While You Were Out: Britney’s Photoshop Fail, the Last Colbert Report, and a Heavy Dose of Christmas Spirit

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“While You Were Out,” is a Friday feature of short notes and commentary from the week. Whether it’s something you’d discuss at the water cooler or at happy hour, you’ll find it on our grid, together with our opinion as to whether it’s praiseworthy or cringeworthy. We’re pleased to bring you the Verily editors’ quick takes on the happenings of this week!

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No Grinch Here

Let’s start off with the good news, shall we? A mystery do-gooder in Massachusetts anonymously paid off everyone’s layaway accounts at their local Toys ‘R’ Us store. The generous donor’s act of kindness surprised moms and dads who at first thought they were receiving erroneous notifications that their children’s Christmas gifts were being paid off—only to find out: Santa Claus wears many suits, and he doesn’t only come for the children.

—MRS

A Birthday Present for the Soul

Pope Francis may have a December birthday, but it appears he doesn’t mind sharing it the same month as Jesus. On the occasion of his 78th birthday this week, the bishop of Rome donated 500 sleeping bags to the homeless population in the city. The gifts brought not only warmth but smiles to the many homeless individuals who, when approached by members of the Swiss Guard, were no doubt surprised to be offered a plush gift just in time for Christmas.

—MRS

Princess of Monaco Gives Birth to Twins

Princess Charlene of Monaco was interviewed last week after giving birth to twins on December 10. The children Jacques and Gabriella are now “the boss” in her life, she says, dictating this year’s Christmas plans as they will. But that matters little, because, as she puts it, “every second with them is magical… they are both very active and very expressive. They are beautiful, adorable — I'm crazy in love with them."

—MRS

Lauren Scruggs Weds Jason Kennedy (Just 3 Years After Her Tragic Accident)

Maybe it’s weird to be a fan of a celebrity couple, but I’m definitely a fan of these two. Three years ago, Lauren (then 23) lost her left eye and hand in a freak accident involving a plane propeller. The model and fashion blogger used her situation for good. She often speaks about how the accident taught her the meaning of true beauty—a message that inspires me and many other women.

She talked about how she was unsure she would ever marry or meet a man who really loved her. But in 2013, Lauren met Jason Kennedy, an anchor for E!. The two hit it off, started dating, and got married this past weekend. (In fact our lovely contributor Kat Harris was their photographer!) What an incredible celebration of life, love, and new beginnings. Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy!

—MN

Emma Stone makes her Broadway debut

My girl crush Emma Stone is already getting rave reviews for her Broadway debut in “Cabaret,” and A-listers have been flocking to see her take the stage. While no one can ever replace Liza Minelli as the iconic Sally Bowles, I have a feeling Emma is up for the challenge. I’m hoping to catch her sure-to-be-stellar performance before the show closes on March 29. (Perhaps a gift for my February birthday? Hint, hint.)

—MN

The Film Abides

The latest additions to the National Film Registry were announced this week. Choices like Saving Private Ryan come as no surprise. But cult-classic film The Big Lebowski was included on this year’s list, as was Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. All I can say is, someone at The Little Lebowski shop on Thompson Street (which I used to pass everyday on the way to work) is celebrating.

—MRS

Stephen Colbert Signs Off

There have been a number of TV show finales this week—the most notable of which may be the final episode of The Colbert Report. Comedy Central’s show featuring Stephen Colbert, which started after Colbert was a side newscaster on The Daily Show, is ending after 10 seasons. The host, at 50 years old, has been tapped to succeed David Letterman on the Late Show in 2015. (If you haven’t seen the cover shoot for Entertainment Weekly featuring Colbert dressed as iconic characters from The Lord of the Rings series, remedy that now.)

Before riding off into eternity in a sleigh with Santa Claus, Abe Lincoln, and Alex Trebek (who sagely notes, "All of life's most important answers must be in the form of a question), Colbert was joined by a stageful of past guests to sing him off—including such wide-ranging celebrities as Willie Nelson, Henry Kissinger, Cyndi Lauper, Patrick Stewart, and Big Bird. "We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when," the group resounded, "But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.

I have to say, after hearing Colbert’s off-character commentary in Rookie’s “Ask a Grown Man” series, I can’t help but want to hear more. Let’s hear it for the Late Show with Colbert!

—MRS

Seriously.

Have you listened to the Serial finale yet? We won’t spoil it for you, so if you haven’t given the national podcast sensation a listen, now’s your chance. In the meantime, read this week’s piece by Maggie Niemiec on why Serial is so fascinating.

—MRS

The Winner of The Voice

This week also saw the finale of The Voice. Craig Wayne Boyd won the top honors, even if he  struggled to accept the news. As the country singer put it, “I had so many emotions going on at the time… My (2-year-old son Jax) was the first person I wanted to see. I got to see him but I didn't get to hold him like I wanted to because they were handing me a microphone.” Let’s hope after all this hoopla, he finally gets a moment.

Oh, and Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani, Pharrell Williams, and Blake Shelton sang a group version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

—MRS

Coming to a Ballroom Near You

Speaking of competition shows on hiatus, Dancing with the Stars recently announced a live national tour featuring some pros and stars from the TV show. Not a bad last-minute gift idea for a DWTS-obsessed friend, if you ask me—but you’ll have to snatch tickets, most of which start around $40, before they’re sold out. Just one of many ways you can keep dancing with the stars after the finale.

—MRS

Britney, Is That You?

The latest cover of Women’s Health features, if you ask me, what looks like a blonde Melissa Rycroft. There’s nothing wrong with looking like Rycroft, of course—if you’re Melissa Rycroft. The problem is it’s supposed to be Britney Spears.

Was it yet another Photoshop fail of magazine covers these days? Or, as Spears protests, “the makeup trick of face contouring”? Either way, come on people. Let’s stop altering people’s looks in the name of beauty, to the point where they’re unrecognizable.

—MRS

What’s Most Fascinating to Barbara Walters?

Barbara Walters has announced the most fascinating person of the year in her book: Amal Alamuddin, the new wife of actor and longtime bachelor George Clooney. Amal is a human rights activist and lawyer with many accomplishments. But, according to Walters, her most fascinating accomplishment is her husband.

I can just see the cringes in the writers room as Walter listed all of the women that Clooney dated in the last 10 years before even getting to Amal, at which point she calls marrying George Clooney "one of the greatest achievements in human history." So what would happen if George leaves her… would she no longer be fascinating?

Of course not. How about, instead, we consider Amal’s many actual achievements?

—MRS

A Bad Year for Iconic Dads in American Media

Stephen Collins, an actor most famous for his role as the pastor-father in the TV show Seventh Heaven, has finally spoken out acknowledging his past sexual abuse of children. This comes after TMZ published an audio-recorded confession, Ted 2 dropped him from the lineup, and the actor stepped down from the Screen Actor’s Guild last October.

In Other News

Famous model Beverly Johnson published an article in Vanity Fair explaining “Bill Cosby Drugged Me; This is My Story.” Johnson describes how she reacted when she realized that the espresso Cosby offered her to drink was heavily drugged. Johnson’s story is now added to the list of at least 26 women who have accused Cosby of abuse. It may be time to rethink our attitude about sexual assault.

—MRS

Sony Pulls “The Interview”

You’ve probably heard by now that Sony has pulled the plug—on every platform—for its upcoming film The Interview. Here’s what happened:

On November 24, Sony was hacked. These hackers identified themselves as the GOP, “Guardians of Peace” and reports say they made out with 100 terabytes of data (that’s A LOT). Some of that data included emails of Sony execs trashing Angelina Jolie and President Obama, as well as reports of financial information and upcoming unreleased movies.

The Interview is a comedy starring James Franco and Seth Rogen as two journalists asked by the CIA to assassinate North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. And that is a big reason why people are pointing to North Korea as the source of the hack. According to Time,

“From a forensic perspective, the hack had hallmarks of North Korean influence. The attackers breached Sony’s network with malware that had been compiled on a Korean-language computer. And the effort bore similarities to attacks by a hacking group with suspected ties to North Korea that has carried out attacks on South Korean targets, including a breach of South Korean banks in 2013...

That does not necessarily mean the North Korean government, or even the same hacker collective, is responsible. In the world of cyber warfare, hackers will often dissect and imitate successful techniques.”

This week the source(s) tied to the hack threatened 9/11-like attacks against any theater that decided to show the film. AMC and Regal theaters announced they wouldn’t show it, and on Wednesday Sony pulled the film—which cost $44 million to make—entirely.

We don’t know how serious the threats are, and God forbid people went to the movies to see The Interview and fell prey to a terrorist attack. That said, this seems like blackmail, and giving in to blackmail sets a bad precedent for the way we deal with cyber terrorism from here on out. I also think people will really want to see this movie now—legally or not.

—MN

Christmas Films to Watch at Home

During the Christmas season there are so many ways to indulge in confectionery delights we otherwise deprive ourselves of during the rest of the year. But after you’ve made that vat of homemade hot chocolate to perfectly complement the Scottish shortbread, why not shamelessly indulge in cinema reserved for the last month of the year?

Whether a Hollywood classic like It’s a Wonderful Life or White Christmas or the unconventionally awesome The Nightmare Before Christmas, the base of any good Christmas movie is nostalgia. Either because you watched it as a kid every year (Home Alone and Muppet Christmas Carol come to mind) or because it reminds you of something you feel deeply connected to.

Sometimes a real tear jerker like While You Were Sleeping or The Family Stone serve as valuable reminders that family connections are intrinsic to our Christmas experience—and sometimes an unorthodox favorite like Little Women or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (which reference Christmas but aren’t technically holiday films) are perfect to cozy up to. Then there are the irreverent and hilarious favorites like Jingle All the Way, A Christmas Story, and Bad Santa. And don't forget the modern classic Love Actually which always seems to remain a film that simply has to be viewed before the 26th rolls around.

—Hannah Allen White