Too Little Time

Laura Dern as ‘Clementine’ in “The Good Time Girls” (2017)Browsing Annalise Basso’s IMDb page t’other day alerted me to the existence of a short (NSFW) western joint called The Good Time Girls (2017), directed and co-written by Courtney Hoffman (with Lucy Teitler), who’s worked as a costume designer on numerous big-name movies, though the one that really leaps out here is Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, since this flick shares a lot of its darkly-comedic-oater DNA. With such a brief running time it’s kinda hard to summarise the plot without spoiling it… suffice to say, Laura Dern stars as a woman taking revenge against the men who’ve wronged her, along with her cute-but-deadly accomplices, played by Basso and Alia Shawkat. It’s a well-crafted piece as it goes, and has been lauded by critics for its “radical feminist” credentials… however, I couldn’t shake the nagging sense that it seemed more like the climactic sequence from a much larger story, or a proof-of-concept demo, rather than a satisfying self-contained story in itself. Thankfully Hoffman and Teitler are currently working on a feature-length “remake”, which will hopefully deliver on the strong potential that they (and their characters) demonstrated here.

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Tasknappetter

Jessica Knappett ala “Taskmaster” (S7)It’s only been a couple months since the last “season” of Taskmaster (UK) finished*, but the hilarious celebrity-challenge-show has already returned to our screens for its seventh (10-episode) outing!** Yay! This time around, the (still outnumbered) lady-contestants are: oddly-intense comedian/actress Kerry Godliman, and easy-going/goofy comedy-writer/actress Jessica Knappett… who’s probably my fave of the current competitors at this point, though I’ve only watched one episode so far. Shamefully, I haven’t seen much of Drifters, the Ch4 sitcom that Knappett created and starred in (from 2013-16), but I’ve enjoyed her guest-appearances on various other quiz/gameshows since then, so I really should make the time/effort to view more of her own work… damn me! If nothing else, her promo interview for this show is straight-up adorable (and, no, I couldn’t answer any of those questions with any confidence either)!

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* On July 4th, to be precise, with Liza Tarbuck taking the big-head trophy home, after suffering through one of the most blatant and inexcusable examples of “invisible woman syndrome” ever documented on television… the abbreviated YouTube clip doesn’t quite do it justice, but it really was an extremely galling thing to sit through at the time!

** Not counting the “Champion of Champions” specials, obvs.

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“The Moon Accepts Your Ridiculous Proposal!”

[Contains “blood orphans” and SPOILERS!!!]

Amy Poehler as ‘Leslie Knope’ in “Parks and Recreation” (S4)The fourth season of Parks and Recreation (2011) was largely dominated by ‘Leslie’s (Amy Poehler) campaign for a seat on the city council… but while it was easy enough to follow, and be drawn in, by the emotional beats of this story arc, I’m still not super-clear on what her new powers/duties will be, or why she was so desperate to win them! Hopefully that will become clearer in the following seasons, once she actually gets her boots on the ground (as it were)? Either way, I couldn’t help seeing some parallels between her race against Sweetums-heir* ‘Bobby Newport’ (Paul Rudd) and the 2016 Presidential Election… i.e., a spoiled simpleton with no experience or understanding of political office decides to run on a whim against a more focussed and qualified (slightly nerdy?) blonde lady mired in scandal. Even her heart-swelling acceptance speech seemed to offer a prescient rebuke to the current POTUS: “The idea behind this campaign was a simple one… That with hard work and positivity, a group of people can make a difference… During my term as your city councillor, I want to focus on your hopes and not your fears. I want to solve problems instead of creating friction. And I will work hard every hour of every day to make Pawnee a better place to live because I love this city. And I know first-hand, how very special the people of this city are… Let’s break out a map. Not the old, out-of-date one that shows where we’ve been, but a crisp new one that shows where we might go. Let’s embark on a new journey together and see where it takes us.” Sniffle.**

Aubrey Plaza as ‘April Ludgate’ in “Parks and Recreation” (S4)As for the main focus of my obsessive adoration, ‘April’ (Aubrey Plaza), I can’t help fantasising about what an awesome Goth she’d make… I mean, she talks and thinks and behaves like a Goth, in almost every respect except for her clothing/make-up and music choices… e.g., repping for the moon, wishing other people’s happiness would “go away”, and suggesting “warrior-witch” as her dream job. Her glee over gruesome Hallowe’en party-decoration ideas was truly a joy to behold, and if I wasn’t already besotted with her (and the actress who wears her face), the wicked smiles she kept shooting at the camera after saying something mean/macabre would totally tip my heart over the edge. While we’re on the subject, I have to pick Leslie up on her close-minded goth-shaming of ‘Orin’ (Eric Isenhower), after April invited him to a Valentine’s Day dance as a potential date for ‘Ann’ (Rashida Jones) (ep #4.14)… she refers to him as a “weird, morose mummy” when he’s standing right behind her, and then insists: “Offense intended, Orin. Let this be a wake-up call about the way you present yourself to the world!” Boo to that!

Aubrey Plaza as ‘April Ludgate’ in “Parks and Recreation” (S4)Unfortunately, April’s romance with ‘Andy’ (Chris Pratt) has become less intense/tumultuous since they became a married couple, though I did enjoy the episode (#4.6) where they tried to shake things up by working through Andy’s “bucket list”, eventually stealing away (in a stolen car!) to gaze in awe at the Grand Canyon… which does not, in fact, feature the faces of old-timey presidents (though I share Andy’s blurry sense of geography, and can totally relate to his confusion on that one). I probably should have been offended by how A+A were depicted in ep #4.12, as they idiotically attempted to exploit their health insurance by taking as many random tests (and incurring as many incidental injuries) as possible, but the prat-falls (no pun intended) were so funny, I was too busy laughing to scowl! The writers do seem to be setting April up as a potential successor to Leslie though… I noticed she was looking a little sharper (style-wise) at the start of the season, and by the end of it she was shouldering many more responsibilities, and wearing many more metaphorical hats… which is great, because I love seeing her take charge and boss people around, even if it does diminish her slacker street-cred.

Megan Mullally as "Tammy Two" in “Parks and Recreation” (ep #4.2)Meanwhile, there were plenty talented lady-actors making cameos throughout the season: First came the big reveal of why ‘Ron’ is (Nick Offerman) so afraid of his ex-wife, “Tammy One” (Patricia Clarkson): She’s a soulless, spirit-crushing IRS agent, intent on auditing him! Dun-dun-dun! (ep #4.1) After hiding out in his cabin-in-the-woods for most of the episode, Leslie managed to convince him to return to Pawnee to face his much-maligned nemesis, only for him to once again fall under her spell, and become a clean-shaven, pastel-coloured chucklehead. In desperation, Leslie called on Hell’s-librarian “Tammy Two” (Megan Mullally), and Ron’s hard-drinking battle-axe mother, “Tammy Zero” (Paula Pell), for help… though it was his compassion for his collateral-damage-suffering workmates that eventually gave him the kick to reclaim his core identity. Hurrah! (ep #4.2) Apparently, that show of inner-strength on Ron’s part was enough to banish “Tammy One” forever, as Clarkson never returned for an encore, but “Tammy Two” reappeared in ep #4.9 to offer testimony against Leslie at her trial for unethical conduct, only to narrowly avoid the “perjury trap” by skipping out before saying anything incriminating (for either of them). Phew!

Kathryn Hahn as ‘Jennifer Barkley’ in “Parks and Recreation” (ep #4.17)Other adversaries included (self-proclaimed) “legendary newswoman” ‘Joan Callamezzo’ (Mo Collins), who “Gotcha’d” Leslie on her book-club show with the revelation that the proud Pawneean was actually born over the border in stuffy/snobby Eagleton (ep #4.3), and also co-anchored/moderated the televised election debate, despite her long-established bias against our heroine! (#4.20) But Leslie’s most threatening foe (on multiple fronts) has to be Bobby’s cheerfully-ruthless (and disarmingly candid) campaign manager ‘Jennifer Barkley’, played by the inestimable Kathryn Hahn, who scored big laughs (and stole numerous scenes) as the unscrupulous city-slicker, whose tenacious story-spinning was motivated purely by monetary-greed… which, oddly-enough, made her way more invested in the outcome than her client was! Still, she was extremely gracious in defeat, and even offered Ben a job at her fancy Washington firm, as a reward for his work on Leslie’s campaign… which he ended up accepting, with his newly-elected-councillor/girlfriend’s support, adding another long-distance wrinkle to their relationship (ep #17/19-22).

Mara Marini as ‘Brandi Maxxxx’ in “Parks and Recreation” (ep #4.20)Chelsea Peretti only had a brief blink of a cameo in ep #4.19 (playing ‘Zelda’ a snarky council suit who challenges April at a Leslie-less meeting she’s leading), but was very busy behind-the-scenes, writing two scripts (eps #4.8/19), and serving as “story editor” for the entire season… so snaps to her for that. Meanwhile, Sarah Wright appeared as ‘Jerry’s (Jim O’Heir) inexplicably attractive daughter ‘Millicent’, enjoying several inappropriate PDAs with his boss, ‘Chris’ (Rob Lowe) (eps #4.4-5/13)… Annalise Basso appeared as ‘Abigail’, the Pawnee Goddess (pseudo-girl-scout) with the “flyest hairstyle” (ep #4.4)… Natalie Morales returned as ‘Tom’s (Aziz Ansari) adorable ex, ‘Lucy’, who apparently enjoyed his end-of-the-world/going-out-of-business party enough to leave him with a heated “goodbye” kiss, while elsewhere in town, super-cute newsy ‘Shauna Malwae-Tweep’ (Alison Becker) was flirting with Ben, during his ill-considered separation from Leslie (ep #4.6)… Kelly Washington (“France”) and Jennifer Soo (“Switzerland”) appeared as high school students participating in a “Model U.N.” role-playing-game, that was ironically (?) spoiled by Leslie and Ben’s childish bickering (ep #4.7)… Danielle Bisutti appeared as ‘Professor Linda Lonegan’, teaching a college class in “Women’s Studies” that Andy signed up for (ep #4.8/18)… and finally, Leslie’s empathetic porn-alike ‘Brandi Maxxxx’ (Mara Marini) added to the fun/confusion in ep #4.20, as a competing debate candidate wearing a suspiciously similar outfit and hair-colour!

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* Apparently replacing the previous “sole heir”, ‘Nick Newport Jr.’, seen in ep #2.15…!? I’m just gonna go ahead and assume that (like The Heart, She Holler) every season of this show takes place in a slightly different alternate universe…

** Fun fact: Poehler also wrote the episode that speech is taken from (#4.20), which scored her nominations for an Emmy and WGA Award.

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“I’m Janet. Janet Snakehole.”

[Contains “awesome sauce” and SPOILERS!!!]

Aubrey Plaza as ‘April Ludgate’ in “Parks and Recreation” (S3)Looking back, one of my main issues with the second season of Parks and Recreation was that it kept toying with my emotions, hinting at a burgeoning romance between ‘April’ (Aubrey Plaza) and ‘Andy’ (Chris Pratt), while conniving to keep them apart… this trend continued into the first couple episodes of Season Three (2011), until ‘Ron’ (Nick Offerman) intervened, and gruffly ordered them to stop all their will-they-won’t-they shenanigans, and start going steady already. Hurrah! Five thousand hurrahs! All the hurrahs in the universe! In short order they combined their considerable charms to become The Cutest Sitcom Couple Of All Time, and words simply can’t express how much I adore/envy them. Of course, there had to be some hiccups/hurdles along the way, for the sake of comedy and/or dramatic conflict, but thankfully Ron kept a paternal eye on them, and steered them back towards each other whenever they went askew. Phew!

As far as A+A go, this season’s (many) highlights included: Andy defusing April’s attempts to make him jealous by bonding with the boy-toy she brought back from Venezuela… Andy getting arrested while doing all of April’s weekly chores to make amends to her… Andy properly expressing his feelings for April on a broken Ferris Wheel (after another stern talking-to from Ron!)… April’s joy at seeing Andy when he finally shows up at the B&B after trekking through the wilderness to reach her… pretty much the entirety of the surprise-wedding-party episode… April sincerely swearing on a “dead crow” that she’ll never cook for Andy… their contrasting responses to ‘Ben’ (Adam Scott) moving in with them to form a hilarious “odd triple”… their drunken role-playing at the launch of ‘Tom’s (Aziz Ansari) new boozy business venture… and April resentfully asking ‘Ann’ (Rashida Jones) for relationship advice, after inadvertently offending Andy. The only real lowlight for me would be the revelation that April’s favourite band is Neutral Milk Hotel, rather than Mouse Rat… because, how could she!?

Amy Poehler as ‘Leslie Knope’ in “Parks and Recreation” (S3)Meanwhile, ‘Leslie’ (Amy Poehler) seemed to be spending her experience-points wisely, levelling up her intelligence and professionalism with each passing episode… culminating in the finale, where she was approached to run for an unspecified political office, in the following season(s). Despite her claim to total transparency, she has in fact been conducting/concealing a super-cute secret affair with Ben, her co-worker/supervisor, which may well come out in the future…? Weirdly enough, reviews cited on Wikipedia suggest that a lot of contemporary critics felt the rule against workplace romances that’s keeping them apart was simply a contrived plot-device, despite the writers basing it on real-life policies put in place by small town governments. Either way, I do think they make a fun couple, and am looking forward to seeing how things progress between them (hopefully) in upcoming seasons… though obviously they pale in comparison to A+A, who are (in case I didn’t make this clear before) straight-up adorable-as-fudge. Bless ‘em. Oh, it’s also worth noting that Poehler wrote a storming episode this season (ep #3.13), revolving around the gang getting hella-drunk on Tom’s “Snake Juice” liquor, which fuelled a shocking break-up between Leslie and her BFF Ann, before the two of them blearily reconciled the next morning, in the sober light of day. Although I’m largely ambivalent about Ann as a character, Jones did get a chance to show a lot more range as a comedic actress this time around, and her gal-pal scenes with Poehler remain a huge selling-point for the show. As is the rather anachronistic ideal that public servants might actually want to serve the public and work in their community’s best interest… rather than, y’know, just lie their arses off, line their own pockets, stoke fallacious fears, endanger journalists, and appeal to the lowest possible base… sigh…

Parker Posey as ‘Lindsay Carlisle Shay’ in “Parks and Recreation” (ep #3.12)As far as the (rapidly-expanding) supporting cast goes: Mo Collins scored some great scenes as local news-reporter/chatshow-host ‘Joan Callamezzo’ (eps #3.5/7) pursuing her ongoing grudge against Leslie… while Alison Becker returned as Pawnee Journal scribe ‘Shauna Malwae-Tweep’ rebuffing more of our heroine’s “helpful” headline suggestions (eps #3.3/5)… and Megan Mullally once again wrought havoc on Ron’s social-and-professional-life as vindictive ex-wife ‘Tammy Two’ (eps #3.4)… but what could’ve spooked her away in the finale, when she learned that her predecessor (“Tammy One”) was in the vicinity? I don’t know yet, but I’m dying to find out! Sadly, Natalie Morales only stuck around for a couple episodes as Tom’s surprisingly-grounded girlfriend ‘Lucy’ (eps #3.1/3), but checking her IMDb page spoiled the fact that she will return for an extended stay, in later seasons. Yay! There was also Mara Marini’s debut as prolific local porn star (and champion of The Arts) ‘Brandi Maxxxx’ (ep #3.11)… a one-off appearance by Parker Posey as ‘Lindsay Carlisle Shay’ (ep #3.12), a former friend of Leslie’s who defected to the Parks Department of a snooty neighbouring town*… and a classic subplot involving Ron indoctrinating a visiting schoolgirl (Alyssa Shafer) with his “libertarian” values, to the detriment of her grades and the annoyance of her mother (Jessica St. Clair) (ep #3.14). Oopsie!

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* Eagleton, which used to be “two towns over”, but now shares a hotly-disputed border with Pawnee somehow!?

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R.I.P. Jill Janus (1975-2018)

Jill Janus (1975-2018)Shortly after getting online this morning I was slapped in the face with the tragic news that Jill Janus, frontwoman of heavy metal band Huntress, had taken her own life, at the age of 43. I think it’s fair to say she was a troubled soul, and had spoken openly about her struggles with mental (and physical) illness in the past. I’m clearly not qualified to comment on any of that… or even comprehend it, really… all I know is that we’ve lost another fantastically talented singer/artist, with an incredible voice and an awesomely witchy aesthetic. Dammit!

In tribute to her, I urge everyone to watch one of the greatest music videos ever produced: “Eight of Swords” (2012)

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AL7egiance: 101%

L7: Donita Sparks, Suzi Gardner, Dee Plakas, and Jennifer Finch (circa 2017)L7’s drive to crowdfund the recording/release of an (as-yet-untitled) comeback album has finally reached its goal, though there were a couple speed-bumps along the way, most notably in June when drummer Dee broke her arm a mere 12 hours before they were due to fly to London to kick-off their European tour. Harsh. Thankfully they found a few good women (including “Motley” Mel McFail) to fill in for her*, and no surgery was required, so hopefully she should be all healed up in time to start working on new material later this month! Yay!

This is my first time contributing to a PledgeMusic project, so I’m not quite sure how these things work, but as far as I can tell you can still order items (including a CD and/or download of the proposed album) from their page, even after the goal has been reached, so keep that “long green” comin’!

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* I was going to write “keep her stool warm”, but that seems weirdly scatological…

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Aubrey On The Brain

Aubrey Plaza as 'April Ludgate' in "Parks and Recreation" (S1)I’m currently knee-deep in an obsessive Aubrey Plaza binge, having just gobbled down the first season of Legion, with the first season of Parks and Recreation for afters, and various YouTube skits and interview clips to fill in the cracks…

I’ve already written about Parks & Rec, so I won’t belabour the point… except to say that I’m probably enjoying it more this (second) time around, because I have a better idea of what to expect, and haven’t been crossing my fingers hoping it will become a kinder, huggier show. It is what it is, and it can be very funny when its characters aren’t being too dickish to each other… though I haven’t gotten to the Jerry-bashing runner in the second season yet, so I’m curious to see if my renewed fascination with Ms. Plaza can spur me on to keep watching the entire series…? Of course, the promise of Jenny Slate’s supporting role from S5-onwards is also quite a powerful incentive…

Aubrey Plaza as 'Lenny Busker' in "Legion" (S1)As for Legion, the trippy series about a schizophrenic superhero with reality-shattering psychic powers, I watched the first episode (or “chapter”, as they prefer to call them) back when it aired last year, but didn’t stick with it for some reason… it’s likely that I was too disoriented by the non-linear storytelling and stylistic collaging, and passed it over in favour of more straight-forward, meat-and-potatoes genre fare. Of course, that was before Twin Peaks returned, and blew the bar sky-high with its anatomy-of-a-mushroom-cloud minf*ckery, so this show now seems positively mainstream by comparison! If nothing else, it’s fun to see how far Plaza has come, from apathetic office-intern to sexy-scary supervillain! I won’t get into any spoilers here, largely because I’m still not entirely sure what was “real” and what wasn’t, but I enjoyed the ride immensely once I’d settled into my metaphorical seat, and consider Plaza’s dance sequence from Ch. #6 to be one of the awesomest spectacles ever televised.* Eat that, Moon landing!

Oh, and word-to-the-wise, there’s an important cliff-hanger “hidden” in the end credits of the S1 finale, so keep watching or you might be even-more-confused-than-usual when you move on to the second season…

Aubrey Plaza as 'The Princess' in "Troopers" (S1)Meanwhile, I also got a kick out of Plaza playing “The Princess” in a series of Star-Wars-spoofing sketches focussing on two incompetent “Troopers” aboard a knock-off Death Star, produced by CollegeHumour. It’s a shame they couldn’t afford to use more movie-accurate costumes and terminology, but the gags and delivery/editing are great, making these skits well worth a watch if you want a quick, cartoony laugh.

Regardless of the role, or interview topic, Plaza’s adorably-awkward intensity always cuts through, giving every appearance an off-kilter edge that I’m finding quite addictive right now… and apparently we have “Irish dancing” to thank for it!?

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* Does anyone else think she kinda looks like a goth-y Marilyn Monroe? Either way, I’m kinda amazed/angry she didn’t score any big award nominations/wins for her performance here… the hair/costume/make-up departments were also inexplicably overlooked, despite the astounding transformation she underwent from episode-to-episode. Tch!

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