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Review: “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” (1990)

HenryIf there existed an Oscar for Most Accurate Movie Title, John McNaughton’s “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” would have it in the bag. Because “Henry,” thanks to McNaughton’s pointedly unromanticized direction and Michael Rooker’s goosebump-inducing performance, does exactly what it promises: Offers a grainy, crumpled, unretouched snapshot of evil, murder for murder’s own sake, that taps into elemental human fears glossier horror productions can’t touch.

McNaughton, I suspect, could not have achieved this feat without Rooker. Plucked from the relative obscurity of Chicago’s Organic Theater Company, Rooker is downright terrifying as Henry, a polite, even-tempered drifter/serial killer who moves into the rundown Chicago apartment of Otis (an equally chilling Tom Towles), a shiftless, aimless parolee. Eventually Otis finds out about Henry’s after-hours exploits and decides to join him. Together they embark on a killing spree, dispatching a diverse group of victims with constantly-changing weapons. (“If you strangle one, stab another, and one you cut up, and one you don’t, then the police don’t know what to do,” Henry advises the inexperienced Otis. “They think you’re four different people.”) Their partnership gets interrupted by the arrival of Otis’ sister Becky (Tracy Arnold), who’s hoping to find a better life in Chicago. She believes she’s found that in Henry, who is kind to her and seems flattered by her interest in stories of his violent childhood. But their relationship creates an explosive tension between Otis, who openly lusts after his sister, and Henry, who’s too gentlemanly to let Otis make a move.

McNaughton based “Henry” very loosely on the life of Virginia-born serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, and the director shoplifts details and changes them, including the names and identities of victims, throughout the movie. Some true-crime devotees might object to this. Count me out of that group. If anything, “Henry” pays a sick kind of homage to Lucas, who was nothing of not a showman-of-sorts, a legend in his own mind. Lucas himself confessed to countless murders forensic evidence and basic logic proved he didn’t commit, and he conjured up wildly contradictory stories about his victims, his childhood and the death of his mother. This is the kind of movie the real killer would have loved … which, of course, rockets the creepiness factor beyond the heavens.

In fact, it’s that creepiness factor that kept “Henry” trapped in limbo between nationwide release and complete shelving for three years. The issue here is not one of brutality — there’s violence aplenty, but half the murders take place offscreen — or gore, but one of pure, unparalleled unease. In “Henry,” McNaughton forces us to see people through Henry’s eyes, where humanity might as well not exist because it doesn’t matter in the slightest. People are expendable commodities. Consider the scene where Henry sits in his parked car at a mall. He doesn’t talk or tap his fingers on the dashboard or bob along to a tune on the radio. He sits intently, watching, observing, waiting. As we watch through his eyes, a stomach-churning realization hits us: Henry’s not admiring or oggling women, he’s sizing up potential victims. It’s a simple camera trick that’s extremely effective.

More disturbing still is a sequence involving Henry and Otis breaking into a home, terrorizing the people inside, killing each family member with and videotaping the whole ordeal. By most horror movie standards this footage should not be frightening: the videotape is grainy and dark; the sound is muffled; bloodshed is minimal. But watching the tape makes us more than viewers; it makes us voyeurs. We see these people not as individuals with voices, ideas, personalities, but as nameless victims. We see them exactly as the killers do. We cannot detach ourselves emotionally because it’s if we are there, and in a way we are. The removal of that distance, that protective barrier between the movie and the audience, is what makes “Henry” so monstrously frightening.

Grade: A-

Embrace the mush: A few really good V.D. flicks

I made this New Year’s resolution, see, that it seems I’m going to have to keep in the face of the most unspeakable, unholy, unfathomable truth: Saturday is Valentine’s Day.

Still, I am nothing if not steadfast in keeping resolutions, and so I will struggle valiantly to accomplish Number One on my list: Do things people don’t expect. And you see, anyone who knows me will tell you the LAST thing I’d ever do on or near V.D. is make a list of ooshy, gooshy Valentine’s Day movies that warm this cold, cold heart of mine like a Snuggie.

Yet do the unexpected I must, so I dug down deep (whoa, alliterate much?) into the darkest corner of my psyche and unearthed a list of romantic movies — some comedy, some drama, some a McCombo of both — I’ll watch any day of the year, but especially on Valentine’s Day.

Because as it turns out, there is a tiny shred of romance left in me.

Great. I outed myself. Congratulations, universe. You win.

* “Lars and the Real Girl” — How could a film about a man in love with a life-size, anatomically-correct doll be funny, whimsical and deeply moving, you ask? There’s no way to explain it; you have to see it for yourself. What Ryan Gosling accomplishes as Lars, a tactile-phobic recluse, is spectacular. The expressions, the gestures, the quiet lines of dialogue all add up to an enormously entertaining little movie that’s as much a coming-of-age movie as a romantic comedy. This is beautiful, masterful work.

* “Slumdog Millionaire” — I suspect throwing “Slumdog” in the mix is cheating because it’s not out of theaters yet, but this is the kind of sweeping, decades-spanning romance that could not be left out. From frame one, “Slumdog” stamped out all my cynicism with its wild tale of two star-crossed lovers, Latika (Freida Pinto) and Jamal (Dev Patel), who spend a lifetime trying to reconnect. There’s passion, drama, intrigue, excitement and a soul-satisfying kiss. What more do you need?

* “Harold and Maude” — I’ve blathered on endlessly about my love for this 1971 cult favorite, but I’ll repeat myself (the movie’s that good): This is the kind of movie that redefines the rom-com genre. This is what romantic comedies should be: quirky (what’s quirkier than a life-loving octogenarian dating a morbid, death-obsessed teen-age boy?), intelligent, thoughtful, unexpectedly touching and life-affirming. It’s a work of art, plain and true, and it deserves a spot in the heart of anyone who appreciates truly original romantic movies.

* “Benny and Joon” — There’s nothing I love more than a romantic comedy that’s about more than two characters locking lips, and “Benny and Joon” fits the bill. This quaint little jewel tells the tale of an illiterate, Buster Keaton-imitating eccentric (Johnny Depp) and a whip-smart schizophrenic (Mary Stuart Masterson) who meet, change each others’ lives and then fall in love. This one aims to warm the cockles of the heart. Consider them warmed.

* “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” — “Sunshine” isn’t so much a movie as a total experience for the mind, the heart and the senses. The costumes and colors and sequences are overwhelmingly original, and then there’s the plain love story: an emotional hermit (Jim Carrey) falls for an impulsive free spirit (Kate Winslet), and their relationship is simultaneously expectedly mundane and beautifully epic. And that, perhaps, is what makes “Sunshine” so brilliant; after all, isn’t every relationship boring and legendary in the mind of the lovers involved in it?

* “Definitely, Maybe” — Here’s a movie I walked into expecting to hate (the trailers alone made me gag) and walked out of thoroughly impressed. You see, “Definitely, Maybe” is smarter and twistier than the average rom-com; it uses the girl-meets-boy formula (times three, actually) but subverts it, then serves up an ending that is satisfying yet completely unexpected. It doesn’t hurt that it stars three first-rate actresses — Isla Fisher, Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Weisz — who understand the importance of subtlety and comic timing. This is a romantic comedy for people who enjoy using their brains to watch movies.

* “Under the Tuscan Sun” — OK, confession time: I’ll watch any movie starring Diane Lane. She’s an actress of such vulnerability and wit that she elevates every project she takes on (well, except for “Untraceable”). “Tuscan Sun” is no exception. This is another gem that uses your own expectations against you, surprises you at almost every turn and leaves you feeling all warm and happy inside. As Frances, a divorcee who buys a crumbling villa in Italy, Lane is divine, and she’s surrounded by a strong cast — including Sandra Oh — against the backdrop of beyond-gorgeous Tuscany. If this one doesn’t lift your spirits, it’s because you have none.

* “High Fidelity” — Ah, nothing beats a movie that lets John Cusack do what he does best: Be John Cusack. (If you don’t get what that means, ask any reasonably intelligent woman. They get it.) And “High Fidelity” gives us Cusack at his witty, snarky best as Rob, a music snob reeling over a breakup with his girlfriend. His narration alone is great, but what makes “High Fidelity” memorable — and timeless — is Rob’s transformation from selfish S.O.B. to actual human being. And Jack Black’s in it. That doesn’t hurt, either.

* “Secretary” — Call me a cynic, but I fell hard for this WAY offbeat pitch-black romantic comedy about a self-mutilating secretary (Maggie Gyllenhaal, who makes me go all aquiver inside even though I am a heterosexual woman) who engages in a little S&M with her unflinchingly rigid lawyer boss (James Spader). This isn’t “Debbie Does Dallas,” though — far from it. It’s the story of two outsiders who discover common interests — in this case, uh, bondage and whips — and begin to open themselves to the possibility of happiness and romance. They get all the neuroses and love each other because (not in spite of) them. I can’t think of anything more romantic than that.

* “Sideways” — For me, “Sideways” will forever be the movie where Paul Giamatti — who gets my vote for Sexiest Man Alive over Mel Gibson or Brad Pitt any day — stepped out of the shadows of two-bit sidekick parts and became a leading man. And what a leading man he is: As balding, failing writer/high school English teacher Miles Davis, he’s drowning his depression in Pinot and Xanax. Then he meets Maya (Virginia Madsen), a kind-hearted waitress and budding botanist who convinces Miles not to give up on life (or love) quite yet. There’s comedy, sure, but the real meat of “Sideways” is Miles and Maya’s tentative, awkward, slow-blooming relationship. This is no Cinderella tale — and thank God for that.

The Oscars: The M. Carter Condensed Version

Try as I might, I can’t seem to muster up much excitement for this year’s Oscars (Feb. 22).

Why? Well, the Oscars are always the same — longer than the 6:58 p.m. line at a Southern ABC store, filled with speeches as patchy and inconsistent as Suncom service and duller than Marisa Tomei’s peach-as-death Globes getup.

But every year I tune in, and every year I stay up into the wee, wee hours of morn, wade through all the obscure categories — I think this year they’ll be adding Best Art Direction in an Animated Foreign Short that No One Saw Ever — to get to the Big Six: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Animated Picture. (OK, fine, I’ll admit I enjoy a few strays, like Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography and Best Directing.) It’s a whole lot of waitin’ for not much happenin’.

Yet this year, since I’ve accomplished a personal best — seen four of the five Best Picture noms — I’m going to err on the side of enthusiasm and take the fact that “Slumdog” topped the Globes as a sign of Good Things to Come.

So now I’ll do what I started out to do (no, not launch into a bitter diatribe): Give you my picks for Oscars 2009 in the order people really want to see them and the order that allows good, working people the chance not to do the zombie march into work the Monday after the Oscars.

Best Picture: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Frost/Nixon,” “Milk,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Reader”

My Pick: This is a soul-splittingly hard decision, since I saw the first four and loved all but “Button” (sorry, Brad, but you barely registered a pulse). In the end, though, it’s “Slumdog” all the way. Why? Danny Boyle’s Bollywood book-to-film adaptation is the perfect combination of epic romance, coming-of-age story, thriller and social commentary. There’s a phrase I never use: It has something for everyone. But “Slumdog” does, including a slew of young actors — most notably Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, brilliant as young Jamal, and Dev Patel, who radiates fierce intelligence — more talented than actors twice their age. Even the soundtrack is faultless. And here’s the highest praise: If “Dark Knight” can’t win, I declare “Slumdog” the ONLY acceptable substitute.

Best Actor: Richard Jenkins, “The Visitor”; Frank Langella, “Frost/Nixon”; Sean Penn, “Milk”; Brad Pitt, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”; Mickey Rourke, “The Wrestler”

My Pick: Once again, this one’s so close it nearly hurts my movie-obsessed heart to pick a favorite. But pick I must, and for me no one quite topped what Langella did in “Frost/Nixon.” Giving Rourke an Oscar for playing, well, himself is a little like giving Courtney Love an Oscar for playing a junk-addicted lady of ill repute. And Pitt LOOKED great in all his makeup, but his acting was … lackluster at best. (He did better in “Burn After Reading.” Trust me.) And though I love Jenkins and Penn — two of the great actors of our time — Langella recreated a character so complex and contradictory it is, quite simply, awesome. It’s a measured, brilliant performance, and one deserving of Hollywood’s highest honors.

Best Actress: Anne Hathaway, “Rachel Getting Married”; Angelina Jolie, “Changeling”; Melissa Leo, “Frozen River”; Meryl Streep, “Doubt”; Kate Winslet, “The Reader”

My Pick: Location kills me for this category, since “Rachel” and “Reader” opened in theaters for approximately 5 minutes, and “Frozen River” just plain never showed up. That narrows my options severely, but I’ll manage. After I see “Rachel” and “Frozen River” I might be tempted to reconsider my choice of Meryl Streep … but I doubt it. Yes, I know she gets nominated for an Oscar every time she, you know, boils water, but “Doubt” showcases some of her best work ever. She’s blood freezingly chilly one minute, then bitingly funny the next. And just watch her go toe-to-toe with Philip Seymour Hoffman. You’ll fear for HIS safety, not hers. She’s that good.

Best Supporting Actor: Josh Brolin, “Milk”; Robert Downey Jr., “Tropic Thunder”; Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Doubt”; Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight”; Michael Shannon, “Revolutionary Road”

My Pick: Was there ever any doubt? It’s Heath Ledger all the way. And that statement means much coming from my fingertips — not because I’m any kind of expert, but because I’m fairly obsessed with Robert Downey Jr. (I’ll tell you about my shrine later); Josh Brolin’s been a favorite ever since “No Country for Old Men”; and I worship at the altar of Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Also, I’ve always stuck to the “If You’re Not There to Receive the Award, You Shouldn’t Get One” rule. For Heath, I make the except. There are no words to describe the hot box of crazy brilliance that is his Joker. He doesn’t reinvent The Joker; he invents him. His performance is the standard. It will go down in history, and not because the media’s painted him with James Dean colors. He earned this Oscar through and through.

Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, “Doubt”; Penelope Cruz, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”; Viola Davis, “Doubt”; Taraji P. Henson, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”; Marisa Tomei, “The Wrestler”

My Pick: I can’t get over Viola Davis’ slap-you-dumbfounded 10-minute appearance in “Doubt.” I’ve tried, believe me, but those 10 minutes haunt me. In fact, it’s precisely the length of that clip that convinced me Davis deserved the Oscar. The sheer range of emotions she displays in that 10 minutes trumps anything anyone else in this category did. Plus, she’s an actress who’s mostly done TV work, never anything that hinted at this kind of blistering raw talent. This is rip-out-your-heart-and-stomp-that-sucker-flat good stuff. (Penelope, don’t worry — you’ll get nominated again for something next year.)

Best Animated Short: “Bolt,” “Kung Fu Panda,” “WALL-E”

My Pick: Pardon the sarcasm, but oh my isn’t this a difficult decision. There’s the meta-movie about a dog playing an actor owned by a teen-ager who sounds like 55-year-old 10-packs-a-day smoker. Wait! What about the magnificent movie Jack Black — surely THE seminal thinker/actor of our time — plays a (get this) a hungry panda bear? Hmm. I think I’ll take the cinematically stunning, beautifully animated romance/sci-fi thriller/socio-political commentary masterpiece that is “WALL-E” for $200, Alex. Seriously, though, “WALL-E” still gets my vote as one of the best movies released in 2008, equal to contenders like “Milk” and “Slumdog” because WALL-E, the sweet little robot that could, is the most charming animated character ever created. And if THAT was an award, “WALL-E” would get my vote for that, too.

Visit http://www.oscar.com/nominees/?pn=nominees for a full list of all the categories, including the ones I watch while listening to Bruce Springsteen my iPod.

Quick Pan: “New in Town”

“New in Town” (Renee Zellwegger, Harry Connick Jr., J.K. Simmons, Siobhan Fallon)

Jonas Elmer’s “New in Town,” the poppy soundtrack-happy rom-com equivalent of a frontal lobotomoy, has all the staying power of rapidly dissolving toilet paper, and it’s about that interesting, too. The plot is as formulaic as a paint-by-numbers kit: A ball-busting Miami careerwoman (Zellwegger) moves to the country — in this case, Minnesota — to salvage a production plant. There’s (gasp!) a culture clash involving lots of “aw, shucks” dialogue — most of it uttered by avid scrapbooker Blanche Gunderson (Fallon), who heals all wounds with her tapioca — stolen from the “Fargo” cutting room floor. And, of course, there’s the good ole’ mountain man (Connick Jr., who’s on auto-pilot) who falls hard for the city girl and teaches her the joys of country life, don’t ya know. Yawn. There’s nothing new here, from start to finish, which wouldn’t be so unforgivable if the acting was good. Oops. The former Bridget Jones tries for cute but ends up being “cute,” while Connick Jr. just looks bored (or is that his normal expression?). As for J.K. Simmons, a.k.a. plant foreman Stu Kopenhafer should know better — withering sarcasm or bewildered one-liners he can do; down-home folksy he cannot. But the whole business gave me a great idea for a bumper sticker: I’d rather be scrapbooking. Because that’s exactly how I felt watching “New in Town.” Darn tootin’.

Grade: D

Quick Picks: “Revolutionary Road,” “Last Chance Harvey”

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet pair up again -- equally dire consequences -- in "Revolutionary Road."

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet pair up again -- with equally dire consequences -- in "Revolutionary Road."

“Revolutionary Road” (Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Shannon)

Deferring dreams, poet Langston Hughes warned us over half a century ago, is a messy, even explosive business. Nowhere is that truth more evident than Sam Mendes’ gorgeously lensed, powerfully acted “Revolutionary Road.” In fact, Frank (DiCaprio), a dissatisfied businessman, and April, his deeply unhappy wife, have a powder keg of a suburban New England 1950s marriage — she wants a new life in Paris and will do anything to make it happen; he wants the change, too, but lacks the guts to leave the comfortable, settled job and life he knows. All that dissatisfaction translates into an atmosphere of unrelenting tension and despair communicated beautifully by DiCaprio and Winslet. DiCaprio finds the right mix of uncontrollable anger and wordless despair in Frank, a kind of Everyman who doesn’t like to look back but can’t quite move forward, either. He won’t be honest with himself, the mentally ill son (a superbly caustic Shannon) of a neighbor harshly points out, so he’s just stuck. As for Winslet, well, this might be the best acting she’s done (which is really saying something). She’s equal parts bitterness and vulnerability as April, and her eyes alone — sad but anxious, like those of a deer trapped in headlights — are enough to make “Revolutionary Road” much more than some whiny diatribe on suburban life. This one hits right where it hurts: the heart.

Grade: A

“Last Chance Harvey” (Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson)

It’s perhaps not an accident that Hoffman plays a commercial jingle writer in “Last Chance Harvey,” a quietly charming romantic comedy that at times, most unfortunately, seems like a clever commercial ruined by loud, formulaic music. On second thought, no, that’s exactly what Joel Hopkins’ movie is. That’s a pity, too, because actors don’t come much more likable, charming, or deserving of a leading role than Hoffman and Thompson. Still, “Last Chance Harvey” isn’t quite a lost cause, probably because the aforementioned leads make — pardon, ahem, the pun — beautiful music together. Hoffman is Harvey, a divorced, failed jazz pianist-turned-jingle maker in London for his slightly estranged daughter’s wedding. At Heathrow, he meets Kate (Thompson), a survey taker who’s just weathered a really, really bad blind date. There aren’t sparks, exactly, but there is a conversation that, Roger Ebert might say, “threatens to continue for a lifetime.” The words turn into new friendship, then genuine affection, then trust, then love. The chief joy of “Last Chance Harvey” is watching that slow, satisfying bloom — and Hoffman and Thompson are up to the task. Hoffman nails Harvey’s moving transformation from dejection to hope, and nobody covers stark vulnerability with awkward humor quite like the divine Thompson. Seeing them stumble, then walk tentatively into romance feels like a breakthrough, and one bright enough to counter the “dramatic plot points” and cutesy background tunes. They don’t make romantic comedies like this anymore.

Grade: B+

Top 10 ILTIPATILAT moments in last night’s “The Office”

There’s a “Golden Girls” line I think of every single time I hear something really, genuinely, snort-shrimp-cocktail-sauce-0ut-of-your-nose funny: “I laughed till I peed. And then I laughed at that.” (That’s Estelle Getty, in case you’re curious and even if you’re not.)

Last night, watching the hour-long post-Super Bowl special episode of “The Office,” I thought it so often it became annoying. You see, it was taking me so long to think out the quote — it is more than, say, your average 3-second soundbite — that I was missing jokes. So in my head (a dangerous place, fraught with peril, cobwebs and empy Coke cans) I created an acronym for these moments: ILTIPATILAT. After awhile, it became a catchphrase of sorts. (Don’t judge; say it out loud and tell me it isn’t catchy as hell.)

And then, this morning, after discussing in minute detail every moment of last night’s episode, I had a breakthrough (or a breakdown … remarkable how similar those two things look). I’ve used two additional acronyms — F.Y.C. and the ever-popular W.T.F.? — so why not introduce one of my own AND make a list at the same time?

Thus, witness the birth of the funniest ILTIPATILAT moments in “Stress Relief”:

* Will the Real Leatherface Please Stand Up? — There’s always been a creepy, be-nice-or-I’ll-wear-your-head-as-a-fedora undercurrent to Dwight K. Shrute. Usually it’s reduced to a stunt or a gag or a talking-head interview; last night, Rainn let it rip to fantastic (or is that horrifying?) comic effect. First he viciously guts the dummy like a fish, and then he cuts off its face and wears it as a mask. Oh, the horror … and the comedy.

* “What I Hate about You: The Remix” — Try as I might, I can’t help but love Andy Bernard, possibly because he’s such a lovable dolt. But he has flashes of true insight that translate into comedy gold, and his rewrite of The Romantics’ “What I Like about You” made me pull the last three stomach muscles that escaped earlier onslaughts of laughter. When he crooned “Stanley tried to die just to get away,” I had passed the laughing stage and moved on to wheezing. Great stuff.

* Is that an iPod Shuffle in Your Pocket or Are You just Happy to See Me? — Nobody fires off quietly funny zingers quite like Pam, and last night she scored one of the episode’s best lines during the roast when she called Michael’s thing “so little,” then compared it to an iPod shuffle. ILTIPATILAT, alright, and then I thanked my frugal self for buying a cheap off-brand mP3 player. (Can you ever look at a shuffle again without cringing?)

* It’s Raining Cats and Oscars — Sour-faced Angela and the ever-droll Oscar don’t get the chance to do much physical comedy, so imagine my delight when Angela hooped her cat — hidden in the file cabinet — into the ceiling for Oscar to rescue. Her feline ended up in a pile of rubble on the desk, and Oscar barely made it 10 steps before falling right back into the smoky office.

* For the Love of Barack, Stanley, Live! — If there existed a moment funnier than Michael attempting to revive Stanley with “Barack is President! You are black, Stanley!” then stuffing a wallet into his mouth to keep Stanley from biting his tongue, I can’t name it.

* Taking a Personnel Day — This was a throwaway line to many, but to me it was a priceless little gem. It is classic Michael Scott, and the timing — right after the disastrous roast — was spot-on.

* Whatever You Do, Don’t Look Up — Here’s another “throwaway moment” that had me rolling out of my chair. With all the workers laid out, end to end, in the conference workers having a post-Kool-Aid Jonestown moment, Michael’s standing spread eagle directly over Pam’s face when Jim, ever the concerned BF, warns her not to open her eyes. She opens her eyes. She looks up. She says “Oh my God” with that particular Pam Beesley brand of horror, disgust and acceptance. What a beautiful ILTIPATILAT moment. I’m rapidly becoming a ginormous fan of Jenna Fischer’s nonshowy but remarkably effective comedy style.

* He Likes Him! He Really Likes Him! — OK, so perhaps that opener is misleading. I suspect Stanley doesn’t like Michael any farther than his biofeedback machine can throw him, but there was something seriously funny about watching the notoriously dry Stanley, who finds humor in almost nothing, letting loose with a chuckle, then a full-fledged guffaw after Michael roasted him with “You crush your wife during sex, and your heart sucks.” Unlike the laughter generated by the roast — which was funny but undeniably mean-spirited — this moment feels wholesome and, in a word, satisfying. It broke the tension and served up a great closer for the hot box of genius that was “Stress Relief.”

If you didn’t watch last night’s episode, stop whatever you are doing right now — be it frontal lobe surgery or pretend-scratching your nose while really kind of picking — and go to http://www.hulu.com. Prepare to laugh harder than you have in your life, including that moment when OJ actually got convicted. Of, like, a real crime.

And if you pee a little, well, I don’t judge.