Back To Burn

L7: Donita Sparks, Suzi Gardner, Dee Plakas, and Jennifer Finch (circa 2017)The (alleged?) financial irregularities at PledgeMusic have left many bands (and their supporters) in the lurch, and I was beginning to get a little worried about the relative lack of updates/reassurance coming from L7’s corner of the interweb… but I needn’t have feared, because it’s just been announced that their new album, Scatter the Rats, will be released on May 3rd, via Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records label! Hurrah! They already have a new video out for lead single “Burn Baby”, directed by Courtney & Hillary Andujar (aka “The Andujar Twins”), and are getting plenty positive press ahead of their forthcoming tour… as well they should!

Fun fact: In a recent interview to promote the imminent Captain Marvel movie, Brie Larson confessed to listening to a lot of L7 and Bikini Kill to pump herself up for the fight scenes! Good to know. Incidentally, Larson is no stranger to the recording-studio either, having released a solo album back in 2005, the title of which expressed her highy-relatable relief that after leaving school she was “Finally Out of P.E.” Amen, sister!

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“Mondo Trasho! Mondo Trasho!”

Aubrey Plaza in "The Cold Open" @ The Film Independent Spirit Awards 2019This year the Film Independent Spirit Awards has really put the Oscars to shame by not only having a host, but also booking the bestest/witchiest host of all: Aubrey Plaza!

I didn’t watch the event itself, but thankfully plenty clips have been posted on YouTube for all to enjoy, most notably an ice-breaking skit in which our heroine corrals a coven of awesome actresses (including Hall-of-Fame Goth icon Christina Ricci) to help her perform a ritual sacrifice, so that she might become possessed by “the Film Independent Spirit Awards spirit”. Besides being hilarious, and making me pine for a feature-length collaboration between Plaza and Ricci, it also kinda reminded me of John Waters’s Cecil B. DeMented (one of my fave films of all-time), so I wasn’t too surprised to see the man himself get a shout-out and cameo during Plaza’s roasty opening monologue. Tilda Swinton‘s cutaway on the other hand was a definite curveball…

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“Ping Me!”

Anne Dudek as 'Kate Glass' in "Corporate" (ep #2.3)A couple months ago, my crush on Anne Dudek led me to catch up with her current series, Corporate, a nihilistic workplace comedy set in a shiny/scary multinational called “Hampton DeVille”, which is now in its sophomore season. In many ways it’s a more acidic/sweary reboot of Better Off Ted, with Dudek in the Portia de Rossi role of power-dressing “boss bitch”, though she’s ranked a little lower here and has far less competent/conscientious colleagues around her. Overall, I do enjoy the show, but it’s a little too bleak/sour for me to really rave about… “easy to admire, difficult to love”, as the old saying goes… though ep #2.3 (written by Langan Kingsley) was a brilliant satire of the disparity between how women and men are expected/allowed to appear in the workplace (or the world in general), and the ridiculous time/effort required to create and maintain the illusion of seemingly “natural beauty”. It also provided an excellent showcase for Dudek’s comedic versatility, when her character (‘Kate’) was reprimanded by male colleagues for having a harsh hectoring tone, prompting her to experiment with some more agreeable personas (such as “shy ghost”) to encourage their cooperation.

Kyra Sedgwick as “Mrs. Cowboy” (aka 'Amanda Calhoun') in "Corporate" (ep #2.5)What finally moved me to put fingers to keyboard this week was a surprise cameo by multi-award-winning actress Kyra Sedgwick as “Mrs. Cowboy” (aka ‘Amanda Calhoun’), the motivational guest-speaker at an out-of-town conference, who whisks four of the main characters (including Kate) away on a margarita-fuelled, Blue-Velvet-riffing odyssey to the very heart of darkness. I don’t want to get into too many spoilers, but I watched the whole thing play out in a state of delirious disbelief, as Sedgwick gamely threw herself into the rootin’-tootin’, heavy-drinkin’, headlight-dancin’, pistol-packin’ antics! Meanwhile, other familiar-faces were attached to Brian George as “The Butler” who got dragged into his employer’s pervy mind-and-body-games, and Elizabeth Perkins as “The Accountant” doggedly trying to get to the bottom (line) of all this bad-craziness (ep #2.5).

This was hands down the funnest/funniest episode of the series so far, and one that I’d heartily recommend to fans of David Lynch or The Coen Brothers, even if they’ve never seen the show before, because the set-up’s pretty self-explanatory… so snaps to writer Jessica Gao for all that, and congrats to her on the new pilot order! My only complaint would be that there wasn’t room for an appearance by Aparna Nancherla as ‘Grace’, the office’s grouchy Human Resources representative… but I did find a great clip of her doing some stand-up on YouTube to watch as a fill-in! Phew!*

———–

* And, yes, the episode (#2.4) about excessive exclamation-mark-usage in e-mails did strike a guilty nerve with me! Sorry!!

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“It’s A Fight In My Mouth!”

Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan as ‘versions of themselves’ in “Get Krack!n” (S2)Get Krack!n, the scathing Aussie satire of banal breakfast television, returned for a second season this week, catching up with its road-weary (and very sweary) presenters Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan on the last stop of their three-month-long “We Bloody Love Australia!” tour… a sentiment slightly undermined by McCartney‘s defamatory digression on the state of their nation: “So much to be proud of… I mean, we have a racist border protection policy, we cannot acknowledge the ongoing trauma caused by our genocidal past, toxic masculinity’s killing our women, capitalist greed is destroying our planet, and the internet speed is shit… but we bloody love Australia!” Bless. Clearly the prolonged separation from their friends/families, compulsory early-morning samplings of regional “delicacies”, and perverse requests of local sponsors (in this case a foot-fetishist) have taken a toll on their morale, not to mention their sanity, as they’re once again held hostage by the cameras, and forced to grin-and-bear-it through round-after-round of “unprompted fun”. Apparently not even the threat of a catastrophic “weather event” could earn them an early reprieve from their painfully-exposed paddleboat-based purgatory.

Kate McLennan and Kate McCartney as ‘versions of themselves’ in “Get Krack!n” (S2)Besides being extremely funny, and proudly “woke”, this premiere also proved to be quite educational, explaining the importance/purpose of “mulesing” (i.e., the removal of strips of wool from around the anus of a sheep to prevent parasitic infection), and also featured a map of “colonial frontier” massacres (of Indigenous Australians) briefly during a technical glitch… which I only spotted because I watch every episode through a second time to freeze-frame the “kaptions” that flash up on-screen to identify guests or whet-the-appetite for up-coming segments (such as “How to identify and support your local neighbourhood goth”!). The show is so densely-packed with gags and asides that it usually takes a couple more passes to absorb/appreciate everything, and considering the hyper-verbal hysteria that the stars have to summon up and sustain every week, it must be an incredibly intense and exhausting production process… so let me just say, without any reservation or sarcasm, that I bloody love The Kates!

I’m also very fond of Anne Edmonds, who plays increasingly unfocussed/unbalanced “krackspert” ‘Helen Bidou’, a character that recently spun-off into a critically-acclaimed/award-winning live show titled “Enter the Spinnaker Lounge”. What a terrifying-but-fun (terrifunning?) experience that must be for the audience…

UPDATE (17/2/19): According to this ever-so-slightly-mutinous announcement, all existing episodes of Get Krack!n are now available to view via iTunes, in America, Britland, and Kanada! Hurrah!

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Wonderful Electric

[Contains flipped tables and SPOILERS!!!]

Mark Jackson as ‘Isaac’ and Penny Johnson Jerald as ‘Dr. Claire Finn’ in "The Orville" (S2)Although I was happy to see Seth MacFarlane’s Star-Trek-spoof/homage The Orville return for a second season this year, I didn’t have much more to say about it, despite the replacement of ‘Lt. Alara Kitan’ (Halston Sage) by ‘Lt. Talla Keyali’ (Jessica Szohr) as the ship’s super-strong security officer. I’m not going to get into the backstage gossip about why Sage was jettisoned from the show, but I was glad she got a decent send-off, with a starring role in a solid and suspenseful episode (#2.3), capped with lots of sweet (and open-ended) goodbyes. This series rarely taxes the brain, and actually gets a little worse the more you dwell on the plot-holes, but it definitely gives the tear-ducts a regular workout… and that was extra-specially true with this week’s episode (#2.6), as the seemingly level-headed ‘Dr. Claire Finn’ (Penny Johnson Jerald) finally admitted her long-simmering feelings for coldly-logical (but surprisingly supportive) mechanoid ‘Isaac’ (Mark Jackson). The ups-and-downs of their dating experiment would give any rollercoaster a run for its money, and sap that I am, I bought into it hook-line-and-sinker… largely because of Jerald’s performance, as her giddy excitement and patient romantic tutoring (metaphorically) melted Issac’s shiny metal “heart” (or at least, disrupted his subroutines). Bless. MacFarlane (the writer of this episode, as well as the showrunner) is unashamedly indulging his sentimental side here, while giving his female cast-mates some fantastic material to sink their teeth into, and I for one salute him.

I’ve no idea what the future holds for Isaaclaire’s relationship, though I have been impressed by the way the writers have maintained the continuity so far, keeping long-running story threads alive, and calling back to previous adventures/events in casual conversation… so this clearly isn’t going to be one of those “And then they hit the reset button and no one ever spoke of it again” flings that some shows trade in. Besides the emotional investment they’re encouraging from their audience, I’m sure there’s still plenty more jokes/truths to be mined from Isaac learning about this human emotion we call “Love”…

Oh, and for the record, I thought ‘Bortus’ (Peter Macon) was really rockin’ that ‘tache.

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“Hello, Friend.”

[100% SPOILER FREE!!!]

Carly Chaikin as ‘Darlene’ in “Mr. Robot” (S2)One of my Xmas presents this year was a DVD boxset of the first two seasons of Mr. Robot (2015/16), a dystopian drama/thriller series centred around (and narrated by) ‘Elliot’ (Rami Malek), a socially-impaired cybersecurity whizzkid (and part-time vigilante) who’s headhunted by a revolutionary hacktivist cell called “fsociety”, led by a charismatic (and slightly cult-ish) leader known only as “Mr. Robot” (Christian Slater), who hope to bring down the ubiquitous international conglomerate E Corp (aka “Evil Corp”).

I’ve tried to get into this series twice before, but never made it further than the third episode (for reasons I’ll explain in a sec), but was drawn back in by a craving for more Carly Chaikin (who plays Elliot’s fellow hacker (and potential love-interest?) ‘Darlene’), as well as all the rave reviews that the mesmerising Malek was getting for his role in the Queen-biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s impossible to deny the quality of this show’s cast, or the power of their performances… and in a way, that’s partly what put me off watching it the first (and second) time around. It’s so effective at evoking a sense of disorientation, detachment, and discomfort with its desaturated palette, off-kilter framing, and lonely/desperate characters, that it literally gave me nightmares! But there’s also a lot of humour in there, and occasional patches of sunshine/warmth, and the story is a real “page-turner”… I rather stupidly spoiled a major plot-twist for myself before watching each season, but there were still more than enough shocks and surprises to keep me guessing, even when I “knew” what was “really” going on! In many ways, it’s like a modern-day Game of Thrones, with computers instead of dragons… there’s the same sense of moral ambiguity, with shifting alliances and questionable loyalties, as various powerful factions scrabble to survive, and you can never be certain who, if anyone, is going to win the upper-hand… or if any given scene is going to end with a hug or a homicide…

Portia Doubleday as ‘Angela Moss’ in “Mr. Robot” (S2)Although I’m still deeply dippy about Chaikin, and loved Darlene’s look/attitude here, my fave character would have to be Elliot’s childhood-friend/co-worker ‘Angela’ (Portia Doubleday), who remains the most sympathetic and straight-up “human” of the leads, even when her wide-eyed innocence is seemingly corrupted by corporate ambition… though I also have to give a shout-out to Sunita Mani, who plays the quiet-but-determined hijab-wearing hacker codenamed “Trenton”.

Although the show can be a teeny bit derivative at times, these “influences” are vastly outweighed by the originality and ingenuity displayed by series creator/writer/director Sam Esmail, and overall it’s an extremely moreish and satisfying experience… so I’m really itching to pick up and binge-watch the third “chapter” before the fourth-and-final season airs later this year…

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GothWatch: Cameron’s Cosmo Cosplay!

Dove Cameron channelling “The Craft” for “Cosmopolitan” (1/19)Dove Cameron recently appeared as the lead in a sorta-jukebox-musical adaptation of Clueless, so apparently someone at Cosmopolitan had the bright idea to invite her in for a photoshoot where she dressed up as various “teen queen” movie heroines, from Clueless’s ‘Cher’ to ‘Claire’ from The Breakfast Club. Obviously my fave look from this feature is the one where she goes full-on-Goth to channel The Craft (1996)… though I’m not sure they had a specific character in mind…?

Meanwhile, the accompanying interview revealed that the actress had a surprisingly dark and traumatic childhood herself: “When Dove was eight, she tells me, her best friend was murdered by their father, who then murdered his other daughter and committed suicide. A few years after that, when she was 15, Dove’s own father took his life… This is why she finds time to discuss depression and mortality with her fans as often as she can.” Under the circumstances, it’s kind of amazing that she turned out as well-adjusted, upbeat, and open-hearted as she did… especially when you factor in all the “child star” stuff as well… so snaps to her for that, and long may she shine!

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