The Wrap Sheet, August 2018 A monthly airing of thoughts and grievances
What is this picture? Keep reading to find out.
August has been a whirlwind of a month for me!
I am now a quarter of a century old. The quarter-life crisis hit at 24, so I feel like it was just another day this year on my birthday.
There are also some other media-type things in the works soon, which I will keep you posted on as I get further and further involved.
But for a month without a holiday, there sure is a lot to talk about.
Movies made me angry this month, which is odd, because they’re always where I go to escape reality.
I didn’t get to see any movies this month because Moviepass was undergoing some radical changes.
Those changes just might make me cancel my membership.
Oh wait. Apparently, I can’t?
There have been numerous reports of Moviepass subscribers receiving an Error notification when they try to cancel their plan.
It has not been a good last few months for the movies-for-less subscription service. After initially running out of money and taking out a $5 million loan, Moviepass rolled out its first slew of changes in early July. These changes included:
A price increase from $9.95/month to $15/month.
Blackouts on popular films like Mission Impossible: Fallout (instead of upping the prices of popular movies with peak pricing), while also continuing surge pricing on major releases.
Limiting subscribers to three movies per month, and not allowing subscribers to use Moviepass to see a given movie more than once.
This past month, Moviepass made some changes to its rules once again, reinstating the $9.95/month plan, but keeping the limit to three movies per month (a decision they’ve made based on the data that most subscribers see an average of three movies per month), and eliminating surge pricing altogether.
In what is being called a “transition period,” Moviepass is still blacking out popular films and showtimes, limiting subscribers to two movies per month for the time being.
In its newest set of changes, the service will release a set of films (six films set to rotate periodically) and screening times on a new daily schedule updated each day, seemingly making going to the movies into a guessing game, forcing its subscribers to chance both the schedule and the clock in order to see a film.
Given that you have to be within a certain distance of a movie theatre to purchase a ticket with the app and card, having to dance around the schedule Moviepass sets for its films is going to be difficult.
Another change came in regards to seeing more than three films per month. If a subscriber sees more than the allotted three, each additional movie will have a $2-$5 discount, billed to the account associated with the user’s card.
And like I initially thought, that doesn’t mean each subsequent movie will be $2 to $5. That means you’ll pay for the full-priced ticket, and Moviepass will knock off anywhere from $2-$5, depending on the film.
AMC rolled out its AMC Stubs A-List plan for $19.95/month. While it does limit moviegoers to a quarter of the theatres in America and 60% of the films released, the program allows subscribers to see up to three movies per week (which includes IMAX and 3D films) with no blackouts, as well as discounts on concessions and other amenities.
We all knew the business model for Moviepass was unsustainable, right? I was willing to take advantage of it while I could, of course. $10 per month to see unlimited movies? Sounds pretty good to me.
But now that the business’s volatility has reared its ugly head, it might be time to jump ship.
Most of the theatres I visit are AMC theatres. But there are a select few I visit that show only certain films that are not AMC theatres (like the IFC Center or the Angelika Film Center) which I won’t be able to visit without either paying a full priced ticket or planning a day trip out of where I buy one ticket and see multiple films.
I haven’t seen or heard a good, concrete reason to leave Moviepass yet though, I will say. I tend not to go to the movies in the summertime, for the sole reasoning that blockbusters typically aren’t my thing. I’ll wait until October when Oscar season picks up.
If you’re really good with scheduling, you could time it out to see three movies at the end of your billing cycle and three movies at the start of your next one.
I also haven’t heard a good reason to try AMC’s Stubs program. I want to make sure my $20 per month is going to be put to good use without monopolizing where I go to the movies and really making me feel the hit to my wallet when I go somewhere else to see a film.
This makes my brain hurt. I don’t want this to go away, but I feel like it might have to at some point.
At least Moviepass made going to the movies fun again, right?
It made going to the movies fun before it no longer became fun.
Oscar's Popularity Contest
Speaking of movies no longer being fun, let’s talk about The Oscars.
The Oscars are one of my favorite things in all of entertainment; a yearly display of vanity from Hollywood’s finest, where millionaires give other millionaires little golden statues for being good at acting and stuff.
It’s also a realm where I really get to prove I’m right (and shamelessly prove that I’m cultured) a good amount of the time.
Last year, I went 21-for-24 on my Oscar predictions.
But that’s not why I’m here. This time, I’m here to fight the Oscars for adding a new category.
‘A new category? That’s so exciting!’ you might say.
It is exciting, until you find out what it’s for.
This new category will be called the Best Popular Film category.
Best. Popular. Film. Best Achievement in Popular Film, to be exact.
Because that was the squeaky wheel about the Oscars that needed the grease. Not the exclusion of non-white and female actors and designers, not the favorability system of the Best Picture category (or the fact that it’s anywhere from 5-10 nominees instead of a set number).
Nope, the Oscars, under pressure from ABC to increase ratings, decided to make a new category dedicated to blockbuster films that people are “more likely to see.”
Much of the talk surrounding the new Best Popular Film category is swirling around Marvel's "Black Panther."
In this case, this category was created specifically to appease the people who saw Black Panther, because superhero movies will never be nominated for Best Picture. At least not now that this deformity has been created by the Academy.
This is a fake award with vague parameters that further taints an awards ceremony with dwindling credibility.
The move came, as I previously mentioned, out of intense pressure from ABC to increase the ratings of the ceremony. In addition to the new category, the ceremony will be cut to three hours and moved up a few weeks on the calendar.
As for the latter two decisions, that’s all fine and dandy. It’s a won’t-hurt-but-also-won’t-help situation.
But in cutting the ceremony to three hours, the Academy will stop showing certain awards live on air (say goodbye to your Oscar moments, Sound Editing and Mixing winners)- resembling another awards show, the Tony Awards, which has its fair share of problems (another issue entirely).
It’s great that the Academy will recognize films like Black Panther and Mission Impossible: Fallout with an award, but this decision seems insincere and more like a cash grab consolation prize.
And what exactly constitutes a “popular film”? And now that this category is in place, what kind of legitimacy does “Best Picture” hold to some of the movies that actually won the award?
Some of the best films in history are blockbusters. Lots of people went to see them, and they were damn good.
Look at films like Titanic, or The Lord of the Rings, or The Sound of Music, or Forrest Gump, or West Side Story. All of these were popular films- 1997 saw the highest ratings of any Oscar telecast (57.25 million people) because Titanic was nominated- and all of these films won Best Picture.
Just because people liked a movie doesn’t mean it should be degraded as a piece of art. “Popular” and “Best” can be the same thing. Black Panther is an important piece of filmmaking. Just because of positive audience reception and non-traditional content aren’t what you might see considered in a Best Picture doesn’t mean things can’t change. Don’t lessen the quality of the film (and, in all likelihood, diminish the prestige of Best Picture) by awarding a more than worthy film a stupid consolation prize.
My suggestion would be to keep the nominees at 10 for Best Picture and nominate a wide array of different films, or only nominate five and keep a more open mind as to what gets nominated.
As I’ve said before, award shows are dumb. Who are we to compare one piece of art to another?
But there’s “dumb because of politics,” and then there’s “dumb because the most prestigious awards ceremony in film is trending toward the same prestige as the MTV Movie Awards.”
And the Oscar goes to....
This means The Rock is now considerably closer to winning an Oscar. Let that sink in.
On the other side of the entertainment world, I took a look at the show Insatiableon Netflix.
Yes, THAT Insatiable.
The premise is simple...ish. Debby Ryan stars as Patty Bladell, a high school student bullied for being overweight. After punching a homeless man in the face for mocking her physical appearance, the homeless man retaliates, which fractures her jaw and leaves her on a liquid diet for three months. Patty emerges as a new, skinnier version of herself.
After being sued by the homeless man, Patty finds help in Bob Armstrong, a local civil rights lawyer and disgraced beauty pageant coach, who decides to take her case pro bono, all the while grooming her as his next prodigy.
Bob sees Patty as his way back to stardom on the pageant circuit, and Patty sees Bob as her perfect soulmate.
Oh, and Patty also really really wants revenge on anyone who ever bullied her.
It’s messy. Let’s touch on it as briefly as we can.
So I saw the trailer for this, as well as all the backlash for its supposed “fat shaming.”
And I thought to myself: “it can’t really be about that, can it? I mean, the producers can’t be that dumb to release something that straight up plays on this disgusting idea.”
I really thought there had to be some deeper meaning. After all, the backlash came from the trailer, and none of the people signing petitions for the show’s pulling hadn’t actually seen it.
So I didn’t think it could be that problematic… initially.
And then I watched it.
Spoiler alert: It is that problematic.
It’s not really a great message to be sending to teens who may be insecure in their own bodies, that this is what you need to do in order to be considered pretty. Also, it’s just bad writing with unlikeable characters.
I think I may have heard the phrase “but I wanted my revenge” from Patty at least ten times in the pilot alone. I can’t. I don’t care.
“Let me assure you: It is not satire. Insatiableis satire in the same way someone who screams profanities out a car window is a spoken-word poet. Satire requires a point of view; this has none. It generally requires some feel for humor, however dark; this has none. It requires a mastery of tone; this has none. It requires a sense that the actors are all part of the same project; this has none.”
I’d agree, especially with the last point. Bob (Dallas Roberts) and Patty have zero on screen chemistry. It also doesn’t help that he’s old enough to be her father, and she’s pining over him. The faux-relationship is fuzzy and it make me feel like I need to take a shower.
The characters are nothing more than grossly broad stereotypes, and the social commentary reeks of feigned wokeness. This is probably Netflix’s worst show so far.
On paper, it was just another month for the White House.
But of course, for this White House, another month is always the opposite of “just another month.”
Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, two former associates of Donald Trump, were arrested and indicted in the last few weeks of the month.
Manafort served as chairman of the Trump campaign from June until August 2016. Some of his past work was the subject of controversy, as he participated in meetings with pro-Russian Ukrainian businessmen, one such meeting took place at Trump tower for the purpose of delivering “dirt” on Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Manafort was indicted in October on counts of tax evasion, money laundering, failing to identify as a foreign official, and making false statements to investigators.
He faces up to 80 years in prison.
Cohen, who served as Trump’s personal lawyer from 2006 until his firing in May, plead guilty to eight felony charges ranging from tax evasion, to lying to banks in order to obtain loans, to making illegal contributions to the Trump campaign, and even to two counts of violating campaign finance laws in order to pay off women who claimed to have affairs with Trump.
Cohen implicated the President in his plea, saying he made his payments “at the discretion of the candidate” for the purposes of influencing the election.
So this is fun.
I try not to waste too much of my time being shocked at the fact that the Trump administration is corrupt. I believe what I read in the news, and I can only say that I’m shocked that news actually broke.
What I’m not so surprised by has been the President’s assessment of the situation.
“Doesn’t involve me,” he muttered in an interview, attempting to distance himself from his former lawyer. He later tweeted about Cohen, advising people to not “retain the services of Michael Cohen” if they’re looking for a “good lawyer.”
I’m also not as surprised by Trump’s base reacting by still believing the President is not corrupt.
But I think they know something’s up, and they’re trying to save face by looking tough behind a computer screen in the face of danger.
I’m not going to jump to conclusions and say that Trump should be ready for impeachment because I believe the machine he has created is stubborn and will not allow him to leave office under someone else’s power, if it can be helped.
But god, if this isn’t reason to vote in November, I don’t know what is.
Somebody humble this asshole, and quick.
We’ll finish up with some sports, because there’s a lot to talk about.
This wasn’t a great month for sports, as we had some major issues and scandals stemming from prominent college football programs.
Urban Meyer gives a press conference regarding his handling of a domestic violence dispute involving a member of his coaching staff.
The first involves Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer, who was suspended for three games after he failed to efficiently disclose information to the NCAA about one of his assistant coaches (Zach Smith), who was involved in a domestic violence dispute with his wife. Meyer fired Smith, but investigators discovered that Meyer had destroyed texts and emails in order to, as Meyer put it, “give [Smith] the benefit of the doubt.”
Meyer was placed on administrative leave after an investigation by a University panel.
At first, this seemed to be a non-issue. I watched the interview with Zach Smith on ESPN, and he seemed accepting of his punishment. He constantly repeated that Meyer said if he found out anything was going on, Smith would be fired on the spot. But after this story sat with me for a little bit, it dawned on me just how bad of a leader Urban Meyer is.
Your job as a football coach is to win football games, and I completely understand that. But there is a line between right and wrong. No matter how long you sit on it for, not taking immediate, appropriate action against someone who assaulted his wife is just wrong.
You’re also setting an example for the young men you coach, who were unaware of the fact that you were protecting a man who performed a despicable act. The act of protecting this man is embarrassing and shameful in and of itself, and the subsequent press conferences that Meyer gave just dig the University deeper into a hole.
Will this affect Ohio State this season? Of course not.
The games they’ll play without Meyer are at home against Oregon State and Rutgers (two unranked opponents) and at 10th-ranked TCU.
Even without their head coach, the team will roll over Oregon State and Rutgers. If they can gel as a team without Meyer in those two games, they shouldn’t have a problem with TCU, even if the game is in Fort Worth.
It’s a shame. The NCAA and its coaches need to do better, especially when there are student athletes being suspended for far more benign offenses.
If you’re high-profile, it appears you should be okay. If you’re not gone for too long, people can still make money off your namesake. Which is bullshit.
Maryland and Jordan McNair
Maryland football coach D.J. Durkin (right) sits during a press conference stemming from the death of one of his players back in May.
I also want to touch quickly on Maryland.
Jordan McNair, a 19-year old offensive lineman, passed out from heat exhaustion during a workout on May 29th. He died on June 13th.
Once again, this story has forced not only the University of Maryland, but college football programs across the country, to reflect upon a hypermasculine culture bred on intimidation and belittlement, and whether or not these sports teams are adequately protecting their players.
Maryland strength coach Rick Court has been fired. Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin has been placed on administrative leave after an investigation into the affair was started by University President Wallace D. Loh. On behalf of the college, Loh accepted both “legal and moral responsibility” for McNair’s death.
This makes me shake my head in disgust, this whole thing. It makes me sick.
There have been 31 college player deaths in offseason workouts, drills and practices since 2000 that are related to heat stroke, exhaustion, cardiac issues, and others. Thirty one.
Since 2013 alone, there have been eight cases involving extreme heat stroke that have resulted in three deaths.
These are kids. They’re kids who go to school to get an education. The fact that sports teams have more value in this country than education is absurd.
And the Maryland coaching staff literally intimidated, belittled, and pushed one of these kids so hard that they killed him.
That’s a strong sentence but this pisses me way too much the fuck off to care.
According to a study done by the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut (Stringer was a Minnesota Vikings player who died of heat stroke in 2001), heat stroke is readily treatable with “100 percent survivability.”
There is no way that Jordan McNair should have collapsed and left to suffer out there. His coaching staff should have done something. ANYthing.
But because college football is part of this overly masculine culture, where only the fit survive and any showing of weakness (critical or otherwise) is considered grounds for humiliation and removal, they did nothing.
In the offseason, player workouts, drills, and practices are not as intensely monitored, and so players can be subjected to needlessly intense physical activity.
It’s good that Court was removed, and the Durkin will probably also be let go by the University once this investigation is complete. Props to President Loh for accepting responsibility on behalf of the University.
There needs to be some kind of monitoring that goes on year round for these athletes. It needs to keep the players in check, but it also needs to keep the coaches in check. If sports are so highly regarded in American society, shouldn’t we have some standards of safety to protect the game’s integrity?
The Return of Johnny Football
We’ll shake that one off and move on to a sports story that made me laugh. This is Johnny Manziel. He used to play football at Texas A&M.
He’s a good quarterback. He even won the Heisman Trophy as the best college football player. But he’s also cocky. Really cocky.
He left college after two years and got drafted by the Cleveland Browns (where football careers go to die), and he actually won a few games with them.
(Truth be told, I feel like the last time the Browns were actually winning more than two or three games in a season, Manziel was their quarterback.)
But Manziel got into drugs and partying and was quickly out of the league, and checked himself into a rehab facility.
After trying to make a comeback in the NFL, Manziel went to Canada to join the CFL, where he joined the roster of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, after which he was quickly traded to the current basement-dwellers of the CFL, the Montreal Alouettes.
And Manziel got to actually start a game for the Alouettes, in week seven, against his former team.
Manziel (#2, right) watches as Larry Dean (#11) intercepts one of his passes.
Manziel’s first pass was a five yard loss. His second pass was intercepted. By halftime, he had thrown four interceptions. He was 11/24 for 104 yards.
Johnny Football’s fall from grace has been astounding to watch. He was too willing to get out of college, but probably could have benefitted from a few more years’ play (and probably a few more years’ maturity).
He’s just coming back from injury after two weeks away, so we’ll see what happens in the next chapter of Mr. Manziel.
Presently, the Alouettes sit at 2-8, at the bottom of the CFL standings.
The Best Thing I Saw This Month!
And, of course, we wrap things up with the best thing I saw this month.
The best thing I saw this month is actually two things.
The first is this video of a South Korean taekwondo team.
If this isn’t something straight of, like, Naruto or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, I don’t know what is.
The second, and probably the most important, is from Norway.
Enter the world belly flop championships. Or, as they call it in Norway, Dødsing, or, “Death Diving.”
Essentially, it’s the basic belly flop with a bit of a twist. A bit of mustard, if you will.
The competitors launch themselves from a ten-meter diving platform and do all kinds of flips, spins, and other maneuvers, before straightening themselves out and impacting the water abdomen first (you'll notice they'll recoil slightly before impact, because they're not barbarians, obviously).
It’s mystifying, terrifying, and hilarious all at the same time.
Here are some highlights from the 2018 World Championships:
Something about these people flying from above like missiles (and the best is when it’s two or three at a time) is beautiful to me.
And, of course, the divers hitting the water makes me die laughing every time.
This has been your August Wrap Sheet! Leave a comment down below if there's anything you think I missed, or if you have any suggestions for future posts!
Also, some other media news I promised earlier...
I’m working on a new vodcast called Under Further Review, and our first episode just went live on Facebook a few days ago!
Join me and Kata Stevens as we explore the world of sports and drink while we’re doing it.
Click HERE to join in on the fun, and make sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram using the handle @ufrvodcast.
The Wrap Sheet
A monthly airing of thoughts and grievances
Happy 242nd birthday, America!
Apologies for the late posting (I know, it’s August 2nd). But let’s talk about July!
I have a lot to get to this week, including some major sports news, a film review, opinions on Twitter, theatre, and a new segment I’m calling the Best Thing I Saw This Month.
That is LeBron James. Wearing purple and gold. (Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)
I want to get sports out of the way first. The big story didn’t really feel like a big story because we all knew it was coming- LeBron James is now a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. He signed a 4-year, $153.3 million contract earlier in the month.
My hot take is that this doesn’t make the Lakers championship contenders. I mean, obviously it does, any team with LeBron on it is a contender, but it doesn’t make themautomaticchampionship contenders. In fact, I think LeBron made it harder on himself by going to the Western Conference, especially since the Warriors just brought in DeMarcus Cousins to add to their superteam.
As it stands, LeBron is surrounded by an underwhelming but somewhat-decent cast including Rajon Rondo, Kyle Kuzma, JaVale McGee, and Brandon Ingram, with players like Lonzo Ball, Lance Stephenson, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope coming off the bench. I don’t know about you, but I’m not scared of that team if I’m the Warriors, Rockets, or Celtics.
The West is going to be a bloodbath this season.
France: Because Nobody Else Wanted To. (Getty)
In soccer, France defeated Croatia, 4-2, in the most boring World Cup Final pairing of all time.
Woods, understandably frustrated, could not hold his final round lead. He finished at 5-under for the championship. (Harry How/Golf Digest)
In golf, Tiger Woods made a run at the British open after being fairly mediocre through the first two rounds, eventually holding an outright lead on the front nine of his final round. Unfortunately, Woods couldn't hold the lead for long. The 14-time major champion finished three strokes back of eventual winner, Italian Francesco Molinari, who became the first of his countryman to win a major championship.
What really struck me, though, was Rory McIlroy's beautiful double-fist-pump-pirouette combo after sinking a long eagle putt on #14 to put him within a stroke of the leaders.
LOL at Putin's smug-ass face. (Yuri Kadobnov/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, after meeting with Vladimir Putin at a summit in Helsinki, said that he didn’t “see any reason why it would be Russia” interfering with this country’s elections, causing major internet backlash.
Trump sided with Russia. What else is new?
What I want to talk about is the backlash and eventual revision of the statement. In a press conference a few days later, facing fury from both his supporters and opposers, said that he misspoke.
“I thought it would be obvious,” he told the press, “but I would like to clarify just in case it wasn’t (it wasn’t, hence the backlash). In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t’... The sentence should have been: ‘I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t, or why it wouldn’t be Russia.’ Sort of a double negative. So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.”
Obviously it didn’t clarify things pretty good by themselves. The comment sparked the hashtags #would and #wouldnt trended worldwide on twitter.
But Trump very clearly being an idiot again is not what I want to discuss.
I’m sorry if this seems to “normalize” Trump’s behavior, but I think we need to stop being shocked at what he does or doesn’t do that is defined as “normal,” and look forward to the next voting cycle so that we can put an end to this buffoonery.
This story brings me to my main point: Twitter.
Twitter and I have a love-hate relationship. I use it to get a lot of my breaking news from journalists I follow. It’s very convenient to have all of my news in the same place divided not by media outlet, but by primary source. It’s also a convenient place for me to find memes and other funny things to retweet so I can convince my followers that I have a sense of humor.
It also pisses me the hell off sometimes; so much utter shit goes through that universe that it makes me want to pull the plug on social media altogether. There’s just so many opinions on Twitter that I do. Not. Care. About.
One such issue I take with Twitter is that of a potential “edit tweet” option. And I totally get understand its appeal to the mass-users, the “casual tweeters.”
You spend a few minutes crafting a tweet. Maybe it’s over the 280 character mark. Maybe you’re looking for just the right wording. And you send it, and it gets a bunch of likes and retweets, but you notice -gasp- it’s got a typo. Maybe even a few typos. But you’ve already worked so hard to get those likes! And since there’s no editing option, you’re forced to delete the tweet, type it again, and resend it, and you look like an idiot to your friends because you’re double posting, and the same people probably won’t like/retweet it again because they did the first time and I GET THE APPEAL OKAY.
My opinion on the edit button is that there shouldn’t be one. That’s the beauty of Twitter- it’s very stream-of-consciousness, at least for most of us who don’t use twitter to break news. I say leave the edit button to Facebook and Instagram. Also, if you can’t take two seconds re-read a tweet for typos, you don’t deserve an “edit tweet” button.
Also, consider the following, if you want to get technical about it: a certain politician tweets something nice and considerate. It receives a million likes and a million retweets.
And then that certain politician uses the “edit tweet” function to make that tweet really racist or homophobic or xenophobic, and it looks like those million people who liked and retweeted actually liked and retweeted a really awful tweet.
Hold people accountable for their actions and don’t even think about adding an “edit tweet” option.
Also, learn to spell check your own work.
Writer/director Bo Burnham (left) and Elsie Fisher (right) work on a scene from "Eighth Grade."
I only saw one movie in July, and that was Bo Burnham’s coming of age comedy,Eighth Grade.
Jesus, was this movie a hot mess.
And by "hot mess," I mean the life of Kayla (played by Elsie Fisher, a shy, awkward thirteen-year-old who struggles to figure out what it means to be popular, pretty, social, and above all, herself, as she navigates the murky waters of her final week of middle school.
(Because I can’t do movie reviews that aren’t spoiler-free, there are mild spoilers ahead.)
Anyone who has been through the actual eighth grade in the last two decades knows what Kayla has been through: the terror of attending school, the anxiety of trying to impress the cool kids, and the pressure of living up to the expectations of parents.Eighth Grademakes you take a long, cringey trip down memory lane, while all the while making you look your own awkward experiences in the face.
Kayla’s father Mark (Josh Hamilton) plays a loving parent who wants nothing more than to show his daughter love and support as she grows older. His monologue toward the end about taking pride in being a parent and how he wants the same for Kayla is soul-stirring.
But whereEighth Gradetook a turn for me was its setting. It’s set in the present, and middle school in 2018 is very different from middle school in 2008.
What the kids inEighth Gradehave that I never had at that age were smartphones and easy internet access. Kayla makes and shares advice videos on YouTube, the other kids in the movie navigate Instagram and Snapchat with relative ease. There’s also the added pressure of sexual discovery that is briefly touched upon in the film, but Burnham refrains from going too over the top on that front. It’s perfectly cringey and illustrates 2000s teenage insecurity perfectly. It’s deliciously agonizing to watch Kayla’s every move.
Navigating this current world is hard enough (and I say that now, as a twentysomething living on his own in New York), but I can’t even imagine doing it when you’re newly thirteen.Eighth Gradeknocks it out of the park. Depending on the competition, Bo Burnham could find himself at the Oscars with a screenwriting nomination next year.
Taylor Iman Jones (center) and the company of the new broadway musical "Head Over Heels," currently playing at the Hudson Theatre. (Joan Marcus/Playbill)
17 years ago, a show featuring the music of ABBA opened up on Broadway to mixed reviews. That show wasMamma Mia!. It won a grand total of zero Tony Awards after being nominated for only five. But it ran for 14 years, spawned various national tours, and had two movie spin-offs. Anything can happen to a show if enough people give it a chance and see it.
I work as an usher on Broadway for the showHead Over Heels, which just opened last Thursday to, let’s be less, less than stellar reviews. You can read one of those reviewshere.
Head Over Heelsis based on Sir Philip Sidney’s poemThe Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, set to the music of the popular revolutionary 80’s band The Go-Go’s. It’s a bizarre combination of heightened english text and mainstream pop music that blends together really well. It’s also the gayest thing I’ve ever had the pleasure to see and I’m so here for it.
But the show got bashed over the head by reviews. Now, ticket sales have been relatively steady and I don’t know how much of that has to do with the fact that the show is now finally open or the controversy surrounding New York Times reporter Ben Brantley, who intentionally misgendered the show’s transgender star, Peppermint, as a joke during his review (Peppermint is the first transgender woman to originate a principal role on Broadway) and his subsequent apology.
The jukebox musical has run its course on Broadway, I’d say. Ever sinceJersey Boysreached the top of the mountain, you don’t see too many reaching that same fanfare. That’s not to say they’re not popular, because we’ve had a plethora of them reach Broadway since 2000- they are recognizable commodities, after all- but as far as critical reception, I feel like folks are generally tired of their existence and prevalence over more original works.
The thing withHead Over Heelsis that it doesn’t feel like a jukebox musical, at least not to this particular millennial. Perhaps it’s because I was not ultra-familiar with the Go-Go’s canon before seeing the show, and thus many of the songs feel fresh to me (thanks to the brilliant work of orchestrator Tom Kitt), not to mention the lyrics lend themselves to the book, which I think is the strength of the piece.
Working in show business, so often do I hear “oh, I heard it didn’t get very good reviews,” which is basically the same thing as saying “someone else I don’t know said it’s not worth my time, so I’m not going to give it a try.”
This is less of an opinion piece and more of a public service announcement. The only person who can decide if something is for you is YOU. Not a reviewer, not the internet, not your friend or family member- you.
I stress this every year- don’t let reviews or the number of Tony Awards a show wins dictate what you see in New York. Some musicals make you think- there’s nothing wrong with that. Some musicals make you smile and laugh until your face hurts, and that’s their only purpose- there’s nothing wrong with that either. I am sick and tired of people going to see award-winning shows for the sake of seeming cultured or bragging to their friends that they got to see their favorite movie star in a garbage play. Alas, this is the nature of commercial theatre- marketing and selling tickets in any way a show can. PerhapsHead Over Heelshasn’t done the best possible job at that, but in my attempt to sway the populace away from the norm and into the unknown: give the show a chance. Theatre is entertainment, and that’s what this show brings to the table. Its message is also timeless- Love and acceptance and equal representation for all. What’s not to love?
And finally... The best thing I saw this month.
Ah yes. Dudes shoving hot dogs in their mouths. As American as apple pie. (AP)
This last section is the best thing I saw this month, and it revolves around the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, which took place at Coney Island on July 4th. I had the pleasure of being there this year (although it is something I will probably never do again), and I was introduced first hand to one particular individual who will live forever in my memory.
And no, I’m not talking about any of the eaters. I was there- there’s no way in hell Joey Chestnut ate 74 hotdogs and buns in 10 minutes due to a "massive judging error."
No, the real hero of the day was a man by the name of George Shea. He's this guy, who does all the announcing for the event. The guy who wears the hat that says to everyone he's a guy running for mayor in a small town in Missouri (pronounced mizz-UR-uh, not mizz-UR-ee).
Shea was an aspiring writer who studied literature at Columbia, but later found himself managing a PR firm along with his brother Richard, the same firm that handled the Nathan’s account. Together, the two took the hot dog eating contest from a sideshow event and turned it into an international phenomenon watched by millions of people on national television every independence day.
In 1997, the brothers founded the International Federation for Competitive Eating, later renamed Major League Eating, and began to hold eating competitions around the world (and yes, there are videos of people shoving not just hot dogs, but everything from pork rolls, to oysters, to raw onions down their gullets in an allotted time). Thanks to the success of breakout stars like Takeru Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut (and the two’s back-and-forth rivalry), the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest has become an event that is far removed from a vaudeville event.
With George Shea at the helm as emcee, he has elevated it from a sideshow attraction to a place on the pedestal at God’s right hand.
Shea has a knack for introducing the colorful competitors with such incredibly outlandish fervor, that he has turned himself into a national treasure. He has the ability to dance upon the razor-sharp edge between a joke and a very real emotional event. These introductions are absurd, verbose, elaborate, ironic, and uniquely inspiring, packed with esoteric references and grandiose language. He delivers his speeches with a charismatic energy that it rivals (and, more often than not, surpasses) the heart of most sports commentators.
Current world champion and world-record holder Joey "Jaws" Chestnut. (Getty)
Of current champion Joey Chestnut:
“He has God’s username and password and does with it what he pleases!”
And also, because this is too good to pass up:
“He is the citadel, and he shall endure forever, because he is freedom. And he will fight until the dome of heaven collapses, and the black avalanche of space pours down around him.”
In 2014, Chestnut was carried to the stage on a mustard yellow palanquin, which prompted this epic speech from Shea, accompanied by The Who's "Baba O'Reilly." ("Out heeeere in the fields, I fight for my mealllllls")
Thomas is a three-time women's hot dog eating champion. (Getty)
Of former women’s champion Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas:
“She is the shadow under the lotus petal. She is the absence of beauty. She is the memory of pain more painful than the pain itself. She is the darkness driven ever westward by the rising sun."
Of former competitor Yasir Salem: “He is entirely committed to competitive eating. He will do whatever it takes to win. Three days ago he broke up with his girlfriend and euthanized his dog to leave a void of emptiness inside him that he could fill today with hot dogs and buns.”
Lefevre is actually the "buttery flaky crust" guy.
Of Rich “The Locust” Lefevre, the 73-year old competitive eater: “When we’re young we drink our coffee with milk and sugar, and as we age we drink it with milk only, and then we drink it black, and then we drink it decaf, then we die. Our next eater is at decaf.”
Martinez wears a luchador mask to the table.
Of eater Pablo Martinez: “His marriage troubles began when he named his children Mild, Medium, and Hot. But he will not let domestic issues get in the way of the task at hand."
The mystical "Eater X" always an intro befitting such a wondrous athlete.
Two for former competitor Tim “Eater X” Janus:
“His lost his arm to a Bengal tiger in a boyhood trip to the Atlanta zoo. But his arm grew back. He can speak Neutrino, the language of the sun, and all day long he listens to the conversations in the sky.”
“He was born outside of time. A witness to all possible realities. He was there when the sea and the sky were mixed together as one and humans floated from the depths of the Pacific to the very edge of space where they looked out at the stars in the blackness. He was there when druids walked the earth, and he watched as mankind built great cities, developed technology, and invented complex language with combination words such as bromance, labradoodle, manscaping, frenemy and craptacular.”
And finally, there is Eric “Badlands” Booker, who is also a self-producing rapper. During the 2018 event, Badlands performed three rap songs, and then went on to eat a respectable 20 hot dogs and buns. But no performance was more epic than when Shea and Booker tag teamed his entrance. Eat your heart out,Hamilton.
George Shea. A living legend if there ever was one. You’re my hero, and the best thing I saw this month.
That about does it for this month's wrap sheet. Keep a lookout for lots more coming this August from the blog, including my yearly NFL preview!