God lament the Hollywood family ensemble. Of late, these films seem to take one of two divergent paths: Extreme melodrama, bordering on pathological (August: Osage County); or weak-minded, simpering comedies, which strive to be equal parts mirthful and heart-felt. Shawn Levy’s limp dramedy is clearly in the latter category, pulling together a bunch of wacky siblings along with their outspoken mother, to sit Shiva for their dearly departed father for the requisite seven days. Such is the nature of this film that only two of the sibs even seem remotely like they could be related, and all their accumulated emotional baggage gets washed away in a giant wave of well-meaning platitudes. Wade through this muck at your own peril.
As typical of the genre, the filmmakers have at least cobbled together an impressive cast. There’s Jason Bateman as Judd, in the kind of role he has perfected over the years: a peace-keeping middle brother who tries desperately to keep his more wild sibs in check as they rail and fight and crash against each other. He also may still be harboring longings towards a beautiful childhood friend, Penny (Rose Byrne), who’s living in the area. There’s Tina Fey, playing Wendy, the lone sister in a squadron of boys, a mother of two young children, a wife to a flatly unemotional type-A workaholic (Aaron Lazar), who has exactly one scene where his phone isn’t pressed to his ear.
There’s also Paul (Corey Stoll), the fiery oldest brother, whose wife (Kathryn Hahn) and he can’t conceive a child, despite their ever more desperate attempts. This leaves Phillip (Adam Driver) as the young wildcard brother, who shows up for his father’s funeral late, careening down the cemetery road in a black Porsche, blaring out dance music, with his much older former therapist (Connie Nielson) in tow as his new near-fiancé. And holding the whole nutty clan together, Hillary (Jane Fonda), the author of a popular tell-all memoir about the raising of her family, and who has a propensity to speak openly about her late husband’s sexual prowess in unconventional settings because her character needed something to do.
Naturally, everyone has a problem at the beginning of the film: Judd has just found out his wife has been sleeping with his boss, the tiresome radio blowhard Wade (Dax Shepard); Wendy has a contemptible husband and a still-yearning love for Horry (Timothy Olyphant), their across-the-street neighbor, permanently brain damaged after a car accident back when they were madly in love as teenagers; Paul has infertility issues; Phillip sleeps with everything that moves, and so on. Just as naturally, each and every one of these matters is addressed and brought to a close, ad nauseum, by the end of film in a series of ever-more unendurable scenes of denouement. Director Levy working from a script by Jonathan Tropper, based upon his own novel, is determined to leave no stone unturned, and no ham-handed symbol not fully realized by the closing credits.
It’s the kind of film that inexplicably keeps the candles on a birthday cake perfectly alight despite being whisked all across a large apartment until such time as the man holding the cake — in this case Judd, who has walked in on his wife and boss physically bonding in his marriage bed — sees fit to dutifully blow them as a last paean to his eviscerated marriage. And that’s not even the worst the film manages to conjure up: In the course of things, we’re treated to an impressive array of totally hackneyed symbols and totems. Judd, ever risk-averse, laments that he’s never swerved off the interstate to head up north to Maine, even though he’s often wanted to try it (and when this moment does indeed come to pass — and God knows, it’s coming — the interstate signs have been changed to read “New York” and “Maine” as your directional options, just to hammer the incredibly obvious point home with one last suplex); the house has a faulty fuse box that serves as a kind of magic conduit between Judd and his dead father, who insisted on doing all the electrical wiring himself.
Even if strong casting is the one thing the film firmly establishes for itself, you have to question some of the production’s tactics. The siblings bear no resemblance to one another, in their physical nature as well as their emotional dealings. Tina Fey, while a phenomenally gifted comic writer and limited performer, still isn’t, technically, an actress, so giving her a deeply emotional roll that forces her to emote through several tearful scenes is absolutely not playing to her strength. Nor is giving Olyphant, a handsome, charismatic man given to quick deadpans and jolting energy, the thankless roll of emotional mascot, the one who suffers irrevocable loss and still can’t remember what to do with the wrench he just got out of the toolbox.
In fact, as derided as the aforementioned August film might have been, I would personally take its take-no-prisoners venom and family vitriol over this kind of simple-minded “Modern Family” style pabulum in a trice. Neither one is particularly much good, but at least one isn’t insulting your intelligence with the most blandly uplifting possible outcome in every scenario, all while “challenging” its main protagonist to change up his game and avoid the too obvious and safe approach to life. Of the two, I’ll gladly take the film that (at least up to its dreadful, tacked-on ending) stuck to its formidable guns and at least attempted to practice what it preached.
Already a phenomenon worldwide, his new LP Caustic Love debuted at No. 1 in the UK earlier this year and has remained in the Top 10 for over 15 weeks. It was first released in the U.S. on September 16 and Paolo is currently on his North American tour Sept 15 – Oct 7, including performances on Jimmy Kimmel Live and The TODAY show on Sept 17. His music is raw and powerful and some say he reminds them of a male Amy Winehouse.
Check out the short film for “Iron Sky” released this month:
The TLA welcomed superior musical talent to its stage Saturday August 30th in the form of soul music legend Charles Bradley andHisExtraordinaires ( Bio / Facebook), followed up by the high-fi New Orleans born and bred Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and Orleans Avenue ( Bio / Facebook ). The sold out crowd on South St. was engaged from the moment the lights dimmed, and rightfully so as they were rewarded with two and a half hours of live music at its best. Don’t take for granted that you go to a concert these days and see an exhibition of such combined heart, soul, and windpipes in this fashion.
Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires: The Extraordinaires, six youngsters in their skinny suits and each playing their respective instrument, warmly introduced the screaming eagle of soul — Charles Bradley, who came out in style to a resounding ovation to which he crooned back on several occasions expressing his love and appreciation. As is so symbolic of the era from which his style emerged, songs are rife with social and cultural exploration and questioning — touching on topics including making a living (see videos below), civil rights, and how lovers, friends, and enemies alike must learn to live with and treat one another.
Beyond his obvious song-writing and commentary skill, what separates Bradley is his delivery of genuine messages through remarkable singing ability and admirable stage presence. After all, his younger days were spent impersonating James Brown in Brooklyn before he was discovered by Daptone Records‘ Gabe Roth. The man literally sweat through three dapper outfits, each drenched by the end of their tenure, and the crowd wildly roared in welcoming Charles back on stage each time — as he danced, jived, smiled, and sang out his next ballad. Old school since before you were in school… this summates soul.
Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue: Still a-buzz after the stage changeover, the crowd got a second full dose of showmanship from the man we all know as Trombone Shorty — and Orleans Avenue. Each band member proudly representing a New Orleans neighborhood/ward, they showed off the renowned region’s signature style while blending in shades of today’s rock, pop, r&b and hip-hop music, producing what one could call a unique modern day uptempo funk.
Whatever you call it, don’t forget “the bone.” Two mics front and center alternated time in the limelight as Shorty belted out a verse/chorus with his voice and quickly switched to blow his trombone to the tune of a ripping melody/solo. The skill, let alone the endurance, can’t be denied nor overlooked. Perhaps to let the lead man catch his wind, like a well-oiled and practiced machine, different musicians played supporting and leading roles with a high-energy, “get on up and move” message certainly the main focus.
From start to encore, each signaled by Shorty raising his two pieces of brass strongly above his head in each hand, those in attendance got what they came and paid for, and honestly quite a lot more.
We have a winner! We will reach out to our winner, Marcus Eley, shortly.
Cam’ron is coming to Philadelphia to Sneaker Pimps and you can see him for free! If you enter the contest below and tweet this out! Don’t miss out to see the Dipset Capo bring his Harlem show to Union Transfer.
We all live in a world comprised of cultures with sets of rules, both written and unwritten, that dictate or at least attempt to dictate the manner in which we interact with one another. These interactions vary from informal to formal, familial to business-place, through virtual and technological media, face to face, within our own gender, and of course cross-gender. How we navigate this sea of interaction makes a tremendous impact on our day to day lives, and can definitely influence our professional success. Many variables play — and often interplay — their own significant roles in communication.
Many people dedicate careers to understanding, and helping their clients understand how to best parlay strategies into success. These fields include areas from public relations, marketing strategists, brand endorsement strategists, professional coaches and fashion stylists, to trained PhDs who study the slightest tendencies of our interactions. This has gained momentum because in a business world often driven by the bottom line, the numbers don’t lie. In an increasingly competitive workplace, professionals and employers seek every bit of leverage they can. It may indeed be more involved than going to see How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying.
Though there is no doubt that values such as education and experience levels serve a professional well, we are also very highly linked to our physical appearance — shallow and vain as that may seem. In other words, if you have two equally deserving job candidates, the nod may be given to one based heavily on the perception an employer gathers from physical appearance — rather than experience or other qualitative characteristics.
Important to note is that one’s physical appearance includes, but certainly not only pertains to your looks/attractiveness. Thus, attention to detail when presenting oneself through such avenues as wardrobe choices, hair styles, tattoos, jewelry, posture, eye contact, facial expressions, and speech — to name a few — is extremely important.
With women becoming more and more present and involved every day in leading professional roles, research suggests that they face an added obstacle when presenting themselves. It seems, women must often choose between femininity and respect. Whether it be toning down, or jazzing up their workplace appearance, this decision can be either a gainful advantage or debilitating roadblock in their career.
New York image consultant and founder of DAMstyle, David A. McKnight, says in his book The Zen of Executive Presence (2013) “people instinctively judge each other by physical appearance, and a business woman’s motives and qualifications can be misconstrued because of a poor wardrobe choice, whether it be overly provocative, intimidating, or unflattering.”
In order to take a further look at this topic, I spoke to young professional Keenan Corrigan. She graduated from Duke University and has worked at two very different companies. First, Keenan worked for 2 years at the Department of Defense as a civilian analyst. She currently works in Baltimore, MD for Outward Bound as a field instructor — leading trips for students backpacking, canoeing, kayaking — and at the Outward Bound administrative office as the Executive Assistant — where she performs office related work including development and strategic planning.
At the Department of Defense, with obvious ties to the military, Keenan worked in a chain of command system where there were virtually only men working above her. She always noticed that there weren’t many women in positions of power, but said it “wasn’t surprising because there were proportionally fewer women in the organization in general. I didn’t think of it as a prohibitive factor.”
Being a young female in a male dominated workplace, she dealt with regular flirtation and at times harassment that made her feel uncomfortable. Keenan recalls, “I would err on the conservative side when it came to how I would dress. So even things that would be presentable in other environments, I wouldn’t wear to work. I didn’t want to put off a certain image in that office, because it was hard enough being young and working with a lot of older people. But being a woman as well, I wanted to be professional, I wanted people to take me seriously, and I didn’t want my appearance to dictate that. I felt like I had to work a lot harder to make sure that people knew I was intelligent, and competent, and didn’t just look at me and write me off.”
One instance involved a person of authority writing Keenan a provocative email after she wore what she called a “tasteful red dress that went below my knees, with sleeves and a high collar.” The individual described how he didn’t recognize her at first and thought he “had to go talk to that hot girl.” Keenan didn’t report the incident as she explained, “It wasn’t a battle I wanted to fight at that point in time. I didn’t want to aggravate the situation, I wanted to focus on doing my job.”
She continued, “I didn’t want to dress frumpy, because I care about my appearance, but there was a fine line between feeling good about the way I looked and not projecting certain viewpoints onto other people. A lot of times I left the house feeling great about what I was wearing. Then I would get to work and think… I shouldn’t have worn this. I was constantly thinking about what I should wear, or not.”
Now at the Outward Bound Baltimore office, many of Keenan’s co-workers in leadership roles are female. She says, “I think one of the reasons I love my job as much as I do is because of the strong women in leadership positions. They are wonderful role models and trail blazers.” She explained that even though the outdoor education industry is still a male dominated workplace, due to the type of people working there she feels much more comfortable. Keenan stated, “I think in this workculture I’m able to remain more focused without worrying frequently what others think of my appearance.” She paused when I asked her about her dress code at her current job and then answered, “You know, I don’t even know if there is one… but I know we are expected to make good judgement when choosing work clothes.”
Gabriele Goodman, who has earned both an MA and PhD in Organizational Psychology, has worked for over 10 years gaining expertise gender issues in the workplace. She has developed practice guidelines and strategic initiatives that help both women and men understand and identify how gender politics play out in organizational settings. As Goodman describes on her LinkedIn profile, “By providing insight and tools that help women became stronger forces in the workplace, [I] teach them how to reach their career goals.”
Goodman points out that, “It’s still such an unequal playing field. The thing about femininity [versus respect] is that women who can use their femininity strategically often do so in service of meeting their professional aspirations in an unequal gendered organization system. Depending on organizational culture, context, and social players involved, the strategic use of femininity may garner respect, but it is mainly used consciously as one possible tool in a big tool kit utilized only as a means to an end.”
She added that contrary to popular belief, these issues do not only exist across genders. Goodman says, “Yes, men do tend to sexualize situations to a much greater extent than women. But the biggest barriers to women’s advancement in the workplace are often other women. Many women feel threatened and think ‘I’m not as pretty as her,’ ‘I’m not as fast as her,’ and/or ‘I’m not as young as her.’ Comparisons of personal worth on often unconscious levels transpire, competition may surface, and the internalized message of ‘I’m fundamentally not good enough’ becomes externalized as a ‘me vs. she’ power play instead of a collaborative ‘we’ mobilizing effort.”
The harsh reality is that beyond just feeling comfortable at work, research indicates physical appearance directly corresponds to the average salary a person will make in his or her career. In his article for Salary.com, Aaron Gouveia discusses 7 Ways Your Looks Affect Your Pay. Citing multiple sources from top University studies, outlined are the facts and numbers that support height, weight, hair color, physique, make-up, general attractiveness, and being “too pretty” all directly affect average salary.
For example, in regards to make-up, Gouveia writes, “Not only do people judge beauty based on how much make-up a woman is wearing, make-up adorned women also rank higher in competence and trustworthiness, according to a study funded by Procter & Gamble, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston University, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. A study in the American Economic Review said women who wear make-up can earn more than 30 percent more in pay than non make-up wearing workers.”
In some cases, appearance can jeopardize your job altogether. You can certainly be too attractive, or perceived as too provocative for the workplace.
In 2010, Debrahlee Lorenzana — an ex-employee at Citibank, was fired for being a distraction in the workplace. While the employer admitted that the employee was following the same dress code as everyone else, given her natural appearance in such attire, several co-workers described her presence as a distraction and negative influence. Lorenzana sued and her case was to be settled in private arbitration.
The fired employee was following the rules, so to speak, but unable to maintain her job because she was considered by others as too attractive. This seems unfair, and yet another example of an obstacle someone must consider when expressing their femininity versus gaining and/or maintaining workplace respect.
Recently [July], a news story cited by BleacherReport.com indicated how this issue exists world-wide in many work arenas – no pun intended. Kazakhstan National Team volleyball player Sabina Altynbekova‘s appearance has “upset and distracted” her teammates and coaches.
["The player's teammates and coach complained that Altynbekova was simply too attractive and was distracting fans... The coach complained "It is impossible to work like this." Sabina also admitted that things are getting a little out of hand." I was flattered at first but it's all getting a little bit much," she said. "I want to concentrate on playing volleyball and to be famous for that, not anything else."]
Goodman’s findings support how influential attractiveness can be, whether positively or negatively. She explains, “If you’re deemed ‘too pretty’ it can be a liability, but definitely having good looks generally helps. Beware of the catch-22 though: If you’re seen as ‘too attractive,’ you may not be taken seriously by both men and women alike. Men want to sexualize you and other women can feel threatened by you. So the bimbo affect comes into play. Although this is a huge generalization, it appears that once women can prove their business acumen to their male counterparts through their work ethic, their emotional intelligence, their ability to think creativity, etc., the fact that they are good looking may fade into the background. However, female co-workers might have a harder time changing original assumptions made and continue to pigeonhole these threatening ‘femme fatals’ into a classification system whereby they are seen as allies, enemies, outliers, or outsiders.”
Goodman continues, “Conversely though, if you aren’t seem as ‘pretty enough,’ a judgment call made by both genders in seconds and usually registering first and foremost on an unconscious, strictly biological level (I’m speaking in vast generalizations here and am assuming heterosexuality as the primary orientation), you may be seen as non-threatening by other women, and an ‘after-thought‘ by other men. Of course in both cases, this is a temporary state and likely opinions will shift based on that individual women’s mental and emotional capabilities. However, being ‘good looking‘ still opens more doors than it closes.”
Goodman adds there is far more to it than physical appearance, stating, “That being said, if you don’t have confidence – which is measured by both verbal and nonverbal communication styles – you could be extremely attractive, but in the end it becomes a moot point.”
Goodman explains that men benefit from being taught to use stronger communication styles. “In terms of verbal styles: men are better at asking for what they want than women. Men preface things as statements — women preface things as questions, asking for permission. Men tend to overrate their abilities — women tend to underrate their abilities. With nonverbal styles: women tend to sit with their legs crossed, hands in their lap — men tend to sit with their legs open, chest open. All of these seemingly subtle cues have a huge impact on both self – and other – perceptions.”
Of course, context has to be considered in examining any of these general findings. Where you work and with whom you work determines how you interact. Goodman states, “It does depend on the industry. For example, in medical fields, in male-dominated fields, and in other high risk professions that often deal with life and death issues, a culture ethos often exists whereby both genders have a greater tendency to engage in sexual banter and bathroom humor without getting stymied by worries of being PC or being blamed for sexual harassment. There’s less censoring and more humor used in part because it gets both men and women through the extreme stress — and often tragedy — of their jobs. The traditional 9-5 Corporate America workplace is much more constricted by formal organizational rules and codes of conduct. There are many more ‘official’ socialrules of engagement to consider. ”
So then, relating back to the main question: Is it in fact a constant choice for women between femininity and respect? Goodman doesn’t believe so. “No, women don’t need to choose between femininity and respect. It depends on the definition of both. We have to question: Number one, what is the operative definition of femininity and respect? Number two, who is crafting, instituting, and regulating these definitions? Number three, what are the implicit and explicit cultural norms around how these definitions are actually manifested in the workplace? And number four, what are the ways that both genders uphold/maintain or resist these definitions? In order to understand the debate proposed here (to be feminine or to be respected), these aforementioned questions need to be addressed. I don’t think it’s a black/white, either/or scenario, but perhaps a both/and prospect.”
She continues, “It’s sad that it’s viewed as an either or choice. I think women should be taught how (and allowed to) ask for what they want, how to be confident, how to be assertive, and how to be competitive in a healthy way, the way men are. If this were the case, the workplace may not only become more egalitarian, but offer both genders a platform for creativity, increased productivity, heightened social intelligence, and overall improved well-being and happiness.”
This topic will undoubtedly continue to be part of our human experience. So much of the analysis is subjective, and certainly how factors such as appropriate communication styles and appropriate attire impact given situations is tied strongly to the context. Whether it be the industry, the individuals involved, the perceptions of those involved, and of course culture and gender, many pieces are in play to consider.
Research supports the cliché that first impressions are important. Yes, how you present yourself, how you dress, and what your physical appearance is carries a lot of weight. But moving forward you still have to be able to bring your job’s skills to the table. If you’re at an accounting firm, you have to be a good accountant. The advantage for someone with good physical appearance is they will probably receive more opportunities to show their talents.
And in an incredibly competitive job market, there is no telling how many chances anyone will be given. It could make all the difference…
Born and raised in New Orleans, and since well travelled and critically acclaimed, the high energy and exciting jazz, funk, rap fusion artist Trombone Shorty and his band have been across the map on worldwide tours, broadcast through media airwaves, and featured on top television shows and series — rightfully including HBO’s Tremé — his home neighborhood in the Crescent City.
In a time where Indie directors are looking for ever more elusive sources of financing (hello, Kickstarter!) and studios seem reluctant to write checks for anything that isn’t a) from a graphic novel, or b) from a YA book, the fact that Matthew Weiner, the creator and show-runner for “Mad Men,” must have cashed in his considerable cache as the visionary for one of TV’s great dramas of the last decade.
Consider that cache thoroughly spent: His new film, a flimsy comedy of sorts concerning a pair of stoner buddies and a large family inheritance, might well go down as one of the worst films of 2014.
To begin with, despite Weiner’s extensive TV writing and show-running background, it’s shocking how illiterate and clumsy even the most basic details of his film can be. It’s one thing to pull off the delicate balances and nuances of a given scene between actors, but Weiner can’t even seem to do the most basic tasks — blocking, say, or framing a scene — remotely competently. It lends an aura of amateurism to the whole affair, and not the good kind, like you might find in student films and ultra low-budget numbers. It’s so bad it brings to question whether Weiner was actually at the helm or trying to set up scenes while simultaneously on his phone, story-boarding the final season of his TV show.
The story is equally weak and contrived. There’s Steve Dallas (Owen Wilson), this charmingly vapid weatherman on a local news station, you see, who loves seducing ladies, spending money he doesn’t have, and getting righteously stoned with his best (only?) friend, Ben (Zach Galifianakis), a misbegotten, half-crazed introvert, who lives in a hovel and writes furious notes for some insane book concerning the Rwandan genocide being a call to arms for vegetarianism (and if you think that joke sounds in poor taste, you haven’t even begun to suffer the film’s brutal witlessness). When Ben’s wealthy father suddenly dies, he bequeaths a small amount of money for Ben’s sister, Terri (Amy Poehler), a money-grubbing churl; everything else of the considerable estate to a stunned Ben; and, by request, nothing for his ridiculously young and beautiful wife, Angelina (Laura Ramsey), at roughly 32 years old, some 45 years younger than her late husband.
Somehow this state of affairs boils down to a power struggle by Terri to claim pitiful Ben — whose first idea for the money and the farm in Lancaster, PA is to start a sort of anti-technological center in order to re-educate the world — as mentally incompetent and to take over the family market in town in order to turn it into some sort of super-sized grocery store. Gradually, Ben comes to realize that he is, in fact, pretty far over the edge, and he dutifully starts taking mood stabilizers prescribed by his shrink in order to normalize himself.
Steve, meanwhile, busies himself with convincing his friend to stay stoned at all time, seducing women wherever he wanders, and trying to establish a sexual relationship with his best friend’s stepmother. And this is where Weiner really loses the thread of whatever it was he had in mind: Not only does Angelina develop “feelings” for Steve, even though the smarmy stink of opportunist oozes from his pores like swamp gas, she also develops a curious thing for poor Ben, who goes through a dizzying number of metamorphoses before finally settling on becoming an unenlightened schlub, well on his way to a dull, loveless marriage and a life of rudimentary pointlessness.
About the time Steve rushes back to the farm to embrace Angelina during a sudden, flash thunderstorm, you start to question Weiner’s own sanity: Is he trying to make a satire of such romantic comedy notions? There’s nothing overt in the script to confirm it, but the sheer idiocy of all the characters and their bedraggled motivations (seriously, this script wouldn’t have even made it through a first-year screenwriting workshop without being eviscerated) suggest he simply must have had something else in mind.
Even giving him the vast benefit of the doubt on this one — and, frankly, the skill and verbal dexterity he’s shown on seven seasons of Don Draper, seems as far away as Finland from here — there’s still the matter of his inept filmmaking that leaves his movie struggling to make a simple lick of sense.
In the end, Ben is reformed — and seemingly on his way to complete obsolescence with a bland, middle-aged mother (Jenna Fischer); while his best friend is living on his farmland with his stepmother in perpetual love, an outcome that neither one of them even remotely deserves. Whether Weiner agrees with that assessment might never be known for certain, but Don Draper had been this poorly drawn a character, his show would never have seen the light of day.