Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Confessions of a Southern Charm Newbie: The Pain of Memory

Season 4, Episode 5

Posted by Dustin Waters on Tue, May 2, 2017 at 2:00 PM

All our lives, we search for that which is ROAM-worthy - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • All our lives, we search for that which is ROAM-worthy
Hey everybody. Welcome back. This week’s column is going to continue a thematic thread we started last week, but instead of examining growing older, we’re going to be taking a look at nostalgia.

Now, when I shared the focus of this week’s recap with those who know me best, the general response was “But Dustin, you live every day racing furiously from your past. What do you know of nostalgia?”

This is a good point. When it comes to remembering the past, I tend to have a bit of a negativity bias. This is why I discarded all my yearbooks and only maintain a few pictures from my youth, which I keep in a Ziplock bag. I balance this all out by having a rumbling anxiety over the future and reluctant acceptance of the present. I am a very fun person to be around.

To be honest, I find nostalgia to be a bit dangerous. It’s an easy way to sell things. People want to recapture whatever that made them happy in the past, but what is often forgotten is that you’re not that person anymore. You never will be. And even worse, now you’re an adult who owns every season of Clarissa Explains It All on DVD, but haven’t made it past the first few episodes. Now those plastic-wrapped DVD cases stare back at you from the shelf.

“Was it always this bad?” you murmur to yourself. “Explain that, Clarissa. Explain that.”

Now to this week’s episode of Southern Charm!

As with every episode it seems, this week we start with another montage of everyone’s daily routine, which is in no way tied to the rest of the episode. Thomas is picking up his daughter from dance class. Landon, for some reason, is just shown sitting on her couch, drinking wine. Craig is ... getting something out of his refrigerator. What is happening? Did they forget to turn the camera off? Why are we seeing this?

The montage wraps up with a brief stop at Patricia’s. Back from her time abroad, Patricia attempts to lift her pug, but I guess it’s gained some weight in her absence.
“He’s about four pounds overweight,” says Michael, her butler, as Patricia struggles to hoist the animal, a product of generations of inbreeding, its very existence an affront to God’s plan and a mascot to man’s hubris.
'Kill. Me.' - SCREENSHOT
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  • 'Kill. Me.'
Also, four pounds is a pretty specific estimate in this situation. What untold talents does Michael possess when he can just size a dog at a glance? Truly remarkable.

Finally, the episode begins in earnest as we find Cameran and her mother meeting up to visit Larry, who I don’t believe has ever been on the show before. Larry kind of looks like baseball legend Harry Caray, so that’s cool. Then we get our first taste of nostalgia by way of a confession from Cameran.

Apparently, when she was younger, Cameran wanted to be a white witch. She dyed her hair purple, bought spellbooks, did weird stuff in the woods — the whole nine yards. This, of course, is fantastic. But what does it have to do with Larry? Did Cameran summon him from a the netherrealm? Is he her familiar? They mention dolls before walking upstairs. Larry’s doll room appears to be right off of his hallway of crucifixes — awesome. Walking through Larry’s suburban Sanctum Sanctorum, he then casually explains — I mean super casually — that he makes voodoo dolls. We quickly learn that the dolls appear creepy because they scare away all the evil things that try to come into your life. At this point, I am just going to copy and paste the notes I took while watching the episode.

“Larry is the partner of a guy Cameran works with. Larry makes voodoo dolls with potions and poems affixed around their necks. Larry is the best damn thing that has ever happened. Why is the show not about Larry?”

Yep, that pretty much sums it up.
Doll room, just past the chamber of secrets - SCREENSHOT
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  • Doll room, just past the chamber of secrets
Anyway, Cameran picks out the doll that speaks to her — the doll is named Mama Estella, naturally — and says she’s been looking for answers or guidance, which Mama Estella will provide. So here we see Cameran, looking for answers of some sort, return to the old mystical ways from her youth. But the danger is what happens next. Cameran contracts Larry to construct a love doll to bring the right person into Shep’s life. Larry has never done this before. He is weary of dabbling with such powerful majicks, but Cameran persuades him against his better wishes.

Now, it was announced last week that Shep would be getting his own TV show, Relationshep, where he travels around the world looking for love. Having seen none of that show, I’m going to go ahead and say it all has something to do with this doll.

When first introduced into his life, Shep sees the doll as a cute novelty from a superstitious friend. Then the voices started. Disturbed by the doll’s lifeless button eyes — like a shark’s eyes — Shep stows the dolls away in a closet. Locking the door behind him, Shep laughs to himself, embarrassed by how far his imagination has taken him.

He opens the closet door, but the doll’s gone. Racing panicked through his home, Shep finds the doll resting in his favorite chair. He grabs his coat and wallet and takes a cab to the airport.

“Put me on the next flight out of here,” he says as he slams his credit card down on the counter.

“Where to, sir?” the airline employee asks.

“Anywhere but here,” Shep responds. “Anywhere where the doll can’t find me.”
Larry and his dolls - SCREENSHOT
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  • Larry and his dolls
Anyway, as we wait for all that to go down, Shep meets up with Austen to play some hoops. The two begin some Game of Thrones-style back and forth, Shep unwilling to divulge his knowledge of Austen and Chelsea’s relationship. They then begin a game of one-on-one, and Shep proceeds to go hard in the paint. A point counter pops up in the upper left-hand corner of the screen to track their progress. After bringing things to 2-0, Shep is so winded that he can no longer function. This scene is less White Men Can’t Jump and more just White Men Can’t.

At this point, it registers for Shep that he may die the next time he has to change the channel quickly and deems the moment a “wake-up call.” Shep then questions Austen about his relationship with Chelsea, and Austen immediately loses all grasp on the English language.

“Like, like, like, like we’re hangin’ out. Ya know, planning to do things together. I guess that’s hanging out. The definition,” Austen says, immediately excusing himself from ever being called to testify in court on anyone’s behalf or provide an alibi.

Sheps says Austen should have checked with him before pursuing Chelsea. This sets off an awkward war of words, their caps turned backwards to such an extent that it can only be seen as an act of aggression.

Shep says Chelsea probably wasn’t his type anyway and reminds Austen that Chelsea is older than him. Shep then compares Chelsea to Demi Moore, Austen to Ashton Kutcher, and he becomes Bruce Willis in this analogy. In the grand scheme of things, this makes me Cybill Shepherd from Moonlighting.

Meanwhile, as Shep and Austen discuss romance, Larry dispatches of another escaped chimera from his laundry room. Unbound by the laws of man or nature, Larry begins to assemble the items that will become Shep’s love doll. He knows that he is playing with powers beyond his understanding, but Larry can’t help but be pulled forward into his work.

We then find Whitney ordering a drink for Thomas as he sits alone in a restaurant. Unaware of our earthly customs and stigmas, Whitney tells the waitress that his friend is an alcoholic and will be in dire need of libations upon his arrival. Thomas finally appears and apologizes for being an hour late for dinner. Attributing his tardiness as a symptom of fatherhood, Thomas refers to himself as “Mr. Mom.” Unless you are Michael Keaton, this is just called being a dad, Thomas. We are then treated to a flashback of Thomas changing his child’s diaper on what was once his home bar. There has never been a more apt visual metaphor on this show.

Thomas begins to lament the fact that he feels like an old man, saying there was a time when he could wear a “certain pair of pants” and walk into a room and own it. Whitney, in dire need of clarification, repeats, “Because you were wearing these pants?” Thomas explains that they were khakis that accentuated his ass in a certain way that, I guess, could stop time when he entered a room — like a teen starlet descending a staircase in slow motion or Zack Morris freezing reality to provide exposition. Below the table, Whitney plunges a salad fork into his thigh, hoping that the pain will distract him, if for only a moment, from Thomas’ pants story.

Can you imagine if the line of delineation in your life was a pair of khakis? If that was the tipping point? Just picture Thomas returning home, his arm outstretched as he walks down the hallway, his fingers grazing family portraits and images of a better time. Finally, he reaches the end of the hallway, a glow creeping out from under the closet door. Inside Thomas reveals his prized khakis, encased in Lucite and lit from all angles. Like a desperate pilgrim, he kneels before the khakis and weeps.

“My ass,” he says through the tears. “My ass.”

Next, we see Craig — in the throes of unemployment — hanging out at home when his packages arrive. Apparently Craig has ordered a new sewing machine because he loves sewing and has decided to fall back on his Home Ec training. He immediately calls Naomie for some reason to let her know about the newest addition to their home. She is disturbed by the arrival of this new distraction/hobby, but Craig informs her that the machine can also embroider. Naomie is unmoved by this, even though Craig is partaking in one of the five original industrial arts.
'I'm going to set this sewing table up in the middle of the room, so that everyone is inconvenienced' - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • 'I'm going to set this sewing table up in the middle of the room, so that everyone is inconvenienced'
We then visit Kathryn and her estranged pal Jennifer. They haven’t spoken in six or seven months, and in that time Jennifer has given birth to a new child. It would seem that the introduction of a new baby into the world would take up most of the conversation, but Kathryn refuses to waste any undeserved words on a newborn.

The show continues to soundtrack every scene involving Kathryn like Elliot Ness and the Untouchables are soon to arrive. There are trumpet stings as Jennifer shows up to lunch for what is either their date or a mob hit. I can’t tell.

Lunch immediately goes to shit because Kathryn is angry that Jennifer and Thomas made up during a reunion episode that I did not watch. At a certain point, Jennifer asks if Kathryn wants to hear about her new baby, which needed emergency brain surgery after he was born, but Kathryn is suspicious, calling the whole situation “fishy” because of how things went down with Jennifer and Thomas.

Cutting back to Shep’s house, he’s lying in bed and calling his parents. Also, we see that Shep has a bobblehead doll of himself. No doubt, the love doll bequeathed to Shep will murder his bobblehead in a first act of aggression.
Shepple Head, a Bobble-Shep - SCREENSHOT
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  • Shepple Head, a Bobble-Shep
He recounts his basketball court epiphany to his father before later paying a visit to the doctor. Before describing his actual concerns, Shep makes it clear that he was winning the basketball game before his body shut down on him. Whether this is medically relevant goes unmentioned. The doctor recommends that Shep consider not drinking alcohol for a week. Little does the doctor know that Shep is being hounded by an unblinking hell-doll.

Next we find Austen and Landon having lunch together because lunch dates are mandatory on Southern Charm. You are paired off with lunch partners like reluctant detectives in a Lethal Weapon movie. Landon begins an arduous ordering process because she is building her online travel media empire, ROAM. Landon says she is reluctant to tell people that she is from ROAM because not everywhere is “ROAM worthy.” I can relate to that.

All too often, people recognize me from my writing and insist upon giving me free meals, shelter, or internal organs. But now that everything is divided into “ROAM worthy” and “non-ROAM worthy,” life is much simpler. I can’t imagine a moment before ROAM. But one question remains.

The show hasn’t explained how these two — Landon and Austen — know each other. What is happening?

Anyway, they complain about Shep being upset with Austen stepping out with Chelsea. Landon says that in Aspen they have a saying: “It’s not your girl. It’s just your turn.” Austen says they have the same saying in Vail. These both seem like horrible places since Landon and Austen are so adamant about these local expressions.

Landon then brings up an interesting point: learning about people from traveling, whether or not they have their documents, a dinner jacket or ski clothes, etc. Her last three relationships ended because they went away over a weekend, she says. This is a fun comment because I actually made a rare trip outside of Charleston recently and spoke with a few travellers interested in the Holy City. They had travelled to North Carolina to play golf, but when they learned that I was from Charleston, their question was “What kind of drugs do they have there?”

Well, the same kind of drugs they have everywhere else. Is this a section on ROAM? Where is the drug section on Landon’s travel website because there are some Midwestern golfers looking for a thrill.

Looking back at the inexplicable lunch date between Landon and Austen, we then learn that Landon’s boyfriend Drew has never been to New York and should be looked down upon for it. Austen asks where he is right now and Landon answers “At work” — because yes, everyone should be.

This is where the show goes off the rails in a beautiful fashion. Cameran, sat next to her voodoo doll, calls someone about a house she is hoping to secure for Craig. The house appears to have been snatched up, so Cameran calls Craig who is sewing with his cat. Craig is doing a really good job. Let the man sew.

Thomas then calls Landon to ask her on a date, but finds she has plans to go to a Phish concert. This, of course, should be the end to their interactions. After you find out that someone is going to a Phish concert, there is no real need to continue the conversation. Thomas, mesmerized by his own pants, equates seeing a woman during the day as being placed in the “friend zone.” Since he believes in the enchanting powers of khakis, Thomas probably equates women to werewolves or vampires.

Next we find Landon and Thomas meeting up for dinner and they order the two most elaborate off-menu margaritas, which by description sound very different, but are surely full of spit.

Thomas, drinking his spit margarita like a champion, says he has been considering a serious relationship and has been thinking about what is important “above the neck.” While this sounds like he’s talking about corpses or beef, he’s actually referring to live human beings. Back at home, his enchanted khakis glow brighter.
'Life is pain filtered through the prism of time' - SCREENSHOT
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  • 'Life is pain filtered through the prism of time'
Asked what she wants in life, Landon says she been going out with a guy, but again reminds us that Drew has committed the cardinal sin of never having been to New York. This, she equates with not being interested in what’s happening in the rest of the world. In this modern day, it apparently remains difficult to understand what is actually happening in New York City without going there. I mean, all important news spreads across the world, but there’s no way of really knowing about the true extent of all the free live comedy shows taking place in the city without stepping foot in Times Square.
Back at Craig’s house, he says he’s a big “rom-com guy” and is cooking dinner for Naomie. He is unemployed, so yes, cooking dinner is the least he can do. Craig stages their fantastical dinner by the pool at Naomie’s parent’s house. It is here she learns that Craig wants to be a rental owner and Craig’s dream to start a clothing line.
Naomie warns Craig that he’s going to lose everything if he tries it all at once.
Craig counters, “Did I lose anything? Did I lose anything?”

“Not yet,” Naomie replies.

Naomie asks Craig if he wants to be a lawyer, and he says she is acting dumb and ignorant. This is the same man who moments ago said he hopes she recognizes how good a job he did cooking dinner.

It is at this point that Craig closes up. He says the conversation ends when he finishes his meal. At an impasse, the episode ends.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Confessions of a Southern Charm Newbie: Growing Old, Not Better

S4E4: Is Whitney an alien?

Posted by Dustin Waters on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 2:00 PM

Perfect. The perfect screencap - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • Perfect. The perfect screencap

Hey guys, I know what will be fun. Let’s talk about aging. Right? That’s terrible idea, but let’s do it anyway.

So at what point do you remember first considering your age as a determining factor in who you should be as a person? Not just “I’m 16, so I can drive now,” but that point when you considered “This isn’t where I thought I’d be when I turned 30” or 40 or however many years it took you to be really disappointed in yourself. It’s kind of a terrifying concept, but also one that’s not really based in anything concrete. Really what growing older comes down to is a perceived narrowing of possibility.

As a child, it’s generally understood that you can be anything — and some people hold on to this mentality. As a teen, you might feel pressure to rebel against whatever expectations have been placed upon you — and some people hold onto this. Then at a certain point, you just become satisfied with finding fewer ants in your apartment and consider drinking water as “Taking care of yourself.” This is called early adulthood. This is the point when you start getting invited to a bunch of weddings, which are like birthday parties except someone else gets all the presents and attention and you get to question the trajectory of your life and how drunk is socially acceptable. Meanwhile, the years just continue to creep by. The reason I bring up aging is because this week on Southern Charm we celebrate Shep’s 37th birthday. Now on to the show.

We open on a title card that says “Thomas’ Plantation” and my notes at this moment just read “gurg” and “eetch.”

Anyway, Landon is setting up for the big polo extravaganza that Thomas is hosting. Impressed by Landon’s preparation for the party, Thomas says he wants a woman who is good in the kitchen, well-behaved, and will reflect well on the Ravenel name — like a mom, or a bang maid.

We then have our compulsory morning wake-up montage and find Austen enjoying a bowl of cereal because he’s gotta have them Pops. Chelsea calls, and we see that Austen has saved her in his phone as “Dream Girl.” This is very sweet. The show unfortunately misses the opportunity to have the narration say, “This dream relationship is about to turn into a nightmare” — a misstep that I’m sure led to massive layoffs in the Bravo writers’ room. The only greater sin in reality television than missing a forced voiceover pun is when a cameraman fails to capture the moment a drink is hurled in someone’s face. This is of course a fireable offense.

So Austen picks Chelsea up for what we learn will be her first polo match. She confesses that the only thing she knows about polo is what she saw in Pretty Woman, which means Chelsea expects Jason Alexander to offer her money for sex.

Chelsea then admits to Austen that she and Shep had a brief “makeout sesh.” Austen, who miraculously refrains from driving his car into a ravine, says that Shep makes out with everyone. He’s very European in that way. That’s just how Shep says hello.

Back at the polo match, Cameran hands Whitney a baby against his will. Whitney holds the baby like he just arrived on earth. Seriously, Whitney being an alien would explain so much. He dresses and behaves like someone who learned about our culture from television waves that took decades to reach his home world.

‘Klaatu barada nikto’ - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • ‘Klaatu barada nikto’

“Ah yes, your younglings are considered most treasured in their pupal stage. I will communicate this back to the mother planet,” Whitney says.

It is slowly revealed throughout this episode that no one actually understands the rules of polo. It’s a real emperor’s new clothes situation, with the cast just looking on as people ride horses. To the best of my understanding, polo is like golf mixed with soccer if all the players were afraid of the ground and loved mallets.

It’s finally the point of the polo match where everyone stops pretending to watch the game and gets some food. Chelsea and Austen eat chicken wings seductively at one another in some strange mix of poultry and romance that I will call fowl play. Get it? It’s like foreplay, but with chicken. This is a very good joke.

Then Chelsea, in an amazing non sequitur, asks Austen to look at how long her arms are and says she could slap him from across the table. The show doesn’t show exactly what led up to this statement and I’m fine with not knowing. I want to live in a world where women brag about their wingspan before randomly threatening violence at polo matches.

‘Jordan ain’t got shit on me’ - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • ‘Jordan ain’t got shit on me’

Cameran, having already accepted the dowry on Chelsea in her fantasy marriage to Shep, grabs Whitney so the two can go run interference — because no one can diffuse sexual energy like Whitney. Whitney carries himself like someone who has had a piece of toilet paper stuck to his shoe his entire life.

Whitney, not of this earth, immediately asks Chelsea and Austen if they are enjoying a romantic moment. Chelsea responds that this is their first date, which perturbs Cameran so much that she invokes the bro code. I mean, how can Austen just step out with his best pal’s regular Saturday night thing? That is beyond the pale, fella.

Whitney then asks the happy couple “What’s going to happen afterwards?” as he adjust his human suit and radios back to his home planet that the earthlings suspect nothing. I wouldn’t be surprised if later in the episode Whitney was shown eating an unpeeled banana and harvesting plutonium to power his ship.

The polo match then takes a break or enters halftime or whatever happens and the gang stops by to check in with Thomas to see who’s winning. Landon asks Thomas to briefly explain the rules of polo to Austen and the rest of the viewing audience. Thomas starts talking about a line that shant be crossed. Or it can be crossed if the horse is going slow. It immediately becomes apparent that not even he knows the rules of polo. The whole explanation sounds like a high-schooler giving a presentation on a book they haven’t read.

“He was the greatest of Gatsbys. He was the worst of Gatsbys. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of polo,” says Thomas, hoping that everyone loses interest before he stops talking.

Thomas’ kids then roll by in a stroller shouting “Daddy” and he tells them he’ll “chat with them later” because that’s what you do with children — chat.

Craig leans in and tells Thomas to go give his daughter a kiss because she was calling for him, but Thomas “needs to focus on the game.” He dismisses everyone and asks someone off screen how big a lead they need. His guess is seven, which sounds about right. I mean, you need at least seven more polo points than the next team. That’s polo 101.

Craig really latches onto Thomas not telling his kids bye. He asks Landon and Austen to imagine a world where their fathers didn’t tell them bye on occasion. Landon gets Anime eyes and says her dad didn’t say goodbye sometimes and she turned out fine.

Anime eyes as Whitney surveils our human ways - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • Anime eyes as Whitney surveils our human ways

If I were to rank all the things my parents did that damaged me as a child, not saying goodbye would not even make the list. You know what would? The unapologetic nudity.

Craig’s complaints fall on deaf ears and he goes into the stables to talk with the horses, fed up with the petty squabbles of man like Gulliver after his time with the Houyhnhnms.

“Why the long face?” the horses jokingly ask Craig because equines are notorious for diffusing tension with humor.

“Do you sleep standing up?” Craig asks on behalf of all humanity.

It’s later revealed that Thomas’ team won the polo match 4-12, which I, without any knowledge on which to base this, will declare the largest polo victory in the history of the sport. They thought they needed seven polo point lead, but they got eight! That surely means something.

Now that polo is behind us, we turn our attention to Patricia’s house where Whitney is getting a visit from Shep. As previously mentioned, Shep’s birthday is coming up, and he’s turning 37.

Anyway, Shep and Whitney enjoy some grilled cheese sandwiches, and Whitney informs Shep about the whole deal between Chelsea and Austen. Shep nearly chokes on his grilled cheese at the news, which would probably be a fitting end. Let this be a reminder that it’s never too early to start considering which sandwich should bring your demise. This is called the Mama Cass rule.

Skipping ahead, we then turn to Chelsea and Austen’s date. Chelsea orders them both drinks and says she rode her bike so she can drink whatever she wants. Perhaps the best way to promote alternate transportation is liquor? I remember when I lived in New York plenty of people drank on the bus each morning. I have found a correlation, so causation can’t be far behind.

Chelsea then asks if she and Austen can “get to know each other” before the relationship proceeds as if this is some grand imposition. This is actually how relationships work. You don’t have to act like every person you like is in the witness protection program. Chelsea follows up this reasonable request with an increasingly bizarre series of questions: When is your birthday? Do you want to have children? How many one-night stands have you had? That escalated quickly.

Chelsea then says she needs to go home and sober up before she goes to work the next morning and cuts hair. Austen says, “Let’s go back to mine,” and makes his sexy face. This is bad.

Sexy face - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • Sexy face

Cutting to the next morning, Shep calls Chelsea who is in the throes of a massive hangover from the previous evening out. Shep says he needs a haircut, so we know we’re in for some interesting relationship developments.

Shep visits Chelsea for a haircut, her hands shaking as the final drops of alcohol leave her system. She asks if he is bringing a date to his upcoming birthday party, which is taking place on a boat. What a cool way to add danger to one’s special day. Shep then asks how he got the reputation as the “village bicycle.” To be honest, he’s more of the suburban moped.

Skipping ahead because it’s almost 4 a.m. and I’m still writing about this show, it’s finally time for Shep’s birthday boat party. He shows up in a pair of pants that look like a photo negative of a fancy paper towel. He then quotes Tom Wolfe. This is the type of evening we have ahead of us.

Check out expression on the guy in the hat - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • Check out expression on the guy in the hat

Whiney arrives with his date who’s dressed like a fortune teller and remarks “Tits ahoy” because that is his prime directive. I’m now captivated by the idea of an alien spy who just happens to infiltrate a group of humans least representative of the world population. My pitch is that it’d be like Alf meets Arrested Development and it’s a license to print money.

Later at the party, Shep, who is now dressed like Thurston Howell III toasts to the bourgeoisie, saying, “May we always be in it.” Little does he know that below deck the proles are dancing to Irish music and showing an aristocratic young woman the simple pleasures of the lower class. Billy Zane will not be happy.

Cameran tells Shep that Chelsea and Austen “frenched” and Shep counters that he “made out with her first.” How about we wait and see who Chelsea takes to the Sadie Hawkins dance?

Cameran advises that Shep forget about sex for a second and starts thinking about serious relationships because he is getting older. Pointing to Thomas, she asks, “Do you want to be a 55 year old man and not have shoelaces?”

The profound nature of this question is so jarring and poignant that I spend the rest of my evening breaking all the mirrors in my apartment, ashamed of my own vanity.

Meanwhile, Thomas and Whitney are later found sitting on a couch talking about what they do and do not like about a specific woman’s body who is standing nearby. Thomas says he likes thin ankles, probably because it makes it more difficult for them to escape on foot.


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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Danny Glover will visit Charleston for Civil Rights Film Fest

Freedom films

Posted by Kevin Young on Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 11:40 AM

Delta blues musicians Skip James and Son House are the subject of Two Trains Runnin’ documentary - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • Delta blues musicians Skip James and Son House are the subject of Two Trains Runnin’ documentary
Like all art mediums, film is ripe with multiple genres. When it comes to pure escapism, we have a litany of films and genres to choose from. We will always have car chases, star-crossed lovers, and super humans saving the world but there are films, usually dramas and documentaries, out there that are more intent on facing the truths we can’t escape. Unless guised in a smart horror film like Jordan Peele’s Get Out, race and race relations films have always been bitter pills that many audiences prefer to ingest at home than in public. The first time I watched Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing it was in 1990 and that was at home. The press at the time warned of potential riots in the theater, particularly if you were a white audience member. When The New Yorker’s David Denby wrote, “The end of this movie is a shambles, and if some audiences go wild, he’s [Lee] partly responsible.” In his 1989 review, Denby essentially said stay away if you prefer living. His words, and others of its ilk, worked on most white audiences. It’s hard to believe that was nearly 30 years ago. That such paranoia peddling could work on keeping people away from a film that was as much about opening dialogue is mystifying. More mystifying is that it still works to this day. That whole unwillingness-to-open-a-dialogue thing should change.

Jon Hale, a professor of education and history at the College of Charleston, and Benjamin Hedin, accomplished scholar on the civil rights movement would obviously like to be a part of that change. Their mission statement adorns the bottom of the festival’s website: “Celebrating film’s power to shape and inspire social change.” With sponsorships by South Carolina Humanities, The College Of Charleston, Avalon Films and International African American Museum, the Charleston Civil Rights Film Festival, in its first year, will showcase shorts, features, and documentaries that explore the long history of the freedom struggle in America as well as engaging with the community to promote fresh approaches to activism.

The festival will take place over the course of three days, starting this Thursday evening with the American Theater’s screening of the documentary Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre, 1968 followed by a discussion with director Judy Richardson and College Of Charleston historian Mari N. Crabtree.

While there will be premieres of Stanley Nelson’s documentary Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and a shorts program consisting of Redemption Song, The Barber from Birmingham, and I Am a Man, there will be a master workshop with award-winning producers and directors Benjamin Hedin and Tim Fennell at the College Of Charleston as well as a public workshop devoted to using film and social media at Burke High School.

One film of personal interest is Two Trains Runnin’, Sam Pollard’s documentary. Narrated by Common, and featuring the music of Gary Clark Jr., Pollard’s film, taking place during the height of the American civil rights movement, is about the search for two forgotten Delta blues singers, Skip James and Son House throughout the backroads of Mississippi. The film Slate magazine’s Clayton Dillard, has been called a film that “teeters on reaching a higher plane of meaning simply through the efficiency of its information” achieves it’s goals of detailing the film’s two threads via interviews, archival footage, and animated reenactments.
Danny Glover will speak after the screening of "Freedom Song" - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • Danny Glover will speak after the screening of "Freedom Song"

On the advisory board, one name will stand out to mainstream film audiences, Danny Glover. The man known to most of today’s audiences as Albert from Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple adaptation and Roger Murtaugh in the Lethal Weapon film series, will be in attendance after a Saturday Night Burke High School screening of Freedom Song, a 2000 film, starring and produced by Glover. Based on true stories of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi, Freedom Song details a young man, Owen Walker (Vicellous Reon Shannon), as he attempts to break the cycle of segregation much to the consternation of his father (Glover). The film will close out the festival with an introduction by Mayor John Tecklenburg while Glover, International African American Museum CEO Michael Moore, and civil rights activists Dave Dennis and Judy Richardson will lead a discussion afterwards.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Confessions of a Southern Charm Newbie: Talking Points

Season 4, Episode 3

Posted by Dustin Waters on Tue, Apr 18, 2017 at 2:00 PM

My WiFi was really crappy this week, so all the screenshots look a little rough - BRAVO TV SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo TV Screenshot
  • My WiFi was really crappy this week, so all the screenshots look a little rough

Hey everybody. This week we’re going to talk about communication. In writing about a show where 98 percent of what happens is one-on-one conversations and the other 2 percent is b-roll footage of carriage horses, it’s a wonder we haven’t looked at this before.

We start this week’s episode with Cameran and Chelsea paying a visit to their personal trainer. Cameran claims that she basically lives off of gas station food. The show then cuts to her enjoying food at a bunch of places that aren’t gas stations. As someone who actually subsists off of gas station food, let me say that it is much less glamorous than Southern Charm makes it.

For anyone who has ever wondered what it’s like to maintain the diet of a self-destructive trucker, just think of your digestive tract like the violent ecosystem of a fledgling alien planet. If you plan to ignore the microwave instructions on a frozen cheeseburger, make sure you consume enough Red Bull and Yellow Jackets to kill any bacteria that might try to bring you down. Now back to the gym.

Chelsea, who closed out the last episode enjoying a nice evening out with Shep, says that they spent the night together. Apparently, Shep messaged Cameran the morning after, giddy as a schoolgirl. Chelsea clarifies that she and Shep kept their clothes on, which means they participated in the awkward discomfort of sharing a sleep space without the brief distraction of carnal bliss.

Cameran says that Shep and Chelsea spending the night together is just one step forward in her grand plan for them to be soulmates. Wouldn’t that be pre-ordained? Not to be some romantic Calvinist, but do soulmates begin at conception? I mean, we all know that identical twins have to share a soul. Learned that in Sunday school — one divided by two equals eternal damnation. But what’s the divine math for couples who all their friends agree would be perfect together?

Anyway, the next thing we see is Craig golf-carting it on over to lunch with Landon. They quickly share a laugh about the word charcuterie because they are both cartoon mice.

‘Squee, squee, squee’ - BRAVO TV SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo TV Screenshot
  • ‘Squee, squee, squee’

Craig tells Landon that he wants to become independently wealthy so that he can travel the world and help people. The mental gymnastics required to judge this sentence are baffling. Is this a good thing to want? I mean, it’s not bad, but ... what? He wants to be rich, but mainly so he can help people. It’s the philanthropic equivalent of watching a snake eat its own tail.

Craig gets a call from Naomie who asks if he’s taking care of all his chores in preparation for the charity fundraiser they are organizing. No, he is not. He’s having a beer and eating a wooden board full of meats and cheeses.

‘We are doing very little right now and it is glorious’ - BRAVO TV SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo TV Screenshot
  • ‘We are doing very little right now and it is glorious’

“Did you get all of your stuff done?” Naomie asks. Was his to-do list just a note with the words “Not a damn thing” written on it? If so, mission accomplished.

We then turn things over to Shep who is on the phone with his mom. She asks if he received the dopp kit she sent. He has, but he immediately warns her that he will probably lose it on his upcoming trip. America is literally littered with thoughtful gifts that Shep has left behind. He sheds useful items like a bird loses feathers. Shep is the person you let hold the map in a disaster movie.

The next chunk of this week’s episode cuts back and forth between the dual meetings between Landon and Craig and Shep and Naomie. They are each talking about each other, but they refuse to talk to each other about it. Naomie is annoyed with Craig for not being on top of his fundraiser duties. Shep is annoyed with Landon and Craig for not taking his business advice. And Landon and Craig are upset with Shep for criticizing their life choices. So how does that fit into our theme of communication?

What Southern Charm manages to do during this little series of scenes is show that each of these characters has a much easier time expressing how they actually feel about someone else when speaking to someone who is equally as pissed off at that person. This is because a mutual hate is a much stronger and legitimate bond than a shared affection.

For example, the fundraiser is portrayed as less of an opportunity for Craig to do good and more of a showcase of how he keeps ignoring his responsibilities. This allows Shep and Naomie to commiserate over how he should just do exactly what they both say all the time. To put this into more general terms, let’s say you went to your coworkers and announced, “Hey team, I’ve worked really hard for the past 15 years. It cost me my family, but I finally got that raise.”

Everyone would hate you. But if you said, “Jimmy crapped his pants in the break room and tried to lie about it,” well, you’d be the office hero.

Returning to a land where offices don’t exist, we find Patricia gearing up for her vacation. She is, of course, dressed like a butterfly as drawn by Botticelli.

Michael, Patricia’s trusty butler, is on vacation — likely breaking up an international spy ring or rescuing the world’s uranium supply from the wrong hands. I tell myself many lies to get by day after day, and Michael engaging in sword fights on the wing of a biplane over Malta is one of them.

Patricia, meanwhile, discusses how her pug is getting fat, and she jokes about inventing Spanx for dogs. We all can’t be slutty little greyhounds, Patricia.

We then find Kathryn visiting a local modeling agent, because you thought overweight dogs had it tough. Kathryn says she’s been modeling since the age of 14 and she’s ready to get back in the game. Kathryn shows off a few pictures from her previous modeling jobs and the talent scout informs Kathryn that “You’re older than you were then.” This statement, interestingly enough, is true of every photo ever taken.

‘Everything I am saying is perfectly OK and is in no way deplorable. See my face? My globe? My clock?’ - BRAVO TV SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo TV Screenshot
  • ‘Everything I am saying is perfectly OK and is in no way deplorable. See my face? My globe? My clock?’

The scout, hungry for the fresh blood of the innocent, asks if either of Kathryn’s children might be capable of modeling with her. Kathryn has apparently passed a drug test, so she can once again see her children, but all visits must be supervised. Kathryn says she would love to model with our kids, so here we have another example of people unable to communicate what they really mean because of various factors. The modeling agent understands that the parameters of her industry that require her to literally inform Kathryn that she has aged are also the ugliest parts of our society. This doesn’t make her a bad person — just a shrewd businesswoman. So she has to utilize some verbal jiu jitsu to express the truth of the situation.

Over at Thomas’ house, Landon is paying a visit to talk business, as well. Thomas offers her a drink with his monogrammed cocktail napkins that read TRAV because he is the Platonic ideal of a modern nightmare. Thomas reveals that he wants Landon to help promote his upcoming polo match, but the subtext is that he wants to rekindle whatever relationship they previously shared. The amount of overlap between the professional and romantic realms on this show is interesting, but in all the wrong ways.

Back at Craig and Naomie’s house, the dutiful couple are gearing up for the big fundraiser. Craig insures Naomie that his mere presence is enough to disarm any potential crisis because he is immune to the crueler strains of life. After society collapses, Craig will roam the wasteland as some sort of I Am Legend protagonist, believing that we are all the obvious villains to his oblivious boogeyman. Craig then compares Shep to an abusive husband because all violent men invite their battered wives to the batting cages to ask why they didn’t take the Bar exam. But here’s where things get horrifying.

Thomas, ready to meet up with his pals for a night out on the town, runs into his neighbor — a young woman. Shep, Austen, and their friend Walker arrive. Walker by the way has the most beautiful head of hair. He looks like if three-fifths of the band Alabama decided to have a baby together.

If you’re gonna play in Texas - BRAVO TV SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo TV Screenshot
  • If you’re gonna play in Texas

Thomas indicates that he has had sexual relations of some sort with his neighbor friend. Shep says he also slept with her. Thomas says “there’s a lot of cross pollination in this town” because talking like an apiarist is much easier than being literal and gross.

Shep boasts that he once introduced himself to a woman who he had sex with the night before. Again, this isn’t a confession, like “Guys, I really failed humanity. You’ll never guess my most recent faux pas.”

Walker says Shep should keep his conquests logged in his phone, and Shep says that when he started they didn’t even have phones, which makes me think that Shep has been taking advantage of women since the 1870s. Alexander Graham Bell shouted, “Watson, come here! I want to see you!” into a receiver and Shep replied, “Who dis?”

Anyway, this scene offers up an interesting look into how a considerable portion of men speak when they are around other men. As far as communication is concerned, this is it at its most basic. It shows the blunt honesty and one-upmanship that occurs when a group of men decide to speak freely. It stands in stark contrast to the other exchanges we’ve seen this episode. Everyone else has taken steps to ensure that they don’t accurately communicate their most base desires. In this situation, it’s become a contest.

Back at the bar, Whitney arrives and then two of Shep’s lady friends show up — Daisy and Bree. Austen opens with the line, “Bree, like the cheese I love so much?” This is super cool. Yeah, you called her a cheese, but it’s the cheese you love. Game over, Cyrano de Bergerac. Wait in the shadows no longer. She’s all yours.

After everyone makes out with everyone else while the rest of the group looks on — yes, like a high school dance — Shep finally cuts things off so he can catch his flight to the wedding he is sworn to attend.

With the big fundraiser upon us, Cameran visits Whitney at Patricia’s empty home. Whitney yells at some barking dogs and asks them “Is this necessary?” because he is Tom Cruise’s character from Magnolia.

Hopping over to the Craig and Naomie’s, Craig is still wrestling with the printer trying to prepare everything that is necessary for the fundraiser. As Naomie awaits the beginning of the event, she begins to speak French with her parents and discuss how Craig has disappointed her. Naomie’s mother says that’s just how men are as the episode drifts into some Sartre-grade French existentialism because “Hell is other people organizing a fundraiser.”

The cow rug and bowl of turf say feed the printer paper - BRAVO TV SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo TV Screenshot
  • The cow rug and bowl of turf say feed the printer paper

Meanwhile, Landon arrives at the charity gala, and someone asks about her relationship with Drew, the bulky young man she’s been stringing along. Landon says she’s not really sure if he has a real job and backs that up with a picture of a fish he caught. It’s a pretty big fish. Landon has said she doesn’t need tough love, she just needs love. But love, for some men, is sending you a picture of a fish they caught. You couldn’t get a more honest confession of affection if you pressed a steaming coat hanger to a man’s inner thigh. I believe it was Pablo Neruda who wrote that.

‘You’re my best catch’ - BRAVO TV SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo TV Screenshot
  • ‘You’re my best catch’

We soon learn that the auction went well, in spite of Craig not doing what he was supposed to do to ensure that happened. Again, Craig proves that doing whatever you want works out as long as you’re Craig.

We then direct our attention to the corner of the bar where Austen and Chelsea are talking. Chelsea asks Austen what his type is — meaning his type of suitable mate. And he begins to describe her physical attributes. It turns out Chelsea and I are the same height. So maybe Austen and I could finally be together. Chelsea is touched that Austen has offered to pick her up “like a gentleman” for the upcoming polo match or whatever. They trade digits, and the preview of next week’s episode rolls.

We’ll see how honest everyone gets in the coming weeks, but at least we got this breather leading up to the inevitable storm.


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Friday, April 14, 2017

The ACLU of South Carolina and Democracy Moves screen 'Tickling Giants' at CofC next week

Comedic dissent

Posted by Mary Scott Hardaway on Fri, Apr 14, 2017 at 2:02 PM

PROVIDED
  • Provided
Often described as the Jon Stewart of Egypt, political satirist Bassem Youssef possesses the wit and acumen of Stewart, but his now cancelled show Al Bernameg was aired in a much higher stakes environment. So high stakes that Youssef had to flee the country after receiving numerous death threats and a court case against him.

Al Bernameg reeled in a whopping 30 million viewers per episode. Compare that to the numbers for Jon Stewart's Daily Show finale: 5.1 million. The surgeon-turned-comedian's controversial show challenged Islamists and the military regime that took over the country, curating an immense fan base and equally immense base of opposition. Tickling Giants is a documentary following Youssef and his team as they attempt to keep their show on the air.

The ACLU of South Carolina and Democracy Moves host a free screening of the documentary Wed. April 19, 7-10 p.m. at the College of Charleston Stern Student Ballroom. A panelist discussion follows the screening with panelists Susan Dunn, director of the SC ACLU; May Hamdy Barr, board member of Grand Strand Action Together; John Creed, associate professor of political science at CofC.

Location Details Stern Center
71 George St.
Downtown
Charleston, South Carolina
General Location


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