Team Will

October 27, 2013

Never thought I’d pull against Alicia — after all, she is The Good Wife — but she is annoying me. Count me on team Will.

I predict Will and Diane will become the dynamic duo once again.

Team Will

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RUSH

October 27, 2013

Ron Howard’s films always feel a little watered down to me: compelling stories with the hard edges smoothed to fit middle of the road sensibilities; narratives presented with high production values that are muted by an indistinct visual style.

Like most of the others, Rush isn’t bad, but neither is it brilliant or (for me) terribly memorable.

The “real” story of James Hunt and Niki Lauda has been shoehorned into a terribly conventional rivalry at the same time complex men have become archetypes presented in only the broadest of strokes.

Rush


Oh, Yeah…

October 23, 2013

I forgot to mention Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Goldbergs in my sitcom short-takes because I’ve tried so hard to forget both of those series! And, generally, I like Andre Braugher so much…

Brooklyn Nine-Nine


Don Jon

October 23, 2013

I wanted to take students in the Introduction the Women’s and Gender Studies class I am team-teaching at Wake Forest to see Don Jon, but the film has already left Winston-Salem. (It’s still in Greensboro and other cities this week, so dash out to see it if you have not already.)

Virtually everything in the film touches some topic we have discussed in class: the patriarchy, how the family and various religious traditions can reinforce the patriarchy, gender roles, how porn and pop culture reinforce (and occasionally challenge) gender roles, the social construction of masculinity and femininity, how the social construction of gender is typically binary and limiting or even damaging to the psyche of both men and women, and so on.

As I wrote in an email to students enrolled in the WGS course over the weekend:

[Don Jon] certainly fits in with our class discussion on pornography and, in some ways, I think makes a more effective statement about porn than most documentaries do because of the nuance of the third act of the film. Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote, directed, and stars in the film and makes an important statement about the dehumanizing and individualistic influences of porn. I think this is a particularly powerful film because the “argument” is embedded into the narrative and comes from the unified creative perspective of a man (a smart, funny, talented, and sensitive man).

Although the character he plays certainly doesn’t start out as sensitive. The cast – Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, and Glenne Headley in major roles – is perfect.

The film is remarkably bold and ultimately nuanced, yet it coheres nicely. Don Jon’s union of form and content with vividly competing emotional tones over the course of the film draws a striking contrast that reveals in a compelling way what a steady diet of porn (and, in what turns out to be an equal opportunity indictment, schlocky romantic comedies) does to reorganize our thinking (and actions) in damaging ways.

It’s uncharacteristic for me to want to take time to see most films a second time. I can’t stop thinking about Don Jon, however, and am itching to see it again. There should be much more buzz about this movie than there is so far. It’s very good. I think it’s also an important film.

Go see it while you can still find it!

don jon


Sitcom Short-takes

October 23, 2013

I’ve watched a bunch of new sitcoms but might only continue watching one of them (The Crazy Ones). Make that two (Super Fun Night). I wish I could handle a third (Mom). Is this going to get out of control? I don’t actually LOVE any of these shows, but it will be interesting to see if some of them improve.

In alphabetical order (as in the on demand line-up listing including “The”):

Mom—has a great cast (Allison Janney, Anna Faris, Justin Long, Matt Jones, and more) but is it just a bit too dysfunctional (and maybe even a bit dark for a sitcom) for me to subject myself to it repeatedly? Shouldn’t there be someone on the show I really like? I want to like this show more than I do.

Sean Saves The World—Sean Hayes is talented and appealing, but the show is – yawn – not very engaging.

Super Fun Night—love Rebel Wilson and see some promising moments in the series. The scene in the Halloween party episode when Wilson’s character made a costume change and waited for her crush broke my heart and brought a little tear to my eye. There is a range of emotional tones here, but I might not keep watching if one of my former students weren’t a writer on the show. Since she is, I’m tuning in to see what happens!

The Crazy Ones—the most polished of the shows I’ve seen so far. Of course, with David E. Kelley as the creator, polished is to be expected. Robin Williams is a big talent, and Sarah Michelle Geller, Hamish Linklater, and James Wolk are no slouches either. Most likely to keep me watching at this point.

The Michael J. Fox Show—love Michael J. Fox and the idea that the series deals with disability in (potentially) interesting ways that mirror the star’s own life with Parkinson’s disease. I adore Wendell Pierce in everything I’ve ever seen him in, but that’s not enough to make me stick with this conventional sitcom that isn’t quite sharp enough to keep me coming back.

The Millers—the only possible reason this series can be getting good ratings is that the lead-in is The Big Bang Theory. Good cast, but the flatulence jokes in the pilot seemed like junior high if not elementary school. I vowed not to but tried one more episode and found it, too, tired and sophomoric.

The Crazy Ones


THE FIFTH ESTATE

October 22, 2013

I liked Gods and Monsters and also Kinsey, but Bill Condon’s film The Fifth Estate is not so memorable.

There are a few clever narrative techniques, but Julian Assange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) is as much a cipher after seeing the film as before.

Without providing a sense of the man Assange is or, alternately, a larger understanding of the relative value of his work in establishing Wikileaks, this film is a zero-sum game.

The Fifth Estate


CAPTAIN PHILLIPS

October 21, 2013

Well-made (if missing a few notable details from actual events) and reasonably entertaining, Captain Phillips is owned not by everyman Tom Hanks but by newcomer Barkhad Abdi.

The only surprise not telegraphed in the preview trailer is that there is adequate backstory accorded to the Somali pirates to give the film a bit more context and complexity than it would have otherwise.

Captain Phillips