What to Watch: Winter Movie Round-up

Oscar season has folks running to the movie theater. Is this the year Leo DiCaprio finally takes home that golden statue? Will he ban it like some members of the African American community think he should in order to support the black community or take after Marlon Brando, have someone else accept and then reject it for him? Either way, Leo deserves to win.

Office politics on a global scale are aside from the point, here are some of the films I’ve seen this winter:

  1. The Revenant: no one is laughing. The White Walkers would be no match for Leo’s depth of spirit and determination to get justice served. There was no snickering or leaving the theatre for this battle of the elements, man and the politics of the era. Never has Tom Hardy been so revile. We also got to see my quiet crush, Domhnall Gleeson as the sweet, yet naive captain.
  2. Joy– now before you join me in the when-is-Jennifer-Lawerence going to be likable, haven’t we had enough of her for the time being table, let’s say I watched this one because my family wanted to watch it. I was reluctant, aside from J.Law, the trailer didn’t wow me, and I kept thinking really? Bradley Cooper, DeNiro & J.Law? Ugh. We’ve been there…with the same producers. However, I watched it and damn. Shazam. I was wowed. It was damn good and inspirational. Everyone who has had an idea or a dream they left on the table due to a misstep in their youth, should watch this film.
  3. Train Wreck– There is a spoiler alert in here. It was more enjoyable then any other Judd Apatow-involved film. Amy Schumer was great, to a point. Then, it reverted to the same devices any other rom com uses to resolve, with a charming ending, but still why must we always find that the only way for a woman to be happy does she half to be half-naked? Is that a distraction for eating humble pie or just another distraction showing the character hasn’t grown that much, just enough to make everyone in their life who always forgives them, love them enough to go another ten rounds.
  4. Hateful 8 – was a snowy, miserable, painfully slow bloated Tarantino film. My boyfriend loved it. I tried to not fall asleep. If only he wasn’t as indulged, there could have been half an hour less to this movie, no intermission – the last time I remember hearing about one was vaguely as a child, Ghandi had one. This is not Ghandi, it will not give you inspiration but some of the acting is excellent. The overuse of racial slurs towards Samuel L. Jackson, were a bit much to take. We got the point Quentin. If you want to see Channing Tatum be horrible in a charming way, the second half will reward you, but when the break came I was ready to leave.
  5. Brooklyn – thought this one would speak to my Irish heritage. Instead, her millennial indecision annoyed me to no end. I kept waiting for something to happen, so did she. Don’t let life make your decision, make them for yourself. I would rather sit through the uneven, should-have-been-an-SNL sketch, Tina Fey & Amy Poehler  comedy “Sisters” again, then watch this. Perhaps I was annoyed she left my ginger crush, Domhnall Gleeson, to believe she was interested when she was being selfish. What I didn’t like about this film was that there were no consequences to the characters lies by inaction. She left a wake of tears, but she was happy. Well, isn’t that uplifting? No.
  6. In The Heart of The Sea– swoon hard, swoon in 3-D at Mr. Chris Hemsworth, but don’t expect a lot of plot in this one. Ron Howard expressed his excitement at using 3D, inspired by the film “Life of Pi,” which was an excellent film. Mr. Howard, you abused 3D in this film, as if you were an NYU film student learning how to use a camera. There was a serious lack of character developement but oh Thor, you are handsome and you have beautiful blue eyes.

RENTALS: This is winter. Finally.

  1. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation – all the banter and fun that was missing from James Bond, can be found in this great romp of a movie. Two thumbs up, a little sad I missed this one in the theaters, but it was gone fast. It’s definitely worth watching over say The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
  2. The Women in Gold – another film, but smaller that I had wanted to see in theaters. The story of the rightful owner, Maria Altman, who fled the Nazis in Austria seeking the Klimt’s painting of her Aunt Adele (pronounced A-dell-ee, not like the singer), which was claimed by the Austrian government and placed in their museum. It’s a wonderful film starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds. I love when a film showcases a relationship and determination of two people, who are unlikely to come together, thinking neither party will teach the other one.
  3. Everest – another true story. Why climb it? Because it’s there. I can’t imagine what would make me want to climb Everest after seeing this film and what you could happen to you as you climb, your body literally dying with each step. This film showed some of the worst and selfish parts of humanity. It showcased ego wanting to triumph over nature, and then getting ego’s ass being thrown off a mountain by its pure arrogance. The hero of the story for me was Peach, the wife left behind in Texas who rallied her minions to get a helicopter for her dying husband to get him off the damn mountain, where he had been left to die by people he paid $65,000 to be there.

NETFLIX & CHILL:

1. Jessica Jones – (series, not a film) Turn it into a drinking game by taking a shot every time Kristin Ritter pouts or there is some serious hot sex…so maybe you can have some too. Not something I could power watch because of all the pouting. Still, love a deviant, reluctant superhero- yes, that means I’m going to see “Deadpool,” despite how awful Ryan Reynold’s Green-Film-He-Got-Blake-Lively-From-As-Well-As-Paid. Ritter pulls it off and manages to pull back my interest just when I think I can’t take her pouting anymore. Great plot twists.

2. The ReWrite – this is a charming film helmed by Hugh Grant. Hugh plays a washed-up rogue writer and does it well. If you are looking for a fun film with banter insert Marisa Tome. Add reluctance, social missteps, a few literary quotes and Hugh Grant and you’ll be laughing with this one.

TV (Bonus):
Tyrant – I loved the first season. They went so far in each episode it was truly well-timed with all that is going on in the Middle East. The second season started off the same, then got quite annoying, so much so I started going back and catching up with British reality TV like “Come Dine With Me” and the ever-entertaining “Don’t Tell The Bride,” which is a great concept and never disappoints for awkwardness and dreadful “oh, hell no, he. Did. Not. Do. That! She can’t marry him!” But, after the holiday season, I caught up on the last episode and it’s back to a place where I can be intrigued again, leaving out a lot of the soap opera and focusing on the action of political decisions. This series explores the tricky lines of moral compasses, with less cursing and jazz than “Homeland.”

Music (Bonus):

X-Ambassadors “Love Song, Drug Song” may be Brooklyn’s answer to The Kings of Leon, and I love it.

King Charles–  one of my favorite artists I’ve ever worked with, is also extremely talented. I’ll never forget how all the women in the office found a way to come to my office when he was in there for two hours. He is highly entertaining. He was an absolute dream when we trekked through the living hell that SXSW can be to manage and gave his full KC charm to a small room of people at his showcase there. A true talent.

Hope you enjoyed that. Note, as much as I love film and TV, I am reading two books about product management and a novel called “Smoke,” which is riveting.

How I Would Recast The Role of James Bond’s Q…Ramble

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As I walked out of Spectre last night with two friends, we recast the movie. While we enjoyed different aspects, it became clear that while classic Bond in many ways, when setting up characters of the past in this current franchise, there was a lot to be desired.

I tried to shake my head of internal quips about the appearance of Grumpy Cat’s cousin popping up and ten other camp moments in the film. It’s Bond, but it was lacking intentional jokes in one key area, which always added charm to Bond’s character.

Q – a classic role, which always led to great, cheeky banter, looks laughable when standing next to Bond. The jokes fell flat- he orders Bond a detox drink, then doesn’t even get to stay in the scene while Bond tells the server to skip a step and throw it down the drain.

When Q is faced with two dangerous men from Spectre, an organization which encourages members to present their resumes by killing one another, Q evades them rather than engages them entirely. Previous Quartermasters were older, but all would have had to go through combat training. How about we stop with the stereotypical nerd who has to hide in a closet as he method of self preservation? Instead, add some diversity and gravity to the role by casting Sendhil Ramamurthy (Heroes; Covert Affairs).

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It would be a lot more interesting if Q and Bond physically sparred with some of the cool toys (*quite devoid, due to the ‘department merger/cut’ battle faced as part of the plot line.) Let’s envision a boxing match between the two of them, Q chastising Bond about plummeting another car off a mountain/river/speedboat, etc. – now I’d really want to watch that. Q could have at least used his laptop to smack one of the bad guys in the head- mind over matter.

Let’s hope the next Bond film will “get the 007 program out of the Dark Ages,” the way the evil C (as in careless, not C*nt we were all thinking, come on now, M leaves the crud quips to Bond) intended by giving a little more meat to the supporting cast.

P.S. Applause to the wink-nod-homage to  ‘Jaws’ when Bond takes down the new Jaws character with four barrels. High five for that moment Sam Mendes.

Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty… Ramble

When I worked in Soho, NY the models going on go-see casting calls looked like fairies, dotting the often grey weather that fall. Since then, my interest in fashion has had a more concentrated interest. The colors and cuts of Alexander McQueen have made me sigh in wonderment many a time, none more so than at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.    My eyes fluttered. Here was magic, a different kind of spark than other fashion exhibits I have seen or even Fashion Week events. While the exhibit is based on one from The Met, which I didn’t catch, in 2011, only a year after McQueen’s death, the space and layout were extraordinary.  While the Death Becomes Her, mourning garments throughout history curated by Anna Wintour, at The Met, was historically interesting, there’s nothing I like more in fashion than drama, a real show. The McQueen exhibit includes quotes that enhanced the exhibit as to his own mix of self-awareness and inner turmoil. He was precise. He knew he was making a mark and he wanted to create conversations, arming women with a feminine touch. (The result of witnessing and also a victim of his older sister’s abusive first husband. She only found out about Alexander’s own abuse when he became an adult.)  It was a creative kick in the soul. I’m here, on this earth, go big. I wrote about the recent triad of deaths of men on the music & technology world. The McQueen exhibit was the exclamation point. So, whoever you are, be it a famous Olympian or a school teacher, everyone struggles, turn that struggle into a positive. Express it. Move in this life, not through it colorless. Those dreams, the ones you had once, but life got in the way, it’s never too late to make them a reality.

Americans have a tendency to value ourselves by our job titles, responding within a few minutes when a senior executive needs an answer. If you’re creative the world is your stage, exposure and criticism is expected, welcomed – at the same time, it can be a lot of pressure. Don’t let that pressure to fit into an easier pace of life, trap you into not taking creative risks. Thank you Alexander McQueen for the magic you shared with the world. Hope your tormented soul is laughing – you made your mark. Now, it’s my turn to do the same in my own life.

Bad Blood: When Professional Friendships Cross The Line…Ramble

Howard Jones sang “when you cross that line, there’s no turning back.” As we know Jane Austen’s beloved “Pride & Prejudice” leading man, Mark Darcy proclaimed “my good opinion is lost, it is lost forever.” When you work with people over a career, especially in a high-instensity work environment, friendships run deep. This is partly because, just like high school, your geographically aligned by profession, thrown together at the same tentpole events, repeatedly, and the long hours mean you have less opportunity to make new friends outside of your profession.

When you work in entertainment, more often than not, most of your friends will be fun, have big personalities and some hopefully, not completely surface level. You bond over the insanity of how not-glamourous it is,  how rockstars are babies who throw tantrums yet, it’s worth it, cause you just love music and film, etc. oh-so-much. Years go by and these bonds grow stronger, until, one day, you find out that friend you made an effort and made an effort to go beyond the confines of simply industry-related events, to become a true friend, has betrayed you in some way.

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What makes it worse, is if this betrayal bleeds into the professional part of your friendship. It becomes an insult the betrayer delivered a professional sucker punch, leaving you ready to launch a full-blown war because “you can’t fix a bullet, with a band-aid.” Good thing our girl Taylor Swift, goes there for you, allowing for when that mad love to bad blood, to be an anthem,  without having to draw blood yourself.

Thank you Taylor for giving us real humans a way to vent.  If you don’t have something nice to say, all you have to do is turn up “Bad Blood.”

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The Power of Three…Ramble

The past month many of us in the music tech and tech world lost three truly great men- John Loscalzo (MTV, CBS Radio & much more), Dave Goldberg (Survey Monkey, co-founder of Launch which became Yahoo! Music) and Michael Deputato (Universal.)

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When John passed I was speechless. My dear friend Courtney Smith called to tell me the news. John was her boss at MTV and her current role at CBS Radio. My brain could not take in what she was saying. John and I were not only colleagues at MTV Networks, we were neighbors. He owned the local news source, BrooklynHeightsBlog.com and we had only been in touch on a local issue the day prior.

John was a quirky guy with an offbeat sense of humor, who loved his wife Traci Zamot and daughter, Gracie with such joy, it couldn’t help but make you smile to see them together. He was only 51. He liked to scheme, to take part in local politics and he always did it with a tremendous grin on his face. Walking down the streets of the neighborhood after his passing, you can feel John noticing things to report on, delight in and rally in the air. A truly great human who is very much missed.

Then, last week, another friend sent me a Viber message asking if I had heard about Dave Goldberg’s sudden death. My first reaction was to curse, not very ladylike, but it was another blow. When I worked at Yahoo!, I loved to see Dave in action. There was one meeting, the first working day of the year, I’ll never forget. Dave was fired up in a good way. He wanted to counteract a bad contract. The head of legal shook his head – he had put in many months of work with his team and said the ink was still drying on the signatures. Dave was not happy with the terms and asked me for my support.

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It was a deal that effected the programming of the website for years afterward – and Dave was right in his stance. He didn’t need my support, he could’ve, like so many other powerful men, simply dictated for me to carry out his orders. He was a great leader who knew how to inspire and be real.

Between his fire and beliefs in what he did at work, and his big heart- Dave handed out roses to everyone on Valentine’s Day and hosted amazing annual Super Bowl parties with his wife, Sheryl Sandberg at their home in the Palisades, Dave never let anyone feel like he wasn’t interested in what they had to say, and a true example of people who are truly successful championing other people.

It was on Facebook that another smart and wonderful fellow, Jon Vanhala, broke the news of a lovely man, and long time colleague, Michael Deputato succumbed to brain cancer this past Saturday. I remember calling Michael when Spotify first launched in the U.S. to ask his advice about naming conventions. The account was handled by sales, but the only way to make a daily impact is to create playlists, which tapped into my music programming experience.

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While Michael and I discussed the account he asked me how many people were on my digital team. I’ll never forget his shock to find out I was a one person team with ten dotted-line reports, wok ring the active roster. After that Michael would call me to check in on me- and give me a bit of a sanity check. What a good man he was, as were Loscalzo and Dave Goldberg.

What I learned from these men is to pursue your passions, make time and notice people who need your help – most of all do something, so watch life from the sidelines.

Franzen is the Kanye West of Authors…Ramble

When Kayne West approached the Grammy stage to snatch Beck’s golden statue for Best Album of The Year, claiming it should have gone to Beyonce, he tried to make it a joke- at first. We all know the fall out, Kanye (for a completely different POV click on Kanye’s name) wasn’t kidding. He went on to say he doesn’t want to perform again at The Grammys until they change it to reflect popular sales. Hmm, then he went on to say it was an insult to artistry, but he hadn’t even listened to Beck’s album, Morning Phase, which had been hailed as a critical darling in indie circles. I also want to say his intro for Kanye’s own performance said it was his “most personal” and point out there is nothing less personal than using Autotune.

I’m not anti-Autotune, but let’s not kid ourselves. Here’s a link for Kanye and all the other people, who, instead of wanting to explore and make an informed rant, is Beck’s Morning Phase:

Well, now let’s turn to another accomplished, lauded artist, one who has graced the cover of TIME magazine for his work, won the Pulitzer Prize, Mr. Jonathan Franzen. Franzen has chosen to take many jabs at women’s fiction writer, Jennifer Weiner. While he hasn’t read her work, he says no one has told him it is a “must read” and she is using a real issue – the lack of review space given to female writers, as a platform to get attention when she doesn’t deserve it.

Dude. Come on, if you had read her work, I would think you had some valid points, but you are not A) her target demo B) too busy to take the take time to read it the way Kanye, who likes to call himself an arbiter of all things cultural, could have taken the time, pre-Grammys to listen to every album in the category of Best Albums that was nominated. If you never read or listen to music outside of what you like, how can you really know what is good and what is not?

As someone who has been paid to be a music programmer (Yahoo! Music & Vh1), and a writer, I have listened and read works I was not naturally drawn to, and found it not only expanded my knowledge, it expanded my own creativity. I don’t always agree with awards, mostly they are a broken thing, but they do help curate what is interesting.

I have read many award winning literary books which I found to lack a strong plot or interesting characters or deliver a good ending. How is Kanye’s lack of respect any different from Franzen’s? It negates their point, which might otherwise presented have been valid. If you are going to diss someone at least know what you are putting down and acknowledge that’s not going to be given to you as a suggestion because your crowd is caught up in one scene.

When you make statements, that have some merit, but no foundation of their own, it not only disrespects the other artist, it disrespects their fans. How likely am I to buy Kanye’s next album or his ridiculous Adidas lineKanye_3

How likely am I now to read another Jonathan Frazen book? The answer to all those questions, is highly unlikely, even if they have critical acclaim. Why should my cash line their pockets when they clearly value their own taste and are unwilling to leave room for anyone else’s? Fans who started the #whoisbeck Twitter campaign are also in need of some more cultural exposure. Why must we tweet about our own ignorance or make statements in the press about it? Why not show the courtesy to make an informed opinion and allow that while not your taste, it can be very important to other people.

My friend Courtney Smith’s book, Record Collecting For Girls, has a chapter on guilty pleasures. It was inspired by our conversations. I don’t believe in having musical guilty pleasures. If it speaks to you, if it helps you, touches you, makes you dance or feel good in any way, then go right ahead and enjoy it.

9780547502236_p0_v1_s260x420 However, Courtney calls bullshit on that in her book and says anyone who doesn’t say they have guilty pleasures is either boring or lying or an asshole. That was the chapter she read on a book panel we did during her book tour. I started with the question “did you call me an asshole?” We have lively debates to say the least, but during that panel people asked me the most questions because they wanted to know about the popular artists that I got to work with in pop music over obscure indie bands — yes, even in Brooklyn! Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world.

Popular doesn’t mean bad. Jennifer Weiner is a fun, great writer who writes heartfelt stories about women that I can relate to, in fact, she is one of the reasons I got a dog. She wrote in her novel “Good in Bed,” every writer should have a dog. So, thank you, Jennifer Weiner for not only providing me and many other women with entertaining fiction we want to read. Thank you for standing up for female authors getting equal press coverage. Thank you for using the platform you EARNED for sticking up for everyone else who does not have it.

The Real Fashion Bitches…Ramble

Our favorite canine fashionista, Mrs. Sizzle asked for Elle to come to Lincoln Center for a Fashion Week this past Saturday. As soon as we arrived it was a whirlwind of activity and visual adventures in every direction.

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Mrs. Sizzle has partnered with Swatch for a new line called Me and My Pet. See the Frenchie-faced watch I am showing Elle in the photos? Maybe it’s time to start wearing a watch again, instead of relying on my smartphone for the time.

From Hound & Tooth – a new fashion law of adorable socks for dogs, to Andy Duran and his blonde pomp, to Ruby Fang and Fashionsta Beca Alexander, Elle loved being in the spotlight. We even met a nice teenager walking away from Lincoln Center.

However, as the temperatures dropped, our excitement turned to disappointment. While waiting in a long queue outside Marc Jacob’s BookMarc, Elle started to shake. Despite a 6 p.m. kick-off for a charity event with Love Magazine, the line did not move for two hours. That was, until the arrival at 7 p.m. of Kendal Jenner. I am here nor there with Kendal, but I really wanted Elle to meet Marc’s dogs- Choo Choo Charlie and Neville Jacobs. It was a bummer to realize the non-moving queue was orchestrated to create maximum buzz around Kendal and Gigi Hamad switching places while hundreds of people froze for several hours in a line that wrapped around the block.

Once Elle started to shake we left. Fashion is a wonderful source of inspiration and fun, but Elle’s health comes first. Once I started walking, I realized my toes were numb. Thankfully there was no frostbite, but we still felt the ice.