Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Dead Wood: Classic TV westerns


As a celebrated #tastemaker with his finger on the pulse of American pop culture, I have a new piece at The A.V. Club on a subject all the kids are talking about: classic TV westerns. I wrote it like I’d never get to write about westerns again—and I might not, my upcoming Have Gun — Will Travel overview notwithstanding—but it’s really a guide to this relatively uncharted terrain. I start with five big names to introduce the genre to the unfamiliar. I’ve planted shimmering lures like John Ford and Howard Hawks and Budd Boetticher to get our cousin cinephiles prospecting. I devote extra time to the stars and skip over the plains, and I pay a lot of attention to visuals, from Ray Rennahan’s cinematography on Laramie to the saturated pop-art coloring of The High Chaparral. It’s a good guide. Bookmark it.

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Top 20 Movies I First Saw in 2013


Last year I said I hoped 2013 would be more about back alleys than Main Street, and somehow that's how it worked out. No canon completism this year. Instead I binged on Polish cinema, waded into the avant-garde, marathoned Rex Ingram, Jean Negulesco, and Hiroshi Teshigahara. Most notably I got my passport stamped at a number of new countries, including Cuba, Senegal, and Saudi Arabia. Most of my favorites came to me by way of TCM, and most of that was pegged to Mark Cousins' heaven-on-mute The Story Of Film. You want TV vs. film? Those four months of world cinema annotating a history doc comprise the television event of the year.

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Mad Men: Season six


Expounding on my Twittering about the Mad Men's increasing dishevelment. I hope season seven is just a bunch of Cousin Itts in beanbag chairs complaining about hippies.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

2013 Dream Emmys


Look over there! It’s The Good Wife cast looking positively adequate! Ooh, there’s the Modern Family bloc dressed as, and apparently reenacting, The Aristocrats, clearly inspiring some delicious jokes from Dame Diana Rigg. Whoa, they invited Dr. Steve Brule! And he’s chewing up the placeholders for The Big Bang Theory? Up ahead Ken Cosgrove and the bunheads are dancing a wistful tap to “Getaway,” and some Julie loon just got on the loudspeaker desperately looking for a guy named Blaze? I don’t know what’s going on, but the 2013 dream Emmys are off to a great start.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Game of Thrones: "Mhysa" Still Confused


A week and a half after the finale, I still have questions about Game Of Thrones. Like why does Ygritte have a catch-phrase? But mostly, “Mhysa” is so intent on delivering a taste of season four that it doesn’t sufficiently wrap up season three. What is the full impact of the Red Wedding? I know what I think the impact is, but I’m so naive I thought the Starks were actually going to be reunited. Tyrion says it will haunt the Lannisters for a generation. Why so cynical? The “Rains of Castamere” incident happened a generation ago and the Lannisters are doing quite fine for themselves. Tyrion says the North remembers, but last I heard the North abandoned (Karstarks) or betrayed (Boltons) the Starks. Is there really any reason to think the Red Wedding will come back to bite Tywin in the ass or is it just that we’re supposed to like Tyrion so he has to protest the slaughter of our heroes?

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Seven Angry Men: Father knows best


Marked by weepy Gothic windows and heavenly low-angle portraits, Charles Marquis Warren’s side-eye take on the John Brown saga is a holy war, a prophet’s crusade against a reverend and his flock of slavers culminating in personal martyrdom. John Brown doesn’t liberate the land so much as he exerts his iron will. In Raymond Massey's hands, Brown doesn’t think; everything is already thought. “An eye for an eye, my sons.” He doesn’t need to deliberate, even when it means risking his own children. The card says Moops.

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