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Category: television

“I like this one. One dog goes one way and the other goes the other.” : Paintings in the Movies

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Summer is the perfect time to re-watch a classic, here’s a repost to wet your appetite.

I believe Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas may be as close to perfect as a movie gets. It’s got a compelling arc based on a true story, brilliant performances, fantastic soundtrack, style for days, and of course this little piece of outsider art. The painting itself is based on a photo that appeared in a 1978 issue of National Geographic and was painted by the mother of the author of Wise Guy: Nicholas Pileggi. Wise Guy is the story of Henry Hill’s life in the mob and the basis for GoodFellas. The painting itself has no real bearing on the plot of the movie, but rather plays a delightful role in an impromptu meal during the wee hours of the night; between a boy, his friends and his mother.  Scorsese masterfully juxtaposes the sweet tender caring of an elderly mother (played by his own mother) with the ruthless cold-hearted apathy of a group of killers whose next victim is locked in the trunk of their car. Scorsese says the scene was mostly improvised with the only line written in the script being: –mother shows the ‘dog’ painting.

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A painting that had a much more significant role in a film would  have to be the double-sided Kandinsky that appears in Six Degrees of Separation. In real life Kandinsky never painted a double-sided work. The filmmakers combined existing works from two of his radically different styles to illustrate the fine line between chaos and control. The painting symbolizes the fleeting grasp the central characters have on the story of their lives. A young grifter cons his way into the lavish lives of an affluent couple on the Upper East Side.  By the end of the film, it is a blur as to who is using who: the grifter getting a taste of the sweet life or the couple endlessly milking their “near death” anecdote that makes them the life of the  party.

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The Upper East Side is also the location for an art collection of truly epic television proportions. Gossip Girl finally ended its’ six season run last year; closing the elevator door on the lives of some truly two dimensional characters. If you are wondering why Gossip Girl is included here? The answer is that the producers had wonderful taste: in music, ridiculous plot-lines that went nowhere and surprisingly enough -art. Multiple paintings by Richard Phillips could be found along with this little gem. Prada Marfa refers to the small roadside replica  Prada store created by artists Elmgreen and Dragset sixty miles outside of Marfa Texas. Another reason this show should be included in a post with GoodFellas: DorotaWho else could be the maid for both Blair Waldorf and Tony Soprano?

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Badroute is the name of this painting by Miguel Calderon. It is owned by Wes Anderson and appears in his film The Royal Tenenbaums. I am a fan of Anderson and believe this to be his best picture.  It was co-written with Owen Wilson and stars Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston and Bill Murray. The premise: all grown-up child prodigies once again find themselves  under the same roof trying to come to grips with their eccentric family dynamics.

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To say Elwood P Dowd is eccentric would be a little bit of an understatement. Elwood has an unusual friend; a six foot invisible rabbit named Harvey. Jimmy Stewart plays a wonderful drunk who sees the world through rose coloured glasses with the help of his friend. Harvey is meant to be a pooka or a mischievous spirit from Celtic folklore. The only time we get to see what Harvey looks like is when Elwood brings home this painting. The image is fantastic and so is the movie.

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A movie that is a real secret gem is David Salle’s Search and DestroyThe film was produced by Martin Scorsese and stars Christopher Walken, John Turturro, Illena Douglas, Ethan Hawke and Dennis Hopper. A failed businessman has plans for turning a self-help book into a movie. Trying to secure his finances turns into more than he bargains for. David Salle was known predominantly as a painter and his painterly style is reflected throughout the film. A wonderful example of this is the Alex Katz that hangs in Christopher Walken’s office.

I tried to focus on paintings that were unique to these individual films and show. Sorry no Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte from Ferris Beuller’s Day Off.  At the end of the day, this would be a gallery show I’d like to go see.

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Nostalgia Smack-down: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child VS Stranger Things

HP vs STThis hot hazy summer brought us a spoil of riches. We were treated to two superb pop culture phenomenons that tweaked our childhood nostalgia.(warning spoilers) I don’t want to give too much away, but in order to compare these two seemingly unrelated  media artifacts I will have to explore a few details. In both offerings the adults take a back seat and the kids fuel the adventure, but talk about your cursed children! (Oh Barb, we barely new you.)

harry-potter-and-the-cursed-child Both The Cursed Child and Stranger Things play heavily into our collective consciousness. We associate these things with mostly fond memories of our youth. Reading the many reviews of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child I began to see a pattern. People were just as excited to write about the ritual and anticipation of waiting and acquiring a new J.K. Rowling offering than talking about the play itself. With myself I found the expectation to be both very high and low at the same time. I really wanted to be back in that world again, because when you’re there, it is totally immersive. I also went into it with the knowledge that this wasn’t a complete novel  but a snapshot (co-written by J.K.)  in the form of a play and that ultimately the best way to experience the story would be to see it performed live. Like most of the readers who picked up the play, it didn’t take long to reach the end. So how did it fare?

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Revisiting these characters, I was a little worried that my ideal impression of them would be tarnished. How would they be portrayed? They even played with this idea by presenting different versions of each character that exist in alternative realities. I was delighted that in no matter what reality Ron and Hermione had feelings for one another, but Happily Ever After is not a real thing, even Han and Leia broke up over a problem child. J.K. embraces real life, (hog)-warts and all and the Cursed Child explores many of the pitfalls life has to offer.

Daddy issues play heavily into the Cursed Child affecting many characters especially Harry and his role as a parent. He has no compass to navigate these waters, having lost his real father as a child and then his two surrogates (Sirius and Dumbledore) in his teens. We as readers take on the parenting role in a diminished fashion; watching these characters (we see in some way as our own) behave in ways we can’t control. The Cursed Child can elude to a multiple of characters in the play, along with the expectation we place on this story. How can it  not be cursed?  Cursed but not without magic.

1385b630-2c31-0134-0ca6-0a0b9a139ea7Speaking of cursed magical children, Eleven has a tough go of it, along with her own personal Daddy Issues amped up to well…. 11. Stranger Things came out of nowhere. It hit the perfect 80’s sci-fi sweet-spot we didn’t know we were craving. It wore all it’s influences on its sleeve and did it with unwavering homage and unquestionable affection. As a child of the eighties I was in heaven; from the soundtrack to the wardrobe to the details I was transported back to my youth. A time when your bike was your lifeline to the world because there was no such thing as a cellphone. Our heroes have to use walkie-talkies to communicate to one another.

Stranger-Things-TV-show-on-Netflix-season-1-canceled-or-renewed-590x332The reviews are in and Stranger Things has become a bonafide hit. Word of mouth is loud and non stop. As quickly as we read The Cursed Child we binged all 8 episodes. Stranger Things had an advantage over Harry Potter and the Cursed Child being that it had no preconceived expectations or canon to be accountable to. It however firmly placed itself in some pretty big shoes. The parallels between early Steven Spielberg and early Stephen King are unmissable.  To bring a tale of two Stevens and do it well is a rare occurrence.

pQjYuG8lBoth the Cursed Child and Stranger Things use nostalgia as their hook but it’s the characters and the story that distinguish them as great. I was initially worried about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child but was left with a sense of satisfaction and closure. Now the big thing that worries me: can Stranger Things season 2 deliver on our new high expectations?

House of Cards Season 4: Reality Index

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I just finished watching the 4th season of House of Cards, or as I like to refer to this season: Below and Beyond. For a show that should feel Shakespearean in scope; Bill is nowhere in sight. The three main points I gathered this season were: no one knows their proper place/ position ( if a pipe needs fixing, ask the First Lady – she can do anything), the power of rehearsal ( an inordinate amount of time was given to people practicing their lines – I kinda like this fact because always talking off the cuff will eventually reveal how utterly out of your depth you are) and lastly how enamored the public is with speechifying  at this moment in time. Take a minute and do a quick count in your head as to how many rhetoric laced speeches we hear on a daily basis. Soapbox salesmen must be making a killing. Obviously, there’s an election going on in the show and in real life, but who knew we were so craving to hear other people soundbite our fears, hopes and dreams to the tune of billions of dollars so they can turn around in the future and slash budgets for sorely needed services because there’s no money. The irony would be delicious if it were’t so scary. Speaking of scary: scary Underwoods are way more fun to watch then feuding Underwoods, so how did they do?

Again, I’m going to borrow steal the brilliant recap format from the high watermark of all TV recaps: Vulture’s Gossip Girl coverage. (They made watching a bad show fun.) This is how it works: points are awarded when events seem believable and deducted when the events are a little too implausible. At the end, we’ll tally the score and see if our tale of the Underwoods veers into the realms of the unreal, and yes I do know this is a TV show but even TV has its limits. Warning Spoilers

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The Underwoods are nothing if not consistent. The plausibility of their actions according to their characters is always intact but the plausibility of their actions according to their stations well let’s say – what’s in a title? They are the President and the First Lady, but have a hard time getting respect from terrorists and flower arrangers alike. I’m sure, the first thing anyone would imagine themselves doing if they were ever invited into the Oval office is to sit on the President’s desk like they owned the place like Governor Conway did.

This scores him major points on the reality side: lack of respect for the position of the Presidency. In this day and age you don’t even have to have held public office for a single day to feel you’re qualified for the most powerful position in the western world. The Presidency looks like something you’d be really really good at. Perceived entitlement is the only job qualification. +100 points

Speaking of the Conways, they’re kind of perfect. They should definitely get everything they want in this life. Instagram as Norman Rockwell painting: +50 points

This also leads to my favourite line this season, maybe in the history of H of C. When asked if Claire regrets not having children by Cathy Conway, Claire responds, “Do you regret having them?” -so cold, so good. + 50 points

Plus besides, how would Claire explain to her kids why Tom the writer was always having super quiet silent breakfast time with them? Meacham is dead, long live Meachem. +50 points

A resounding 250 points in the real column! But on the flip-side…..

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When producing a TV show there are some things that are unavoidable; like what do you do when you biggest star is in a coma? Do you have them just lay their doing nothing for a couple of episodes? Solution: unnecessary dream sequences -check. You also spend a lot of money on accurate recreation set pieces so you might as well use them.Why else would you have letter-opener death threats in the Oval office? (I guess that is kind of believable). This is also the only reason I can imagine, even in this completely fantastical world, where the Conways would stay in Claire’s bedroom. It is obviously done for the opportunity for candid exchanges between the antagonists and provided for my favourite line of the series, but Claire ain’t having no rugrats jumping on her bed. – 50 points.

Speaking of people being in places they shouldn’t be. The First Lady had her finger in so many pies this season she might as well be the Vice President, oh wait..

Claire strong arming the Russian President – 50 points

Claire negotiating with the head of an international terrorist organization. Did no one watch season three when she went to negotiate with  another prisoner? -50 points

The final scene that shows every character in the Situation room. It’s like they won a  radio contest – win a chance to watch a public execution with the President live in the Situation Room. What are those people doing in there? – 50 points.

The only person not in the Situation room was a bloody translator when the terrorist goes off script. “I wonder what he’s saying? Let’s just look at one another and let him keep speaking until he says something in English again.” -100 points

Lastly, for a season so obsessed with information tracking on the net, why would a Frank smear campaign involve a photocopy billboard of his dad shaking hands with a member of the KKK instead of leaking the image online? -20 points   Oh wait, being aligned with intolerant racism is no longer the political deathblow it should be, we can scratch that last one. 0 points

300 for the unreal.

Another season, another reason to go above and beyond the limit of plausibility. As far as this show goes, it’s got nothing on reality.

Season 3  Season 2

Everyone laughed? I gotta see this dance.

basketsOn movie’s biggest eve, naturally I’d like to talk television. Here’s hoping Oscar gives a little love to Mad Max, Brooklyn (sweet little movie) and Leo (scroll down for Revenant review) but we’re here for good TV, not overlong award shows where the Hollywood elites get to stroke each others egos for 4 hours to the tune of $232 000 gift bags. We’re also not here to talk about the ” the inmates are running the asylum” media circus, reality TV, “the am nots” and “are toos” that passes for political discourse these days TV. We’re here to talk about artists, clowns, New York in the seventies, punk rock, alien abductions, lizard men, Louis C.K., Louie Anderson, racist Alan Alda, pie sitting, mental illness and Martha Kelly.

Who’s Martha Kelly you’re asking? Martha Kelly is Chip Baskets’ insurance adjuster. Chip (Zach Galifianaskis) who was studying to be a classically trained clown at a Parisian clown Académie, up until he got expelled for not being able to speak french is forced to go back home to California. He returns to the states to pursue his dream of clowning, but finds that there isn’t a huge demand for clowns in his hometown of Bakersfield, except for at his local rodeo. Chip also has to suffer the insults of his twin brother Dale (also played by Zach) and the indignation of having to move back in with his mother played by Louie Anderson. Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d ever type: I love Louie Anderson. His portrayal of Mrs. Baskets is kinda brilliant. Produced by Louis C.K., Baskets is dark, funny and my new obsession.

118220_originalLouis C.K. also has another show on at the moment entitled Horace and Pete. You can stream it from his website. This is what Louis has to say about it:

“Warning: this show is not a “comedy”. I dunno what it is. It can be funny. And also not. Both. I believe that “funny” works best in its natural habitat. Right in the jungle along with “awful”, “sad”, “confusing” and “nothing”.

I just think it’s fair this one time to warn you since you have every right to expect a comedy from a comedian. I will not warn you again. Anyway it’s 2 dollars this week. Take a shot.”

Set in a bar in Brooklyn, it is shot like a one room stage play. The show tackles issues of racism, mental illness, family dynamics and dysfunction. It can get tripped up on its own ambitions but has moments of brilliance and insight. The cast is phenomenal: along with Louis you have Jessica Lange, Edie Falco, Steve Buscemi, Steven Wright and a show stealing  Alan Alda who plays the cantankerous Uncle Pete. I’ve only seen the first two episodes but there is enough there to keep me coming back for more.

maxresdefaultSpeaking of back for more, The X-Files returned for a 6 episode refresher to remind us the truth is still out there. The 6 episodes produced uneven results with the best being Mulder and Scully meet the Were-Monster which showcased  how good this show can be when it combines humour and the paranormal. The grand conspiracy was probably too ambitious for just 6 episodes and felt too rushed and too problematic. All that can be forgiven for the little moments we got between Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) that showed two old friends who truly cared for one another.

maxresdefault (1) The main character of Mick Jagger’s and Martin Scorsese’s  Vinyl is the music. Everything else except maybe the tone take a backseat to the energy and mayhem of what was going on sonically in 1973 NYC. Vinyl is best viewed as a heavily dramatized historical glimpse (with many liberties) into a pivotal moment in Rock N Roll. You can forgive the clunky dialogue and tired plot points to imagine you were there at Mercer Union to see The New York Dolls tear through Personality Crisis or seeing The Velvet Underground playing Venus in Furs  at one of the Plastic Exploding Inevitable parties with Warhol cool or witnessing the birth of Hip-Hop at 1520 Sedgwick avenue in the Bronx with DJ Kool Herc cutting up the Meters.  As long as the songs remain the same, Vinyl should remain in the rotation.

landscape-1447851048-ustv-better-call-saul-season-2-02Better Call Saul is back and as good as ever. It’s not easy to emerge from the shadow of one of TV’s watermark programs, but Vince Gilligan’s spin on a small time grifter who finds his true calling in the morally flexible nature of the law stands on its own. Bob Odenkirk musters enough charm, wit and sleaze to give Jimmy McGill a place among the greats. Season 2 starts off with Jimmy’s career skyrocketing but the allure of the con is always beckoning. Mike (Jonathan Banks) still doesn’t suffer fools kindly but always seems to be surrounded by them. In Better Call Saul we get to watch another person break bad in front our eyes and the brilliance lies within the increments that it takes place. Noble ambitions become tarnished and discarded as characters succumb to the pitfalls of ego and validation. Corruption never looked so good.

It’s nice to know TV’s still golden, and in a week’s time we get to put House of Cards through the reality index once more.

Lists the Season: 2015 TV edition

fhaar4dFqK2O7cqdiU9UrsHObzeIt’s that wonderful time of the year again; when we organize our lives into easily readable bullet-ed points rating our experiences from good to bad. Who doesn’t love lists? Many of you reading this right now probably have a few lists on the go as we speak: presents to buy, food to make, movies to watch etc.. So here’s my contribution: the top 10 TV shows of 2015. I’ll start by saying, it was another great year for the small screen. We said goodbye to a few old friends and were introduced to a few new ones. There were a few ‘what did I just witness’ moments along with ‘that went south quick’ ( cough, cough, True Detective season 2) . So without further ado…

0213durst0110. The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst

This six part HBO series paints a disturbing portrait of a man whose reality feels like it was pulled straight from the pages of pulp horror novel with one of the year’s biggest holy crap moments.

Mr.Robot239. Mr. Robot

Mr. Robot does a lot with a little. Social anxiety never looked so good. I’m not sure the big twist really works for me, but I’m invested enough to see where this thing’s headed.

maste_s1_003_h.08. Master of None

Aziz Ansari has created a slice of life comedy that functions one part Seinfeld, one part Bored to Death and one part romantic comedy. The best part is that he cast his real parents to play his parents.

marvel-jessica-jones-david-tennant7. Jessica Jones

Finally a Marvel villan worth watching. David Tennant does a wonderful job painting a sinister picture of the ultimate ex-boyfriend from hell. A superhero show that dispenses with the cape and concentrates on the fall out.

key-and-peele-26. Key and Peele

These two together are going to be sorely missed.

episode-01-1024.jpg5. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

This year we lost Letterman, Jon Stewart and the Colbert Report but luckily we still have Mr. Oliver to tell it like it is.

wet-hot-american-summer-netflix_article_story_large4.Wet Hot American Summer First Day of Camp

The combination of 40 year-olds playing teenagers and 80’s power rock hits that camp nostalgia sweet spot like a deep breath of Polo cologne with underlying traces of Deep Woods Off.

peggy 3. Mad Men

Mad Men’s stellar seven season run ended on a high note; giving the history of television one of the best series closings of all time.

maxresdefault2. Better Call Saul

How could this not be good coming from the team that brought us Breaking Bad?

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 12_12_14 AM1.Fargo

This show has style for days: great characters, great performances, great dialogue, amazing cinematography, great soundtrack …… great show.

 

Even a Stopped Clock Gives the Right Time Twice a Day

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So a lot has happened since my failed attempt at soothsaying. I got Clara’s story spectacularly wrong but I may have stumbled half-assed  backwards into a plot device for Heaven Sent. I’m self awarding myself an over-sized participation ribbon for my efforts.

Truth be told, no one could have predicted the specific details of Clara’s endgame, considering all the so called ‘rules’ for her demise were spontaneously created for that particular episode. ‘You can give the death-clock tattoo to another person but then you can’t take it away from that other person after they’ve accepted it’ feels pretty made-up plot devicey. We get it: Clara needed to die from her reckless out-smarting herself with a pinch of altruism. I felt overall, it was a little less than satisfying. Another truth be told, I’m a Clara fan and I will miss the impossible girl, but maybe it was time for her to move on.

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This leads us to the events that happen in Heaven Sent. I don’t know about you, but I love it when the Doctor gets to spewing all fire and brimstone like he does at the beginning of this episode, and I don’t think any other Doctor delivers it better than Peter Capaldi. If you’ve ever seen The Thick of It than you know that this man can say things that would make a prison guard blush and intimidate a charging elephant. As great as all the other Doctors have been, I don’t think any of them could have pulled off the groundhog day shepherd boy story-line as well as he did. It’s hard to picture Matt Smith punching his way through a mountain made of a substance 40 times harder than diamond for 2 billion years. This episode was tailor made for the 12th Doctor.

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So sadly, we’re coming to the end of a mostly excellent season – and of course don’t forget the Christmas Special ( which like most of you who might be reading this, has become a family tradition). I’m not going to make any predictions, but I will leave you with one last hyphenated word (once I started I couldn’t stop)  that I think will sum up Hell Bent: nitty-gritty.

Paging Doctor John “Basil” Disco

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So sometimes, I don’t think I’m a particularly smart individual; scratch that, I know I’m not. I gave up on trying to predict things a long time ago, not because I couldn’t do it, but because it kind of ruined things for me. Now, I’m more content to be in the moment. I would make for a lousy weatherman. So it came as a big surprise that after watching last night’s Doctor Who episode I was left with a small theory about our favourite Gallifreyan (more on this a little later). See, I have this annoying habit of watching television programs and movies and enjoying them for what they are and not for what I want them to be. I think I can see the larger themes, allegories and pick up on some of the hidden references that are there for the initiated, but then again maybe a lot of it is going over my head. In the Whovian world I’m definitely a light weight. I’ve watched all the new Who and some of the old Who but am in the dark about most of its mythology and I’m OK with that. I read reviews and recaps and think, I didn’t see it that way. Why are so many people dissatisfied with certain show-runners, companions or Doctors or lack of action or too much of this and not enough of that. Fandom in some cases has ruined being a fan. Doing something well is really hard, but doing something well consistently well for over 50 years, well that’s near impossible. I guess I like Doctor Who no matter who’s steering the ship.

Do I have a favourite Doctor? Sure …….who is it? Depends on what day of the week you ask me.I like them all, all for different reasons. The thing I like the most is that they are all the same person but different incarnations of that same person. The different actors bring a different personality trait to the surface, but it’s still the same character underneath it all. It would be hard to show that much range with one actor, there would be too many cries of inconsistency. We love the Doctor because the Doctor is always the smartest person in the room who will always come up with the right plan and cracks wise while doing it …… which leads me to my theory. (spoilers)

The thing with being a light weight fan is that I haven’t put the time, effort and research into the science fiction and mythology of the show. So my theory is probably not a new one, I don’t know, I haven’t googled it. For those of you who have thought this since the seventies I apologize, but as I mentioned earlier I never do this so I am curious about it. So here it is: The Doctor works with the Groundhog Day principle. He repeats the same series of events over and over again until he gets it right and we as viewers only get to see the correct version. Ok ok I can hear the rebuttals already.What I do know of the mythology is this seems to go against a set of rules set by the show that pertain to time travel, but what I also know about the show is that rules routinely get bent out of shape.

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What got me thinking about this were two comments from last night’s episode: first when the Doctor mentioned this was the 16th time Kate had said a certain phrase after realizing there was nothing in the Osgood box and second that the Doctor had been worried for a month when Clara perceived it as only five minutes. Both these comments lead me to believe that the Doctor can go back and change the course of events if he so chooses. This goes a long way to explain how he always comes up with the right solution; he has had the luxury of trial and error. If this theory holds water, how does it effect our opinion of the Doctor? This is also where it gets sticky, especially for Clara. If he can go back and change things why didn’t he prevent the death of Danny? Is this the reason why Clara and the Doctor part ways at the end of this season?

I’m sure none of this is new and I hope that I’m wrong on all accounts, which I probably am; because I’m sure its all been disproved ages ago and I just wasn’t paying enough attention to notice. So I’ll just get back to letting things wash over me and leave the predictions to the meteorologists.

House of Cards Season 3: Reality Index

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I just finished binge watching the 3rd season of House of Cards or as I like to refer to this season: How Stamper Got His Groove Back. This was a pretty Doug heavy season -which produced mixed results. Frank’s the president and Claire’s the first lady struggling to make America and the rest of the world bend to their wills. Another thing that was meant to bend this season:reality.

Again, I’m going to borrow steal the brilliant recap format from the high watermark of all TV recaps: Vulture’s Gossip Girl coverage. (They made watching a bad show fun.) This is how it works: points are awarded when events seem believable and deducted when the events are a little too implausible. At the end, we’ll tally the score and see if our tale of the Underwoods veers into the realms of the unreal, and yes I do know this is a TV show but even TV has its limits. Warning Spoilers

house-of-cards-s03-18.w529.h352As P.M. Dawn so eloquently put it, “reality used to be a friend of mine.” The writers this season played hard and fast with the idea of plausibility, but if you bought into the first two seasons then you knew where you stood. Heavy is the head that wears the crown and this season did a good job of showing the strain and hardships that come with the job.

Secret stash of smokes making their way from bowl on bookshelf to easily accessible top desk drawer. I’ll take presidents who smoke for +10

Frank’s hair turning white quicker than Claire’s going from blonde to brown, back to blonde again +10

The light-headed and the sleep-deprived tend to over-share +10

The reemergence of the eighties’ stereotypical Russian villain +20  WOLVERINES!?!!

….. and speaking of reemergences – Cashew steals the show +50

A cool 100 on the believability scale.

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On the side of the over the top happenings of season 3, I would like to start off with this season’s use of bodily fluids as power-play maneuver. Frank doesn’t miss an opportunity to relieve himself (in multiple ways) causing all manner of desecration. While his actions come off as blatant and cartoonish, it is Claire who really steals the cup. In what I can only call ‘the bathroom summit’ Claire Underwood negotiates American foreign policy while sitting on her throne. -20

Claire’s Russian prison scarf fiasco -20

If you’ve lied, cheated and murdered your way to the top; perhaps its not the best idea to hire an ex-junkie street hustler to write the story of your life. I predict this (hopefully in season 4) will not end well for anyone involved, especially the writer. -10

Doug Stamper has still got it with the ladies. Is it that they can’t help but be drawn to his gift for gab, habit of always being on his phone in their presence or those sexy hours he spends watching c-span that drives the ladies wild? -20

Being the chief of staff to the president must offer a few perks that other jobs can’t afford. I guess you can hop on  a plane whenever you like to fly half way around the world to beat a man with your cane to find out where your ex-prostitute girlfriend lives so you can later track her down and kill her and then bury her body in the desert all the while an election campaign is going on. -50

Shovel-check, bleach-check, rope-check, beat-up suspicious van-check “So what brings you to our little town, sight-seeing?” -20

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“Reality used to be a friend of mine,
‘Cause complete control, I don’t take too kind.”

Could happen 100  Wait What!??? -140

Another season veers off the rails- “That’s the way it goes, I guess.”

Season 2

Binge Watch: Black Mirror

morningPeople in the UK must get a real kick out North Americans exclaiming “I’ve found this great new show!” when they’ve been in fact watching it for ages. It’s not like we’ve been sleeping on these things, it’s just that there is definitely a pop-culture trickle down effect at work; especially with some of the more ‘how you say’ off the beaten path creations. Even with the internet, something needs to take foot locally before it can go global. Every new show needs to take some time to establish itself and find its audience, but hopefully like all good things, the cream will rise to the top and eventually find its way to the ones who will appreciate it. Sometimes this can take many years, like in the case of Joss Whedon’s Firefly. The trickle down effect can be slow, but is actually perfect for the binge watcher (like myself); because by the time something comes across your radar, you have multiple seasons to sink your teeth into. This is almost a necessity in the case of some British programs whose seasons consist of very short runs of sometimes 3 to 6 shows. Enter Netflix or Youtube and there goes hours of your life.

4610bb3f-1663-410f-83bc-7201cc58a056_625x352So I’ve found this great new show, 2011 new. It’s called Black Mirror and to say it’s a little off the beaten path would be an understatement. The best way I’ve heard it described would be a modern day Twilight Zone exploring the perils of the digital age. There are currently 7 episodes in total over 3 seasons. Each episode is a stand alone story clocking in around 50 minutes. The black mirror refers to any blank monitor we encounter on a daily basis and the deep dark ramifications our relationship with it can conjure up. Each episode plays with different aspects of what the future may hold if we took current technologies to their ultimate endgames. The power of Social media is explored to great and disturbing effect in the series opener The National Anthem. At this point I’d like to point out that some episodes are stronger than others, but at least every one offers a ‘what if’ scenario that both engages and gives you chills in equal measures. A good example would be the episode, The Entire History of You at the end of season 1 which deals with the premise of: what if we all had little devices implanted in our skulls that recorded everything we experienced and could replay them at anytime we liked? How would that effect our relationships with others? Black Mirror has a way of pulling back the curtain of innovation and revealing the potential dark consequences. Season 2 continues along the same lines and devilishly explores the themes of reality, voyeurism and identity to great effect.

Black_Mirror_Jon_Hamm Season 3 starts with Jon Hamm guest starring in the episode White Christmas (which just aired this past December, so I guess that means we have 2 more episodes of season 3 to look forward to.) Two men are stranded in a snowy cabin on Christmas day and slowly reveal to one another how they got there. As the name suggests Black Mirror is dark reflective stuff that feels like no other show on at the moment. If you are currently looking for your next binge; that black mirror you’re currently gazing at is just waiting for the trickle down. It could be your new favourite show.

Lists the Season: The Almost But Not Quite of 2014

63e585fdbec5de61c1ec3b78d954db5fIt’s that time of the year again: lists, lists and more lists. Everyone’s counting down the best and worst 2014 had to offer in movies, TV, music, art and media and I’m no exception. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, who doesn’t like making lists? There were some great offerings this past year and as far as movies go; Boyhood, Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel were all brilliant. Television brought us great new shows like Fargo, True Detective and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. But for every delight like Louie’s violin duet we were also subjected to dreck like Oh Shenandoah. It was an unfortunate year for some really good shows that kind of lost their way, as well as some really dreadful things that got way too much traction. I’m going to focus this list on the Almost But Not Quites: things that didn’t quite gel, sometimes because their execution was a little off and others because they were just plain awful.

8. U2’s free album. I do feel the state of music is at an all time low right at the moment, but I was surprised by the vitriol unleashed by the internet when the biggest band on the planet tried to give them something for free. People were truly offended by this act. They felt violated; like someone had come into their homes uninvited, stayed too long and told a bunch of really boring stories. U2’s album suffered more from being hum-drum than being outright bad, and that I guess is the most unforgivable act of all.

97305c2b320d4709c79c2cdfa6e1eab87. American Horror Story: Freakshow. It pains me to write this, but our little horror soap-opera has gone off the rails. This season has no real cohesion, emotional center or satisfying endgame in sight. It feels like they’re making it up as they go. Unfortunately, AHS suffers from the same problem U2 does; their past accomplishments make their new ones feel sloppy and substandard. What happened to Twisty or Life on Mars? It started with promise and then just faltered. The only thing that could possibly redeem this season for me is if the final scene was literally the fat lady singing and then we would all know that it was mercifully over.

6.  Gone Girl. This movie made it onto a number of best-of lists and I’m a little confused as to why.This is probably the best example of Almost But Not Quite on this list. I reviewed the audio-book  a little earlier and came away with a lot of problems, none of which the movie solved.  The film did have some great ingredients like Rosamund Pike and David Fincher but didn’t wring out any real coherent insight. In the end, the premise is silly and the results too unbelievable.

5. House of Cards Season 2. Speaking of silly and unbelievable, enough said.

1D274907462463-fallon-seinfeld4. The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Jimmy Fallon is supposedly killing it right now as the new king of late night. I’ll hand it to him, he knows how to create social media buzz with short celebrity filled memes that have a life after 11:35, but I realized the other day; the reason he does so much game playing with his guests is because he’s a terrible interviewer. The games are there to fill the gaping hole that has been created. He talks as much about himself as he tries to create conversation. He seems nice enough, but when Colbert shows up next year, Jimmy’s in trouble.

3. The Strain. What started out compelling soon turned into well… a strain.

download2. The Newsroom. I am going to miss this show. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any more pretentious and condescending, they really outdid themselves on their final kick at the cat, and when I say cat – I mean social media and when I say kick -I mean whine incessantly at. Throw in a whole lot of sexism and romantic subplots that had the fizzling tension of a Who’s the Boss? episode and you have the show you love to hate.

1. The art of James Franco. I think the most obnoxious thing of 2014 was the ill conceived re-imagining of Cindy Sherman’s untitled film stills (see top of  postby Mr. James Franco. There are no words. In 2015, please leave the art making to the real artists.