“Reputation” Review:” Who’s Taylor Swift Anyway?

If there’s one thing Taylor Swift wants you to know, it’s that the Old Taylor is dead. You definitely knew her; the Taylor who sat in the bleachers with her t-shirt longing from a distance, who stood on the VMA stage, mouth agape, as Kanye West grabbed the mic from her and declared Beyoncé “Single Ladies” to be superior. The one who danced awkwardly at every award show as if she forgot the whole world was watching. New Taylor doesn’t give press interviews ahead of album releases. In fact, she’s almost fully retreated from the spotlight and has embraced being the villain because, yes she knows what you say about her on the internet. 

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Saoirse Ronan Soars in Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird”

“I just want you to be the best version of yourself.”

“What if this is the best version?”

Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, Lady Bird, is about a lot of things. It’s a coming of age story about a high school senior coming into her own, although she hasn’t quite figured out who she’d like to be yet. It’s an earnest and honest portrait of growing up with aspirations and dreams yearning to break through the restrictive boundaries of your small, familiar town. But first and foremost, it’s about a mother and a daughter, their complicated love for one another and how similar they are despite their insistence that they couldn’t be more different. Gerwig has taken one of film’s oldest tropes and made it feel brand new.

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“I, Tonya” Review: “But Do You Really Know?”

It’s actually kind of unbelievable that it’s taken this long for the story of Tonya Harding to make it to the big screen. As one of the characters in I, Tonya says at one point, the story has all the makings of a movie; it was the story that (pre-O.J. Simpson) captured everyone’s attention, and gave us one of history’s most infamous underdogs turned anti-heroes. 

Working from a script written Steven Rogers (Hope FloatsStepmom), director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl) attempts to let Tonya’s hear side of the story, and if she has anything to say about it, she wants you to know that none of it was her fault. Much like the woman at the center of it all, I, Tonya is anything but conventional. It’s rigid, unapologetically sloppy but undeniably fascinating and entertaining; I dare you to try and look away. The humor is biting and dark in a way that may make you second guess your laughter. But don’t worry, Gillespie knows everyone is in on the joke and makes sure that you are too.  

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Again and Again: “Happy Death Day” is A Surprisingly Subversive Horror-Comedy

Theresa “Tree” Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) just can’t catch a break. After waking up in a strange boy’s (The Blind Ring’s Israel Broussard) dorm room after a night of heavy drinking, Tree is fighting a killer headache and must do the walk of shame, in which she tries to unsuccessfully attempts to dodge a pesky student protestor, a guy she’s been ghosting, and her sorority sisters. Later, she will be confronted with the wife of the professor she’s been having an affair with, but now she’s late for her surprise party because there’s a masked murderer trying to kill her. Oh, did I mention it’s also her birthday?

If this sounds like life is playing some cruel joke on her, then just wait till you hear the punchline. When the masked killer does in fact kill Tree (and they do), she wakes up again on the morning of her birthday, doomed to live out the same excruciating day again and again, and again until she can solve the mystery of her murder. 

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Oh “mother!” Darren Aronofsky’s Lurid Fever Dream

Darren Aronofsky’s first film since 2014’s Noah is, to put it simply, a lot. That’s certainly saying something; this is the director of Requiem for A Dream and Black Swan after all. But mother! makes those films feel like an warm up in a much larger exercise in psychological terror. The marketing campaign for mother! has revolved around keeping direct details about the film’s plot shrouded in secrecy. As the film has played at various film festivals, Aronofsky has moderated Q&A’s and screenings, hyping up the movie’s disturbing and polarizing nature. 

“Sorry for what I’m about to do,” he said on the stage at the Toronto Film Festival, going on to describe the film as “an assault” and “a cruise missile shooting into a wall.” “At the film’s premiere, he told reporters that, “You’re all really going to hate me in about an hour and a half.” 

There’s something to be said about a director wearing the negative press about his film like a badge of honor (Cinemascore revealed yesterday that audience members gave the film a rare F grade). In the case of mother! and Aronofsky, it only adds to my frustrations about the film. As I said, mother! is certainly a lot, and I did find my mouth hanging wide open during some moments, including the ludicrous climax, but not for the reasons the director/writer may have been hoping.

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Give Nicole Kidman A Goddamn Emmy

The 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards are next Sunday, and the category on everyone’s minds is undoubtedly the tightest race: Outstanding Lead Actress in Limited Series or Movie.

This is perhaps the most star studded category at the Emmy’s in recent memory. To give some context on just how stacked this category is, not even Oprah could get in for her acclaimed performance in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (even though the film itself was recognized with a nomination). Instead, Emmy voters decided to recognize both of the leads from Feud: Bette and Joan and Big Little Lies, along with Carrie Coon from Fargo (a sort of makeup for not finding room for her over in the Drama Actress category where she really belonged?) and mainstay Felicity Huffman from American Crime. But once you get past the star power, there is only one true winner here, and that is Kidman.

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All the Colors of Kesha’s Beautiful “Rainbow”

“I got too many people / I got left to prove wrong,” Kesha sings softly on “Bastards,” the first track on her third studio album Rainbow. With just a guitar and a beautiful, raw vocal performance, Kesha lays the album’s mission statement bare in the LP’s opening moments. 

“Been underestimated / My entire life,” she continues in the second verse before declaring “They won’t break my spirit / I won’t let ’em win,” encouraging listeners not to “let the bastards get you down.” It’s a simple message, but one that carries the weight of the world within the story of Kesha Rose Sebert. After languishing in a grim legal battle for the last several years with former producer and mentor Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, who according to the singer/songwriter also sexually and emotionally abused her throughout her career, Rainbow is more than just a comeback album, it’s a musical and personal rebirth. 

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“Praying:” The Magnitude of Kesha’s Return

When Kesha Rose Sebert exploded onto the music scene in 2009, she was something of a wild card. Armed with nothing but the ironic dollar sign in her name (which she has since dropped) and a bunch of glitter, she took the industry by storm. Her inescapable debut single “TiK ToK” would go on to become the second best-selling song of all time and with several successful follow-up singles and a multiplatinum #1 album, she was thrusted into the upper echelon along with Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Katy Perry. By comparison, her image and brand was much less polished; she sang about brushing her teeth with a bottle of jack, and in an interview she casually recounted a time when her vagina was haunted by a ghost. She was a breath of fresh air.

While her party girl aesthetic was hardly new to the world of pop, she sold it in a way that was uniquely her own. She had a deep connection with her fans, affectionately called “animals,” and wrote “We R Who We R” at a time when suicides within the LGBTQ community were making headlines left and right. When she said her mission was to make people just have fun on her short lived reality show, “My Crazy Beautiful Life,” you really believed it. Here was a woman who genuinely wanted to brighten the world with her creativity, and show people that being their true selves was something to be celebrated. But while the party was raging on through the release of her EP Cannibal and follow up album Warrior, something was brewing beneath the surface. Everyone else seemed to be loving the party, except the person that mattered the most: Kesha. 

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