We Are Definitely Dissecting Pinecones Next Year

On my favourite Michael K. Williams moment in Community, Venice's Menace, and some other occurrences.

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My earliest memory of seeing Michael K. Williams on TV was in an episode of Community, one where this week’s title stems from. It’s the 17th episode of Season 3; Basic Lupine Urology. The title is a play on Dick Wolf’s name, the creator of Law and Order, as they were parodying Law and Order that week. It’s perhaps my favourite episode of Community altogether.

I actually remember watching it on TV as it aired—albeit not at the same time as its original airdate or time because I had just moved back to Indonesia and we used to get everything late here before the advent of streaming—and I thought it was the best piece of television I had ever seen. They were doing Law and Order! Troy and Abed Law and Order1!

Williams played Professor Kane, Greendale’s new Biology teacher who had spent the majority of his life in prison. Throughout that season, he proves to be the reality check Greendale desperately needed; the straight man to Greendale’s general slapstick act.

Professor Kane’s intensity alongside his curiosity bordering on confusion about our beloved community college makes him the perfect foil for a study group coming in and out of collapse. His biology class challenges Jeff (Joel McHale) and the gang to mingle outside of their group, to address the changes in their dynamics from the last season, and—in the Law and Order episode especially—to be more compassionate towards their classmates. For a show that nearly ended with an Asian man in a Napoleon costume drunk with power, it can have its tender moments.

In Basic Lupine Urology, Williams delivers the emotional core of the episode and a tribute to his time on The Wire in one fell swoop. In a scene playing off of how the ADA and the defense attorneys always talk to the judge and have a verbal kerfuffle in any Law and Order iteration, Lt. Colonel Archwood (Michael Ironside) acting as Todd’s (David Neher) defense attorney asks the Dean (Jim Rash) to throw out the case because Jeff’s study group would rather honour a pinky swear with Star-Burns (Dino Stamatopoulos) than the word of a decorated soldier. Professor Kane decides to uphold the pinky swear, citing an Omar Little affirmation: “A man’s gotta have a code.” That line is echoed again when Jeff, inspired by Kane’s code, encourages Annie (Alison Brie) not to give Todd a failing grade in the trial. Throughout the episode, it feels like Kane’s suspension of disbelief has two layers to it: he knows what they’re doing is dumb, but if he doesn’t go along with it, where does that leave him? There’s also this sense of understanding he has for these people; they’re lost in some way and that’s why they’re at Greendale. They’re all just trying to find their way together, and no one knows that better than Professor Kane.

The trial is probably my favourite part of the episode. There’s a point where Annie and Jeff get a little too carried away and Kane just says: “Objection, I hate the both of you. [To Annie] You may proceed, Ms. Edison but do so with caution. Need I remind you that this is not a courtroom.” It’s a simple flip of what you’d say in a Law and Order episode, it’s effective satire and effective parody all because of the level of commitment he brings to the performance.

When the first twist is revealed that the Biology Lab yams were boiled to throw the grading curve, Williams exclaims: “That’s it, we are definitely dissecting pinecones next year!” It made me barrel over and I think about it every day. What a great second-grade science class activity for a room full of adults! Comedy! Williams’ conviction to such a silly, throwaway line makes it all the better. Takes it just that perfect amount over the top.

Professor Kane is both an observer and an active participant in Greendale’s shenanigans. At the end of the episode, he reveals a crucial plot point to the rest of the season: Star-Burns’ apparent death. He has a dramatic firmness in this scene akin to the out-of-pocket twists you’d get at the end of some of the best Law and Order episodes. He picks up the phone right before the Dean could, and his euphoric energy celebrating how important Biology is as a subject immediately transforms into an air of seriousness. You couldn't take your eyes off him.

Kane was one of the more iconic recurring roles on the show. Though his tenure was short-lived, he’s a part of the show’s legacy that made it bigger than itself, that made Community more than just a dumb sitcom. It was a really smart sitcom and it would not shut up about how clever it was. And it had every right to. This is one of my favourite Michael K. Williams roles because it’s a true testament to his range. He doesn’t just break your heart and tear into your soul like on The Wire, The Night Of, or Lovecraft Country—he can use that same intensity and commitment to make you laugh. He will be sorely missed.

Venice the Menace

Oh, the places we’ll go. One O. Isaac (O, Isaac, My Isaac) really made Venice Film Festival his own personal playground. And I was absolutely ecstatic for him.

I’ll try and go through this quickly, though I promised 1000+ words on his maroon t-shirt to The Card Counter press conference alone but so much has happened since then. We have a lot of ground to cover.

The audacity that this man has to show up to the photocall for a film directed by a Paul Dano Zoom Poker Club Reject in a maroon t-shirt are the exact levels of audacity I aspire to. Also, whoever at Marvel decided it was a good idea to dye this man’s hair black and hide away those precious gray streaks from the general public, they have another thing coming to ‘em! Kevin Feige, you will be dealt with!

This is my favourite image from the Maroon Tee collection:

There were also a few shenanigans caught on camera whilst this man was galavanting around Venezia like he owned the place (which he did), like getting his temperature checked and then playing it off like a headshot. We get it, you were in Triple Frontier.

If I had to see this, then you should too:

Then came the Dune press cycle. Goodness me. As if it weren’t enough that Zendaya was already involved in this film! Josh Brolin! Jason Momoa! Rebecca Ferguson! Retired rapper Lil Timmy Tim! It’s already a lot to process, what with Denis Villeneuve remaking one of the most massive sci-fi films I have ever seen in my life. I love it when filmmakers prioritize net sexiness in their ensembles. But then here comes The Artist Formerly Known as Poe Dameron in a polka dot shirt (collared this time!) wreaking utter havoc!

Photographer Greg Williams captured some very powerful images of Oscar Isaac hitting Thanos in the balls:

I don’t know where this is from, perhaps the Card Counter premiere, but he really is in his gabagool era right now:

Of course, now we enter perhaps the most dangerous Oscar Isaac-infested waters we have ever waded through as a society. Water that could not possibly satiate the collective thirst emanating from the online horny community. We now arrive in Scenes From A Marriage territory.

This highly anticipated remake of the Ingmar Bergman miniseries has had the internet—stans, normies, weirdos, pop culture savants alike—acting up. Like seeing Patrick Wilson shirtless on the set of Aquaman 2 levels of acting up. The infamous video of Isaac kissing his co-star and Bryce Dallas Howard tether Jessica Chastain has now upwards of 11 million views on Twitter alone. I don’t want to think about that video being consumed on other platforms. I do not want to see girls I went to high school with think they understand what in the living heaven is going on in this soon-to-be award-winning clip for Best Cinematography. I do not want that. I want to gaslight, gatekeep, girlboss this clip and preserve it. Just for the true enthusiasts of Hollywood shenanigans. None of this assuming what’s going on shit. These are two actors that graduated from Juilliard, why do you think they’re like that in the first place? They went to Juilliard.

It’s not news that Oscar Isaac is a huge flirt, nor is it news that he puts on a show with his co-stars on any and every press tour. How did some of you miss his exchanges with John Boyega and Laura Dern across the myriad of Star Wars junkets over the last ten years? Did you not see him feed Pedro Pascal a spoonful of sticky rice pudding in a very short and now lost clip from the Triple Frontier press cycle? Are you not aware his wife, Academy Award nominee Elvira Lind, openly refers to Pascal as her sisterwife? Jessica Chastain isn’t even the first redhead he’s ever flirted with on camera for publicity, this is Domhnall Gleeson erasure! I will not stand for it!

I find that clip endlessly fascinating, more so because of the polarizing reactions to it. My side of the Timeline were very much of the same mind as I am; it’s hot, it’s cool, it’s interesting, it’s the A Most Violent Year (2014) reunion we have all been waiting for—we’re here for it! Others were very…. weird. Like, yeah horny is weird but not as weird as assuming this has anything to do with Isaac and Chastain’s respective marriages. I don’t know these people personally, neither do any of these other weirdos. These are just famous people doing what they’re supposed to do: sell sex to sell a product. The product, in this case, is a TV show about infidelity. Like, it isn’t that deep. It’s hot, but it isn’t deep.

I guess it’s a little hypocritical of me to say that, what with an entire newsletter dedicated to the unwitting parasocial relationships I’ve acquired under the guise of keeping up with popular media. Self-awareness doesn’t absolve me of the weirdness, but it lets me not take things too seriously. And I think that’s enough for now. At least until the next international incident Oscar Isaac will be responsible for.

I love this clip of them swinging their hand-holding. Do with that what you will.

Scenes From A Marriage received a six-minute standing ovation at Venice. Isn’t that what we all came here for? I’m so excited. It comes out on HBO GO here on my birthday, so that’s God coming through for me. I’m excited to see Oscar and Jessica pair up again, I adored their chemistry in A Most Violent Year. I am also thrilled to see Nicole Beharie on this show. Expect a long and drawn-out love letter to it come September 13th.

Experiencing film festival FOMO isn’t something I’m a stranger to. I miss my proximity to the BFI London Film Festival courtesy of my old job and Under 25 BFI membership. I cherish my LFF tote bags very dearly. I miss exchanging customer or premiere stories with the lovely BFI staff we got to work with at our cinema. I love it when LFF takes over London.

I will definitely be a tad jealous when Succession billows through LFF. I would love to be there in person. Someone get Priti on the phone. This is important.

I vividly remember not getting tickets to the Jake Gyllenhaal talk but coming to BFI Southbank with my then-flatmate to see the alleged stinker walk his carpet. He looked fantastic. And was so lovely. My flatmate took a photo of him on my old phone that I will show you once I find it. It’s bizarre, isn’t it, this industry? We celebrate the cream of the crop and create an entire sub-industry out of that alone. Here I am writing about it! Wild. Anyway, Oscar Isaac is having quite the year. And frankly, so have we all.

A Tale of Two Jo(h)ns

Today has been a big day for Bernthal Nation and people who have something to say about John Mulaney. Those men are Hyperfixate mainstays, what with our shared astrological sun sign and degrees of separation from Tony Soprano’s well-documented love of Steely Dan.

Friend of the newsletter Apryl coined “The Ari to Bernthal Pipeline” and honestly? So true, bestie. He does something and I am on it like a good analogy in a better-written publication. Our beloved Jon Bernthal was interviewed by my parasocial nemesis Lena Dunham for Interview Magazine. I had no idea they were friends? Is he friends with Adam Driver? I was made aware of this very early in the morning my time. It was the first thing I saw on Twitter today. Ain’t that sweet? Do you know what else is sweet? Jon Bernthal. He’s as lovely as ever as evidenced in the interview. These accompanying photographs are simply a whole other level:

He’s also on one of the Sopranos covers for Rolling Stone promoting The Many Saints of Newark. In both pieces, Bernthal addresses his relationships to empathy, vulnerability, and masculinity. All done in a very refreshing way! I have also seen the first 30 minutes of Small Engine Repair and he is really, really good in it. It’s those eyes that get you. Their warm, laser-like intensity is really doing it for me. I also think Bernthal should have played Ben Affleck’s character in Triple Frontier, but it’s too little too late for me to be taking that complaint up to JC Chandor. What I really, really, really want to see and what Hollywood may not be ready for is a film/series with Bernthal opposite Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. That would be something else. I might try and make that happen myself. Fuck around and find out.

Fellow Steely Dan enjoyer John Mulaney made his first post-rehab television appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers. I’m really glad he came on Meyers’ show given the nature of their friendship. I cried a little towards the end of the interview. They were both as funny as ever and navigated the uncomfortable spots of conversation full of space and compassion for each other. As much as you would have on TV anyway. Mulaney has had quite the year. It’s actually been kind of affirming for my own sobriety that he seems okay. Also, I have a feeling that with him and Olivia Munn expecting a child together, on-fire garbage cans will be the biggest nursery trend this year. That’s for all you The Comeback Kid heads out there. To quote Mulaney himself, Baby J is back on the streets!

Some unrelated “news”: I have reconnected with my roots and dabbled in editing fancams again. I was in a serious funk, and some low pressure and admittedly h0rny-driven video work was just what I needed to start working my way out of that funk. Please enjoy what may be my magnum opus; a Daryl Dixon fancam set to Desperado by Rihanna:

I’ve also bought myself tickets to see Steven Yeun virtually at TIFF this weekend for my birthday. Because of the time difference, I’ll be seeing him on my actual birthday instead of the Sunday the date is listed! I’ll let you know how that goes. I’m very excited. There’s a lot of men in this. Ari, we need to re-evaluate what it is you’re doing. I’m working on it.

See you next week! Take care!

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to be sung in the tune of Troy and Abed in the Morning.