July 26, 2013

Joe Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies is one of those movies that punches you right in the heart, just when you catch yourself thinking you can’t bear to see one more CGI-ed robot, or one more overly romanticized indie. With a unique directorial style that involves a mostly improvised script, Swanberg has managed to refine the heady inelegance of his past films like Nights & Weekends (in which he co-stars with Greta Gerwig), to create something a little more mature and refined, but that still speaks volumes about the human condition and the relationships we allow ourselves to inhabit. With one eye on the often charged best-friendship between Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) and the other eye on their significant others, Chris (Ron Livingston) and Jill (Anna Kendrick) respectively, Drinking Buddies posits some of the most humble, but sometimes officiously grand questions—what are we looking for in other people? And what do we have to give of ourselves? I recently spoke to Swanberg about the film, honing his unique ability to direct an improvisational work, the dichotomies in his female characters, and all the wonderful grey matter in between the relationships we’re so often overwhelmed by.

It’s clear you have quite a distinct style, but in Drinking Buddies it’s much more refined. I’m interested to know how you went from the raw, inelegant natural thing in Nights & Weekends, to having this tighter format in Drinking Buddies.
You know, it’s about trusting other people to do things. The production of those two movies was quite different, in that for most of Nights & Weekends it was just Greta [Gerwig] and I and a camera person and a sound person. With Drinking Buddies there was producers, the cinematographer with the whole camera team, and a wardrobe person and an art department. It was about trying to do exactly the same thing we did on Nights & Weekends performance-wise, and then surround that with some infrastructure that really took the pressure off of me to have to think about that stuff and to let the movie inhabit more of a specific world that I’d created.

How did you feel about dropping that control and that closeness that you had to every element of producing a film?
I was really nervous about it. It was a big challenge going into Drinking Buddies wondering whether I could make something that felt like my movie, and I think that a lot of that involved having conversations with the producers leading up to the production where I was very clear about the things that were important to me.

When you were writing and conceptualizing Drinking Buddies, did you have that specific cast in mind, or was that something that happened later?
A little bit, yeah, but it took several months to get there. Jake [Johnson] was the first person I was working with, so he and I had quite a bit of lead time to build his character, and he was really helpful with the writing and the shaping of his story. Ron Livingston and Anna Kendrick didn’t come on until much closer to the shoot, but I had some real world models that I was basing some of the characters on, and I just sort of saved a lot of the writing until I knew who it was going to be. And then because it’s improvised, the actors are just naturally bringing a lot of themselves to it.

What really floored me was Olivia Wilde; I just didn’t really expect that performance from her. One of my favorite scenes is with her and Jake Johnson having this massive blow out in her new apartment because it felt very real. How did that happen?
It’s one of the nice things about improvising; they don’t have to try and fake the way they would fight and figure out how to put my words into their mouths for that fight—they just get to do it. A lot of my job, that day, as the director, was making sure the space was comfortable for them. They asked me if everybody could leave—we sort of had some producers and other people on set who were sitting at the monitors—and they asked to have the room cleared out. There’s just the aspect of trying to give them space to feel more comfortable to go there. After that I just have to be a good listener. At the end of the take I have to be able to give them specific feedback about what I want to shape and change. It’s being sensitive about what about that scene works for them.

When there’s that realness to what you’re producing, is there an aftermath to that—I mean, personally?
Yes, definitely. You’re certainly feeling these things in a very real way. All throughout all the movies that I’ve made, there’s definitely been an aftermath to all of them in terms of creating these dynamics. It’s why people don’t necessarily work this way. It’s a lot easier if there’s just a script and you can show up for work and do the scene that day and then put it aside. I’m asking a lot more from people to inhabit the characters for longer, and to give me things from their own real lives. I remember Jake saying that he texted Olivia that night just asking “Are we OK?” like you know, are we cool after that scene? So yeah, there’s certainly a lingering sense of conflict.

I imagine that kind of process makes everyone very close.
You sort of have to be. You don’t have to stay close, but there’s this unique thing that happens on all movies and especially working in this unique way, you sort of have to get good at getting close quickly, which is its own unique sort of challenge. Ideally you want to be working from a place where everyone is close, and you only have a few days to get to that place before the cameras start rolling. I think Ron [Livingston] and Anna [Kendrick] both landed in Chicago and we put them on camera later that day. So they had no time to get close and you sort of just have to fake the intimacy until it becomes more real.

I wanted to ask about the role of the women as well. Kate [Olivia Wilde] and Jill [Anna Kendrick] are ostensibly opposites, and for want of a better turn of phrase, there’s almost this Virgin/Whore dichotomy. It definitely sticks out the most when they’re both trying to deal with Luke’s [Jake Johnson] injury. Is this a reflection of something that you see inherent in male and female relationships?
It’s one of the complicating factors of making a movie and I think that it’s much grayer than that. I think when you’re making a movie it becomes easier to lean more towards the stronger dichotomies. Most people that I know in my life are the virgin and the whore, and the five other things. And most guys that I know are jocks and nerds mashed together.

The Kate character is really interesting to me because I don’t think I’ve seen a lot of women portrayed this way in film. I know a lot of women like her. It’s hard to articulate, but I felt like Kate was just so awful but lovely and endearing, and I guess a lot of that was what Oliva brought to the character.
Some of that has to come from the character and the writing and the situation, and a lot of that comes from Olivia. It’s her character and her performance, and I think that she’s really brave that she’s willing to not look good a lot of the time, because that’s hard to do, From the performance standpoint it’s hard to embody that, and from the professional standpoint, we live in such an image conscious culture and Olivia is a famous person whose life is scrutinized.  It’s cool and brave to do a role where you’re not going to look good, where you’re going to allow selfish and terrible aspects of this characters personality to shine through. And so I feel really grateful as a filmmaker that she’s willing to bring that to the movie, that she’s willing to go there and have fun with it, and be excited to play a complicated character like that.

So do you think that men and women can be friends?
I do! Absolutely. I think that in order to get there, you sort of have to stare the sexual tension in the face. You can’t pretend it doesn’t exist and you can’t go too far in acknowledging it. It’s an interesting line that has to be crossed, but I feel like men and women stand the best chance of being friends when they sort of walk right up to the line and chose not to cross it. My friendships with men are easier  than my friendships with women, but I think it’s healthy and I think that it’s necessary for men and women to be friends, and I think our culture functions a lot better when they are.

I know you’ve been working on something with Anna Kendrick and Lena Dunham. Can you talk about that?
Yeah, I shot a movie in December called Happy Christmas that Anna stars in, and I’m not saying much about it, but that’s what I’m editing right now. I’m not trying to hide it or anything, but I’m still working on it so I’m not totally sure what to say yet about it. I worked with Ben Richardson again, the same cinematographer as Drinking Buddies, who also shot that movie Beasts of the Southern Wild, and it was a really fun movie. It’s sort of an indie holiday movie. Hopefully that will start playing around early next year.

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July 12, 2013

When I saw the teaser for Justin Timberlake’s questionably titled new song, “Take Back The Night,” I immediately thought, “if this isn’t a song about empowering female victims of sexual assault and violence, then JT, we’re going to have some serious beef.” Because the first thing that came to mind upon hearing the title of the track was the Take Back The Night movement; a resonant connection I’m sure many women can and will easily make. Take Back The Night is, essentially, an organisation dedicated to giving women the power and the means to report violent and sexual crimes inflicted upon them, thereby “taking back the night” that was forcibly stolen.

The phrase and associated movement dates back to 1977, and is a global symbol for women who have suffered abuse and sexual agression. Moreover, it is a dogmatically gendered organization whose primary aim is to create a “safe space” for women exclusively. Men are not welcomed to interpret or brandish the slogan, so it logically follows that they’re probably also precluded from turning it into a banging club anthem about sexy things that happen during raucous nights out on the town.

Being the massive geek that I am, I was also immediately reminded of a quote by one of my favorite feminists, Joss Whedon, about (what I believe to be) the greatest feminist text of my generation, Buffy The Vampire Slayer; “I’ve always been a huge fan of horror movies. And I saw so many horror movies where there was ‘that blonde girl’ who would always get herself killed. I started feeling bad for her. I thought it’s time she had a chance to, you know, take back the night. And so, the idea of Buffy came from just the very simple thought of: A beautiful blonde girl walks into an alley, a monster attacks her, and she’s not only ready for him, she trounces him.”

The semiotic meaning of Take Back The Night is thus one that is ingrained in the cultural psyche to a pervasive and profound effect, especially with those who have an emotional contention to the act of reclaiming what was violently taken from them. When you Google “Take Back The Night,” the first page of results is entirely dedicated to not only TBTN’s official page (the first result) but a plethora of pages also championing the cause. And while I find it hard to believe that not one person associated with Justin Timberlake and the production of his music ever drew a parallel here (are there no women in the music business?), I find it harder still to believe that in the conceptualization, writing, and production of the song, no one bothered to type the phrase into Google, if for nothing more than to seek out competing, similarly titled music.

From what I can tell of the song from the teaser trailer, it’s a resounding no, this song is not about empowering marginalized women in the slightest. With lyrics like, “Take back the night/ Come on and use me up until there’s nothing left”, “Dizzy spinning sweating/ You can’t catch your breath” and “Attraction can drive us crazy” it seems also to be deeply insensitive to the TBTN cause. I mean, being “used up” and out of control of your body are so inherent to the injustice TBTN aims to correct, it’s a gross oversight on the part of Justin and whoever else was responsible for the song to use lyrics like these so casually in connection with a term that, to most women, stands for demanding sexual equality and safety. In the video, JT disappears into a loud club that appears to be adorned with laser lights and smoke machines; not a likely venue for a TBTN meeting.

More frightening still is the potential for JT’s song to draw emphasis away from the original meaning of the phrase; can you imagine what a potential number 1 Billboard track could do to skew Google results? When young, impressionable minds are introduced to the terminology via a pop song that has not only rejected the tenets of the original movement, but that has essentially pissed frivolity all over something that is a constant, festering, disease within our society?

We take cultural appropriation very seriously in music; this year we saw No Doubt retract their cowboys and indians themed video for “Looking Hot,” and Selena Gomez chastised for her Bollywood-esque live performance of “Come & Get It.” Meaning is malleable, and I do believe in the liberties of art and expression; but there’s a clearly defined line, and Justin Timberlake has jumped right over it. When something is so profound, like domestic and sexual violence, and it continues to mar the surface of our society on a daily basis—with women fighting against it, every hour, every minute, every second—and that thing has something as easily identifiable as Take Back The Night as its championing organization, I think rebranding that moniker creates a schism between pop culture and real life that shouldn’t exist. Artists like Justin Timberlake don’t have to burden the weight of the world, but just because someone is making “art” it doesn’t mean they can completely ignore the way society operates. Maybe JT had no knowledge of what he was encroaching on when “Take Back The Night” was conceived, but still; now hearing the voices of those who have felt slighted, surely the artist has a responsibility to modify his digression, or otherwise acknowledge that he meant no harm by it.

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June 25, 2013

Brit Marling is revolutionizing cinema right under your nose. We’ve been talking about the “women’s revolution” in film for a while now, but what we’re slowly discovering is that it’s just that: talk. There’s still a long, male dominated jungle for women to forge their way through, as last month a study by USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism told us that of 2012’s 100 highest grossing films, the percentage of female speaking roles in those films was a shockingly low 28.4%. And people (men) question why we (women) are still shouting about feminism. They gave us Bridesmaids, right? Wasn’t that enough to shut us up?

From Bridesmaids to the surge in introspective coming-of-age stories led by actresses like Greta Gerwig and Lena Dunham ingrained in the collective popular social psyche, it’s inarguable that we are at least talking about women. But the female characters we’re talking about are all portrayals of women, in sweeping cinematic generalization, as we expect them to be; taking the Bridesmaids example, that would be bitchy, competitive and hyper-emotional, with their happiness largely dependent on the status of their romantic life (in Bridesmaids, Kristen Wiig’s character is “saved” by Chris O’Dowd’s delicious policeman at the end of the film, and contentment is implied, despite the fact she still hasn’t fulfilled her personal dreams). Brit Marling is giving us women in ways we rarely contemplate in cinema.

Marling is the direct antithesis to both the generalized image of women (above) we’ve accepted in cinema, and to the new female nihilism that focuses on 20-something women paradoxically grappling with their inflated egos on one hand and desperate cries of “Who am I?” and “What am I worth?” on the other. While I don’t want to disparage the women in indie cinema who have made inflexive navel gazing so popular (because all representations of women by women are important), Marling, it seems, is the only woman right now who is offering us an alternate view of femininity. Without detracting from any other women, Marling’s appeal lies largely in her passion for thematic matter outside the abstract self; she’s dedicated, articulate and distinct. This is a woman who, for her latest offeringThe East, a film about eco-terrorism and consumerist counterculturespent a year living with anarchist groups and dumpster diving as research. And whether or not you agree with her politics (although I think The East does a brilliant job of grappling with issues on all sides of corporate responsibility), she’s bringing a sense of determination and purpose back to cinema; and she’s doing it in the female sphere.

While Marling is not deliberately adversarial, her writing is definitely thought-provoking, and in The East she makes a strong argument, not just about corporate morality, but about how compelling a psychological thriller led by women can actually be. For too long, women have been relegated to love interests (the quintessential Bond Girl) or hyper sexualized (any movie starring Angelina Jolie or Scarlett Johansson) in film, and Brit Marling, despite her arresting beauty, does neither. She instead presents her women under the same circumstances and with the same faculties as men in similar situations. In The East, her character Jane/Sarah, undercover, does what she needs to do to survive, and using a stoic resolve in one particularly confronting scene, slashes her own arm with a ripped apart aluminum can in order to infiltrate the prolific, possibly dangerous eco-terrorist organization, the titular The East. Miraculously, she doesn’t masculate her women by making them butch or androgynous; even in violent acts she draws them easily into the meritocratic zone of “person”.

Last year Leslye Headland, with Bachelorette, did much the same thing, and was able to portray women in comedy not as we see them but as they are, subsequently humanizing the female experience. The first true (in my opinion) female buddy comedy saw leads Kirsten Dunst, Lizzie Caplan and Isla Fisher party like sailors, and in between showed them to be tough, resilient, vulnerable, moronic, witty, sexy and at times, decidedly unsexy. Moreover, none of the girls had their problems solved by love; their conclusion was inconclusive and open-ended, and for a movie that culminated in a wedding, it was inspiring to see the women didn’t have to be swept of their feet by knights in shining armour in order to feel that despite being lost in the world, they would eventually be OK. Bachelorette was essentially a movie about women behaving badly, but they were behaving badly on their own terms, and not as passive sideshows to someone else’s narrative.

Brit Marling is, essentially, doing the same for the thriller genre with The East, putting womenherself, the protagonist, as the brave (and at times anti) hero, Patricia Clarkson as the ruthless boss, and Ellen Page as the idealistic loose cannonin traditionally male dominated roles while not sacrificing anything to the mundane tropes that so often work to nullify the impact of depictions of women within such genres (see above: helpless, sexy). In keeping with the temperament of Marling’s debut Sound of My Voice, not once is one of The East’s women weak or hesitant because she is a woman; all failures in The East come from basic human character fissures, for instance Ellen Page’s stubbornness and in the end, an unexpected familial bond, proving to be her ultimate downfall, rather than physical frailty or promiscuity, which are common characteristics women are hurt or punished for in film. Indeed, as Marling’s character prays, “Give me the strength to not be arrogant, but to not be weak,” we’re forced to consider the female character as “acting” rather than “appearing”, as arrogance requires both action and a reversal of the gaze, whereas women, too often, are relegated to passive roles.

I suppose it’s even more of a testament to Marling that her writing partner, and director of both The East and Sound of My Voice, Zal Batmanglij, as none of her powerful female agenda is dulled even the slightest by the inclusion of that male voice. To the contrary; it adds credence to her as yet unquestionable merit in a male driven industry. Moreover, Marling is just as sympathetic to her male characters as she is to the women she represents; in The East, Alexander Skarsgaard’s beautiful turn as Benji, leader of terrorist group, is riddled with emotional elements and backstory that humanize a character that we’ve seen, so many times before, as driven by a purely testosterone fueled need for wanton destruction. And so she is also able to deftly portray men as she portrays women: simply as human.

Brit Marling is, I think, a Spartacus. All that’s left is for us to stand with her, and declare our allegiance.

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February 27, 2013

This week, the trendy thing to do on the Internet is to love Jennifer Lawrence and hate Anne Hathaway. Before I start telling you why you’re wrong, YOU’RE ALL WRONG, there’s one thing I need to clarify: I am not pitting these women against each other. I refuse to say “Jennifer is better than Anne” or “Anne is better than Jennifer,” despite the fact that they’ve been overwhelmingly presented to the internet as the antithetical to one another, and despite the fact that what you’re about to read is essentially one big comparison.

We shouldn’t put women into direct—especially when it’s this petty—competition with each other. It simply weakens us, period. As an aside, periods can often also weaken us (with the ouchy cramps and violent hormones). Moreover, let’s not even judge them as women, but just as people who breathe and walk about and do things.

Now that we’ve established that, this isn’t a case of J-Law vs. A-Hath, or a case of pesky women just being pesky women, we can get to the point: Jennifer Lawrence isn’t as good as you think she is, and Anne Hathaway isn’t as bad as you think she is. Let’s take a look at the evidence:

The Oscars
All of the love and vitriol this week comes from both these women’s performances at the Oscars. While Jennifer moaned about being hungry on the red carpet and then FELL DOWN when she went to collect her award for Best Actress, shooing off the two hunky babes trying to help her up (Hugh Jackman and Bradley Cooper), Anne whispered to her trophy before she began her speech and her nipples may or may not have been visible through her dress.

Am I the only one that finds Jennifer’s schtick unbearable? We get it girl, you’re like, way smarter and sassier than all these other vacuous Hollywood chumps because you are just so down to earth and Girl Next Door. I guess I just don’t find anything particularly humble about Jennifer Lawrence; I see her “down to earthedness” as plain superiority. I don’t buy her “of the people” thing because she’s not of the people; she’s beautiful and thin and smart and talented, and I get the impression she’s very aware of that, sometimes condescendingly so.

I know I’m definitely the only one that thinks Anne Hathaway’s “fabulous gay man in a boring straight woman’s body” routine is completely endearing. Look, I’m not saying Anne Hathaway is completely sane, but I find her ostentatious laughter, blathery drivel and bat-shit crazy talking to her Oscar trophy moments kind of fun. I mean, have you watched Beyoncé’s documentary? That woman is absolutely mad—she carries a laptop around with her and talks to it instead of talking to actual PEOPLE—and we’ve collectively decided she’s the second coming of our Lord and Savior. Bey is just as nuts as Anne, so I say, let’s give little loopy Annie a chance. Crazy is way more fun anyway. And, damn it, aren’t we just past obsessing over women’s nipples being visible through their clothes, or any other lady part for that matter?

Their Talk Show Personas
This was basically summed up by their performances at the Oscars. Jennifer Lawrence: self-deprecating, sharp as a really sharp knife, doesn’t take anything (least of all Hollywood and diets) seriously. Anne Hathaway: flamboyant, earnestly passionate, JUST SO MUCH. This excites people and bums people out respectively.

But of all their television appearances, I remember one for each of them most distinctly. I remember Jennifer Lawrence on Letterman, defending an unflattering image of her butt, insisting that it wasn’t really her butt at all. What’s so “down to earth” about that? I think, more than anything, it’s sort of nice that J-Law is as insecure as I am about her butt, but on the flip-side, her even caring about such a triviality (when she always INSISTS, by making joke after joke about Hollywood’s obsession with thinness, that dieting is THE WORST. Sidebar: I can, in fact, vouch for the fact that dieting is the worst), negates all her “I don’t give a shit what you think of me” palaver. In sum: Jenny is just as vapid as everyone else who cares about their body looking gross in photos. Yay!

I remember Anne Hathaway also defending her body, but in stark contrast, she did it with such a dignified, poisonous tongue, it was truly a wonder to behold. After the famous picture of her bare vagina did the rounds on the Internet, Anne appeared on the Today show and very articulately, very gracefully, ripped Matt Lauer’s face off with her words, and made a BRILLIANT, STANDING OVATION WORTHY segue into talking about Les Mis. It was a big, bold, showy moment for Anne, but it made my heart absolutely flutter because she didn’t just stand up for herself, she stood up for women, AND promoted her product. Simply wonderful.

Filmographies
I think we’re supposed to think of Jennifer Lawrence as a “real” actress and Anne Hathaway as a not-real actress pretending to be a real actress. I’m not sure why. Anne has more years under her belt than Jen, which generally means “more time to do rom coms”, but Silver Linings Playbook was, in my opinion, little more than a glorified rom com where J-Law just acted as an extension of her surly public persona. In fact, the only interesting thing in SLP was Jackie Weaver, bless her amazing accent. I haven’t seen Les Mis, but I did watch the bit where Anne sang in the trailer, and her performance seemed incredible, even though Les Mis looks like a pile of shit. So I guess we can just agree that Oscar movies suck.

While on the more serious side, Jen has Winter’s Bone and Anne has Rachel Getting Married, I think it’s more important to note that Jen has The Hunger Games and Anne has The Princess Diaries. The Princess Diaries has Julie Andrews. The Hunger Games has Lenny Kravitz and a dude who paints himself as moss. I believe I’ve made my point.

Nothing Really In Particuar, Just Because
At the end of it all, I think people just like Jennifer and don’t like Anne. I think it’s an instinctive thing, and maybe I was wrong when I said we shouldn’t be assessing them as women, because I think that might be precisely the reason why people have taken up arms the way they have in both cases.

Jennifer Lawrence is relatable because she’s “humble”; she eats McDonalds and acts undeserving of her status. Anne Hathaway is alienating because she’s entirely self-possessed and brash. Perhaps we ask our women to be talented, but not pompous in that talent; loud, but only when she’s denouncing herself; elegant, but fallible, prone to falling down. My question is, do we ask the same of men? Is there any feat of self-aggrandizing flagrant theatre and other bullshit that Robert Downey Jr., George Clooney or Christian Bale could participate in that would lead us to brand them the same way we brand Anne Hathaway?

Jennifer Lawrence is lovable to people, generally, because she’s safe; because you could be her friend and just hang out in your sweats and talk about periods and hamburgers. And that’s great. But every woman should also have a friend like Anne to teach us that it’s OK to love yourself and to be yourself (I mean she’s not killing puppies is she?), no matter how obnoxiously grandiose that self is.

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February 20, 2013

There are some guys you’re just not supposed to have a crush on, no matter how strikingly good looking they are. Generally this is because they portray themselves as utter douchebags with a shitty personality or are vain or decadent or otherwise wear shell necklaces and look like they “dig” Nickelback. Basically, some people are just lame even if all signs point to not lame (i.e. talented, smart, rich, traditionally handsome etc.) Here are 5 guys I have a bean boner for, and do not be mistaken—I would choose any one of these lame-ass fellas over Ryan Gosling any day.

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Adam Levine

I want to marry Adam Levine, and he’s pretty much the opposite of everything I’m looking for in a man; especially “humble” and “subtle.” I mean, Adam Levine is the worst. But he’s the most compelling man on earth, precisely because I think he’d say horribly dicky but completely sincere things and well, let’s face it, visually, he’s a work of art. I get the feeling he’s probably into some psychologically questionable stuff in bed too, like adult diapers or something, which isn’t really my thing but it’s still intriguinAlso, I’ll always love that Maroon 5 song about the guy who stands outside all night in the rain because he likes this girl who is irreparably broken (I cried when that tubby dude in the first season of Australian Idol sang it. Granted I was 17 at the time, but still). And then there’s the possibility that I might get to hang with Xtina.

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Mark Foster

Remember when “Pumped Up Kicks” came out and everyone was like “Oh this band rules it’s like the new Passion Pit or Grizzly Bear or something totally cool and indie and Brooklyn but with a chill West coast vibe”? And then all the other songs came out and we collectively shit in a paper bag and burned it on Foster The People’s doorstep? I was part of that lynching, but I’ve harbored a secret wet patch for Mark Foster the whole time, mostly because I think he’d be an even bigger ass than Adam Levine (I think Adam would just want to be held and coo-ed at and had his beautiful, lovely ego stroked), acting like he’s way too good to ever get with a pleb like me. And Goddamn it I love when guys in shit bands reject me. 

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Rob Thomas

What I feel for Rob is the opposite of what I feel about Adam and Mark; I think Rob would just be the sweetest, most dorky dude ever. I mean, his favorite band is the Foo Fighters, but for real, and I bet he’d defend their “new stuff” to the grave, which is super adorable.

And don’t pretend like “Smooth” isn’t the best song you’ve ever heard; I SEE YOU.

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Pierce Brosnan as James Bond

This is the biggest secret I’ll ever reveal about myself publicly, and that is that of the more contemporary Bonds, I like Brosnan-Bond better than Craig-Bond. Maybe it’s because Daniel Craig looks like he’d have a dick as thick as his neck, which terrifies me (that’s a certified demolition waiting to happen), whereas Pierce is so dashing and perfectly proportioned, you know he’d squeeze hard, but just the perfect amount of hard that makes it sexy. He’s the Irish George Clooney, but wildly underrated as a sex symbol, I’m guessing because of his hairy chest and the fact that he was “Shiny Gadgets!” Bond.

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Kevin Sorbo

Kevin Sorbo is a jerk-ass Republican with some pretty conservative views about women’s vaginal rights, but hot damn, dude was HERCULES, and I’m a total dweeb. That’s like a dude who spent the better part of his teenage years playing action role play games like Diablo II saying they’re not madly in love with Lucy Lawless. Except that Lucy Lawless is at least 17 times cooler than the Sorbs (she can fly, she dates Ron Swanson, she’s Lucy Lawless, etc.), although he does get points for his cameo on Don’t Trust The B.

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February 12, 2013

It’s no coincidence that on the most romantic day of the year, 20th Century Fox will release the fifth installment of the most romantic movie ever made—Die Hard.

There’s very little that’s not romantic about Die Hard. John McClane kills all the terrorists INCLUDING Alan Rickman to save his best babe at Christmas time EVEN THOUGH she’s being a major butt-hole. It’s like The Notebook minus Ryan Gosling and basically everything else (except the romance), PLUS Bruce Willis and lots of wanton killing of baddies. I mean, what woman doesn’t want to be embraced by a hot, sweaty, musclebound bald dude covered in blood and grime while the world burns in the background?

If you want to impress the ladies (me) this Valentine’s Day, just ask yourself “What Would John McClane Do?” (Hint: it’s all about grand gestures).

Kill All The Terrorists

I’ve already touched on this point, but gratuitous, bloody murder is kind of hot when the dudes being killed are a) killing innocent people for no reason and b) ruthlessly cold blooded  and c) the worst. It’s pretty unlikely you’re going to be faced with a hostile takeover of an office building on Valentine’s Day (but if perchance you are, TAKE IT DOWN, I say. Using nothing but your wits, bad attitude and bare hands), and killing is pretty wrong when it’s not in movies, so you’re going to have to get creative here in order to impress.

Is your babe “held hostage” at work by a tyrannical boss? Definitely don’t harm your lover’s employer in any way whatsoever, but feel free to army roll into her office with a bunch of flowers duct taped to your back. Ahead of this, send in a mule (alive) with “Ho, ho, ho, now you’ve got some roses” written across his chest in blood red glitter and love hearts.

Alternately, you can run across broken glass with bare feet to show her how tough you are.

Do Good Airport Etiquette

John McClane cared enough to meet his lady at the gate—you should too. Not the baggage carousel, not the “pick-up and drop off zone”; AT THE GATE. While you should probably avoid any shenanigans that might lead you to, I don’t know, say, you riding one of those snow jet-ski things through the snow while apprehending yet more terrorists, do be sure that if you see something, you SAY SOMETHING. McClane would NOT ignore an unattended bag at an airport.

Solve Riddles

For the love of New York City, in Die Hard: With a Vengeance McClane scampered about solving all sorts of nonsense riddles like the one about two jugs and some water, which I still don’t get. With New York being the most romantic city in the world, and Die Hard the most romantic movie, you should set up a Die Hard-themed scavenger hunt across Manhattan, where your gal needs to solve riddles to survive win the prize of your undying love. Bonus points if you can somehow trick Samuel L. Jackson into joining your rag-tag mischief.

Hang Out With Justin Long…

… Who is pretty much the most annoying dude on earth. McClane hung out with him for agessssss in Live Free or Die Hard, and he didn’t even do it out of romantic love, but rather, the love of a father (which instantly gives him at least seventeen Sexy Man Points for being Dad Of The Year), even though his daughter, like her mom before her, is a major butthole. The moral of the story is that if you can endure hanging out with someone really, really annoying in order to do your familial duty, you’ll look like a “decent” dude, and no matter what the Katy Perry-John Mayer union may have you believe, chicks DIG “decent” dudes.

It wouldn’t hurt to purposefully shoot yourself in the shoulder to kill a bad guy either. Yipee ki-yay, motherfucker.

KEEP ON COMING BACK

If we’ve learned anything from McClane, it’s that you can’t put a good dog down—he just keeps on coming back for more. Just when your lady thinks she’s seen the best of you, give her another sequel. Ate four tacos at dinner? Pussy, make it five! Four long-stemmed roses? OWN THOSE ROSES GIVE HER FIVE. A romantic stroll to 4th Ave? Take it one more block and make 5th your bitch! Just had sex four times? Surprise, hit it baby, ONE MORE TIME!

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February 5, 2013

You know when you see something on a movie or a television show, and without even realizing it, you take that thing on as an arbitrary truth, no matter how ridiculous the thing in question is? If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, ask yourself this: have you ever been at the airport, about to catch a long haul flight, and visualized your lover catching up with you at the gate and begging you not to leave with a passionate embrace? Have you ever bumbled your way through a job interview but had the nagging hope that perhaps you endeared yourself to your potential employer by reminding them of themselves at your age? HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT THAT MAYBE TIME TRAVEL IS PROBABLY (DEFINITELY) REAL?

Film and TV feed us extortionate lies that we’re not even aware we’re consuming most of the time. And none so glaring as the Myth of The Bubble Bath.

There will be lots of bubbles

Screen shot 2013-02-01 at 2.01.44 PM

Look at Chandler and Monica, all romantic in that pristine kingdom of ever rising bubbles. In reality, they’d be in a tepid cesspool of human skin bits and other filth, with some vague floating bits of froth that really just look like the dregs of dishwasher detergent at best, rabid dog spit at worst. Of course, there is that glorious moment when you first pour the bubble bath mixture into the water, so that when you submerge yourself it’s like you’re a Care Bear soaring through the fluffy white clouds. But for some reason it only takes mere seconds for the foam party to dissolve so you can not only see all your special parts magnified and distorted beneath the surface, but the actual, completely disturbing, sort-of-greyish color of the water.

Congratulations movies, you’ve made laying in a dank swamp of joyless filth all the more bleak by setting your unrealistic expectations.

It will be sexy

PrettyWoman

Have you ever tried to have a sexy bath with someone? Pretty Woman would have you believe that sexiness at bath time is as easy as laying back and wrapping your legs around your lover. WRONG. Having a sexy bath is the worst, most awkward, and inevitably embarrassing thing two humans can do together, unless your idea of a sensual romp is taking a ride on the weirdest water slide ever.

Instead of gracefully slipping onto your lover like the seductive nymph you are, you’ll flop about ontop of them like a fish that’s been thrown out on the deck of a boat. THERE IS NO FRICTION, YOU CANNOT CONNECT. You might as well rub yourselves down in olive oil and try to wrestle on a polished wood floor i.e. it’s not happening and you look stupid.

You will look attractive

mena-suvari

The bath scene in American Beauty sums up the fantasy of how people look in a bath, because Mena Suvari looks perfect, which happens to be the fantasy of Kevin Spacey, which OMG, meta. Every single bath I’ve ever seen in a movie has its participants look like glistening water fairies, embodying that strange intersection between the innocence of rebirth and the tantalizing scandal of nudity.

Want to know what you really look like when you’re taking baths? Like a woman in labor; sweaty, flushed and vulnerable, but completely gross. Sweat mo, frizzy humidity hair and panda eyes a pretty picture do not make. Give it 5 minutes though and childbirth is replaced by child; yes, your skin is now prune-y and red and you look like you just emerged from the womb.

You can do other stuff in there

Reading? Talking on the phone? Writing your novel? Eating fried chicken? The movies would have you believe you can do it all while you’re in the bath. Why, just look at Scarface, all smoking cigars and changing the TV channel and arguing with Michelle Pfeiffer while he’s laying about in water. But you can’t always have it all. Babies AND a career? Sure, you can have that, but when it comes to multitasking while bathing, it’s time to let your dreams of doing the taxes while having a soak die with the bubbles.

As someone who once tried to smoke a cigarette in a spa (pretty much the same thing as a bath, it’s a large, ceramic hole filled with warm to hot water), I can tell you everything you touch gets soggy, whether you dry your hands before or not. Just about the only thing you can do while in a bath is drink a beer, but even that will go warm faster than you can say “scrub me down, Scotty!”

It will be comfortable and relaxing

christina-applegate-dont-tell-mom

It’s been a long hard day. You killed your babysitter, your younger siblings won’t quit annoying you, and you just want to take a load off and unplug from the matrix. So you run a bath, pour in some bubbles, rest your head back on the cold bathroom tiles and shut your eyes to dream, right? WRONG.

To start with, you won’t be able to get the temperature right; when you first get in it will be scalding and you won’t be able to breathe for the steam, then you’ll have about one minute of comfortable warmth before you’re shivering in a bowl of lukewarm water. You won’t be able to rest your head anywhere because it’s uncomfortable and it HURTS and what’s more you’ll be sliding about (see above) in an attempt to defy the physics of wet skin on smooth bath surface. You will not be comfortable, you will not be relaxed; in fact, you will be MORE stressed than you were before you decided to take a stupid bath in the first place.

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