Issue #19: Inventing Anna, Romancing Bennifer, and a Hip-Hoppin' Super Bowl Concert
Plus, A Few Reviews of Oscar-Nominated Films
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I measure good entertainment by the number of emotional reactions celebs and their performances elicit from me, and this week I felt a lot! I squealed and danced, gaped and laughed, screamed and scowled, and felt romance blooming in my heart, all indicators that entertainers are earning their millions and billions.
Let’s start things off with a squeal and a dance!
A Hip-Hoppin’ Super Bowl Concert
No one earned their millions more than the rap and hip-hop megastars who turned it out at the Super Bowl Concert (I know what it’s really called, but it will always be a concert to me). In the last issue of Obsessed!, I wrote about Y2K and ’90s nostalgia, and Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent, and Eminem worked my dormant cellular memories into a frenzy.
I was in my early-mid twenties when the beats of “California Love,” “Family Affair,” and “Lose Yourself” pumped through the radio waves and filled the dancery. Those were the days when I was actually in “da club” every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night instead of sitting at home on the couch with my cat. West Coast beats originated on the other side of the continent, but they bounced across the miles to Toronto, bringing the whole vibe with them.
This year’s Super Bowl Concert showcased the first-ever exclusively rap and hip-hop lineup with the OGs and one contemporary artist capturing the electricity of those times, propelling partying, perseverance, politics, and protest through their hot mics.
Dr. Dre and Snoop kicked off the performance with the fresh, bouncy beat of “The Next Episode” and the quintessential ode to the era, “California Love,” spreading a smile across my face.
Then, 50 Cent made a surprise upside-down appearance, referencing his “In Da Club” video. I screamed, “Holy shit!” followed by a strange squeal of excitement and a humiliating white person dance that made my niece laugh out loud.
Kendrick Lamar had the near-impossible task of singularly representing a new generation of hip-hop artists. But he met the moment, igniting full-body chills with his fiery performance of “Alright.”
And when Eminem busted out with “Lose Yourself,” I was a fully charged livewire, so high on the sight and sound of my first-ever rapper crush that I missed the moment when he knelt in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick. Don’t worry, I have watched it about 5 million times since.
Because they were the first, the bar was set high for the collective of music royalty, but their epic 12-minute performance proved that rap and hip-hop belonged center stage on the Super Bowl field all along.
Gaping At The Fake German Heiress
The “fake German heiress” has not been gainfully employed for years, but she is the CEO of making sure that all eyes are on her. Anna Sorokin (aka Anna Delvey) is back in the headlines hinting at being an advocate for fellow ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detainees while making it crystal clear that she is focused on her “projects” (aka self-promotion). While she faces deportation for overstaying her visa, she is working on a memoir and a docuseries about the next chapter of her life.
Anna (let’s stick with the first name to avoid confusion) started trending in 2018 after New York Magazine exposed her fraudulent lifestyle. The young woman managed to infiltrate the upper crust of New York social scenes by claiming to be a German heiress. She was eventually found out and was charged with and convicted of grand larceny for defrauding Wall Street banks as well as theft related to multiple outstanding bills at high-end restaurants and hotels. The public was fascinated by this (actually) Russian woman who curated an extravagant identity accessorized by famous friends, a stolen jet, lavish travel, and her black-framed Céline glasses.
The New York Magazine article, written by Jessica Pressler, is the inspiration for the Shonda Rhimes-produced series, Inventing Anna. The 9-episode drama is currently the #1 North American and global Netflix series. Julia Garner of Ozark fame transforms into an Anna doppelgänger who toys with the plucky and desperate NY journalist played by Anna Chlumsky. This show will not be Emmy-nominated, but it is binge-worthy television. The audience is drawn into elite spaces in NY, LA, Paris, and Morrocco and made privy to details of Wall Street wheelings and dealings, friendships killed by betrayal, a long stint at Rikers, and a fashion-friendly legal trial.
It isn’t all spectacle; the TV show, journalists, and real-life Anna continue to generate relevant questions about ethics in journalism, purchasing elite status, and the system’s propensity for over-penalizing women who engage in white-collar crime.
Fact or fiction, it is impossible to deny that Anna continues to lure the imaginations of a public obsessed with Kardashian-like creations of self.
Laughing At Two Hustlers
Are you ready for this one? This week, the news dropped that Anna is friends with Julia Fox, the other New York “it girl.” LMFAO! Of course she is!
In an interview with The New York Times, Anna revealed that she and Fox connected on social media. She teased, “[Julia Fox] has lots of interesting creative projects going on, and I feel like the media is not doing her justice talking about her dating life. We are actually working on a little something together.”
LMAO! A little something?
This friendship is mutually beneficial while one person is held securely behind ICE detention bars, but if Ms. Anna is released to the NY streets, there will be a Jets-vs-Sharks-like turf war, and one of these “it girls” will be metaphorically slain.
Speaking of Ms. Fox, she is freshly freed from Ye and is doing her damndest to stay relevant. Her temporary arrangement appears to have paid off because she walked the runway at the LaQuan Smith show at New York Fashion Week. No laughing here; this sly Fox did what she had to do to get where she wanted to be.
Toil And Trouble
(we have entered the screaming and scowling part of my week)
Pay attention to this; I am about to save you hours of your life. Every year I make it my personal mission to watch the Academy Awards Best Picture nominees. I also watch most of the movies that feature the acting nominees. I start early, so I have already seen many of the Best Picture nominees and some of the movies that feature the nominated actors and actresses. But over the last seven days I squeezed in a few more viewings, and they were, well, not for me.
The Tragedy Of Macbeth (Best Actor Nomination for Denzel Washington)
11:22 minutes. That’s how far I made it into Joel Coen’s film adaptation of the Shakespeare drama before clicking “exit.” I have a university background in Shakespeare and an admiration for the acting of Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth respectively, but the witch scared me away long before their scenes.
Kathryn Hunter singularly embodies the spirit of the three witches, slithering through the barren desert, croaking a cobble of lines about a cursed sailor. She contorts her body in inexplicable ways and presents the thumb of said sailor gripped between her knobby toes. Her performance is riveting and horrifying.
I will give this one another try, but this is my warning to you: if the prospect of a black and white Shakespeare film adaptation doesn’t scare you off, the witch just might.
Streaming now on Apple TV.
Drive My Car (Nominated for Best Picture)
2h 59min. I wish I had seen that runtime before I took my seat for one of the longest, most boring cinematic rides of my life.
I went into this viewing knowing precisely three things: 1) the film is nominated for Academy Awards for Best Picture and International Feature Film (Japan), Adapted Screenplay, and Best Director (Ryusuke Hamaguchi), 2) it is based on Haruki Murakami’s short story of the same name, 3) It is the first Japanese film ever to be nominated for Best Picture.
The themes of loss and guilt are packed into the red Saab 900 driven by a young chauffeur, Misaki Watari, who is assigned to drive theatre actor/director Yūsuke Kafuku during his residency in Hiroshima. Misaki and Yūsuke develop a near-silent emotional bond and eventually find a way to share and release their individual trauma. That is the core of the story, and it is beautiful.
The poignancy was drained by the length of the film and the threads of Chekov’s play, Uncle Vanya, rehearsed and performed by central and fringe characters in parallel with their real life existential meanderings.
Drive My Car is a magnificent merge of literature, theatre, and film, but significant edits would have led to a more tolerable route for optimal artistic appreciation.
Drive My Car is in movie theatres and will begin streaming on HBO Max on March 2, 2022.
Licorice Pizza (Nominated for Best Picture)
I waited 2hr 13min to find out what “licorice pizza” is, and I still came out of the movie theatre without the answer. Google tells me that it is slang for “vinyl record” and that The Licorice Pizza was the name of a chain of record stores in 1970s California.
What I did find out is that if your name is Paul Thomas Anderson you can get away with directing a movie that is about a time and place that is nostalgic to you and your very specific peers and centers on the romance between a 25-year-old woman and a 15-year-old boy. If you are PTA your wife and all of your friends and neighbours (Maya Rudolph, Sean Penn, Bradley Cooper and the entire Haim family) will agree to be in unnecessary cameos and you will be nominated for multiple Academy Awards.
I have read many reviews that inform me that Licorice Pizza perfectly captures the life and the aesthetic of the 1970s San Fernando Valley. In addition, I have learned that the relationship between Alana Kane (Alana Haim) and Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) is meant to show two people fumbling for new identities, briefly falling into each other along the road to personal discovery.
I wasn’t even that bothered by the intergenerational friendship/romance; I was more annoyed by how gratuitous the whole movie seemed. In many ways, it reminded me of Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In…Hollywood (without the bloody ending); an expensive, star-studded, self-indulgent movie.
Two delicious ingredients took the bad taste from my mouth: Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman. Haim (of pop-rock group Haim) and Hoffman (son of late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman) make their movie debuts in Licorice Pizza, becoming bonafide stars. Hoffman accesses charm, wit, and confidence, reminding me of a young Tom Hanks. The comparisons between Haim and a young Barbra Streisand seem trite, but they are spot-on. Haim’s performance is organically edgy and vulnerable.
Licorice Pizza is in movie theatres now.
*These are just my opinions and are based on my particular likes and dislikes. I will write more favorable reviews about the Oscar-nominated films I liked in upcoming issues. Heads up - CODA is my fav. It’s streaming on Apple TV.
What are the best and worst Oscar-nominated movies you have seen this season?
Readers of my last newsletter will recall my impassioned letter to Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, warning them not to use Jen’s Marry Me premiere as an opportunity for an engagement or wedding. I am happy to report that Bennifer heeded my advice, and I have sent them a follow-up letter to reinforce their good behavior.
You must have read my letter because you conducted yourselves appropriately during the ripe-for-stunting Marry Me/Valentine’s Day season. I am so proud of you!
Jenny, you scared me when you showed up on the Marry Me red carpet wearing a Giambattista Valli “Tulip” bridal dress from the “Love” Collection. I was sure you would pull the stunt to end all stunts by marrying Ben right then and there. But, no, you did just the right amount of giggling and eyelash batting at Ben, sealing the Bennifer brand with several camera-ready smooches. Brava!
Unfortunately, your behavior led me to another near-death experience when I woke up on Sunday morning to this statement from your brand new newsletter On The JLO -
“I am going to share something very special and personal with you that normally I would only share with my inner circle.”
But, the “very special and personal” thing turned out to be a Ben-directed “On My Way: Jennifer Lopez the Remix" video featuring the cutest vintage and new footage of the two of you!!! AAHH!!! I loved seeing those public and private clips from days gone by (remember, I was there with you even though you didn’t know it). It felt like the best of the good old days, and my heart swelled with promise for the two of you. Of course, this was a stunt, but it was an appropriate one that satiated hunger for Bennifer content at no risk to your relationship wellbeing.
And then you gave us Super Bowl Jen and Ben; so hot, so happy looking, and yet so middle-aged and dorky. That was so right!
Well done, Bennifer!!! Thank you for reading my letter, taking notes, and applying them to what could have been a disastrous week. If you require any further Bennifer coaching, I am available.
I will share something very special and personal with you; I like to call you Benji. So there, now you know.
I have been in love with Jenny for 20+ years (sorry), but while watching your “On My Way” Remix video, my eyes saw you; you in your layered long-sleeved short-sleeved shirt, you doing a funny little dance, and smoking. AAHH!!! In 3:28 minutes, you managed to revive my belief in romance and love.
Benji, dare I say it? I think I’m in love with you.
If it doesn’t work out with Jennifer, marry me. 💖
If you enjoyed this issue, show me some love 💕 and buy me a coffee. ☕️
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