Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sex, Lies and the City

An obligatory right of passage one must endure when coming to a women’s college in Manhattan is watching Sex and the City. I swear, no less than half of the girls on my hall had all six seasons on DVD, and probably a third chose to come to Barnard for little other reason than to emulate one of the show’s fab four. No joke, these were girls who categorized themselves as either Carries, Charlottes, Samanthas or Mirandas and dressed and acted accordingly. With all this fervor, it was not long before someone shoved a copy of the first season into my hands and I began to watch. I wasn’t in love, in fact I had a sneaking suspicion that I hated it, but I also felt that perhaps I couldn’t judge until I had seen the bulk of what the show had to offer. So whether I was spurned to watch in order to maintain a guise of being open minded or to confirm the hatred forming in my already narrowing mind, I watched every episode. Now I can safely say – without any risk of being labeled preemptively judgmental – that I hate it.

I don’t buy the chemistry between the four women, find Sarah Jessica insanely obnoxious and don’t understand Mr. Big’s appeal. However, all these things are completely subjective and not really at the core of what makes the show so reproachable. My biggest problem is that Sex seems to be trying – unsuccessfully – to redefine what a woman in her 40s can be. Rather than being confined to housewifery, the show purports that women can be successful, savvy and “fabulous” – whatever that dubious expression may mean – without needing a man. While this is all well and good in theory, the show is really its own worst enemy; while these women pretend to be strong, fierce and independent, all they talk about is sex and men. Each prove time and time again that their lives do revolve around men as they put up with the most ridiculous crap from the losers they date, never talk about their jobs, families or anything else that would define them as individuals with actual souls, and ritually go out to bars dressed like hussies and prowl around for tail. Instead of promoting an image of the alternative, 40-something woman as empowered, strong and independent, all the show does is make New York’s single gals look pathetic and easy. Worst is the fact that – like my Barnard first year cohorts – a vast number of people actually think that the sadistic and degrading behavior of the four tramps on the show is representative of the rest of us here in NYC.

And just when the commotion from the series had died down leaving the city partially in ruins in its wake, the half-witted frenzy was again dredged up when the bitches came back – not any prettier, smarter or loveable, just a bit more wrinkly – in the cleverly named Sex and the City: The Movie. Naturally, I would never pay money to see that shit in the theater, and apart from a drunken attempt to watch a pirated copy this summer (I passed out from boredom and alcohol halfway through), I avoided seeing it. However, I recently discovered that one of my roommates has a copy, and I think I must have had a sick, self-congratulating desire to prove myself correct in my hunch that the movie would be terrible, because two days ago I cracked and watched the second half of the film. I must tell you now how abysmally loathsome, how embarrassingly backward and ungodly deplorable it is.

Spoilers be damned – I’m giving you all the salient points! The film starts promisingly enough; each of the ladies has a significant other, thus keeping them off the streets trolling for men, though not guaranteeing that they have anything interesting to say. The movie swims along fine until Big stands Carrie up at the altar. Now in my opinion this is one of the most reprehensible, hurtful and humiliating things a person can ever do, and no matter what – especially given his incredibly shady track record – Big should not be forgiven. Now for a while, I actually thought Carrie wasn’t going to give in and take him back. She moves into a new apartment, hires a token black assistant who helps her keep it real, and for a sec I thought the movie was going to end with Carrie slowly getting over the breakup – Big-less but independent - and actually developing some self-respect. No, of course not. How could I be so stupid?

She takes Big back. Even that didn’t bother me so much, but it was the way she took him back that was truly offensive and disgusting. At a dinner with Miranda 5 months after the wedding day, Carrie is still obsessing and says it is her own fault that Big stood her up because she didn’t listen to his wishes to have a small wedding (a concern I think he voiced maybe once?) and that she “let the wedding get bigger than Big”. Apart from the fact that that phrase is ridiculously annoying, it’s also pathetic. Then Miranda confesses that the day before the wedding – in a fury after finding out her husband cheated on her – she tells Big “You two are crazy to get married, marriage ruins everything”. Carrie lashes out and tells Miranda that she’s the reason Big stood her up. Thus, in summary, it’s pretty much everyone’s fault but Big’s that he was too immature and selfish to show up to his own wedding. What kind of a message is this?

Finally she finds out that he sent her a bunch of emails (since when were those romantic?) of famous love poems he probably just cut and pasted from Google. She thinks the whole thing is super romantic, and they get back together and agree to have a smaller wedding. The whole film reeks of hypocrisy and pretty much made me want to vomit all over the DVD, preventing anyone else from watching such backward and demeaning filth. And now I hear they are going to be coming back to the big screen again in a sequel? They’ve already done enough damage to modern women – can’t they just disappear already?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Unhitching Hitchcock

Greetings again. In a desperate attempt to redeem this blog from its tawdry turn of late into being merely TV (and worse, reality TV) centric, I shall wrestle it from its purgatory depths with something just a smidge more highbrow. I shall in fact endeavor to reign this blog back toward its titular roots by discussing my undying and largely platonic love of – you guessed it – film. The natal purpose of this blog was – if you can believe it – to provide you, my breathless readers, with my quasi-sage advice on what films to see or skip. What it has mutated into is neither regrettable nor laudable, but I would like to return at least fleetingly to my primary purpose by filling y’all in on a few films that I truly think should be added to one’s “bucket list” of things to see before dying. Besides, I staunchly refuse – much to the chagrin of Zander over at Zandervision – to publish a list of my favorite films on Facebook as I refuse to take Facebook seriously. But perhaps here on Film Noix – which I take deathly seriously – I can at last open the floodgates of filmic reverie and let my favorite films pour forth onto your computer screens. (Also, I have no cable and because my Internet barely works I can’t stream shows online, so posting about current TV is next to impossible, so I’ll have to look elsewhere for literary fodder.)

With these thoughts in mind, I shall share just a few of my favorite films from one of the all time greats, Alfred Hitchcock. I’ve seen almost every non-silent Hitchcock film, and while many have blurred together into my head, some stand out against the test of time and a few of these I will relate to you momentarily. Though it is questionable if any of Hitch’s films would scratch my Top 10 list of all time best films, I feel that as a director, his body of work is unparalleled. Also, though I love his films because of their implicit suspense, what I find most fascinating about Hitchcock is the complex and troubling way in which he addresses gender roles. So without further ado, here is a sampling of Hitchcock films that I urge you to sink your teeth into, and after that I’ll provide a few that I advise saying “nicht-nicht” to in the inimitable words of Bruno.

Notorious – This is a brilliant espionage thriller made all the better through Hitchcock’s characteristically spot-on casting. And though my bosom friend Nora thinks it’s sexist, I actually feel the opposite. I grappled for years with how I feel about Hitchcock’s often problematic portrayals of women, and have finally come to the perhaps incorrect conclusion that – though he may consciously choose to depict women in compromising, misogynistic roles – he has a deep respect for the fairer sex and does not condone sexism or intend to promote it. So while many of his female characters may seem relegated to positions of inferiority, Hitchcock does so knowingly and without the intent of proclaiming such statuses acceptable. In the case of Notorious, the unbearably gorgeous Ingrid Bergman is unwieldy, brave, and flawed and though her lover tells her she lacks the qualities of a chaste “lady”, she is an entirely relatable heroine who proves that courage and intelligence outweigh 1945’s concept of what a woman should be.

Vertigo – Brilliant, beautiful and sad, this is one of Hitchcock’s most romantic and also most complicated films. The first half is a thrilling ghost tale, the second a tragic love story. Here Hitchcock goes against viewers’ expectations by casting the effortlessly adorable Jimmy Stewart in a role that is deplorable and almost completely devoid of sympathy. Hitchcock’s recurrent mother issues come to light here as Stewart’s immature, limited character can only assimilate women into one of two harmless prototypes: mother or victim. The two women in the movie – who both desperately love him – fail to please him as he in incapable of seeing them as anything other than one or the other of these two roles – roles that they cannot possibly live up to. Here again Hitch lands himself into hot water as both women must conform to these roles so as to remain a part of his life. The beautiful Kim Novak completely changes and resultantly loses her identity in an effort to appear a victim, while his devoted and supportive friend tries to get him to see her sexually, and when this fails, Stewart has no place for her in his life. But again, I argue that rather than proclaiming Stewart’s treatment of women acceptable, the film instead empathizes with Novak by depicting the fragile and impossible roles women feel obligated to adopt in order to conform to society’s image of an ideal woman.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith
– No, this isn’t connected to that Brangelina thing. This is a completely unconventional Hitchcock in that it is not a suspense. It’s a screwball comedy featuring the queen of screwballs and one of my most beloved actresses, Carole Lombard. It is fabled that Hitch wanted so badly to make a movie with her that he completely departed from his go-to genre just to better suit her amazing comedic strengths. It’s by no means his best, but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw it and found that it warmed my heart – something I didn’t know Hitch could do. As Annette Insdorf pointed out in one of her classes, many screwballs perhaps negatively depict women as being scatterbrained, impulsive, silly and unreasonable. While Mr. and Mrs. Smith is not any different from this stereotype, I am again going to argue that Lombard’s character – like her character in so many other screwballs – is in fact an empowering representation of femininity. Firstly, she is of equal if not greater importance than her male counterpart. Secondly, her deftly brilliant comic timing elevates her to a status of comic genius shared by few other women. Thirdly, she is headstrong, uncompromising and has self-respect. Regardless, this is a very funny movie that I think anyone would enjoy so long as you check your Hitchcock expectations at the door.

– Ok you’ve probably already seen this one. But if you haven’t, I’ll try not to ruin the ending. This is definitely one of Hitch’s most successful efforts and is still one of the scariest films I’ve ever seen. This is also the film – along with the masterful Strangers on a Train – that most directly confronts Hitchcock’s mother issue. Of all the films I am choosing to review, this one has the weakest female lead, namely because a third of the way through the film, our protagonist (Janet Leigh) dies. By replacing the lead with two relative throwaways after Leigh’s death, Psycho becomes one of Hitchcock’s more perplexing stories, as it is hard to truly empathize with any of the characters. It also raises the question of if Hitchcock is punishing Leigh – a sexually liberated, thieving woman – by killing her off. I don’t personally think so, as before she dies she intends to return her stolen money and it is the fault of a guiltily sexually repressed male loner with mother issues that she meets her end.

Rear Window
– This isn’t my favorite Hitchcock, it isn’t even in my top 10. I don’t really like it, to be honest. I do appreciate it, however, because it’s pretty fascinating in its own right, which is why I am reviewing it here, and recommending it to those of you who don’t find long movies with little action incredibly boring. What I did respect about this movie was again the way that Hitch uses harmless, loveable Stewart to play a sexually stunted character who finds women utterly terrifying. Stewart’s fiancé, played by Grace Kelly, represents both mother and victim as he – a peeping tom and an invalid – acts simultaneously as a child who she must care for, and as her savior who rescues her in a crucial moment. The fact that she wishes to get married proves threatening to Stewart who is stuck at a juvenile stage of development (reiterated by the phallic long-lensed camera that is ever present on his lap) and can only assimilate her as either mother or victim. She is repeatedly shown in eerie shots in which she looms over him as he awakens like something from a nightmare. Again, though Hitch depicts Kelly as a threat to her lover, he makes it clear that it is the immature Stewart – who cannot accept her for who she really is – who is at fault, not the blameless, almost saintly Kelly.

Whew, that was a lot of typing. I’ll just end this post by listing a few other extremely “bucket list” worthy Hitch flicks that I don’t have the strength to review:
The Lady Vanishes
Stage Fright
Strangers on a Train

And here are some that I think are pretty overrated. Nicht-nicht!:
39 Steps
Life Boat

Shadow of a Doubt

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A "Little" Problem with 30 Rock

Désolé for the woefully lengthy hiatus in posting. I do have an excellent excuse on the off chance you care to hear one. I have been in the process of moving and after I moved I promptly went down to DC like a good democrat and partied like a rock star for the inauguration. Just got back today and am exhilarated, excited and exhausted all at once. But because I owe you a post, I shall dutifully write one, though sadly as I’ve had no time to watch any TV, my post will have to pertain to last week’s material. Namely 30 Rock.

Quite frankly, it was a super enjoyable episode. It was made up of entirely loveable elements - namely a “classic Lemon” un-PC dating debacle, a cute subplot with Tracy Jordan and his wife (my favorite part of which was when Kenneth sheepishly turns his back on the Jordans as they start to have sex in the hall), plus I loved the Jenna-as-Janis Joplin story and the budding Jack and Salma Hayek romance. It was all good. Good, good, very good.

The downside of the episode was the embarrassing and offensive character of that ubiquitous dwarf, Peter Dinklage. Now I’m not a huge follower of Dinklage’s career so I may be wrong, but in the near recent past I have seen him in both this and on Nip/Tuck and in each he has portrayed dour, bitter, serious characters. Trust me, I am no activist for dwarf rights, but I find these morose portrayals of dwarfs shameful and wholly irritating.

On both shows, his dwarfism is a central facet of his character. On Nip/Tuck, the McNamaras are skeptical to hire him as a nanny both because of his height and his gender, but he then proves himself worthy of the job. On 30 Rock, Liz initially goes out with him so as not to offend him after mistaking him for a child, but then - after she gets to know him – she ends up being genuinely attracted to him. Basically, his dwarfism is a central issue that both characters strive to prove – through their serious behavior and smarts – irrelevant.

What is utterly offensive about this quest to prove that dwarfs are capable and intelligent is that the way these shows do so is by depicting them as gloomy, holier-than-thou types. It’s as if these producers are so eager to disassociate from the outdated stereotypes of dwarfs and midgets as jolly munchkins that they overcompensate by making them ungodly somber. As a result, the dwarfs portrayed on these shows do not transcend the myth that dwarfs are weird but rather prove exactly that. No normal person – or rather, no person worthy of my time – would ever be so depressing.

Further complicating the issue of Dinklage’s disgraceful roles is his statement:
“When I was younger, definitely, I let it get to me. As an adolescent, I was bitter and angry and I definitely put up these walls. But the older you get, you realize you just have to have a sense of humor. You just know that it's not your problem. It's theirs.”
Why then, I ask, does he continue to accept roles that demean him and perpetuate his differences? Why can’t he play a lighthearted, smart and funny character that doesn’t take himself so seriously? TV producers, screenwriters and Dinklage - appeal to my not-so-humble rant: if you want to actually break stereotypes about dwarfs being different then you need to stop depicting and portraying them as solemn freaks!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Battle of the Twits: Young vs. Bourdain

I apologize in advance for the following distasteful imagery. After doing a Google image search, both these photos popped up and they were just too apropo to say no to. Behold! Tony Young and Anthony Bourdain, respectively:

Today I am a sad Top Chef fan. Not because my favorite cheftestant was voted off last night as is often the source of my misery, but because I find this season to be the worst one yet. I don’t have a cheftestant that I love nor one that I despise therefore its hard for me to feel much more than ambivalent when someone has to “pack [their] knives and go.” I scorn Padma’s recent turn of sleep-inducing ensembles and am bitterly defeated by the loss of Gail Simmons. Even more upsetting is the news that came before the season even premiered - that swashbucking, quick-tongued badass and oft-featured guest judge Anthony Bourdain would not be returning. Whether intentionally or not, he dismissed himself from ever appearing on the show again by insulting Padma’s intelligence when “…he said she wouldn’t be his first choice for Barack Obama’s cabinet…or to host a show.” With the “tough critic” shoes vacant in lieu of Bourdain, the show has sunken to new depths with last night’s introduction of that pathetic little munchkin Toby Young.

One of the most irritating things about his debut was the way that the network execs at Bravo clearly wanted us to adore him. All month long in promos they’ve been stuffing down our throats Young’s comment that “I have found the weapons of mass destruction, and they are in this bowl” as though priming us to think: “this guy is badass and cool.” I hate this sort of viewer manipulation and feel that - rather than having a producer tell me what to think - the filmed material should speak for itself. In this case, if Toby Young is a decent substitute to fill Bourdain’s massive shoes, I want that conclusion to come from him, not from over-hyped sound bytes taken out of context.

And my conclusion is that Toby Young is a half-assed replacement for Bourdain. Sure, Young can dish out a shocking quip, but to what end? The only point of his comments seems to be to hurt and insult. His remarks offer no constructive points as to what – in culinary terms – went awry with the dish, and instead are just malicious for the sake of being malicious and getting a laugh. What does comparing food to weapons of mass destruction say about the dish other than that you didn’t like it? Even his compliments make no sense and weren’t really all that witty either (“It was like Tom Cruise’s cameo in Tropic Thunder,” he says in regards to Jeff’s avocado sorbet). It seems to me that he is trying way too hard just to get a laugh – playing to the cameras rather than taking his role as judge seriously.

By contrast, Bourdain can deliver shocking sermons about the food he is eating too, but his comments actually contain vestiges of helpful critique amidst the humor. When eating a sloppily prepared “cutting edge Thanksgiving” feast he remarked: “It’s like Betty Crocker and Charles Manson had a love child, and he’s cooking for me.” Witty and constructive. I hope Bravo is ashamed of itself for hiring a guy who uses cruelty for the sake of getting laughs and seems to know – or care – next to nothing about food.

Where does this uninvited mean streak and complete lack of respect for all things culinary come from? I have proposed three possible reasons for why Young’s wit sours while Bourdain’s goes down so delectably:
  1. This one is obvious. Bourdain has spent years and I mean years working his way up from dishwasher to executive chef of the highly successful (and highly recommended my me) Les Halles restaurants in Manhattan and thus knows the industry inside and out. He knows why a dish tastes good or why something doesn’t work and thus is extremely qualified to dispense critiques. By contrast Young (from my research) has little to no culinary background. The closest thing I could find was that he competed and won in a celebrity episode of a British TV show called Come Dine With Me in which “five amateur chefs [compete] against each other hosting a dinner party for the other contestants.” Pish tosh.
  2. His humor is British and doesn’t necessary fly for all Americans. I think this is a total cop out answer, but my dad thinks that this might be true.
  3. You people aren’t going to like me much for saying this, but Toby Young’s vindictive, malicious unpleasantness could partly be due to a Napolean complex due to the fact that he is a bald, overweight and short. Not to mention ugly, but technically that’s a matter of opinion. Thus – and I know this sounds clichéd – he seeks to drag others down in order to make himself feel better. Bourdain on the other hand – tall, lanky, godlike in his sex appeal – has no such insecurity and need not stoop to such a level.
I’m partial to explantion number three, in case you hadn’t guessed, though I think all three play a part in why Young is such a poor contribution to Top Chef.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Another Loveless Bachelor?

Ah yes it’s that time again. The time for long-stemmed roses, gratuitous make-out sessions, unfashionable cocktail dresses all resembling slutified prom wear, and of course, that bearer of bad news, host Chris Harrison, who pops up to deliver such unnecessary phrases as: “Ladies, this is the final rose”. That’s right, it’s the premiere of everyone’s favorite reality matchmaker show: The Bachelor.

I have been pretty loyally watching the show since season three with hottie Andrew Firestone, and after seeing “romance” after “romance” crumble often before each subsequent finale was broadcast (15 of the 17 Bachelor and Bachelorette seasons have ended in a breakup), it soon became hard for me to view the show as anything other than a loveless, staged vehicle for fame-whores (like Shayne Lamas) whose goal for going on the show was certainly a far cry from finding true love.

However, all my cynical skepticism fell away come last season when DeAnna Pappas changed the game entirely. Unlike so many past bachelors/ettes who seemed interested only in finding a fleeting fling, DeAnna took the show seriously – wanting a life partner as the end result of the process, and not being afraid to readily dismiss someone if she knew she couldn’t be with him for the rest of her life. I respected her approach and found her decisions mature and reasoned. I also thought her final lineup of men were all great catches who shared her desire of settling down right away (apart from that wishy-washy Graham).

As it follows, I was devastated to learn that the worst had occurred. My beautiful, perfect, glistening beacon of hope had been destroyed and with it whatever sanctity was left in the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise. DeAnna and her pick Jesse broke up!

So now I ask: what little chance is there that our newest bachelor - handsome single dad, Seattleite, and DeAnna’s runner up, Jason Mesnick - will find his mythical dream woman? Alas, my disparagement toward his lofty goal is not dissuaded by reports that Jason has emerged from the show engaged. They all say that. They have to. It’s probably in their contracts. And even if he is in a happy relationship, that doesn’t mean it’s built to last.

Far be it for me to doom him, however. In fact, I truly hope Jason defies the odds and finds his perfect lady after all. He deserves it. And here are some of the single beauties who I think stand the best chance:

Stephanie – She resembles a hot alien and like Jason is a single parent so she clearly understands Jason’s fatherly responsibilities. She seems more mature than most of the women and has a good vibe. I hope she goes far.

Naomi – Quite simply, she is by far the best looking, and – superficial as this may sound – the prettiest one usually goes far. She also seems cool, though maybe just a tad too young for Jason.

Lauren – Ok, I don’t really know if she will go that far, but I thought she was super good looking and wore the best dress, which in my book earns you serious points.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

In the Realm of the Basses

Thank god TV is back from the pesky winter hiatus. It was simply killing me not to have my regularly scheduled programming. As an unemployed degenerate, I have no routine to speak of and can often fall into periods where I am completely unaware if it is 6 am or 6 pm, losing all track of time and wandering around like a vagabond neglecting to return phone calls or post on my blog. As a result, I don’t just like TV, I need it in order to provide some sort of order in my otherwise unfettered life.

So Gossip Girl. The episode opens with a montage of how our respective players rung in their New Years. The most exciting part of this sequence is the miraculous change in Jenny’s appearance. If you are anything like me, then you’ve been nauseated by the quasi-hipster haircut and pathetic home sewn getups that she’s been traipsing around in all season. (Ironic, is it not, that she is supposed to be a designer when her wardrobe is by far the worst of anyone on the show, including Rufus?) So it is a welcomed change to see her in a Constance-appropriate pea coat for her first day back to school. See below for a before and after. Wow what an improvement:

By the time she arrives at school, she is met by the mean girls clique who – in an inspired reversal of the associations of good versus evil - wear white (below) while little J and her lackie (as pictured above) wear black. True to form, they begin to relentlessly bully her. I must say that I found this plotline entirely enjoyable. Jenny is usually one of the characters for whom I care about least, but amidst Rufus and Lily’s predictable storyline and Serena and Dan’s mushy one, hers stood out. Also (and I might be alone in thinking this), she is a surprisingly adept actress, and when given good material, really shines. So I relished the juicy return of the diabolical girl-clique and Jenny’s crusade to reform the school’s social system.

Also making a grand reappearance to school is Chuck Bass. Depressed and drugged, he oddly looks hotter than ever. However, though his acting is raw and his sex appeal smoldering, this is truly Blair’s episode and it is she who steals scene after scene. Torn between her mutually exclusive (rejected) love for Chuck and her desire to climb Manhattan’s social ladder by getting into the Colony Club, she finds herself at a crossroads. Though Chuck rebuffs her in her repeated attempts to help (note the heartbreaking scene where she cries after he mocks her for saying “I love you”), the true strength of her character is exposed when she stands up to the petty and highschool-esque Colony ladies and defends Chuck before rushing to his side.

At the episode’s end, Chuck ironically throws a party at which he drunkenly ponders jumping off the rooftop and poignantly delivers his tried and true line: “I’m Chuck Bass!” into the night air, before tragically finishing by adding: “Who cares?” It is only through Blair’s limitless devotion that Chuck at last steps down, and when the two finally embrace it was hard for me to keep back tears (and I’m not a crier). Blair’s devotion to Chuck – which goes so much deeper than purely a merely romantic attraction – elevates the show and this episode in particular beyond just being superficial. Call me sentimental, but its true. Also, the whole rooftop debacle is more than a little over the top, but I must say that in the hands of two such talented young actors, the scene didn't bother me.

However, not to get too sappy on you, there were some problems with the episode. Firstly, I must ask, where the heck has Nate been? He’s been MIA for what seems like an eternity (and even when present, is largely peripheral). My advice to the producers is – if a so-called regular character is so hard to integrate into any plotline that he rarely appears – he should be taken off the show entirely. Its tacky to keep Nate around and as he’s always been the weakest of the six central characters, I say kill him off. Please. Also, make Rufus less annoying. This episode featured a breakfast scene at the Humphrey household in which whiny soft rock played in the background. I mean, how irritating is that? No one listens to that kind of music in the morning, and no, we don’t need another reminder that Rufus is an alleged former rock star. Also, as much as I appreciate seeing a sweeter side of Blair, half of the show's fun is in her devilish and calculated scheming (this is also where she and Chuck have the best chemistry), so while it is necessary to expose us to the sweeter side in order to appreciate the sour, it shouldn't last much longer. Also, Uncle Jack is pretty dull so far...and I cringe to think that he and Blair hooked up on New Years as the show seems to be implying. Lets just hope this doesn't become another soap opera-esqe Duchess plotline, and that instead, we get something better to gossip about (ha ha ha).