- Invoicing Game of Thrones for my new glasses.
- The best performance on TV this week.
- A new documentary that will make you cry.
- Gaying out over the Tony nominations.
- The Channing Tatum photo everyone needs to see.
Game of Thrones Needs to Lighten Up
A constant refrain of my Game of Thrones coverage is the insistence that you don’t have to know what is going on to enjoy the show. I had no idea HBO would take that so literally.
Fans waited eight years for Sunday night’s Battle of Winterfell, and I don’t want to speak for everyone but I feel like we all kind of thought we’d be able to see it when it aired. The entire thing happened in such painful, eye-straining darkness that I wouldn’t be shocked to hear that producers are in cahoots with the optometry industry.
The series has long been criticized for how dark its cinematography has been, making it all the more shocking that it shrouded most of its longest and arguably most important episode yet in inscrutable light. This is an actual screenshot from the episode. What the hell:
All this backlash reached the cinematographer, who blamed viewers for being unable to see what was going on, claiming that the episode wasn’t meant to be watched on iPads or laptops and saying that it’s our fault for not knowing how to tune our TVs properly. First of all, it is entirely accurate that I have no idea how the hell to work my TV. But it’s his final defense that earned a standing ovation from me at my desk: “I know it wasn’t too dark because I shot it.”
So congratulations to Game of Thrones cinematographer Fabian Wagner, man of unwavering confidence, obstinate explanation, and now my new life coach.
Christina Applegate Is So Good in 'Dead to Me'
There’s good TV and good movies and good actors and good performances. In fact, there are so many of those things that my DVR melts down in protest on a monthly basis. But there is something a little more special that transcends the glut of good out there, and that’s when you watch something and you know you’re watching an actor do the best work they’ve ever done in the best role they’ve ever had. That’s what’s going on with Christina Applegate in Dead to Me.
The new Netflix series also features Linda Cardellini as her co-leading lady and James Marsden and Ed Asner in supporting roles, so another job well done to the Kevin’s Vision Board Casting Agency. Applegate plays Jen, a mother of two whose husband died after being hit by a car while jogging. She meets Cardellini’s Judy at a grief counseling meeting and they become fast friends, though it soon becomes clear that their friendship meet-cute isn’t as random as it first seems.
The whole vibe of the show makes me nostalgic for the Golden Age of Showtime’s White Ladies With Problems dramedies. It would fit right in alongside Nurse Jackie, United States of Tara, Weeds, or The Big C and provides just as juicy a showcase for its stars as those shows did for their leading ladies. But while Dead to Me tends to be a little tonally messy and imperfect, that stops mattering when Applegate’s bravura performance is taken into account.
Her Jen is a powder keg of rage and resentment, angry that her husband is gone, furious that his killer hasn’t been caught, and sad, kind of always. Applegate is a sitcom pro, but reveals new shades of talent here as a woman whose nerves and emotions are so frayed and exposed you can practically see them. There’s a recognizable humanity that Applegate brings to all of it, a calibration of humor and vulnerability that offsets the intensity of everything Jen is going through. It’s fascinating to watch.
So... yay for Christina Applegate! Always, but especially now.
Surprise! I Cried Through Another Movie
This week I had the pleasure of watching the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus perform a mashup of Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” and Sara Bareilles’s “Brave,” as was foretold in the prophecy of my emotional undoing. The treat of a performance was an encore to one of the most moving documentaries to premiere this year at the Tribeca Film Festival, Gay Chorus Deep South.
The film follows 300 of the chorus’ singers who paid their way through a tour of the Deep South in 2017, through states like Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina where some of the most severe faith-based, anti-LGBTQ laws in the country were introduced following Trump’s inauguration. Many of the chorus members were returning to the communities they grew up in for the first time since being disowned by their families and churches because of their sexuality.
It’s both naive to think that change can happen through a song, but also entirely remarkable how many minds and hearts opened because of the chorus’ performances at these southern churches. But the point that conductor Tim Seelig repeatedly drives home as he meets with church leaders and community members is that there’s a difference between tolerance and acceptance, which isn’t enough, and celebration. The tour itself clarifies the difference between activism and provocation, and how the latter is necessary to evoke real change.
It goes without saying that the audience at the Tribeca festival openly wept through 50 percent of this movie, proving just how raw the emotion behind the issues of church, family, and sexuality is. There’s such power, then, in seeing 300 out, proud gay men singing “Amazing Grace” in front of a southern congregation: ”I once was lost, but now am found.” Was blind, but now I still can’t see because I’m crying too much.
Getting Over-Excited for the Tony Awards
When you get interviewed to join The Gays, the admissions committee asks you what the most iconic Tony Awards performances of all time are. If you don’t answer either “Turkey Lurkey Time,” Michael Jeter performing “We’ll Take a Glass Together,” or Jennifer Holliday’s Dreamgirls tour de force, they don’t let you in! Cruel, but I don’t make the rules!
This is all just to say that some cliches are true. Unsurprisingly, I grew up watching the Tony Awards, fully invested in the musicals, plays, and actors lighting up stages hours away from my Maryland home. (In my high school’s dance for musical theater class—I couldn’t believe that was a class either—our final exam was to recreate a dance sequence we’ve seen on TV or in movies, and I did Hugh Jackman’s Boy From Oz dance break. Here’s the video, if you just want to imagine that and laugh for a few hours.)
The Tony nominations were announced this week, and they’re lovely and weird and I can’t wait to watch the show. Hadestown is an unbelievable musicalization of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The Prom is adorable, hammy fun, like a musical version of a Modern Family episode. Stephanie J. Block in The Cher Show is phenomenal. Ditto to the entire cast of The Ferryman, To Kill a Mockingbird, and the horny Oklahoma! Revival.
Little Kevins everywhere are in for a treat when the ceremony airs June 9.
Channing Tatum Gave Me a Heart Attack
This photo, impossible to ignore, appeared when I opened my Instagram on a very crowded subway, earning the judgy side-eye of several old ladies standing around me. It is my hope that the same happens to you right now.
What to watch this week:
Tuca & Bertie: The next great animated series for adults.
Long Shot: A high-concept rom-com far funnier than it has any right to be.
Chernobyl: Extremely intense, extremely tough to watch, and that’s exactly why you should.
What to skip this week:
Uglydolls: Shocked—shocked!!!—that a film titled Uglydolls is getting horrific reviews.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile: Zac Efron is very good. The movie is not.