Tag Archives: Mindy Kaling

Ocean’s 8

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has an annual gala to celebrate its epic costume exhibits. It’s the most exclusive party in town, and guests compete to see which top-tier designer will outfit them. It’s a parade of jaw-dropping gowns and over the top accessories worn by the biggest celebrities who don’t mind being incredibly uncomfortable for an evening. It’s paparazzo heaven, and whoever dons the most shocking and exquisite dress WILL make the front page of every magazine and newspaper the next day. I live for this shit: the shoes, the jewels, the blatant disregard for theme. The MET gala is an institution. And it’s a fucking lot of fun to watch some badass women rob the damn thing.

Sandra Bullock plays Debbie Ocean, Danny’s sister who’s fresh off a 5-year stint in the slammer. That’s 5 whole years she’s had of dedicated heist planning, so on the day of her release, she hits the ground running, and the first place she runs to is her old friend and MV5BMzk0M2Y0YWQtZWVlYy00MGU2LTk1NmQtOGRlYWM4ODhlYjkwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc5OTMwOTQ@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1502,1000_AL_partner Lou (Cate Blanchett) who doesn’t need much convincing. The plan is not to rob the museum, but to rob the neck of famous actress and red carpet savant Daphne (Anne Hathaway) of the 6lbs\$150 million dollars worth of diamonds that will be hanging there ever so tantalizingly.  Who could resist? Debbie and Lou assemble a crack team including a jeweler (Mindy Kaling), a hacker (Rihanna), a soccer mom fence (Sarah Paulson), and a master of the sleight of hand (Awkwafina) to pull off the ultimate crime.

When Ghostbusters got an all-female reboot, sad little cockmuppets cried that their childhoods had been ruined. It seemed like there was less vitriol for an all-female version of Ocean’s, perhaps because the Ocean’s fans are adults rather than manbabies suckling at the teat of nostalgia. Still, I couldn’t help but be sad when Debbie herself justifies her all-female team: women are far more likely to be overlooked.

Ocean’s 8 is good but not great. It’s a heist movie and you’ll never question where it’s going, but the fun is how it gets there. And there is some fun here. Helena Bonham Carter, splendidly cast as a kooky designer, has the time of her life. Anne Hathaway, who I normally cannot stand, earns some laughs with her starlet parody. And Cate Blanchett, hooo-eeee, let’s just sit here and ignore the fact that I’m about to objectify her, big time. Those bangs. Wispy blonde bangs that fall into her eyelashes just so. She’s constantly blinking under their weight, and I’m constantly imagining how I might sweep them away for her. Knock me over, knock me right over.

But with nearly every ensemble, my complaint is similar: just not enough time with all of my favourites. Sarah Paulson is a working mother conwoman, a criminal type we do not often glimpse in Hollywood’s depiction of the underworld, and Paulson’s talent is so enormous she maximizes her screen time and paints her character with charisma and relatability. Mindy Kaling is effervescent but underused. Newcomer Awkwafina has clearly got star power, but she’s not exactly getting equal screen time with the Oscar winners on either side of her. Even though you only need 8 women to do the job of 11-13 men, the movie still feels crowded and the cast just doesn’t always get what it deserves. There are way too few female characters in this genre, and the 8 here are still just a drop in the bucket. We need to see a lot more lady (crime) bosses to even up the score, but maybe next time a lady boss behind the camera might also be in order – you know, if you want it done right.

 

 

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A Wrinkle in Time

This movie came out when I was in Austin, Texas seeing a billion movies at SXSW, and even so, I still considered taking a time out just to see another movie, one that was just hitting theatres. I never made it to A Wrinkle In Time then, but I finally got around to it this weekend, and I wasn’t the only one: our cinema was packed on Easter Monday, and I was pleased to note how many families were in attendance.

For those of you who haven’t read the book (by Madeleine L’Engle), A Wrinkle In Time is about a young girl named Meg – troubled at school, grieving at home. Her parents are both brilliant scientists, or were – her father disappeared years ago while MV5BNzhkYzRlNzUtNzFhNy00MzllLWFkZGEtNDg0ZTE0YTYzOWNjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjk3NTUyOTc@._V1_working on a theory about a tesseract, which would involve “wrinkling” time and space in order to travel through it. One dark and stormy night, a mysterious woman named Mrs. Whatsit appears to tell Meg, her friend Calvin, and Meg’s little brother Charles Wallace, the child genius, that she has heard her father calling out to them through the universe. Turns out, Mrs. Whatsit and her friends Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which are supernatural beings prepared to engage in a rescue mission.

The book was repeatedly rejected – possibly because it was a work of science fiction with a young, female protagonist, and possibly because it asked a lot from its young readers. Not only does it use physics and philosophy as basic concepts, it directly tackles the nature of evil, and pits children against it. The movie, too, follows in its footsteps, embracing what made the novel so special and unique, proudly displaying the magic AND the science, and trusting a young audience to appreciate them both. If anything the movie is a little too ambitious – though I quite enjoyed it, I did, in the end, have the sense that parts of it were quite condensed.

Director Ava du Vernay gets the casting exactly right: Storm Reid as Meg is what we want every 13 year old girl to be – smart and strong and curious and cautious. Her determination in the face of her fear and vulnerability make her an exceedingly compelling character. She may at times be insecure but her love and loyalty toward family see her through difficult times. But of course it’s the larger than life characters that Meg meets that give the story so much colour. The Mrs. Ws are particularly enchanting, and I cannot imagine a more satisfying trio than Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, and Oprah, large and in charge.

At just under 2 hours, the movie does unfortunately lose some of the detail that MV5BMTU5Njg0NTA0MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTgwNDU4NDM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,929_AL_make the book wonderful, but it also paints a fantastic picture that I cannot stop myself from going back to in my mind. The visuals are exotic and beautiful and the world-building just divine. I can only guess at the kind of impression it makes on young imaginations.

Though the movie has some flaws, its themes are just as courageous and necessary today as they were when the book was first published in 1962. Light vs darkness, good triumphing over evil, and the only real weapon used is love. It’s also got a (somewhat diluted) message against conformity; Meg has to embrace her flaws in order to win the day.

See this movie with a child’s wonder and you will be delighted. Adapting this book was always going to be difficult, and the worst thing it does, necessarily, is rob us of the opportunity to do some of the imagining for ourselves. But in committing to the visuals, Ava du Vernay does the source material more than justice. She gives us a film full of hope and bravery, and shows little girls everywhere that they too can be the heroes of their own stories.

The Night Before

This is the most easily swallowed holiday movie I’ve ever seen. Maybe that reveals my inner Grinchiness, but the truth is, no matter how magical the season, my threshold for the trite & schmaltzy is painfully low. Every time a family literally gathers around a piano to sing carols, I want to slit my night-before-featwrists and douse all the mistletoe and twinkle lights in my eggnog-infused blood.

Ethan’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) parents died 14 years ago, and his two buddies Chris (Anthony Mackie) and Isaac (Seth Rogen) stepped up to the plate to make sure he’d never be alone at Christmas, establishing an annual tradition of getting right ripped the night before.

This movie is really just a Christmassy version of Rogen’s usual raunchy fare, but it’s worth it just to see Rogen and New York City all dressed up for the holidays – he in a garish Jewish version of the ugly-Christmas-sweater.

Chris is a rising star and Isaac’s about to become a daddy, so they’re hoping that this will be the grand finale on their Christmas obligations; Ethan, however, is stuck, and much less inclined to let go.

Isaac’s very pregnant wife has bestowed him with the penultimate holiday gift: a treasure box filled with drugs. It’s his last chance to go hog wild screen-shot-2015-07-29-at-15-20-21before the baby, and this is Seth Rogen at his best: manic, sweaty, trippin balls, panicked, and awkward. This wires their adventure with the kind of wacky energy we want and need in a film that dares to ask: how much r-rated nastiness can we possibly cram into the holiest of days? And may I just say: how refreshing to see the wife encouraging her husband to spend time with his pals instead of the usual wet-blanket cliche.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is charming as always, but cursed to play it straight in this movie (except for his elf face, which may be worth your $12 ticket alone). Anthony Mackie is the charismatic one who pinballs between the straight arrow and the hot mess, clearly having fun with his strut.

This movie isn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as the trailer led me to believe. Some of the bits bog down the hijinks, but you never have to wait for long before the next chapter unfolds (my favourite bit being when Isaac attendsnightbefore3 midnight mass high as fuck – I may have accidentally punched Sean in the balls during that scene – may god, and Spencer, forgive me). This movie is both template-following in terms of Rogen stoner comedies, and refreshingly irreverent in terms of holiday fare: a weird mashup, but what else do you expect from a movie that worships both Run-DMC and Miley Cyrus?

 

Inside Out

insdie out 2Inside Out is a return to form for Pixar, a brand that hasn’t been quite as synonymous with quality and originality over the last five years as it used to be.

The general story, of five walking talking emotions (Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust) controlling a young girl’s emotional life and decision-making from inside her head seemed just plain silly to me when the trailers for Inside Out were first released. What I couldn’t have possibly anticipated was how much insight we’ get through what seems to be such a simplistic inside outconcept into the way these five emotions interact as we grow up.

Inside Out works for two reasons. First, the voice-casting couldn’t have been better, especially for Riley’s emotions. Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Mindy Killing, and Bill Hader- all very funny people- are the perfect companions for this wild ride through Core Memories, The Train of Thought, The Subconscious, and Abstract Thought (look out for that last one). There’s a lot of fun to be had with this idea and the good people at Pixar don’t miss a chance.

Second, with all the insanity and cartoony visuals in Riley’s inner life, the creative team never forget the importance of keeping her real life believable. It doesn’t hurt that the animation of Riley, her parents, and her surroundings are so real they’re scary. It’s more than that though. Her memories and the mini-crisis she faces when she moves to San Francisco are handled just right, making this Pixars’ most moving film since Toy Story 3.

Women in Hollywood

Russell Crowe is an ass. Everyone knows this. So when he recently went on a rant about how there are plenty of parts for women in movies so they should just shut their yaps and “act their age” no one was surprised by the medium or the message. As long as there’s been movies, there’s been sexism  and by god, where sexism goes so does ageism.

Looking at this year’s Oscar nominations it was pretty clear to me that meatier roles go to men, but I’m not going to sit here and lament the missed opportunities when instead I could be celebrating the success.ghostbusters

Earlier today, Paul Feig posted an untitled photo to Twitter featuring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. Feig provided absolutely  no comment but fans were quick to speculate that this was the cast of his much-discussed reboot of The Ghostbusters franchise. McKinnon and Jones are both current members of SNL while Wiig and McCarthy are already Feig collaborators, having co-starred in Bridesmaids, the highest grossing domestic R-rated female comedy of all time, edging out Sex and the City (2008).

Meanwhile, at Sundance,  Emily Nussbaum, award-winning critic for the New Yorker, moderated a panel of “Serious Ladies” featuring the uber-talented Wiig, Jenji Kohan (who wrote for Sex and mindy-kaling-cover-ftrthe City and Gilmore Girls before creating Orange Is the New Black and Weeds), Lena Dunham (creator and star of Girls) and Mindy Kaling (writer\producer\star of The Mindy Project). Although they’re all at the top of their game, they all shared stories about how tough it was to break in. Kohan recalled male-dominated writers’ rooms where one cave-dweller told her  “If God had meant women to be in a writer’s room he wouldn’t have made breasts so distracting.” Kaling discussed the pressure to be a role-model versus the artist’s craving to push the envelope and maybe even offend. Sometimes feminism means creating a female character that isn’t necessarily “likeable.”

Dunham, who recently released a memoir, spoke about the difficulty women face in being dunham-lena-podcast-sl-hollywoodmistaken for the characters they play (and wondered why Woody Allen and Larry David don’t get pigeonholed in quite the same way). She hopes to one day see women outnumber men in their profession – “That would be my favourite, if guys some day were to say, ‘It’s impossible to get into Hollywood! It’s a women’s club!’ ”

Jenji Kohan pointed out that she was still expected to write material about weddings and uzomotherhood, a notion she challenges with the huge success of her show, Orange Is The New Black. That series, a Netflix original, won big at the Screen Actors Guild awards on Sunday. Uzo Aduba took home Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series that night (she plays “Crazy Eyes), and gave a heartfelt speech. But the best part was the love and support coming from the OITNBUZO ADUBA OF THE NETFLIX SERIES "ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK" ACCEPTS THE AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY AN ENSEMBLE IN A COMEDY SERIES ALONG WITH HER FELLOW CAST MEMBERS AT THE 21ST ANNUAL SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AWARDS IN LOS ANGELES table – it’s always heartening to see women cheering each other on. Aduba was back on stage before long – the show also won Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series, wrestling away the honour from Modern Family. What a great sight to see so many strong and talented ladies on the stage at once.

There are still mountains to climb for women in Hollywood, but if you look around (or follow our Twitter feed – @assholemovies ) you’ll find rashidajonestoystorybrave mountaineers everywhere. Just today it was announced that Toy Story 4 would be making its way to theatres in 2017 and that Rashida Jones and her writing partner Will McCormack would be tapped for the screenplay. Although they only have one previous credit to their names (Celeste and Jesse Forever), John Lasseter insists he “wanted to get a strong female voice in the writing of this.” This is a nice change from Pixar’s usually male-dominated animated lineup (Buzz, Woody, Nemo, Mike, Sully, Wall-E, etc) and a step in the right direction for us all.