Let’s be real, at the very least you have heard of Hamilton – the biggest Broadway sensation maybe of all time. Even if you don’t care about musicals or theatre or even music, at the very least you have one friend who is kind of obsessed with the show. If you are one of my friends (and you probably are if you’re reading this), then I am that person in your life. When I first found out about the show – about the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton, performed by actors of color and told almost entirely through rap – I just couldn’t wait to see it. I was a huge fan of creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s previous show, In the Heights, but it took several years for me to get out to see that one. With that in mind, I realized I may never see Hamilton in its best iteration, so I decided instead to devour the soundtrack in its entirety, over and over again. I started listening to the cast recording near the end of October, and still listen to it on a weekly basis four months later, usually while running. The recording is an astounding accomplishment by Miranda, the rest of the cast, and the production team. It’s the kind of show full of interesting roles that I would love to play, but will rightly never have the chance to perform – they aren’t for me. But then I found myself confronted with an opportunity to do just that, in a Hollywood-set sing-along.
I’m not sure who sits in the seat of power that determines the passage of traffic through a given intersection, but those czars of congestion are at it again, creating an all-way stop at the corner of Lexington Ave. and Seward St., mere blocks away from where I sit now, typing these very words you’re reading. It’s the type of city planning that could make or break a neighborhood. It couldn’t come at a more turbulent time for what I call the “Heart of Hollywood” – an area already steeped in social and economic flux.
A new film from Joel and Ethan Coen is always a big deal, and the marketing push for Hail, Caesar! juiced anticipation, at least among the cinephile community. A kidnapping comedy (whatever “comedy” means when the Coens are concerned) set in the studio-centric days of Old Hollywood starring George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, and more seems like the perfect recipe for a great movie.
Think back to your favorite movie about the military. Unless that flick is 2006’s The Guardian (and it’s probably not because I don’t think The Guardian is anyone’s favorite anything) I’ll bet it has nothing to do with the United States Coast Guard. The Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines – they all feature prominently in heroic tales of action and suspense, but the Coast Guard has had no such luck. Until now. Disney and director Craig Gillespie bring the public the movie they’ve been clamoring for in the form of The Finest Hours – and the good news for me is that it’s actually pretty well done.
Remember when all anyone could talk about was Fifty Shades of Grey? Those were the four words on everyone’s lips, from office breakrooms to bookclubs to NASA Mission Control. This fan-fiction-adjacent story designed to give middle-aged housewives a bit of a sensual thrill became omni-present in the zeitgeist – and not just with those housewives. In fact, that ghettoization of the story’s appeal is pretty unfair, as I know at least one person who falls outside of that category who saw last year’s film version of the book. That person… is me. Sure, I saw it in the context of comedians making jokes over it, but still – I saw it. Parodic auteur Marlon Wayans (does that mean he’s an auteur of parodies or a parody of an auteur? Honestly, both are pretty accurate) and practically anonymous director Michael Tiddes have decided to strike while the iron is hot and take that movie down with their own version: Fifty Shades of Black. A year later. Are people still talking about Fifty Shades of Grey in your breakroom? Yeah, not in mine either.
When you read the phrase “school lunch,” what image does it evoke in your mind? Some people may imagine a plate full o’ slop, dished up by a big fat grumpy lady in a hairnet, though I’m not entirely convinced that woman and that situation ever existed – she may have been created by the media to bolster support for Big Grocery Store. I ate school lunch for years – mostly through elementary school – and the thing I’ll never forget is the pizza: that rectangular pizza with the tiny cubed pepperoni pieces? I have a feeling you know exactly what I’m talking about. Why did it taste so good? Probably because nothing about it was real food. Well I’m sad to report that that specific pizza is nowhere to be found in 2016 – at least not in Los Angeles. No, school lunch has changed, man. It’s changed.
Are your social networking outlets causing you stress? Do you stay up at night wondering who you’ll have to passive-aggressively subtweet the next day? Or quietly fume on the toilet while looking a pictures of Donald Trump on Instagram? Or roll your eyes at yet another rant about how Obama wants to take our guns so his Muslim family can take over our country? Well first of all – what are you doing on Facebook? Don’t you know it’s all about Snapchat in 2016? But more to the point – put an end to your aimless concerns. You are the master of your social media destiny and happiness is attainable. It’s simply a matter of clicking “Unfriend.”
Kanye West is one of the most interesting people to watch in our current era. In many ways he’s an artist that could only exist in the Internet age, his popularity existing as an extension of his persona. That’s not to say his music isn’t great. It is. But its value has given us a greater gift, which is the presentation of his interior humanity in an exterior form. Sometimes we see this in verbal/visual outbursts but more often it manifests in a shorter, more digestible form. Regardless of the medium these tantrums are always public – that’s just one of the reasons why we love him. He gives so much of himself, even when he really shouldn’t. Like sometimes he should really just stop.
I go to a lot of movies. A lot. I try to get to the theater at least a few times a week – usually more – because that’s how these pictures were made to be seen. Moviepass allows me to see a new movie every 24 hours at participating theaters for a reasonable monthly fee (this is not an advertisement, but if you want to sign up I can send you my code), so I try to take as much advantage of that as I possibly can. Sometimes it leads me to diamonds in the rough that I might otherwise not see due to monetary constraints and sometimes it leads me to Dirty Grandpa – you win some, you lose some. So when I saw the mostly-positive reviews of Ip Man 3 (and the fact that it co-stars Mike Tyson) that was enough reason for me to check it out. Thanks to the eclectic demographics of Los Angeles even a more obscure foreign film such as Ip Man 3 can find a release somewhere in the city or its outlying areas. I just didn’t realize exactly where this one would be until it was too late.
I off-handedly mentioned all of the bad choices I’ve made recently the other day – well, I’ve made another one. Other critics (professional critics) have panned Dirty Grandpa: Glenn Kenny said the movie made him “[giggle]… for all of humanity,” Mike Ryan called it “the worst movie I’ve ever seen in a movie theater,” and Matt Singer wrote “I can’t believe how bad this movie is.” Despite the obviously negative message they hope to convey, these quotes only served to make me more curious about the picture – after all I watched and greatly enjoyed last year’s Zac Efron vehicle We Are Your Friends (and I won’t apologize for that), despite near-unanimous antipathy (it was self-aware and critical of the lifestyle it’s characters coveted). My embarrassment at asking for a ticket to Dirty Grandpa at the box office should have been an indicator though that I wasn’t in for a good time in any sense of the word.