HBO’s ‘The Sentence’ — A Gripping, Powerful Documentary

HBO Documentary, The Sentence ‘The Sentence,’ a new documentary by Rudy Valdez airing today on HBO, is one of the most powerful pieces of filmmaking I’ve seen in years. The documentary focuses on Cindy Shank, a woman who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Though the cocaine belonged to her boyfriend at the time, she broke the law by not reporting it. Her boyfriend was later murdered.

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Kirsten Bell Smokes Weed in Front of Sober Dax Shepard

Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard

Not too long ago in Los Angeles I saw Kristen Bell on a panel promoting ‘The Good Place,’ and I distinctly remember a weed joke. At the time, my first thought went to Dax Shepard, who is honest about his sobriety. “Should she be smoke weed when her husband is sober?” I thought.

While on ‘The View,’ Bell addressed the issue again, saying,  “If you’re not using your critical thinking skills and you can’t give me the benefit of the doubt in a situation and you just come at me, I don’t have time for that, I just don’t. I respond to positive things.”  Furthermore, Dax likened it to  “asking a diabetic spouse [not to] ever eat sugar in front of me.”

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JAY Z Defends His Anti-Semitic Song Lyrics With Unacceptable Response

Many of you are aware of my criticism against Jay Z’s anti-Semitic song lyrics on his new ‘4:44’ album, which includes the line, “You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America? This how they did it.” After being rightly called out for his bigoted choice of words on “The Story of O.J.”, the rapper has finally responded, and his viewpoint is both predictable and highly disappointing. According to Jay Z, the Jewish community is filled with hypocrites. He said, “As the Jewish community, if you don’t have a problem with the exaggerations of the guy eating watermelon and all the things that was happening [in the song’s music video], if you don’t have a problem with that, and that’s the only line you pick out, then you are being a hypocrite. I can’t address that in a real way. I got to leave that where it is. He went on to suggest that it is not to be taken literally because “of course I know Jewish people don’t own all the property in America.”

For starters, let me apologize for bothering Jay Z, because it’s clear from his tone that he finds this entire to do tiresome. That being said, I was not aware that exposing anti-Antisemitism demands that I also expose any and all racism simultaneously. But since it is in fact a requirement, I think it’s necessary to point out that his example is NOT analogous. The racist imagery used by Jay Z is done to make a point through exposition. He does not advocate that imagery. It’s used to point out the pain. It’s used to show us how far we’ve come, and to remind us how far we have to go. It’s both shocking and effective. Do I agree with his use of the N-word or anyone’s use of the N word for that matter? No. But that’s entirely different conversation, and I’m happy to have it at another time. As my law school torts professor would say, “Let’s not mix our boxes while we analyze the facts.

The same cannot be said of the anti-Semitic lyric. Yes it’s an exaggeration, as Jews do not in fact own ALL the property in America. It’s clear Mr. Carter is also aware of this, given that he owns property and he is not Jewish. This might seem obvious, but Jay Z specifically said, “I mean, I own things” as an example of how he doesn’t believe his statement is LITERAL. But that is so far from the point it is laughable. He might not literally believe his statement to be true, but his dismissal once again discards the history of this Anti-Semitic comment, and the danger in perpetuating it. He’s not using it to draw some sort of distinction between the past and present.

I was told to lighten up by many members of the Jewish community when I first pointed this out, and while I respect the viewpoints of others, I cannot help but think the Jewish community should also educate themselves on why this is use as an insult. And in light of Charlottesville, it’s ever-the-more important.

The notion that Jews own everything is the same idea used by the Nazis to incite Antisemitism in the community at large. If we own everything, then is our success to the detriment of others? Are we cheap? Are we taking things from you? Are we hogging the wealth, pushing others out, and only promoting other Jews in our secret inside circle? Are we therefore taking over the world and do we need to be stopped? To discard how easy it is to walk the same road as our history, is reckless, unrealistic, and dangerous. You call it an “exaggeration,” and I call it Antisemitism. Jay Z might not get it, but you should.

A Tribute to Mary Tyler Moore – On Screen and Off

As a child who resisted sleep, Mary Tyler Moore on Nick at Nite was my sanctuary. It originally aired just four years after her legendary stint on the ‘Dick Van Dyke Show,’ where she won an Emmy for a performance that began at just 24 years old. Though Moore played a traditional housewife, she insisted on wearing pants, which caused major controversy for its time. According to Moore, she found it unrealistic to do housework in a dress with pearls, and therefore pushed for her cool trademark capris, which released other housewives from their “pantyhose prison.”

When Mary Tyler Moore transitioned to her now iconic leading role, producers were quick to make sure the viewers understood this was an entirely new show, thereby giving her a broken engagement to solidify she did not leave the beloved Dick Van Dyke to pursue a career as a journalist in Minneapolis. She was instead single and ready to build her career. She landed in a newsroom as an Associate Producer beside a stellar cast, including Ed Asner as Lou Grant, Ted Knight as Ted Baxter, Gavin MacLeod as Murray Slaughter, Valerie Harper as Rhoda Morgenstern, and of course — Betty White as Sue Ann Nivens.

To understand the radical impact of ‘Mary Tyler Moore,’ one need not look far. Mary and her best friend Rhoda represented independent, empowered women whose dating life was so secondary to their everyday life, it was almost an afterthought. They did not need a man to feel complete, and they were mostly too good for the men they dated anyhow. That narrative is difficult to find even on today’s television landscape, as most women are window dressers to the man’s more important storyline. The 70’s world in which Mary lived was historically significant for women, given that the pill first became available and more women were earning degrees and working outside the home. Behind the scenes, the show was equally important. Treva Silverman became first female with an executive title on a network sitcom. She won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series and Writer of the Year in 1974. This makes sense given the content of the show, and it’s a lesson for writers everywhere. If you’re going to write a strong, powerful woman, it’s probably best to use the voice of another strong, powerful woman when doing it. According to The Atlantic, “In 1973, 25 out of 75 writers on the show were women, which was revolutionary at the time.”

‘Mary Tyler Moore’ is not without criticism in the world of feminism. For starters, she conformed in ways that invited debate. She was the only one to call her boss, “Mr. Grant,” instead of Lou, for example, and she was often sheepish, especially when asking for the raise she deserved. Her inner circle were arguably far more rebellious than she, which allowed the viewer to covet their lovable, somewhat innocent protagonist. But that’s far beside the point. She was carving a path and her trepidation made her one of us. As such, Mary Tyler Moore was one of us, and her death could not be more timely in a world with pussy hats, a women’s march, and constant talk of equal pay in Hollywood. Sex and the City certainly celebrated women, but those women were in search of something that Mary Tyler Moore had already found. She will be missed.

#Tabloid Gossip: Your Weekly #Celebrity Rundown

Khloe Kardashian has a new love interest. RTW

Wilmer Valderrama and Demi Lovato ended their six year relationship. Radar Online

‘Glee’s’ Mark Salling was indicted for possessing child pornography. HR

Jason Derulo is single. TMZ

Curly Sue won ‘The Voice.’ Stuff

These ‘Real World‘ alums just welcomed their eighth baby. WP

Robin Thicke and his much-younger girlfriend are going strong. JJ

Mo’Nique owes a lot in taxes. Fishwrapper

Amber Heard claims Johnny Depp tried to suffocate her with a pillow. Telegraph

Michelle Collins is leaving The View. Variety

X-Men: Apocalypse — A Full Review

 

Written by Guest Contributor: C. Dillon

The latest X-Men film, “X-Men: Apocalypse,” isn’t the best X-men movie, but neither is it the worst. It does many things right, but somehow the whole seems less than the sum of its parts, and leaves the viewer feeling as though they’ve been entertained, but not fully satisfied.

X-Men_Apocalypse_International_PosterDirector Bryan Singer introduced the world to the cinematic versions of Marvel’s mutant heroes back in 2000, with the critically and financially successful “X-Men.” He returned to direct the sequel “X2” in 2003, and again for “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” As these films are widely regarded as the best in the franchise, it was with great anticipation that fans awaited the appearance of the titular villain in Singer’s directorial hands. Unfortunately, the film – while visually striking and immense in scope – doesn’t fully deliver.

It doesn’t help that this is the third comic based movie this year to feature “good guys” fighting against one another – we’ve seen it in “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Captain America: Civil War” (will we ever see a comic movie without a colon in it again?), and we see it again here. In this case, characters who have been X-men in the comics (and even in earlier movies) fight against characters who are or will be X-men, in an “all X-men X-travaganza.” While this isn’t necessarily bad, it is become a tired trope already.

Which leads us to another problem – the film spends a great deal of time showing us how En Sabah Nur recruits his Horsemen (Storm, Angel, Psylocke, and Magneto), but then gives them all (save Magneto) very little to do. Aside from bit parts in the final fight, the three non-Magneto Horsemen do nothing besides stand behind Apocalypse and try to look menacing. It is a waste of time in the film, and a waste of opportunity in having these characters actively contribute to the plot.

This can be understood, to some extent, however, because there are simply so many characters. With the X-men franchise seeming to change timelines with each new outing, new characters are introduced, old characters are reintroduced, new versions of old characters are re-reintroduced, and so on. It is confusing for someone who grew up with the comics and has seen all the films – I can only imagine what a casual viewer must be thinking. While the impulse to include every fans favorite character is understandable, it reaches a point where it detracts from the film as a whole. Olivia Munn’s Psylocke in particular is criminally underused, considering how big a part she has played in the marketing of the film to date.

This is not to say that “X-men: Apocalypse” is a bad film. It isn’t. The effects are well done, the characters are generally well cast, the acting is as good as can be expected in a comic book blockbuster. There are some stand-out moments as well – Quicksilver’s main scene, Kodi Smit-McPhee’s portrayal of young Nightcrawler, and many of the inside jokes and Marvel references are all very well done.

Apocalypse himself checks all the right boxes as the “big bad” of the movie – vague plans for destroying humanity, undefined but seemingly overwhelming power, crazy costume and blue skin – but he seemed a bit generic for such a major player in the comics. I do not agree with the common complaint that he was “too easy” to defeat (to describe why would be too much of a spoiler), but I would have liked to have seen more character development than the “humans are bad, and I’m going to kill them all so I can rule the world” routine that we have seen from so many uber-villains before. It is a major pitfall of these types of franchises that each instalment must raise the stakes over the previous one, and it sometimes (as here) fails to make the appropriate impact. Marvel has proven that “smaller” superhero movies can succeed (see: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” for a prime example), and it would be interesting to see the X-Men go in a similar direction, rather than seeing them face global annihilation over and over again.

In the end, I left the theater feeling that I had seen a good superhero movie, complete with massive action sequences, cool costumes, some good one-liners, and a few interesting characters that I would like to see again. I hope that Mr. Singer and the rest of the crew running the X-Men franchise stop and step back for a moment, reduce the amount of characters, and focus on telling a great story rather than a great spectacle.

Rebecca Romijn v. Yolanda Foster: “Your Children Aren’t Supermodels”

Rebecca_Romijn_Yolanda_Foster

 

After listening to Rebecca Romijn’s recent rant about Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid not being true supermodels, it suddenly occurred to me that the former model and Mrs. John Stamos missed her calling as a co-host of ‘The View.’ When asked for her opinion on the rise of social media supermodels during an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Romijn said:

No one has proven yet that numbers of followers translates to revenue. So it is frustrating. I know a lot of people — legitimate fashion people — can’t stand it. Hate it that these, you know, social media stars are now the supermodels in fashion. They are not true supermodels. And the thing is, I have always looked to Vogue magazine to lead the way, not be a follower. I rely on Vogue to set the standard, not follow what everybody else is doing. So I have been disappointed that fashion magazines have been supporting this trend of social media stars to set our style standards. But it will change; fashion always does. “

Needless to say, Mama bear and current cast member of ‘The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,’ Yolanda Foster, responded harshly, saying, “They accomplished more at half your age in the fashion industry.” So is anyone right, and is it even worth the ruffled feathers? For starters, nepotism and connections run just about every industry, especially Hollywood. Without it, we wouldn’t have Drew Barrymore, Kiefer Sutherland, Michael Douglas, George Clooney, Anderson Cooper, Jane Fonda, Angelica Huston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Robert Downey Jr., etc . . . In fact, from my limited armchair experience, all of my inner circle (outside of Tinseltown) landed their jobs through connections. But connections are only the first step in a long list of qualifications, and they would go nowhere without natural talent and dedicated work ethic. I’d give a list of many connected people in the industry that have failed to prove that point, but it would not be kind to do so. Rebecca does; however, makes a larger point worth nothing. Just because one has a flurry of followers, does not mean their presence alone will push purchases. It also is a slightly lazy choice on the part of the fashion industry, who is using the public to field their stars, rather than finding them on their own. If the vetting process starts with social media rather than an innate ability to scope talent, then you’re going to miss a lot of potential powerhouses. And that goes with any industry. Also, does their focus on their personal life cloud the consumer? Does it become more about the person than the collection? It’s certainly worth exploring, and I find it refreshing that Rebecca actually gave her true opinion, completely unafraid of the backlash. If we focus too much on politically correct talking points we will all be a bunch of robots.

American Idol’s Standout Star — Jenn Blosil

It’s a shame to see ‘American Idol’ in its last year, especially since the ratings still warrant buzz, but I suppose they’d like to stop the bleeding before it gets any worse given that the viewership is decreasing each year. It’s also worth noting that they have not produced a star in some time, so hopefully they’ll go out on top. I’ve seen many of the auditions thus far, and Jenn Blosil is the first to grab my attention. Watch her chilling rendition of Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive.”

‘Project Greenlight’ — Did ‘The Leisure Class’ Fall Flat?

IMG_4664-0.jpgAfter intensely watching Jason Mann’s meticulous approach to his Project Greenlight movie,’The Leisure Class,’ I had high expectations of the final film. After watching the movie, I can’t help but wonder if Jason’s notorious attention to detail was misplaced, given that a film lives and dies by its script, and this one doesn’t survive. Furthermore, HBO’s truncated timeline and pressure to produce a revised script just days before production began is also at issue, because even the best of writers could blow it. To be fair, Jason’s inability to accept criticism and clearly uncomfortable reaction to his test screening indicates that he might not have listened to the additional notes he needed. Perhaps he would be better served directing another writer’s script, therefore eliminating the biased view of his own product.

The biggest issue with the script is that the conflict is introduced before we get to know the characters, making it far too early for a genuine interest in the result. For instance, without proof in Act One that William loves Fiona and their romance is real, why should it matter if his brother Leonard’s surprise entrance breaks them up? And is William actually interested in Fiona, because he seems a little low-energy for a man about to spend his life with someone. Do we even know what made William lie about his family’s true class? Isn’t some semblance of a backstory key? Additionally, does it make sense to accept such a disheveled, strange “best friend” into the family home without more of an explanation or argument? Without more story in Act One outside of the conflict, the interplay between the conflicting characters becomes exhausting. This dueling-duo formula can only work with the tightest of writing and the strongest of jokes and that doesn’t happen here. Moreover, when William’s true identity is revealed, the ensuing, Act Three events take a bizarre turn. The father’s excessive cursing and physical abuse of his co-star seems off character and strange, especially for his social status. The transition just isn’t believable without peppered hints in the previous acts.

It’s also worth noting that many of Jason’s complaints in the behind-the-scenes episodes leading up to this film were spot on. The location is not elevated enough to seem as expensive as it should, and the infamous car scene that didn’t quite land to Jason’s request ultimately didn’t serve its purpose for Act Two. If it’s a fender bender instead of an alarming, flip-car collision, then what exactly pushes Fiona’s revelation about their romance being an ill fit? And again, why is William so low-energy after being rejected by the woman he loves? That’s a director’s decision, and Jason should have dictated that William exhibit more light and shade to his approach. Jason was also correct about the creative value of shooting on film instead of digital, and the result is noticeably more beautiful. One might suggest an audience’s eye can’t tell the difference, but that’s a drink-the-juice adaptation to the changing market, and it’s simply untrue.

Despite all of the aforementioned notes, I must say that for his first feature film, Jason Mann likely has a great career ahead of him. We don’t all creatively land upon our first try, and this movie has enough impressive elements to learn from and use in the next. My only hope is that he begins to compromise and accept the view of others. There’s a notorious struggle between the big studios and their creative hires, and no director wants to take notes from the powers that be. But it’s inevitable. Lastly, I’d have pulled a ‘While You Were Sleeping’ and had the lead end up with the sister. But that’s just me.

OVERALL RATING: 2.5/5 DISHES

 

#NURSESUNITE Against ‘The View’ — Is it Necessary?

nurse unite the viewLet me begin by confessing that I love nurses and I love Joy Behar, so if you anticipate bias, my loyalty is evenly matched. As for why I delayed in commenting on this drama, it’s because I thought it would die, but since it won’t — here goes.

The ladies of ‘The View’ poked fun at the Miss America pageant, which entailed joking about a nurse who skipped the traditional song and dance and instead wore her scrubs and used the stage to tell an emotional, personal story about how she impacted someone’s life and is more than “just a nurse.” The View panel poked fun, with Michelle Collins leading the charge, suggesting that her delivery was a little odd and she basically read her email on stage. Joy Behar then asked why she was wearing “a doctor’s stethoscope around her neck.” The backlash was immediate, and advertisers have now pulled their products off the ABC lineup. The reason for the heated reaction is twofold. First, Miss Colorado’s speech was actually very good, and it was a refreshing alternative to the useless crap that Miss America usually pedals (see Jon Oliver video below — it’s last). And when something is that good, and the joke is so far off the mark, it’s going to land like a turd on a hot day. The second issue is that Joy asked about the stethoscope, which some have interpreted to mean that she suggested she wasn’t equipped to wear it. While I understand the criticism, I’ve watched the video numerous times, and I’m willing stand firm in the fact that it is NOT what Joy meant. She chimed in somewhat lazily, saw her in scrubs, and was confused — since it’s Miss America and she wasn’t wearing glitter and a bathing suit while twirling a baton. If anyone legitimately thinks that Joy Behar and The View panelists have hate in their heart, so be it. But if you’re attempting to burn someone’s house down because they threw a pebble at your window, I’d encourage more rational thought. If a construction worker walked on stage wearing a hard hat and carrying his hammer, wouldn’t the ladies say, “Hmm . . . why is he wearing that hard hat?” Would we then say they don’t respect construction workers. Wearing your work uniform on stage is unusual, and the first reaction will be one of inquiry.

In closing, I’d like to suggest that everyone seriously lighten up. People are constantly complaining about the perils of our PC culture, and this is precisely why. I began watching The View because the ladies boldly offered their raw perspectives on hot-button issues and were unafraid of the consequences. Issues like this suggest they are not allowed to make a mistake, which means the show will be irreparably compromised. Nurses deserve an incredible amount of respect. They deal with patients in their worst moments, and their role is vital. Do we seriously believe that The View thinks otherwise? Watch the videos below in succession, and judge for yourself.nurse unite the viewnurse unite the view

 

THE SPEECH

THE JOKE

THE APOLOGY

JON OLIVER