SQOG - the Sasquatch Blog

****All the posts below are bigtime SPOILERS if you haven't seen, read, or heard the entertainment I am talking about. Look at the post heading for the day and decide if you want to be spoiled on that topic or not.****

October 2011

 

-Wednesday, November 30th, 2011: Music Videos - Stanley?! & Others

Stanley, really?!I honestly have no idea where this video comes from and I’m not sure I want to take anything away from it by writing too much about it because this is just awesomeness. This looks like a parody of 90s music videos starring Leslie David Baker, best known as ‘Stanley’ from THE OFFICE. That’s right, Stanley in a music video. There is so much strangeness going on here, it’s hard to know what to point out. The video is Stanley dancing and rapping around a mansion in pajamas, marveling at all the beautiful women in the home who want to sleep with him. At one point, a hand reaches out of a refrigerator to give him a sandwich and a handjob. Later, at a costume party by the pool, a guy dressed as the SNL ‘Dick in a Box’ guys gets a Playboy bunny to open his box. And you haven’t lived until you’ve heard Stanley rap ‘Put your hands up on me. I’m a love sex machine.’ Much like the humor in THE OFFICE, I can’t figure out whether this video is real or whether it’s a parody that is played so straight that it seems real.  Where is the line anymore? I mean, the video clearly wants to be successful because they are selling the song on Itunes, so how can we judge intent? I hesitate to link this, but look at the infamous ‘Friday’ video by Rebecca Black, a video so atrociously bad that it feels like it should be a parody, yet it is a genuine video made by people who thought this was good. Black has no intention of making a parody, she genuinely thinks this is good, and damn that’s sad. The burning pop music question of 2011 truly is: Front seat or back seat, gotta make my mind up, which seat should I take?

Just to add a great video in, after that ‘Friday’ travesty, you’ve got to see the music video for ‘Lonely Boy’ by The Black Keys. This may seem like a lazy video, just one long shot of a guy dancing in front of a motel, but damn, this is the most entertaining video the Black Keys have done! And that’s saying a lot. That normal guy dancing is just so magnetic and he totally has some killer regular joe dance moves. He is so serious, he doesn’t look like he is even having fun, which, of course, makes the dance ten times funnier. I have a bit of a soft spot for extremely literal music videos that straightforwardly depict the exact actions sung about. For example, I love the very literal Men at Work music video for ‘Land Down Under’. Especially at :58 when they sing and act out a meeting between the singer and a Vegemite-loving man in Brussels. So I love it back in the ‘Lonely Boy’ video when the guy sings about how a girl pulls his heart out so he mimes his heart being yanked out of his chest. Or when he talks about ‘waiting’ so he looks intently at his watch. That kind of obvious action just cracks me up for some reason. It’s so much fun to see how music videos have circled back on themselves. While rap stars continue to spend millions of dollars on videos of excess that showcase helicopters, hot booties and Christal, there are also cheap hipster throw-back videos that try and recall the fun times videos are supposed to document. They meld together sarcasm and irony, but the most successful of these cheap videos also mix in genuine fun. As I’ve talked about before, Spike Jonze is arguably the master of striking this balance, especially with his iconic Sabotage video. That’s about all I’ve got for today, nothing too deep, let’s just file this post under ‘Shit I Like.’

 

 

 

-Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011: Rando Movies - Limitless & Paul

Bradley BritsSo due to economic reasons, I recently moved from my beautiful SF one-bedroom home of 5 years to a smallish mildew-y room with 3 roommates, 2 dogs, and 1 bathroom. It has taken some getting used to being around people all the time like in the college days, but there have been some surprising perks. I don’t have cable on my TV, so I have eliminated all my channel surfing tendencies. Apparently, that was quite a lot of wasted hours. Now, I am actually able to use some of that time to read, to watch downloaded television episodes, or to chip away at the 550+ movies on my Netflix queue. No, you did not read that wrong, I really do have over 550 movies, not television shows, in my queue. It’s a problem. There are just so many titles out there that I want to see, both crappy and award-winning, and now I am finally starting to make a smallish dent in that cinematic pile. Two light but entertaining movies were delivered to my shared address last weekend and I was pleasantly surprised at both LIMITLESS and PAUL.

LIMITLESS is the first real test of Bradley Cooper’s star power and from what he shows here, this guy can easily carry a film, though I would never expect to see him up for any major awards. He is very good at playing a dick, which I assume is his natural personality seeping into his roles. Here, he is asked to do a little more, but he is still most convincing to me as a privileged snob. Even if its not, LIMITLESS feels like  a Philip K. Dick adaptation, a cool little sci-fi tale based on one high concept idea. The idea here being that one little pill can open up the 90% of our brains that we don’t use, turning us into money-making, model-banging, rock star geniuses. Fun idea, and it’s a blast to see Cooper live out our fantasies and indulge his ego just how every living person wishes they could. There are certainly problems with this kind of movie. It’s always hard to depict a brilliant character when the writer isn’t as smart as the character they are writing. Therefore, Cooper’s character makes some dumb-ass decisions, even though he is on a drug that pushes his IQ into four digits. For instance, why on earth did he need to borrow money from a gangster? He keeps talking about an epic plan for which he needs money right now, but he never says what that plan is, plus, I find it hard to believe that he couldn’t have made the money he borrowed in a couple days anyways. It also seems obvious to me that the first thing you would do if you had a limited supply of a genius drug would be to divide it and hide it exceptionally well so that your entire stash was never at risk. Oh well, I can accept that Cooper’s character is smart enough. But there were also a bunch of dropped plot threads. Like what the hell happened to the dead blonde girl, did Cooper kill her?! This was never answered and it could have been a cool way to explore the side-effects of the drug. That being said, the action was excellent, and it was fun to see the drug passed around, especially once Cooper’s girlfriend took a hit and figured out how to elude an attacker. I’m not sure that I buy that just because you have memory, you are capable of being an expert fighter, but I can let it go. And I loved that the desperate home invasion fight with the gangster was played out to its gruesomely logical and vampiric end. I’m still confused as to what happened in the end, is Cooper still taking? Does he really not fear anything that de Niro is capable of? And even though this is just light fun fare, should we really be sending the message out there that you can improve your life through drug usage? Probably best not to think that much.

I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed PAUL. Most of the time, the movie was exactly what I expected, a nerdy and funny E.T. road trip with two of my favorite British comedians. I wasn’t expecting SHAUN OF THE DEAD or HOT FUZZ greatness here, and I think that was part of the problem for a lot of people. No, this is just a funny little movie with some excellent CGI work on the titular character, a plethora of insider movie jokes and quotes, and some surprisingly moving character scenes. PAUL has a decidedly British sense of humor which favors a lot of witty chuckles as opposed to barrel laughs, but I liked that approach, especially when complimented with the stunningly gorgeous New Mexico landscapes. I am a sucker for Western vistas, and this movie is full of endless fields, barren rock quarrys, quaint towns, local bars, and the Devil’s Tower, mostly shot at sunset. I often drive around these kinds of evocative areas of the country and they never cease to shock me with the beauty and natural awe that is still alive in this country. I liked how the movie explains Paul’s clichéd appearance, saying that the government has been planting Paul’s image into global pop culture just in case we do someday make contact with his race, we won’t be so shocked. I like the scene that shows Paul in an INDIANA JONES-type warehouse, giving Steven Spielberg tips on how to write E.T. I like how Jason Bateman’s agent character shoots out the car radio, deadpanning, “Boring conversation anyways.” I love that the Big Bad government type is played by Sigourney Weaver and still happily go along with the fact that Blythe Danner knocks her out, screaming “Get away from her you bitch!!” Sure some of this is obvious humor, but it is all fun, warm-hearted, and aimed right down the center of Geek Lane, so I’m okay with it. I have never been a huge fan of Jason Bateman, mostly because I haven’t seen him do a real role since JUNO, but even though he is again playing a small supporting role, I was really impressed with the seriousness and gravitas he gives his agent character. Bateman holds the screen as a badass in a way that I didn’t think he was capable of and I liked the twist reveal of his true motivations. Well done sir. Even though scenes with Kristen Wiig and Blythe Danner are short, there are moving moments in both women’s arcs. The scene where Paul fixes Wiig’s blind eye is moving, and there was some true pathos between Paul and Danner when he apologizes to her for ruining her life. Sadly, this is probably some of the most subtle acting Seth Rogen has ever done, but these scenes aren’t dashed over in favor of the comedy. The drama is given short but loving care and I appreciate that the effort was made at all.  I feel that has to do with the director, Greg Mottola, a man whose career shows how adept he is at blending comedy and emotion. I wasn’t expecting much from PAUL, but there was enough there to make me laugh, cry a bit, and wistfully remember some of the great road trips I have taken in my life. Hard to expect much more from any movie.

 

 

 

-Monday, November 21st, 2011: AVENGERS PREP - Captain America

The CaptainI was talking to my sister the other day about the AVENGERS teaser that was released on the internet a couple weeks ago. She finally said in exasperation, “OK, I’ve really got to see CAPTAIN AMERICA now and see how it is possible that all these superheroes are following Chris Evans as the leader of the Avengers.” It’s a good point. On a team with a god, a brilliant playboy, and a noted scientist, why on earth would they follow a slightly enhanced super soldier from the 1950s? I have never read a Captain America comic, but from what I can gather, the Avengers follow Captain America because he is brave, selfless, a born leader and has an unquestionable moral imperative. After finally seeing CAPTAIN AMERICA the other night, I am still not convinced that such outsized personalities as Tony Stark, Thor, and Bruce Banner would follow this all-American regular joe. Look, I love the idea of the character. Even as a pint-sized shrimp, Steve Rogers is the most honorable and heroic man around. There is an innocence about Rogers him that is retro appealing to modern audiences weaned on the tortured psyche of Batman and the geekiness of Spiderman. Rogers fits that nostalgic sepia-tinted view we have of the army man in WW2. Nobleness and courage in a tight white T-shirt. I find it refreshing to have a hero who is just a good man who only wants to right the wrongs of an evil world. Take a look at the lovely grenade scene from the movie. With complete selflessness, Steve throws himself on that dummy grenade instead of running away. Or in his transformation scene, I love how even though he is suffering and frightened in the tube, he insists that they continue the procedure. He is the man we all wish we could be. But that’s not enough for me. I would argue that the leader of the Avengers needs to be a bit of a dick in order to maintain order amongst his egotistical and super-powered brethren. And throughout most of CAPTAIN AMERICA, Rogers is a strong but quiet presence. Obviously, it’s a fine line that his character walks. He can’t be an overconfident Tony Stark clone, yet he has to be a consummate leader without coming off as cocky. And I just don’t think they quite nailed it. There was really only one scene where Rogers is planning a battle and he still presents his ideas and experience quietly and not forcefully. Whedon is going to have to do some character ret-conning here to convince me that Steve Rogers can lead this superhero crew.

Outside of those concerns, the movie is a hoot! Joe Johnston consistently nails the nostalgic action beats of Saturday pop-serials without being cheesy and while still making the action modern. Much like he did with THE ROCKETEER, Johnston can make the old new again in a way not seen since INDIANA JONES. Take a look at the shield action scene, how there is a mix between modern power and goofy clanging shield sound effects that somehow works. And the adorable music montage that has Rogers selling war bonds to the American public is incredibly creative and catchy. Despite the length we are with pre-transformation Rogers, I never bought the strange slimming-CGI that made Chris Evans thin. It looks like bad CGI at the beginning and continues to look bad all the way up to the transformation. And adding on to his best-actor worthy performances as ‘Uddai Hussein’ in DEVIL’S DOUBLE, Dominic Cooper gives ‘Howard Stark’ plenty of Errol Flynn-like charm and chutzpah. The girl was spunky and cute, Hugo Weaving continues to demonstrate why he should only play bad guys with his awesomely insane Red Skull, and I especially liked Rogers’ rag-tag military gang. I wanted to see so much more of that team out on missions, cracking wise and kicking Nazi ass. I was really surprised that Rogers’ teammate, Bucky, was killed, I liked that he had an old friend from his childhood on his team. If the movie weren’t in such a rush to get Captain America to the modern age, I think it would have been fun to explore the role reversal between Rogers and Bucky. I understand that the movie needed to bring Captain America into modern times for next summer’s AVENGERS movie, but I really would have liked to have gotten a couple more man-on-mission films about Captain America still in WW2. I’m not sure what the plans are for Captain America after AVENGERS, but I doubt they will backtrack to this time period. Oh well. There was a wonderful ziggy breeziness to this movie that really worked for me. It sounds like condemnation when I say that I still rate this movie below IRON MAN and THOR, but I really don’t mean it that way. For the most part, I had a big smile plastered on my face for every scene and only really lament that I won’t get to spend any more time with Cap in WW2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Thursday, November 17th, 2011: GLEE - Santana's Song

SantanaWoah, where did that ending come from?! Good God GLEE, please calm down and focus on the 2 amazing storylines you are attempting instead of the 50 odd crappy ones. We are six episodes into Season 3, and while it seems that the pace and crazy-ass plotting of this show may have slowed just a teeny bit from last year, there is still just way too much happening in each episode. I had thought that series creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk were working through their ADD-style of plotting on AMERICAN HORROR STORY and maybe GLEE could become calm and greater. But no. Just look at this last GLEE episode, “Mash Off”. There was one fantastic thread in this episode, Santana and Finn, but you really had to concentrate to follow that storyline, dodging hulking plots of crap that were hurtling around the rest of the episode. Santana and Finn brought up a great teenage concept that was controversial and moving, enough so that Twitter exploded the other night with people arguing both sides. Santana was being just awful to Finn, the leader of the opposing glee club, hurling degrading insults at him for days about his weight and body issues. Finn finally struck back in a very personal way, basically ‘outing’ Santana in the school hallway, calling her a coward for failing to follow her heart and reveal that she is a lesbian. Even though Finn claims that everyone in school already knew, and I truly don’t think he meant to be spiteful, there is no way I agree with what he said. But I can completely understand why he said it. And that’s the beauty of the moment. That his words spiraled into an emotionally crippling situation for Santana is his fault, but she is as much to blame for initiating the war of words. This is the kind of bullying war that occurs on the high school battlefield; harsh words uttered with unforeseen consequences where no one wins. It’s harsh and brutal, but true. A mayoral candidate, out to attack Sue Sylvester, gets wind of Santana’s orientation and uses it in a public ad campaign to question Sue’s sexuality. Finn’s words unintentionally out Santana to the entire town. Santana sings a haunting and beautifully painful mashup of Adele songs, then when she sees Finn whispering in the audience, jumps out and smacks him in a hysterical rage.


This is powerful, emotionally-charged stuff here that was well-written and amazingly performed by Naya Rivera. I love the musical performances of GLEE, but the ones that really affect me are when the characters allow their emotions to soak into the songs, heightening the very meaning of the original artist’s intention. One of my favorites is ‘Keep Holding On’ in Season 1, when the glee club expresses its love and support for Quinn as she struggles through her pregnancy. There is one stunning moment in that song where she spins around and finds herself pressed up against Finn, at :50, the father of her child. She looks up with fear and she looks like the little girl she is, wondering if she can trust this man. Or when she cries in relief at :58. That song was an electric moment for me. Santana’s version of the Adele songs is just like that. She channels so much rage and fear and pain into the words, it’s just revelatory. All who read this blog know that moments of silence are my bread and butter. Look at the scared look Santana gives to the girls around her here at :30 in the breath between lyrics. And when she launches into her solo, good god, that fear is just pouring off of her in waves. Honestly, the last five minutes of this episode is some of the best GLEE has ever done. Up there with ‘Somebody to Love’. Up there with Burt Hummel’s words to Kurt. Up with Karofsky’s apology to Kurt. Up there with Rachel’s tear-drenched Streisand performance. Up there with Mike Chang silently desperately dancing out his frustration with his father in an empty dance room. This show can deliver such astonishing moments of power and emotion, why is this such a fleeting thing?

Because of all the other crap. To track the Santana/Finn fight, we had to suffer through Kurt comparing dodgeball to stoning, the silly Rachel ploy to cede her student council nomination, the horrendous storyline where Quinn is trying to steal her baby from Idina Menzel, and the loony, over-the-top political campaigns from Sue Sylvester. Ok, I did laugh at Sue’s first campaign with those ridiculous baboons, that was funny. I don’t have as much of a problem as others with the show’s flights of fantasy, but it does bother me when realism and fantasy exist in the same scene. Take the sequence where Will, Sue, and Burt reveal to Santana that she is about to be outed as a lesbian in a political ad. The adults take this very seriously, offering Santana support and their deepest apologies. Even Sue is shamed by how she started a war of words with her opponent candidates. But then they play the ad for Santana and it’s ridiculous. The ad is an over-the-top image flashy expose that is going for shocking, funny extravagance. It belongs in a different universe than the scene, closer to Sue’s outlandish ads about Burt having a baboon heart and being married to a donkey. In no real world would anyone make this ad, nor would anyone sane ever air it. It’s a broad parody of a campaign ad, yet the scene takes it seriously. Santana runs from the room crying, heartbreakingly revealing that she hasn’t even told her parents. So what ad did she see?! Clearly not the ridiculous fluff we just saw. In my eyes, the show can have it both ways most of the time. I’m not bothered by the fact that the glee club has money, yet can throw elaborate musical productions involving tons of rainwater on stage. But dammit, you can’t use extravagant parody in a scene to instill real and raw emotion. It doesn’t work! GLEE is truly a ‘moment’ show, and I love how the show depicts the giddy happiness one can experience when performing with a group of singers or actors. The moments I listed above are as transcendent as anything I’ve seen in television, but it is hard to take such transformative scenes when they are bookended by nonsensical and insulting plot work. I watch for the brilliance of those moments and pray that I don’t have to wait too long before the show randomly stumbles upon another moving plotline.

 

 

-Wednesday, November 16th, 2011: TRAILER MADNESS 2 - 'Snow White' & 'Hunger Games'

SW&H HGOK, the trailer madness article was becoming too long, so I had to split it up. Here are what I think are the top 2 trailers of the four that have come out this week:

HUNGER GAMES. This is a film I am definitely looking forward to. I devoured the YA books and wrote some reviews on this site a few months ago. While most adults dismiss this series as a TWILIGHT-esque tween thing (and I’ll certainly admit that the two franchises share certain elements), I think that the HG books are trying to find something deeper in its story of rebellion and televised child death. The trailer is very linear, setting up the world and introducing us to our main characters. I thought Jennifer Lawrence was an excellent choice to play ‘Katniss,’ but from the trailer I am most curious to see an unrecognizable Elizabeth Banks play ‘Effie Trinket’ and Wes Bentley’s crazy facial hair portray ‘Seneca Crane’. And no, I am not yet forgiving director Gary Ross for casting Lenny Kravitz as ‘Cinna’. Surprisingly, we get next to no sense of how the actual violence of the BATTLE ROYALE-like Hunger Games will play out. The trailer basically tells the first half of the book, ending with an admirable hook; the spoken countdown to the beginning of the Games. I think this film is in good hands and though I am sure that the violence will be tempered for its cinematic reveal, the trailer shows a steady hand at the helm. A few moments I particularly liked. At :58, I loved Katniss’s desperate shout to volunteer as tribute in place of her sister. Lawrence sounds ragged and frantic and even in this abbreviated form, that scene carries the weight that it should. I like the chilling song that plays onr eedy horns as the tributes make their way by train to the Capital. That song is nagging at me, I know it’s a cover of a song I already know, but I can’t place it. Maybe the Kronos Quartet theme from REQUIEM FOR A DREAM? Whatever the song is, it is evocative, and gives a taste of this new world. We didn’t get to see Katniss’s fiery dress and rightly so. I want to be blown away by the effects the filmmakers have in plan for that particular moment. And already, like in the books, I am so much more of a fan of Petra than Gale. Not quite sure about the white stormtrooper outfits for the Capital guards, seems a little lazy. And Rue’s song that plays over the final image needs to convince me that it’s a strong enough melody to inspire a nation. But let’s be honest here. I want this movie to be a success primarily because I desperately want to see the filmmakers take a crack at the island Hunger Games in the second book and the urban warfare of the third book. Bring on the sequels!

SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN. I never thought I would ever be giving a high ranking to a movie co-starring Kristen Stewart, directed by a no-name music video director, but this trailer is eye-poppingly cool and unique. I’m tempted to think that the two Snow White movies got confused and this is the movie directed by Tarsem. The visuals seem much more up his alley then the more sober-looking MIRROR MIRROR. That throbbing bass song, sounding like an abandoned TRON track, really tells the audience that this isn’t going to be anything like a typical fairy tale. In a way, it reminds me of the stunning WATCHMAN trailer a few years back which used a B-side Smashing Pumpkins song to highlight creative visuals and make a comic book adaptation stand out against the glut of similar titles. Back to SW though, I love the bright bold primary colors on the soldiers as they ride horses into battle. The colors certainly go against the current trend to make every battle monochromatic, it reminds me of the knights at the ‘Medieval Times’ restaurants. Where has Charlize Theron been anyways?! My first go-to movie for Theron is her balls-out nutso naked performance in DEVIL’S ADVOCATE. And I remember being so impressed with her performance in MONSTER. At the time it seemed like all the rage for actresses to wear an ugly prosthetic to garner an Oscar (I’m looking at you Nicole Kidman in THE HOURS), but Theron’s brutal transformation went far more than skin-deep. It’s nice to see her back as a diva and I hear we will be seeing her much more in the awards spotlight in a month or so. That milk bath is beautiful stark image, especially when she stands and has it dripping down her body. She looks like some bizarre cross between a marble statue and a melting candle. And of course, why have the Queen talk to a normal mirror when you can have the mirror slither out at you in a whispering cowled form like a Del Toro monster? I am afraid that Chris Hemsworth is going to be pigeonholed as beefcake for the next few years based solely on his physique. It’s too bad, because based on the tenderness and courage he placed into his cameo as George Kirk in STAR TREK, I think this kid is capable of whole lot more. And Kristen Stewart, ugh. She looks good jumping through a wall of flame, but you can count me as someone who just does not get the allure of this actress. People rightly criticize her for her morose and slight skills in the TWILIGHT series, but I’ve also seen the movies that others claim best demonstrate her talent (ADVENTURELAND and WELCOME TO THE RILEYS) and I still don’t see it. She can play the damaged brunette sulker, but that really seems to be the limit of her craft so far. It’s also probably a hint by the filmmakers that even though the film is called SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, we focus almost entirely on the Queen villain and never once hear Snow White speak. Ah well. The visuals alone in this trailer are convincing enough to get me to buy a ticket next summer, and though I imagine this film will be far worse than HUNGER GAMES and BRAVE, it wins this week’s Trailer Madness top score.

 

 

 

-Tuesday, November 15th, 2011: TRAILER MADNESS 1 - 'Brave' & 'Mirror Mirror'

brave Mirror MirrorNew film trailers galore this week, so of course, we have to take a deeper look. One of the great big showdowns next year is between the two Snow White film adaptations. There is SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, starring Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart, and Chris Hemsworth, and directed by some music video guy. Then there is MIRROR MIRROR, starring Julia Roberts, directed by Tarsem Singh, the awesome visual painter of THE FALL and IMMORTALS. Also debuting their trailers this week are the much anticipated adaptation of the popular YA novels, THE HUNGER GAMES, with Jennifer Lawrence. And finally we have the first full-length trailer for Pixar’s next epic, BRAVE, the first film from the company that has a heroine as its lead. Exciting week, huh? So let’s rate, from worst trailer to best:


MIRROR MIRROR. This just goes to show you how different these Snow White movies will be. The dark and epic HUNTSMAN trailer came out first, and it seemed that the MM people got freaked out and decided to rush out this god-awful trailer before it was really ready. I’ll admit to being confused here, because Tarsem is the director known for his extravagant visuals, but the MM trailer seems to have been directed by some studio hack. In fact, I would argue that the worst tendencies of Tarsem’s movies are on display here. Every shot seems to take place on a stage and while that is fine for most shots, it doesn’t make sense when Snow White’s run in the woods at :40 feels like it is happening on a soundstage. The tone here is light and airy, but instead of humorous, Julia Roberts comes off as insufferable, shrill and over-the-top. Are her lines supposed to be witty? It sounds like an actor playing ham because the director had no idea how to direct her. The humor appears to be as broad as possible to appeal to children, don’t be surprised if there are more than one fart jokes sprinkled in the final film. And sorry to be callow, but Snow White needs a good solid eyebrow waxing to even approach beauty and it seems creepy that the young actress appears to be way younger than the Prince. And poor Arnie Hammer. After such a fine debut in THE SOCIAL NETWORK, you deserve better than to be panting like a dog while under the spell of a love potion. I just kept wondering how this could get worse, but when we got to a dwarf quoting SCARFACE, I knew it couldn’t go any lower. And when even Nathan Lane is rolling his eyes at Julia Roberts’s antics, he mimes for everyone in the viewing audience. I think what most disappointed me here was the lack of any Tarsem visual flair. I could get a sense of it in a couple flashes of a fight that seemed to take place on elaborate frilled stilts, but otherwise the director capable of these kind of beautiful images seems to be phoning this one in. It feels bad being so mean, but this is truly an awful trailer that shows a production that has gone out of control.


BRAVE. I know, I know, how dare I throw a trailer for a Pixar movie in with the likes of warmed over crap like MIROR MIRROR? But while I loved the teaser to the film and I heartily approve of Pixar’s move into a tale of female-powered epicness, I was disappointed by the silly antics presented in this trailer. It starts great, with that imposing narrator telling a tall tale of a massive beast. I love this kind of thing, inflated family yarns told over tables of strange beasts and weird magicks in mysterious mists. It brings a great sense of place and scale. And if you look at the shot of the girl at :45, when she scrunches up her nose and laughs at her father, honestly, that is some of the most beautifully expressive CGI I have ever seen. Look at the way strands of her hair fall in her face and how her manner of strength and coy teasing is simply expressed even though it’s a face of pixels and mattes. But then we get into silly Viking humor that seems to directly rip off the Viking hijinks of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON. And I expect more from a Pixar film, sorry. The humans are all exaggerated, with oblong-shaped bodies and faces, and to me, this felt like animation from a lesser studio, like Dreamworks or something. With each moment that stirs me with epic images of blue magic, boiling cauldrons, and a young woman’s fight for equality, we get some guy revealing his ass and a blobby woman screaming away from bear cubs and running into a wall. Ugh, its like a bad SHREK sequel here. Things come back together for the finale, once the girl starts climbing the cliff, then we go out on some epic adventure images, which I appreciate. I’m disappointed. Granted, this is only a trailer and reports are that there has been a ton of behind-the-scenes strife on this project. Honestly, the best Pixar films have emerged from production turmoil, so I am hopeful they figure out the tone and make this an epic Scottish tale. Go back to the INCREDIBLES or the WALL-E model guys and ask yourselves what originality animation can bring to a film on a BRAVEHEART-type scale. Don’t retreat into fart jokes and comfortable SHREK humor. Fight and argue and kill for something new. Please!!

 

 

 

-Monday, November 14th, 2011: SNL - Kenan & Stefon

Kenan as goofy hostAh Saturday Night Live, what a love/hate thing you have going on with the American public right now. No one really thinks that the show is anywhere near its heights, a time when legends such as Belushi, Akroyd and Murray were part of the cast. Sure there are still some funny skits these days, but the quality of a show usually depends on the class and comedic chops of the host. So when you have hosts like Alec Baldwin or Melissa McCarthy, you have a better chance of experiencing some truly hilarious sketches. But when the producers are just looking for ratings and invite ‘stars’ to host such as January Jones or Taylor Lautner, the results can be atrociously bad. I’m not sure what the problem is; even though the show is well into its 37th season, the rotation of actors and writers should maintain fresh ideas and jokes in every show. I would love to see some changes at the top of the ladder, maybe get Lorne Greene out of there and have him serve in an advisory role to a younger and more in-tune show runnner. And for gods sake, do we need to have all the music performances anymore? In today’s world of auto-tune and acts that are best seen live or not seen at all, the tinny acoustics and unflatteringly close camerawork of SNL rarely does modern musicians any favors. SNL’s most recent bright points have had to do with its spot-on political parodies with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. But without those two incredible talents and the omnipresence of news parody shows run by John Stewart and Stephen Colbert, I find it hard to imagine a time when SNL will again be known as the most witty and controversial political satirist in entertainment.


I was never really an avid watcher of the show. I watched the entire season two years ago because I knew one of the new actors, missed all of last year, and have caught a couple episodes here and there this fall. I will always make sure to keep up on the Digital Shorts section because most of the new videos that Andy Samburg creates are hilariously brilliant. The creation of that segment, where Samburg is basically given a camera and money and allowed to film anything his crazy mind comes up with, seems wholly separate from SNL and is more the direction the show needs to be going to remain relevant. Critics and audiences seem to be in agreement that the best current cast member is Kristen Wiig. I’m not sure I agree. Her characters increasingly tend to bank on her burgeoning fame and a lot of them get repetitive and dull the more the show leans on them. I can’t stand her character ‘Gilly’ or the one with the small hands and that character who works at the grocery store doesn’t amuse me. When she is give more to do than play some spastic socially awkward misfit, I am a fan, but given the staleness of her one-note characters and her recent success in films with BRIDESMAIDS, it is time for Wiig to leave the show and expand her career. She has so much promise and should take notes on how Fey and Poehler have turned their SNL starts into stardom. For my money, the funniest and most talented actor in the current SNL cast is Bill Hader. He is rarely the star of a skit, but his mannerisms are often hilarious and even though he has been known to start laughing during a skit, it always feels earned as opposed to annoying like Fallon’s breaks used to be. His James Carville impression is fantastic, but I am a huge fan of his awesomely intricate performance as the NY club character ‘Stefon’. All the tics and tightly coiled tension along with the weird vocal delivery and laugh breaks behind his cupped hands add up to a fantastic original creation. He hasn’t been particularly well-used in films yet, I find him kind of obvious in SUPERBAD, but SNL is a show that really fits his brand of humor.

Whew, okay that’s a lot of background, but I am getting to a moment, I swear! Probably the most derided cast member on the show is Kenan Thompson, the portly black guy. I agree with the critiques, but I also think the writers are to blame here. He is so often used as the token black guy, but he also gives the same damn performance for every caricature, kind of an over-the-top heavy love lothario. I really don’t like Kenan’s lazy Charles Barkley impersonations or his constantly resurrected performance as a 70s game show host that often breaks into song. However, he was part of one of the funniest skits that I can remember. This is a skit from Taylor Lautner’s awful hosting gig. And honestly, the sketch isn’t that funny. Lautner and one of the girl cast members are acting as awkward teenagers meeting at an ice cream store. Every couple minutes, Kenan Thompson will float into the scene as 70s porn music plays and offer up advice to the young lovebirds as some kind of omniscient love doctor. The Lautner ice cream scenes start to get strange and Thomas’s love guru gets increasingly flummoxed and angry at Lautner for screwing up so badly. And for some reason, Kenan’s increasing frustration and anger at his stage assistants just hits my funnybone hard. The first time it gets hilarious is when Lautner starts talking about how he likes to squeeze a ball hard when he gets nervous. Kenan glides across the stage confused, saying, “Uhm, I don’t even-,” and exits right out the other side of the stage. Then when Lautner shows off his geeky Hobbit necklace, Kenan yells out from off-screen, “What?!” then sticks his head in-screen just to yell out, “NO!” Oh man, I was crying I was laughing so hard when I saw this on TV a couple years back. I thought it might have just been funny to me back then but just watching it now again but another big damn smile on my face. The show may never be great again, but as long as I can occasionally find weird-ass sketches that make me laugh, brilliant Digital Shorts, and the occasional John Hamm appearance, I won’t turn SNL off if its already on. Maybe that’s not a ringing endorsement of the show, but I find it hard to give it anymore praise than that.

 

 

 

-Friday, November 11th, 2011: FIREFLY - Episode #12: The Message

Carrying the bulletWe are getting near the end of our journey through the episodes of the long-cancelled but brilliant television series, FIREFLY. The Message isn’t my favorite episode, but there are some poignant parts of it that still ring with me. This was the last episode filmed for the show and it was during the filming of this episode that the cast and crew learned that FIREFLY had been cancelled. There is a pall of melancholy that hangs over a lot of the proceedings here, especially the beautifully shot and scored funeral sequence in the snow at the end. And I like the ways the episode explores how different people react to death. This is another episode of FIREFLY that never made it to television screens, banished along with Trash and Heart of Gold to the DVD release. Even though I have a soft spot for Heart of Gold this is probably the most meaningful episode to be lost. Watching such a sad and moving tale that still manages to weave in great action and humor would certainly have won over more viewers and it just pisses me off all over again that this show wasn’t given a chance to succeed. The plot details an old army friend of Mal and Zoe’s, Tracey, who attempts to take advantage of the crew’s loyalty and morality to help him smuggle illegal organs to a buyer. I’m not the biggest fan of the guest star, Jonathan Woodward, too snively for my tastes, but he has a special place in Whedon fandom for being the only noteworthy actor to appear in all three (at the time) Whedon television shows: BUFFY, ANGEL, and FIREFLY. Quite a feather in the cap if you ask me. I’ve talked a lot in the SQOG about how messed up I was when I first came across this show, recovering from jaw surgery on a bunch of drugs in my parents’ basement. There is a quote from their war days that Mal, Zoe, and Tracey repeat to each other that I wrote down on a piece of paper and hung over my sickbed:


“When you can’t run, you crawl. And when you can’t crawl, when you can’t even do that . . . you find someone to carry you.”


I’ve never been good at asking people for help. I pride myself on being self-sufficient and am very aware of never overstaying my welcome with people. To a fault some would say. Even though I was clammed up in a basement, high as a kite from pain medications, I never wanted to be a bother. But I latched on to that quote and by believing in it enough, I was able to start to crack out of my shell a bit and ask family members for the help I needed. It was a very hard thing for me to do, to admit that I needed others. And as stupid and clichéd as it sounds, FIREFLY really helped me change into what I needed to be. That’s why I am doing these recaps, because I want to express my love for a show that expressed emotions, ideas, and a morality that made me want to change. And I can’t really ever fully express my thanks to Whedon and the other writers for helping me do that. Oh well. Enough of Trevor Time, let’s dive into this episode!


With the opening in the crazy interstellar market, I think that the idea that the world of FIREFLY contains no aliens somehow really helps sell this reality. Whedon has always made a point to show how grungy and lived-in this world is, and even though there are spaceships and the like, it just seems more realistic that when humans move out into space, it will still just be us. That small difference really draws a line between the reality of FIREFLY and the STAR TREK/STAR WARS franchises. Throw-away bit, but I think important to the series in making it an identifiable show and an interesting move for a show runner previously known for shows about vampires, slayers, gods, and magical beings. Moving along. Oh Wash, your witticisms never fail to make me smile: “Oh! It’s grotesque!! . . . Oh, and there’s something in a jar.” Hilarious. Come on Zoe, you must be laughing all day with that imp. And I like the small example of how streetwise Mal is, calmly snatching his money back from his pickpocket. And of course, Jayne’s infamous hat. “Kinda cunning, don’t you think?” In an overall mournful episode, the hat plays as a nice visual reminder that even someone as horrible as Jayne has someone who loves him. That goofy ass hat went on to become the rallying symbol for Browncoats everywhere.


What an enlightening flashback to the war. I love seeing our well-established crew as different people. Zoe is just the ultimate cold warrior, calmly slitting throats and threatening subordinates. But I love her quiet exasperation with Mal as she lectures young Tracey:

ZOE: First rule of battle, little one. Don't ever let them know where you are.
MAL: (guns blazing, running in) "Whoo-hoo! I'm right here. I'm right here! You want some of me? Yeah, you do. Come on. Come on!"
ZOE: "Course, there are other schools of thought."

I love seeing this rare side of Mal. This is Mal during the war, full of life and spitfire, before the end of the war that so decimated his soul and spirit. He is just so happily unhinged and Fillion clearly has a ball playing such a joyous character. Mal is wise and one hell of a commander, him and Zoe converse like they can read each other’s mind. At the same time he is so gentle, concerned about his superior’s career when that officer has clearly has gone mentally AWOL. Present Mal still has all those traits, they’re just buried beneath heaps of pain and anger. It’s just nice to see baggage-less Mal for a spell. And there is a great little note there when Mal and Zoe refuse to let Book help them carry Tracey’s coffin. It’s their friend, a war bond, and they will carry his burden. The scene where they play his message in the cargo hold is moving, but it’s hard for me to take seriously after seeing this moment played for laughs by Nathan Fillion during the FIREFLY blooper reel. Seriously, how awesome is Nathan Fillion, what a hilarious idea!

One of the treats in the later episodes of FIREFLY is watching the budding friendship between Jayne and Book. At first glance, they seem diametrically opposed in every viewpoint possible, but somehow they develop a mutual respect. I think it’s because Book used to be a lot like Jayne before he became a preacher, so he understands what drives a man like Jayne. And Jayne recognizes that Book is a man who came from badness to morality and he respects that almost in a way that a son might appreciate the path of his father. Any way you spin it, I like the way they fumble toward spiritual understanding while talking about dead Tracey. I love the scene of Mal and Zoe laughing with Inara, swapping funny war stories about Tracey. What a wonderful way to appreciate someone and I love how engaged Inara is here, trying so hard to quell some of the pain in her captain and first mate. They need to tell these stories and Inara is there ready to help.


If you listen to some of the commentaries for these episodes, Whedon reveals that he always wanted Wash to become a calmer pilot as things became stressful and dangerous. The logic being that it is only behind the wheel that Wash truly becomes master of his domain. He has complete confidence in his abilities and enters almost a Zen state of reaction and innovation. We see this type of Wash in the pilot for FIREFLY and most notably in the film SERENITY. So I don’t know what happened in The Message! This pilot Wash is jittery, nervous, and hilarious, like Joss didn’t show up on set for a few days and the director decided to have some fun. I mean look at that hilarious yell at 2:08 when Wash desperately ducks under a collapsing mountain, really funny as hell.

The whole ending sequence plays off of a point I made way back in my review for Bushwhacked. Mal has this great scene with Book as they figure out the play that will keep them all alive while never actually uttering their plan aloud. Tracey reads this exchange the wrong way, thinking that Mal and his crew are going to give him up so he starts shooting and taking hostages. It is a very telling facet of Mal’s command manner that he never corrects Tracey’s false assumption. I think that Mal believes that if he helps someone or takes them in as family, then in return, he is owed a bit of blind faith. Mal needs his crew to trust and respect them and even if they don’t understand his plan, the crew has to trust that Mal is acting in their best interest. He could easily clarify Tracey’s mistake, but since Tracey doesn’t trust Mal’s choices, he doesn’t deserve the crew’s protection. It’s a strange passive aggressive leadership style, placing loyalty and trust so high, but I really like what this quirk tells us about Mal and how deeply entwined he is with those he chooses to call family. And damn, if you fire at Wash, Zoe will not hesitate in the slightest to put you down.  

COOLEST ACTION/WESTERN MOMENT: This has to be the mournful funeral sequence set in the snow on Tracey’s home planet. This feels like a classic Western scene, with an open casket and the strong sad figures standing around in dusters, oblivious to the elements. It’s a scene that acknowledges the nastiness of the world around them and for me, that heightens the Western mystique of the story.

COOLEST DIGITAL EFFECTS SHOT: There are a ton of fantastically creative shots to choose from here, and rightly the best FX shot comes from the ice planet chase. The shot at 2:23 has so many layers to it, that has to be my favorite. We are looking down on the fighter jet chasing Serenity, but then we so a shaky zoom and catch down to Serenity slaloming through the ice canyons. I love how the camera mimics actual human handling, losing sight of the ship for a bit, then jerking along to catch up. Then, in the same shot, we zoom back to see the fighter jet set off its afterburners and go off to hunt. There is so much complexity to this shot, adding in the snow and clouds, I really love the attention and care that ZOIC puts into their effects. Now, if only they could have put more time into the effect of the mountain blowing up, seriously, the pieces of rock look like they are from a video game!

 

 

 

-Thursday, November 10th, 2011: PENN STATE SCANDAL - Ugh

PaternoI don’t like to use this blog as a lectern from which to spout opinions about things outside the realm of entertainment, but now that Ashton Kutcher has chimed in on the Penn State scandal issue, I can have at it! This scandal is a disgusting situation that provides another demonstration of how money and power can hide anything. But without trying to be too offensive about it, the scandal is also bringing up interesting points about moral responsibility and our mob mentality need to find enough people to blame. For those who have avoided the issues, the former Penn State assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky, has been sexually abusing young boys from his own sponsored foster home for the past 15-odd years. His crimes have been reported multiple times to Penn State, but no action was ever taken by the administration, most likely to avoid any scandal that would fall upon their vaunted football program. It’s a sick situation, and much of the school’s administration is being pulled down with Sandusky, including legendary football coach, Joe Paterno, who retired yesterday under pressure from the public and Penn State trustees. The Paterno ‘firing’ is a bit of a tricky matter because it starts to explore how far the line of moral culpability extends. As I understand it from the timelines, Sandusky was once brought up on child molestation charges in 1998, but the judges dismissed the charges (before disappearing himself). Shortly after, in early 1999, Sandusky retired from Penn State, but apparently still remained close to the football team. In Fall 2000, a janitor sees Sandusky performing oral sex on a boy in the locker room showers. He only tells his fellow janitors as he is afraid that if he reports the matter, he will be fired. In March 2002, a graduate assistant witnesses Sandusky assaulting another boy and informs Coach Paterno. Paterno immediately informed the Penn State athletic director and vice president. They assured Paterno and the grad assistant that they will take care of the matter. The incident disappears until last week when a boy comes forward claiming assault and Sandusky is arrested on 40 criminal counts. Penn State immediately fires its president, vice-president, athletic director, and head coach. Now, I respect this move. The men at the top, the VP, president, and athletic director are directly guilty of burying a potentially explosive issue. The argument against Paterno is that he should have done more, he should have gone to the police, and this is where it gets a little blurry for me.


There is that old quote by Edmund Burke that fits what we are doing here, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” And Paterno did do something; he reported the incident to his superiors even though Sandusky was technically no longer in his employ. Legally, Paterno did nothing wrong and that is why he isn’t being charged. So he was fired on a moral charge here, that he should have done more when he saw his superiors covering up the scandal. Look, I agree with the firing of Paterno, but I think that if we hold Paterno to a moral standard, then we have to be consistent. Everybody who failed to act should be fired. We should fire the graduate assistant, the janitor who saw Sandusky, and all his fellow janitors. It doesn’t take a man in power to call the cops, every single one of those people helped bury these indiscretions through their inaction. But I haven’t heard about any other firings, which leads me to believe that Paterno’s firing is not about his moral decisions, but about his visibility and fame. And that is something I have a problem with. Let’s stop lying to ourselves and saying this is an ethical firing, because it’s just more about punishing someone famous. In many ways, Paterno is the face of Penn State, so it makes a big headline to fire such a notorious figure. But even though it feels unfair to punish minimum wage workers, by our own ethical accounting, those janitors and assistants suffered the exact same moral lapse as Paterno! Maybe I’m missing some other part of the story here, but I find this witch hunt disturbing. There can be no questioning the awfulness of the crime and the culpability of the men at the top who hid it, but if we are going to judge people by a moral standard instead of a legal one, it must be absolute. And from what I have heard, Paterno is devastated that he didn’t do more, literally crying in front of his players. He seems like a good man, yet he is guilty for a moral standard that very few people in this world live up to. He should be held responsible for that lack of action, but we must recognize that, in different situations, every single one of us is guilty of not living up to that standard. Child abuse is obviously a hot-button issue, emotions are running high, and if someone dares to speak about appropriate measures, they will often be castigated along with the guilty for daring to question retributive actions.


The other day, television idiot Ashton Kutcher, tweeted “How do you fire Jo Pa? #insult #noclass as a hawkeye fan I find it in poor taste.” The reaction on Twitter was fast and ferocious. In an apology letter, Kutcher claimed that he had walked by the TV, only saw that Paterno was fired and none of the details, assumed it was because of his team’s losing record, and tweeted the comment. Whether this is true or not, with a Twitter fanbase of 8 million, Kutcher really should have watched the broadcast for a couple more seconds before he blabbed his careless thoughts. Even after his apology, Kutcher claims that the continued hostile tweets have caused him to give up personal tweeting on Twitter. First, let me stop for a second and bemoan the loss of this ass-clown’s wit and thoughts. Our world will now be a darker place without Ashton Kutcher’s tweets. But this seems like a ploy to me. It feels like Kutcher has been trying to get out of his personal tweets for a while, possibly on the advice of his PR team, possibly because he doesn’t want to commit a Sheen-like faux-pas while earning a bajillion dollars playing the lead in a network series. Surely, he has seen foul comments in his feed before, and if he can’t take 8 million people telling him that he screwed up, then he shouldn’t have been on Twitter in the first place. If this is a ploy to get out of the Twitter-sphere, then I don’t like that a celebrity is using a child sex scandal to move his career in the right direction. Ugh, just a whole lot of ugly things and this is only going to get worse. In the end, the fault lies with the pedophile, Jerry Sandusky, a man who ruined the lives of children. Let’s remember the prime mover of all of this and try not to destroy too many other lives with our wildly swinging sword of rage and revenge.

UPDATE: Is this true that the lawyer defending Sandusky, Joe Amendola, is also a criminal himself?! The lawyer showed up on the brutal interview between Bob Costas and Jerry Sandusky the other day. And apparently, Amendola impregnated his teenage client back in the mid-1990s. She was 16 at the time (the legal age of consent in PA), and he was about 49. OK, so maybe that isn’t technically illegal, but damn, that is just awful on from a moral societal perspective. And why on earth did Amendola okay the Costas interview?! Sandusky sounded guilty as hell, especially when he waffled on very straight-forward answers when pushed by Costas. Most tellingly, Costas asked Amendola directly if he would leave his children alone with Sandusky. Amendola immediately replied, “yes, without hesitation.” Amendola’s current wife wrote on her Facebook page later, “OMG, did Joe just say that he would allow my kids to be alone with Jerry Sandusky?!” This just keeps getting more and more disgusting…

 

 

 

-Wednesday, November 9th, 2011: 3 WOMEN - The List

rw el kbNothing deep about this post today, but I was watching a movie trailer and it made me think about my 3 Women. Remember in FRIENDS when Ross and Rachel came up with the laminated list of 5 celebrities they were allowed to cheat on each other with? For the record, Ross’s choices were: Uma Thurman, Winona Ryder, Elizabeth Hurley, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Dorothy Hammill (but alas, not Isabella Rossellini). Rachel’s were: Chris O’Donnell, John F. Kennedy Jr., Daniel Day Lewis, Sting, and Parker Stevenson(Hardy Boy). And for completist’s sake, Chandler’s choices were: Kim Basinger, Cindy Crawford, Halle Berry, Yasmine Bleeth, and Jessica Rabbit. Be understanding, remember, FRIENDS is an artifact of the mid-90s. My 3 Women are kind of like that FRIENDS list, just not as crass. These aren’t women that I would cheat with, that’s just awful, but just 3 female celebrities that I find immensely attractive. The other big difference between the FRIENDS list and mine is that there is actually a chance that I might cross paths with these ladies someday. I would never say I was a player in the entertainment world, but I was an agent assistant and director assistant for years in NY and Hollywood before I started funding independent films, which I still do now. You never know! Now, I may not go to all of their movies when they are out in theaters, some of these women make pretty crappy films, but they certainly rate an immediate home rental when their movies come out in video. I just find something extra in these three ladies, some indefinable allure that can often totally immerse me into a film. They certainly share a type, which doesn’t really transfer over to my personal life, so I’m not sure what that says about my preferences in fantasy as opposed to reality. All three women are brunettes, with high foreheads and dark eyes. All three women are mothers, so do with that little nugget what you will. Each one has a particular movie or moment that makes them perfection, a depiction of the kind of woman that a man would find irresistible. So let’s start with the women. 2nd and 3rd place are always switching positions on me, but for some reason, that one woman has always stood alone up top. We’ll start with #3.

3) Rachel Weisz. She may seem a little bit different from the rest of the women on this list, but I find her luminous. I don’t think she did anything for me when I first noticed her in THE MUMMY. It was really her performance and the way in which she was filmed in ABOUT A BOY that floored me. Most of the time, Weisz exudes a very earthy sensuality, like her vibrant and pregnant Oscar-winning character in THE CONSTANT GARDENER. It’s her realism, not her artifice that makes her so sexy. But in ABOUT A BOY, it was as if the director was in love with her because they just made her the best woman in the world. I love this coy hazy scene where Hugh Grant and Weisz first meet. Not to get too serious here, but I do believe that everyone in life has a path. A way that we are supposed to our lives. Some of us stay on the path that we are meant to follow and some of us don’t. But I think that whatever spirit or force guides us sometimes sends us signposts to subtly tell us which way we are supposed to go. When Hugh Grant meets Rachel in this scene, he knows that this is far more important than the chance encounter it appears to be, this is his signpost, and he makes that leap to get back on his path. I can see how Weisz might inspire that kind of jump. She serves a similar purpose in THE FOUNTAIN, causing Hugh Jackman to cross time and space to save various incarnations of her life. At least I think that is what Jackman is doing. THE FOUNTAIN is quite a confounding movie. She is ethereal in this film, a dying vibrant and unique mind, and it was hard for me to watch her go.

2) Evangeline Lilly. Or more commonly known as ‘Kate Austen’ from the TV show LOST. Unfortunately, her character was often one of the weakest on LOST, but I fell for her pretty early on. It was a little hard to buy her as a bad-ass convict, and her character backstory paled in comparison to the complexity of Jack or Locke or Sawyer. I sometimes thing the writers never really knew what to do with her, so they just had her be the constant tag-along. I’m not sure that her character’s lack of depth is Lilly’s fault though, because she can really pull off a good emotional scene whenever she wants to. She has those light green eyes that really work to express the emotions she struggles through. And the freckles are just damn cute. Lilly is Canadian and really seems to have accidentally fallen into the entertainment industry. I remember that I would sometimes see her as an extra in the background of a couple episodes of SMALLVILLE, and she even did late-night dating commercials on some obscure TV channel way into her run on LOST. As a person, she seems to be a bit of a tomboy mess, but that’s okay with me. In her short film career, she seems to often play the jilted girlfriend or the lonely wife. I have many problems with THE HURT LOCKER, but one of the big ones was that I could not understand how the troubled main character could keep going back to Iraq when he had Evangeline Lilly playing his smokin’ hot wife back home! Obviously, that’s some personal bias there, but come on dude, she deserves better! Or Hugh Jackman in REAL STEEL, how on earth could he be so mean to such a sweet woman?! Honestly, sometimes these thoughts pull me out of the movie and I really don’t think Lilly can legitimately get away with playing a common everyday character that is constantly left by the men around her. I’m not sure I can pick a best moment from LOST, any return to that show just starts me up on the waterworks again. I do love her in this scene in the finale, she is yearning to get Jack to remember and I just love the way she plays this. Especially with that black dress and Island hair. And then her goodbye scene with Jack on the Island, which I’ve written about before. It’s hot and dirty and despite everyone looking crappy, still damn sexy. That’s the kind of kiss I want to go out on. I hear she was cast in the 2 HOBBIT films and good for her, it’s good to see her star continue to rise in a for-sure hit movie.

 

1) Kate Beckinsale. I can’t even explain this one, but this woman is far and away the most beautiful woman I have seen in entertainment. I’m writing this ‘3 Women’ post today because I saw a new trailer for the most recent likely-to-be-god-awful sequel in her vampire vs. werewolf franchise, UNDERWORLD. It’s what you would expect from this sort of thing; lots of sub-par MATRIX fight effects with Beckinsale looking pale and stunning in black leather. But there is one quick shot in there, at 1:53 that is just brilliant smutty film advertising. Beckinsale is in her leather catsuit crawling in an air duct and the camera is right behind her making sure to catch her fanny waving high in the air. It’s a shot likely lifted from ENTRAPMENT at 1:18 and not only does it prove that Beckinsale can still rock a bodysuit after two kids, but that she still is game to play the Hollywood game. I mean, how on earth did they get her to do that shot?? “Uhm, what is the camera focused on here guys?” “Uhhhhh, nothing, just keep crawling like that for a while, we need some extra . . . coverage. Yeah, yeah, that’s it, coverage!” Pretty damn funny. She has done some good work, like her besieged reporter in NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH, but I don’t think films are her priority anymore. I think she does these UNDERWORLD films to collect a big paycheck to support her family and I respect that decision. I would like to see her cut loose in an independent movie again. I don’t find her screen presence that warm, and I think she could really use her cinematic cold beauty to really knock a character out of the park, much like she did in SNOW ANGELS. She is married to the awful director Len Wiseman, so I don’t think that helps her branch out into quality films. Oh well. Not sure I have much else to say here, but for some reason Kate Beckinsale just absolutely knocks my socks off. From what I can tell, she doesn’t seem to actually be that nice of a person and even in this day and age, she smokes like a chimney. But it doesn’t matter. In a few months you will find me clicking through Netflix and shamefully adding UNDERWORLD AWAKENING to the top of my queue.

 

 

 

-Tuesday, November 8th, 2011: SUPER - Wacky Uber-violence

RainnHuh, I’m not sure what to make of SUPER. This is like KICK ASS’s ultra-low-budget, hyper-violent brother. I kept finding myself wanting to like it, but it was hard for me to admire or find any connection with a movie that veers so wildly in tone from one moment to the next. The writer/director, James Gunn, has a strange career to say the least. He was one of the early creators of the TROMA series, a set of films that reveled in absurdist gory parody. I have never actually seen a Troma film, but apparently Gunn wrote and directed the most famous Troma film, TROMEO AND JULIET. Then he slummed Hollywood for a bit, writing the screenplays for the excellent DAWN OF THE DEAD remake and the forgettable, Sarah-Michelle-Gellar-career-destroying SCOOBY DOO films. He made SLITHER, a decent gross-out film starring a hilarious Nathan Fillion. He also wrote and directed a strange and occasionally funny web series called PG PORN. The best one of these was the first one, again with Nathan Fillion, seriously, look at how funny this guy is ‘playing’ an absolutely awful actor. Another reason Fillion is God. But back to Gunn. The point I am making is that this man definitely marches to the beat of his own very odd drum. But SUPER is a pretty roughly made movie. Apparently it was made on an extremely limited budget, so much so that there was actually a set amount of take that the production could afford. I am shocked that Gunnwas able to get the caliber of actor in this strange little movie. Liv Tyler, who is not quite a goo enough actor to cover up the fact that she does not understand the movie she is in. Kevin Bacon, gleefully playing a manic villain. Ellen Page acting her heart out. Nathan Fillion playing an insultingly small part. Even the smaller parts are filled out by recognizable character actors like Linda Cardellini, Rob Zombie, and Zach Gilford. Even indie uber-producer Ted Hope is onboard here. Despite everyone’s insistence on the quality of the script, I have a hard time believing that is what drew these big names to the project.

The film ambles along, portraying Rainn Wilson as ‘Frank’, a sad sack loser with hallucinations who decides to become a superhero to rescue his drug addicted wife from Kevin Bacon’s sleazy clutches. Once Frank becomes the Crimson Bolt, I thought the movie started to take off. I liked how the film pushed the unstable line of Frank’s insanity. He seems himself as a superhero, but the gory reality is that he is beating people to near-death with a heavy metal wrench. It’s disturbing and kinda funny and a neat way to visualize a realistic depiction of how ‘superheroes’ would actually work in our society. For my money, one of the best scenes is when Frank bludgeons a man for cutting in line at the movie theater, in this very gory NSFW clip. This scene very clearly depicts Frank as a mentally deranged lunatic, but yet it still asks us to empathize with him. That makes me uncomfortable and I kind of wish the movie had kept going down this path. Instead, SUPER throws actual drug-dealing bad guys against Frank, which seems like an easy way out of the queasy questions of mental stability. Then the movie takes a detour when it introduces Ellen Page as ‘Libby’, or The Crimson Bolt’s kid sidekick, ‘Boltie’. Page steals the movie here, blowing Rainn Wilson right off the screen. She shows no fear, from her insane youthful exuberance when crushing a villian’s legs to her go-for-broke depiction of a superhero seduction/rape/sex scene where Page has to keep a straight face as she touches herself and whimpers, “It’s all gooshy.” Yep, it gets that weird! I actually thought Page was amazing here, her level of pure joy and innocent delight in violence was just breathtaking to see. But when she inevitably leaves the story so the focus can switch back to Frank, the movie just dies. Boltie brings such an unhinged charge of lunacy that we don’t want to go back to Frank’s more lethargic sense of vigilante madness. The finale is fun in an action movie-type way, though I do love it in whenever films show just how ineffective a bulletproof vest can be when the bad guys shoot you in the face. The ending reached for some kind of cathartic ABOUT SCHMIDT kind of emotion, but I just thought it was another strange tonal shift that didn’t make sense to me. Frank is crying, looking at the pictures that adorn his wall, and at first I thought they were all letters from his ex-wife’s kids, but as we see the pictures in closer, it becomes clear that Frank drew these himself. So what changed? He’s alone in the world, but somehow his everyday interactions have more meaning because he murdered some people, got his friend killed, and saved his ex-wife? The movie wanted to suddenly sweep me up in a tears, but it felt like an unearned emotion. This is a rambling review, but it’s because I can’t quite get a grasp on what I like and dislike about the film. SUPER is scatter-brained, but also filled with some worthy ideas that aren’t fully explored and some explosively drawn characters. Not sure I could recommend this, but if you want a messed-up violent superhero parody that is by no means boring, have at it.

 

 

 

 

-Monday, November 7th, 2011: WALKING DEAD - The Problem with Lori

LoriUnlike most of the commentators out there, I kinda like the slow rural pace THE WALKING DEAD is taking so far in Season 2, but I am amazed and disappointed that the writers continue to make Lori Grimes the most despicable person on television right now. I’ll backup here. Rick Grimes is the hero of the show, who improbably woke from a coma and tracked down his wife, Lori, and his son, Carl, months after the start of the zombie apocalypse. During those months, Lori had sex with Shane, Rick’s cop partner and best friend. Once Rick unexpectedly shows up, Lori and Shane feel pretty damn guilty, but Lori immediately goes shrill and nasty, laying into Shane for lying and telling her that Rick was dead. This made Lori instantly unlikable because it takes away Shane as a friend for Carl and, well, she’s just plain damn wrong. Rick was in a coma and abandoned at a bombed-out, zombie-overrun hospital, I think it was a safe assumption to make that he was a goner. Honestly, it’s only because Rick is the hero of the show that he survived. And it’s natural that Lori would find someone else, and I certainly don’t blame Lori and Shane for shacking up. But she handles it so badly. Shane has kind of fallen for Lori, and this is how she reacts to him. Then Lori starts to take out her guilt and anger on Carl, further alienating any audience member that could possibly sympathize with her. OK, my thinking was that the writers just needed a patsy in the first season to stir up the Shane-Lori-Rick triangle and unfortunately, Lori drew the short straw. So she was saddled with the overbearing reactions and the awful attitude. Now don’t get me wrong, Shane is also wrong in this situation and later in the season, tries to rape Lori, so he is clearly a bad dude. But in the earlier episodes, when we need to start identifying with characters, Lori’s behavior was inexcusably harsh. I was hoping the writers would soften Lori a bit, make her less selfish and annoying. Maybe explore different facets of her character like they did so well with her husband. Instead, the writers have driven Lori’s character into the ground in Season 2.

Last week, there was an episode with a flashback to Lori talking about her marriage to another woman before the zombie apocalypse broke out. Lori talks about how she is thinking of leaving Rick. When the woman asks why, Lori responds that Rick is just too ‘perfect.’ Give me a break! How could anyone get behind this kind of despicable person? Boo-hoo, she has a loving and supportive husband who is an excellent father and provider for his family, what a tough lot she has! Not only does the dialogue not do Lori any favors in this flashback, but the audience knows that the whole scene is happening while Rick is being rushed to the hospital with a gunshot wound, making Lori’s words appear even more callous. In this week’s episode, there was another awful Lori moment. Her son, Carl, was accidentally shot in the woods while having a wonderful quiet moment with a still deer. He will die if he doesn’t get a certain medical device that the doctor needs to operate. Carl is clearly suffering and Lori and Rick are being run ragged while they wait to see if Shane can find the correct piece of equipment from a nearby zombie-infested school. Lori and Rick go outside and Lori suggests that it might be better to just let Carl die than live in such a bleak world. It takes Rick’s desperate pleading and a sweet moment of Carl waking up and remembering the beauty of the deer to change Lori’s mind.

No way. This does not work at all. The only slightly redeeming part of Lori’s character is her often suffocating protectiveness of Carl. Look, I have no guidelines to gauge how people would actually react in an apocalyptic situation. But this doesn’t feel right.  I do not believe that Lori has been through enough in the last few months to justify her dead-end desire to let her son bleed out in the bed. Yes, everyone has had it tough in the first two seasons here, but Carl seems like a happy enough kid, so I find it hard to find a plausible justification for Lori’s point of view. Her selfishness persists when she steals a car from the group to go track down Rick after he is a few hours late. I understand how her motivation could be seen as noble, but its just damn stupid to be going out into Zombieland alone. She ends up crashing the car because she wasn't paying attention and now everyone has to go save her. I can’t help but conclude that, like her bitchiness towards Shane in Season 1, Lori’s character choices are solely motivated by the needs of the narrative. The writers need a bleak character to tell us how much the world sucks? Let’s choose Lori, no one likes her anyways. Ugh, this kind of sloppy inconsistent writing drives me nuts. In all fairness, I am also not a fan of the acting work done by the actress who plays Lori, Sarah Wayne Callies. She was apparently big on PRISON BREAK, a show I never watched, but in this show she comes off way too cold and panicky. I thought she did a miserable job of delivering the Let’s-let-Carl-die speech, though it’s entirely possible that the actress didn’t believe in that character move either. I think there could have been an easy solution in this episode to make Lori more likable. During the conversation outside, Rick is nearly passed out because he has given so much blood to Carl. It turns out that he is the only one who matches Carl’s blood type. Why couldn’t the writers have made Lori the one who has the same blood type as Carl? That way, we could see the level of sacrifice she makes for Carl and really get back on her side. Oh well. Overall, I have liked the opportunity so far given in Season 2 to flesh out more of the characters, and only really using zombies as peppy fun interludes (Look, Hanging Zombie! Oooo, a Water Zombie!) Darryl is becoming a true badass hero, Shane is becoming more fascinatingly evil than the zombies, and Glenn is slowly becoming the wittiest character on the show. I would like to see the crew eventually move on from the farmhouse, but for now, I am enjoying the character break. I’m not sure the character of Lori can be redeemed, but I sure hope the writers finally decide to give her a chance.

 

 

 

-Friday, November 4th, 2011: FIREFLY - Episode #11: Trash

buttI can’t say that I am too excited to get to Trash, the 11th episode of my FIREFLY run. But watching it last night, it’s hard to hate an episode that has so many good moments. This is my least favorite episode of FIREFLY, which still means it is better than most television out there. I love some of the character interactions, but the prowess of this heist pales in comparison to the one done in Ariel. I loved Kristina Hendricks as ‘Saffron’ in Our Mrs. Reynolds, but we get way too much of her here. I find her annoying in Trash, she’s just too much. There is really no redeeming quality to her character and seeing her continually go to seduction techniques in order to fool men gets tired. Plus, Hendricks plays her with so much cocky manipulative at-ti-tude(you have to snap your fingers saucily as you say that), she just comes off as too cartoonishly evil in this world. This is one of the ‘lost’ episodes, never actually aired on television due to the network’s cancellation, and only found on the DVD release. If there were an episode to skip, I would say this is it, so I can’t get all that angry at the network. But much like The Train Job, this episode lays down the show’s basic themes and I think the character interplay would have been enough to draw more fans in. If I were to extrapolate a bit, I would argue that this episode may have been what scared FOX and might have persuaded them to cancel the show. Now granted, FOX never had FIREFLY’s back, not once, through its entire run. But looking at Trash, an episode that already brings back a guest star from earlier in the season, relies on the ‘heist’ format again, and probably cost a pretty penny with those nice effects of the floating cities, I can see a network head freaking out. But like I said, there is still enough good here that makes FOX’s decision terribly short-sighted. Let’s get to the good.

Come on, naked Fillion in a desert. How could you not want to watch the rest of the show?!? I am getting a bit tired of shows these days that tease us by showing a cool present-day scene, then flashing back a few hours or days to show the boring stuff that led up to it. Just this season, I’ve seen it done on ALCATRAZ, SPARTACUS, FRINGE, and CASTLE. It’s a fine technique if you use it sparingly; I seem to remember ALIAS using this trick nearly every damn episode in its later seasons. But the start of Trash mockingly refers to the flashback we are about to see with Mal’s rueful, “Hyeah, that went well.” Maybe this flashback structure works better with comedy, because that really is a darn hilarious intro. Well done FIREFLY! There is some fun stuff at the start, I like that there are some decent people out there that Mal deals with. It makes me feel a little bit better about what the human race has turned into, that other than Mal and his crew, there are still some who aren’t elitist robots like the Alliance or soulless killers like seemingly everyone else. And Monty’s line, “So . . . you guys have met,” is pretty priceless as is his shouted curses at Saffron from the sky. And Mal’s grumpiness at meeting Saffron results in the best bit of acting/humor in the entire episode, when Wash runs into our pissy Captain at 7:50. His pull-back reaction to Mal’s face is hilarious. Actually, Wash gets a couple great moments in this episode, hell, we should look at Trash as a backdoor pilot for a show all about Wash’s comedic stylings. Though Mal gets some good ones in too. I love that exchange between Mal and Inara, in the clip above at 10:35, when Inara is goading him for not taking any chances after the awfulness of War Stories:

INARA: Our last cargo was little geisha dolls with big heads that wobbled!
MAL(indignant): Hey, people love those!

It’s in the delivery, Nathan Fillion just nails the humor in that line. And it is a nice touch that their fight leads directly to Mal taking Saffron up on her heist offer. And we have another Wash moment to add. Saffron is explaining her plan, but Wash is still massively confused as to how she got on the ship in the first place. I love his exaggerated exasperation here. And I’m pretty sure that is another actor breaking down the 4th wall as Jewel Staite starts cracking up at Alan Tudyk’s antics. It wouldn’t make sense for Kaylee to be laughing there, and you can see here try to hide her laugh in embarrassment, but a little spontaneous moment like that just so ingrains us in with this crew. And Wash’s incredulousness is a neat bit of storytelling looping as well. I know that the first time I saw this episode, I was asking myself why on earth the crew was reacting so calmly to receiving a briefing from a woman who had previously tried to kill them. The scriptwriters knew there would be this logical inconsistency, but they drew it out long enough that the viewer just accepts in incongruity and moves on with the story. Only then do they bring in Wash for as a hilarious surrogate for the audience’s confusion. It’s a cool move, and is an example of how Whedon and his crew not only love to craft complex characters and interesting dialogue; they also love to play with audience expectation. And that tendency is one of the things that raise Whedon above so many of his showrunning peers. Back to point, I’d be remiss to remark some incredibly funny Jayne moments here too. He is so eager in this planning phase, constantly looking to other crew members, seeing if they are as excited as he is. Jayne actually wants people to be impressed at his intelligence. Look at the little bits of mugging Adam Baldwin does, especially at 12:10 and 13:23. It’s small stuff, but if you are looking for it, Adam Baldwin just spins gold from simple reaction shots.

I’m just going to skipping forward past a bunch of this stuff. I really don’t care about Saffron’s backstory, she has done nothing as a character to make me want to learn more about her. Those scenes in the museum just draaaaaaggg on. OK, accept for that one really quick moment when the guy being robbed actually thanks Mal for honestly admitting that he is stealing the laser gun “I appreciate your honesty. Not, you know, a lot.” OK, and one other moment, where some bored animator at ZOIC put in Boba Fett’s ship passing in the background. But seriously, Mal and Saffron just walked to their ship and took off even though it was surrounded by 3 Fed aircraft?! That’s just really lazy writing there, like maybe some people were a little too focused on dialogue and cool narrative tricks to pay attention to some basic logic gaps. The logic flaws continue to plague the script to its conclusion. It’s a little hard to swallow that the whole crew was in on an over-arching scheme since Saffron was let out of her box. The script redeems itself a little bit by admitting that Inara’s reveal was a last-ditch failsafe in case everything else went wrong.

Simon and River find out about Jayne’s betrayal in Ariel and I really like how much is revealed about Simon through his reaction to that news. Simon has Jayne paralyzed on his med table, but instead of threats and pain, Simon tells Jayne that he will always be safe on that table. It’s a mature response that lets Simon stay true to his Hippocratic Oath to do no harm to his patients. Jayne is exposed at that moment and instead of violent, as Jayne would have if the positions were reversed, Simon talks about trust and the need to share it. It’s an effective and smart scene that plays out true to the character of Simon. I feel like any other show would have Simon threatening Jayne with surgical pain just for the tenseness of that kind of scene, but not FIREFLY. Character informs scenarios, not the other way around. And finally. Damn. Naked Fillion just never gets old. I love how at ease he is but-ass naked in front of his crew. I can’t think of a better example of how Mal’s crew is his family than his comfort in being completely exposed in front of them. I always thought it was surprising that the crew member most comfortable with Mal’s nudity, other than sexually-experienced Inara, is Kaylee. She treats him just as normal and it’s nice to remember that even though Kaylee is usually the innocent on the ship, she is not naïve. Kaylee is an earthy girl who has no illusions about sex or anatomy, hell, she met Mal in Serenity’s engine room while being plowed by its former engineer. Small little character note, but played honestly and unexpectedly. That’s it. I am honestly shocked about how much I wrote about Trash, but it goes to show how much good stuff there is in even the most troublesome episodes of FIREFLY. Next we have an episode that explores Mal and Zoe’s past a bit, with a funeral that stands in as a mournful goodbye scene for FIREFLY itself.

COOLEST ACTION/WESTERN MOMENT: Strangely enough, I though the most Western moment was naked Mal getting angry and running around in the desert, at 7:40. I feel like I’ve seen this scene in Western before, when an old angry coot gets left in the wilderness without any britches. I love the hilarious way Mal kicks dirt at the escaping ship, screaming, “Yeah, you better run!” He could have screamed out “Damn you dirty varmint,” and it would have worked. Great physical comedy.

COOLEST DIGITAL EFFECTS SHOT: There was a lot of fx work in this one, though I think a lot of it doesn’t look that good. The establishing shot of the floating cities is supposed to be impressive, but it looks lightweight and CGI’d. They may have shot for too much here on a television budget. But I do like the couple shots that focus on the trash drone taking away the trash from the bottom of the cities. The camera slips focus off the drone a couple times, as if it were actually a film shot of a real flying drone. Those little focus slips that momentarily blur the image make the shot feel real and lived in and I love that the ZOIC people put so much thought and creativity into those shots.

 

 

 

-Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011: BOARDWALK EMPIRE - Pause

NuckyBOARDWALK EMPIRE is about to start its second season and I am approaching that moment with much trepidation. I enjoyed the first season, I thought there were some excellent scenes and sequences, but the whole added up to something unmemorable to me. I got behind at one point and catching up on the episodes started to feel like homework. I’m not sure why. There is certainly a lot of talk, but there are also plenty of intriguing characters, tons of sex, and unceasing violence. This should be right up my alley, right? I think there are a couple things that bother me about the show. One, I just don’t think I’m that interested in this time period in the 1920s. I have to admit that I was never much of a gangster fan. Sure, I love the GODFATHER films, and especially ROAD TO PERDITION, but the whole wiseguy 20s Mob thing just isn’t my favorite. Two, I just can’t get onboard with some of the actors. Everyone crows about the smoldering heat of Michael Pitt as ‘Jimmy’, but I can’t stand the mopey acting style Pitt is demonstrating here. He looks bored to be there. Sure, maybe that fits his character, but I don’t find that style remotely entertaining or sympathetic. The guy is a cold killer, a real asshole, and has no bad-boy charm, so why the hell do we spend so much time focusing on such a distasteful character? I’m also still not feeling Kelly MacDonald’s as ‘Margaret’. She is slow and quiet, and yes, there are occasional moments where she gets to stand up for herself, but I mostly find her kind of boring. I really live the firebrand neglected brother Eli, he is just a mess of psychoses for a town sheriff and it’s great to see him finally cut loose on Nucky here. Chalky White, with that awesome face scar is terrifying and delicious, it’s like he really gets the heightened reality that this series should be playing to. Or Michael Shannon as the nutbag ‘Agent Van Alden’, who knows what the hell that mess of a man will do next. And finally, I can only pray that we get entire episodes centered on Richard Harrow, the half-faced assassin. He is ruthless, creepy with that fake tin face, and has a voice that sounds like pebbles grinding together, but there is a wounded soul in there that somehow inspires empathy. When you see how desperate Harrow is for human contact or how touching he is around children, it makes it that much more conflicting to see how good he is at killing people. This guy needs his own damn show!


Critics have been particularly hard on Steve Buscemi as the central character, ‘Nucky Thomspson’, claiming that Buscemi is much better as a supporting character and can’t hold the screen as a lead tough guy. I don’t agree with this all. I think that Nucky is supposed to be kind of ineffectual, that’s why his power is being continually challenged. But that doesn’t mean that when Nucky has to get his hands dirty, that he doesn’t get down and play in the mud. He’s slippery and likes to maneuver his chess pieces, and I like seeing that kind of kingpin. In the series finale, Nucky has an amazing scene that shows what Buscemi is going for. His girlfriend Margaret has found out that in the first episode, Nucky murdered her abusive husband. She is furious at Nucky, because it reveals what kind of evil Nucky supports. She visits him to say goodbye and Nucky tells her the story of what happened to his first wife and child. Buscemi lays out the terrible and emotional story simply and plainly, his voice never quavering, no tear ever escaping his eye. I think most actors couldn’t resist breaking down a little bit and letting the audience feel their pain. But Buscemi doesn’t break. The walls he has built up around his tragic past are so thick and permanent, that telling the story doesn’t even chip at them. This is a man who doesn’t break, who can’t break. He has one moment that I found astounding. Look at 2:55, right after Nucky says, “…and I pulled back the blanket…” He stops for bit. Maybe remembering the moment so clearly for the first time in a long time. Maybe questioning whether he should continue; this is the point of no return and he’s not sure if he can trust Margaret with this revelation. He eventually continues, but I think that little pause is just a masterpiece of subtle acting. The way he wets his lips and slowly raises his eyes before continuing. Buscemi communicates how important this moment is for him not through words but through the absence of them. He isn’t interested in playing a blustery 20s version of Tony Soprano here, Buscemi is striving for something more delicate and restrained. And this fascinates me. I felt more moved by that pause than I would have if Nucky had started shedding tears. Season 2 looks like a blast and though I am not as excited to see the return of this show as I am others, I will keep watching (come on, its HBO, how could I not!) to see where the Buscemi Experiment continues to take the elusive and complex character of Nucky Thompson.