up in the 80s and woke up yesterday morning to the sad news that Harold Ramis had passed away, then you probably felt like a huge chunk of your childhood just broke off and floated away.

It feels as though this has been happening quite a lot lately, seeing many legends and pop culture icons from my childhood get old and die like John Hughes, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Roger Ebert, and now Harold Ramis, the wonderfully talented writer, actor and creator of so much comedy awesomeness who passed away yesterday at the young age of 69.

His movies and the projects he was involved in, from  “Groundhog Day,” “Ghostbusters,” “Animal House”, “Caddyshack”, “Stripes”, “National Lampoons Vacation” and “Meatballs” – just to name a few –  are a staple of the great 80s classics and their comedic genius timeless and unprecedented.

Unlike the landscape that prevails in Hollywood today, Ramis was part of the small breed of film makers who was in it for the craft of acting and story-telling instead of for fame and wealth and shameless self-aggrandizement.

A lot of people these days just want to be “in the entertainment industry” for the easy money, the easy women, or the easy fame to the point of hiring PR firms to follow them around when they do “private stuff” so they can be “candidly” photographed for a page in some tabloid, increasing their exposure.

I personally know this actor from one of the Star Trek shows who is, literally, begging people on his Facebook page to follow him on Facebook and Twitter because hiring someone who has a lot of followers on social networks can help the production he will be working on generate more money. His talents appear secondary; this kid has to work on amassing a sizable following first before he is called in for casting.

Aspiring and current entertainers look at the likes of the Kuntrashians who invite the cameras, literally, up their vaginas, and trash like Snooki  – parasitic entities that merely exist to increase ratings and profitability while  racking up millions of dollars for being walking advertisements for cheap products and famous for being famous, as opposed to famous because they are creating something of value, and these newbies want a piece of that famewhoring pie.

But it is not just these bitches, look at Oscar nominated pukes like Jonah Hill whose douchebaggy assholishenss has increased in proportion to his fame and Oscar nominations to the point where he thinks he is even too good to shake hands with common folks.

Harold Ramis, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, John Belushi, Dan Akroyd, John Candy etc. and the film makers they worked with were a different breed. They weren’t fame-whoring and could tell jokes and make you laugh and sympathize with the underdog and question authority without being Judd Apatow vulgar. That is rare and I am sad to see Ramis, who was such an integral part of that, go.

I am sad not only because he was way too young and died too soon and appears to have been a genuinely nice guy, but because in a way his departure signifies a change within those of us who grew up with his movies and pop culture presence and for whom deaths like his signify the painful realization of the days of youth gone by.

Harold Ramis once said about his work:

Well, for me, it’s the relationship between comedy and life – that’s the edge I live on, and maybe it’s my protection against looking at the tragedy of it all. It’s seeing life in balance. Comedy and tragedy co-exist. You can’t have one without the other. I’m of the school that anything can be funny, if seen from a comedic point of view.”

Indeed. What tragic and short lives we all live.

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Totally Awesome 80s: Top Movies

I love the 80s. I love the music, movies, hair and fashions. It was just such a funky time. The 80’s were all about everything being new. Vinyl LP records were being replaced by CDs. VHS format video tapes won out over Beta format video tapes,  the home PC was on the rise, home video games were starting to replace board games and video killed the radio star. Microwaves, VCR’s, new cable channels, portable phones, walkmen….just to name a few of the exciting things back then really enriched the culture and interaction among people but also revolutionized a lot of things.

The 80’s witnessed the rise of punk rock, new wave music, nerds, stoners, preppies and the very beginning of MTV which at that point actually did play music videos 24/7 instead of running reality shows on knocked up high school white teenage trash. There also seemed to be more movies that were based on high school and pop-culture than ever.

Trickle down was a big word in the 80s justifying some of Reagan’s worst policy decisions that haunt us until this day, but the real vibe of the 80’s was the ambition that trickled-down, not the money. Everyone and their mom wanted to be rich or a hero – Superman, The Greatest American Hero, Rambo, Arnold movies, Ghostbusters –  to just name a few of the movies that were inspired by that generation. This ambition or desire to be more and the opportunity for a lot of people to be just that is evident all over the place in pop culture.

The movie The Secret of My Success comes to mind. A movie which is the epitome of the 80s mentality but in a more positive, go-getter, you-can-achieve-your-dreams-if-you-work-hard kind of way as opposed to the more cynical view seen in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street.

My most favorite part of the 80s is the movies, especially those high school movies that always seemed to be about a group of normal kids or nerds or an unpopular bunch, fighting against the injustices of the high school clique system and the popular kids and the snobs who thought they were better. Teenage angst was a big part of the stories, especially exemplified in many John Hughes productions such as The Breakfast ClubSixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink, but also Can’t Buy Me Love or Secret Admirer. There was a great sense of need for justice and these movies, which often times idolized the school years, were all over the place. Movies today seem too dark and too serious and as Roger Ebert said, “we live in an age of brutal manners, when people crudely say exactly what they mean, comedy is based on insult, tributes are roasts, and loud public obscenity passes without notice.” 

There is so much more to be said about the 80s and how it changed the American landscape but suffice it  to say that as a decade it was a very cool and exiting one, especially in terms of the pop culture it created and ideas that emerged. The end of the cold war at its tail end also eally made this decade a one of a kind. The 90s and 2000s were the information age and life, as we know it, changed drastically as a result, especially of the internet.

But here is one to good old times (and i feel sad to be calling the 80s good OLD times).

Here are some of my favorite 80s movies, and with that I don’t mean movies made in the 80s but movies that evoke that feeling of funk and punk and teenage angst and self assertion.

Back to the Future I and II (1985)

Blind  Date (1987)

The Breakfast Club (1985)

The ‘Burbs (1989)

Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)

Diner (1982)

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Ghostbusters (1984)

 

The Goonies (1985)

Heathers (1988)

Inner Space (1987)

Just One of the Guys (1985)

Licence to Drive (1988)

The Lost Boys (1987)

Lucas (1986)

Modern Girls (1986)

Overboard (1987)

Pretty in Pink (1986)

Roxanne (1987)

Scrooged (1988)

Secret Admirer (1985)

The Secret of my Success (1987)

Seems Like Old Times (1980)

Sixteen Candles (1984)

Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

Soul Man (1986)

St.  Elmo’s Fire (1985)

Summer School (1987)

The Sure Thing (1985)

Teen Wolf (1985)

Top Gun (1986)

Working Girl (1988)

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Review: Bride and Prejudice

William Darcy (Martin Henderson) and Lalita Bakshi (Aishwarya Rai)

Bride and Prejudice is a light hearted and jolly take on  Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in a Bollywood setting.

It is not really a true adaptation of the original by Austen. The protagonists don’t possess any of the qualities and personality traits exemplified in Austen’s novel or seen in many good movie adaptations of the same.

Martin Henderson (Darcy’s character), while handsome, felt more like a fixture in the room, reciting the most insipid lines  – which in turn did not make him very interesting and enticing like the original Darcy. He does the best he can with the fluff he is given. I read somewhere that Henderson was primarily chosen for his looks, which, I guess, goes hand in hand with the fluff part.

Aishwarya Rai

Aishwarya Rai‘s character, Lalita, was not very likable. While very beautiful, of course, she seemed snide, arrogant, and rude, which in turn painted her in an unsympathetic light. The character she is based on in the original Pride and Prejudice is a charming, quick witted and intelligent young lady instead of slightly conceited and snide. She also behaved as if everyone owed her and was totally beneath her and she was merely tolerating them. This makes the affection Dacry and Lalita had for one another seem pretty unbelievable.

Kohli proposes

All this is compounded, of course, by the fact that there wasn’t much dialog and interaction between the two. No passionate exchanges, no intelligent conversation, none of that. Most of their exchanges consist of passing longing looks at each other across the room or she being offended about everything he says – even before he opens his mouth. When he then does the whole obligatory falling in love with her, it is just not very believable and convincing.

The same is true for all characters really: they all just fall in love with each other or do things that are somewhat unsupported by their actions and even words. It gnaws on the believability of a movie and its characters when characters start exhibiting feelings without any prelude.

Lalita and her friends dancing in the streets before the wedding.

I also find Rai’s “virgin Mary” routine annoying and tiresome. The fact that they never even exchange a kiss made this movie lack something – like the spice that is otherwise sprinkled all over. It could certainly have been done in a tasteful way so it is not offensive to Ms. Rai. I can understand that she doesn’t want to film any steamy love scenes or even rumbling around in bed, but they could have kissed at least once and actually I have seen that happen in many Bollywood productions – even with her in it – so it is not like it is unheard of.

The Pride and Prejudice movie with Keira Knightley has, in my opinion, one of the best on-screen kisses (in the end) ever: very tasteful and romantic. Too bad it is missing in this movie.

Lalita and Darcy

Finally, it is strange to look at how most of the female characters were cast. Lalita is gorgeous and stands out among her sisters who all seem kind of bland and not very attractive – at least not compared to Lalita.

In fact, they are caricatures and stereotypes of sorts and Lalita clearly stands out as the most sophisticated, intelligent, beautiful ingénue among them. That makes for predictability because of course Darcy falls in love with her. What else would he do? She is the most gorgeous woman in that village, if not nation.

Aishwarya Rai was/is clearly the mega star and it appears as if all the other female leads were cast deliberately so as to not compete with and thus undermine Rai’s presence. This movie is almost like a homage to her more than anything else.

“Just Don’t Say Anything too Smart Girls” – Lalita and her sisters waiting for Kohli’s arrival

All that said, however, I must admit that I personally don’t hold this movie to Austen’s standards. It stands on its own merits and the Pride and Prejudice story-line seems to have been used in a very rudimentary way and more as an inspiration to make room for what the director really wanted to accomplish: a colorful Bollywood flick.

This movie is a perfect, colorful and beautiful mix between Bollywood and Hollywood. It is joyful, colorful and happy with a great ensemble and great photography.

Despite some missing dialog and depth, Henderson and Rai have still chemistry  – which would have been sizzling if they actually did talk to each other more and she wasn’t so reserved guarding her chassi.

Darcy and Lalita

I like Gurinder Chadha‘s style of mixing the cheerful and colorful and traditional with the modern – with added social commentary and comedy, but in a subtle way and without giving too much the appearance that she was pushing for some political message and drama. Life’s too short to try to be too serious and the story in a well made movie like this is secondary.

As Roger Ebert once said, a good movie is not what it’s about, it’s how it is about it. This movie hit the nail on the head in terms of the how.

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Review: Corrina Corrina

Whoopi Goldberg, Tina Majorino and Ray Liotta

Corrina, Corrina” is a really wonderful, sweet, from the heart movie that tackles the issue of love between two people from a different angle. It takes place in 1959 America, and thus during segregation and before the Civil Rights Acts. It is about a young white man, Manny Singer (Ray Liotta) who loses his wife and has a seven year old daughter Molly to take care of. He needs a nanny and so after several interviews with very inappropriate white candidates, he choses Corrina Washginton (Whoopie Goldberg).

Corrina is a college graduate and completely overqualified for the job, but because she is black, she has to settle for what she can get. She is repeatedly rejected for jobs and colums she wants to write because of her race and her sister tells her to stop trying.

Manny is closed-off and just like anyone who loses a loved-one, he is mostly on auto-pilot: doing what he needs to do every day but finding no joy in it.

Molly has stopped speaking ever since her mother passed away and is also closing in on herself. Manny is desperate and sad about his daughter’s situation but does not know how to get to her.

Tina Majorino and Whoopi Goldberg

All this changes, at least for Molly, when Corrina comes into their lives. Soon she is able to win Molly’s trust, who starts speaking again, and she also surprises Manny as she is not only warm, witty, and sensitive but also educated, cultured and well-rounded, able to have the kind of conversation most white folks probably didn’t think a black woman could have with her corporate-world boss.

A sort of family-dynamic between the three develops, and Corrina even takes Molly to her sister’s place and has her play with her nieces and nephews. Over time, Corrina and Manny grow closer but because this is 1950s America and racism pretty much institutionalized, a romantic relationship seems out of the question. This movie explorers these themes of racism, love and romance as well as loss in a very delicate way.

Ray Liotta and Whoopi Goldberg

I must say the best part of the movie is toward the end, when Manny just doesn’t care anymore about what other people think and hugs Corrina right in front of the house, in public. It is a warm, tight, meaningful hug in which he holds on to her. Their love for one another, or Manny’s love for Corrina, is sincere and the fact that she is played by Whoopie Goldberg, as opposed to let’s say Halle Berry or Vanessa Williams or Jada Pinkett-Smith, really is what makes Manny’s love for Corrina believable.

If Manny had fallen in love with some gorgeous ex supermodel turned actress type, no one would be surprised. I mean segregation or not, who wouldn’t fall for Halle Berry, right?

But the fact that he falls in love with someone like Whoopie Goldberg, who is not a beauty icon, really is evidence to the fact that he has fallen in love with her as opposed to her looks primarily. And that is where the strength of this movie lies: it is sincere.

The producers and writers did a great job casting Goldberg for this role. Had they cast any other black actress for the role, like those gorgeous types, the story and feel of the movie would just have come out very differently.

Unfortunately they don’t make movies with such substance anymore. Most actors cast today, even in genre and time-specific pieces, just are not real anymore. No matter what they play, you can see the Hollywood starlet in there still.

Not in this movie and that is why it is so special: it draws on and projects real feelings people can identify with as opposed to just coming across as another far-fetched, glamorous and mostly unrealistic Hollywood romance between two pretty, fit, happy people who….surprise, surprise…find each other.

Corrina, Corrina is a warm movie that never feels forced, acted or sappy – even though the theme could easily go there.  Personally I find Whoopie Goldberg nothing but pure delight. If I was a man, I would totally fall in love with this amazing woman.

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Review: Reality Bites

Never has angst looked so attractive and essential

Reality Bites” is a movie that I found (and still find) to be very close to the real life experiences people who leave the safety of college face. If you are in your late 30s or early 40s and kinda settled in your ways and job, you probably won’t get this movie anymore. You are too grown up and the issues these mid-20 something kids are facing will seem trivial and nonsensical to you.

Heck, even the actors, in the movie’s “special features” section – especially Steve Zahn and Ethan Hawke, as well as Ben Stiller – don’t really get the characters they played 16 years ago anymore. They talk about how childish their struggles in retrospect seem to have been and how bratty and ungrateful they find their characters now that they themselves have reached their mid-late 30s, early 40s and apparently figured out what life is all about: “having a career or something…” I guess that’s where the true tragedy lies: no longer being able to identify with your idealistic, hopeful, driven young self of the past anymore.

Lelaina Pierce (Winona Ryder) just can't seem to figure it out

This movie is about four friends who face life – Reality – right after college. Leleina’s (Winona Ryder) speech at the beginning of the movie about what her generation is going to do with the damage they have inherited and a poignant “I dont know” as a response sum it up pretty well.

She is the valedictorian of her college and an aspiring documentary film maker. She walks around with her camera filming her friends, asking them lots of personal and intimate questions about themselves and life in order to eventually create a documentary that will mean something. She wants to make a difference in the world and just like any hopeful college student, was imagining that she would “be somebody” after all the hard work she put in thus far. Little did she know that Reality just doesnt work that way. It’s hard to be a saint in a paradise that is crumbling and when paying your rent takes precedence over making a meaningful difference in someone’s, or even your own, life.

That's all we need: a couple of smokes, a cup of coffee and a little bit of conversation. Just you and me and five bucks

She shares an apartment with her nerdy-hip friend Vicki Miner (Janeane Garofalo) who is a cynical yet at the same time strangely idealistic girl working at The Gap as a manager. Even though she is hip and goofy she is also lonely and feels like she is pursuing hollow ambitions. She graduated college, but the only thing she really seems to have remembered is her social security number, which she can recite to Leleina even when she is drunk and stoned at the same time. If you’ve gone to college in the 90s, you’ll know that your social is just about the most important and over-used thing ever.

Their gay friend Sam, who seems very tight with Vicki, has even less of a clue about what he wants to do with his life now that he graduated. He is shy and has not come out to his mother yet about being gay. He thinks he needs to have a career of some sort, but just like his counterparts, is floating adrift in a sea of cluelessness about not only who he is but also what is expected out of him.

Troy Dyer (Ethan Hawke)

And then finally there is Troy Dyer, brilliantly acted by Ethan Hawke. Troy is a rebel, the freethinker, the “what’s-it-all-mean” kinda  guy. He is a philosophy major who was only a few units away from his BFA – yet he does not seem very interested in ever going back to finish up. He is superbly smart and could probably land a good paying job faster than any of his friends if he actually put some ambition and effort into it, but he doesnt want to. He is an artist and his music and philosophy mean a lot to him and he seems to have little use or respect for the “establishment”. His music and his philosophy mean so much to him that he is not willing to just give it all up so he can get that “toehold in the burger industry”. In fact, he has a disdain for it and the fact that his everyone has sold out to it.  His father is dying of cancer and he doesnt want to give up the one thing that means something to him and then end up like him, with tumors growing in his groin.

Troy is madly, insanely and secretly in love with Lelaina and because that is the only non-cynical emotion he has, he has a hard time telling her to her face how he feels about her or even fully commit. He dates a lot of faceless girls whose names he often doesnt remember and whose phone numbers he can memorex even less.

As far as Troy (Ethan Hawke) is concerned, the establishment owes him Snickers

Troy is the most interesting and intriguing character in this movie as he just symbolizes the struggle his generation is facing so poignantly and realistically. The philosopher and artist inside him refuses to sell out for a steady paycheck and an equally meaningless and meager profession that will catapult his life into a boring, meaningless and existential rut. He takes pleasure in the details, like “quarter pounders with cheese, the sky about ten minutes before it starts to rain, the moment your laughter becomes a cackle…” and all he and Leleina apparently need are 5 bucks, a coffee and good conversation. He steals a Snickers from the gas station he works at, stating that the establishment “owed him Snickers” and gets fired.

When he moves in with Leilana and Vicky, Vicky says that it is only temporary until “he can afford his own place”. Lelaina responds that this was the American dream of the 90s and could take years. Indeed. Even in the 2010s, if you can afford your own place by the time you are 35, you are lucky. The Dream never seems to end for America.

"There is no secret handshake. There is an IQ pre-requisite, but no secret handshake"

The diametrical opposite to Troy is Michael Grates (Ben Stiller). He is a bit older, a few years out of college and pretty much grounded in reality. He takes an interest in Leleina after he runs into her car by accident and has her come to his office only to find out that she is broke and cannot afford a law suit. When he first comes over to the “maxi pad” (as Vicky calls their apartment), Troy mistakes him for a “collection agent”. Michael is precisely what Troy does not want to be: he wears a suit, he has a boring corporate job, a steady income; in short: a sellout.  In a way he Michael “conformed” to the system and he has learned to walk the line of adulthood and idealism because he has realized that sometimes you gotta wrap the meatloaf in attractive wrapping (i.e. make concessions) to sell it. Troy thinks he’s the reason Cliff’s notes were invented. Tensions ensue as Leleina finds herself rejected from jobs she didn’t even want to have and as Troy’s feelings for her finally come to the surface, in turn creating tension between her and Michael.

Winona Ryder and Ethan Hawke

This is a movie that captures the Zeitgeist of Generation X pretty accurately. I cannot describe the so many ways in which the struggles these college graduates go through truly resembles the reality for many people in their age and place. I’ve lived nearly every moment and spoken nearly every dialog said in this movie in my own life.

These kids are overeducated and underpaid and, literally, from one day to the other, have to come to terms with the fact that all the hard work they put into their education and idealism is not going to become a reality – at least not anytime soon and definitely not the way they imagined it would.

Troy resists this disillusionment as much as he can – which is what makes him so appealing as a character: he represents the “I won’t surrender” scream we all wished we had yelled out at some point in our lives to declare our independence but also the discontent with the status quo. But we all know that – as if trapped in quicksand – Troy will be sucked into accepting this biting Reality at some point in his life, like the rest of us, whether he likes it or not.  Let’s just hope he does not end up like his father.

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Review: Roseanne: The Ninth Season

Roseanne is one of my favorite TV sitcoms of all time, mainly because it wasn’t stylized but was more of a slice-of-life type of show with normal people rather than caricatures. Roseanne Barr is an inspiration to me in terms of comedic talent and timing and her quite unconventional, into your face type of humor. In short, she is real and I liked that.

However, I found this season more than demoralizing as most everyone acts out of character and their actions are so absurd and far fetched – bordering at unbelievable. There were times I seriously thought this was another show. It is as if the characters had no self awareness as to who they are and their pasts (continuity) and as if their personalities were rewritten to be new people. For example, the Dan we met in all the previous eight seasons would never have cheated on Roseanne. He was just not the type. If he _did_ cheat on her because he now all of a sudden had the riches to be able to afford such indiscretions, it still would be out of character for him because – again – the Dan we met is not someone who’d cheat on his wife. So no matter how you twist and turn it, this just doesnt make sense.

And then seeing Darlene go from being a free spirited, ambitious and somewhat jaded artist – who was the first Connor to go to college and out of Lanford – suddenly act all homely, sweet, calm and tender and decide to lead the kind of life her mother essentially had (and which she loathed), also seems out of place. In the previous season she got a job for a pretty decent salary in a publishing house, and now we are to believe that she gave all that up to be a mommy? That is so out of character. By the ninth season she even moves in with her parents no questions asked and apparently forgets everything about her ambitions in order to become what….a good housewife? Darlene?

Jackie’s role is reduced to that of merely ornamental. She used to be so funny and quirky and involved from the beginning on and starting around season 8, her role was reduced to one walking around with a baby in her arm, running into a room screaming something and then leaving again. Throughout the series, Jackie’s presence in Roseanne’s life had a profound meaning; you knew these women were really each others’ best friends and the extent to which Jackie’s presence was essential for Roseanne and her family was also very well worked out. All that is lost starting season 8 and especially in this season and the two barely ever have any meaningful exchange anymore.

I think frankly, a lot of it might have to do with Roseanne’s character (or in fact Roseanne Barr herself) who has – since season 6 – increasingly turned into just an annoying and unfunny figure. She is mean, vile, and unpleasant to be around. While in the first 5 or 6 seasons, there was a charm to her character and its causticity, because she was genuine and real, in Seasons 7 and 8 and now 9, there is a bitter aftertaste in your mouth every time she is in a scene and says something. I mean she never has anything intelligent to say, she never listens to anyone and she talks shit ALL THE TIME. She also treats everyone like crap and while before that was actually cute, it is very annoying and sickening now.

I think it has to do with the fact that Roseanne Barr herself, while this season was being shot, was having the hyper kind of life with all the success going in over her head, and plastic surgery (which made her look like a freak if you ask me) and divorcing her second husband to marry her bodyguard. She was becoming arrogant due to the previous successes of the show and really no longer was the blue collar down to Earth person we got to know in the beginning. To make matters worse, she was also given more creative control and wrote some of the episodes – which in turn would explain their sheer insanity.

It is interesting to observe the kind of evolution TV shows go through as they move along in years.

1) At first they start off very down to earth and innocent and actually as pretty original. They are feel-good shows, cozy, fun, simple.

3) Then, as the show takes off in both ratings and reviews as well as with respect to the fame and popularity of its tars, something happens. The writers become lazy or are replaced quickly (thus the old formula is lost as everyone thinks they need to hire new folks to write exotic and outrageous scripts). The dynamic of the show changes accordingly. Now all cast members are stars and important, and the show reflects that and in a way moves away from the simple beginnings. As the private lives of the stars change, so do their characters. There is often a spill-over effect into the show from behind the camera glamour. Roseanne Barr herself did undergo a huge transformation, going from a simple, blue collar unremarkable woman to a Hollywood star winning numerous awards and leading an exotic, fancy lifestyle. Such dramatic changes will not go unnoticed in the show.

3) Finally, the show ends on some absurd or far-fetched note, often something dramatic and sappy; a 180 degree turn from how it started out. In this last segment, the characters are often unrecognizable and rarely resemble the people we saw in the first few seasons. to the point where you wish you’d never seen this.

This is exactly what happened to Roseanne beginning with Season 7. They completely messed up the show by turning 180 degrees and making it into some kind of an alive version of Roseanne Barr’s insanity. The show started off fresh, down to earth, warm and kind but it just ended with Roseanne’s obvious insanity and neurosis’ from some kind of a midlife crisis she had and too much fame. Winning the lottery, Dan getting a heart attack, cheating on her, dying, Beverly a lesbian at 70 – and then what was up with all those superfluous plot lines involving Leon and boyfriend. Come on. They should have stopped after the 7th season. This ending was just a depressing downward spiral unworthy of the spirit of the show.

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