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Catching Up on 2017: Josh Reviews The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season One

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is the latest show created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, and produced by Ms. Sherman-Palladino and her husband Daniel Palladino, the duo behind Gilmore Girls.  Set in New York City in 1958, the show tells the story of Midge Maisel, who discovers that she has an aptitude for stand-up comedy and sets out to try to make it in the business.

I have never seen Gilmore Girls, though from what I have read about it I suspect I would have enjoyed the writing.  I certainly quite enjoyed The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Centering on a smart, strong female character, the show feels wonderfully of the moment, and while there are many reasons why the show works, Rachel Brosnahan’s spectacular performance as Miriam “Midge” Maisel is the key.  This is a great blend of character and performer.  Midge isn’t perfect.  She can be a little blind to what those around her are thinking and feeling, and she sure can talk a LOT.  But she is fiercely intelligent and admirably persistent at striving towards her goals.  She is a fascinating character, and Ms. Brosnahan easily shoulders the weight of the show.

I recently wrote about The Deuce, a show that explores the seedy underbelly of New York City in the 1970s.  Compared to that, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, set a little over a decade earlier, feels like a fairy tale.  And perhaps it is, but there’s nothing wrong with that!  What I appreciate about the show is that it creates as distinct and complete a portrait of New York City as The Deuce does, albeit one that is very different.  (One example of the gulf between the two shows: I believe that mob boss Rudy Pipilo is the only major character on The Deuce who is nearly as affluent as the majority of characters on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.)

I was intrigued by how Jewish The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is.  Midge and the majority of the characters on the show are Jewish —even the comedians like Lenny Bruce, more on him layer — and the show takes the care to allow this Jewishness to be a major part of these characters’ lives, as of course it would be, without skewing into caricature.  There were a few mis-steps that caught my eye (many TV shows make the mistake of showing a rabbi wearing a tallit outside of prayer services, and in the pilot we see the rabbi wearing a tallit at Midge and Joel’s wedding dinner, which no rabbi would actually do), but overall I was pleased by how smoothly these Jewish elements were integrated into the fabric of the show.

After Rachel Brosnahan as Midge herself, I was most taken … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Kevin Pollak’s Misery Loves Comedy

As I have written about multiple times, I am a huge fan of Kevin Pollak’s amazing podcast Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show, in which Mr. Pollak sits down for extended (and I mean extended — most of the interviews are about two hours long) conversations with comedians and actors to talk about their lives, their careers, and their craft.  It’s a delicious inside baseball sort of conversation, a delight for a comedy nerd like me.  Mr. Pollak has proven to be a remarkably talented interviewer, able to be very funny while also asking very insightful, probing questions of his guests.

Over the years, as a regular viewer/listener of the show, it’s clear that there have been certain topics that Mr. Pollak has proven to be particularly interested in exploring with his guests, areas of conversation to which Mr. Pollak seems to return, again and again, with his various guests.  Two of these have become the basis for Mr. Pollak’s new documentary film: first, what is it that makes these comedians/performers first decide to spend their lives entertaining others (what Mr. Pollak amusingly calls “hey look at me disease”) and second, is it true that to be truly funny one needs to have a deep well or sadness and/or trauma in one’s life?

Misery Loves Comedy.01.cropped

Mr. Pollak’s new film, Misery Loves Comedy, is a big bold underline under these favorite themes of Mr. Pollack’s.  It feels like a summary of all of those interviews.

The film boasts a staggering array of talent.  Just look at some of these people who appear in the documentary: Jimmy Fallon, Tom Hanks, Kevin Smith, Judd Apatow, Janeane Garofalo, Whoopi Goldberg, Christopher Guest, Stephen Merchant, Larry David, Jason Alexander, Jim Gaffigan, Lewis Black, Penn Jillette, Richard Lewis, Maria Bamford, James L. Brooks, Andy Richter, Robert Smigel, Alan Zweibel, Jim Norton, Amy Schumer, Jon Favreau, Sam Rockwell, Bobby Cannavale, Matthew Perry… and that’s just scratching the surface.  Mr. Pollak’s connections in the comedy world serve this film well.  I was continually impressed by the A-level talent featured, and also by the inclusion of some great and fascinating lesser-known people.

Misery Loves Comedy.02.cropped

Larry David’s interview appears to be the one interview in the film that was taken directly from his appearance on Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show.  All the other interviews appear to have been newly-recorded for the film.

The film is very, very funny, as you might expect from such a spectacular assemblage of funny people.  And it also succeeds in digging into some of the more serious questions that Mr. Pollak is clearly interested in exploring.  I was fascinated to hear Freddie Prinze Jr. talk about his father’s suicide, and Kevin Smith has a great story about how he feels comedy saved … [continued]

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News Around the Net

Prepare to lose the rest of your day.  Mad Men screencaps with Parks and Rec quotes.  You’re welcome.

Who said it: Donald Trump or Lucille Bluth?

I am intrigued by this trailer for Jon Favreau’s live-action The Jungle Book.  This trailer is gorgeous.  Will the film be good?  My curiosity is certainly piqued.

Here’s another very brief peek at Netflix’s upcoming Jessica Jones series.  I’m really itching for a more substantial look at this show, but this new very short spot is sweet.

I’ve spent some time lately catching up with Jerry Seinfeld’s amazing Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.  It’s pretty much perfect entertainment for anyone who loves Seinfeld, and anyone who loves comedy.

I’ve also been hugely enjoying catching up with some fantastic podcasts.  First up is the always great Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show.  These in-depth two-hour interviews with actors and comedians are extraordinary.  So funny and so fascinating.  I’ve been listening to years and I’ve still barely scratched the surface of the almost 250 shows that Mr. Pollak has done.

I’ve also been digging Kumail Nanjiani’s The X-Files Files Each show features Mr. Nanjiani and a rotating series of guests discussing two episodes of The X-Files.  They’re watching and reviewing the entire series in order, from start to finish.  This is a great reminder of when The X-Files was great and when nothing was more fun than deeply analyzing its mysteries.  This is a great way to build excitement for The X-Files’ much-anticipated return to television in January.

I was introduced to The X-Files Files when I read about it on Devin Faraci’s Birth.Movies.Death., and I’m also digging Mr. Faraci’s podcast The Canon, in which he and Amy Nicholson discuss one movie a week, debating its merits and legacy and deciding whether they think that film merits inclusion in “the canon,” their made-up repository of only the very best films.  Often they pit two films against one another (such as their great episode debating Alien versus Aliens, or Annie Hall versus Manhattan).  This is a great listen.

I enjoyed this article about Essential Star Trek novels.  I have read every one of these books and they’re all great, though titling the article “That Even Non-Trekkers Should Read” is a mistake, as other than Peter David’s Imzadi, I can’t see non-Trek fans being interested in any of these books.  But re-title this post “That Every Trek Fan Should Read” and then we’d be on to something.  Lots of love in this article to several old-school novels from several decades ago.  I still remember reading Vonda M. McIntyre’s The Entropy Effect (one of the very first Pocket Book Star Trek novels … [continued]

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So… has there been some Star Wars news this week…?

Well, let me just say this, which I’m sure I’ll be repeating over and over again ad nauseam between now and Dec 18, 2015.  I would love nothing more than to see a great new Star Wars movie in a theatre at some point during the rest of my life.  I would be delighted and thrilled for Episode VII to be that movie.  I am rooting for it.

Although there are a billion ways for it to go wrong and turn our embarrassing, I like the idea of the original trio of Luke, Han, and Leia (Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher) being involved in the movie.

I am cautiously optimistic that J.J. Abrams is the right director for the film.  I think J.J. understand how to balance nostalgia with telling a fresh story; I think he has a good cinematic eye; and I think he has the muscle in Hollywood to make the movie he wants to make.  On the other hand, his last film was the execrable Star Trek Into Darkness.  So that’s a problem.

There are some really exciting names in the new cast just announced.  John Boyega was phenomenal in Attack the Block.  Oscar Isaac was phenomenal in Inside Llewyn Davis.  Domhnall Gleeson was phenomenal in About Time.  Andy Serkis is the new god of 21st century big-budget fantasy film-making.  (I assume he’ll be playing a mo-cap creature, but I’d be equally happy if he’s performing as himself in the film.)  Max Von Sydow was absolutely BORN to be in a Star Wars movie.  Adam Driver is a surprising choice — I think he’s a terrific actor, but he has a very “modern” feel that I have a hard time imagining translating into a Star Wars movie, but I can hold my judgment for now.  (Interestingly enough, he shared a scene — a GREAT scene — with Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis!)  Like the rest of America, I have no idea who Daisy Ridley is (just that she has a cool name), but I look forward to finding out.

So, so far, I am cautiously optimistic about Star Wars: Episode VII.  This is not a film I think needs to be made.  But since they’re making it, I hope to hell it’ll be great.  Right now, I have plenty of reasons to worry (none of us have to imagine what a terrible Star Wars movie looks like — we’ve all already seen it), but also plenty of reasons to hope.  We’ll all know for sure in just a year and a half.

In other news…

This is a fantastic [continued]

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News Around the Net!

Click here for a wonderful look at the films of the Coen Brothers.  This fellow re-watched all of the Coen Brothers’ films (which sounds like a wonderfully fun project, by the way), and writes about his impressions of their body of work.  It’s an impressive article, and I love his assessment of the Coens’ wonderful characters, who “verge on caricature yet have a vivid particularity that makes them hard to forget and easy to return to.”  That’s a good a description as I have ever seen!

I love this look at Six Comedians We Wish Would Return to Stand-Up!  I wholeheartedly agree.  (There are some wonderful video clips embedded in that article.)

Motivational posters inspired by The Wire?  Awesome.  (This piece on badassdigest.com selects some of the best.)

This fascinating oral history of the very short-lived Dana Carvey Show makes me want to track down those episodes and watch them immediately.

I am a big, big fan of Dave Sim’s sprawling comic book epic Cerebus, the unprecedented “300 issue limited series.”  It gets pretty crazy (and, at times, pretty unreadable) near the end (I am a subscriber to the theory that Dave Sim went insane while working on his magnum opus), but the vast swaths of the story that are good are REALLY REALLY GOOD, some of the finest comic books ever created.  It’s fun to see some writers giving Cerebus some much-deserved attention these days.  Click here for a lengthy excerpt from the Comics Journal’s recent look back at the series, and I also am really enjoying the series of pieces running at comicbookresources.com, written by a writer who is reading through the complete epic for the first time.  Click here for part one, and here for the even stronger part two.  Although I personally choose to believe that the Cerebus story ends on the final page of Rick’s Story, I appreciate this author’s debunking the commonly-held notion that the last hundred issues of Cerebus are entirely without merit.  He writes, and I agree, that it’s only in the series’ final stretch of issues — Dave Sim’s bizarre exegesis of the Torah — when the comic really becomes unreadable.

This is a great piece by A. O. Scott of the New York Times about three summer 2011 movies worth debating.  I’m sad to say I haven’t seem any of them yet, but this wonderful article reinforces the desire I already felt to try to track all three films down as soon as possible.  (The fact that I haven’t seen Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life but I have seen Cowboys and Aliens makes me feel a little sad inside.)

Can [continued]

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Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show!

August 14th, 2011
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Do you only know Titus Welliver from his role as the Man in Black on Lost? The man is a terrific actor and comedian.  Check out his Christopher Walken impression:

http://youtu.be/OOMUeMWv8y4

That was pretty good, right?  But it’s nothing compared to his staggeringly spot-on impersonation of Al Pacino, at three different phases of his career.  Check this out, you won’t be disappointed:

http://youtu.be/5q9TpdUPYLU

Those two clips are both from Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show.  I had no idea this existed until a few weeks ago, and now it’s just about my favorite thing ever.

The great Kevin Pollak (who is a terrific actor, comedian, and impressionist of his own) has been doing (for quite some time now!) a weekly on-line chat show, in which each week he interviews a different guest.  Many of his guests are famous actors and comedians, though Mr. Pollak has interviewed fascinating folks from other fields as well.

I’ve fallen in love with Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show not only because of the guests (take a look at the show’s archive page to see that Mr. Pollak has interviewed a staggeringly phenomenal list of amazing people), but because each interview is nearly two hours long!  The conversations are extraordinarily in-depth — this is a far cry from the five-or-so-minutes that you see guests interviewed on the late night talk shows these days.  Mr. Pollak is a great interviewer — his relaxed style gets the guests to open up, and he’s able to keep his conversations interesting and very, very funny.  (Again, it helps that many of his guests are hysterical people in their own right.)

I discovered Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show when I saw a link on TrekMovie.com to Mr. Pollak’s interview with Damon Lindeloff.  I was engrossed by the conversation, and reminded just how likable and intelligent Mr. Lindeloff seems to be, despite his staggering cluelessness as to the total and epic failure of the final season of Lost.

Then I made my way to this interview with Eddie Izzard, one of my very favorite stand-up comedians, and I was hooked.

In the past few weeks I’ve watched Mr. Pollak’s interviews with Rob Reiner, Nathan Fillion, and Andy Richter, and each one was better than the next.  I am working my way through the archives of the show — there are SO MANY amazing interviews that I can’t wait to watch!  (I need more hours in the day!)

Readers of this blog will LOVE this on-line chat show, I promise you.  Check it out without delay.… [continued]