the pleasure of a terrible guilty binge

This weekend I fell into a vortex of bad television. Do you have TV show you hate to admit to watching? Mine is embarrassing. Like, really really embarrassing. I have to preface the name of the show with a yes I know this show is terrible and anti-feminist and trashy and portrays Americans at their worst.

Have I built it up enough yet?

Toddlers and Tiaras.

Ok.

It’s out now.

Yes – I know. Toddlers and Tiaras, the TLC series with an impressive rating of 1.8 out of 10 on IMDB. Toddlers and Tiaras, pretty much universally hated and looked down upon. As a college-educated, New York Times reading, Atlantic Monthly subscriber, an avid reader of literature, I should know better. I gladly look down upon people who love 50 Shades of Gray and usually avoid most “low-brow” entertainment, unless I enjoy it ironically like the Real Housewives Franchise.

But I can’t even ironically watch it. I know the show is rotting the brains out of my head, but I still love it. It is darn entertaining and I discovered the ninth season this past weekend and binged the whole damn thing over a couple of days.

Why? Why am I so amused watching 2-year-olds put on eyeliner and wigs? What about the frantic Moms, running around hotel hallways, late, swearing, bellies flopping all over, what pulls me in and entraps me so?

My guess is it’s the combination of a real-look into everyday people’s lives, unfiltered, that really intrigues me. Because, most of the pageant moms, they are putting up their airs trying to appear a certain way, but it is usually easy to see through their air-tanned facade. TLC has a way of showing silent shots of a cluttered house, desperate moments of an interviewed Mom blinking as they realize what they just said was utterly ridiculous, that makes this stupid show somehow seem endearing. At least, to me. There are layers upon layers of meaning if you really look close.

Plus, the kids are always amusing. The bratty ones slapping their mom’s in the face make me feel like I’m raising my kids right, and the super dedicated kids, who learn crazy routines and look happy on stage performing the, well, a part of me hope my own kids find a passion they love. Not a passion of pageants, of course, but just a passion for some event or hobby.

Anyway, my weekend wasted away, I’ve learned nothing practical or insightful about life by watching this silly show, but I was entertained and amused so I guess that’s worth something. And now I’m all caught up on the stupid insipid show and can go on with my life until the next season is released….

 

bLAh bLAh Land

It’s the movie everyone is raving about. It’ll win a sh*t ton of Oscars. La La Land came out late last year and everyone, critics to regular people, love it. This movie has many facets that should add up to me loving it: it’s a musical, it stars two celebrities I like, and usually movies with accolades are movies I like too.

But, it just didn’t do it for me.

Two caveats affect my opinion.

First, my husband and I watched it from home, on the internet. You can deduce since it still is in theaters this means the quality of video/sound wasn’t ideal. On a good day, I have issues hearing clearly (so much so I’ve started turning on Closed Captioning for all my shows) so maybe I couldn’t fully understand all the songs. Perhaps this is why I also though Gosling and Stone had such weak singing voices… but doesn’t make up for the lack of spark in the dialogue or plot.

Secondly, I’m deep into season two of Crazy-Ex Girlfriend and La La Land just pales in comparison. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is witty, snarky, the songs are tight and catchy. The acting is incredible. Maybe my “musical” entertainment ability is maxed out and I can’t enjoy anything else right now.

After watching hours of Rachel Bloom dance and sing her heart out, looking healthy and alive, seeing Emma Stone was a shock. “She’s so thin”, I kept commenting to my husband, like an old cranky lady on the subway, “She needs to eat something”.

Ryan Gosling is steely and handsome as always, but he can’t sing. I don’t understand why such a big-budget Hollywood movie felt the need to cast these two actors as leads. There are plenty of people looking to make it in the biz who would have brought life and joy to the screen.

Now, I’m not suggesting all musicals are the same. Just because they are both musicals doesn’t mean it’s a fair comparison. But La La‘s story and execution didn’t capture my attention at all. I felt no sympathy for Stone’s character’s plight of “struggling actress barista” and even less for Gosling’s “struggling jazz player trying to save jazz” character.

People are loving the return to classic “Musical Movie” with this, and it is a good distraction from the mess of current day news. Perhaps I’m an old grump nick-picking on La La. But my honest opinion from the opening number was “underwhelmed”.

But, like I said, maybe the excellent Crazy-Ex is making me judge this movie to0 harshly. My husband certainly loved it. He’s playing the music on repeat on our Amazon Alexa. I do like the elements of jazz with the soundtrack, but once the singing comes on it’s just, blah. Give me a song about “Heavy Boobies” over “City of Stars” any day.

crazy-ex-girlfriend
Seriously. Do yourself a favor and start streaming this show. It’s sooo brilliant.

bad moms

I’m writing something different today. I’ve felt a bit of writer’s block lately, but, as this is my space for whatever I want, I’m reviewing the movie Bad Moms.

I’ll preface it by noting I’ve heard only good reviews from other moms. It’s the movie everyone (everymom?)  can universally agree on- it’s funny and relatable. My friends told me they laughed so hard they cried while watching it.

Now, my snobby inner critic must present itself here.

I sort of expected to not like this movie, based on the word-of-mouth alone.

I know. It’s super pretentious and ridiculous to think so highly of my own taste. That’s a personal problem.

But, I just expected a movie full of cliches and embarrassing moments.

Now, here’s how my predictions were wrong.

Bad Moms is amusing. I think I chuckled several times. I nodded my head in agreement with many of the stereotypical scenes of mommyhood featured. The plot is predictable from the get-go, but the story is lively enough that it doesn’t feel dragged down.

There are some problems I had with the story, though. The characters are one dimensional. Christina Applegate’s character disses Mila Kunis’s for working and being away from her kids all day (yet the kids are old enough to be in school, so what is a mom supposed to do? Sit around all day at home pining for their children?) yet in another scene they make fun of Kristen Bell’s character for being a stay-at-home-mom.

Which one is it? Is this meta? Proof you can’t win, no matter what you do? These discrepancies don’t come off as symbolic, it just seems a little sloppy.

It also annoyed me Bell’s character has 4 young kids, none of them old enough to enroll in Middle School, yet she goes to the PTA meetings and is at school drop-off for some reason. These are the type of issues that bother me about the plot, but overall it didn’t really matter to the story.

The movie relies on way too many “loud-music-montage” scenes. Like, way too many. There are at least five of them- blaring loud pop music, and the mom’s having a good old time, drinking wine or walking seductively out of houses or making out with old grocery store clerks. It feels manipulative and they could have cut at least three of them.

That said, I do have to give kudos to Hollywood for producing a mainstream movie featuring just women. And these women aren’t pining after men. Kunis’ character doesn’t seem heartbroken when she catches her husband cheating on her, it’s just a small subplot. I kept expecting the slutty Mom to get her due in the form of realizing having random sex isn’t fulfilling, but, they kept her character completely one-dimensional in a good way. The chick just loves sex and they didn’t make us question it.

And that’s the refreshing part of Bad Moms. All these character problems I see, the corny music, the predictability, it’s all not great; but it’s the same level of not-greatness of any other male-centric raunchy comedy. Does Will Ferrell play complex characters in Old School or Talladega Nights? Do we expect him to? No! It’s pretty awesome Hollywood took a chance on a movie like this, and this so-so movie has grossed over $181 million dollars to date. $181 million dollars. That is awesome and I predict it’ll lead to more female-driven movies just like this that are dumb and silly and aren’t romantic comedies.

I watched this movie with H sleeping soundly in my arms and a can of IPA and my husband next to me. Perhaps if I’d gone and seen it in the theater with my girlfriends I would have laughed harder. The community feel of it, hearing all the other ladies in the crowd loving seeing normal women and normal problems on screen, maybe I would have felt more affection for it that way. The theaters were probably the same atmosphere as the “Thunder Down Under” in Vegas; when you are there it’s the best thing ever and a sort of female hysteric mode gets into you, but when you watch the same guys at home on your TV alone, it’s just not the same thing. They are just silly guys dancing with their shirts off.

So, all in all, there are lots of things to appreciate about Bad Moms, and most of all, it’s the fact that it’s just another unremarkable dumb movie remarkable for featuring a cast of all females. Girl Power!