Bagels After Midnight: The Cutting Room Floor

Someone once laid flowers before the path of things to come

Submitted for your approval or disapproval, it’s moot now, are some of the videos I’d at one time or another planned on doing and fully believed in, and then never pulled the trigger.

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“Is Rebecca Bunch Crazy?”

An early instinct, but this video with its awful title would be rendered moot, again, by the end of season two, and was then cannibalized for other videos.

(201 scene: you ruin people’s lives and pass it off as quirky):
Ooh, burn, Zoey Deschanel!

Much like Trent, I really don’t care for Quentin Tarantino. But I do have to say that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend could be seen as a Pulp Fiction-style exercise. In movies you have the henchmen who murder some guy and initiate the 80s action movie. What Tarantino wanted to do was instead follow those henchmen in their day-to-day — what goes on after they exit the movie?

I feel like I’ve seen this before, the moment when Rebecca twirls out of her office. It would be the beginning of the movie, some kind of lawyer movie, when the main character starts at a new and competitive firm that has a high burnout rate. So Jennifer Lawrence or Anne Hathaway are wandering the halls, overwhelmed, and peek into a boardroom where a hapless lawyer lady having a breakdown, talking about the place where dreams live, and quitting. And then the gay best friend to be sneaks up behind her and says, “See what I mean?”

So this is the the character who exits the movie, exits the rules of archetypes and simplicity, and lives a life. Is this life crazy, or is it simply that we haven’t seen it before? Out of context, in our lawyer comedy, she does seem crazy. Just the way we think about how bitches be crazy, or how women are hormonal, or Lilith, or angry feminists, or any subset of the crazy woman mythology that’s as old as time. Out of context, yes. What Crazy Ex-Girlfriend does is provide the context.

Part of this context is exploration and deconstruction, and so Rebecca will have to exhibit some of these mythological traits, holding to the premise of the show. It would be weird if she wasn’t traditionally ‘crazy’ at all. So as we see, she befriends a someone with the ulterior motive of stealing her boyfriend, she sleeps with a stranger while on a date with a guy, and breaks into the ex-boyfriend’s house.

A lot of the Rebecca madness comes from inexperience. Even the little things, like not quite knowing how to make friends (word games, duh), which evolves into renting a party bus and then showing Josh her cervix.

The makeover sequence in “When Will Josh and His Friend Leave Me Alone” puts the perfect cap on the nature of her reaction to the pair of abandonments. After a decision that’s brash by her own standards (how she nearly came to throw away Chaney-Bear a number of times and evidently didn’t), lighting Josh and Greg memorabilia on fire, she seeks refuge at Heather’s and meets for arguably the first time her parents. They facilitate her regression to a childlike state which I initially perceived as both sitcom WHAT, and SECND THING, because it really is funny to see Rebecca act this way, with Heather as her instantly exasperated foil. This gasp gets me every time.

Rebecca decides that every girl needs a makeover after a breakups, and so it’s a sensible choice that she does so by a cheerleader ballad. The pigtails and the overall cheerleader getup speak further to this regression. There’s one interesting shot during the makeover where she seems pretty put together, it almost feels like a physical ad lib or a candid moment by Rachel Bloom, but for the most part, Rebecca has this breathless glee masking a deep hurt. This is the manifestation/reaction to heartbreak.

So the crazy part comes in not in the pursuit necessarily, though it’s all connected. She’s boy-crazy, and that’s not unusual. What’s unusual is how that manifests.

But what’s important here is specificity with labels. “Crazy” is a pejorative, and seen an insensitive. I’d like to attempt to bring real world psychology to the character, but I think truer to the story as partly-autobiographical and personal regardless is that the negative aspects of Rebecca’s romantic journey are the things which will later become regrettable. The things that Rebecca herself will at some point judge as wrong, rather than society.

Which is not to discount society, whether psychologists or Rebecca’s local society in Paula.

Heather’s parents, by their daughter’s admission in the end, praise failure

I Am Rebecca

 

“Aline Brosh McKenna Vision Quest”

I planned on watching each movie McKenna had written and discussing them briefly: Three to Tango, Laws of Attraction, The Devil Wears Prada, 27 Dresses, Morning Glory, I Don’t Know How She Does It, We Bought a Zoo, Annie, though she certainly doesn’t own all of them, having had the reins taken away as is unfortunately common in the big H-land.

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“5 Great Crazy-Ex Girlfriend Episodes”

The episodes in question were 118: Season One finale, 103: Party, 116: Heavy Boobs, 205: Greg’s Goodbye, and 206: Girl Group, the last of which became its own video.

After one Top 5 video, I’d clearly backed away from ranking — not a fan of that.

“Training the Male Gaze”

The video about masculinity was supposed to have a whole third part, “Training the Male Gaze,” about how Rebecca Bunch does not conform to the razor-thin margin of error standard for American beauty — more so with regards to her uncouthness — but can still be sexy, and who seems to love vamping it up. Regarding the problem of the male gaze’s normalizing power, it was a premise that was way too complicated, I’m still trying to figure it out for later application.

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“An Open Letter to Rachel Bloom”

I clicked on the “discussions” tab of racheldoesstuff one day and was horrified and angry and stupid. On the odd video featuring Rachel Bloom, still some troll wants to leave a comment about how she’s such a horrible person, and for those of us who don’t have context for this vitriol, it’s all in response to her one of two Bill Nye songs, which to the day I still have seen.

So I decided to start typing up a letter to make her feel better, and got as far as you’ll see, but felt that ‘type a letter to make her feel better’ was presumptuous and awkward, so it never got further than this half-draft.

Notice how I remember what a letter is at the end and begin addressing Rachel Bloom:

I was very gradually made aware of backlash directed at Rachel Bloom. There’s always been the usual stuff, as a woman with an Internet presence, a woman who’s outspoken, at that. But this year, she produced something even her hardcore fans rejected, and that’s been hard, but when you’re so prolific and willing to try new things, it’s almost unavoidable. What was shocking then, was the level of vitriol I saw recently, which itself is old but was new to me. A ‘statement’ in response is probably inappropriate, but I

I just wanted to establish my WHAT, for the record, not because I believe you need to hear it, but on the off-chance my story is unique.

 

There’s three stages — the obvious, the abstract, and the personal. The obvious is that, during development, when Aline Brosh McKenna remarked that Josh feels like an Asian guy, you said “Yeah.” My God, I mean, that

But I think part of what spurred the creation of this YouTube channel was an effort to demonstrate it wasn’t just being included that so compelled me about the show, especially since the normalization of Asian American men is kind of a moral grey zone. What

 

I saw one of your live shows, and you know, it was like super funny and the music was excellent, but it was also a career showcase, like when they profile a director at a film festival. There was an evident throughline, a thesis that felt more subconscious than decided, no matter how directly articulated: You Are Not Alone.

Okay, this was incredibly awkward. Never again.

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“Movie Recommendations”

I can talk and write about movies endlessly, and so I thought an interesting take would be to recommend movies based on elements of the show: strong women, romance, utopia, representation, mental health/addiction, being other. (The Videodrome thing is a joke).

If you like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I know how hard it can be to find things that are similar. You can go the TV route: Jane the Virgin and You’re the Worst spring to mind. But maybe you’re one of those fans who came to the show for the more subversive elements and as such still don’t have much of an appreciation for sitcoms, romance, musicals, whatever, as they exist beyond the show. Well, maybe this video is for you — movies which have nothing truly in common with each other or the show, but may share one or two vital characteristics that had you falling in love with Rebecca and West Covina, a love you don’t think will ever be replicated. I know the feeling.

STRONG WOMEN: You’re Next

First up, You’re Next, which

Related: Lady Vengeance, Doomsday, Avalon

ROMANCE: The Road Home

I can’t really name-check good romantic movies, and I don’t say that because I need to protect my masculinity, it’s just an unfortunate consequence of my movie-viewing habits. But if there’s one romantic movie I love to death, it’s The Road Home, by Zhang Yimou. It stars Zhang Ziyi the very same year she debuted in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and this role is quite different.

Related: Videodrome

UTOPIA: Joint Security Area

I probably shouldn’t talk about Joint Security Area, because I’ve already done that pretty extensively, but any opportunity to recommend Joint Security Area is one I take with gusto. This is my favorite movie unadjusted for nostalgia — my #1 is always gonna be Jurassic Park, but I saw that movie when I was five. Joint Security Area came later and had this rarest of messages about the possibility of world peace that brings a tear to my eye even just thinking about it.

This is the first major movie by famed Korean director Chan Wook Park, who’d go on to also direct Oldboy and Stoker. JSA is before he hooked into a style, which was around Lady Vengeance, I’d say, but it doesn’t lack for his meticulousness and geometric lens.

Related: Halo 2, Mass Effect 3, Ghost in the Shell 2nd Gig

REPRESENTATION: Boyz N the Hood

As of this recording, Boyz N the Hood is available

Related: City of God, Better Luck Tomorrow, Menace II Society

MENTAL HEALTH/ADDICTION: A Scanner Darkly

God, I love this fucking movie. It sharpens up the book a little bit, and the book is extraordinary. This is Philip K. Dick, who also wrote the stories on which Blade Runner, Total Recall, and Minority Report are based, and A Scanner Darkly came late in his career, after rehab for drug addiction and an attempted suicide. It’s a deeply personal story and the movie captures the uniquely expressed tragedy with grace and a hard-hitting reality that breaks through its visual artifice.

We follow Bob Arctor, an undercover detective who’s infiltrated a drug den in pursuit of the pushers behind Substance D, a psychotropic that tends to blur one’s reality. For Arctor, who’s addicted to it, his reality is beginning to blur such that his undercover persona is becoming a separate identity, and he’s losing a sense for his actual self.

It’s a trip, one that plays like a series of vignettes of everyday life in this drug den, in which A-list stars who may or may not have histories with substance abuse get to dick around like so: (clip).

And it builds to a heartbreaking climax that itself expresses the best of science-fiction, the possibilities inside the genre. Unlike The Wire, which intricately identifies problems in drug-ravaged society toward problem-solving, A Scanner Darkly focuses more on the toll substance abuse takes — it has a compassionate eye toward people who suffer addictions, and

I’m not even gonna mention the unfortunate cameo in this movie, because if you’re like me, you won’t even notice. Watch the movie, and then find out and be sad. Richard Linklater’s weird friends aside, the director pays beautiful homage to one of Philip K. Dick’s greatest works, even reproducing its final note before the credits roll, for which you’ll need a box of tissues handy.

As of this recording, A Scanner Darkly is available

Related: Spider

BEING OTHER: Ghost in the Shell and Ghost in the Shell 2

Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t a recommendation of Ghost in the Shell 1995, which is a given in general, but rather of both movies, because they form a dialogue similar to the relationships between movies like The Terminator and T2 or Clerks and Clerks II — one is construction, the other is deconstruction.

In short, Ghost in the Shell 1995 is the story of a woman who transforms as part of self-actualization. You might relate to that, or you might relate to Ghost in the Shell 2’s story, which is about truly reconciling that transformation, and as such has more to do with empathy than experience.

Ghost in the Shell 2 is one of the most heartbreaking but ultimately uplifting science-fiction movies ever made. Scifi drama is rare — you have Gattaca, The Dead Zone, Signs, Sunshine, Eternal Sunshine, and then arguably 2046 and The Fountain, but those aren’t necessarily scifi. But at least with those movies you can tell they’re being a drama. Ghost in the Shell 2 wears a robotic face, and is a hard movie to read, but once it clicks, it fucking tears you apart. Batou’s silent journey into the heart of darkness is emotionally draining, as he too is apart from his society and needs to find where he belongs.

Ultimately, though, it’s a story about understanding something that initially seems alien, that being the nature of the Major’s being following her transformation. And that it initially reads as death for Batou, the journey of understanding is also one of overcoming grief, and that’s the emotional core that infects a quiet car ride or a brooding trip to a lab tech with aching sadness at the edges of periphery.

The tone stricken by this movie is also very rare and quite compelling. It doesn’t shout, it doesn’t let loose, but it’s suffused by a kind of darkness that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend would probably have if Rebecca wasn’t so desperately happy.

Ghost in the Shell 2 was out of print for a very long time, but is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray Disc — like with all anime, it’s good to snap these things up when you have the chance, because you never know when a license will lapse and something will disappear. Noting how Evangelion has been out of print for years, nothing is safe.

Related: The Brother from Another Planet, Neon Genesis Evangelion

“Kill la Kill | Greatest of All Time?”

It’s been since it premiered that I’ve seen Kill la Kill. I’ve had a few abortive attempts at a rewatch, but I’m never emotionally ready. It knocked me the hell out. It was the first and probably last time I’ve ever felt that much about a show — I laughed and cried through all of it. To me, it is the most technically excellent work of television ever broadcast, though I might personally favor other things. And that was the core conflict of this unfinished Kill la Kill recommendation, as you’ll see:

As dangerous as superlatives are, they seem irresistible to TV critics, who don’t hesitate to label The Wire, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones the best of all time, simultaneously, or The Americans, Rectify, Penny Dreadful and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend the best show you’re not watching or have never seen. And you know what? I totally get it. It’s just something about the way we’re wired, that I think about things hierarchically. The Wire is the most important TV show, Ghost in the Shell the most important to me, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend my favorite, Moribito the show I would create. And then there’s Kill la Kill, an anime series from 2013 from Studio Trigger, directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi. While I have a favorite and a most important, et cetera, I believed it then and believe it now that Kill la Kill is the superlative, it is the best television show ever made.

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The tremendous force of it is almost physical. It isn’t just a narrative, it uses narrative as an emotional blueprint with your reactions mapped out for optimal effect. If it wasn’t such a labor of artistic craft, you’d call it a technical wonder, a masterpiece of storytelling by way of an almost scientific method.

And therein lies the truth of it. There is no ‘greatest TV show of all time,’ but somehow we’ve wandered away from the simplicity that subjectivity can never gather enough mass to become objectivity. I marvel at the design and power of Kill la Kill as an aspiring creator and as a consumer of media. I was 20 years old when I saw Kill la Kill, and in 20 years, I hadn’t seen anything even close to the sophistication, the genius behind blunt force emotional effect. Myself and the show aligned in perfect harmony to create the Kill la Kill as interpreted by 20-year-old Harrison Chute, who, in part, needed that show, and was emotionally vulnerable. That is the making of a masterpiece, a 100% sync rate between sender and receiver.

So what I’d want to say most of all with a review of Kill la Kill and with a discussion of this idea of the greatest ever, no matter the medium, is to encourage you to find your personal greatest ever. It might find you, but it’s out there. The creative work with a 98% dating site compatibility, and when you meet it, it’ll be difficult to put into words. This is several years later, I’m watching the show again and talking about it here, and like with the Moribito video, I feel I’ve come up short.

Short, in singing its praises, not even trying to get you to watch it. I care more that you watch Moribito than Kill la Kill, because this show doesn’t say anything new. But if it does affect you, it’ll hit you like a sledgehammer.

There were about three different drafts of a Steve Jobs (2015) video and a desire to do one about Christine (2016), which I still haven’t seen. Finally, there was a completed draft of an Atomic Blonde review which three editors gave the okay to, but in the end, I didn’t care enough to cut together a video for it. It will probably be a separate post, because while the movie bores me to tears, the thesis has always been important to me.

Ditto on the Steven Universe video, that’s almost complete enough to make a real post for.

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