Roll Me Away

With only Labor Day left in the summer holiday trifecta of Memorial, Independence and Labor Days, it could be time for you to go on that neglected road trip. With a long weekend still vivid in my mind, I share with you these tried and true travel tips:

Travel Fashion
When you’re going to be in the car without stopping for longer than two hours and you aren’t driving directly to a wedding, it’s acceptable to wear whatever you want (that wouldn’t get you cited and/or arrested).

Cup Holder Delegation
If you’re lucky enough to have vertical cup holders like me, you’ve probably learned that there’s a delicate balance in keeping your drinks upright. Let’s say you’re riding solo – what do you do? Easy. Drink in the back (to give it somewhere to go OTHER than the floorboard if it starts to tip), phone in the front (so that if it rings and your music is too loud, you’ll see it light up). However, what if you’re stopping at McDonald’s for a coffee on your way out of town and you need to have your wallet handy? Having experienced four deactivated debit cards too many, I can tell you – don’t put your wallet in the front holder with that cell phone, pal. One of them has to be relegated to the door pocket. If you’re traveling with a passenger, agree that the smallest diameter cup always gets the back holder (again, to save your floorboards). For those of you with horizontal cup holders? I don’t know…say St. Christopher’s prayer and move along, I guess…

Audio Enjoyment
Road trips with multiple people are a great way to learn more about each other, catch up on current events, and mine collective knowledge on those hard questions like:

  • Who owns interstate easements, the State or the Feds? (State)
  • How old is Tom Skerritt? (78. It’s true, Wikipedia it (and check out that creeper over his right shoulder!).)
  • Does Tom Hiddleston look better as natural blond or demigod black? (I can make a case for either.)

If you’re by yourself, road trips are a perfect time to catch up on podcasts* or enjoy music** you’d never confess to (still) liking (un-ironically). Note: By road trip law, this playlist must contain at least one song by Bob Seger with or sans Silver Bullett Band.

Road Rules
I don’t know why, but it seems like everyone I know discusses driving theories in religious terminology. Here are two such theories; one is original, one is borrowed. First, my original two-pronged theory to speeding:

  • There’s a 10 mi plus/minus. Anything else is too dangerous. (Note: The plus/minus I’m comfortable with myself is 4.)
  • If you’re the lead car in a group of cars, and you’re speeding, you’ve got to let one car – you just need one – to surge ahead before speeding up. I call this the sacrificial lamb theory.

My friend Valerie has a theory about multi-passenger trips – with three passengers, someone must always be awake with the driver, and that person must always be in the passenger seat. She calls this the Trinitarian Theory of Road Trips. It’s a good one.

Some quick lessons learned:

  • Stop at truck stops in Mississippi. They’re spectacular.
  • If you look down and freak out because your fingers are blue, make sure you haven’t been sitting on one hand while you drove with the other.
  • Pack as few things on top of your spare tire as possible and keep your trunk clean. You will really appreciate this when you’re fixing your flat on the side of the interstate in the middle of nowhere.
  • If you get a crack in your windshield and think you can wait until it cracks more before you get it fixed AND you’re visiting a place with 95+ degree temps for consecutive days, go ahead and keep $300 on hand, just in case.
  • Never underestimate the power of Seger.

I hope these tips help you on your summer road trips. Be safe, y’all!

*I highly recommend the Nerdist podcast, but cannot recommend it for under PG-13…ok…R…rated audiences.
**Submitted for your PG-13 consideration: Reality Used to be a Friend of Mine. Sadly, Spotify does not host the Seeg, but we can pretend that it does and sing Shakedown at the top of our lungs. In our cars. Alone.


In Defense of Gosling

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new podcast in town, The Courtesy Laugh.You can find them on iTunes, or click the link to go to their Tumblr. In their introductory episode, one of the topics the guys touch on is the talent of Ryan Gosling. For whatever reason, Haley Bragg and I latched on to this and really delved into the issue at the place in Nashville that seems to inspire our pop culture sensibilities the most, Fido. Here are the results:

Wait. First, here’s a link to the podcast for a little background info:

The Courtesy Laugh, Episode 1

Now, the discussion:

Haley: My first thought is that Ryan Gosling is a GREAT actor, how dare you suggest that he isn’t?! Then I started to examine his roles, and I have to admit – they guy has made a career out of being Ryan Gosling. But that’s kind of the thing, right? How many A-list actors do you know that can disappear into roles and really transform themselves into someone completely unrecognizable? And don’t say Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s the exception to this rule. You also have to rule out Johnny Depp. He might disappear into roles with the use of makeup and costumes, but his behavior is still very much Johnny Depp.

Consider this: If Will Smith is America’s only true movie star (have you heard this argument?), you have to acknowledge that whether he’s playing an alien hunter in Men in Black or a matchmaker in Hitch, he’s still essentially The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. BUT, I think that as a movie going society we’ve allowed this and in most cases, encouraged it to happen. For instance, when we go see Crazy Stupid Love, we want Ryan Gosling to have the same inherent Ryan Gosling-ness that he will also have in The Ides of March and Drive. And I think that the choices he’s made in the past couple of years have allowed that, while also serving as a pretty calculated strategy to elevate him to his current status. The exception being Blue Valentine, of course. Nothing Gosling-y about that.
Jen: My first thought is that Ryan Gosling is a pretty good guy and a good actor and really incredible looking. (I mean, he can pull off a cardigan, Navajo tee and necklace AT THE SAME TIME and look pre-ty good doing it.) I agree with Haley that his success is based firmly in his Gosling-ness. (The counter to Haley comes in my belief that even in Blue Valentine, he was thoroughly Gos-tant. File under “Characters who are attractive yet inherently flawed.” File contents include Blue Valentine, Drive, Lars and the Real Girl, Half Nelson, Crazy Stupid Love, etc., etc., etc.) I don’t believe that his playing to type excludes him from being a good actor, though – you only have to look as far as Johnny Depp to see that sometimes, when script meets man, the results are pretty fantastic (e.g., What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, Finding Neverland). I’m not going to bring Will Smith into this, because to be honest, trying to figure out his being the only true movie star makes my brain hurt. Nothing against Will Smith, but that is a discussion for another day (don’t even get me started on The Pursuit of Happyness).
Consider this: Praising Gosling, Depp, Smith…and I’d probably include Brad Pitt in there…for ultimately being themselves (and for good measure, let’s throw in some supporting actors – Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Jude Law, et al), I feel like we’re talking about…what?…maybe 70-75% of all of the critically acclaimed performances in a year. The flipside are all of these equally great (because I’m totes not knocking Brad Pitt for continuing to film installments of Legend of the River Running through Joe Black*) actors who continually reinvent themselves for roles. This is where both Haley and I place Leonardo DiCaprio. I’d also throw in Christian Bale and Kevin Spacey. Then there are the guys who kinda play the same role, but totally against type. (An example of this type would be Edward Norton.**) THEN there are the guys who were phenomenal, and probably still are, but are moving quickly into pigeonhole territory (Russell Crowe. Sidebar: Ask me about my Hanks/Crowe theory sometime.) I’m not really sure where I’m going with my THENS, except to say, basically, it takes all kinds. All kinds, you guys. And sometimes that means embracing the Goslings as well as the DiCaprios. It doesn’t hurt that no matter which one is ultimately your cup of tea, they’re both smokin’ hot.
*Wayans brothers, I’ll give you this one on the cheap.
**What’s funny is, you think we (the audience) would totally start thinking “Well, maybe this is his type. I mean, he’s a really skinny yet angry and effectively violent guy in all of his movies, right?” However, probably because he’s really smart (Edward Norton and his characters) and not very imposing, it takes about 15 minutes post-film to forget that he’s a total badass and not the geekboat next door.
Haley and I sent the above off to the Courtesy Laugh guys, and then, in typical fashion, couldn’t let it go. Some follow up:
Jen: I feel the need to do this:
Goslings:                                      DiCaprios:
Ryan Gosling                               Leonardo DiCaprio
Will Smith                                    Kevin Spacey
Brad Pitt*                                     Jonah Hill (shocker!)
Johnny Depp                                Edward Norton
George Clooney                           Russell Crowe*
Tom Hanks                                  Casey Affleck
Jude Law*                                    Ben Affleck
Phillip Seymour Hoffman             Robin Williams
Seth Rogen                                 Jeff Bridges*
Joseph Gordon Levitt
Al Pacino
Matt Damon
Denzel Washington
Keanu Reeves
John Cusack
And let’s waste no time:

Gosleighs:                                   DiCaprias:
Sally Field                                   Meryl Streep*
Kathy Bates                                Marisa Tomei (shocker!)
Julia Roberts*                              Cate Blanchett
Scarlett Johannsen (sp?)              Judi Dench
Meg Ryan**                                 Marion Cotillard
Kate Hudson
Diane Keaton*
Embeth Davidtz

*These guys get an asterisk because I feel like you could make valid arguments either way. I might disagree with you, but I’d listen without immediately writing off your argument.

**Even though she tries really hard to change it up.

I know there are more males than females on my lists but I tend not to like actresses. I guess because I’m not also mentally calculating if they’re in “my range.” Here’s my question – of all of the entertainers out there today, who’d you like most to see pull an upset and just blow everyone away with their completely unexpected critical acclaim? It can be comedy to drama/drama to comedy/acting to music or vice versa. What do you think? I’m already a little biased because of my Jim Carrey Theory, so I’ll admit that mine is Russell Brand. He’s either going to do something really tragic, or really unbelievable.

Sweet LIME! I realized a second ago that we forgot about the king of all Nortonians, Daniel Day Lewis. Has anyone ever played such diverse characters to type (Type: Awesome) as well EVER? I say no.

Haley: One thing that I feel like wasn’t really clear in my argument was that the bigger the star, the more likely they are to fit into their persona. I would argue that Kevin Spacey, Ed Norton, Casey Affleck, etc. aren’t really mega-stars and that’s why they find it easier to disappear into characters. That’s why Leo is such an exception.

What do you think? Who did we forget? Who did we get horribly wrong?

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The Courtesy Laugh

Things I meant to say before…

I was on this grand quest to view and write about as many awards’ season movie contenders as I could, but awards’ season has come and gone. Here are some things I started and never finished:

Going into this movie, I knew three things:
1) It’s about politics.
2) I love every single actor and actress in this movie.
3) The poster made me do a double-take literally every time I saw it.

And then I watched it. (Yet apparently didn’t think to write anything down.)

Side note:
During the Golden Globes, I had this idea that while Morgan Freeman
has had his fair share of nominations and wins, his best “role” is that of a
facilitator. I mean, really – think of all of the actors and actresses
that he’s starred with who’ve won awards, or movies that have won awards) without him receiving a nomination or award for the same film. This is what I’m starting to think about Marisa Tomei. I call it the Cazale Effect.

Thoughts on Drive:
1. Christina Hendricks got a leading credit for that, y’all.
2. I think a single viewing of this one is going to do it for me.

(I actually have many, many more thoughts about this one. Let me know if you want me to talk about it.)

Email conversation about The Descendants:
From: Haley Bragg
Sent: Thursday, February 02, 2012 11:34 AM
To: Clapp, Jennifer R
Subject: The Descendants

I meant to tell you this last night, but I watched an episode of Inside the Actor’s Studio with Clooney yesterday. They were talking about that scene were he runs to that couple’s house after he finds out about the affair and James Lipton refers to the woman as his sister-in-law. That make a lot of sense, but the movie NEVER defined that relationship! I know it doesn’t really matter, but that’s kind of a monumental flaw, in my book. Their reaction makes so much more sense! On the other hand, I don’t really understand why we don’t see them with the parents. Does that make sense?

Anyway, thought I’d pass that along. Hope you’re having a good day!

Haley Bragg | designer

From: Clapp, Jennifer R
Sent: Thursday, February 02, 2012 11:46 AM
To: ‘Haley Bragg’
Subject: RE: The Descendants


In my head I put them together as girl friends who got married and tried to make themselves couple-friends, but Clooney never really gelled. Does that make sense? I don’t buy the sister-in-law thing, unless there was also a cut out scene where the father, in one of his rants about how amazing Clooney’s wife is, talks about what a disappointment the other daughter is. But seriously, they should’ve put that in the movie. ALSO, if she was the sister, I’d like to think Clooney’s character wouldn’t’ve broken the news about taken her off the machines that way…I mean, look at the grace he showed the dad, who he repeatedly admitted to not having a good relationship with?


I’m having an okay day. I’m eating lunch (more soup…it tastes good, but I’m glad that I’m on the last portion) and trying to write what I want to say about The Ides of March (which I keep mentally turning into 50/50…I blame it on the movie poster). I feel like I wrote a pretty good piece in my head right after I saw it, but that was weeks ago.

Would you want to co-write something on The Descendants with me? We can include the above snippet, filed under “Relationships: File not found.”


Let’s Go to the Movies: Midnight in Paris

images from

Midnight in Paris

I was lucky to watch this on DVD with another person (HBragg) and I say this is lucky because we could pause and discuss it whenever we wanted, as opposed to having to wait until the end of the movie if we saw it in the theater. Seeing a movie on the big screen is nice and all, but sometimes the ability to pause is nice.

Some things we talked about:

1. Is there a statement being made with the clothing? Inez (Rachel McAdams) wore basically the same thing throughout the movie. I’m not sure if this was intentional, but if it was, here are a couple of things I thought about: a) Woody Allen’s strong yet unlikeable female characters are usually in more masculine clothes, while the passionate and more likeable characters dress in a more feminine style (see also: Vicky Christina Barcelona). b) Maybe the linens and soft colors were supposed to represent a faux relaxation in Inez.

2. At the beginning of the movie, I would’ve said that Gil (Owen Wilson) was the obvious stand in for Woody Allen. However, later in the movie I feel like he was more what Allen strived for…HOPED he could be. My turning point: After watching the walk in the rain vs. take a car battle, there’s a scene where Gil comes up to Scott, Zelda and Adriana and does a familiar grab to Scott with a joking “Is this guy bothering you?” kinda thing. We’re led to believe this is their third meeting (or, at least, the third night Gil has known this group of the Lost Generation). It’s so perfectly familiar – fitting to Gil’s personality, but so unlike Inez and her family that we haven’t been able to see him as himself to this point. It might be my favorite moment in the whole movie. It’s also, though, so unlike how [I see] Woody Allen. He seems too self-concious and introverted to ever have that same level of familiarity in such a public setting. I do understand that I’m projecting everything I’ve ever stereotyped as Woody Allen onto him from only seeing his movies (and a PBS special), though, so…

3. Owen Wilson had some truly inspired reaction shots. Two I especially liked: a) When he first gets into the cab. b)His eyes when Hemingway is talking to them about hunting.

4. Allison Pill needs to work on her Southern accent.

5. You know what the movie needed? More Dali. I could’ve done with more Dali. (Maybe we didn’t talk about this, but I thought it.)