The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: The Fate of the Furious, and of Movie Stars

The Fate of the Furious, the eighth movie in the unkillable Fast and Furious franchise, is in theaters now, while reports about conflict between two of the franchise’s biggest stars, Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson, are appearing in gossip rags everywhere. The prominence of Johnson and Diesel in this particular mega-franchise got us thinking about the supposed death of the movie star, and whether audiences really have gotten over that star-driven model of moviegoing. So Marisa, Jesse, and Nathaniel got together to talk over both the new Fast and Furious movie and the state of the American movie star in general. It’s your best bet for quality Vin Diesel analysis, and we touch upon other stars, too, including the controversy (?) over Anne Hathaway, the comeback (?!) of Nicole Kidman, and the enduring strength of Denzel Washington. Also, Jesse makes everyone talk about Adam Sandler for a bit, obviously. Something for everyone!

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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: The End of Girls

Lena Dunham’s divisive thinkpiece magnet Girls ended its six-season HBO run on Sunday, to a renewed frenzy of media attention. Several of SportsAlcohol.com’s regular podcasters have watched the entire series as it aired, so Marisa, Sara, Nathaniel, and Jesse got together to watch the finale and discuss the show. Our conversation touches upon issues such as:

  • Friendship
  • Every major character, and why it might be reductive to call any of them “the worst”
  • But seriously, why does Jesse like Marnie so much?
  • The series as a whole and how it ended
  • Storylines we didn’t fall in love with
  • What was realistic… and what wasn’t, especially if you know anything about writing workshops
  • What this TV show did that other shows haven’t really done before
  • Something something problematic

Basically, this episode is a must for any Girls fans still mourning the loss of their favorite show — or, for that matter, for any hatewatchers wishing someone could tell you what the fuss was about.

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The Top Ten Best Girls Episodes

The editorial core of SportsAlcohol.com is full of love for Girls, Lena Dunham’s half-hour dramedy series that just last night ended its final season on HBO. We’ll have a podcast up this week discussing the full scope of the show, from its characters to its style to the cultural conversations it inspired, but first I wanted to put together a very personal list of my ten favorite episodes of this show – my favorite show on the air, until last night (because it ceased to be on the air, not because the finale let me down). Let us know what I overlooked in the comments. Actually, I’ll let you know right now that I was sad not to include “Dead Inside” (Season 3), “Goodbye Tour” (Season 6), “Home Birth” (Season 4), “Video Games” (Season 2), and “Vagina Panic” (Season 1), among others.
Continue reading The Top Ten Best Girls Episodes

T2 Trainspotting, Legion, and the Line Between Style and Something Else

Since the release of T2 Trainspotting, we’ve been exploring the work of Danny Boyle. In our conversations here, as well as elsewhere in other corners of the internet that pay as much attention to the director as we do, the question has come up of just how much of a journeyman director Boyle is. We go more in depth in our Danny Boyle podcast, but it seems like he has a lot of the hallmarks of your typical director-for-hire. He works fast, and often, and in a lot of different genres. But then there’s the question of his style—with lots of flashy, music-video touches—and whether that counts for or against him in the general artistic scheme of things.

To me, Boyle has always been something more than a journeyman. That’s because, for all of his directorial flourishes, he always makes me feel something. T2 is essentially a get-rich-quick-scheme movie, but it really got the feeling of getting older, and the (sometimes misguided) nostalgia of what it’s like to think back on your younger years and the doors you’ve shut behind you as you age—along with the ways that younger people (mostly Veronika) feel so untouched by that kind of regret.

Even the showier parts of the first Trainspotting hit me on some sort of emotional level, even if it’s for a quick laugh (“the worst toilet in Scotland”). I’ve never done heroin, but I got it when I saw Renton sink into the floor to the calm, dulcet tones of Lou Reed.

I know that being able to hit the emotion button might not actually be the line between journeyman and auteur, but I was thinking about Boyle when I was watching another style-rich bit of media: FX’s Legion.  I quite enjoyed Legion.  Like everyone else, I liked the vibe, the sort of future-as-imagined-in-the-mango-and-avocado-colored-1970s look to everything. There were groovy astral planes and out-of-nowhere dance sequences and one beyond-amazing performance by Aubrey Plaza that really went for it.

But, as much as I appreciated it, at the same time it didn’t make me feel anything. The kitchen explodes around David’s head, and, yeah, it looked cool. (They must’ve thought so, too, because they show that moment a million times in a million different ways.) They break out into Bollywood or Bond-ian song or dance, and, yeah, it was neat. But nothing really made me stop dead in my tracks and say, “Oh, damn!” In a show that, in the parlance of Buster, really gets off on being withholding, when the season was over there was no revelation as startling as the big reveal in Danny Boyle’s Sunshine. After the credits roll, I thought, “Oh, this is what people feel when they accuse my favorite directors of being all style with nothing going on underneath.”
Did I feel any differently about David’s character at the end of the season than I did at the beginning? Not really. I understood more what his deal was—after all, every character explained what his deal was to every other character, over and over—but I wish it was more deeply felt. There was one intriguing moment when he looks over at Lenny and says, “Who am I without you?” It could’ve been really powerful, but it was tossed off in favor of more mutant/D3 conflict I didn’t really care about. Even the central romance happened so quickly, I didn’t really believe at first that Syd’s intentions were genuine. I could go for a big, swoony mutant romance, but I just didn’t feel it, and all the pristine, mid-century-modern white rooms in the world couldn’t get me to buy into it 100%.

Legion by FX 1×01 Scene : David Dream / Dance (Serge Gainsbourg) from Chromatic BloodBloodBlood on Vimeo.

And let’s go back to those dance sequences as an example. Legion showrunner Noah Hawley told Vulture that the musical number in the first episode of Legion (above) was supposed to signal how David and Syd are kicking off their big romance. (“What signals falling in love?” he told the website. “Well, it makes you want to sing and dance!”) And yet watching it, I don’t feel swept away. I feel analyzing the depths of David’s mental illness. I feel nothing from Syd. Boyle has a departing-reality-and-falling-in-love musical number, too. It’s in A Life Less Ordinary, one of his worst movies. In our podcast, we talked about how the musical number itself is hampered by the fact that Cameron Diaz can’t sing. And yet, despite all of its flaws, I can feel the love. I’m charmed in some way. It’s a fantasy, but it’s not a fever dream. (Sadly, it is not online, but if I were Diaz, I’d make sure it stayed off Vevo, too. If you’re really curious, fast-forward to the one-hour mark here, but you have to play it at 1.25 speed to get it right. Or just ask Jesse to watch it with you.)

Then again, I’ve always had my problems with Noah Hawley. There’s just something that’s so not fun about him. I was really into the first season of Fargo, but the second season really fell off this cliff into slow-moving ponderousness that sucked all the air out of the series. (But, ugh, I’m back on board for S3, because he’s borrowing Boyle’s ace-in-the-hole Marisa-bait, Ewan McGregor.) If Boyle could squeeze in a silly anti-Catholic karaoke-heist scene into his meditation on middle age, couldn’t Hawley have breathed a little bit more life into his no-touching romance? Get a bit of the old Pushing Daisies spirit in there?

I know that Legion comes with its own backlash insurance, where you can’t really watch an individual episode and think, “Well, that was a lot of nothing,” because it’s all a big slow-burn puzzle, right, and you have to see it through to the end to find out if you liked the previous episodes. Now that I’ve watched it through to the end (and enjoyed quite a bit of it despite my griping), I can say that it did not all build to one amazing ending that made every head-scratching moment worthwhile. (It’s weird that the show can make an ice-cube-man in an astral plane make sense, but it’s not clear why Melanie won’t let David go rescue his sister. I also remember one episode where Jesse was all, “Wait, why are they all camping in a forest?”) So I know not everyone shares my impatience with Hawley, but these types of cul-de-sacs and re-reveals hit my personal pet peeve button of having episodes that always run long, even when there’s not really enough meat in them to justify it. For that matter, when it ended, Jesse was like, “I think I would’ve gotten just as much out of this if it was a two-hour X-Men movie,” and I don’t really disagree.

In that way, Legion has a lot in common with a show I like very much, but don’t love: Mr. Robot. It also indulges in long episodes,  when I think cutting them would make them stronger. It also has a heightened style that distinguishes it from anything else on TV. Both shows have a certain emotional remove. And, most importantly, both shows are both smart, but seem to think that they’re genius.

It’s personally frustrating to me, because if these shows focused less on the smart and more on the heart, I could see them joining my very favorite things ever. Until then, I’m glad I have Danny Boyle movies to remind me that heightened style isn’t always so empty and cold.

The SportsAlcohol.com Mini-Podcast: Late Sequel Pitches

At the end of our recent podcast about Trainspotting 2, Nathaniel, Sara, Marisa, and Jesse got to talking again about what other long-gap sequels we’d like to see, and we think we came up with a better batch than last time the subject came up. So enjoy this 20-minute bonus track of sorts, where we go around the room and talk about the bearded/aged/years-later sequels we’d all love to see. Find out what Jesse chose that Nathaniel was able to guess in 30 seconds flat.

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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Trainspotting 2, Late Sequels, and the Films of Danny Boyle

Just over two decades after the original hit U.K. cinemas and also U.S. college dorm rooms like an electric shock, Danny Boyle and company have returned to the world of Irvine Welsh with T2: Trainspotting, which is to say, the much-anticipated (by some) Trainspotting 2. Marisa, Sara, Nathaniel, and Jesse saw the new movie and then got together to talk about it: How it works as a long gap sequel, a follow-up to the beloved original, and an entry in the filmography of Danny Boyle. How have Renton, Spud, Sick Boy, and Begbie aged? How have we? Listen in to find out — and to prepare for our bonus mini-episode, coming later this week, going further on long-gap sequels.

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Choosing Social Media in Trainspotting 2

Look, I don’t like to impugn the work of other culture writers. It can be a grind, and the demand for topical content relentless. But I took umbrage at this piece over at Vulture, because it seems determined to misread the scene from the Trainspotting sequel it discusses to place it in part of an uncool trend where movies dareth speak ill of social media. Movies are often pretty unhip and out of touch with what’s going on with internet culture, but on the other hand, people who make their living on the internet are often understandably but sometimes insanely defensive about any perceived slights to the medium that puts food on their table. Anyway, my instinct reading this piece was to go through it with a red pen like a crazy person, and bless the internets, this is something I can do now! So here is my annotated version of this article I kinda hated. Consider this a preview for our upcoming podcast about T2: Trainspotting and the films of Danny Boyle. Click for bigger versions.


The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Logan, Kong, and the Beasts of March

Traditionally, March goes in like a lion and out like a lamb, but this year it’s been pretty beastly the whole way through, with Hugh Jackman’s feral superhero Wolverine taking a last stand in Logan, a sorta-live-action retelling of Disney’s classic Beauty and the Beast, and the King himself, Kong, returning for Kong: Skull Island. The SportsAlcohol.com crew saw all three of March’s beast-driven blockbusters and got together for a wide-ranging conversation about these animals and their respective franchises. Nathaniel, Marisa, Jesse, and Rob discuss the X-Men movies, the long history of Kong movies (see also: our Kongtent), and the Disney industrial remake complex, and a whole lot of nerdy more.

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SportsAlcohol.com Founder In the Wild: Kevin Geeks Out About Monkeys!

As you may have noticed, SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Nathaniel is a bit of an expert when it comes to monkey movies. If you’re in the NYC area, you get the chance to see him monkey around in person ONE WEEK FROM TODAY at Kevin Geeks Out: Monkey Madness taking place at the delightful Nitehawk Cinema. Official description:

The show celebrates some of the strangest tropes including: Gorillas vs. Nazis, Women who participate in forbidden monkey love, Chimps in Horror Movies, a defense of Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, a retrospective on Kong sequels (authorized and unofficial), plus the use of monkeys in art-house cinema and propaganda films.

Info:
Thursday, March 23
9:30 pm
Nitehawk Cinema
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
TICKETS! TICKETS! TICKETS!

In the meantime—or if you’re surfing over here from the Nitehawk page/event—get a preview of Nathaniel’s primate expertise by checking out all the kongtent he’s written in the run-up to Kong: Skull Island.

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Los Campesinos! Then and Now

You may have gathered from our obsessive list-making that we here at SportsAlcohol.com are in love with Los Campesinos! Naturally, our obsession didn’t end with listmaking. Rob, Jesse, Marisa, and Sara went out to see the band play in Brooklyn, then sat down for a conversation about the gig, new album Sick Scenes, the evolution of the band’s sound, and how indie rock itself was faring back in 2008 when the first Los Campesinos! record came out. You’ll also find out: How do we process rumors and our own fan-fiction about band members? What was in contention for Rob’s best-ever Valentine’s Day? Which LC! albums does Marisa find underrated? What did LC! newbie Sara think of all this? And what band does Rob reveal he hates (not the Eagles) (well, the Eagles, but also another one)?

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