Tag Archives: sarah silverman

Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special

Peak 1990s Michael Bolton was a cheesy, long haired dude who belonged in my mother’s cheesy CD collection, not mine. He was “adult contemporary” in the worst way imaginable. But then he cut off his mane and hooked up with Lonely Planet. The result?

 

Wait a minute: Michael Bolton has a sense of humour about himself? Indeed he does. And if you thought the above three minutes were worth a hoot, then you should definitely check out his Valentine’s special on Netflix because it’s a whole hour worth of laughs. If you’re anything like me and can’t handle sappy movies without copious eye rolls and squirms, and you think the softcore porn of Fifty Shades of Whatever is just plain undignified, finally we’ve got something you and your hunny can curl up to.  Laughter makes couples stronger – trust me, it’s science.

But you certainly don’t need to be a couple to enjoy this as its basic function is to poke fun michaelboltonsbigsexyvalentinesdayspecial_2at the whole romantic notion anyway. The premise, which is a generous way to describe it, is this: Santa needs an extra 75k babies to deliver presents to by next Christmas, so Michael Bolton agrees to host a sexy telethon to inspire love\baby making. Answering the phones of this telethon include seldom-thought of celebrities such as Brooke Shields, Sinbad, and Janeane Garofalo. But that’s hardly the limit as far as celebrity cameos go. Bolton is helped by the likes of Michael Sheen, Maya Rudolph, and very briefly, his best friend Adam Scott. Plus about 2 dozen more.

Bottom line, it’s stupid. It’s quite stupid. It was the kind of stupid I enjoyed because it’s skeweringly silly, raunchy, sparkling with tongue-in-cheek homages. It’s quite reminiscent of the Bill Murray Christmas special, A Very Murray Christmas. And the truth is, Michael Bolton still sounds good. So on the rare occasion when he actually does sing, it’s perfectly pleasing. But it’s never, ever with a straight face. And that’s what makes it stupidly glorious.

 

[It also begs the question: what’s next? Murray got Christmas, Bolton got Valentine’s…who would you like to see tackle a holiday?]

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I Smile Back

I Smile Back is tough to watch from the start, and it only gets worse.  It tells the story of Laney (Sarah Silverman), a housewife struggling with “drugs and daddy issues”, whose primary question of her therapist is, “which do you want to talk about first?”  Laney is married with two young children, so her apparent drug and sex addictions are significant problems for a whole number of reasons.

I am by far the least qualified i-smile-backasshole to diagnose Laney, being the only one who’s not a mental health professional.  But since Jay’s in a pain and morphine-induced haze right now, and Matt hasn’t seen the movie, you get stuck with me as your tour guide!  So here we go.

First, the easy part.  Silverman is excellent in the lead role, and is well-deserving of the acclaim she has received so far (nominated for a SAG Award for Best Actress).  I found her very believable as a woman who loves her family and truly wants to be part of it despite struggling with all sorts of stuff.  That Silverman is so good makes the movie all that more difficult to watch.

Beyond that, it gets much tougher.  Because of how difficult the movie is to watch, looking at I Smile Back critically is very hard for me.  I did not like watching itsmile-back but I know I was never supposed to.  Nothing that happens in Laney’s life gives us a lot of hope that things are going to get better, and the movie does not end on a happy note (in fact, at the end things are at their very bleakest).  Silverman has made us care about Laney by then.  I wanted Laney to get better and repair her relationship with her husband Bruce (Josh Charles), so I was hoping for a typical Hollywood ending.

Suffice to say, I did not get a happy ending, and after reflection I think that was the right decision by writers Paige Dylan and Amy Koppelman (the latter of whom wrote the book on which the movie is based).  But something still was missing, and after staring at this computer screen for a while, I think I have put my finger on it.  In a meta sense, the movie is worthwhile because it gives Silverman the chance to show a whole other dimension to her acting.  But within the movie itself, I Smile Back didn’t give me anything meaningful.

The only meaning I can find within the movie is that anyone may be struggling with mental health and it’s not easy to recover even if he or she really wants to.   And while that’s something I agree with, it’s something I already felt coming in and the story in I Smile Back really didn’t go beyond that basic notion.  Everything in the movie was consistent with that idea but it felt like we were on a fixed path because of it.  Looking back, almost all the characters we meet other than Laney are primarily plot devices to give Laney a chance to make another bad decision, and she rarely misses the opportunity.  The opportunity that feels missed is on the part of the writers, who rather than fleshing out characters or situations, just keep things moving by giving Laney more chances to do bad things.   Because of that, I never felt that seeing these awful things happen onscreen was worth the pain.  I never felt any payoff for my discomfort within the movie and I needed there to be something.

Overall, this movie was worth checking out for Silverman’s performance but it’s really not great otherwise.  I give it a score of six out of ten.