Tag Archives: Amy Poehler

Veronica Mars, Leslie Knope and Bad Decisions

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(The following contains mild spoilers for the Veronica Mars movie and the most recent episodes of Parks and Recreation.)

Two weeks ago the Veronica Mars movie came to select screens, delivered to us through the magic of crowdfunding wherein thousands of fans donated their own cash to get the movie made (full disclosure, I am one of those fans). It was quite easily predictable, then, that the movie was going to go to great lengths to satisfy those fans, to prove their money was worth it. Director and writer Rob Thomas was very aware of this, stuffing the movie with as many in-jokes, cameos, character returns and smoldering stares from Logan Echolls as it possibly could.

But more importantly, just to get a usable plot, the film had to bring Veronica back to Neptune and her old life, so that it could tell a story that involves old faces and new murderers. On her way back to her P.I. roots and away from her cushy new New York life, Veronica had to make some bad (or at the very least, incredibly risky) life decisions, including blowing up a job offer that would promise stability, sanity and a life away from the 90909 zip code.

Watching the movie, I couldn’t help but think of another cult show about a dedicated blonde woman living in a town that’s bad for her: Parks and Recreation‘s Leslie Knope. With a bit more comedic innocence, Pawnee, Indiana has put Leslie through the ringer just as Neptune, California has forever damaged Veronica. Leslie has been recalled from office, humiliated and degraded by Pawnee and some of its ridiculous citizens, all while constantly striving to make it a better place.

Even with a character as endlessly positive as Leslie Knope, sometimes it’s a little hard to watch her take these beatings over and over again. An overriding theme of the show is how genuinely good a person she is, and Leslie may actually be one of the nicest characters on TV.  Which is why the sudden appearance of a job offer from the National Parks Service a few episodes ago seemed like such a beacon of hope for her. There’s a big part of me that desperately wants Leslie to take that job, leave Pawnee and never look back. I want her and Ben to move on and have tiny nerdy children and live happily ever after.

But Pawnee, with all its overlarge citizens and rabid possums is also the source of the off-beat brand of comedy that makes Parks and Rec so great. And to be totally honest, without Pawnee, there just isn’t a show. The National Parks job seemed just perfect enough that I went online to double check that the show was renewed, because Leslie moving away would definitely be a way to end it. A happily ever after is an ending, after all. It’s a wrap up to the troubles and conflicts that made the meat of the series. There’s nothing particularly exciting about everything working out.

The same is true with Veronica Mars. If there are going to be anymore mysteries and adventures in Neptune then Veronica has to be living there, putting her sleuth skills to good use. It’s no secret that Thomas and star Kristen Bell want the franchise to continue, and even if there are no more movies or episodes, they have just published the first in a series of books. Veronica Mars, New York Corporate Lawyer doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as Veronica Mars, Neptune’s best Private Detective. But even though I want this story to continue enough that I was willing to put up my own money a year ago,  it was so hard to watch Veronica literally ignore opportunity knocking when she kept silencing calls from her new law firm. I kind of wanted to scream at the screen. You went to law school for this reason! Don’t throw it all away!

Of course calling Veronica’s choice to stay in Neptune and Leslie’s potential choice to stay in Pawnee (as of the most recent episode she’s still thinking) “bad life decisions” is inherently judgmental on my part. There is nothing to say that more happiness would be found for either character in the “good” choices. But the stories do set up these options as something that has the potential to be better, because experience has proven that it’s tough to be in Neptune and Pawnee. So why shouldn’t they just leave?

Comparing Veronica and Leslie to a third blonde heroine with a “hell” of a hometown, Buffy Summers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the difference is that Leslie and Veronica have the choice to leave. Buffy had a duty as the mystical slayer, to stay in Sunnydale, California and guard the Hellmouth. Things would probably have been a lot better for her if she went away for college, but that wasn’t an option for her. And if you think about it, back when Veronica was in high school, she was stuck in Neptune because her father didn’t want to leave. Putting the choice in these protagonists’ hands creates this tension for the audience.

Both Parks and Rec and the Veronica Mars movie have tried to dispel this tension by giving compelling reasons to keep these women close to home. After receiving the job offer Leslie headed to her trusty Ron Swanson to inquire why she can’t leave when Pawnee treats her so badly. He reminded her that she likes trying to fix Pawnee, in spite of everything it routinely throws at her. New York may have a job for Veronica but Neptune has Logan, and of course, all that corruption and mystery. It might be easy to leave, but Leslie and Veronica have things to do. And many, many more stories to tell.

But I can’t be the only one wondering how Veronica is going to pay her law school loans? Right?

New in ‘Late Night’: Seth Meyers is Not Your Jimmy Fallon, But Who is He?

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Nothing better expresses the differences between the new host of Late Night and his predecessor on the Tonight Show than how the two handled their first few moments at their new gigs. Jimmy Fallon, in his ever-present enthusiasm, optimism and geniality, introduced himself to his new vastly larger audience, with an aww-shucks-i-ness that borded on pure cheese, but it was Jimmy Fallon so we let it slide. Seth Meyers on the other hand, stole one of Jimmy’s Late Night/Tonight Show bits, “Thank You Notes,” thanking Jimmy for the show and stating how he would only use it for original comedy bits, “starting now.” It’s earnestness versus earnestness with a little snark.

Meyers has spent the past 12 years down the hall in 30 Rock on Saturday Night Live, much of that spent as head writer and behind the Weekend Update desk. There he delivered topical short jokes in succession, with a hard newsman way of hitting his punchlines that made him one of the best anchors the show ever had. And so it was not altogether shocking, though a little disappointing, that Meyers, once dispensed with his Thank You Note cold open, delivered a monologue that was really just a Weekend Update segment, but standing up and without the visuals:”Well the winter olympics in Sochi came to an end last night, so for the next four years if you go skiing with a rifle on your back, you’re just a crazy person.” “The brassiere turns 100 years old this week. So does the only person who still calls it a brassiere.” Funny? Sure. But not really anything new.

As soon as Meyers got behind his desk on his weird Jeopardy-like set that doesn’t have either a curtain or a couch, it was plain to see how much more comfortable he became. The vague nervous and jittery quality that pervaded throughout the monologue slipped away.  One of the best moments occurred when we discovered that Meyers could be a storyteller, and not just a joke-teller, when he related an experience of having someone else change a flat tire for him. (“It was very hard to feel macho when you’re holding a tiny dog while another man changes your wife’s tire.”)

He also tried his hand at a few bits, as is the requirement of any late night host. They were mostly about the Olympics (please NBC, release Meyers and Fallon from this Olympic-centric leash you have them on now that the games are over). The “Venn Diagrams” one was okay, and it definitely has potential for growth. What was most notable about the bit was the sly Woody Allen/Dylan Farrow joke, a controversy that Jimmy Fallon wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. But Meyers isn’t afraid to go there.

Amy Poehler was, predictably, the perfect first guest. (Clearly he has better bookers than Fallon did at first, remember when someone stuck him with Robert DeNiro on his first night?) She and Meyers have history and genuine chemistry, plus Poehler is fun on any talk show she graces with her presence. And Meyers struck gold with his second guest as well. Joe Biden was as well suited to Meyers as Michelle Obama is to Fallon. (Meyers made fun of Biden’s State of the Union performance to his face, compared to Fallon’s silly bits about kale chips and shy faces with the First Lady.)

Poehler and Biden were easy guests, if only because they highlight what’s good about Meyers, his ability to take the conversation to a freewheeling place and his soft sarcasm. And the former host of the White House Correspondents dinner is not shying away from political jabs. The interviews were, surprisingly, the highlight of the episode. But as Poehler was quick to note, that all could change with a bad guest. Surely Kanye West will be a trial-by-fire tonight.

So far, and a little surprisingly, it seems that the monologue will be Meyers’ biggest challenge in the weeks and months to come. The monologue is a beast to be sure; Fallon has never really seemed totally at ease even five years in to his career as a talk show host. And there’s nothing really wrong with the jokes Meyers was telling, except that the content and delivery were so similar to what he did on Update, it’s hard to tell what makes Late Night its own thing, separate from SNL, or even, what makes it different than all the other options out there that air after 11pm? And that was the one issue with Meyers’ debut — we don’t know who he is yet. We’re still seeing Seth Meyers, Weekend Update Anchor. I want to meet Seth Meyers, Late Night Host.

People were asking these questions about Jimmy Fallon when he premiered too, for sure. And it took time for Fallon to carve out his own niche of viral, nostalgic positivity at Late Night and now at Tonight. The early clues about what direction Meyers will go were there last night, but really it’s so hard to tell anything about a late night show from one episode. It’s like reviewing a book one chapter in. And indeed, there’s a lot that needs to be figured out. What exactly to do with Fred Armisen is one big question. It seems right now that there’s a little too much star power in the band section. But that could change. Only time will tell what direction Meyers is going in, I just hope it’s generally away from Saturday Night Live

9 Golden Globes Wishes

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The Golden Globes always win for silliest award show of the year. Not just because they have a long history of drunkenness or that their majesties Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are hosting for the second year in a row. No, the true silliness of the Golden Globes lies in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, an organization of a few dozen international journalists who have a tendency to nominate the biggest stars they hope will show up (Angelina Jolie in The Tourist, anyone?).

But that doesn’t mean we won’t tune in and talk about who wins and who doesn’t. And it doesn’t mean this won’t affect Oscar and Emmy chances down the line. So here’s a smattering of some hopes I have for the big night, for both the film and TV side of the awards. They’re probably not the best of predictions, but it would be truly awesome if all of them came true.

1. 12 Years a Slave wins Best Picture, Drama. The Oscar best picture race is largely between 12 YearsGravity and American Hustle, so it would be interesting to see who goes here. There’s absolutely no voting cross-over between this and the Oscars, but it was this category that Argo first started its roll of domination last year, mere days after Ben Affleck’s famous director snub from the Academy. There’s been some talk that the insane hype 12 Years premiered with is slowing down, so since it’s actually the best film of the year by far, here’s to hoping we still talk about it.

2. Amy Adams wins Best Actress, Comedy/Musical. Hear me out on this one. I liked Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle just as much ast the next breathing human, but she didn’t knock me over the way Adams did. To me, American Hustle would have failed without Adams, hers being the most nuanced and realistic performance. So far the best actress category has been pretty sewn up until Adams took one Miss Meryl Streep’s spot in the BAFTA nods this week. We all know that Cate Blanchett is a Daniel Day-Lewis level mortal lock for this Oscar, but Adams has a real shot here to potentially break into the nominations.

3. Michael Fassbender wins Best Supporting Actor. Have I mentioned I really liked 12 Years a Slave? Because I really, really liked 12 Years a Slave. Fassbender has only shown up in a handful of nominations so far, perhaps in part due to his early declaration that he wouldn’t do any campaigning. But who cares? Fassbender took on a role that could have easily gone cartoonish in the hands of a less competent actor, and instead created the kind of evil you could expect to see walking down the street one day. And that, like so much else in the film, is a huge achievement.

4. Sally Hawkins wins Best Supporting Actress. How great would this be? I mean, Cate Blanchett is amazing and very deserving of the Oscar she will eventually win, but performances like those aren’t complete without someone amazing to play off of. Hawkins really pulled her weight in Blue Jasmine, and made the film that much better for it.

5. Parks and Recreation wins Best TV Comedy. Besides the fact that Amy Poehler would have even more to do during the broadcast if her sitcom wins, I just think it’s about damn time someone recognized how great this show is. This fall’s sixth season may have had rocky moments (please, please no more Councilman Jamm) but the second half of season five, which aired in early 2013, was pretty outstanding. I could watch “Leslie and Ben” over and over and over again.

6. Tatiana Maslany wins Best Actress in a TV Drama. It’s insane how good Maslany is in Orphan Black. Like, crazy insane. I recently rewatched the series and I think the highest laurel I can give to her is that I constantly forget that the clones are played by the same actress. They are so different, so nuanced and just so good. Maslany is finally up for a big ticket award, and there has frankly never really been anyone more deserving.

7. Elisabeth Moss wins Best Actress in a TV Miniseries or Movie. Have you seen Top of the Lake yet? No? It’s on Netflix, go watch it and tell me that Moss isn’t freaking incredible. I dare you. 

8. Monica Potter wins Best Supporting Actress in a TV Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture. Despite some issues this season, Parenthood is still one of my favorite shows on television, and Potter’s work during last season’s cancer storyline was top notch. You might not have believed that this show could make you cry anymore, but it did. 

9. Somebody does something super drunk. It has been remarked upon that the Globes are kind of a schwasty award show. Remember Glenn Close last year, anyone? Besides Tina and Amy’s inevitable show of hilarious hosting, drunken flubs are likely to be the most entertaining part of the evening. It’s not like it’s the Oscars or anything, so nobody has to be too serious.

The Golden Globes Winners

Perhaps having less influence on the Oscar race now that the nominations are already out, but still, interesting collection. Lots of love for Argo, though.

MOVIES

Best Motion Picture — Drama
WINNER: Argo
Django Unchained
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Zero Dark Thirty

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Drama
WINNER: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Richard Gere, Arbitrage
John Hawkes, The Sessions
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denzel Washington, Flight

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Drama
WINNER: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Marion Cotillard, Rust & Bone
Helen Mirren, Hitchcock
Naomi Watts, The Impossible
Rachel Weisz, The Deep Blue Sea

Best Motion Picture — Comedy Or Musical
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
WINNER: Les Misérables
Moonrise Kingdom
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Silver Linings Playbook

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Comedy Or Musical
Emily Blunt, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Judi Dench, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
WINNER: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Maggie Smith, Quartet
Meryl Streep, Hope Springs

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Comedy Or Musical
Jack Black, Bernie
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
WINNER: Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables
Bill Murray, Hyde Park on Hudson
Ewan McGregor, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Best Performance by an Actress In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Amy Adams, The Master
Sally Field, Lincoln
WINNER: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Nicole Kidman, The Paperboy

Best Performance by an Actor In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Alan Arkin, Argo
Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
WINNER: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

Best Director — Motion Picture
WINNER: Ben Affleck, Argo
Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained

Best Screenplay — Motion Picture
Argo, Chris Terrio
WINNER: Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino
Lincoln, Tony Kushner
Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell
Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal

Best Original Score — Motion Picture
Anna Karenina, Dario Marianelli
Argo, Alexandre Desplat
Cloud Atlas, Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimet & Reinhold Heil
WINNER: Life of Pi, Michael Danna
Lincoln, John Williams

Best Original Song — Motion Picture
“For You ” (music and lyrics by Keith Urban), Act of Valor
“Not Running Anymore” (music and lyrics by Jon Bon Jovi), Stand Up Guys
“Safe & Sound” (music and lyrics by Taylor Swift, John Paul White, Joy Williams and T Bone Burnett), The Hunger Games
WINNER: “Skyfall” (music and lyrics by Adele and Paul Epworth), Skyfall
“Suddenly” (music by Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyrics by Schonberg and Alain Boublil), Les Misérables

Best Animated Film
WINNER: Brave
Frankenweenie
Hotel Transylvania
Rise of the Guardians
Wreck-It Ralph

Best Foreign Language Film
WINNER: Amour
The Intouchables
Kon-Tiki
A Royal Affair
Rust & Bone

TELEVISION

Best Television Series — Drama
Boardwalk Empire
Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
WINNER: Homeland
The Newsroom

Best Television Series — Comedy Or Musical
The Big Bang Theory
Episodes
WINNER: Girls
Modern Family
Smash

Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series – Drama
Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
WINNER: Damian Lewis, Homeland

Best Performance by an Actress In A Television Series – Drama
Connie Britton, Nashville
Glenn Close, Damages
WINNER: Claire Danes, Homeland
Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife

Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
WINNER: Kevin Costner, Hatfields and McCoys
Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock
Woody Harrelson, Game Change
Toby Jones, The Girl
Clive Owen, Hemingway and Gellhorn

Best Performance by an Actress In A Mini-series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Nicole Kidman, Hemingway and Gellhorn
Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Asylum
Sienna Miller, The Girl
WINNER: Julianne Moore, Game Change
Sigourney Weaver, Political Animals

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Max Greenfield, New Girl
WINNER: Ed Harris, Game Change
Danny Huston, Magic City
Mandy Patinkin, Homeland
Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Hayden Panettiere, Nashville
Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife
Sarah Paulson, Game Change
WINNER: Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family

Best Performance by an Actress In A Television Series — Comedy Or Musical
Zooey Deschanel, New Girl
WINNER: Lena Dunham, Girls
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Amy Poehler, Parks And Recreation

Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series — Comedy Or Musical
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
WINNER: Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Louis C.K., Louis
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

Best Mini-Series Or Motion Picture Made for Television
WINNER: Game Change
The Girl
Hatfield & McCoys
The Hour
Political Animals

Cecil B. DeMille Award
Jodie Foster