Why I Still Go to the Movies

In the never-ending debate between film and television, there’s no question in my mind that the third season of Lost blows any movie out of the water (pun intended). But in the Netflix era we live in, its so easy to become distracted with the rest of your life scattered around your bedroom. When you press the “Play Next” button, you realize you need to use the bathroom. You sit back down. Then you’re suddenly thirsty, so you get up and get a glass of water. You sit back down. Then an iMessage pops up on your computer screen, and of course you have to answer it right away. This turns into a ten minute conversation about when you and your friend are going to go to Chipotle. You “x” out of your chat window and notice an email from your professor. You have an assignment due in an hour. The episode of that show you really love is already halfway over, you’ve only caught a glimpse of the plot arc, none of the B story, and you feel defeated.

At the movies, you leave your life. Sure, some people bring their phones or their friends who bring their phones, but I don’t. I sit on the plush throne, popcorn in hand, and pray that nobody kicks the back of my seat. When the lights dim and the previews start, your life goes away. That big project that’s due soon washes away. That fight you’re in with your friend is muted. Everything that mattered doesn’t anymore.

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The other night, I went to go see The Skeleton Twins starring SNL veterans Bill Hader and Kristin Wiig as twins who reunite after Milo (Hader) tries to kill himself. By no right is this the full-blown comedy one would expect from this pairing, but instead it was a dark, tender look at life when it doesn’t go the way you planned. Don’t get me wrong, there are some pee-your-pants funny moments going on, especially by Luke Wilson, who plays Lance, Maggie’s (Wiig) fiancé. Go for the lip sync to “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” stay for the unmatched dynamic of Hader and Wiig.

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My Open Letter to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association

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Dear Hollywood Foreign Press Association,

Did you watch this season of Homeland? Like, actually, did you watch it? Even past the first seven episodes? It got better, you know. How about Game of Thrones? Does the phase “Rains of Castamere” not sing “Golden Globe nomination” to you? Oh, here’s another one: Did you watch Mad Men this season? It was a lot darker than usual, so maybe you turned it off because you got a little scared. The Hershey Pitch? Anyone? 

On the other hand, did you per chance watch Downton Abbey? Maybe you were just watching Joanne Froggatt’s heartbreaking performance in episodes 4-8. Because other than that, the season was shit (no offense, Downton, I still love you). And Masters of Sex? I know you like to give experimental shows a chance, but not this year. Not when the three most talked about dramas are left out in the cold. Just throw a nod at Lizzy Caplan and call it a day. Just kidding, you didn’t do that either. How about Anna Gunn? Wasn’t she great on this season of Breaking Bad? It’s like she was SO GOOD she won an Emmy for it, or something. I see you gave some love to Taylor Schilling for Orange is the New Black, but, as the also-snubbed cast of Arrested Development would say, “Her?” Really? You had an entire ensemble of amazing breakout artists (Uzo Aduba, Danielle Brooks, etc.) and you only shed light on Schilling? Shame on you. Shame. On. You.

You’re lucky Amy Poehler and Tina Fey are hosting, because their comedic gold will make me forget about all the wrongdoings you have done this holiday season.

Best,

Rob Zappulla

 

Top Ten Entertainment Moments of 2013

The year was 2013 and madness ensued. Here’s yet another meaningless top ten countdown, where someone will bitch about how I didn’t include HBO’s “Enlightened” being cancelled.

 10. The Rise of the Mini-Series

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To start off the countdown, I’d like to take a moment to recognize a phenomenon that has captivated audiences in 2013: the mini-series. Unlike any year before, these productions have combined the high production value of films with the periodic elements of a television show. Most notably is FX’s American Horror Story: Coven, the third installment to Ryan Murphy’s anthology series, which follows the struggle between the witches and voodoos in New Orleans. Another popular mini-series this year was BBC’s Top of the Lake, starring Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss as a detective who uncovers the disappearance of a twelve-year-old pregnant girl. The story unfolds with strong cultural ties to the New Zealand landscape. BBC’s other masterpiece this year was Parade’s End, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as a conservative aristocrat who falls in love with a progressive suffragette. So do yourself a favor and watch a mini-series! It’ll be worth your time.

 

9. North West

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At number nine is the baby of the year – and we’re not talking about the future heir to the English throne – we’re talking about North West. On June 15th, reality star Kim Kardashian gave birth to a baby boy, who, along with boyfriend and rapper Kanye West, named North West. As a nation, we gasped, thinking of this kid’s first day of Kindergarten as a confused schoolteacher takes attendance and calls out a compass direction, rather than a name. This was also a big year for Kimye as a couple. From Kanye’s music video for “Bound 2” was parodied by James Franco and Seth Rogan, to his public fight with Jimmy Kimmel, to his record smashing CD release of Yeezus, tabloids have been stocked with juicy stories about Hollywood’s newest power couple.

 

8. Lorde releases “Pure Heroine” 

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At number eight comes a young girl from down under – New Zealand to be exact. In the midst of the Royal Baby craze, she reminded us that, “We’ll never be royal.” This girl’s name is Lorde and her album, “Pure Heroine” hit shelves September 27 to critical raves and a whopping four Grammy nominations.

 

7. Jennifer Lawrence wins Oscar, trips

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Moving on to number seven, we take a trip back to February’s Academy Awards, where America’s budding sweetheart Jennifer Lawrence took a trip of own. On her way up to the stage to accept her award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture for her role in Silver Linings Playbook, Lawrence stumbled up the steps – but still managed to make it look like a Chanel ad. The Girl on Fire has had a full year, starring in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the upcoming David O’Russell flick American Hustle, where another Oscar could be in store for Lawrence.

 

6. Deaths of James Gandolfini and Cory Monteith

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For number six, we take a somber moment to remember two great men gone too soon. In June, news broke that Sopranos front man James Gandolfini had died of a heart attack. Gandolfini had just wrapped up filming of a recently released film Enough Said alongside Julia Louis-Dreyfus, which has gained a lot of critical attention. Then in July, we learned the passing of Glee star Cory Monteith. The show postponed the start of their fifth season in order to properly pay tribute to Monteith’s legacy in an episode entitled “The Quarterback.” At the 2013 Emmy Awards held in September, Edie Falco and Jane Lynch paid tribute for their respective co-stars in a tearful in memoriam.

 

5. Sandra Bullock Brings The Heat and is Suspended in Gravity

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Number four on our countdown goes to Sandra Bullock, whose films this year brought audiences to tears of laughter and desolation. First, in her summer blockbuster, The Heat, Bullock stars as a ridged, by the books FBI agent from Manhattan, who is tasked to work with a Boston cop, played by Melissa McCarthy, to take down the nation’s most notorious drug dealer. Then in October, Bullock captivated audiences as Dr. Ryan Stone in Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity. Bullock’s character goes through a range of emotions in the ultimate “stranger in a strange land” film. The only thing in the way of Bullock’s second Oscar is Cate Blanchette in Blue Jasmine, but my vote’s for the lonely astronaut.

 

4. “Rains of Castamere”

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Have you heard someone say “Spoiler Alert!” at all during the past year? If so, chances are pretty good that that someone was about to talk about Game of Throne’s “Rains of Castamere” – which comes in at number three on our countdown. In one of the bloodiest hours in the history of television, the HBO fantasy drama unexpectedly killed off a slew of protagonists, as jaws dropped around the globe. Like clockwork, fans took to the Internet to vent their concerns, leading to dozens of viral “reaction” videos to the episode’s infamous moment, now known as “The Red Wedding.” Basically, if you haven’t started watching television’s most expensive drama, you should probably make that your New Year’s Resolution.

 

3. Miley Twerks at the VMAs

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She’s still just being Miley. At number two on our countdown comes Disney star turned provocative twerk-er. In August, Miley Cyrus performed a rendition of “We Can’t Stop” and “Blurred Lines” with Robin Thicke, and proceeded to do the “Twerk Seen Round the World.” Was it a publicity stunt? Probably. Did it work? Definitely. Before the year was up, Miley had hosted SNL, performed a head-scratching rendition of “Wrecking Balls” at the AMA’s, and released a relatively successful album, Bangerz, all while sporting her now iconic short hair-do. Say what you will, but she’s just being Miley.

 

2. Breaking Bad Finale

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At number five, America said goodbye to its favorite meth cook – Walter Hartwell White. AMC wrapped up the fifth and final season of Breaking Bad on September 29th, as audiences packed auditoriums and movie theaters around the nation to view the shocking conclusion to one of the greatest television dramas of all time. To honor the show’s legacy, the Emmy’s awarded Anna Gunn with Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama, and the Outstanding Drama award went to the cast and crew of Breaking Bad.

 

1. Netflix Produces Original Content

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For my number one moment in entertainment for the 2013 year, I log onto my Netflix account to view their new, original content. Racking up an impressive fourteen Emmy nominations and one win, the online streaming site has become a television network in its own capacity. From reviving fan-favorite Arrested Development, to the political drama House of Cards, Netflix is doing everything right. Over the summer, Netflix added yet another outstanding show, Orange is the New Black, which has demolished all notions and prejudices America has had about female correctional facilities. At $8.99 a month, Netflix is more than just entertainment – it’s an experience.

Do you agree with my top ten? Let me know in the comment section. Be civilized, people.

Flashback: Three Shows Gone Too Soon

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Eli Stone

Network: ABC

Duration: 2008-2009

In Eli Stone, the title character, played brilliantly by Jonny Lee Miller, is a San Francisco lawyer who develops a brain aneurysm, which gives him visions of God, who speaks through the one and only George Michael. Like an adult version of That’s So Raven, Eli’s visions act as his moral compass in working his various cases.

Eli confides in his acupuncturist Dr. Chen (James Saito), who is able to facilitate Eli’s darkest memories – particularly those of his abusive father.

His once secure job under supervision of his fiancé’s father becomes compromised when the couple calls off their marriage. The tension in the office only grows with Eli’s newfound gift.

The show is in the ever-evolving comedy-drama genre, with quirky musical/fantasy sequences to the tune of George Michael songs, making Eli Stone one of a kind. The cast is supported by veteran film actors Loretta Devine (Crash) and Victor Garber (Titanic), which gives the show’s side stories real depth, without ever lagging.

In the final moments of the second season (right before it’s cancellation) Eli’s nose begins to bleed a dark red, hinting that his aneurysm had ruptured, but did God have other plans for him? Did the writers? All I know is that ABC, for sure, killed him off too soon.

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FlashForward

Network: ABC

Duration: 2009-2010

Riding off the coattails of Lost (and borrowing some of its actors, too) comes the second show gone too soon: FlashForward. The show follows the FBI investigation of a worldwide human blackout, which gives people a brief vision six months into the future. While many try to make their lives fit the ominous prediction, others strive to change their fate. But those who see nothing, like Agent Mark Benford, played by Joseph Fiennes (American Horror Story: Asylum), worry that they will meet their demise before the fated day.

The investigation gets heated when the FBI discovers footage of a hooded man walking out of a baseball stadium during the two minute and seven second blackout.

With Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean), Dominic Monaghan (Lost), and Sonya Walger (Lost), the show surely should have lasted for a second season.

Like Eli Stone’s ambiguous cliffhanger, FlashForward ends with the world blacking out yet again. The vision we see is that of the Agent Benford’s daughter, Charlie, who receives a phone call saying that “he” has been found. The “he”? Possibly her presumed-dead father. And possibly not.

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Person’s Unknown

Network: NBC

Duration: 2010

While the first two shows actually received some buzz in their short-lived runs, NBC’s summer flop Persons Unknown was kind of my guilty pleasure show, full of countless plot holes and terrible acting. Regardless, I would have liked to see it renewed for another summer slot.

The show follows a group of strangers who wake up in a ghost town with no communication to the outside world. They receive a series of tasks from the many monitors planted across the town. Soon, the castaways become restless and a mole is revealed.

After the strangers unite and rebel against the system, they are all placed in a new setting, called Stage Two. The show closes on the castaways opening the door of their new hotel to discover they are now on a freighter in the middle of the ocean. I want to watch Stage Two, please.

Rob’s Book Club: THE LEFTOVERS

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Kind of like Oprah, I thought I’d start my own book club. Kind of not like Oprah, I’m the only person in my book club, which is kind of better, in a way, in that I don’t have to sift through half-assed posts about the novel or some irrelevant theories with no substantial textual evidence.

Anyway, the first book I chose was Tom Perrotta’s The Leftovers, a five-part drama set in the small community of Mapleton, after a Rapture-like event causes the disappearance of millions of people worldwide. Quite simply put, the citizens feel like nothing but leftovers from this (un)godly act – idly waiting to be plucked from the fridge and finished off like the rest of the people from the previous meal.

The novel is something of a surreal feat; a dystopian society that seemed to only hiccup on October 14th as family and friends disappeared before their loved-ones’ eyes.

Perrotta sets his book three years after what has been deemed “The Sudden Departure,” and the world is still not quite back to its old self. Sure, Congress is still in session and the MLB is back in full swing (pun intended), filling the holes in their line-ups with minor leaguers and retired all-stars, but the people are still grasping for answers.

At the center of the story lies the Garvey family. Kevin, the town’s mayor, is left to care for his bright, but troubled daughter, Jill, when his wife, Laurie, joins the Guilty Remnant – a cult draped in white that takes a Vow of Silence in forgiveness for not being taken on October 14th. Kevin’s son, Tom, has discontinued his studies at Syracuse University to follow the Holy Wayne, a sweet-talking figurehead of the Healing Huggers. Soon, Wayne is arrested and Tom is entrusted with one of his many under-aged wives; one of them, Wayne preaches, will birth the Miracle Child that will save all of humanity.

Another figure in the town is Nora Durst, also known as The Woman Who Lost Everything, whose husband and two children were victims of The Sudden Departure. Nora struggles to find meaning in life, while trying not to feed into the town’s pity for her. Oddly enough, she finds peace in religiously watching and re-watching episodes of SpongeBob Squarepants and documenting the deeper meanings on a notepad.

While this novel doesn’t have the suspenseful elements of a thriller or a traditional rising action/climax/resolution format, I still found it to be quite the page-turner. I would best describe it as a psychological character study – and a pretty accurate one at that – of how people would react to the disappearance of millions around the world.

Now, you may be thinking, “Rob, I thought this was a TV blog. What gives?” And, my response would be that HBO has picked up the pilot. It’s writer and executive producer? Lost and Star Trek writer/producer Damon Lindelof. Needless to say, I am beyond excited for how the show (or movie/mini-series) will pan out.

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So far, the casting is scattered and uncertain. Justin Theroux (American Psycho) will be playing Kevin Garvey, Broadway star Carrie Coon will play Nora Durst, and Liv Tyler (Lord of the Rings Trilogy) will play Meg, a beautiful, yet timid Trainee for the Guilty Remnant.

The release date will hopefully be sometime in 2014, which gives you ample time to be a hipster and read the book first!

CNN Names Top 20 Shows of Past 20 Years

In the midst of studying for finals, I have been unable to fully engage with my weekly television lineup. However, I did manage to find this interesting article on the CNN Homepage, which documents the past 20 years in television, noting it as the “new, new golden age.”

Of the hundreds upon hundreds of scripted shows that are produced every year – many of which never making it to audiences – staff writer Todd Leopold chose 20 scripted shows that have, in their own way, changed the course of the television industry.

However, I argue that four shows have been unfairly shut out of this list so I felt the need to write this post. All of them are, in their own way, cultural phenomenons, becoming household names and essential reference points in everyday conversation.

First, the American adaptation of Ricky Gervais’ The Office, has taken the states by storm. In it’s nine-year run, the show has created meaningful story lines for its characters and has allowed audiences to feel welcomed in the work place – where virtually no work is done. As it closes on its final episodes, audiences are still sporting their Dunder-Mifflin tees, taking a pilgrimage to Scranton, PA, and spitting out, “That’s what she said,” in more inappropriate settings than Michael Scott could have even imagined. 

Modern Family is the next show that I feel was wrongfully left off of Leopold’s list. Much like All in the Family showed the first real family on television (before, shows like Leave it to Beaver had simply depicted the nuclear family in its perfect, carefree way), the ABC comedy has redefined the way we look at family. In the Dunphy house, we see your stereotypical family with a mom, a dad, and their three kids. Over at the Pritchett home, there is a multi-cultural, age-defying marriage. Lastly, at the Tucker-Pritchett household, we see a gay couple who has just adopted a Vietnamese child. Despite going against the norm, all three of these families prove week after week (in a less corny way than Full House) that families come in all different shapes and sizes, but at the end of the day their values still hold true.

The Walking Dead invites more than 10.8 million viewers weekly to its post-apocolyptic world, where the line between right and wrong is blurred like the smearing of guts on a window pane. That was a bit much, but you get the point. On Leopold’s list, he listed Mad Men and Breaking Bad in the top 20, but he clearing doesn’t understand ratings. TWD brings in more weekly viewers than the other two acclaimed series…combined. Not only that, but this show has taken the liberty of adapting a comic book for television and being called out time and time again for its graphic content. With season 4 in the works for October, the cast and crew aren’t looking back at humanity to be their judges.

Taking a trip across the pond (and back in time a hundred years), Downton Abbey has taken the world by storm. This period drama intricately intertwines the lives of the aristocracy of the early twentieth century, with those of their dutiful servants. Over its three-year run, writer Julian Fellows has developed each and every character in the enormous cast with such precision and detail that when an untimely death is brought upon one of them, the audience takes to the interwebs to vent their grievances. Moreover, Downton has been a recurring reference throughout other television shows, such as Modern Family30 Rock, and, most notably, Jimmy Fallon’s talk show, in which he had a recurring satyrical segment entitled Downton Sixby. 

You can read Leopold’s article here and comment with what shows you were surprised to see on the list or vent about those which you think should be on the list of the greatest 20 shows of the past 20 years.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/06/showbiz/golden-age-of-tv/index.html?hpt=hp_c4

No TV Time in the Midst of Boston Terror

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If you’ve been a dedicated fan of my posts and have been wondering why there have been very few posts as of late, I apologize. As a student of Boston University, I have been quite literally in the midst of the Boston Marathon Bombing panic, followed by the murder of an MIT police officer and a manhunt in Watertown. I had been intensely following the story as it broke from the time I was at Mile 25.8 on the day of the bombings until Friday evening when the celebrations erupted in Boston upon the capturing of the suspect. That being said, I have had very little TV viewing time apart from the news.

Now, I am approaching the end of the spring semester and am bogged down in group projects and finals studying. I hope to keep this blog active in the coming weeks but will definitely have it fully-functional come summer time – especially with Breaking Bad and Dexter coming back for their final installments. I hope that you continue to enjoy my blog! And bookmark it!

Best,

Rob