February 9, 2016
by The OJBG Team
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St. Julia| SB

Pretty Woman is the first film I formed memories around. It was released the year I was born. I remember the VHS resting against the television set just as clearly and fondly as I remember my favorite stuffed animal Chip (of Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers). My sister played the soundtrack so much, my brother was driven to hide the cassette. And I didn’t quite get Vivian’s occupation until I was about twelve. Hurray for blinders. It’s a nineties classic, save for the oversimplified sex politics. But, perhaps most importantly it erected Julia Roberts as the patron saint of nineties romantic comedies.

With Valentine’s Day just a few days away, it’s only appropriate that I rank Julia’s best turns as doe-eyed/ jilting/ charismatic romantic comedy protagonist.

5. Julianne Potter (My Best Friend’s Wedding)

4. Kiki Harrison (America’s Sweethearts)

3. Anna Scott (Notting Hill)

2. Maggie Carpenter (Runaway Bride)

1. Vivian Ward (Pretty Woman)

All of these titles are available on streaming services. So treat yourself this Valentine’s weekend with romantic comedy meet-cutes, false starts and grand declarations featuring St. Julia.

February 2, 2016
by The OJBG Team
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It’s All Cyclical| SB

I’m in the car, a radio hit from my childhood begins to play. I smirk as the warmth and familiarity of Brownstone’s “If You Love Me” washes over me. A vocal tainted by auto-tune interrupts. That hit has been sampled by newcomer Tory Lanez for present day consumption.  It’s jarring at first, but I also want more of it.

Brownstone “If You Love Me”

Tory Lanez “Say It”

I have an affinity for nineties-era music. That’s not far fetched, that’s the decade that shaped my tastes, musical and otherwise.  It’s a new experience for me to watch the resurrection of a song from a cassette jammed into a Walkman to a cloud on an iPhone, after having witnessed the full life of the original.  Each generation shares this experience, the pendulum has now swung to the kids of the nineties.

I made no complaints as Kanye crafted a career off of sampling seventies soul music, which annoyed my father to no end. So, I’m choosing to embrace the artists who sample and in turn honor the music I hold dear. Here are a few examples of nineties samples done well.

Ciara “Body Party” (sampled Ghost Town DJ’s “My Boo)

Goldlink “Spectrum” (sampled Missy Elliott “She’s a Bitch”)

Azealia Banks “Esta Noche” (sampled Montell Jordan’s “Get It On Tonite”)

Kendrick Lamer “Poetic Justice” (sampled Janet Jackson’s “Anytime Anyplace”)

Tink- Million (sampled Aaliyah’s “One In A Million”)

There’s a collective sigh of relief when a beloved song is handled well in sampling. When a jam from the past shepherds the jam of the day, the current artist garners respect, the former artist gets paid and the audience can vibe along. As long as the  integrity of the original music and artistry is kept in tact, I’m down for a nineties hit to have the life of Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out.

January 21, 2016
by The OJBG Team
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Mr.Reboot | SB

We might have a nostalgia problem. The concept of embracing markers of a simpler time appeals to many, it’s why the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn thrives, it’s why vinyl records are sold in places as ubiquitous as a Barnes & Noble now, and why social media is something I value, but won’t let envelop me.

Television networks are looking to cash in on our appetite for nostalgia in the upcoming television season with reboots and remakes of cherished films and cult-followed television series. I get it, the past is cool.  We enjoy revising it, sometimes with upsetting results.

As a recovering couch potato, I have seen many a television trend come and go. My biggest heartbreaks being the rom-com trend of the 2014 season (RIP: Selfie, A to Z, Marry Me, and Manhattan Love Story) and the post Sex and the City network television not-quites of Cashmere Mafia and Lipstick Jungle.  The reboot trend worries me more than the others. Not only is it unambitious but it also leaves less of an opportunity for fresh original content to find an audience.  Here are a few examples of what we’ll see this year:

The Good: X-Files

Gillian Anderson’s work in The Fall (BBC) warms me to hearing the eerie X-Files theme again when its revival starts airing in late January.

The Meh: Fuller House

Even I couldn’t deal with the sticky-sweetness of Full House after age 10 and I gleefully watch Dog with a Blog on the Disney Channel last weekend. It’ll be interesting to see how the clean-cut sitcom has matured with its audience, if at all.

The Rest
Roots (1977)
Gilmore girls (200-2007)
Taken (2008)
Duck Tales (1987-1990)
The Notebook (2004)
Bewitched (1964-1972)
Cruel Intentions (1999)
Uncle Buck (1989)
Rush Hour (1998)

I’ve talked about the past a bunch in this post, but I can also predict the future. With this set of reboots and remakes, we should be prepared to be whelmed but not overly so.  The reboots of Dallas, Girl Meets World, and even Arrested Development couldn’t quite capture their former glory and networks should take that as an indicator of what’s to come. Make peace with the past and give a great original show a chance.

 

January 12, 2016
by The OJBG Team
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Happy Birthday Lizzie! | SB

I was a pudgy 5th grader obsessed with Moesha and Candies sneakers, when Lizzie McGuire premiered in January of 2001. Lizzie McGuire was the young grounded voice my friends and I needed at that stage in our adolescence.

At the time we were transitioning from our sheltered private elementary school experiences to the wide halls of a public middle school littered with pimply-faced kids with grubby vocabularies.

Throughout middle school, Lizzie, my friends and I mined through unrequited puppy love, frenemies, rambunctious younger siblings and nightmare teachers. In just sixty-five episodes, Lizzie became our style guru and guide on how to face adversity with pep in our step. Save for the saccharine peculiarities that exist within a ‘mouse ears’ show, Lizzie was an apt companion in those days.

So, Happy 15th Birthday, Lizzie McGuire!

January 5, 2016
by The OJBG Team
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What You Missed In Web-world | MJ

Without further ado, here are some web series you might have missed last year.

Yidlife Crisis is the first web series I fell in love with last year. The Canadian comedy series follows two friends as they navigate their lives as modern Jewish men, commenting on culture in Yiddish, French, and English. Don’t show this series to your grandma, oy vey.
Quality sci-fi can be hard to come by in web series land, with restraints on budget and scale. Anamnesis, however, overcomes both of those potential roadblocks. With a solid cast and script and hauntingly beautiful imagery, Anamnesis is definitely one to watch.
 

The Impossibilities is a charming exploration into a connection between the unlikeliest of friends: a melancholic magician and a ditzy yoga instructor. The series has adorable realistic chemistry between its players, and appeals universally to the desire to be wanted.
 

Tales From Tinder is a Melbourne-based series that takes true Tinder experiences and enacts them through the art of puppetry. Listening to accounts of online dating experiences is funny enough. Those same accounts reenacted by puppets is icing on the cake.

Shugs & Fats is a the comedic brainchild of Nadia Manzoor and Radhika Vaz, a hilarious series of skits involving semi-competent duo Shugs and Fats. With the womens’ impressive comic timing and chemistry it’s no wonder that the series won a Gotham Award last year.

 

December 30, 2015
by The OJBG Team
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Yet Another Year End List

It’s the end of the year. Nearly every media outlet has published or will publish an end of year list to remind you of all the films, music, and books you didn’t have time to ingest this year. You have list fatigue. I am not here to help. Here are my 5 favorite things from 2015.

Catastrophe
I found this show by accident.  While reading a Vulture television critic’s Twitter feed, she loved the series so much she wanted to cry.  I binged the criminally short first season (6 episodes) and it deserved the praise.  It’s a bare-faced portrayal of romantic love that still somehow manages to be sweet and riotously funny.

Hamilton
A hip-hop musical about one of America’s Founding Fathers. This musical is both a tribute to Alexander Hamilton and to hip-hop. It honors the oft-forgotten man and the maligned genre incredibly well.

Ego Death The Internet
These kids are a part of the collective of artists (Odd Future)that brought us Tyler the Creator and Frank Ocean (it’s July 181st). The tunes served on their sophomore effort improve on the tone set by their peers.  This album is incredibly vibey and deserves a complete listen.

Podcasts
Podcast listening nearly eclipsed my music listening this year, these podcasts are the culprits:
Women of the Hour (for the feminists!)
Intersection (thoughtful conversations on identity!)
You Must Remember This (stories about the Hollywood’s first century!)
Dear Sugar (heartfelt advice!)
Another Round  (all of my descriptors fall short…its everything!)

Charming Talented Blockbuster-Starring Hunks

Oscar Isaac, Michael B. Jordan & Adam Driver

December 25, 2015
by The OJBG Team
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Production Design In Holidayland | MJ

What Christmas movie springs forth as ruler of them all? I mean behind Die Hard, because that’s the true master of them all and let’s not lie about it, pal. The Year Without A Santa Claus? It’s A Wonderful Life? A Christmas Story? For me – and for a lot of people – it’s Home Alone. The misadventures in semi-sociopathic Kevin’s bout with some thieving baddies is cemented forever in cinematic holiday history (sidenote: check out Macauley Culkin’s new webseries DRYVERS).

Home Alone is the most Christmas-y Christmas movie that ever Christmas-ed, not for of its overall message of not leaving your 8-year-old home by himself because he might kill someone and/or himself, or because of its excellent use of both John Candy and polka music, but because it looks so gosh darn Christmas-y.

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Ho ho holy crap, whose house has ever been that red and green?
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Cinephiles and film writers throw around terms like production design and an instance likes this is where a viewer can really see what that entails. Production design is the overall look of a film, including props, locations, and sets. What’s going on in the background of a movie should be just as important as what’s happening in the foreground, even in an instance like this where it is largely unnoticeable until you’re really looking. But that’s the point. Home Alone feels so Christmas-y because the production designer has subtly – as well as not-so-subtly – made the McCallister household largely green, red, and white.

Around Oscar season, a lot of period pieces will get nods for production design, most recently lavish The Great Gatsby and quirky The Grand Budapest Hotel. Interestingly, way back in 1976, All the President’s Men won over the usual crop of historical and fantastical nominees.

But that’s the thing: the look of a film matters no matter what its setting is or how big the budget is. Take an indie film like 2011′s Weekend. The most integral location in the film is the main character’s tiny apartment, which is filled with cheap furniture and kitchen knick-knacks from charity shops, all mis-matched and second-hand. The nature of the character’s setting feeds into the character himself; he’s feels largely out-of-place and out-of-touch with his environment. He doesn’t have much of his own. Recently, low budget horror faves The Babadook and It Follows used the same simplicity to their advantage to make familiar settings downright terrifying.

Here’s a video essay on the look of Children of Men and a tour of the design of gothic London created for Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd. Never forget the background.

December 22, 2015
by The OJBG Team
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Encroachment in the Wild West | Part I

This is the first in a series of discussions on the state of web series in the grand scheme of things, particularly the involvement of big studios and networks in web content and series. Enjoy our thoughts and contribute your own! We would love to hear what you have to say.

Can indie creators on YouTube and Vimeo truly compete with traditional media entities and digital juggernauts?

Shay: Quick answer: Not really. The internet is now king. Tastes have shifted. Shows are available on the go. Cords are getting cut. Expectedly, industry big wigs paid attention and shifted programming from the screen across from your couch, to the one on your desk and then to the one in your hand.When a thing becomes popular it also becomes profitable. While Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and the like have been planted on the web since their respective launches, other more established networks have cropped up in app and web form further crowding the market. It boils down to the financial state of the creators. It’s rare that an individual content creator or even a start-up production company would have the capital to promote a series in the manner that a monied network might. Enough promotion will draw eyes to content no matter the quality. Personally, I might be more prone to dig into a show promoted by the peacock network than a web series buried on YouTube.  The advantage I see for indie content creators is the turnover rate for projects. While traditional series spend eons in the purgatory of development, indie content creators typically have control of the process and the product. So I say not really, because while the pockets of the content creators may not be lined with dough, innovation and the speed of uploading that content counts for something.

MJ: Can indie filmmakers compete with big studios? Isn’t this the same question? Modes of media-making – from film to television to streamable media – are constantly changing and and growing and attracting attention of greedy big-wigs. It only makes sense that big studios want to get in on easily accessible media, in this age where nearly everyone is watching their content on their phones or laptops or tablets. My answer to this question is, “…yeah.” But it really depends on what the indie content creator wants. Do they want money? Do they want likes and views? Do they want to transition from a web series to television or film? Did they make their series on a whim with friends from film school? If the ultimate goal of a creator is to eventually get spotted by a studio and gain notoriety in the industry then this kind of transition would be perfect. But for creators who feel that the powers-that-be are stealing the system away from its rightful users, it could appear to be impossible to compete. However, I’ve always found that kind of mentality to be awfully self-congratulatory. I don’t think that the internet belongs to one entity, whether it be a conglomerate of indie creators or studios. Indie series creators might have done it first but that does not imply ownership. It couldn’t possibly;  Youtube and Vimeo are for anyone, they aren’t policed. As Carmen points out, indie series have some advantages (free content, more freedom, interaction with fans) and the platform is constantly changing, what with social media becoming ever more pervasive. Who knows who’s going to release the next big series? Fucking Instagram? Vine? Six second episodes, dude.

Carmen: If you were to ask me two years ago, I would have said, “Of course they can!” but now, I’m on the fence. Indie filmmakers and web series creators turned to the web as a way to present their stories to the world on limited to no budget but still manage to create complex characters and interesting storylines that are well-edited, beautifully acted and visually stunning. Indie filmmakers were the stars of the web for a few years and more and more people began to take note… especially big time producers. The same big time producers who turned their noses up and sniffed at the idea are now fully invested in doing what they previously looked down upon. And while I don’t think it was anyone’s intention to edge indie filmmakers out of the picture, with their large-scale marketing campaigns, bigger sets, larger casts and huge production scale, it kind of feels like that’s what they’re doing, purposeful or not. BUT! indie productions do have an advantage over these large-scale productions: sheer numbers. As powerful as they are, these production companies can only make but so many web series at the scale they’re making them. Let’s watch a show on Netflix about politics. Ok, what else? A show about women in prison. Ok, then what? Ummm, two Marvel shows. Ok, finished those. WHAT ELSE?? Hmm, um, here’s this show for kids?  No, thanks, I just found a whole bunch of cool shows on YouTube, I’ll be over here for a while. So the big timers might have the money, but us indie folks, we got the goods. Lots and lots of goods. People will always want more, and that’s what we’re here for.

December 17, 2015
by The OJBG Team
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Dorothy & Blanche & Rose & Sophia| SB

A Note on TV’s Lady Besties in 2015

I have two long distance best friends. Two pillars of love and light that have helped me mine the quarter-life sagas of situationships, family illnesses, and (f)unemployment. While they’re hunkered down in grad school libraries in Columbia, SC and New Orleans most of the year, we make it work with birthday visits, three way calls that rival the run-time of Titanic, and budget vacations. We cheer the mundane (ambitious meal plan for the week- “ok, girl!”) and the grand (4.0 semester- “yasssss queen”). We celebrate each other.

Growing up I could see female friendships like my own, and some that were dysfunctional, playful, and co-dependent featured prominently on the boob tube. These days there’s a dearth of those dynamics in television. In the somewhat distant past, female friendships in television were the axis on which some television shows existed.  Laverne and Shirley. Mary and Rhoda (The Mary Tyler Moore Show).  Jane and Daria (Daria).  Alex and Sarah (OJBG) Lane and Rory (Gilmore Girls). Joan, Toni, Maya, and Lynn (Girlfriends). In these shows, the female relationships weren’t on the periphery.  There were no bag holders. Or best friends reduced to a gladiator-in-a-suit protecting the honor of a fixer in a dingy white hat. Each lady had agency. They were central to the story.

In 2015, women in television hold court as CIA operatives, polarizing attorneys, and ballsy record label executives. Gone are the scenes of a damsel nursing heartbreak with a pint of ice cream and a viewing of Terms of Endearment. But with all this power, the female best friend, confidante and bosom buddy has faded from our screens. In defiance of this trend, I hold tightly to the female friendships of my favorite shows. Here are my picks from the last few television seasons.

Broad City Abbi and Illana

Greys Anatomy Meredith and Christina

Orange is the New Black Pennsatucky and Boo

Parks and Recreation Anne and Leslie

The Good Wife Alicia and Kalinda

Maybe our tastes as a culture have changed, leaving less room for scripts with women braving this world in concert with one another. Still, female friendships are revelatory and mold us in ways our romantic relationships sometimes can’t. I’d like to see my friendships and those like it reflected more on the small screen. Do it for Lucy and Ethel.

December 8, 2015
by The OJBG Team
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Holidays in Adultland | MJ

I thought, Where is the holiday? while I rubbed my dry hands together and waited for the defroster to kick in. I don’t truly mean Christmas or Hanukkah or whatever others, but more the notion of “happy holidays”, that weird turn-of-phrase that means something and yet nothing. I thought, Where’s the snow? Where’s the happy lingering smell of cinnamon? as I put my car in drive, peering over the unmelted sheets of ice. I had to get going, I was late already.

Winter holidays mean something else when you’re a kid than when you’re an adult. It’s all peppy music in school, Christmas pageants and red and green construction paper, and hopes and hopes and hopes for snow days. The one time that I cared to watch the morning news, to see if Augusta County’s schools were closed along with those envied mountainous districts in West Virginia. Winter meant my mother was baking cookies by the dozen. Winter meant flagging pages in the Toys ‘R Us catalog.

I am an adult now somehow. I don’t know what happened. No one warned me about holidays in adultland where stale Christmas pop blares across every store. Did I wait too long to claim a bag of rock salt at the store? Where the hell did I put my ice scraper? Who’s to say my car will even start in this cold? And work, oh, I need to request the time off before everyone else claims the spots. Traffic, there’s going to be wicked-awful traffic. Come to think of it, did I buy Chris a present yet? What would he want? Socks for the third year in a row?

Where’s the joy? I thought as I sat in traffic, my hands still cracked with cold. A minivan sidled up next to my beat-up car, wearing big felty false reindeer antlers. I looked at it. I wanted to see around the front; was there a red nose on the grill?

That minivan would know where the holiday went. That mechanical reindeer would know.