60 Books in 2019 #16: Molly’s Game By Molly Bloom

Molly Bloom has a fascinating and thrilling story to tell. It’s full of crime, sex, money, fame and the dark corners of the glittery world of the elite that so many people (myself included) are deeply fascinated with.

Here’s the thing though, if Molly’s Game is anything to go by, Molly Bloom herself is not a terribly good story teller. The book is breezy and somewhat easy to read, but it’s also clunky in places, jumps around and doesn’t really delve into any of the fabulous people Molly meets during her years running a high end private poker game.

The film based on the book (written and directed by Aaron Sorkin) does a slightly better job with this, though it’s not quite as dishy, since Sorkin followed Molly’s mandate to change most of the names of those involved.

But this review isn’t of Sorkin’s film. (Which I enjoyed quite a bit.) It’s of Bloom’s book, which is only OK. It’s a quick read, which was nice, and gave my brain that reality reset I’ve been looking for in the past few months.

And those names Sorkin changed? Rick Saloman, Ben Affleck, A-Rod, Leonardo DiCaprio and of course Tobey Maguire.

Man, if even half of what Bloom says about him is true, fuck that guy. What an asshole. This may even ruin Spider-Man 2. (It doesn’t. That movie is incredible.)

While fun, and an interesting curiosity, Molly’s Game is nothing particularly special. It mostly feels like you ran into someone you sort of knew at a party, they gave you a rundown of a crazy year they had, and then you just sort of drifted away again.

Up next is Heretics Of Dune! Are y’all ready to head back into that crazy ass world? I am soooo ready.

OK…OK…What’s Next?

 I would not be the person I am without the authors who made me what I am–the special ones, the wise ones, sometimes just the ones who got there first.

It’s not irrelevant, those moments of connection, those places where fiction saves your life. It’s the most important thing there is.  – Neil Gaiman

I love this quote by Neil Gaiman (on my Mount Rushmore of influences by the way, that man…) And I was thinking about it a lot as I drove to work yesterday morning, because I’d spent the evening listening to one of the special ones, the wise ones, and most importantly, the guy that got there first.

I came to the realization some time ago when someone asked me who my favorite writer was and I didn’t have to time to think about it, or maybe I’d been drinking, or was tired, and without even taking a breath I said simply, “Oh, Aaron Sorkin.”

The response when I say that is anywhere from a “YES!” to a “The West Wing Guy?” to an agreived sigh and a “he really can’t write women.” (How this became the narrative for the guy who created Dana Whittaker and CJ Cregg is beyond me…Harriet Hayes was sort of a trainwreck, but he women of The Newsroom were pretty kick ass, as Sorkin characters go.)

Anyway, the whole evening was sort of magical. Crystan managed to get us amazing seats at Town Hall for The West Wing Weekly Live, with special guest Aaron Sorkin. It was technically the season 4 finale, but they kind of just jumped around (that finale is the last episode that Sorkin wrote) Emily Procter, who played Ainsley Hayes also came and chatted, and overall it was just, kind of lovely.

Mostly, though, I was in awe of this man.

This man who’s work has inspired me since I was twelve. This man who has given so many words to the world.

You’ll notice that this week’s The Marina Chronicles post is a group of people sitting at a table trying to figure out their next step…that’s not a coincidence. I love that kind of writing.

Anyway, it was really fun, and I need to find out, well, what’s next.

A Time of Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Most of my blog friends have been listing some sort of “favorite Thanksgiving episodes” of things and I was going to do the same and then I realized that there was absolutely nothing like the greatest Thanksgiving episode of anything ever.

The West Wing “Shibboleth”

This is the best, best, best, Thanksgiving episode of anything ever, and is in the top 2 of my favorite West Wing episodes. (And Surely It’s To Their Credit is #1) It’s full of moments of greatness. Some worth mentioning:

  • Sam trying to convince Toby that they should procrastinate on writing the President’s Thanksgiving Proclamation by writing an action adventure series about Pilgrim Detectives. “With the big hats.”
  • C.J. and The Turkeys. This whole subplot. It’s pure Sorkin Greatness
CJ and Turkeys

CJ and Turkeys

  • The President gives Charlie the carving knife that Paul Revere made for the Bartlett family. Because Charlie is his son. It’s time to cry.
  • “I’m going to begin the singing and lute playing!” “Whatever.”
  • “We’ve been working really hard and we’d rather watch football than listen to a lecture about the yam in Latin.”
  • “Oh the President could give a damn what you guys are doing tomorrow Toby!”
  • “Did my sister put you up to this?” “No” “I’m shocked.” “It was my idea.” “I’m less shocked.”
  • Donna being completely baffled that CJ doesn’t know all of the Thanksgiving Traditions so CJ just starts shouting all of her various academic achievements
  • “We do not strut ever!” Leo’s speech to his sister is one of his absolute best and possibly the best that isn’t to the President himself.
  • Oh right, all of this happens as everyone is trying to figure out how to keep a bunch of Chinese refugees from being sent back to China, in a nice little parallel to the first Thanksgiving.

This episode was followed up by the equally delightful but not quite as high quality Indians in The Lobby, which does have the subplot of The President calling the butterball hotline while pretending to be a regular Joe from Fargo, North Dakota and shouting, “J’accuse ma petite fromage,” at the first lady, but it’s just not as strong an episode all around.

And there are no turkeys.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

What Kind Of Day Has This Been?

We’re back into gateways people and now we’re going to talk about the one that I’ve probably already talked about the most around here.

I’m of course talking about the work of Aaron Sorkin.

(I also noticed that most of the gateways were super dude oriented, OK? I think we’ve improved a great deal on that particular score!)

The West Wing had such a tremendous impact on me as a kid. I loved this show so much, that my friends knew better than to try to get in touch with me on Wednesday nights. And of course A Few Good Men is to this day one of those movies that I watch every time I see it on TV. (And sometimes I’ll even pop in the DVD, if I need some comfort food.) Of course later on came Studio 60 and the less I say about that magnificent train wreck the better, although I could go on for hours, and somewhere along the line I watched reruns of Sports Night.

The thing that was different about Sorkin from my other early proto fandoms was that watching The West Wing or The American President or even Sports Night was that they made me very proud to be smart. They made me happy to love words and read books. Sorkin’s characters are unapologetic nerds, and ambitious and successful ones at that.

And these people can talk.

They talk, and talk and talk, and while some of it is just blabbing a lot of the time they’re actually saying things. They’re saying things about patriotism, and justice, and the power of art.

And that’s why I think a lot of people don’t quite like The Newsroom.

I love The Newsroom, most of my friends love The Newsroom. My sister calls it The Snoozeroom, but that’s a different story.

The Newsroom is Sorkin turned up to 11. These characters are insanely smart, incredibly driven and have integrity coming out their butts. They’re a mess in their personal lives (another Sorkin hallmark) but at work, they are on it.

And they make beautiful speeches and it’s amazing. Yes, it’s a rose colored view of the world. Yes, it trusts a lot more in human nature than just about anything else on TV, especially anything else on HBO, the home of cynicism about The Human Condition. (Don’t get me wrong, it’s all fantastic, but The Newsroom’s tone doesn’t quite fit in with say, Game of Thrones.)

But I like that optimism. I like walking away from something and remembering that hey, smart, interested motivated people can maybe save the world. There are good people who are willing to work to make things better.

It’s why I’ll always think that Moneyball is better work from him than The Social Network, even though the latter is a much better movie. Moneyball is the one about ideas that change something. The Social Network is the one about ideas that make one dude super rich and even more super lonely.

Also, it one of them has Chris Pratt playing baseball.

Case closed.

“You can’t just tumble into a girl sideways”: Shipping with Mr. Sorkin

To talk about shipping is, for me, to open a can of worms that will never end. It gets particularly bad when it comes to television shows that I like. I could and have had hours long talks about why it totally sucks that Lucas Scott and Peyton Sawyer ended up together, why Veronica Mars always belonged with Logan Ecchols, Rory Gilmore and Jess Mariano clearly deserved a real chance at a life together and the fact that Serena Vanderwoodsen and Nate Archibald didn’t ever really get it together is criminal.

But unless you really want me to bore the pants off of you, don’t ask me about the collective television work of Mr. Aaron Sorkin and the many, many couples that have quickly walked and talked at each other while falling in love on his watch. Oh God, the epic uncomfortable nerd love! The unending analysis and rippling consequences, there’s nothing else on television like it.

There’s always so much of it, it’s always woven so beautifully into the stories and when it’s done right, it’s some of the most incredible relationship based television ever. When it’s done wrong, it’s Jim Harper and Maggie Jordan.

I used so much energy wishing for them to get together. Now I just want them both to fall off a roof!

I used so much energy wishing for them to get together. Now I just want them both to fall off a roof!

But, oh, the glory of when it’s done right! When it’s right we get Josh Lyman and Donna Moss and their seven year long flirtation. The quote that titles this post is from Donna about Josh’s dating habits, regarding Joey Lucas, who was another amazing Josh Flirtation. It was brought about again when Josh was with Amy Gardner. When I first watched the show, I didn’t care much for Amy, but I’ve come around to her. Josh wasn’t ready for Donna in season 2.

When it’s good, it’s Matt Albie and Harriet Hayes. I don’t just love this relationship because it’s loosely based on Sorkin’s relationship with Kristin Chenoweth.

I've read her book. I understand that their relationship toxic. They were still totally adorable.

I’ve read her book. I understand that their relationship was toxic. They were still totally adorable.

Matt and Harriet were funny, smart and she was a complicated Christian female character. (I love these. There aren’t enough of them.) They ended ambiguously. Of course, everything about Studio 60 on The Sunset Strip ambiguously, because well, it didn’t really end. But still, I would have liked to see him work out his Chenorkin issues over our TVs. Alas, it was not allowed, because Studio 60 was not actually that good a show. But Harriet and Matt were great.

When it’s done right, it’s Casey McCall and Dana Whittaker. It’s two old friends that have loved each other for a long time and are just coming to realize it. It’s that feeling of worry that if the relationship part doesn’t work you’ll wind up trashing the friendship that means so much to you. But in Sorkin-land it’s always worth it. The pay off is witty sexually charged banter, and cute dresses and fancy restaurants at implausible times of the day. Oh, for Casey and Dana it was so worth it.

Sometimes it’s tragic, because sometimes, it’s C.J. Cregg and Simon Donovan. She’s being hunted, he’s protecting her. They’re attracted to each other, but can’t be together. They catch the guy, they kiss. He gets gunned down in trying to stop a convenience store robbery before he can file the paperwork. I ship C.J. and Simon so hard that I get teared up just thinking about them. Luckily, there was the convenient back up of C.J. and Danny. I rarely ship more than one couple over the course of a show. I tend to be very loyal. C.J. was the exception, because she was so damn awesome.

But with The Newsroom, there are so many of them. The show is such a clusterfuck of Sorkin awkward relationships, that my fangirl head can’t keep anything straight, it changes so much. Do I want Will and Mackenzie to be together? Yes, no, I don’t know. I love Jim and Maggie together, I hate Jim and Maggie both together and as individuals. I want Neal to be with the Occupy Wall Street Girl, no, I want Neal to be with Taylor Warren! (Shut up, I couldn’t have been the only person watching on Sunday who wanted to see that happen!) I want Don and Sloan to be together!

It makes me ache inside when I think about how much I want Don and Sloan to be together. I want them to giggle and hold hands in the newsroom, in front of Jim and Maggie. I want Sloan to give smug new happy relationship advice to Mac about her and Will. I want them to get into awkward misunderstandings and go to dinner parties at Elliot’s house, if only so that we can meet Elliot’s wife and children.

I just don’t want them to go away. Because sometimes these things just go away.

Sometimes these things are Sam Seaborn and Mallory O’Brien.

How great would that have been?

Let Bartlett Be Bartlett

When I wrote about The Princess Bride I talked about how there are certain benchmarks of geekiness. There are certain things that I mark as sort tangible things that I chose, or was exposed to, that made me realize that I wasn’t going to ever be like the girls who I thought I was supposed to be like. (I later learned no one is exactly like those girls.)

A big one of those was watching The West Wing. I watched it because of my parents, mostly my mother. I was a middle school student. It didn’t take long for me to choose this show. Other girls my age were watching Dawson’s Creek (I wasn’t allowed to, I discovered it later and was obsessed) and crushing on impossible teen idols, and I was wondering if Leo’s alcoholism being exposed was going to lead to political fall out and crushing on Sam Seaborn.

What sixth grade girl doesn’t want a dorky socially inept speech writer who looks Rob Lowe?

Now that we’re in the last push of presidential elections, I spend a lot of time wishing that we lived in the world of The West Wing in real life. I wish we lived in a world where intelligent men of integrity were running our country and making epic speeches about the dignity of human beings and our limitless potential.

Even me, a die hard conservative, was kind of hoping for a Bartlett-esque four years from Obama. These were passionate, younger people, who wanted change. Instead, everything slowed down. Oh, we got change, in that the idealistic charismatic leader that had been elected changed in to a wishy washy shadow of every other politician.

But if this was the world of The West Wing, President Santos maybe would have been reelected, and he’d be winding down his second term. Secretary of State Arnold Vinnick would have clearly negotiated peace in the middle east. Josh Lyman and my husband Sam Seaborn would have created a legislative agenda that defended freedom and helped every one, and Sam would be gearing up his own campaign for the white house. I would be preparing for my duties as first lady by resigning from my position of running my own television network. (This is my West Wing fantasy and I can be married to Sam if I want.)

There are a lot of reasons why I hate the way politics are handled in our country. But a lot of it, I blame on Aaron Sorkin. As a teenager he led me to believe that the world of professional politics was like The West Wing.

Reunited and it feels so good

It was announced a few weeks ago that Sean Hayes is going to do a multi episode guest spot on Smash. 

“Just Smash!”

This is exciting to me, because remember how in this post, I talked about how I miss the world where there was The West Wing, Gilmore Girls and Will and Grace? Well, thanks to The Newsroom and Bunheads we have 2 out of three (basically, I mean, half of the supporting cast of Gilmore Girls has now popped up on Bunheads. We got Jason “Digger” Styles, for Pete’s sake!) Now we’re going to have a little piece of Will and Grace too. It’s very exciting. Here are some other reunions I’d like to see happen (and would be good) on current shows.

Bradley Whitford on The Newsroom

“President Bartlett doesn’t hold grudges. That’s what he pays me for!”

It’s an obvious pick, and not exactly a cast reunion. But nobody handles Sorkin like Whitford. I don’t presume to tell the master how to run his show, but I somehow see him coming in to challenge Mackenzie in some way working out. (A La William H. Macy’s role in Sports Night.)

Sarah Michelle Gellar on How I Met Your Mother

Best Friends…magic best friends

HIMYM has never shied away from in jokes, or reunions. Alexis Denisoff (Wesley from Buffy and Angel) has a recurring role as “Sandy Rivers” (this is cute on two levels, because he’s also married to Alyson Hannigan), Amy Acker has made an appearance as one of Barney’s conquests, and several Freaks and Geeks cast members have come through McClarens. But I think everyone wants to see Buffy and Willow get together again. Also, with the cancellation of Ringer, what else is she going to do?

Katy Sagal on The Big Bang Theory

A simpler time, before nerds and bikers

When it comes to The Big Bang Theory, again it has had it’s fair share of reunions.  (Most of them Roseanne related) But I’d love to see Sagal on the show, and not just because I want to see her being funny again, (Sons of Anarchy is brilliant, but not really a laugh riot) but because 8 Simple Rule for Dating my Teenage Daughter, where she played Kaley Cuoco’s mother for 3 seasons probably would have been a classic if it hadn’t tragically been cut short by John Ritter’s untimely death. The dynamic between Cuoco’s Bridget and Sagal’s Kate was always funny, and I’d like to see these two women together again.

George Clooney on The Good Wife

Best.Couple.Ever

No further explanation necessary. Seriously, make it happen!

The Cast of Dawson’s Creek on Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23

We want to know right now, what will it be?

Don’t Trust the B defied the odds and it’s bizarre premise to be a fun and funny little show about being in New York in your 20s. It succeeded spectacularly where 2 Broke Girls failed, and did so really, for a few reasons, but the main one was James Vanderbeek, playing himself, or as he calls it “a funhouse mirror monster version” of himself. I don’t think a single person in the world doesn’t want to see funhouse mirror monster versions of Joshua Jackson, Michelle Williams and Katie Holmes. I think Holmes would have the most to gain from an appearance, given that she could easily poke fun at her current very public divorce, but seeing Josh taunting James about how he has his own show lately, or Michelle being smug over becoming a real live movie star with Golden Globes and everything would also be effective.

Those are mine. What are some reunions other people would like to see happen?

I Kept The Car and The Utility Belt

I just watched The Newsroom for the second time, and back last week, Katherine posted this article from The Vulture on my facebook wall, ranking their favorite Sorkin characters.

While I passionately disagreed with some of the rankings, (Isaac is amazing but he does not outrank Sam! Sam Seaborne is the BEST!) I rather enjoyed the list.

So, I got to thinking, after deciding (on the second viewing) that my latest Sorkin-ese crush is adorable senior producer Jim Harper, I started thinking about the men or Sorkin past who I have had incurable crushes on.

When I mentioned to my friend Sam that I would probably be writing about Sorkin on this blog, he asked, “Is this going to be about how girls your age are all in love with Sam Seaborne?”

My answer was, “um some of us are in love with Josh Lyman thank you very much!”

OK, so here’s my list, From The West Wing: Sam Seaborne,  from Sports Night, Dan Rydell, and from Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip Tom Jeter. From the movies, Lieutenant Daniel Kaffe (A Few Good Men), and Eduardo (The Social Network, I know that Eduardo is a real person, but Andrew Garfield just makes him so freaking adorable…)

Anyway, when it comes to fangirling out about these things, it’s no mystery. Nerdy, straight girls swoon over these guys for the same reason the Kristin Chenoweth kept getting back together with Sorkin, words, words, words.

These guys make epic speeches about their love for the women in their lives, and the noble nature of man. They want to save the world and they want to do it with words. There is by the way, nothing sexier to someone who reads too much, talks to much, and just wants to banter and bicker with their partner.

I’m not saying that Jim Harper is on the list yet. But he’s definitely up there. It helped that when Maggie told him he was “like Batman,” he answered, “I am actually, I thought the cape was a little campy, but I decided to keep the car and the utility belt.”

SWOON.

Fast Talk: Sorkin, Sherman-Palladino and The Best Summer Ever

Remember when you and your friends and coworkers walked around talking really fast, consuming a ton of carbs without gaining a pound, and being better looking than everyone ever?

No?

Right. Because no one’s life actually works that way. But if you were a TV addict from 1999-2007, you probably remembered people doing it on your TV a whole lot. Do you know why?

Because that was when The West Wing and Gilmore Girls were on the air. And the world was a much, much better place. (There was also Will And Grace, but that’s not relevant to this conversation.) The world was a mix of obscure cultural references, intense political optimism, and caffeine infused glee. (No, not Glee! That hadn’t happened yet…and life was so much simpler.)

Thankfully, that joyful and wonderful time is now creating a sequel, because both of the shows brilliant writers/creators. Aaron Sorkin and Amy Sherman-Palladino have new shows this summer!

Sherman-Palladino’s effort is the ABC Family dramedy Bunheads. I haven’t fallen in love with the show in it’s two episodes, but I am glad that more people will now recognize how wonderful Sutton Foster is. (Truth Musical Theatre Told Me: Sutton Foster is like bacon, she makes everything better. See: Shrek: The Musical) and there’s nothing else on in the summer anyway.

But the thing that has been preserved is that razor sharp banter, this time between Sutton and Kelly Bishop, instead of Lauren Graham and Kelly Bishop. Also, there was actually a joke made about how “no one eats carbs anymore.” This made me laugh.

And of course, there’s The Newsroom, which hasn’t premiered yet, but I’m so excited for I can barely speak coherently. All I want is to be able to sit and listen to the gentle pitter patter of Sorkin dialog. And some days, this is what I do. I don’t know how The Newsroom is going to stack up, but I can’t wait for this team of Dan & Casey (Sports Night), Josh & Sam (The West Wing), and Matt & Danny (Studio 60).

I’ll have more to say about it on Sunday.