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Is Joe Biden really the guy who’s going to take down Trump? Really?!

Joe Biden concluded last night’s debate by telling everyone to “go to Joe 3-0-3-3-0,” giving people a phone number rather than a website.

Watching that final moment, I wondered: is he glitching? Does this 76-year old dude think it’s 3030? (Mayor Pete’s fans seized on the moment: now takes you to his website, Pete for America).

But more generally, as I watched the current front-runner, I was cringing, and wondered: This is the guy we want? This is who’s going to take on Trump?

Throughout the night, he seemed to stumble over his words, and I started counting how many times he said “in fact,” “the fact” and “single solitary.” Here’s an example with all three, where he’s criticizing Kamala Harris’ record as the Attorney General of California:

“I didn’t see a single solitary time she brought a case against them to desegregate [California school districts]. Secondly, she also was in a situation where she had a police department when she was there that in fact was abusing people’s right. And the fact was that she in fact was told by her own people that her own staff that she should do something about and disclose to defense attorney’s like me that you in fact have been…”

Oftentimes, when he was launching his own critiques against opponents, I could barely follow what he was saying, such as when he told people to Google “Kamala Harris 1,000 freed.” The subject of attacks from all sides himself, he failed to take down any of his opponents or win significant applause.

His critique of Booker, bringing up the former Newark mayor’s stop-and-frisk policy, was something I even saw coming from a mile away. Booker was ready, landing the viral line of the night: “There’s a saying in my community: you’re dipping into the Kool-Aid when you don’t even know the flavor.”

And this was an improved performance from the last debate. In June, Sen. Kamala Harris absolutely owned him on the issues of desegregation and busing, sending her poll numbers soaring and his plummeting. But this time, she was put on the defense too many times to land a solid blow against the former VP.

Especially when Rep. Tulsi Gabbard did a much more effective job than the VP at criticizing Harris’ criminal justice record, earning huge cheers from the audience. Harris even accidentally sabotaged herself, saying, “I’ve seen people in prison for a lot less,” which immediately made me (and a bunch of other people) think, yeah… you’ve PUT people in prison for much less.

But it was far from a great showing for the VP– starting from the very beginning when he greeted Harris with a, “Go easy on me, kid.”

And watching Biden, I didn’t really get a sense of his vision for the country. His platform seems to be “I can beat Trump” and “I was good enough for Obama.” As former HUD Secretary Castro noted during the debate, Biden leans on Obama– who has a 95% approval rating among Democrats– a lot.

As Booker argued, you can’t rely on Obama when it’s convenient and avoid him when the more unappealing aspects of his presidency are brought up. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s line of questioning, when he brought up Obama’s record of deportations in office and asked the VP if he had done anything to stop them, served to underline that.

But maybe electability is the strongest argument anyone can make in this cycle, faced with the possibility of another four years of Trump. And Biden does have a lot of chances to build on his performances, easily reaching the threshold for qualifying for the September debates.

Several CNN analysts pointed out that Obama struggled in debates at the beginning of his run, so there still could be hope for Biden. Or maybe being a skilled debater — in this case, having 10 candidates on stage, delivering 30-second sound bytes — isn’t even a good indicator of how someone can run the country.

But right now, I don’t see how these performances will transform Joe Biden into an inspiring figure who can the masses to vote, should he become the party’s nominee. So far, his candidacy has not been a “Yes We Can.” To me, this is an “I guess this is our best shot..?”

Emphasis on the “I guess.”

Ethiopia planted OD trees: Why is the U.S. so basura at climate change?

Ethiopia planted 353 million trees in 12 hours, according to a government official, in an effort to combat climate change, land degradation, and the country’s deforestation crisis.

According to the U.N., Ethiopia’s forest coverage has dropped from 35% to just 4% over the course of a century. And these problems are made worse by Ethiopia’s dependence on agriculture: 80% of Ethiopians rely on agriculture for their livelihood.

While facing this crisis, the second-most populous country in Africa is doing something about it and neither denying its existence nor blaming other countries for their “not very good air.” Additionally, Ethiopia isn’t refusing to cooperate with the global community to mitigate the effects of climate change.

*Cough, cough, Trump, cough, cough*

In 2017, the land-locked country joined 20 other African nations in a pledge to restore 100 million hectares of land by 2030. As part of that commitment, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched The Green Legacy initiative, which shattered the world record for most trees planted in a day, previously held by India with 66 million.

In a recent study, researchers from the Swiss university ETH Zurich found that reforestation could be the most effective, cheapest way to take on climate change.

According to their findings, restoring forests could capture an estimated 205 billion tons of carbon or two-thirds of the carbon released into the atmosphere as a result of human activity.

Furthermore, they concluded that the land best suited for this reforestation is in Russia (151 million hectares), USA (103 million), Canada (78 million), Australia (58 million), Brazil (50 million), and China (40 million).

The authors note that planting trees would not be a quick-fix for climate change, and could take decades to reach this carbon-capturing potential. Plus, from my own experience planting trees in my yard, I can confirm that growing trees do indeed take mad long.

They say that the best short-term solution would be to stop deforestation, which claims 15 billion trees per year, and according to the World Wildlife Fund is responsible for more than 15% of global greenhouse gases.

In the meantime, other countries have committed to massive tree-planting initiatives. Australia announced it would plant 1 billion trees by 2030; China’s “Great Green Wall” (lol) program has planted more than 50 billion trees. Additionally, the Bonn Challenge aims to restore more than 350 million hectares of degraded land globally by 2030.

Ethiopia has plans to plant more than four billion trees by Oct. We could stand to follow their example.

The last season of ‘OITNB’ is here: Will we miss Netflix’s first big hit?

On July 26, Netflix released its last season of OITNB to little fanfare, a muted rollout for one of the most important shows of our current era. Not only did it put Netflix on the map, giving the streaming giant its first it and award-winning series.

It also told a story unlike any we’d seen on TV before. Some of the show’s stars recently spoke about its cultural impact on the Today Show.


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In an adaptation of Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, we first experienced the Litchfield minimum-security prison through the eyes of Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a privileged white woman loosely based on the author.

But it soon became clear that Piper– despite her storyline with her on-off flame Alex (Laura Prepon), who was serving time in the same prison– was a vehicle for us to meet a far more compelling cast of characters.

There was Taystee (Danielle Brooks), who had grown up in the foster care system and was now caught up in the prison system. Released on parole, she was later brought back to jail, having violated it to make ends meet. It’s another important lesson about how the system fails to reintegrate former inmates into society and how it sets them up to land right back behind bars.

Yet Taystee was always funny– joyous, even– and worked in the prison library with her best friend, Poussey (Samira Wiley).

That came grinding to a halt when Poussey was killed by a guard, choked in a moment with unmistakable parallels to “I can’t breathe.”

Later, Taystee was framed for the death of another prison guard, forced to serve a life sentence for a crime she didn’t commit. But she ultimately found purpose, creating the Poussey Washington fund– which is a real thing.


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Another indelible character was Daya (Dascha Polanco), who had a strained (to say the least) relationship with her mother, imprisoned alongside her. Daya had one of the most intense storylines on the show — striking up a relationship with a prison guard, ultimately becoming pregnant and giving birth to his child.

On the season devoted to Litchfield’s prison riots, the final, swirling image features Daya pointing a gun at a sadistic guard, her fellow inmates chanting at her to take the man’s life.

Who could forget Uzo Aduba’s award-winning portrayal of Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren? The strong character was an inmate who suffered from mental illness, and who began the show as an unsettling presence. And an inmate determined to make Piper her prison wife.

But Suzanne, too, received a well-rounded storyline, assisted by the show’s device of giving each of its main characters a flashback episode, revealing their lives before prison and how they ended up there.

The show also told the vital story of Sophia Burset (Laverne Cox), a transgender woman who deals with transphobia in the prison, but who also hosts a makeshift beauty shop. Transgender women are incarcerated at shockingly high levels and are often placed in men’s prisons, where they are subject to intense violence.

At one point, Sophia is denied her hormones, completely destabilizing her transition.

But despite the bleakness of the setting, of the criminal justice system failing women of color, LGBTQ women and women with mental illnesses, there were many lighthearted moments. (For the first few years of its run, OITNB  was even classified as a “comedy.”)

This comic relief was often provided by Maritza (Diane Guerrero) and Flaca (Jackie Cruz), two best friends who held makeup tutorials in prison; Nicky Nichols (Natasha Lyonne), who lent constant dry humor; and by Red (Kate Mulgrew), who lorded over the prison kitchen.

There were also surreal moments, like the prisoner’s joyous swim in the lake, a kickball game, and a mythical chicken.

This final season– one that critics are calling Orange‘s best in years– ties up various ends of the characters we’ve come to love over the past seven years (and maybe even stopped paying attention to after the show’s past couple of wandering seasons).

It adds new depth, tackling ICE detention centers, deportations, and #MeToo. In one heartbreaking new storyline, Maritza, despite never having lived in Colombia, is taken into custody following an ICE raid and expelled from the only country she’s known.

It’s a story that’s deeply personal to Guerrero, who returned home from school one day to discover her parents had been detained by an immigration officer. They were later deported to Colombia when she was only 14. And it’s an urgent story, reflective of what’s happening now under the Trump administration.

At its best, OITNB was an educational, harrowing tale about a cruel system designed to chip away at the humanity of those caught in its web. A story that underlined– as its theme song states– that “standing still is hard.”

The song also implores us to “remember all their faces/ remember all their voices.” And we will, long after the show fades to orange.

Check out the trailer for the last season of ‘OITNB’ below.

Is the VMAs low key racist? After BTS snub, peep the problematic history

The VMAs released their nominations on Tuesday, and BTS’ legion of devoted fans, known as the “ARMY” (not to be confused with Rihanna’s “Navy”) was not pleased.

Though the K-pop supergroup picked up 4 nominations — all coming for “Boy With Luv,” their world-record breaking collab with Halsey — they were overlooked in the major categories including “Video of the Year.”

Instead, that nomination went to mostly white artists including the Jonas Brothers, Ariana Grande, and Billie Eilish. Of course, the show recognized Taylor Swift for “You Need to Calm Down,” obvious rainbow capitalism masquerading as a gay rights anthem.

Instead, BTS was nominated for the newly formed “Best K-pop” award. Though the VMAs have long had a “Best Latin” award, this new category makes little sense: why separate Korean acts from competing with Western acts? Why put them in a box?

The hashtag #VMAsRacist soon started trending on Twitter, with ARMY claiming the snubs smacked of xenophobia. #VMAsXenophobic and #VMAsAreOverParty started circulating as well.

The lack of BTS recognition and the creation of a separate K-pop category was especially confounding since the group — long titans of the global stage — had broken through with the Western audience more this year than ever before.

To recap some of their accomplishments in the US this year: BTS held their first American stadium performance in October 2018, selling out Citi Field’s 40,000-seat capacity. 

Their album, Love Yourself: Tear marked their third Billboard #1 album in less than a year, a feat last matched by The Beatles. They also performed on this year’s Emma Stone — hosted an episode of SNL, a dream come true for any artist, and — according to an NPR author– a “genuine tipping point” in their “quest for world domination.” 

But this isn’t the first time the VMAs have been problematic, shutting out artists of color from its major categories and bestowing its awards on white artists. Here are some more examples:

1. Nicki Minaj for “Anaconda”

In 2014, Nicki Minaj released “Anaconda,” racking up 19.6 million views in 24 hours.

Despite the song’s massive success and cultural impact, it failed to get nominated for Video of the Year, instead of receiving nominations in various Hip-Hop categories (Swift was once again nominated for VOTY that year.) Minaj quickly took to Twitter to voice her dissatisfaction.

Of course, Swift took one of Minaj’s tweets arguing that the awards show recognized “women with very slim bodies” to be about herself. She briefly feuded with Minaj — entirely missing the larger statement about the music industry that Minaj was making.

2. M.I.A. for “Borders”

In 2016, M.I.A. called out the awards show for not nominating her song “Borders,” her self-directed video depicting the refugee crisis.

She also raised the point about what “voices” the VMA’s value.


3.  Michael Jackson for “Thriller”

It might be hard to believe, but the iconic video for “Thriller” lost out for Video of the Year back in 1984. The Car’s “You Might Think” took home the award that year.

4.  Luis Fonsi and Yankee Daddy for “Despacito”

The song boasts more than 6.3 billion views on YouTube — the most-viewed video of all time on the platform. The song, a permanent fixture on the radio in summer 2017, was a huge moment for Spanish songs conquering the American charts.

According to Billboard, “Despacito” was the first mostly Spanish song to top the Hot 100 since Los del Rio’s “Macarena” in 1996. It spent 16 weeks at number #1 on Billboard, tying it for most weeks at #1 with Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men for their 1995 song “One Sweet Day.” (“Old Town Road” recently matched this number of weeks at #1).

But that year only the song, and not the record-breaking video, received recognition — and it was for “song of the summer,” which it lost.

(Dis)honorable Mentions:

The VMAs have had other racially problematic moments, from Miley Cyrus sporting dreads during her hosting job in 2015 to her saying “mammy” in one of that year’s skits. Chance and Pose‘s Janet Mock quickly took her to the task.

That year, Rebel Wilson also joked about police brutality, sporting a shirt saying “Fuck tha Stripper Police” while presenting the award for “Best Hip-Hop Video,” of all things.

Nicki Minaj actually won that award for “Anaconda,” and called out Cyrus not for her racial insensitivity but for Cyrus’s disparaging comments about the rapper, recently published in a NY Times interview (Who can forget Minaj saying “Miley, what’s good?”).

It’s time to recognize the VMAs for the tone-deaf show it is. VMAs, what’s good?

Facts or nah? The Emmy 2019 noms prove that award shows are still #SoWhite

GoT may have dominated Emmy press coverage in the wake of its historic 32 nominations, but if you look closer, there’s another story going on.

After the awards show set a record of its own last year, with 38 nominations going to actors of color (but just three– Regina King, Thandie Newton, and Darren Criss — taking home trophies), the Academy nominated only 24 diverse nominees this time around.

This number is also down from 2017 when 27 POC actors got nominations.

In another discouraging stat, actors of color were completely shut out from entire categories including Lead Actress in a Comedy, Supporting Actress in a Drama, Supporting Actor in a Comedy, Supporting Actress in a Comedy and Guest Actor in a Comedy Series.

Still, there are some bright spots. Ava Duvernay’s limited series When They See Us, about the Central Park Five (now the Exonerated Five), grabbed 16 nominations– the most for Netflix this year– including for Jharrel Jerome’s devastating turn as Korey Wise.

Another well-deserved nomination went to Billy Porter for his role as Pray Tell in FX’s drama Pose about LGBTQ ballroom culture, making him the first openly gay, black nominee for Lead Actor.

The show, which also counts transgender activist Janet Mock as a writer and director, was also nominated for Outstanding Drama Series. In an Instagram post, Porter celebrated his nomination spoke about Pose‘s trailblazing importance:


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Thank you. All of you. My phones been buzzin’ off the hook. I am so overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. There was no context for this before….to be an openly gay black man nominated for a leading actor drama #EmmyAward – it just didn’t happen. And now, I’m living truth that it can be possible. It’s incredible to be recognized for the work. And then it goes much deeper. It’s about representation. It’s about all people’s stories being told. It’s about the art. We creative people have the power to transform hearts and minds doing the work that we do and I am just thrilled to be able to do that. I have to thank @fxnetworks, @mrrpmurphy, @svcanals, @bradfalchuk, @janetmock, @ourladyj — everybody involved in the show and those who have taught me how to dream the impossible. We are here and we ain’t going anywhere. The sky is the limit now, honey! Thank you @televisionacad. See ya’ll in September! Check out Emmy Nominee for Outstanding Drama Series @poseonfx TONIGHT at 10:00PM / 9c only on @fxnetworks. #emmyawards2019 #emmyawards

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In an interview, he added,

“I’m here for a reason. I’m here so I can be on this other side to tell this story about this world. We’re here. We’ve always been here and we’re not going anywhere — get used to it.”

Another show about LGBTQ counterculture and drag queens, RuPaul’s Drag Race, won for Outstanding Competition Program and Outstanding Host for a Reality or Competition Program last year, becoming the first show to win that pair of awards.

This year, it earned 14 nominations, a record for its home network VH1. (It was nominated for 12 last year.) But it took 10 seasons before the Academy took note of the show, and producers reflected on its uphill battle and status as an underdog.

For a show that gave us that, give it all the awards.

In another sign of the Academy’s LGBTQ recognition, SNL‘s Kate McKinnon again received a nomination for her work. So did Ben Whishaw, for his role in A Very English Scandal.

Billy Eichner, the openly gay host of Billy on the Street, was nominated for a fourth time, this time for Best Short Form Variety Series. Additionally, Queer Eye, Netflix’s tear-jerker of a makeover show, led by five gay men known as the “Fab Five,” was nominated in six categories, including Outstanding Structured Reality Program category.

Industry heavyweights Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick) and Oscar-winner Benicio del Toro (Traffic) picked up their first Emmy nominations, for an episode of CBS All Access’ The Twilight Zone and Escape at Dannemora, respectively.

Additionally, Sandra Oh, who made history last year by becoming the first Asian woman to receive a nomination for Lead Actress in a Drama Series, was again nominated in that category, as well as for her hosting gig on SNL.

There were several perennial nominations who were again recognized for their work, including Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder), Laverne Cox (Orange Is the New Black), Sterling K. Brown (This is Us) and Anthony Anderson (black-ish). Don Cheadle picked up his eighth nomination, this time for Black Monday.

Female writers honored this year included Natasha Lyonne and Amy Poehler for their work on Russian Doll, Phoebe Waller-Bridge for her work on HBO’s acclaimed Fleabag, Duvernay for When They See Us, Amy Sherman-Palladino for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and PEN15 creators Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle.

While these may sound like wins, a Variety article sheds a light on the huge gap between male and female nominees in writing categories. For instance, the best writing: The drama category is 77.8% male and 22.2% female nominees, all of whom are white.

The limited series/TV movie writing is 88.9% male and 11.1% female. The field of comedy writing actually ran in favor of the women, with 58.3% female nominees (41.7% male). Still, only 8.3% of nominees are non-white.

These stats are reflective of the disappointing year for diversity — some wins, but still, a long way to go. Let’s hope the Academy keeps moving forward in the years to come, not back. We need these stories.

Be your own hype woman: How Brienne of Tarth snagged her Emmy nom

GoT copped 32 Emmy nominations this year, smashing the single-season nomination record set by NYPD Blue in 1994, with 26. Some of those nominations came as a surprise to HBO, especially for Gwendoline Christie’s (Brienne of Tarth), Alfie Allen’s (Theon Greyjoy) and Carice van Houten’s (Melisandre).

That’s because the actors nominated themselves after the network declined to do so, paying the $225 submission fee themselves. HBO later confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that they had not submitted the trio for awards.

While it’s not that uncommon for actors/actresses or their reps to self-submit, it is rare for these self-submissions to garner nominations.

First of all, what was HBO thinking to not nominate them– especially Gwendoline Christie?

In the much-maligned Season 8, Christie especially proved a bright spot. The depth of feeling she brought to season-highlight “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” where she achieved her lifelong dream of becoming a knight made viewers emotional.

It was a universal moment too. Imagine every girl watching who hasn’t been able to do something because of her gender finally breaking the glass ceiling. I mean, it’s not President, but becoming a Ser isn’t too shabby.

Of course, GoT had to soon reduce Brienne– one of the fiercest fighters on the show, and that’s including the men– to an out-of-character crying heap when she gets dumped by Jaime. Still, we’ll take our wins where we can get them.

Displaying a level of joy similar to that of her character getting knighted, Christie took to Instagram and Twitter to express her disbelief.

Her nomination also represents a win for unconventional female characters, for those who do not exist simply to prop up a man or to be his love interest and support him despite his flaws.

It is a win for female characters not defined by their attractiveness or femininity. In fact, Brienne was mocked by a variety of characters throughout the show’s run for her towering stature.

Christie recognized the transformative importance of showing this kind of female story, and said in an Instagram post, “Playing Brienne of Tarth has redefined the way I look at the world, women and particularly myself.”

In an interview with Elle, she also noted:

“What I love about playing her is that she’s the antithesis of a patriarchal society. She doesn’t give into it; she’s unashamedly herself.”

Brienne was a warrior, who defeated one of the most lauded knights in Westeros (Ser Loras) as well as the fictional realm’s feared henchman (The Hound) in single combat.

She was driven by honor, keeping all of her sworn promises long after the people to whom she had sworn these oaths were dead. To drive this point home, her sword was even named “Oathkeeper.”

In a show populated by dishonorable men and truly evil women (looking at you, Cersei) propelled by bloodlust and a thirst for power– the show was literally a “game of thrones”– Brienne was truly one of the good ones.

Besides being a win for unconventional female characters, Christie’s nomination shows that sometimes you have to be your own hype woman. Sometimes, when others don’t believe in you, you have to fight for yourself.

Sounds a lot like Brienne.

Don’t sleep: Here are 6 lowkey movies to watch this summer

It’s a known fact that summer is a hot time for blockbuster movies — big action, dumb fun, superheroes and saving the world.

The MCU reliably churns out movies this time of year, and despite this year’s Endgame perhaps indicating a, well, end to the franchise, summer 2019 was no exception.

But there are also hidden gems, low-budget, and lowkey,  movies to check out. Here are a few.

1. Midsommar

The follow-up to Ari Aster‘s 2018 breakout Hereditary, the movie tracks Dani, a college girl who’s recently suffered an unimaginable tragedy, her jerk boyfriend Christian, his anthropologist friends and their trip to one seriously creepy Swedish cult.

Needless to say, sh*t hits the fan. Horror movies are usually shot in the dark, but this film proves that nightmares can happen in broad daylight. Check out these terrifying theories after you watch to get even more freaked out.

2. Booksmart

Directed by Olivia Wilde, Booksmart follows two studious, high-achieving (book smart) high-school seniors (Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever) on the eve of their graduation as they attempt to make up for all the parties they missed in high school.

Adding a twist to the conventional coming-of-age story, Kaitlyn Dever’s character Amy is queer, out about her sexuality, and shares an awkward love scene with a female classmate.

Unfortunately, though the movie and director Wilde received rave reviews, it underperformed at the box office, earning only $6.9 million over its first four days and landing at sixth place for the weekend.

Hopefully, the disappointing returns won’t be enough to stop these kinds of movies from getting made.

3. The Farewell

Already being called one of the best movies of 2019The Farewell stars Crazy Rich Asians‘ breakout Awkafina as Billi, a young woman who returns to her family’s home in Changchun, China after her grandmother is given weeks to live — and her family chooses not to tell their matriarch but rather to host a wedding.

The movie is also notable for who was behind the camera: writer-director Lulu Wang, who as a female, Asian-American director of a U.S. box office hit, is in a very, very select category of people.

In an interview, Wang explains that she based the movie off her life, and her own family’s choice not to tell their Nai Nai (Mandarin for grandmother) that she had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer.

The experiences depicted in the movie have also resonated deeply with Asian-American audiences and first-gen individuals, people in the Asian diaspora reconciling with their cultures.

4. Late Night

Directed by Indian-Canadian filmmaker Nisha Ganatra, the movie follows a never-better Emma Thompson as grumpy late-night talk show host Katherine Newbury.

Mindy Kaling co-stars as Molly Patel, an inexperienced comedy writer hastily added to the all-white writer’s room in an effort to reverse the show’s declining ratings. (An ironic character for Kaling to play since she wrote the film.)

In a world where the late-night talk show landscape is populated by men, it’s refreshing to see two women succeed in the medium.

5. The Art of Self-Defense

Jesse Eisenberg, who I’ll always remember for his arrogant turn in The Social Network, stars in this absurdist comedy that artfully deconstructs toxic masculinity.

The film’s premise is this: after getting mugged, Eisenberg’s meek accountant Casey decides to take night-time karate classes in order to protect himself.

He, along with his fellow dojo red- and blue- belt classmates, soon become desperate to please their sensei (Alessandro Nivola).

6. Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Richard Linklater (Boyhood, School of Rock) directs Oscar winner Cate Blanchett as the titular missing Bernadette in the upcoming movie, based off the 2012 hit novel by Maria Semple.

The novel has a unique form: it is composed of various letters and e-mail correspondence, the purpose of which is also a mystery.

Trips to Antarctica, sustainable architecture, a Russian scam and characters with names like “Elgie Branch” populate this absurd mystery/ comedy/ drama.

I loved the book, but I must say that this trailer, filled with platitudes like “find out what makes you, you,” makes me slightly concerned. Hopefully, this movie won’t turn out to be a mess Cate Blanchett can’t even fix.

7 movies that would be more boss if they were remade with female leads

In 2012, John Mulaney released his comedy special New in Town (which I love, by the way). But, each time I watch it, there’s always one joke that rubs me the wrong way. It goes like this:

“You could never put together a heist with women. Like Ocean’s Eleven with women wouldn’t work, because two would keep breaking off to talk shit about the other nine.”

He provides an example, miming a woman cracking a safe. Her friend and heist accomplice says, dripping with sarcasm, “I love how you can just wear anything.”

Flash-forward to 2018, and it turns out you can. The movie, Ocean’s 8, starred Sandra Bullock as Debbie Ocean and co-starred Rihanna, Cate Blanchett, Awkwafina, Mindy Kaling, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, and Anne Hathaway. And it made $140 million.

Remakes of male-movies can find an audience, make a lot of money, and simply be good movies (looking at you, Ghostbusters haters). It’s time for movie studios to start making them– in a way that’s not just surface level or a cash grab.

Gender-swapping should lead to a deeper, or new, understanding of the relationships in the movie. In Julie Taymor’s The Tempest, for example, having Helen Mirren as Prospera instead of the male Prospero changed how we look at the relationship between her daughter.

Instead of watching another iteration of the stereotypical overprotective movie dad who bars his daughter from being with her boyfriend (see: Father of the Bride), we get to explore the more unique protective mother-daughter bond.

Here are some ideas for gender-switched movies:

1. James Bond

Image result for james bond woman gif

The world would probably literally explode if everyone’s favorite British spy guy was instead a woman, but how cool would that be? Plus, we could then reverse the objectifying trend of Bond girls and have the first Bond guy.

If Magic Mike proves anything, it’s that the female gaze is real and that there’s a market for it.

Additionally, Captain Marvel‘s Lashana Lynch will be portraying the new 007 in the upcoming Bond 25. However, she will not be the next James Bond– that still belongs to Daniel Craig, who in the film goes into retirement before quickly returning to face-off against Rami Malek’s villain.

Still, it’s a major step forward and a sign that the nearly 60-year franchise is open to change. Another big development? Fleabag star and creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge was added to the screenwriting team, making her only the second credited female writer in the franchise’s history.

The film is also being helmed by Asian-American Cary Joji Fukunaga, director of True Detective season 1 (the good season).

2. It Follows

In the 2014 horror film, the protagonist Jay (Maika Monroe) sleeps with her boyfriend and soon has a thing/ curse/ person relentlessly following her, unless she can sleep with someone else to pass it on.

It plays as an STD metaphor, so it’s unsurprising that a girl is a primary victim. In other words, it fits within the general narrative that girls shouldn’t have sex, or they’ll be permanently stained.

Do you think, by putting a guy in her place, there’d be the same subtext of shaming? Or would his quest to rid himself of the curse (and by definition, getting someone to have sex with him) seem less sympathetic and more like assault?

Ideal for the part: Noah Centineo, traditionally cast in the heartthrob role in teen movies (the smash hit To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the most prominent example). The audience’s built-in perception of him would make for a complicated watch.

3. Pretty Woman

I have to admit, this idea sounds like a stretch and is definitely less palatable in our society’s standards. Rather than the rich man (Richard Gere) who picks up a sex worker (Julia Roberts) and makes her a “respectable” woman, why not a rich woman and younger male escort?

Why is the rich older man/ poor woman automatically seen as “romantic,” while the other version screams “cougar?” This movie could make viewers challenge that question.

Ideal cast: Halle Berry, Michael B. Jordan. Having attractive leads could help the audience get over their discomfort with the idea. And also that would just be an amazing pairing.

4. A Star is Born

Instead of the doomed, aging male rock-star, what if the established star was a woman, who guided and watched her boyfriend rise from obscurity to fame. How would the power dynamics be different?

And would the part of the most recent version, where Ally (Lady Gaga) receives flak for staying with her alcoholic husband Jackson (Bradley Cooper) after he publicly embarrasses himself, be changed if the genders were reversed?

Would a man be blamed for staying with his wife?

Ideal cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who compellingly portrayed a pop star struggling under the weight of fame in 2014’s Beyond the Lights, and Austin Butler– recently cast as the new Elvis in Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming movie– as the upstart.

5. Whiplash

In the film, extremely harsh drum teacher (J.K. Simmons, in a role that won him an Oscar) pushes his student (Miles Teller) to the edge. Would a woman in the teacher’s role be as terrifying?

Or what if the student were a girl– would audiences be able to tolerate a man nearly destroying a girl’s sanity?

Ideal for the part: Millie Bobby Brown, who’s shown a remarkable reserve of emotion and anger as the telekinetic El in Stranger Things, as the young student pushed to the brink.

6. Creed

In that same vein, the boxing coach (Sylvester Stallone) in movies is always played by a man. Women in boxing movies are generally relegated to the role of a tough-but-supportive girlfriend– with the notable exception of Hillary Swank in Million Dollar Baby.

In the new version, a female coach would train the young disciple (Michael B. Jordan), inspiring him and pushing him to greatness.

Ideal for the part: Empire’s Taraji P. Henson, who also portrayed a tough-as-nails NASA scientist in Hidden Figures.

7. Her

A lonely man (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with a virtual system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Women’s voices are seen as more soothing or sensual, and women often voice these machines or are machines that become the object of male desire (see Ex Machina).

Amazon’s Alexa, of course, is voiced by a woman. The Miley Cyrus episode of Black Mirror turns that trope on its head, with the pop star voicing a foul-mouthed robot– one that was originally meant to provide glib messages of empowerment to her fans.

In the gender-swapped version of Her, a lonely woman would fall for the voice of a man.

Ideal for the part: Nicole Kidman, currently portraying a woman grappling with the death of her abusive husband– the grief, the relief, but most of all the loneliness.

Aziz Ansari is back, better than ever, and ready for ‘Right Now’

On Monday, Aziz Ansari released his new stand-up special Right Now on Netflix. I actually found that out by accident, mid-searching for the new season of Stranger Things.

My first instinct was to turn away, to avoid watching the release. I still feel uncomfortable when it comes to Ansari, who I had watched for seven seasons on Parks and Rec as disastrous entrepreneur Tom Haverford, and both seasons of Master of None, but maybe his story deserves another look.

In the 2018 wave of #MeToo allegations, the since-shuttered (and previously unknown) website Babe published an article about the comedian titled “I went on a date with Aziz Ansari. It turned into the worst night of my life.”

The story, about a young photographer named “Grace”, presented a complicated case among the largely black-and-white allegations of the #MeToo movement.

As reported by Katie Way, Grace recounts that she met Ansari at the 2017 Golden Globes, where he sported a Time’s Up pin. He asked for her number, and she gave it, and soon they began texting. They soon went on a date. He took her out to a fancy dinner; they discussed upcoming projects; he brought her to his apartment.

That’s when things turned sketchy.

Grace asserts that she gave Ansari “verbal and clear non-verbal cues” indicating her discomfort and “felt really pressured” throughout the encounter by the “forceful” comedian. But it seems that Grace never explicitly told him no, or that he forced her to have sex with him. After Ubering home in tears, Grace was herself confused “if this was an awkward sexual experience or sexual assault.”

Is it possible that Ansari, author of Modern Romance, could simply have been clueless? Grace describes one moment where, after telling Ansari she didn’t want to feel forced, he responded, “Oh, of course, it’s only fun if we’re both having fun.” But, adding another layer of complication to the story, the encounter continued soon after. Shouldn’t he have known she was uncomfortable?

The article attracted a massive national response and sparked a backlash. Many argued that, instead of furthering the goals of #MeToo, the article was evidence to legions of sneering men (and women) that the movement had gone too far.

But there’s also no denying that what Ansari did was wrong on at least some level– or that these events happened. Soon after Babe‘s publication, Ansari released a statement confirming that the encounter had taken place and that he had apologized to Grace after she texted him that he had made her feel violated. In a statement, he expressed his belief that what had happened between them had been consensual.

Ansari subsequently disappeared from the public eye. But, just as Louis C.K. speedily returned to the stage (mocking Parkland survivors and non-binary individuals), following his promise that he would “step back and take a long time to listen,” Ansari also plotted his comeback.

In late 2018, he announced North American tour dates, signaling his return, as well as his desire to restore his image.

In the opening shots of the Spike Jonze directed film, Ansari walks the streets of Brooklyn, looking nervous, undoubtedly knowing he has to broach the personal, deeply uncomfortable subject.

And almost immediately after taking the stage Right Now, Ansari addresses the story, following a joke about a guy confusing him for Hasan Minhaj. For a performer known more for his goofiness than his introspection, he appeared slightly uncomfortable as he launched into the serious stuff, unable to look into the audience’s eyes.

“I felt so many things, in the last year or so,” the normally shouty comedian tells the room in basically a whisper.

“There’s times I felt scared. There’s times I felt humiliated. There’s times I felt embarrassed. And ultimately, I just felt terrible that this person felt this way. And after a year or so, I just hope it was a step forward. And it moved things forward for me; it made me think about a lot. I hope I’ve become a better person.”

It’s hard not to feel moved by the soul-baring monologue, as well as his closing statement that circles back to the allegations. He tells the crowd how grateful he is — and how he actually meant it this time, unlike in other shows. Because for the first time in a long time, he knows he is lucky to be there. There was a world, he says, where he “never got to do this again.”

He continues, calling the old, entitled “treat yo self” Aziz dead, and the Netflix shows “ephemeral.” Instead, he promises to live in the moment: “This is our moment, right now,” he tells the audience.

During Right Now, he also notes the positives of the potentially career-ending article. He tells the audience that his friend had approached him, telling him that he had rethought every date he’d ever gone on. Ansari concluded,

“This made not just me, but other people, be more thoughtful, and that’s a good thing.”

But, amidst the contrition and promises to be better Right Now, there is also anger. He critiques cancel culture and internet debate where, he argues, people “don’t really care about learning and exploring and discussing.

They just want to chime in with their little programmed reactions.” Undoubtedly, he sees himself as a victim of that crowd mentality. In Right Now, he also calls everyone “shitty people,” himself included. But it seems that the whole point of his show is to prove to everyone that he’s not.

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Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka’s texts are the female empowerment we need

In the latest issue of Harper’s Bazaar, Serena Williams revealed that she had reached out to Naomi Osaka, her opponent in last year’s U.S. Open final, and apologized.

Osaka’s first major win was overshadowed by the swirl of controversy surrounding the match. Some called Serena a sore loser with an uncontrollable temper. Others labeled umpire Carlos Ramos sexist for penalizing Williams three times for her coach’s sideline actions. And, of course, her subsequent “outburst.”

Cumulatively, the penalties cost her a game, leading Williams to call the umpire a “thief.”

The debacle also set off a national conversation about the uneven standards for female and male athletes. Even tennis legend Billie Jean King chimed in: “When a woman is emotional, she’s hysterical’ and she’s penalized for it. When a man does the same, he’s ‘outspoken’ and there are no repercussions,” she said.

“Thank you, Serena for calling out this double standard. More voices are needed to do the same.”

For reference, the famously hot-headed Nick Kyrgios was acting out during his second-round Wimbledon match with Nadal. But instead of receiving a fine, he was simply told to “stop it,” which many fans were quick to point out was unfair.

As a new mother who wanted to set a good example for her daughter, Olympia, the accusation especially stung.

Serena recalls the confrontation between the umpire, who only two years earlier had issued a warning to her older sister Venus for the same supposed infraction: “I approach [the umpire] and emphatically state the truth: that I wasn’t looking at my coach. ‘I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose.'” 

After losing the next point, Serena smashed her racket and was subsequently penalized. She recounted, “I call him a thief; I again demand an apology. I tell him he is penalizing me for being a woman… He responds by issuing a third violation and takes a game from me.”

Suddenly, Serena was down 5-3 in the second set and one game away from losing. After the game, which she would go on to lose 6-2, 6-4, she was fined $17,000. But it wasn’t losing or getting a fat fine that rubbed Serena the wrong way. According to the tennis champion, what bothered her the most was the media-engineered narrative of her versus Osaka.

So, after “searching for answers” and seeing a therapist, she decided to reach out to the person who “deserved it the most.” She shared her e-mail to Osaka with Harper’s Bazaar:

“Hey, Naomi! It’s Serena Williams. As I said on the court, I am so proud of you and I am truly sorry. I thought I was doing the right thing in sticking up for myself. But I had no idea the media would pit us against each other. I would love the chance to live that moment over again…”

Wait, there’s more.

“I am, was, and will always be happy for you and supportive of you. I would never, ever want the light to shine away from another female, specifically another black female athlete. I can’t wait for your future, and believe me I will always be watching as a big fan! I wish you only success today and in the future. Once again, I am so proud of you. All my love and your fan, Serena.”

Osaka would then humbly respond, “People can misunderstand anger for strength because they can’t differentiate between the two. No one has stood up for themselves the way you have and you need to continue trailblazing.”

That’s the kind of support we need between two of the best female athletes in the world. So many times, women are pitted against each other in their already-more-difficult climb to the top.

As Serena noted, “This incident—though excruciating for us to endure — exemplified how thousands of women in every area of the workforce are treated every day.” My mom has told me exactly that from her experience: women at her law firm were set up to compete with one another, not support.

It’s important to show that there can be multiple women at the height of their sport, who can support each other without animosity. In other words, getting to the top doesn’t have to mean bringing another woman down.

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