Friday, January 27, 2012

I make laugh. I genius.

Gotta give a shout out to ma Bridesmaids ladies! Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo got an Oscar nod for Best Original Screenplay and Melissa McCarthy for Actress in a Supporting Role. This is truly momentous given that the movie is a comedy. Oscar doesn't generally like comedies, and seldom are they nominated for much of anything.

There are, of course, a few standouts. Little Miss Sunshine won Best Picture, as did Alan Arkin for his unforgettable supporting role in that same movie. Diablo Cody won Best Original Screenplay for Juno (it would have been a crime if she hadn't - it's one of the most finely written comedies, ever).

For some reason, Oscar thinks comedy is ghetto, a lesser version of drama. I beg to differ. As a writer of comedies for the stage, I can tell you it's much easier to write drama than it is to write a good comedy - the key word here being "good". It's easy to write shit. But quality comedy is not for the faint of heart. 

There are so many nuances of funny, and knowing how to layer them to get the most bang for your buck is very challenging. Writing comedy is not merely about writing jokes or one liners. It's finding humour where you least expect it, and requires an in-depth knowledge of language and how to use it. Californication is a great example of this. On the surface, this show could easily be dismissed as soft porn but if you really listen to the dialogue, it's sublime - some of the best writing on television.

Aptly performing comedy, I would argue, is also more difficult than portraying a dramatic role. People can be made to cry easily through blatant emotional manipulation but making them laugh out loud, from the gut, now that is an accomplishment. In Little Miss Sunshine, the ensemble cast was outstanding, and the defective van horn comedic genius.

Shitting yourself on a city street in a wedding gown is also genius, in the sense that the writers of Bridesmaids didn't shy away from being gross or honest about how women really feel. It was funny because it was true. 

That being said, I recently found out that Hangover 3 is now in the works. I just feel embarrassed for the cast of this movie, its stars now demanding salary hikes for the third installment. They're completely ruining what was originally a very funny concept. Another sign of good comedic writers: they know when to quit and move on to another story. They recognize when they've written an absolute gem and don't try to tarnish it with lesser versions of the same thing.

Sure, I'm aware screenwriters are probably offered shitloads of money to write sequels to very successful movies but, as a writer, I wouldn't want a crap sequel on my résumé. 

Here's hoping Oscar loved Bridesmaids enough to bestow its golden beauty upon it and further legitimize comedy as an art form.

Friday, January 20, 2012

When good shit starts to smell

Why can't TV producers leave a good thing alone? Apparently, the CW will be creating the prequel series to Sex and the City. It will begin with Carrie Bradshaw in her senior year of high school.

Sex and the City started out as an edgy, funny, adult comedy on HBO. There was lots of sex, swearing, some nudity and, of course, great fashion. Then came the movies. Still visually stunning but a whiter shade of sexy, altering the flavour of the original series. Now, a teen prequel on the CW? From HBO to CW? There is no question this is a devolution turning a once great series into teen pap.

I know it's about making money but how long can we milk this thing? Here's where the creators of Sex and the City can learn something from Jerry Seinfeld. He went out on top. His hit series could have continued. NBC certainly wanted it to. But Jerry knew it would be better to stop while you're still at your best. When it ended, Seinfeld left us wanting more.

Sex and the City is now being dragged through the mud, rolled in dirt and stomped on until there's no life left. Frankly, it should have ended with the series finale. It was a gem of a show, and we could have remembered it that way. Now, I'm just getting bitter.

Speaking of sequels (or prequels, or whatever), Kristen Wiig has said no to a Bridesmaids sequel. I hope she sticks to her guns. The Hangover 2 was basically the Hangover, but not as good.

Sure, they brought back that crazy, naked Asian dude, but you know what? It just wasn't funny anymore. That joke was done. Hopefully, the ladies will know better and not mess with their original creation. Bridesmaids was a huge success. Let's just leave it at that.

Apparently, Katherine Heigl wants to return to Grey's Anatomy. Talk about ruining a good thing. Is this show still on TV? The first three seasons of Grey's were awesome. Funny, witty, smart, sexy - it was a show that didn't take itself too seriously.

Then, there were some major casting changes in Season 4, and along with that, a distinct shift towards sophomoric melodrama. I caught a few glimpses of later shows and couldn't even watch five minutes what with the constant wailing and gnashing of teeth.

On a happier note, there was a one-night only performance of Twilight - The Musical in NYC. A parody, of course, and a charity event to raise money for Blessings in a Backpack. When I read the headline, I experienced a moment of sheer terror at the thought of this being an actual, serious musical adaptation of what can only be described as really bad shit.

But then, as I read on, the article depicted a show that poked fun at the ridiculousness of this book series, and all was right with the world. I can only hope Twilight - The Musical will be revived and have a long run on Broadway.

Monday, January 9, 2012

When "mommy" equals "money"

I heard a rather interesting radio documentary recently on "mommy blogging" and how it's turned into big business. I felt compelled to write about it since some ethical quandaries popped up about blogging in general.

Back in the day, new moms began blogging as a means to share ideas and experiences, building a supportive community of women going through a similar phase in their lives. Doing so, they radically redefined motherhood by sharing their personal stories about what it was like to raise children, which isn't always rosy.

Women in particular have embraced social media (blogging, Facebook, Twitter) as a means of communication, and increasingly, as a career path. You see, some of these mommy bloggers became quite influential when writing about products they liked which, of course, caught the attention of big business. Popular brands, such as Fisher Price, realized that by partnering with bloggers to sell their products, they had access to a whole new market.

So, companies send sample products to influential bloggers. Then, said bloggers write a review about said product (usually favorable) and presto! instant advertising to hundreds, even thousands of women. Moreover, some of these companies offer toys, trips and cash to blog about their products. Reviews are also often accompanied by contests and giveaways. And who doesn't like free stuff?

This is all well and good, however, there is an ethical question that arises when someone is paid by a company to write a review. Is the blogger being authentic or has she simply become a corporate mouthpiece? Women now yield immense power in the marketing of baby products with their active presence in social media. There are even women who start blogging solely for the purpose of career building, i.e. making money.

I don't know about you but I find the greatest feature of blogging is its sense of community and personal expression. Once corporate interests seep in, blogging becomes a dog and pony show and loses much of its power as a means of communication. I personally get very turned off by blogs that used to be about content, then got really popular, and are now, basically, about selling products. That's when I stop reading them.

I don't mind ads on a blog but when the content itself veers toward product reviews, contests and giveaways, it merely becomes a vehicle for selling stuff. I wouldn't trust a review knowing the writer was paid to write it. Even if they fully disclose they were paid, it's still a conflict of interest.

Corporations are rapacious and will do anything to get their greedy hands on new consumers. Do we really want them taking over the blogosphere?

I must credit the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) - a full audio version of the documentary can be found here. I was not paid to write this.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I'm baaack...

Now that I'm rested and have read numerous "best of 2011" lists, I decided I wouldn't try that formula here because, well, it's 2012 and I'm looking ahead to the future. So, here's a list of things I'd like to see make my "best of 2012" list:

1) A piece of clothing from Aritzia, Urban Outfitters or Forever 21 that doesn't fall apart at the seams. Yesterday, I had to MacGyver the seam of a sweater I got at Urban Outfitters when I noticed a gaping hole at the shoulder. So I cut a piece of ribbon into a thin strip and hand wove it through the hole, tying it all back together nicely. 

Today, the fabric of another sweater (a thin one, with delicate fabric, I admit) from Forever 21 got caught on the velcro of my winter jacket, which I gently tried to extract and well, wouldn't you know it, now there are f*cking holes in both sleeves that I'll have to sew up. I understand that everything nowadays is made in China. But could China give a shit? Please? Kind of makes me long for the days when things were manufactured in my own country, by people who were paid a decent wage, treated fairly, and produced a quality product. 

2) A couple from The Bachelor actually works out. One or two former Bachelorettes have been successful at finding lasting love, and one former Bachelor married his initial runner-up but there hasn't been one successful union of an original couple from The Bachelor. However, there is a disturbingly high proportion of nut jobs this season, which premiered on January 2, and it doesn't bode well for our sweet, down-to-earth Bachelor Ben.

3) The Kardashian family is deported to Siberia for crimes against humanity, and barred from access to any form of media indefinitely.

4) Someone publicly admits that Two and a Half Men isn't funny, has never been funny, and should have ended years ago. Then again, we got tiger blood out of it...

5) Anderson Cooper confirms whether or not he's gay. I would never advocate forcing anyone out of the closet but if Anderson came clean, it would finally end all this ceaseless speculation as to his true sexual orientation, and we could just focus on what's important: his hotness.

6) Remakes of highly successful films are considered "a bad idea". I've heard rumours of a Dirty Dancing remake, and I tell ya, if that shit comes to pass, I will freak out. Is there such a dearth of new ideas out there that good movies need to be ruined by remakes? Why can't we just relish the excellence of the original film and move on?

7) Our fixation on Jennifer Aniston and her "happiness" is replaced by a fixation on, oh, I don't know, cute puppies.

8) Oprah Winfrey's new TV network, OWN, avoids becoming an abject failure, and ratings improve. The mighty Opes is queen of, well, everything. I'm not ready to see her go down in flames.

9) Chumlee, of Pawn Stars fame, is named Sexiest Man Alive. 

10) Toddlers and Tiaras convinces those in power that beauty pageants are tantamount to child abuse. They are subsequently banned, and all "beauty contestants" sent to inner city public schools for "reeducation".  


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