Halt and Catch Feelings

I’m a shipper at heart. I try to resist every time I start a new show and I am never successful. Give me two characters who don’t belong together but have amazing chemistry and I will be yours for as many seasons as you’ll have me. Such was the case this week when I went on a journey through the personal computing boom of the 80s and 90s via the AMC Prestige Drama, Halt and Catch Fire.


I knew the show existed when it premiered four years ago. I knew it starred Lee Pace and, based on promotional images, took place in an office building. It got middling reviews during its first season and wasn’t likely to be renewed so I didn’t get into it. But then I found out about Mackenzie Davis’ role on the show (suddenly her casting in The Martian making much more sense) and kept reading reviews about how good it had gotten and how emotional the finale was. And what am I if not extremely emotional.

I’ve been a huge Lee Pace fan ever since seeing him in the 2003 made-for-TV movie Soldier’s Girl about the life of Calpernia Addams. Looking back, his casting as a trans women was problematic, but the movie affected me and he was incredible in the role. I followed his career through two short-lived Bryan Fuller projects and then we sort of lost touch for a few years. He played an elf in the hobbit trilogy and had small parts in a bunch of movies I never saw.

The character of Joe MacMillan was created to emulate Don Draper, the mysterious anti-hero at the centre of AMC’s other Prestige Drama, Mad Men. Smarter people than I have made the connection that HACF‘s first season was trying to “reverse-engineer Mad Men” just as Joe and Gorden were reverse-engineering the IBM personal computer. But throughout Joe’s journey, the facade of his slick suits and carefully articulated pitches gives way to a broken human who redeems himself and stops trying to sell the future. Pace plays every layer of Joe beautifully. He’s handsome, charming, and witty, but with an edge that suggests irreparable damage.

In the very first episode when he scouts Mackenzie Davis’ punk programmer Cameron Howe at her school, he’s instantly drawn to her and hates himself for it. Cameron sees this opportunity and exploits it. When the two start banging in the dingy basement of an arcade bar, she lets him know that she doesn’t care about him at all. She hooks up with him as a joke, because the idea of the two of them together is so ridiculous. Of course, they can’t keep their hands off each other and keep up their affair after Joe hires her to design his IBM clone.

Season one Joe is presented as callous and calculating. His only motivation is money. Except with Cameron. She decides to continue sleeping with him and she decides when it’s over. When he eventually betrays her, it’s because he loves her and wants her to branch out and succeed on her own. Of course, what ol’ boneheaded Joe doesn’t realize is the whole “if you love someone, set them free” thing only works if said someone knows about and returns your feelings. Otherwise they are likely to revenge-start a new company and revenge-refuse to work with you in any capacity, even if you’re genuinely trying to help. The interesting thing about Joe is that he’s not a monster. He has feelings. But he thinks his life would be simpler if he’s free of emotional entanglements so he cuts himself off from everyone until it’s too late.
Season four picks up ten years after the events of season one. Joe and Cameron have been through it all; marriage, divorce, creating and losing control of their own companies, the suicide of a mutual friend and co-worker, and the advent of the World Wide Web. Joe has taken every hit and been weakened by it while Cameron has flourished and become a game-designing rock star in Japan. Reunited for the first time in three years, the tension is palpable. This time Joe is the one feeling betrayed and Cameron actually cares about him. For the first time he’s not trying to sell her something or tell her what to do. He admits that he’s always been in awe of her and I believe it.

I went back and watched the pilot after that scene and you see it on his face during their first encounter. He’s completely out of his depth and he knows he’s in trouble.
I’m afraid to keep watching. I know healthy relationships and living happily ever after don’t make for stirring drama. I just want Joe and Cameron to be happy. They deserve the world. Also I read ahead and I know there’s another character death coming and I honestly don’t know if my heart can take it.


Adam Sandler: Actor or Schmactor?

Back in the early days of the internet, I used to frequent a curious little website known as Nexopia. It was a hybrid of Livejournal and Myspace. One could decorate their profile using HTML codes and they had a “main page” where you could post things you’d written. I posted a piece entitled “Hayden Christianson: Actor or Schmactor?” [sic] and yes it brought me swarms of internet vitriol, the likes of which I hadn’t seen before, because I spelled his surname incorrectly. However, two good things came of it: I made a friend, with whom I still correspond, when a girl named Shyrie contacted me to say she liked my writing and it’s too bad everyone was just focusing on the name thing. The second thing was that I used it as a writing sample to get into film school, after correcting Mr. Christensen’s last name.

Today, we delve into the career of Adam Sandler, posing the same question. Actor, or Schmactor? Let’s begin. maxresdefault

I’m guessing, but I think the very first movie I saw Sandler in was Happy Gilmore. I know Billy Madison came out first, however, I honestly can’t say if I’ve seen that movie in its entirety. But my brother and I watched Happy Gilmore a lot. A couple years later The Wedding Singer came out and I loved it immediately because it was set in the 80s and had a banging soundtrack. “Grow Old With You” is an all-time ballad and Sandler’s performance as Robbie Hart indeed had heart. He made me believe in Robbie and Julia and they were one of the first onscreen couples that I truly cared about.

We knew by now that Sandler was a talented musician and comedian, often combining the two as in his annual classic “The Chanukah Song” and, Lightle Family Favourite, “Ode to my Car.” I don’t think I knew at this time that he had ever been a Saturday Night Live cast member or fully understood his particular brand of comedy. He was goofy and weird and I liked to laugh at/with him. But soon, the laughter would turn to tears. fhd999BDD_Adam_Sandler_008.jpg

It seems impossible today that there was ever a time when Jon Stewart was best known as “Adam Sandler’s Roommate in Big Daddy” but it’s true. In the autumn of 1999 I was just minding my own business, casually celebrating my 14 birthday, when I saw Big Daddy for the first time. This was back when people own VHS tapes and this is one I just had to have. We may never uncover the mystery of why this film resonated so strongly with me, but it did, and I still cry at the ending. Not when Sonny has to give up Frankenstein, but when they see each other again at the very end. It’s very touching and Sandler makes it so easy to root for him. He is incredibly adept at playing sad and that makes his unlikely victory so much more uplifting. video-punch-drunk-love-i-cry-a-lot-superJumbo.jpg

No one is more sad and ultimately more victorious than Barry Egan, Sandler’s character in 2002’s Punch-Drunk Love. A lot of people will tell you that this performance was when they KNEW Adam Sandler was a good actor. I will concede that it was a departure from the type of characters he was known for and that he blossomed under Paul Thomas Anderson’s steady, seasoned direction. But he didn’t suddenly become talented overnight.

He always had to skills to play Barry Egan, clearly, as he was cast in the role. The lonely and quiet Barry, constantly put down and dissected by his seven relentless sisters, is just another facet of Sandler. The nervous glances and tentative smiles have always been part of his charm.

It’s easy to say that if he has the ability to make movies like this, that’s the only kind he should make to which I respond A) There aren’t that many movies like this and B) Who the hell wants to work that hard all the time? For every Punch-Drunk Love Sandler has made easily a dozen Happy Madison films using the same handful of actor friends. They write down some jokes, get money, and go make a movie. Honestly it sounds pretty sweet. And then every five years or so, a Paul Thomas Anderson, or a James L. Brooks, or a Judd Apatow, or a Noah Baumbach comes a-calling and Sandler leaves his friends behind to go do An Acting Job. the_meyerowitz_stories_review_adam_sandler.jpg

Sandler is stupendous in The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) which just hit Netflix yesterday. (Evidently I’m not the only one who was inspired to write a think piece about Adam Sandler as a result as I stumbled upon three others while doing research for this article.) He’s up to his old tricks of playing the sad, lonely guy who quietly struggles against various foes, real and imagined, until a angry outburst leads to a revelation. I laughed and I cried, often during the same scene. One of Sandler’s gifts is his voice control, not just for character work but for using various pitch and pacing to relay his thought process to the audience. Slow and low is the trademark, it’s comfortable, normal guy voice, but when he starts to perk up and stops taking breaths in between words, that means he’s getting antsy and uncomfortable. It’s still funny to watch, but when the character is someone as damaged as Danny Meyerowitz, it’s a little tragic too.

Adam Sandler is a talented actor, but he’ll always be a comedian first. The assumption that comedy is easier than drama is a fallacy, perpetuated by the overwhelming lack of critical acclaim for comedic roles. Every time a comedy actor “goes serious” all the critics rush to praise them, heralding their hidden talent. Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, and Bradley Cooper are just a few examples of this phenomenon. I maintain that making people laugh is just as hard, if not harder, than making people cry.

Any idiot can do the mechanical work of an actor. You hit a mark and you say a line. It’s simple. The hard part, the craft, comes when you make the audience believe in what you’re saying. The ability to create a moment in the world that feels authentic is the touchstone of true talent and that’s what keeps us coming back to the cinema.


Happy Friendsgiving

The Friends Thanksgiving episode became a yearly tradition after the third season of the long-running, must see TV series. Some were fantastic, some were average, and every year, Rachel had a new hairstyle. In honour of Canadian Thanksgiving, I have watched them all today and ranked them thusly.

Season Nine – “The One With Rachel’s Other Sister”

Christina Applegate is actually amazing in this episode. I love everything she does. Also, Rachel’s mom hair is fantastic. I like the rich dark colour with caramel highlights and a little flip at the end. It’s a great look for her and the episode is incredible. Episode: A+ Hair: A+

Season Eight – “The One With The Rumor”

I mean, this might as well be called The One With Brad Pitt. This is also Rachel’s pregnancy hair. It’s slightly wavy, has amazing highlights and looks really nice. It’s just over shoulder length and very blonde. The episode is silly but Brad is fantastic. Episode: B+ Hair: A-

Season Four – “The One With Chandler in a Box”

This is one of my favourite Rachel looks. It’s nice and light, her highlights are amazing, and pin-straight looks good on her. Michael Vartan is the big guest star and Chandler and Joey almost break up. Episode: B Hair: A

Season Three – “The One With All The Football”

This is my all-time favourite Rachel hair. I love the length, the cut, and especially the colour. That deep reddish brown is to die for. This is the look I have been chasing my entire life. The episode is fun and the official start of the Friendsgiving tradition. Episode: A Hair: A++

Season Six – “The One Where Ross Got High”

Rachel’s hair is a little longer here, and almost blonde. I like it but it’s not her best look. The episode is fine, I love how much Joey loves the beef trifle. Episode: B Hair: B-

Season Five – “The One With All The Thanksgivings”

This is the flashback episode so we get a few different Rachel looks. In present day she’s rocking long and blonde, a look she had for awhile, but the 80s look is tops. Those bangs! This is the most popular episode but I don’t love it. Episode: C Hair: B

Season Seven – “The One Where Chandler Hates Dogs”

Ahh, Rachel’s bob days. It’s a good bob, I love the layers but it looks like something is missing. This episode isn’t groundbreaking but it’s fine. Episode: C Hair: C.

Season Ten – “The One With The Late Thanksgiving”

Rachel’s bangs! God bless bangs. This episode is only okay, typical final season re-hash, but Rachel’s hair is lovely. I usually like it a little darker but those bangs are serious heart eyes emoji. Episode: C+ Hair: B+

Season One – “The One Where Underdog Gets Away”

This is the first Thanksgiving episode, and Rachel has terrific hair. The volume, the layers, it’s all working. The episode is pretty meh though. It’s their first year together and they all end up fighting. Episode: C Hair: A

Season Two – “The One With The List”

This is barely a Thanksgiving episode but I think this haircut is officially “The Rachel.” The layers are a little shorter and the base colour is darker. Unparalleled in its thickness and volume. Episode: C- Hair: A+

Happy Thanksgiving, Canada! Let’s do this again in a month or so. I’m going to go find some pumpkin pie.

The Ten Most Iconic Tom Cruise Characters, Ranked

10. Lestat.lestat

I bet you thought I forgot all about the Vampire movie, huh.

9. Brian Flanagantom-cruise-cocktail-1988

Beer is for breakfast.

8. Jack Reacherjack_reacher_2_trailer_screengrab_h_2016_0

Don’t let anyone ever tell you you’re not tall enough.

7. Les Grossman316589

Get back, mother-fucker, you don’t know me like that.

6. Stacee Jaxx1339508057_tom-cruise-rock-467

Say what you will about the movie but it’s great and Tom was incredible.

5. Chief John AndertonMinorityReport_055Pyxurz

This might actually be my favourite Tom Cruise movie.

4. Lt. Daniel Kaffeegoodmen_hed

He wants the truth and yes he can handle it, thank you very much.

5. Jerry Maguiredd80d5e4f03a5adaea0855930d246cdd--grand-unified-theory-tom-cruise

Show you the money.

2. Ethan Huntmission-impossible-ghost-protocol-10

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write a screenplay involving all the stunts Tom wants to do.

1. Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchelltop-gun

He could live to be a hundred and he’ll never not be Maverick.

The Meghan Lightle Starter Pack

On August 5th, 2003, the world met a floppy-haired, half-Jewish, ultra-geek named Seth Cohen. And nothing was ever the same.
Seth Cohen was a righteous geek. He knew that even though his “tastes” and “interests” weren’t “mainstream” they were also “superior” and completely “unique” to him. So sure he was that when he had to decide on a Chrismukkah present for the two (2!) girls that wanted to date him, he decided to give them both the Seth Cohen Starter Pack. Because to know and love Seth would mean knowing Death Cab for Cutie, The Shins, Bright Eyes, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, and The Goonies.
This episode aired on December 3rd 2003 and I’m not kidding when I say I have thought about what I would put in my own Starter Pack every day since. I think I finally have it.

A Bruce Springsteen Playlist

This might seem glaringly obvious, but it’s a must. To know me is to know Bruce and accept my relationship with him, even if you can never truly understand it. Hell I’m not even sure I understand it.
I couldn’t possibly choose just one album for this entry but luckily for me, no one gives anyone physical CDs anymore. I would just make a spotify playlist and text them the link with a heart emoji.
I have different playlists for every possibility ranging from “I have never heard a Bruce Springsteen song in my life” (lies) to “I’ve heard the hits but I just don’t ‘get him’ or why he’s so popular” which I mean at that point, dumped, but I would still attempt to make a strong case. I’d attempt to keep it to 15 tracks at most.
Notable Inclusions:
“The Ties That Bind”, “Living Proof”, “Brothers Under the Bridges (83)”, “Thunder Road”, and “The Promised Land.”

Inside Llewyn Davis

To know me is to also know Oscar Isaac and accept my life-long devotion to him, even if you can’t understand it.
To truly understand his gifts as a performer one need look no further than Inside Llewyn Davis. Now, I’m no Coen Brothers stan but I do believe this to be a masterpiece. Every line, every shot, every note is perfect and exactly where it needs to be. It also takes place in one of my favourite time periods, Greenwich Village in the early 60s and features a sort of cameo by my all time favourite artist, Bob Dylan.
I could go on for DAYS about the scene where Llewyn and Jean discuss her “options” or the scene when Llewyn shouts “Fuck Mike’s part!” I’ll make the recipient watch the movie, listen to the soundtrack, watch the companion concert film Another Day Another Time, AND listen to the soundtrack of the companion concert film Another Day Another Time because some of the songs are different and you really need to hear them all to truly appreciate and understand the film. Otherwise you’re just not living life right.

Specially Curated Episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

In an ideal world, we would literally just watch the entire series straight through but I know not everyone has that kind of time so I would carefully select 10+ episodes based on my audience’s preferences. It’s only slightly serialized so you can easily jump around, as long as you avoid episodes that are completely predicated on knowing an inside joke, i.e., “The Nightman Cometh.” It doesn’t really get going until Danny  Devito joins the cast in season two and I think most of the stand out eps are in the first five seasons.
Notable inclusions:
“Dennis and Dee Go on Welfare”, “The Gang Finds a Dumpster Baby”, “The Gang Gets Whacked”, “American’s Next Top Paddy’s Billboard Model Contest”, and “The Gang Hits the Road.”

8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown

I would put this under the umbrella of “British Panel Shows” because to know me is to know my love of pretty much anything on Channel 4.
Cats does Countdown is tops though and I’ve gone through phases in my life where I’ve watched at least one episode every day for weeks. Even if I’ve already seen them all dozens of times, it doesn’t matter. And I wait patiently all year for the Big Fat Quiz of the Year and have also watched some of them multiple times. 2012 is my favourite. Or any one with the Goth Detectives really.

Broadway Carpool Karaoke

Presented without commentary.

Love & Friendship

Women my age have a unique relationship to each other. We grew up in the 90s when it was cool to be “one of the guys” and then we matured into adults, found feminism and discovered the inherent misogyny in that statement. I mean, your mileage may vary, but I definitely remember having those thoughts as a teenager, not wanting to seem “too girly” and commenting on how “I’m not like other girls” because “they’re so dramatic.” What a fool I was. I love having lady friends but I’m not going to pretend it’s all brunch and cosmos (although it is often those things). Real women have real feelings and sometimes we need to confront those feelings with our words, AKA fighting.o-MEAN-GIRLS-REUNION-facebook

Several movies have explored the dynamic found in female friendship, to varying degrees of success. The most notable one, Mean Girls, deals with women in high school, when all they care about is boys and being popular. It’s also “Mean Girls Day” being October 3rd, so it seems fitting to discuss it today. When we meet the titular girls, it’s through the eyes of newcomer Cady. They allow her into the group which immediately sparks a rift as Gretchen deals with feelings of jealousy and worries about being replaced. Regina is the leader of the group because she is the prettiest and the richest and the bossiest, so she decides what matters. Regina’s world comes crashing down thanks to Cady and Janice, which results in the entire female population of their Junior class being assembled in the gym to work out their feelings. Of course the point Tina Fey is trying to make is that women shouldn’t compete and fight with each other. We all have way bigger battles to worry about.

Like the literal battle of Good vs. Evil, as in The Craft. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for The Craft and I’m sure I’m not alone. It actually shares the same setup of Mean Girls. New girl in high school, finds an established group of three friends who tentatively accept her because she fits their criteria. In Mean Girls, it was being pretty enough. Here, Sarah displays some skills as a witch just when the girls are looking to complete their coven. They need a fourth so they can “make stuff happen.”kinopoisk.ru

But with great power comes great responsibility. Nancy and Sarah start fighting over a boy (whom Nancy “accidentally” kills) and soon the girls are at war. Sarah tries to distance herself from her new “friends” and they plan her suicide. We’ve all been there. High school is hard enough without involving Dark Magic. I’m sorry to say, it doesn’t get much easier after high school. 2481_d020_00580rv2_crop.jpg_cmyk_wide-b1443dcfa0dc6ab367bad86d91aff992e4dcd328-s900-c85

Two films came out this year which feature a reuniting group of female friends after several years apart. They became friends in college but geography and time had town them apart. They had maintained their connection, but only knew the good bits. We all edit our lives for social media, but usually our best friends know the truth. In Girls Trip, Ryan is hiding her sham marriage and Sasha is hiding a bankrupt business. The women are struggling in their separate lives because of a grudge Sasha holds over Ryan choosing her husband first. A mistake, obviously, because men ain’t shit, but we all need to find that out in our own time. Ryan does come to senses by the end and she and Sasha start the company they always wanted. Also Tiffany Haddish is there being amazing in every scene. It’s worth seeing if you haven’t already. maxresdefault-1

In Rough Night, Jess is literally hiding from Alice. She didn’t invite her to her bridal shower and has even blocked her on social media so she wouldn’t see what she was missing. Unlike the rest of the women, Alice never progressed beyond needing her best friends, and unfortunately, hasn’t been able to deal with her fear of being left behind. She is a clingy, aggressive friend to Jess, who kind of just wants to win her election and get married and start a new life without her college friends. Feeling like you’re outgrowing your friends is hard. They’ve done so much for you. And they’re not bad people they’re just… not your people. Not anymore. It’s hard to have that conversation and I empathize with Jess because she took the “easy” way out and just let herself be isolated by the distance. Of course in the end, they’re all best friends again but I don’t think real life works like that.

Real life works more like The Jane Austen Book Club where four women who have known each other for years, and one new woman, and a man who wants to date of the women but keeps getting set up with one of the other women because the woman he likes is terrified of losing her independence and agency (which I 100% relate to) start a book club to distract themselves from getting divorced, losing a pet, and being married to a jerk. They have weird fights that have actually been going on for decades, and make snide comments about each other because they are shy and not very good at making friends and they laugh and cry and support each other through it all because in the end, that’s all we can do.The-Jane-Austen-Book-Club-the-jane-austen-book-club-5268689-720-480.jpg