Archive | January, 2017

How Are They Not 30 Yet?

31 Jan

There are a narrow band of celebrities out there who I simply can’t believe can possibly not be thirty yet. As a young-ish man in his early-to-md 30s, I take affront at these singers, actors, and athletes who somehow defy my sense of chronological time. This purely subjective list of people who fit this criteria largely fall into one of two categories: They started really young and have been wildly successful since, and thus it’s hard to imagine they could have crammed in all that success before they reached 30, or they started out with a notable bang when they were quite young, and even though they have faded either permanently or for a few years, their early success seems so long ago that it is astonishing they haven’t hit that milestone yet.


Rihanna – the first of the two quintessential examples which inspired this list. She was truly young when she started out, even by pop standards, at 16 years of age with “Pon de Replay,” but unlike many who start that young; her sound was already mature, several genre changes, notwithstanding; it was never kiddie or youthful. And even though she was that young, it was still a fucking long time ago, back in 2005, when George W. Bush was still in office.

15 May 2015, Cannes, France, France --- Emma Stone photo call 'Irrational Man' Cannes Film Festival 2015 Cannes, France May 15, 2015 ©Kurt Krieger --- Image by © Kurt Krieger/Corbis

Emma Stone – the second of the two inspirations for the list. Emma Stone doesn’t look all that much different then when she costarred in Superbad as Jules, and her dance card has been full since them, appearing in movies left and right, becoming everyone’s darling, winning one Oscar nomination and about to win another. I counted 21 movies she appeared in during the almost decade since Superbad in 2007, and while some of them were cameos, most were major roles. She simply seems like she’s been in way too many movies to not have accrued 10 years of age since Superbad.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi – athletes are difficult to put in this category because largely you kind of know they’re young; that’s in the very nature of athletics. But Lionel Messi has been playing since I started caring about a soccer even a little, debuting for Barcelona, his only team, at 16, in 2003. He’s already regarded as one of the very best ever, having won five Ballon d’Or trophies, more than anyone else in the 60 year history of the award, winning his first in 2009 at the ripe old age of 22.  (Cristiano Ronaldo, who has won the other four Ballon d’Ors not won by Messi since ’08 just misses this list at 31).

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence – At 26, she’s probably the biggest stretch on this list, but if, in this case, the surprise is perhaps not that she’s not 30 but that she’s only 26, it’s still remarkable for how much life she’s led already. Winter’s Bone, which was the first time many people, myself included, ever heard the name Jennifer Lawrence, arrived only seven years ago, in 2010. Since then, she’s won an Oscar, become the youngest person to ever receive four Oscar nominations and has done nothing less than become the biggest actor, male, or female, in the world, largely through headlining the blockbuster Hunger Games series.

Sidney Crosby

Sidney Crosby – I’m not the biggest hockey fan, but even I had heard the name Sidney Crosby for years before he was finally drafted #1 overall in 2005 by the Penguins. He won his first MVP in just his second year in the league at age 19, becoming in the process, the only teenager to ever win a scoring title. He has accrued points, titles, and silverware since then, having his career feel even longer due to the interminable and tragic series of ongoing concussion troubles which threatens his career. Tragic that is, they would be, if they ended his career; instead he’s back on track. Last season, he was a mere third in points, but led his Penguins to a Stanley Cup title, his second.

Evan Rachel Wood

Evan Rachel Wood – Unlike the first group, the next couple haven’t been consistently famous for the last decade or so, but were first famous so long ago and so notably that it still seems stunning that enough years haven’t passed since their first appearances in the public eye.  Wood first gained widespread exposure in the movie Thirteen in 2003 (she played Billy Campbell’s daughter in Once in Again previously, but who knew?). And while yes, it was obviously she that was supposed to be 13 in Thirteen, and thus Evan Rachel Wood must have been pretty young then (she was 16), it still feels bizarre watching her now on Westworld after learning she’s only 29.

Hilary Duff

Hilary Duff – Like Wood, Duff’s initial fame came very memorably when she was quite young – a teen in Lizzie Maguire, starting in 2001. But like with Wood, because that was simply so long ago – 16 years ago it started, it just feels that enough time has passed that she should have be 30 by now by all known rules of math. After an up and down acting and recording career, Duff is now co-starring on Younger with Sutton Foster.

Michael Cera and Ellen Page

Ellen Page and Michael Cera – I’m giving this pair a group entry because the primary reason as a duo that it’s so hard to believe that they’re not thirty yet is that they  co-starred in Juno a whole decade ago. Of course, Cera was well-known before then for his role as George Michael in Arrested Development, and basically had a huge career as a movie star and then totally lost it, all by the time he was 29. Page has appeared in many films as well, albeit never quite becoming the star Cera was briefly, but has also engaged in activism as an LGBTQ icon, hosting the show Gaycation on Viceland.

Hayley Williams

Hayley Williams – Again, I knew Hayley Williams was really young when Paramore first hit. Still, their breakthrough album Riot! arrived almost ten years ago in summer 2007 with singles “Misery Business and Crushcruscrush.” Williams was a mere 17 at the time and it wasn’t even the band’s first album. She’s still only 28, and hasn’t even come out with an album since she was 24.

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova – I remember where I was when I first really took note of Sharapova, and it was where most of tennis-liking America (granted not a huge population) took notice, in the 2004 Wimbleton final, when she stunned the world and world #1 Serena Williams to win a major at 17. She’s had three or four tennis lifetimes since then, fading in and out of relevance often through injuries, but coming back to win five majors, securing a career Grand Slam with the French Open in 2012, a title that is nearly five years old at this point. She currently sits suspended  for doping.

Spring 2017 Review: The Young Pope

23 Jan

The Young Pope

The Young Pope takes us on a ride back to the first dozen years of the 21st century, when prestige TV was dominated by a white middle-aged male antihero struggling to maintain total control over his world as forces beyond his own begin to creep towards him. This model is by no means inherently bad (for any given show); three of the all time best TV dramas came out of it: The Sopranos, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad. Along with those however, came a horde of lesser shows from the solid to the mediocre to the downright bad, and many, myself include began to tire of this incredibly limiting format which seemed to really focus on a single perspective and seemed to dominate TV way out of proportion to the amount of white middle age males in existence.

Thankfully, although it took a while, television responded in kind. With the ends of Mad Men and Breaking Bad, the decline of this type of show is more or less complete; all of the most acclaimed and prestigious shows currently follow different, and thankfully, varied models. Even the shows that come closest have important differences. Rectify’s Daniel Holden is an almost middle aged white man, but his suffering and troubling behavior are due to a likely wrong done to him, rather than his doing wrong to the world. The white male half of the two leads in The Americans, Philip  Jennings, may have committed worse crimes than any of the male antihero protagonists discussed above, but in how he deals with those closest to him, he’s the warmest and most loving. Vinyl resurrected the moody middle-aged male antihero of the previous decade, and flopped like little else has on HBO.

And then, well, there’s Young Pope. It’s not as obvious a rehash of the formula as Vinyl, and because of that it’s probably at least somewhat more successful, but those distasteful elements permeate the show. Jude Law, as Pope Pius XIII, is, from what we know in the first episode, a surprise choice as Pope, unprecedentedly young and American, picked because some of the most Machiavellian power brokers in the papacy believe he would be easily controlled. He isn’t, of course, or this would probably be a less interesting show; but he’s, well, kind of a dick.  He’s mercurial, conflicted, treats important men like servants, treats servants like, well, worse servants, partly to send a message and also partly because it just seems like he likes it. He’s unflinchingly masculine, in the old school way that was premised on nice guys finishing last and the show maybe seems to want to convince us that this is the way he has to be to be effective. He makes everyone uncomfortable, and not just the people he should.

Just about everyone else in the show is male, as might be expected in a show about the inner workings of the papacy; after all women can’t rise to the highest rungs of power in the Catholic church. The primary and really only female character is Diane Keaton’s Sister Mary, whose role is mother figure to Pius; he brings her along with him because she helped raise him as an orphan. Whatever power she has is merely derived from him as long as she’s in his good graces.

Watching the show feels like we’re supposed to be compelled, or at least fascinated by Pius’ s unorthodox attempt to shake a complacent Catholic church from the top down, making the cardinals and priests used to a comfortable existence remember what it really means to be holy men. I didn’t feel that way though, and, I don’t think it was because I don’t care about Catholicism, but rather because he both rubs me the wrong way and I don’t particularly care about any of the characters.

The Young Pope is not without merit. The artiness with which it’s filmed feels occasionally pretentious but also occasionally persuasive and imposing; even as a secular Jew, the decadence of Catholic institutions and dress carry impressive weight. The intrigues of papal politics are definitely potentially fruitful and underneath the posturing is room for some interesting battles of substance and style which are very vaguely glimpsed at.

There is craft here, there is strong acting (outside of some of Jude Law’s shoddy New York accent). There’s enough that maybe over the course of the series, the first impressions of the premiere are misleading and there is more substance underneath. But for a show so hyped, with such pretentious and such ambition, it’s a disappointing first look.

Will I watch it again? There’s a good chance I wouldn’t by myself, but since I watched it with a couple of other people, I probably will again, and I’ll hope it gets better from here.