What we’re watching this week:

Justified (Season 1, Episodes 1-5) – As previously written, I love Timothy Olyphant. Absolutely love him. And this show has done nothing to change my view on him. I think I like him here more than in Deadwood, not the show mind you, but him. (He has more to do here than in Deadwood.)

Justified just hasn’t seemed to hit its stride yet. It’s still drawing its characters, which is fine by me. It reminds me a lot of Sons of Anarchy, it seems to be using the first season to find its way. Or its just waiting for Walton Goggins’ character to get healthy enough to start some shit. Can’t tell which.

Party Down (Season 1, Episodes 1-3) – I think that when I have children, and if they decide to become actors, I will think of this show and pray this isn’t what they do for a day job. The disillusionment that these characters suffer from, while either chasing impossible dreams or giving up on said dreams, is unfathomable.

In Party Down, though, that disillusionment is why these characters are funny. They seem resigned, as if they all know they’re going nowhere (except Ken Marino), but that isn’t stopping them from trying. They’re misguided attempts at success are fantastic. They’re infighting is great. The burning American flag is also very fitting. (It makes sense if you see it.)

Thank god this is a comedy, cause this show would be unwatchable otherwise.

Angel (Season 1, Episode 1) – Joss Whedon fan through and through. (That’s out of the way then.) It’s nice to come back to the beginning of Angel, a series that I’ve really only watched in passing, on TNT. The first episode has dated, and the vampire make-up is still … well not to my liking, but Whedon does here what Whedon does best – Kill characters who you don’t expect to die. The beginning of this series is sort of paint by numbers save two really nice scenes: 1) The killing of one of the characters, and 2) Cordelia’s realization that she’s in the presence of a vampire. I look forward to continuing with this show.

Gilmore Girls (Season 1, Episodes 1-8) – This show angers me. It’s not that it’s bad. It’s just hard. The mother-daughter (Lorelai-Emily) relationship is so irreconcilable that it I can’t watch too much of the show at anytime.

But it is good.

One of the things that brings me back to the show, is everyone seems to be having such a great time performing in it. I don’t know if I can express it in words, but there is a joy that seems to come from the actors when they speak. (Not uncommon with the joy I’m sure I hear from the actors blessed enough to speak David Mamet’s dialogue.) They love speaking they’re dialogue, but they don’t make it precious. (Granted, there is so much of it, they don’t have time too.) They let the dialogue do a lot of the work. They should, it’s really that good.

And this show has too much in common with Castle and Bones for me to not to like it. (Unrequited love, mostly.)

An Education – For all of the attention that Carey Mulligan gets for her performance in An Education, which is deserved, equal if not greater attention should be given to her co-stars. An Education is about what we learn when we’re not in school. And if it weren’t for the really strong supporting cast (I’m looking at you Rosemund Pike, Peter Skarsgard, Alfred Molina, Emma Thompson and Olivia Williams) there truly wouldn’t have been as much value in the extracurricular experiences. That is to say, if these characters weren’t as well drawn or well performed, we probably would have thought that the Carey Mulligan character’s education would have been quite shit.

This week we watched:

Breaking Bad (Season 2, Episode 1-7) – It’s a very good show with almost no likable characters. Seven episodes into the Season 2, and I’m having a hard time wanting to continue. As a rule, I try to only spend time with shows/characters that I can imagine spending the same amount of time talking to in real life. I’m trying to be flexible with this show. Trying hard, really hard.

Better Off Ted (Season 1, Episodes 1-13) – Quickly becoming a new favorite. It’s fast, witty and lovely. Better Off Ted is the most good-hearted, cynical show I can imagine. It’s a screwball comedy.  It’s good for two or three strong belly laughs an episode. Watch it before it gets canceled.

Castle (Season 2, Episode 20) – I love this show, but then again I’m a sucker for a little noir mixed with romance. This last weeks episode (The Late Shaft) was not one of the show’s best, dealing with the murder of a late night host by one of his many usurpers. It just didn’t have the energy that the best Castle episodes have. That said, I’m still a sucker for this show.

Sorority Row – Better than it had to be, not close too good enough to recommend to anyone. Just go and watch Black Christmas if you want to see sorority girls such as Slutty, Bitchy and The Good Soul – fight off a murderous entity. The most disappointing thing about Sorority Row is that after 90 minutes, the film almost overcomes itself, only to trip up on the most unnecessary reveal of the villain. It didn’t need to be him. It didn’t need to be anyone in particular. (That can be scarier.)

Twilight: New Moon – Makes the first film feel like it’s paced like His Girl Friday. Nowhere near bad enough to be enjoyed, and well enough produced to just depress you.

Doctor Who (created by Russell T. Davies)

It’s good to have the Doctor.

And while, as of yet, I’ve never seen an episode of the first incarnation of the good Doctor (1963-1989), I must say that I truly enjoy Christopher Eccleston‘s portrayal of the Doctor. There’s a certain mania that he gives the role, where the feeling of loss and time are weight against the perseverance. It’s also refreshing to see Eccleston in this role, as he has had his share of playing the baddies, and heavies. (28 Days Later, Shallow Grave)

What is somewhat fascinating, is that this show that could be weight down by moralizing (it has its share) and romanticizing (covered there as well), is not. It’s fun.

(Any show that deals with time travel, and changing the coarse of history, could easily devolve into a pulpit show. Something I fear an American remake of this show would latch onto.)

And that’s, in greater part, due to Eccleston. It’s a mad show, he’s mad in it. But it’s not hands in the air, flailing around sort of mad. It’s an intense, intelligent, don’t-look-back-’cause-something-might-be-behind-you sort of mad.

(I will miss him, now that he’s gone.)

Thirst (dir. Chan-wook Park)

Thirst is a film about desire and the complications that arise from unchecked desire, and for the most part the film is successful. Park, who has made Oldboy and Sympanthy for Lady Vengeance, is no doubt a talented director who has a flair for beautiful images, both set-up and surprising.  (Examples: The long fight sequence in Oldboy and the Speed Bag head in Thirst.)

That said, I always feel there’s something missing. There is a confidence in his story telling that is both enthralling and disappointing. Enthralling because he demands that the audience keeps up with him. Disappointing because he demands that the audience takes leaps of faith that are sometimes to large.

Park’s films subsequently feel a little incomplete. I will continue to watch his films eagerly waiting the complete film that I know is in him.

That Hamilton Woman

Posted: September 27, 2009 in films of our lives

That Hamilton Woman (dir. Alexander Korda) was shot during the second World War, and is obviously a propaganda film. The most successful thing it propagates is the importance of remembering Vivian Leigh (Lady Hamilton) and her talents.

It can be said about the film that it hasn’t aged well, that is outside of Vivian Leigh. There are actors that seem always fresh, always contemporary, Gene Hackman comes to mind.  Leigh, whose body of work is mostly unseen by me, here has a presence that would be as modern here in 2009 as it was in 1941. She is permanently present.

As for the film itself, the majority of it is an equal mix common melodrama and Ra-Ra patriotism. The patriotism is to be expected, as it was made to help morale in the British citizens in their fight against Germany. Speeches made by Lord Nelson have as much to do with the threat of Napoleon (who he was fighting) as Hitler. They carry the same sentiment, but not the power, of Paul Heinrid’s Victor Laszlo in Casablanca.

That might have to do with Laurence Olivier’s performance as Lord Nelson. Olivier’s Nelson comes across arrogant and self-important. A man consumed by his work, yet strangely aloof from his situation. There is a way for that to be engaging, dashing even, but not here.

Lord Nelson, in this performance, is not, in any way, accessible. It’s hard to see why someone would fall in love with him.

Which brings us to an interesting conundrum of the film: Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton love affair. The film is a romance. And one drawn from the classic archetype, the one where the lovers find themselves in loveless relationships, therefore its justified that they enter into an affair. It’s for their hearts-sake that they endeavor into this forbidden love. The film banks on us wanting them to be together. But should adultery be rooted for?

The film chooses an interesting, but unsuccessful, method of articulating its opinions of the lovers.

Though the majority of the film is crammed with sense of love and admiration of the what Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton were able to accomplish together, there is an unnecessary device employed by the film. The body of the film is bookended by Lady Hamilton in poverty. As if poverty, is what she deserves. There is no reason for Director Alexander Korda to include these scenes in the film, unless he wants the audience to feel that Lady Hamilton’s being punished. Wouldn’t it be enough to show her broken hearted by the news that her betrothed is dead?

‘No, that is not enough’, the film defiantly says. ‘She should be punished for being a woman of a frivolous nature. True, she was a woman who helped the British navy defeat Napoleon, but she sullied a Legendary soldier’s legacy.’

This is why the film is confusing, and ultimately unsuccessful. It plays both sides of the fence. Lord Nelson dies a hero, Lady Hamilton dies a pauper.*

Without the opening and closing sequences, Lady Hamilton is human: full of faults and issues, but also one that is trying to be happy, rising from abject poverty to that of station of importance. (A very American ideal, by the way.)

The film counters this by presenting her as destitute. The film would have been better served if they had just printed the legend. Heroes have no need for facts.

*This is factually correct. He did die at sea, and she did die in the gutter. But also she had at least three children with different men, was a prostitute and was rather fat by the time she met Lord Nelson. So, the question is: Why choose to include only one of these facts, unless you wanted to make a point about her?

Check out the Doc we’ve been working on! It’s playing at the selected Landmark Theatre’s across the country Sept. 23rd.

Here’s a trailer.

After the loss of Pushing Daisies, where are we to look for joy on television?

At this point, 3 episodes in, Glee is it. Where else do we get music videos that endow the songs with meaning? The Acafellas. Subtle, but awesome costume design. I’m looking at Jayma Mays costumes in particular. The floral print costume she’s wearing as she’s cleaning the leaves of her plant in the third episode does what all elements of design should do, accent the story so we gather more about the characters than they can say with words.   And the incomparable Jane Lynch. (You might know her from such films as Best in Show, Role Models, or the 100 other films and TV shows she been since 1998.)

It’s amazing to me that this show is was created by Ryan Murphy, whose previous work on the overtly cynical Nip/Tuck gave me no idea that there good be this much fun to be had with a Glee Club. Thank you sir!

This might not be a show for everyone. But it a show for everyone who enjoys entertainment, and is willing to allow themselves to be overwhelmed by possibilities. I ask you: Where can this story go? Where does it go? There are some obvious answers. There are some story lines that we can guess. More importantly though, we can dream up story lines/songs/situations that we want to see, and the list is endless.

The two complaints that I have are the editing in the dance numbers is to aggressive and that the songs are obviously dubbed. There is a shit-ton of talent in this show. From the choreographers to the singers to the dancers, let it show. Let us see how amazingly talented they are by not getting in the way cinematically.

Just let them perform.

The show is now on Hulu. Watch it. Catch up. Enjoy it with me, I’ll be the one who is hiding behind his wife in all the awkward bits.