Tuesday, January 6, 2015

At First It Seems Delirious, But When Explained, It's Nothing Serious

[This poster struck me as outrageously sexist for a company with such progressive values.  So you can’t have a strong female lead without defining her through her male associates?  Is this supposed to imply that she’s her husband’s property or something?  Shame on you, Disney.  I suppose you also think women should pay for birth control with their own money, don’t you?  Kindly STFU and go back to the stone age where you belong.  The times we’re living in...]


The reason for all of Into the Woods’ most egregious and heinous and non-triumphant errors is encapsulated in the soundtrack’s liner notes, so penned by director and apparent airhead Rob Marshall.
“On the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I was watching President Obama address the families of the victims.  In an effort to console them, he said with great compassion, “You are not alone… No one is alone.”  That moment stayed with me.  And soon after, I began to think that this beautiful message (unknowingly quoting one of Stephen Sondheim’s most poignant songs) might signal that it was indeed the right time to bring Into the Woods to the screen… The musical explores the consequences of wishes, the complexity of the parent/child relationship, greed, ambition, loss, and perhaps most importantly, unconditional love and the power of the human spirit.  In many ways, Into the Woods is a fairy tale for the 21st century… the comforting knowledge that we are not alone in this world gives us all that glimmer of hope.”
In another illuminating interview, Marshall confessed,
“The musical’s central message [to me is] about how you get through loss and move forward.  You do it as a community, rebuild and get through life.  I turned to John DeLuca, my partner, and I said, ‘It’s the right time for Into the Woods.’  Children today live in a much more fragile, unstable world than when I grew up.  The Giant in our piece is terrorism, school shootings, and even climate change.”
In essence, Rob Marshall is a walking exhibit in why we still need a reading comprehension section on the SAT, his interpretation of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s dark fairy tale musical being so off-base and diluted through a dreamy left-wing filter that its realization on screen bears almost no resemblance to the source material.  Neither the book nor the lyrics nor the underlying expression of the music have anything to do with recovering from loss, the indomitability of the human will, or unconditional love, much less climate change, Newtown, or Obama’s “compassionate” comfort speech.  Far from leaving the viewer with feelings of hope or spiritedness, Into the Woods takes its audience’s preconceived expectations of a lighthearted fairy tale and unceremoniously smashes them in the 2nd act.  Rather than placating us with a familiar but bland and unsatisfying Happily Ever After, Lapine weaves a grim and weighty fable about the difference between perception and reality that leaves us questioning whether Happily Ever After is even possible in the real world.  His and Sondheim’s work is essentially pessimistic upon its denouement; Marshall’s and Disney’s work, alas, is essentially optimistic, and thus deprives the story of the very element that made it so original and mesmerizing in the first place.

If there’s any remnant of the Broadway production’s themes that’s preserved in the movie, it’s that you should be careful what you wish for because you may not desire it after all and most wishes have unforeseen consequences.  Every character in the plot in pining for something or another – be it a prince, a ball, a child, or youthful beauty – that they realize upon attainment is hardly as priceless or fulfilling as they’d initially and idealistically thought.  Cinderella wishes to go to the festival, and wishes, and wishes, to an obsessive degree, but is struck by how shallow and materialistic her wishes were upon fleeing from the palace and realizing just how little of substance she has to say about the legendary Prince of so many women’s affections.  “He’s a very nice prince,” she weakly tells the Baker’s Wife.  “And it’s a very nice ball… and the prince, well, he’s tall.”  “Did you dance?” the wife asks the scullery maid, to which she bluntly answers, “We did nothing but dance.”  Raised to be “charming, not sincere”, Cinderella’s prince turns out to be a serial philanderer, making love to another woman of royalty and the Baker’s Wife as soon as his chosen wife begins to bore him.  Ella’s tireless pursuit of a lifestyle she erroneously assumes will bring her happiness tragically leads her to ruin, disgrace, and anything but a typical Happily Ever After Disney resolution.  So too does Jack’s love of plundering riches result in the death of his mother, Rapunzel’s defiance and worldliness compel her own demise, and so on and so forth.  Such is the harsh reality of the human condition: life isn’t a fairy tale, happy endings are an illusion, and elders should be careful what they say because “children will listen”.

All that’s reduced to “Be careful what you wish for” (blatantly emblazoned on the main poster) and “It takes a village – #NoOneIsAlone” in Marshall’s and Obama’s dumbed-down, post-9/11 retelling of the story, which basically plays out like a poor man’s Coraline that substitutes the eerie and the macabre for whatever fairy tale trope was rehashed on the latest “Once Upon A Time”, itself a poor man’s fantasy mashup show. There’s nothing remotely profound within the movie’s narrative and whatever embers of brilliance it starts to carry over from the play are promptly stamped out by Disney’s need to make an ultimately feel-good picture for the holidays, sufficiently palatable to children but also tolerable to their parents.  Anybody who’s looked at early audience reviews can confirm this clearly didn’t work out the way Disney wanted, with the reactions split largely between those who appreciated the movie’s supposed dark and edgy undertones and those who begrudgingly thought the PG-rating didn’t reflect the (not very well depicted) sexual predator symbolism of Johnny Depp’s character, the steamy and “adulterous” kissing encounter in the woods (which, unlike in the musical, is only a kissing encounter), or such extreme (off-screen) violence as eye-gougings, toe amputations, people dying in general, and other things kids shouldn’t know about at all.  These are basically all the same people who complained about Man of Steel being too heavy and dark for a comic book movie, countered by the obligatory but equally imperceptive people who think themselves really mature and conscious for having the constitution to handle the “uncensored” and morbid material of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales.  Once again I’m going to be the dissenting vote: Into the Woods isn’t heavy, morbid, dark, or deep in any genuine way, not even relative to Disney’s other fairy tale adaptations, which offer much of the same conflict, peril, violence, and scary images.  Into the Woods is just kind of stupid.

A nice picture to get you through the second half of a ridiculously long critique.

Having established that the movie rather sucks as a story and a faithful adaptation, I suppose I could close the review right there, but movies don’t necessarily need a good story to be entertaining or well produced. Unfortunately, Marshall’s direction ensures it’s neither of those things, repeatedly employing boring and static camerawork, ungainly special effects, and aimless choreography.  There are some rare flashes of creative inspiration throughout the film, mainly the scenes of Depp’s Mr. Wolf howling at the sky, his face shrouded in silhouette and appearing creepily nonhuman, Cinderella freezing time on the palace steps to sing about her conflicting emotions, and the witch’s random but spectacular dissipation into some kind of tar pit.  But even this last shot is disrupted by bad placement of musical cues in the editing room; the image alone of the witch vanishing into oblivion is enough to convey the gravity of what the ensemble has lost, but the editor thinks we’re too stupid to process the visual and punctuates the camera movement with one final, completely gratuitous musical note.  Actually, Into the Woods has far too much music playing throughout it, particularly when the characters aren’t singing their feelings and the dialogue is supposed to take prominence.  Sondheim’s score already made extensive use of themes and instrumental textures to accompany the entrance of major characters, but for all his experience with musicals (Chicago, Nine, and an Annie remake for TV) Marshall still takes this technique overboard for a film, breaking out the fanfare almost whenever the Prince or his steward rides onto the scene and coating exchanges between the Baker and his Wife with generic background music.

The production design is decent enough.  Much of the film was shot on location and the fog-drenched woods certainly look real, if not really magical.  Still, the filmmakers deserve credit for not deferring to a cheap studio soundstage and poorly executed green screen, a la Mirror Mirror or every damned episode in the Neverland season of Once Upon A Time.  The effects works on the giants, however, almost made me long for the cheesy scaling effects used on Heidi Klum in Ella Enchanted, which was at least quirky in its low-budget way.  Speaking of Ella, the same girl who played one of the evil stepsisters in that picture is also playing an evil stepsister in this one, which I found distracting but not damning if only because her character as well as everyone else’s is so thinly drawn.

The cast is pretty much perfect in terms of acting and vocal ability, but the script doesn’t give them much of anything that’s particularly interesting to portray.  One of the upsides of directing a mainstream big-screen production on a $50M budget is having the resources to show action which wasn’t formerly feasible in a stage show that’s already too long for the majority of this generation’s consumers.  But rather than delving more deeply into the individual characters’ exploits or motivations, Into the Woods carves so much out of the original play that many lyrics and actions seem incomprehensible.  E.g., Red sings that Wolf “showed [her] things, many beautiful things, that [she] hadn’t thought to explore,” and that “he made [her] feel excited – well, excited and scared,” but the only interaction we observe between the two is a brief flower-picking episode in the woods.  Granted you can only take this obviously twisted relationship so far without demolishing the PG boundaries, but one would think a studio and an artist dedicated to crafting high art would put the logic of the characters’ development before concerns of age appropriateness.  In the extremely professional rendition of Woods I was privileged to see before Marshall took a swing at it, Red sensually approaches another wolf while singing of her lost innocence before slitting the beast’s throat in his trance.  This staging represents the character’s evolution both visually and lyrically, showing us Red’s newfound strength instead of asking us to take it on blind faith.  Marshall simply motions Red to prance around the Baker and assumes we’ll trust she’s speaking sincerely.  So too does the spontaneous disloyalty of Cinderella’s Prince feel unnatural in the film, as we’re given no evidence leading up to the scene with the Wife that such behavior is consistent with his personality, whereas this moral foible is shown more extensively in the play.  Nor do we get to see his meetings with Ella inside the festival, something omitted in the musical that would probably have provided crucial context for a film so barren of reasons for its key events.  Instead we’re treated to an overabundance of scenes concerning Rapunzel, who’s all but forgotten in the final act and comes across as a tool for fleshing out the Witch.

Into the Woods wants to be an uplifting epic of hope and redemption but it’s hard to summon much joy seeing so many competent performers so utterly wasted.  Anna Kendrick makes a lovely Cinderella, vocally and otherwise – as my crazy, unrealistic 19-year-old friends will unanimously testify –, but an incredibly dull one all the same, while Chris Pine as her prince proves he’s as good at singing as he is at sitting in a chair and barking orders to crewmates, which is about as captivating as the role he plays here. Emily Blunt is good as the Wife, though it’s the kind of the performance that’ll leave you thinking, “Who is that lady?  Oh, the commander from Edge of Tomorrow!  She was so awesome in that movie!”  The same is true of Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp, who gets maybe twice as much screen time as he did in the trailers.  At least he can sing, and the music is truly the only reason you should even consider watching this, though I wouldn’t recommend letting the movie sour your opinion of the album.  Then again, maybe you’re one of those suckers who think that Frozen’s soundtrack is the pinnacle of modern musical composition, in which case you’d probably find Sondheim’s polyphonic rhythms and fast-paced lyrics confusing and non-catchy.  Just let it go.

If you wanted to see a revisionist, whitewashed version of Into the Woods with liberal doses of Hope and Change sprinkled atop the final chapter, or if you didn’t even care about the Broadway show to begin with, then Into the Woods will probably offer enough attractive stars in glittery costumes to amuse you for a tedious two hours.  If you care at all about thought-provoking storytelling or strong character development, then Into the Woods is just another addition to the wastebin of Disneyfied faerie stories, which is an immensely more depressing plot twist than any of the characters’ fates.  Would that somebody had fed this to the same giant who nearly devoured the narrator in the Broadway play, the narrator who actually served a purpose in the framework and didn’t exist solely to read the action that’s already happening on stage.

I wish.


Verdict:
Funny story: I thought I was being really horrorshow clever twisting this Cinderella quote around on the filmmakers.  Somehow I didn’t see how clever I was being until the picture was done.   I am good.

Trailer reviews (with bonus reviews from Edge of Tomorrow and Interstellar, which I’ll probably hold off reviewing until closer to the video release date)
The Gambler – I’m still recovering from what Mark Wahlberg and his writers did to the Transformers franchise, but this looks boring regardless.
Fast Seven – Cars falling out of planes, buses falling off of cliffs, girls falling out of clothes – yeah, it’s another Fast and Furious movie.  The opening looks pretty cool, though.
Chappie – So this is really just a rehash of that other Hugh Jackman Rock Em Sock Em robots movie by way of Elysium’s art direction with a weird South-African rapper duo thrown into the mix.  Been there, seen that.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron – I honestly wasn’t too excited for another Avengers movie until this came out, but what action movie fan doesn’t want to see giant Iron Man take on the Hulk?
The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies – Enough is enough.  I have had it with these money-grubbing franchise flicks on this mind-throttling Hollywood train.  From this point forward I refuse to indirectly validate these tripartite or dipartite features with my words.
Mockingjay Part 1 – Ditto.  But seriously, did the Capitol firebomb the movie’s marketing campaign or something?
Sex Tape – A married couple determines to spice up their sex life by recording a video of themselves getting intimate, which presumably would give them the opportunity afterwards to pleasure themselves by watching themselves doing it instead of just cutting to chase Jase and actually doing it.  Upon completion of said video, couple immediately regrets having made it and resolves to delete it later, which kind of defeats the purpose of making the tape in the first place, but an automatic backup procedure spoils their plans and releases the sordid video to the web, prompting our aspiring filmmakers to embark on a heartwarming and hilarious retrieval mission replete with Siri and cloud jokes.  On the plus side, Jason Segel absolutely nails the creepy-guy persona with that “helloooo”, a noise that’ll certainly haunt you throughout the comedy, your ride home, and your very dreams should you throw your money away on this pathetic tape.
Get On Up – Watch the casts of The Help and the secular, liberal Jackie Robinson movie sing your grandparents’ favorite music, dance, jive, drop double-negatives, and generally leave their stupid whitey record producers in the dust.
The Expendables 3 – The epic conclusion brought to you by writer Sylvester Stallone and a bunch of old-timers reminiscing about their youth.
Tomorrowland – The main actress is kind of lame from what this shows, but otherwise a very well constructed teaser trailer, plopping us in the middle of what could be the final shot of Portal 2 while interweaving shots of the mundane with something very fantastical and strange.  Not counting Marvel productions, this is probably the most intriguing trailer Disney’s thrown together since the Tron: Legacy reveal.
Nicholas Sparks movie with Jennifer Lawrence lookalike, the name of which escapes me – What is this editor trying to sell me?  The reverby, ethereal music by BANKS cues me in that this some kind of sizzling drama, ripe with jealousy and scandal, but then I’m told it’s “from the producer of Fault In Our Stars” and I can’t respect any of it, even with the love stories criss-crossed by Fate and the oh so sappy Hozier song.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 – Paul Blart is back and the stakes are higher than ever before with a larger hotel/mall to defend, more bad guys, and everything else you would instinctively expect from a pointless sequel to Paul Blart: Mall Cop.  And no, the final gag of the commercial is not a total copy of the final gag from the first Paul Blart commercial.  You see, in Paul Blart Mall Cop 1, Kevin James slides short of the planter due to his weight and has to push himself forwards to hide behind it, but in Paul Blart Mall Cop 2, he overcompensates by neglecting the slippery floor and shoots out ahead of the planter, pushing himself backwards to rectify his error. The editor only wanted you to think they recycled the same joke.
Jupiter Ascending – New, delayed film from the Wachowski Brothers looks like a spectacularly generic and eye-boggling space opera about a chosen one from earth having to bail some alien civilization out of a tight spot.  Begs to be taken seriously, but with Channing Tatum at the helm it’s just so hard.
Black or White – This is the movie about the selfish, crazy old white man who wants to steal the little black girl away from her rightful black daddy, a drug addict, because he’s scared of those people.  “Do you dislike black people?” the impartial judge asks him, to which he replies, “Not all of them.”  RACIST!!!  The moral profundity we’re supposed to glean, too important to leave in the film, is helpfully pound signed for our consideration.  LoveHasNoColor.
Martin Luther King Jr. movie with Oprah and rap music #marchon – We get it, already.  America is racist.  Gaw.  How many movies do you need to pound this message into our skulls?

Proceeds likely going to the #NojusticeNopeace “peace” fund.  Sure to give a very well-rounded, provocative, human portrayal of Mr. King’s life and legacy.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Hop Aboard the Washington Pineapple Express

“I think it says something interesting about North Korea, that they decided to have the state mount an all-out assault on a movie studio because of a satirical movie, starring Seth Rogan and James Flacco.  I love Seth.  And I love James.  But the notion that that was a threat to them I think gives you a sense of the kind of regime we're talking about here.” ~ U.S. President Barack Hussein Obama


I’ll preface this token end-of-year review by saying that I too would profess a liking for Seth Rogen and James Franco.  The two are often shredded by critics for an overreliance on unfettered profanity and male anatomical gags, but as far as there’s a niche for such a sordid blend of humor, the dudes are easily some of the lowest/greatest in the trade.  I for one thought that This Is the End was one of, if not the funniest apocalyptic stoner comedy of all time, which is really saying something.  Rogen and Franco’s collaboration is widely celebrated by college students, many of whom relish the opportunity to flex their vulgarity under the pretense of quoting a modern American masterpiece, but the movie’s also noted in larger circles for mercilessly skewering the decadence and narcissism of Hollywood while (probably inadvertently and) most irreverently ridiculing the heresy of buying one’s way into heaven with good works.  And who could forget Rogen’s gripping portrayal of Mantis in Kung Fu Panda?  Huh huh huh.  Mantis pun.  Huh huh huh.


That said, I doubt our president looked that deeply into This Is the End, and certainly not into the Rogen-starring mall cop movie Observe and Report, which in spite of its inconsistent tone and clich├ęd narrative arc is a mostly effective black comedy about an arrogant, entitled, and immensely unlikeable guardian figure whose ill-entrusted power begets some surprisingly violent consequences but nonetheless wins him the reputation of a hero in the eye of the media.  Actually, I’m skeptical that Obama has ever seen a single movie by Rogen or Franco, and if he even has an opinion regarding the actors, I’d wager he probably views them as a couple of useful idiots who will shamelessly lobby for his party every election cycle then return to their necessary function of appeasing the uneducated masses with mind-dulling entertainment.  The now infamous “censorship” of their North Korean “satire” also poses the kind of welcome crisis over which Obama advisor Rahm Emanuel once salivated, a “crisis” that in reality affects nobody but the artists and producers of the studio’s voluntarily stillborn project but which handily serves as a cover for real, government-orchestrated crises that affect every citizen in the country, crises such as increasingly unaffordable health insurance premiums, soaring education costs, a national debt that just passed $18 trillion, unelected bureaucrats who govern, intimidate, and spy upon the people without congressional oversight, lawless judges who coerce private businesses into violating their religious beliefs for hurting the feelings of homosexual couples, and the president’s absolute unwillingness to ward foreign dependents and the diseases they carry from the country’s borders.

I’m really not as interested in this whole unfolding Sony debacle as I am in what it says about our reigning officials.  In spite of the media’s incessant bombarding of speculations that the hack would be the costliest in history, I don’t think anyone will forgo a Sony movie because they read a scary story about the company’s ordeals in the paper or (more likely in the most illiterate generation of this country’s history) saw a scary headline about it on social media.  I certainly don’t think anyone will avoid the next James Bond movie because an early screenplay wound up on the internet, mainly because the only people who took the time to read it were already going to watch it opening night or pirate it anyway.  Nor do I expect there’s going to be a significant fallout over anything the company’s executives wrote in private correspondence. After all, did these emails reveal anything about the nature of Hollywood we didn’t already know?  The only people these leaks should astonish or offend are those who’ve been melting their brains with celebrity tabloid magazines and stewing in a fantasy bubble wherein one’s glamour is entirely indicative of one’s virtue.  I already knew that Hollywood’s leading actors, producers, and directors were a bunch of conceited, petty children who have to hide behind the masks of their characters or art to get by in the adult world.  I didn’t need a North Korean hacker to shoot me a bunch of emails to tell me that.  If anything, the North’s Great Leader has only bolstered the film he conspired to destroy by securing it ten times the coverage it’d otherwise receive and driving part-time patriots to support what’s apparently become a symbol of 1st amendment rights.

But that’s assuming it was exclusively a North Korean actor who blessed the film, a frankly ridiculous fable which multiple professional hackers have vehemently and thoroughly debunked. So why are our president and the FBI going out of their way to sell us a poorly evidenced and logically suspect story about a destitute foreign nation planning and executing devastating cyberattacks against a U.S. corporation over a stupid Seth Rogen comedy?  Harkening back to the “crude and disgusting” Youtube video censured by every sitting Democrat or serving diplomat almost seems too easy under the circumstances.  “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam,” remarked Obama about the Benghazi attacks in an address to the United Nations, pulling out all the stops to feed Muslim President conspiracy theories. Two years later, though, with American interests supposedly under fire from communist demons, Obama has stood tall and sent a headstrong message to the cyberbullies.

(Imperfect, official transcript provided by the White House) “I think that [Sony] made a mistake… We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States.  Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like, or news reports that they don’t like.  Or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensibilities probably need to be offended.  So that’s not who we are.  That’s not what America is about… I wish they had spoken to me first.  I would have told them, do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.”
Not exactly “Give me liberty or give me death!” but we’ll take it for the sake of argument.  Where do we even start wading through this great American oratory from our first articulate, clean, good-looking African-American guy?  Should we ask why the president is pretending that Sony didn’t contact him about the matter when Sony claims they did indeed speak with a White House advisor and the State Department prior to yanking (and then reinstating) the film?  Should we ask why the president thinks it’s any of his concern whether Sony releases their own junky comedy or not?  Should we inquire as to why Obama is rallying behind a critically maligned and likely highly offensive Rogen comedy in the name of free expression and patriotism (“censorship is not what we’re about”) after he vocally and relentlessly reviled an unreleased documentary about one of history’s most influential religious figures, also in the name of free expression and patriotism (“anti-Islam Youtube projects are not we’re about – the United States had nothing to do with this video”)?

I think the main question at hand is why Obama’s even talking about The Interview at all.  Much though I enjoyed This Is the End, in the event that Columbia Pictures hypothetically canceled it to mollify the Catholic Church, I’d hardly think it the president’s responsibility to rescue the film from limbo, nor would I consider the cancellation a national emergency warranting the attention of politicians who have far more pressing, mostly self-created issues to rectify.  Naturally it piques my curiosity when the leader of the free world holds a press conference to answer questions about an asinine movie when his nation is falling to pieces around him.

Rush Limbaugh has frequently advanced the hypothesis that America’s mainstream media is but an undercover extension of the Democrat Party, laboring under the pretense of fairness and objectivity but blatantly regurgitating the same polished talking points and disproportionately peddling disproven folk tales about chokeholds, college sexual assault, Global Warming, and “hate crime”.  I think the converse statement – that modern federalism is merely a more debilitating extension of the press – bears just as much truth.  America’s spokesman-in-chief moves restlessly from one imaginary crisis to the next, abandoning any motion towards reform as soon as a new “national conversation” crops up.  More often than not, this motion consists largely of calling for Americans to create change at the local level by renouncing their own unconscious prejudices and regressive habits: to cut back on microaggressive gestures towards minorities, to leave the underpaid, marginalized woman alone when she’s walking through New York City, to stop blaming the victim, to freaking check their privilege already.  As the man from the inside quipped, you just can’t change Washington from the inside anymore.

America today is a depressing fulfillment of several dystopian visions; we have a people intellectually softened by mind-numbing programming, federal ministries that knowingly misdirect the proles from matters of real truth and import, and inner party elites who rally their gullible idolaters into chorus lines of uninformed protest while poisoning them with the soma of contemporary entertainment.  The closing of 2014 brings with it the revelation that Obama’s is essentially a pop-culture presidency, a hyper-active daytime talk show based on spectacle and pound signs and whatever trending topics clutter the sidebar of your homepage.

Sometimes I feel like saying to this guy, “We’re the guys doing our job. You must be the other guy.”


More Author’s Musings
* Putting aside everything I just wrote, why were all the brain-dead media zombies scrambling to show us the ending scene of The Interview, 1) as if it was news, 2) as if they obtained it legally, 3) as if nobody actually cared to see the movie, and 4) as if everybody actually cared to know the ending of the movie.

* Why did so many people complain about getting that free U2 album again?   It’s pretty dang good.  Better than anything they were spending their own money on, at any rate.

* In case you needed further proof that Disney is nothing greater than a pound sign a$$wipe.

* Why does Michael Sam think we need to see him kissing all the time?  Is this something normal celebrities or sports players do for the camera?  And he wonders why he got pound sign released.

* I love how the Yahoo comments section never shows up in the articles that are total BS.  I also love how the advertisement in the video player on so many “news” articles plays automatically even when I don’t want to watch the featured video and just want to read the words that give the exact same information as the annoying narrator or politician in the video is going to read out loud.  But most of all I love how the mainstream internet journals dissect their end-of-year highlights lists into galleries you have to click through in order to read one entry and one set of advertisements at a time, rather than just putting all the entries on one page so people can scroll from one to the next without loading a new page.  Pound sign first world problems.

* Yeah, Wes Anderson is basically a cult leader by this point.  A more tasteful-than-average cult, but a cult all the same.

* Remember the day when you bought something on the iTunes store and the digital file immediately started downloading to your hard drive, from which you could watch it at any time you wanted?  Now when you buy something it automatically gets stuck in the “iCloud”, a nebulous mass of suspended water pixels serving no use to you until you successfully establish an internet connection and manually cause digital condensation.  Do you also remember the day when you signed it into iTunes on another computer and you didn’t have to wait 70 days to sync all the files you’ve purchased with your money?

* Pitchfork is such a joke of a website.  Unless you like boring electronic or rap music.

* 11:45 ABC Time.  Taylor Swift is wearing too much makeup and not enough clothes.  And man, I hate this Google commercial.

* I thought the Exodus movie looked kind of like this.

* If you’re not yet watching The Librarians on TNT, you ought to be watching The Librarians on TNT. Granted it’s not particularly groundbreaking or thought-provoking fare like Nic Pizzolatto’s True Detective on HBO.  It also doesn’t have any sex, swearing, cocaine, or graphic violence like True Detective.  This is good old-fashioned, often cheesy, always optimistic fantasy adventure led by a cowboy who’s secretly an art history nerd, a British-accented thief with a heart of gold, a Rebecca Romijn kicking butt, and a cute fake-redhead super-genius who waves her arms at holograms like Sherlock and happens to have synesthesia, which means that to her science sounds like music and math smells like food, which doesn’t make a lot of sense the way that she explains it but you probably won’t be concerned with listening to anything she says anyway.  You’ll be all like, “I think I got it, but just in case, tell me the whole thing again – I wasn’t listening.”  Oh, and she has a tumah.

Aside from a bothersome but predictably Claustian-themed Christmas special, Librarians has an innocence and self-conscious silliness about it that’s rare in television nowadays and deserves a huge shout-out.  It’s almost bound to be the next Doctor Who, Orange is the New Black, Big Bang Theory, or whatever else people are into today for no discernible reason, so you should definitely jump on board before it blows up and you look like a pound sign lemming who only enjoys it because everybody else does.

* No, I totally don’t web-search every attractive redhead – pound sign redundant – I see on screen to verify if she’s the real deal or just a poseur wearing make-down in her hair.  That’s stupid, and I’ve got so many more important things to do with my time.

Speaking of fake redheads, remember the stupid Emma Stone Spiderman movies I said at the time I didn’t want to watch but got suckered into viewing anyway?  Don’t even bother with them.  Because she dies.