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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pretty Little Liars - Touched by an A-ngel

That alphabet cereal trick of A’s was pretty nifty, but is Emily really the weakest link? Spencer seemed more paranoid than ever in the first scene. Emily might be physically the weakest, because her stress expresses itself by attacking her body, but we think she’s emotionally one of the strongest. Also, who doesn’t grind their teeth, especially in their sleep? (Ok, fine, we know some people aren’t stressed. Lucky bastards.) Ughhh. We need massages too.

Finally, we were proud of Aria. She went right up to Jason and confronted him about the creepy pictures. The best way to handle any creeper is to just confront them in the safest or most public way possible, especially if their creepiness thrives on secrets. As we suspected (and one of us hoped), Jason had a perfectly good explanation for the photos. He didn’t take them. Ali did. Jenna heard Jason explain.

Aria’s mom, Ella, asked Anne, the girls’ old therapist, about possibly talking to depressed Mike. Anne recommended another therapist, because while siblings should learn to share most things, therapists are an example of something they shouldn’t share (along with toothbrushes and boyfriends/girlfriends).

Ezra showed up at the school with our favorite slutbag, Jackie Molina, and Aria saw her flirting with him. Now, we are going to keep the Ezra hate at a minimum for a while. We don’t know how long one of us can stand to do that, but it should last at least a whole post. After having a tough moment at her locker, because she’s stressed and missed swimming, Emily agreed to meet Anne in her office to talk. We did not get excited about an adult possibly finding out about A. That never happens.

Spencer spent time with Toby, packing up Ian’s things. Yay!! Toby!! He doesn’t get enough airtime. They found Ian’s yearbook and saw that he had been a member of the “N.A.T. Club” with Jason and Garrett. Neither of them had any idea what that club was. Rather than suspect it was an innocent inside term between best friends, related to some funny incident, Spencer’s wheels started turning and we immediately saw that she was thinking it was a real club with sinister, secret motivations. Well, on this show, that’s probably a safe assumption to make.

At the high school college fair, Ezra came up to Aria and said, “Have you considered Hollis College?...I think you’ll find the teachers are very hands on.” (*&*^&*%^&%^&%^&%^&) Nope, not gonna say anything. Aria told Ezra about Jason kissing her. Ezra was not pleased. Jackie interrupted his reaction (that we were very much enjoying). When Ezra walked away, Jackie said something that implied that Aria was naïve for being with Ezra. We kind of love her for that.

Emily unwisely went to her massage before seeing Anne, probably giving A lots of time to thwart the Anne situation. Also, a massage is a pretty vulnerable experience that requires just a smidge of security. Emily doesn’t have that now, so she was visibly nervous. We just knew something creepy was going to happen. And yup, her massage therapist was A. (Insert stupid happy ending joke that fosters misconceptions that might put real massage therapists in danger, if you must.)

Back at Nancy Drew Headquarters, Spencer was still looking for clues, and even Toby was worried about how obsessive she was. Then she found a shirt that said Nos Animadverto Totus (NAT). This means “We See All.” BLECK. Spencer deduced that because Ian liked to film the neighborhood’s girls, his friends were in on the pervy film fest. Then she jumped right to, “Maybe Jason killed Alison for the same reason we thought Ian did…to get back those tapes.” We know this can’t be right. It’s only season two and we’ve seen TV before. We believe Jason will turn out to be an ok guy, overall, like Toby.

Jason framed Ali’s picture of Aria sleeping and brought it to Aria as a gift. One of us can't decide if it's creepy or sweet. We know Ali took those pictures, but still. They sat in a café together, talking. Spencer and Toby happened by and saw them. Spencer broke into Ezra’s car and waited in his passenger seat for him. She told Ezra about Jason and Aria in the hopes that Ezra could keep them apart, because Aria isn’t listening. Ella Montgomery saw Spencer and Ezra in the car together. This is amazing and totally ironic. We love it. Good twist, show.

Hanna went riding with Mona and her new, snooty stepsister, Kate (and two of Kate’s friends, Margeaux and Bitsy. Nice names, huh? They say it all). Mona and Hanna lost Kate’s horses, because they are terrible, inexperienced riders. Hanna went back to the stables to complain about “Isa-hell” and Kate ruining her family. Too bad her comments were broadcast on a loudspeaker. And by “too bad,” we mean AH HAHAHAHAHA. Kate called Hanna at home and threatened her, comparing her to a horse that needed to be broken. We love that Kate is a super, upfront, mean girl. Hanna needs a worthy opponent while A bides his/her time.

Jenna stopped by Spencer’s house to threaten her to stop digging. Spencer hit her with a “tell Garrett I said hi.” Jenna met up with Garrett to tell him the unfortunate news that the girls knew about them. She said, “They are looking at yearbooks. It’s only a matter of time before they figure it out, if they haven’t already…It’s time to talk to Jason.”

Jason and Aria went to Jason’s house to get a box of Ali’s stuff. Ezra showed up to get Aria. He made a (*&^%$) love speech that was (&^%^*#%$), saying that he wanted to go public with their relationship, starting with Aria’s parents. Then they kissed and Jason saw it. Aria left with Ezra and Ali’s box. There was nothing interesting in it. At home, Aria and Ella spoke and Ella brought up the Mr. Fitz rumors and Spencer. Ella made it clear that Ezra dating a student would be an abuse of power, and if she found out that it was true, she would feel betrayed. This put a damper on Aria’s plans to come clean…probably ever.

Emily came home and took five showers. Spencer and Hanna comforted her. Reasons why Pretty Little Liars has socially redeeming qualities: We know we’ve covered this before, but the friendships!!! Seriously. That’s such a big part of this show and such a big part of life! We think friendship is really important in growing up. Yes, you might figure that out later (especially if you don’t want to spend life alone), but when you're young? It's so freaking important and the sooner kids learn the lesson, the better.

Aria showed up and told Spencer that she wasn’t mad at her. Cut to Garrett driving up to Jason’s. “I just want to make sure we’re still cool, Jason,” Garrett said. “What does it matter anymore? It’s over, right?” Jason asked. “I’m a cop now. It matters more than ever,” Garrett replied. The episode ended with A paying a visit to therapist Anne. Poor Anne.

Another good one.

Episode grade: A-

Let us pause now, at the end, to remember these marvelous quotes.
“If it needs a tent, it’s a circus.”
“Well, you know the Hastings’ motto. Why enjoy today when you could be worrying about tomorrow?”
“Kate Moss would look like a water buffalo in that.”

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Help

We love critics. We trust critics. We usually agree with them over audiences who will eat up any stupid, loud thing (Transformers, Pirates, Saws, most Katherine Heigl movies). But every once in a while, a movie covers issues that make the critics get all uppity. That’s why we don’t trust critics when it comes to religious or political movies. They have their opinions and audiences have theirs. Even if we agree with the critics’ politics often, we want to judge the controversial movies for ourselves.

We also hesitate to trust them when it comes to tear-jerking, sentimental movies. They’ve seen a lot of movies, they are a bunch of egg heads. They like to be superior, and they can be cynical. Also, they can be wrong when it comes to movies with moral messages and black-and-white characters. They have been taught that morality is simplistic and makes art less interesting.

The Help is one of those movies that is getting heat from a few critics. We are not sure why, because reading the reviews, most of the critics decline to give examples to support their opinions that the movie “glosses over its racist themes” or that it “occasionally flirts with utter irresponsibility.” All of this sounds like a knee-jerk, politically correct reaction to us. You can’t get conflicts like this perfectly, and the movie was true to the book, which plenty of people loved.

The reviews were mostly favorable. The only unfavorable ones with any merit were the ones that said that the movie was emotionally exhausting. We cried multiple times in this one, so bring some tissues. One blogger grew up in a southern family that had a maid. Her father was raised by one. This movie felt very true to that culture, with its manners, Junior League members, southern accents, marriage mania, obsession with how they are being perceived in society, and old-fashioned roles for women. What’s interesting is that a lot of that hasn’t changed. The maids are gone, but that’s about it. It’s cool to see how far we’ve come in some areas, but some things remain the same.

Talking to people who were around in the ‘60s, it’s amazing how many say, “They got that time just right.” My grandma was nice to her maid, but she said that she knew some people who definitely thought they were better. In a lot of ways, it’s a very healing movie, because we’re reminded that the Skeeters and Abileens of the world won and continue to usher in a more honest way of life.

So critics can whine about stereotypes, manipulation, how it was “too Disney,” “simplistic,” and too much of a feel-good movie. Yeah, it’s not subtle. Yeah the fried chicken part was…weird and stereotypical. But the audiences are loving the movie and feeling inspired by the AMAZING performances and the characters’ bravery. You rarely get a feel-good movie that feels this good.

We read the book, and we actually liked the movie better. The performances gave it an extra emotional punch. It’s rare that you feel more deeply in a movie than in the book, which has more time to work on your emotions. It was funny and affecting. Once again, Emma Stone plays the girl that smart girls who don't really fit in can relate to. Is she the new, female Tom Hanks? She's got the "everywoman" quality with none of the dowdiness.

Bottom line: If you are a woman, you will love this movie. If you are a guy, you might. If you are a critic, you might sit in your armchair with your old wine, Tolstoy in hand, and say something like, “It was droll, so very droll.” But no one will hear you over the applause like what we heard in our theater when the credits rolled.

Movie Grade: A-