Review: Kragman scores in ‘Odd Mom Out’

Image courtesy of the New York Times by Barbra Nitke of Bravo

“You have to apply to a cemetery.”

Yeah that’s how crazy it gets in the new Bravo scripted series “Odd Mom Out,” starring Jill Kargman. Kargman plays Jill Weber an Upper East Side mom, who is literally not like the other moms.

She dances, doesn’t exercise, her hair is black, her best friend is a doctor, who still works and she is *gasp* Jewish. She is designed to stick out like a sore thumb in the world of stereotypical self-absorbed wives of the Upper East Side.

Jill who was okay rich marries into the STUPIDLY wealthy Weber family and has to contend with their rules, rituals and charity events that keep these wives busy. So busy in fact, they have to hire nannies. Oh the horror!

Jill also has to contend with her in-laws. Her mother-in-law Candace, (Joanna Cassidy) and her brother and sister-in-laws, Lex (Sean Kleier) and Brooke (Abby Elliott) who are as self-absorbed as they come. They even changed their names to the Von Weber’s just to elevate their status in the neighborhood pecking order.

Lex, for example, is a successful hedge fund guy, who sold a bagel company to China. A deal so big Jill’s husband Andy’s (Andy Buckley), own mother think this is more important than his rise to partner. And to prove how dumb he is, he think Mexicans deserve Chipotle. Dude, they invented the burrito!

Brooke on the other hand is literally trying to groom herself into the mold of the perfect Upper East Side wife. She also sees it as her job to make Jill conform to the standards that the other wives and Candace have long adhered to.

But you know what, Jill fights them off with every fiber of her being. Her actions state that while she may agree with getting her children into a good school, she will do this on her own terms.

This is actually the second comedy Bravo has created in recent years, the other being Girlfriends Guide to Divorce, another Kargman inspired show. Yet this show plays closer to Kargaman’s vest because while she actually wrote the books that inspired both shows, this one unlike Girlfriends feels more natural. Kargman herself grew up on the Upper East Side, she refers to it as ‘Down under the Roosevelt Island tram overpasses’ or Durito lol.

The show pokes fun of the über-wealthy of the Upper East Side and its denizens some up with some hilarious results. For example, the third episode ‘Dying To Get In,’ Jill has to impress an exclusive cemetery, aptly named Green Acres. At the same time Jill is waiting for the callbacks for her kid’s kindergarten. However, things don’t go as planned and Jill goes as so far to hire the funeral directors a Capella club to curry favor.

Finally, what has truly elevated the show is the book Primates of Park Avenue, the book from Wednesday Martin, which for at least a few weeks had everyone talking. Until, that is everyone realized it’s more of an ethnography and memoir smashed together. Meaning it’s too biased for its own good. Something about the so-called ‘wife-bonus’ rubbed a lot of people a wrong way.

Yet this hilariously biased show somehow feels just right.     


Movie Review: Pixar’s “Inside Out”

In this summer of remakes, sequels and superhero films, original films done by the big studios are few and far in between. Thank God we still have a few bright ideas left and one of them is the movie “Inside Out,” by Pixar Animation Studios. “Inside Out,” directed by Pete Docter, who helmed Pixar’s “Up” back in 2009, is back with the novel premise of what really goes on within our heads. As always this post will contain spoils.

It all begins with the birth of the heroine of the tale, Joy (Amy Poelher), one of the five emotions that operate within Riley Anderson, an 11-year old girl. The others are Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). They live in headquarters and control the memories that Riley creates for her life. Joy creates happy memories, Anger mad memories and so on and so forth. While everyone has their role, it’s Sadness that everyone doesn’t seem to want to have around, especially Joy, who can’t figure what is her purpose. Inside headquarters are core memories, they create the key components of Riley’s life and personality. They are Family, Friendship, Goofball, Hockey and Honesty Island. Each island has special core memory that powers these key components.

Things go according to Joy’s mantra which is a good day, which leads to a good, week which leads to a good year, which leads to a good life, for 11 years as Riley grows up in Minnesota, with her parents. However, all that changes when Anderson’s pack up and move to San Francisco due to the expansion of her father’s company. Thus sending everything into a tail spin. While Joy tries to keep things on a even keel, some of the good memories are beginning to turn into sad ones.

On Riley’s first day of her new school, Joy tries to use a core memory, only for it to turn sad by a very curious Sadness herself.  Next, the core memories are knocked out of their case and Joy, Sadness and their core memories, are sucked into the Long Term memory area i.e. the brain.

To get back to headquarters, they must either go through a maze of shelves filled with every single memory Riley has created or try to return by one of the islands. Unfortunately, each island begins to fall apart as Riley struggles to adjust to her new environment. Meanwhile, Anger, Disgust and Fear try to keep things together, only to discover that unlike Joy they can’t really control Riley and make the situation worse as more islands fall into the Abyss.

Luckily for Joy and Sadness, they bump into Bing-Bong (Richard Kind), Riley’s old imaginary friend, who knows how to navigate her brain. As they do so they also discover that many memories are being sent to the Abyss, where memories are permanently erased. Thus they have to race against time before there is no turning back for Riley.

The film, directed by Docter has managed to do the one thing, according to The New York Times review of the film is that it proves that a movie can actually think. The films use of emotions to advance the plot, date back to medieval passion plays was also praised in the review written by A.O. Scott.

Poehler and Black in my opinion had some of the strongest performances, with their humor and personalities alone being selling points for the film. Personally, Fear and Disgust were left with little to work with, but while they may not be important to Riley yet, they can be in the future as she gets older.

All of the characters feel different yet familiar as we see how they react to one another. Anger is willing to up the ante all the time, Fear thinks of everything and can go from calm to panic in no time. While Disgust just looks out for Riley self-interests. Yet they all gravitate towards Joy, who has been the de facto leader inside Riley’s head. In other heads however, the other emotions are the leaders thus proving everyone has their own different personalities.

The film also treads familiar ground by utilizing themes of growing up, loss and the drama that comes with it. After all we have to grow up, otherwise we would be in a stunted state the rest of our lives.

Adults themselves would find that they too can find the film both enlightening as well as enjoyable. Like it’s predecessors, the film works on two levels one for children and for the adults so that it balances what the audiences want. It would not surprise me that in the future, the film will be used for adults to better understand their children and see things from their perspective.

The film also takes the first nuanced and un-biased view to the human mind in quite awhile. It shows that within ourselves we are a complex and contradictory set of beings on this planet, trying to juggle the many curve balls in life. In the case of Anger, Disgust and Fear for example, their attempts to control everything backfired in the short term since they are too volatile emotions to do so. Joy on the other hand, was in control for a long time but that’s due in part to the fact that as a child you are supposed to be happy. So it was only natural for Joy to be in the lead.

However, it should be noted that everyone grows up differently and it can be implied that Joy’s hold on Riley delayed her growth. Bing-Bong himself realized that he had to let Riley go in order for her to grow not the other way around.

I could go on about how this is one of the best Pixar films in years, which it is by the way, but it would be way to redundant so go see for yourselves. i will say that the film is very bittersweet at it goes along as we begin to realized that we too had to adjust just like Riley. But growing up is a part of life and we being to mix our emotions, adding to the very core to what makes us individuals.

Younger Wraps Up Season One

TV Land’s new show “Younger,” wrapped it inaugural season last week with not one but two people finding out Liza Miller’s (Sutton Foster), secret that she is 40 not 26. One being her boyfriend Josh (Nico Tortorella) and the other, someone from her past. Uh-oh!

First we have to back up a bit. Liza has been pretending to be 26 in order to return to work since she can’t get a job with her actual age. This has led Liza to discovering how much of a leap she’s done by going back to living a 20’s lifestyle.  This includes a boyfriend Josh, her boss from hell Diana (Miriam Shor), co-worker Kelsey (Hillary Duff) and their entanglements with each other.

As Liza and Josh’s relationship grew she began to realize she would have to tell the truth eventually. Just not the way that came out in episode 11. After having pure ecstasy spiked in her drink at a Lauren’s (Molly Bernard) second Bat Mitzvah, she spilled the beans. Naturally, Josh was upset that Liza lied. However, he was the one that mistaken her for a twenty-something first which started this whole charade and breaks up with the 26-year-old ‘Liza.’ Although he did have his ex-girlfriend who would call every once in a blue moon for a quick romp. You say tomato and I say to-mat-toes.

Meanwhile at work, Ellen DeGeneres, is shopping a new memoir and at Empirical Press, where Liza works, is hoping to get the deal, knowing the revenue they receive if they get it. When Diana leaves her wallet while having lunch with Cheryl Sussman (Martha Plimpton) Diana’s rival, Liza has to go give it to her. At the restaurant, Liza recognizes Cheryl and tries desperately avoid her, only to send a dish into her blouse. Unable to get any information of the memoir Cheryl blackmails Liza. Why? Because they used to work together at Random House! And what’s worse Liza told her the whole story like an idiot!

Facing exposure, Liza has to act quickly to cover her tracks and keep Cheryl at bay. While she is able to use her e-mail as evidence of the blackmail and telling Cheryl it will hurt her more than it will hurt herself, she’s able to hold her off, for now. It would not surprise me that Cheryl returns for season two.

Which leaves us with Josh. Even though Liza did lie about her age, she has truly fallen in love with the poor guy. Sure he is the total opposite of Liza, but he’s honest, funny and approachable, there is no way Liza wouldn’t let him go without a fight. So after getting some advice from Kelsey, she shows Josh the real ‘Liza,’ which includes him in her life. The episode ends with both Josh and Liza starting over.

With Josh and Cheryl now knowing Liza’s secret, it would be no surprise that it would be the beginning of the end of the 26-year-old Liza and the re-birth of 40-year old Liza. I mean after all Cheryl said it best how long it’s going to last that’s the reason why we keep coming back; the apple cart is going to fall eventually, in fact it’s already tipping over.

What has made “Younger” so enjoyable is watching Foster play Liza. She is at times a mom, the cool aunt and the best friend, all at once. It becomes a struggle that anyone can relate to especially women who have to do the balancing act all the time. It is now presented to us in a unique way. Which is now seeing the world from both the eyes of an older woman and as a ‘younger’ woman again. Liza understands things as a 40-year-old that Kelsey and Lauren do not, especially Kelsey with her d-bag of a boyfriend Thad. Yet, being in her 20’s again, Liza realizes that the more things change, the more things stay the same. This is especially true with her work life as Diana being a prime example of what might have been if circumstances were different. A career woman with no kids who is scared of losing her position to a younger woman. Therefore, Diana sees the next generation with contempt not only because they are ‘younger’ but also because she doesn’t understand them since this new generation is so different from her. Little does she know she has an ally, all right under her nose.

Maybe in the next season we will see some growth from all the characters, but for now we will have to wait and re-watch older episodes to get a more nuanced view of this quirky show. Which is in my humble a worthy successor to “Hot in Cleveland,” which shall be missed but started TV Land on the path to which lead to this gem.

The City I Love: New York in May 

There are many ‘transition’ months when you live in New York. None more so dramatic than May. March might have the swings from biting cold to mild and October has its gradual chill with some twists along the way. May on the other hand, goes from hot to hotter and there is nothing you can do to stop it.

Trains resting at 168 Street The one on the right is the newer model

Trains resting at 168 Street The one on the right is the newer model

As our winters get longer, our spring and fall’s feel shorter, summer on the other hand feel at times both unbearable, wider and never ending. That’s what makes May so interesting, it’s when the city is at all cylinders firing up before it gets too hot to do anything, including that 3:30 Starbucks run just to hold you over till 5 p.m. Everything has to be done before it becomes impossible to do anything disruptive. Such as the summer swap of old subway cars from the C to the J/Z lines since they are mostly elevated. If they did it next month chaos would ensure. Further proof of May being a transition month

The trees are now completely green, not to mention the pollen on the ground. The sunsets become radiant and more impressive as each day passes and so comes Manhattanhenge the famous time of the year when the sun slinks into the grid. It is the most illumination the side streets get if you’re not in Times Square. Sadly though, we were denied one of modern man’s most illuminating accidents. Thanks to the arriving cold front that brought the much needed rain to our parched city. Proof you can’t always have it all. Thank Heavens we have another one in July.

Grant's tomb with decorative bunting for the Memorial Day Holiday

Grant’s tomb with decorative bunting for the Memorial Day Holiday

            Other than the ‘henge, its festival season here at home. From street fairs to outdoor concerts and film showings to parades that add to the chaotic variety that is New York. From local Memorial Day parades in Queens to those pesky 6 a.m. concerts in Central Park, New Yorkers and visitors alike partake in these rituals of warmer weather. While all might seem repetitive we take comfort in the familiar like the $1 lemonade that’s really just water some flavor. The fact that it returns every year is proof that summer has returned.

             Here’s to June and is it winter yet?

P.S. Stay tuned I’ve come up with a brilliant idea (or two) and please follow me on Instagram with the handle @ayindestevens  and on Twitter with @AyindeJStevens

P.P.S. Finally got up to the Empire State Building after a long absence so here’s one good shot

View from the Observation Deck at the Empire State Building with 1 WTC in focus

View from the Observation Deck at the Empire State Building with 1 WTC in focus