Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Leftovers: Gaudy as fuck


(The following is the fragment I threw up after watching The Leftovers finale. It’s very incomplete, but you get what you pay for with Damon Lindelof and Brandon Nowalk both.)

The boldest thing in the first season of The Leftovers is the rapture of a fetus. Life begins at conception it seems. That or non- or semi-life was also raptured. Not that we know of any animals, belongings, or rocks that went. But this fetus did, and it was all to give Amy Brenneman a scene where she’s looking at her Ultrasound and then the life inside her disappears, if you catch my meaning and you really can’t miss it. The Leftovers isn’t saying life begins at conception. It’s not really saying anything. It’s just trying to be powerful.

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Good Wife is the new Deep Space Nine


In the sixth episode of the sixth season of The Good Wife, our lawyer heroes Alicia Florrick and Diane Lockhart reclaim their Chicago high-rise, just as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine predicted. That’s the exact same episode number where Deep Space Nine’s Captain Sisko and the Federation finally take back the title space station from the Dominion, an imperial alliance of alien civilizations looking to conquer the galaxy. I’m not here to tell you The Good Wife and Deep Space Nine exist in the same universe, although the evidence is right there in the color of Alicia’s mom’s hat if you people would just open your minds. But I do stand by the title: The Good Wife is the new Deep Space Nine.

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Top TV of the 2010s


(Originally posted at ello, which I’d only recommend because the pictures are so much bigger!)

People are never asking me what the greatest shows of the 2010s are, so I came up with half a top 10 list for the half-decade anyway. Now, I think greatness implies bigness, not in size but in substance. That substance can be in a single surgical performance, or it can be in a whole troupe of recurring characters. It can be in story itself, or it can be in how the story is told. There just has to be enough there that you keep watching, thinking about it, talking about it. That’s how a show lasts. I think these five shows are big (and good at being big) in all kinds of waysbroad spans, furious burrowing, intricate designs. To me, they’re the shows of the first five 2010s.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Star Trek, "The Menagerie": The television trap


In the beginning was “The Cage.” Long before Picard stood trial for humanity’s violence, there was Gene Roddenberry’s pilot about the virtues of that violence. God had more wrath in the old days. Jeffrey Hunter, Jesus himself, played Captain Pike. Answering a distress signal on Talos IV, he’s kidnapped by aliens who put him through simulations of real-life experiences in the hopes of mating him with their human female, Vina, all while Adam and Eve are locked up safe and tight in a zoo. Eventually Pike threatens to blow himself up, and the aliens decide humanity is too violent, dangerous, self-destructive, and unpredictable to bother with. NBC rejected the pilot, and it wasn’t seen in its original form for two decades.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Gay Old Times 1: Pilot


January 16, 1995

Pilot

My recruitment into the vast homosexual conspiracy began at a penal colony—hold your jokes—in the premiere of Star Trek: Voyager. That’s where we meet Captain Janeway, Kate Mulgrew’s1 Picardian Renaissance woman. She’s recruiting an inmate, Tom Paris, to be her mission specialist because of Expositions 1 and 2, and she happens to have a personal connection with him via Exposition 3 (she worked for his father once upon a time). “You must be good,” he tells the audience, and here’s where we find out what Exposition 3 signifies: “My father only accepts the best and brightest.” They say great television shows show you how to watch them. So do mediocre ones. Free from the burden of actual storytelling, Star Trek: Voyager becomes a rich and rewarding code. In case it isn’t clear from the Native American with the literal forehead tattoo announcing his heritage, it’s all about what everything represents.

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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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