Let's get one thing straight: Ricky Gervais is an absolute jerk.

He's incredibly condescending about his atheism, he's defended transphobia, he's mocked Anne Frank, and he's generally built a career around making people uncomfortable. He's also pretty f*cking brilliant. The original creator of the international phenomenon The Office, Gervais' brand of clever cringe humor has helped to shape the direction of comedy for the last decade. As such, he was tapped to host the Golden Globes first in 2010, when he quickly set a precedent for edgy jokes made at the expense of the award show's famous guests. His obvious disregard for the status quo and willingness to offend powerful people was oddly refreshing, earning the awards show some of their highest ratings in years, resulting in Gervais returning as host for a record five times as of 2020.

This year, Gervais quickly made it clear that he planned to go for shock factor even more than usual, saying, "You'll be pleased to know this is the last time I'm hosting these awards, so I don't care anymore. I'm joking. I never did." He then went on to absolutely lambaste the Hollywood establishment, earning many dropped jaws and even an irritated look from Tom Hanks. His most controversial comments included:

"Many talented people of color were snubbed in major categories. Unfortunately, there's nothing we can do about that. Hollywood Foreign press are all very racist."

" Leonardo DiCaprio attended the premiere and by the end his date was too old for him. Even Prince Andrew was like, 'Come on, Leo, mate.You're nearly 50-something.'"

"Talking of all you perverts, it was a big year for pedophile movies. Surviving R. Kelly, Leaving Neverland, Two Popes. Shut up. Shut up. I don't care."


And then, finally, perhaps most scathing of all, he closed with: "So if you do win an award tonight, don't use it as a platform to make a political speech. You're in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. So if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent, and your God and f*ck off, OK? It's already three hours long."


It soon became evident that many of the award presenters and winners ignored Gervais' advice. Michelle Williams called on more women to engage with politics, Jennifer Aniston delivered a brief speech calling for climate action on Russell Crowe's behalf, and Patricia Arquette denounced Trump and called on everyone to vote in 2020. And while each of these statements were met with applause from the audience, they also rang a bit hollow in the wake of Gervais' assertion that these ultra-rich, privileged celebrities know nothing of the real world. Jennifer Aniston is worth $240 million, Russell Crowe is worth $95 million, Michelle Williams is worth $16 million, and Patricia Arquette is worth $24 million dollars– meaning that each of these celebrities benefit from the system of late capitalism that has brought about the rise of the far right and climate change.

But isn't it still admirable that they chose to use their platforms for advocacy? Or is it simply hollow virtue signalling meant to make these extremely privileged people seem compassionate and "woke" in the eyes of the public? But if these kinds of statements make a positive impact regardless, does it matter? Do we have any reason to believe there is any positive change actually brought about because of political award show acceptance speeches? Is it all smoke and mirrors, like the rest of Hollywood?

Or maybe these aren't the right questions at all. Maybe what we should be asking is why anyone gives a sh*t what actors have to say in the first place. Gervais is right, at least, in that many of the glamorous guests at the Golden Globes aren't college educated, have been removed from the financial struggles of your average American for years, and generally exist in an isolated bubble of privilege. Though, one has to wonder what gives Gervais the right to engage in these conversations if he's so vehemently discouraging other celebrities from doing so. Afterall, his net worth is estimated at $130 million, so what does he know about the real world, either? One glance at his Twitter account makes it clear he is no stranger to political conversations, and he obviously takes great pride in feeling superior to other celebrities and Twitter users. One thing is clear: Gervais did not make such a controversial speech because of some genuine desire for change. He said what he said to stir controversy, to make himself feel superior, and to illicit reactions from the room. But that doesn't mean he was wrong.

Perhaps one has to ultimately conclude that all of it is nothing but a distraction from the only hope to save our world from its cycle of decay: big, structural change that can only happen as a result of a complete overhaul of our political system, culture, and collective perspective. Maybe celebrities have nothing to do with it. Maybe they're a part of the problem and can't be a part of the solution no matter how political they get when accepting shiny statues from antiquated and racist institutions.

TV

The 77th Golden Globe Awards, Starring the Climate Crisis

Actors used their acceptance speeches to speak out on the tragic fires in Australia and other humanitarian issues.

Though the Golden Globe Awards are intended to honor the best of motion pictures and television, last night's ceremony occurred in the shadows of the multiple humanitarian crises occurring around the world.

Ricky Gervais' brash opening monologue set the scene for a night full of critical political commentary, and many actors used their acceptance speeches to expand on a multitude of issues, the most common topic being the fires in Australia that have killed over 20 people and millions of animals. Though that crisis is happening miles and miles away from Beverly Hills, it was only a few minutes into the Golden Globes that those fires hit close to home.

Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon together presented the nominees for Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture for TV, among whom Russell Crowe won. But the Loudest Voice actor wasn't there to accept his award; he was home in Australia helping to protect his family and his house from the fire. Aniston shared a message from him: "The tragedy unfolding in Australia is climate change-based. We need to act based on science, move our global force to renewable energy, and respect our planet for the unique and amazing place it is. That way, we all have a future."

Australian Bushfires Given Spotlight At Golden Globes www.youtube.com


Stars like Ellen Degeneres and Cate Blanchett gave their hopeful sentiments to Australia during their speeches, while others like Joaquin Phoenix used the opportunity to call out some of their peers: "It's really nice that so many people have come up and sent their well wishes to Australia, but we have to do more than that," the actor said, accepting his Best Actor in a Drama Motion Picture award for portraying the title character of Joker. "We don't have to take private jets to Palm Springs for the award sometimes, or back. Please. And I'll try to do better and I hope you will, too."

Michelle Williams used her speech to call for her fellow women to vote in the upcoming presidential election, while Patricia Arquette expressed her fear for potential war following President Trump's decision to assassinate top Iran general Qassem Soleimani last week. Gervais, however, was having none of it, pointing out the hypocrisy of Hollywood "wokeness."

"If you do win an award tonight, don't use it as a platform to make a political speech," the host urged. "You're in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. So if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent and your God, and f--k off, OK?"

Whether Gervais' suggestion was fair is up for a long debate, but the climate crisis was definitely the Golden Globes' surprise star.

TV

Why "The Act" Is Unsatisfying: The Contradictions of True Crime Dramas

Dramas based on true crime stories are fraught with contradictions–are these criminals or characters, stories or confessions, entertainment or exploitation?

Hulu

Hulu's The Act is uncomfortable. Its eerie mood and artificial setting feels like being inside the dollhouse of a murder scene.

Season one dramatizes the suspected Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy—and eventual murder–of Dee Dee Blanchard (Patricia Arquette), who cared for her daughter Gypsy Rose (Joey King)–who's currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for her mother's death. The Act takes on the challenge of exposing Gypsy's motives with an eight-episode season that re-creates the Blanchards' sheltered world of mental illness, child abuse, and con artistry. Showrunners Michelle Dean and Nick Antosca (Channel Zero) barely take creative liberties with the already stranger-than-fiction story. The Act embraces the contradictions between fiction and reality by re-enacting a crime that was facilitated by someone's distorted sense of fact, fantasy, and self.

In 2015, Dee Dee Blanchard was found stabbed to death in her bed, with her young, wheelchair-bound daughter missing from their home. But soon, Gypsy was found and told authorities a bizarre story of child abuse and psychological manipulation at the hands of her mother. Buzzfeed's Michelle Dean broke the story, which quickly evolved from a gruesome headline into HBO's documentary Mommy Dead and Dearest. In structuring their series, Dean and Antosca largely stay true to the facts. In 2008, Habitat for Humanity rallied a small Missouri community to build a disability-friendly home for two special victims of Hurricane Katrina: a single mother and her disabled daughter suffering from epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, chromosomal defects, life-threatening allergies, and severe asthma, among other ailments.

elle popdust the hulu real life Elle

The Act spans the seven years leading up to Dee Dee's murder, opening with the Blanchards moving into their new house, whose cotton-candy colored walls, plushie-filled shelves, and suffocating hallways comprise the entire world Gypsy is allowed to explore (aside from multiple doctors' offices). Arquette plays Dee Dee with exaggerated southern charm and a thick Louisiana accent to match–and alarming commitment to the woman's frequent mood swings that move from screaming at Gypsy to suddenly weeping in her arms. Most apparent is Dee Dee's infantilizing treatment of her daughter, whose true age is deliberately concealed from doctors and even Gypsy herself. Early on in episode 3, "Two Wolverines," we see that Gypsy's only recreational outlet is to attend fan conventions with her mother, who still pressures her to dress up in gaudy costumes of Disney princesses. When Dee Dee lies about her daughter's age in order to receive discounted tickets, Gypsy begins to question whether Dee Dee has been lying to her about everything else.

Arquette's breathless charisma and King's exaggerated childishness can feel exhausting–and yet they're some of the truest-to-life details of The Act. The real Dee Dee managed to deceive doctors and good Samaritans about Gypsy's health for decades in order to receive a free home, gifts, and thousands of dollars in donations. Upon her arrest, the real Gypsy first told police she was 19 years old, when in fact she was believed to be 23; her mother had lied so often that she wasn't sure of her true age. The Act's intense focus on the interior lives of Dee Dee and Gypsy can also feel suffocating, as most of the early episodes take place inside their nauseating, bubblegum-pink home. Scenes showcasing their codependency can grow redundant and gratuitous, from Dee Dee shaving Gypsy's head in the sink to screaming at her never to sit on the porch without her.

But the highlight of the show is how the Blanchards contrast with the outside world. Across the street from their Disney-themed home is Mel (Chloë Sevigny), the young, no-bullshit single mother of a rebellious teenage daughter named Lacey (AnnaSophia Robb). Their dynamic with the Blanchards is hard to pin down, as they develop from suspicious neighbors to friends to witnesses. Sevigny and Robb give standout performances as the two most relatable characters in the show. Both of their sharp tongues and strong will thrill Gypsy, especially Lacey's. In fact, the contrast would seem contrived if the characters weren't based on the Blanchards' actual neighbors, who were the first to contact police after Dee Dee's death.

popdust the act hulu In Touch

In truth, the pacing of the show can feel tiresome if you already know the story of Dee Dee Blanchard: Dee Dee's obsessive control over her daughter becomes more sinister and Gypsy's desperate rebellion leads her to online dating, which is how she meets Nick Godejohn. Played by Calum Worthy, Godejohn was 25 years old when he became Gypsy's online boyfriend. The 25-year-old was said to have learning disabilities that gave him the permanent mentality of a 15-year-old. Even though Worthy, at times, makes Godejohn sympathetic with confused and nervous ticks and crushing naivety, Nick can feel like a caricature of a villain–which means he fits perfectly into Gypsy's fantasy world. They call each other "prince" and "princess." Nick believes he has multiple personalities, including a "bad side" named Victor. Nevertheless, his "good side" wants to be Gypsy's "hero."

Ultimately, Dean and Antosca chose not to depict the murder onscreen, opting instead for an impressive six-minute long tracking shot in which Gypsy rises from the bed she shares with her mother (according to the real Gypsy, "Don't hurt me" was the last thing her mother said before falling asleep), lets Nick into their home, and hands him a knife before waiting in the bathroom. Dean told The Hollywood Reporter, "From the beginning, Nick and I knew that the murder was only going to play out from Gypsy's perspective, which is to say, she didn't see it. She only heard it. It was very important to the way that Gypsy oriented herself to this final act of violence, that she kept away from it in some sense."

In that sense, The Act presents a modest defense of Gypsy Rose. Her detachment from reality, her inner fantasy world, and the severity of her mother's abuse suggest that she was a victim forced into an impossible situation. Still, King's intelligent performance only emphasizes the pre-meditated nature of events, with her careful deliveries and shifting eyes suggesting that she knows more than it's safe for her to say. King impresses most in the last three episodes of the series. She consistently captures Gypsy's frozen youth with a versatile performance, ranging from naivety (in episode 7, she doesn't understand why Nick isn't given home-cooked meals from his mother) to seduction (episode 5 includes them having sex through a webcam and ends with her asking "Victor" to murder her mother). King even mimics the real Gypsy's high-pitched baby voice.

As a silent third character in the series, the Blanchards' creepy, Stepfordian home perfectly mirrors Gypsy's artificial sense of self: the result of a lifetime under her mother's neurotic control. When Gypsy flees with Nick, she enters the real world where colors are drab, people are rude, and she's lost the only source of comfort she's ever known. In the final episode, her neighbor Mel comes to visit Gypsy in prison. The conversation is unsatisfying, as Mel doesn't receive answers or clarity.

Likewise, we're never certain if the fissures between reality and fantasy have healed for Gypsy or if they ever will. Mel asks, "Who are you? Who are you now that your mother's gone?" When the season ends with Gypsy returning to her cell, we see in her mind's eye that her mother is still with her, sitting next to her on her cot. Antosca explained, "That final moment in her prison cell, we thought that was the key image of the show. That's what really leaves you with the question of 'Is she ever free?'"

Dramas based on true crime stories are fraught with contradictions–are these criminals or characters, stories or confessions, entertainment or exploitation? Hulu's first true crime anthology, The Act, clearly hopes to emulate the success of FX's Golden Globe and Emmy award-winning series American Crime Story. In the bizarre new world of dramas based on true crimes, viewers are forced to acknowledge that they only have mediated access to "facts" and a limited interpretation of the truth.


Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher, and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.


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7 Worthy True Crime Shows Coming in 2019

The cycle of true crime is moving from podcasts and documentaries to prime time re-enactments.

CBS News

We've entered the next stage of the true crime phenomenon.

While podcasts like Serial fueled the first wave of investigative content and docuseries like Making a Murderer made true crime bingeable, true crime dramas like Dirty John re-enact criminal plots so bizarre they have to be seen to be believed. 2019 will be flush with new podcasts and docuseries, but Netflix, Hulu, and TNT will also take on the challenge of artfully dramatizing real-life crime stories without looking like Lifetime Movie Network rejects.

Here are 7 true crime series worth giving a chance:

1. Conversations with a Killer: Ted Bundy Tapes (Netflix, January 24)

PulpNewsMag

Netflix's upcoming docuseries will feature previously unreleased interviews with Ted Bundy conducted during his time on death row. Mixed with archival footage that traces his criminal rise in the 70s, Conversations with a Killer will be released on the 30th anniversary of Bundy's execution.

2. I Am the Night (TNT, January 28)

IMDB

Chris Pine and director Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) helm this period drama about the unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short, infamously remembered as the Black Dahlia. While the six-episode series takes plenty of creative liberties, Jenkins was close friends with the real-life figure the series is structured around, Fauna Hodel.

3. The Act (Hulu, March 20)

Just Jared

Oscar and Emmy Award winner Patricia Arquette will star in the debut season of Hulu's true crime anthology series, The Act. Each season is slated to explore one story that shocked the true crime circuit with its bizarre nature. Season 1 will feature the murder of Dee Dee Blanchard (played by Arquette) by her daughter Gypsy and the lifetime of abuse and manipulations that preceded it.

4. Unsolved Mysteries (Netflix, TBA)

JoBlo

The classic 1987 true crime and paranormal series is being revived by the executive producer of Stranger Things. The upcoming 12-part series will re-enact one real unsolved crime or phenomenon in each episode.

5. Interrogation (CBS All Access, TBA)

GoldDerby

Peter Sarsgaard will star in this nonlinear true crime series that spans over 30 years. The 10 episodes are based on real police interrogations about a young man who was charged and convicted of brutally murdering his mother. The network is concealing the name of the real case the series is based on, but the goal of Interrogation is to turn the viewer into a detective as the crime unfolds.

6. Central Park Five (Netflix, TBA)

Awards Watch

Netflix is taking on this infamous case of five black teenagers falsely accused and forced to confess to the rape and assault of a female jogger in 1989. The four-episode series will feature Vera Farmiga as the lead prosecutor and Michael K. Williams and John Leguizamo as two of the boys' fathers.

7. Uncertain Terms (TCPalm podcast, January 2019)

TCPalm

This new true crime podcast tackles the issue of children who are convicted of murder and the adults they become while incarcerated. Specifically, the podcast explores Florida convicts who have grown up in prison and are facing re-sentencing or release, depending on the details of their crimes, how the victims' families feel, and who they've become.


Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.


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Why is America Already Tired of Amy Schumer?

Why are we already tired of Amy Schumer?

Photo by Annie Leibovitz

Schumer's comedy is also about women refusing to adhere to these standards, creating new ones in the wake of feminism and the #MeToo movement.

Amy Schumer, a female comedian known for parodying her body and promiscuous behavior during her standup performances and sketch-comedy show, Inside Amy Schumer, is everyone's favorite punching bag these days. A lot of people don't like Schumer, apparently. Why? If you were to study the trajectory of her career, I suppose the fall of Schumer would land somewhere between her two feature-length films Trainwreck (a moderately successful Hollywood offering) and Snatched a really bad comedy co-starring Goldie Hawn. In between her HBO and Netflix specials, Schumer's been in and out of headlines—some good and others problematic (like her parody video of Beyonce's "Formation"). She's been accused of stealing jokes, of being racist, and has received equally discouraging hate for her physical image. Her new film, I Feel Pretty, is out April 20th and already has a 33 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Ironically, Schumer's brand heavily relies on her inadequacy as a picture-perfect actress. Schumer's shtick is that she's below-average and still repugnantly entitled. That's the joke. Most of her sketches on the Emmy-winning Inside Amy Schumer examine the smugness of white women, displaying a hilarious mentality that the world will and should accommodate her simply because she's breathing. Schumer has played with this trope in countless skits, playing an entitled girlfriend or love interest who associates her value and worth with the men she's able to seduce. Maybe she's played the part too well because her name, these days, is met with excessive hate. When Schumer is admonished for her brand of humor—fine, let her have it. But, oftentimes, her comedy is criticized in unison with her appearance, with the reality that she is indeed a woman who eats, swears, and drinks. There are countless male comedians who are a part of the same I'm-gross-entitled-lazy-and-unapologetically-fat brand, right? Many of these same men have been outed for abusing their power and influence in Hollywood. Those that find Amy Schumer unfunny are also bothered by her confidence, her autonomy, her drive and willingness to promote body positivity because women in entertainment still aren't respected as artists outside of their looks. How dare Schumer be unfunny and also not wear a size 0?

Inside Amy Schumer was mostly fascinated with this same phenomena: the ways women's bodies are compartmentalized and valued in society. Women must be forever young, thin, effortlessly beautiful but not too done-up, smart—but not too smart as to overwhelm our male counterparts—friendly and mysterious, wholesome and freaky, quiet and outspoken. Schumer's comedy is about how these contradictions—set forth through advertising, film, music, and TV—infiltrate our lives, and how women jump through hoops to maintain these standards. But Schumer's comedy is also about women refusing to adhere to these standards, creating new ones in the wake of feminism and the #MeToo movement. So, if you've grown tired of Amy Schumer talking about her lady parts, that's perfectly fine. But she has every right to make comedy out of wearing Spanx and tanning solution to red carpet events she attends. I mean, if you gotta suck it in, at least have some fun doing so, right?


Shaun Harris is a poet, freelance writer, and editor published in avant-garde, feminist journals. Lover of warm-toned makeup palettes, psych-rock, and Hilton Als. Her work has allowed her to copyedit and curate content for various poetry organizations in the NYC area.


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BOX OFFICE BREAKDOWN | What's coming to theaters this weekend?

DEC. 14th-16th | Star Wars: The Last Jedi is finally here! And more films to discover!

Even if you haven't been waiting for the latest installment in the Star Wars franchise, get ready to laugh along during the 1980s and smile at a cute bull with this weekend's premieres.

In Popdust's new column, Box Office Breakdown, we aim to inform you of the top flicks to check out every weekend depending on what you're in the mood to enjoy. Looking to laugh? What about have your pants scared off? Maybe just need a little love? Whatever the case may be, we have it.

Take a peek at our top picks for this week...

Permanent

The 1980s were not the best times for fashion and beauty, but they were a time for families and fun. Go back in time with this less-than-glamorous comedy about a young teenager who wants nothing more than for her hair to be curly and stylish, and her parents who are just trying to get their own lives together. Laugh, cry, and thank God you never got the idea to put a perm in your hair as you watch this family decide whether or not they are going to accept the blessed mess that they are. Warning: spandex might make several appearances.

Purchase Tickets for Permanent!

PG-13 | Running Time 1hr 33m | Magnolia Pictures | Director: Colette Burson
Starring: Rainn Wilson, Patricia Arquette, Kira McLean, and more!

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