Free Association or Limited Connectivity

Here are four items that have nothing in common except that I watched them this past week. Enjoy.

Beginners (Mills, 2011)

The best movie of the week (not a whole lot of competition there) for me was Beginners. It stars Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, and the beautiful Melanie Laurent most notable for her role as Shosanna in Inglourious Basterds (Tarantino, 2009). The story follows Oliver Fields and takes place at three different times in his life: as a young kid growing up during the 70’s (just guessing by the outfits and sets) observing his parents externally dead relationship and being taught life lessons by his peculiar mother, then many years later and sometime after his mother’s death when his father announces that he is gay and dying of cancer, and then two months after his father’s death while he is trying to find a lasting relationship avoiding at all costs his parents mistakes. Directed by Mike Mills who also did Thumbsucker (2005) starring Lou Taylor Pucci who was also in The Chumscrubber (Posin, 2005), I have nothing to say about either person or either movie I just like the way Thumbsucker and Chumscrubber sound together. Christopher Plummer won best supporting actor for his role which looking over the other nominees seems justified. Warrior (O’Connor, 2011) was a more favorable movie in my opinion but I don’t think Nick Nolte out performed Christopher Plummer. Jonah Hill gave a surprisingly good performance in Moneyball (Miller, 2011) but again most likely not better than Plummer (although I would have liked to see Jonah Hill win an Oscar to really drive home the theme last year that comedic actors can win at the Academy Awards). Kenneth Branagh and Max von Sydow were obviously great but neither role stood out nearly as much as Plummers. The movie is pretty quirky and fun while simultaneously dealing with some serious and dramatic problems. Nothing else to add really.

Birdemic: Shock and Terror (Nguyen, 2010)

I can’t tell if I have a lot to say about this or nothing at all (turns out a lot). I want to assume quite a few people did exactly what I did this week – saw Birdemic 2: The Resurrection (Nguyen, 2012) on the front page of IMDb, wondered what the fuck it was doing there, found out that the first one was on Netflix instant play, and then got a pretty good 90 minute laugh out of it. I am still a bit skeptical on whether or not it is intentionally or legitimately bad but after looking at the directors previous work, the most likely outcome I can imagine is that he has unwittingly done humorously horrendous movies in the past and now this Birdemic 2 is his payoff to let people laugh at him one last time. Complete speculation of course, I have not and will not look into it further. I have put a fair amount of time into watching bad movies and overlooking the recency (pretty sure it’s a real word, Microsoft is telling me I mispelled ‘regency’ but tells me it’s a related form of the word recent, don’t know which one to trust) bias, I want to say this is the best worst movie I have ever watched. And that, in turn, is what makes me so distrusting about its legitimacy, it hits every box on the bad movie checklist without overdoing it to an obvious effect and with so many examples out there already, the truly good bad movie genre seems an inevitably dying breed. The would-be terrible directors will no longer be able to go through life without seeing one of these and have the sense not to make one of their own, or the niche will become exploited and everyone will try their hand at it to make a quick buck until people are no longer interested, or the line will be so blurred between intentional and unintentional that the two will become indistinguishable. None of that can be for certain, of course, because that is giving people’s intelligence as well as their ability to sense the obvious the benefit of the doubt and assuming that people will easily lose interest in terribly overdone ideas which is actually more unlikely than likely. So never mind, the good bad movie genre will continue on in perpetuity I just hope that I lose interest soon.

Bad Teacher (Kasdan, 2011)

Now I have been choosing my Netflix DVD queue at random recently otherwise it would have been quite some time until I saw this movie but my prediction was that it would fall in the mediocre R-rated comedy area. I was very pleasantly surprised not only at how funny it was but also at how dirty Cameron Diaz was willing to be, I mean she was in There’s Something About Mary (Farrelly, Farrelly, 1998) but that was like ~14.125 years ago, I figured those days were behind her. So to be as brief as possible: Cameron Diaz and Phyllis Smith (Phyllis Vance from The Office (Daniels, Gervais, Merchant, 2005)) perform better, and by better I mean funnier, than expected. Jason Segal, Thomas Lennon, and John Michael Higgins perform at their usual levels of hilarity. Lucy Punch proves again that she has a lock on the crazy woman character (only ever seen her in Dinner for Schmucks (Roach, 2010)). Eric Stonestreet is severely underutilized but funny nonetheless and the only one who comes in under the bar is Justin Timberlake and that’s only because he sets the bar so damn high with his outstanding performances hosting Saturday Night Live (Michaels, 1975), I was hoping for him in The Social Network (Fincher, 2010) but I got him in The Love Guru (Schnabel, 2008). The movie is made even more impressive after finding out that the director hasn’t done much besides Orange County (2002) and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007) while the writers only have a handful of The Office episodes and Year One (Ramis, 2009) under their belts. I think they made a conscious effort to just make this as dirty as possible and pray for laughs and they succeeded. Of course if you are watching the movie after only reading this article I must disclaim. It is not actually that dirty, not even close to the dirtiest comedies out there, just dirtier than it needed to be, and certainly dirtier than I was expecting what with all those kids around and stuff. I suppose a summary couldn’t hurt, Cameron Diaz plays a gold digger who is moonlighting during the day (sunlighting?) as a teacher while she waits for Oscar award winner Nat Faxon to marry her, he doesn’t, and she is forced to continuing teaching while she searches for a new mark.

The Guild (Day, 2007)

I am trying to clear up some space in my instant queue by finishing off the shows I have watched most of but never quite finished so I decided to power through the last season of The Guild which is an internet series created by and starring Felicia Day about a group of gamers playing an MMORPG. I don’t want to overdo it but I also don’t really want to underdo it on this one. For being made for the internet, it certainly is the best I have seen but that would only be drawing from a pool of one so it sort of wins by default. If it weren’t an internet series though, it is still quite good and completely original. It limits itself by being aimed specifically at a small group of people (instead of spraying it everywhere) which I really enjoy. I don’t consider myself to be a member of the initiated but I did play WOW for a couple of weeks in high school so I can for the most part at least grasp what they are talking about. I thought the reviews would be split on this show but it has an 8.6 on IMDb, 12 mostly positive user reviews, rottentomatoes doesn’t do TV, metacritic has nothing, and that’s all the places I go to for other people’s opinions but anyway I figured they would be split because although I did not personally find it annoying there were a number of instances where I could see how people would justifiably hate on it, I guess they chose not to. Either way, this is a great show and a wonderful precedent I hope that more high quality internet shows like this start cropping up or perhaps they have and I am just not on the lookout for them, might have to look into that.

Posted in movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Filmes Estrangeiros or Buitenlandse Films

Alright, I watched a few of the best foreign film Oscar nominees this week along with some other foreign stuff so let’s take a trip around the world as I do the written equivalent of yammering.

Bullhead (Roskam, 2011)

So far, this is my favorite out of the bunch. Usually can’t go wrong with a foreign gangster film, for example Un Prophete (Audiard, 2009) from a few years back, this one is particularly interesting given that it focuses on black market Belgium bovine hormone trafficking which I am sure most people didn’t know existed until just now. After doing a bit of internet research (looked at the first two Google results) I gather the gangster aspect of the film stems from an incident in the mid-90’s when there was a debate over banning hormones in beef production and a public official was ‘assassinated’ by ‘contract killers’ of the ‘hormonenmafia’. That being said, the film focuses much more on the main character, Jacky Vanmarsenille (Matthias Schoenaerts), and his internal conflicts rather than guns and drugs and gangster stuff. Overall it has a nice gritty and dark look throughout, this is the writer/director Michael R. Roskam’s first feature film but it’s pretty clear he has got quite a bit of talent. Schoenaerts plays an excellent empty eyed psycho struggling with some very disturbing problems and I look forward to seeing him across the screen from Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone (Audiard, 2012) which I now notice is directed by Jacques Audiard so I can only assume it will be up there for best foreign film next year. I think the word transforms is thrown about a bit too loosely when talking about actors and their roles but Schoenaerts literally (nope, figuratively) transforms to the point where I am pretty sure they could have just used a live bull by the end of the movie.

Footnote (Cedar, 2011)

Footnote truly exemplifies and reminds us all of that unforgettably wise verse from the Talmud “thou shall protect thy father and honor no one above him unless it be-ith me, thy sweet Lord.” Now this film was not nearly as entertaining as Bullhead but enjoyable nonetheless. The story is about a father and son who are both academics in the narrow field of Talmudic studies but are vastly different in most other areas (the exception being that they are both great at not being great at being dads). The father, Eliezer Shkolnik (Shlomo Bar-Aba), is a cold pedant while the son, Uriel Shkolnik (Lior Ashkenazi), is successful and well-liked and after decades of being passed over, in a surprise decision, the father receives the prestigious Israel award and conflict arises when a fairly obvious twist presents itself. The preview, which I saw after the film, seemed fairly misleading and makes the movie out to be more of a quirky comedy rather than the awkward drama it turned out to be but then again it was in Hebrew so I may have missed some of the comedic subtleties. I have not watched anything else done by the director or the two main actors so nothing really to say on that front other than they were pretty good but as I am writing this my opinion of this film is dropping lower and lower, I can’t really think of anything that truly stood out about it but c’mon it was nominated for best foreign film so I feel as though something should be of redeeming value in it, perhaps it is a mistake to judge this after only one showing since it can be tough to catch all of the dialogue and the acting and directing nuances simultaneously of course that appears to defeat the entire purpose of this article sooo…moving on.

Elite Squad II: The Enemy Within (Padilha, 2010)

I meant to watch In Darkness (Holland, 2011) another foreign film nominee but decided the Holocaust was a bit too much of a bummer at this time and I would rather see Brazilian special police use excessive force on some drug dealers and corrupt cops. It was on the IMDb Top 250 at some point in time but now despite it being listed as an 8.1 I cannot find it on the list. If you could not tell from the II in the title, it is a sequel that takes place a few years after the events of Elite Squad (Padilha, 2007) continuing to follow the newly promoted Lt. Colonel Nascimento (Wagner Moura) as he attempts to destroy the cartel that has moved in and replaced all the drug dealers he killed in the last movie. The director is Jose Padilha, the same man who did the documentary Bus 174 (2002) a film I saw so long ago I forgot most of what it was about (a bus hijacking/hostage crisis) which as it turns out included footage of Rodrigo Pimentel, a SWAT instructor, who would later go on to write a book about his experiences in the Special Police Operations Battalion a.k.a. BOPE that would be turned into a movie that would have a sequel that is called Elite Squad II: The Enemy Within. The film also has quite a few similarities to the amazing City of God (Meirelles, Lund, 2002) just told from a police officer’s point of view and this is for good reason as the screenplays were written by the same guy Braulio Mantovani, who also had a hand in Bus 174. It appears there must be a small cadre (a word I peppered in attempt to use a bit of Spanish but as it turns out is actually French with Latin origins and never mind the fact that the official language of Brazil is Portuguese) of Brazilians who are able to spin out intense favela (now that has got to be Portuguese) centered action dramas better than the rest. Either that or I have very little insight into Brazilian film. Also going back to Padilha, he is set to direct the new RoboCop (2013) which looks like it might stand a chance at being decent (despite the obvious drawback of being a remake) for a number of reasons but initially my opinion was made when I saw Joel Kinnaman was going to be in it since he is the main reason I watched all of the television show The Killing (2011).

Doctor Who (2005)

I had been meaning to take a look at Doctor Who for a while now, I thought I had only heard good things about it but I can’t really remember who I know who has actually watched it so I may have just assumed I heard good things. Right away there was a bit of an expectation shock, in terms of quality for some reason I was thinking it would be along the lines of Sherlock (Gatiss, Moffat, 2010) and Luther (Cross, 2010) but it isn’t even on par with MI-5 (Wolstencraft, 2002) (which is a great show but the cast turnover makes it pretty tough to connect with any of the characters, they could take a serious lesson from MI-6, I mean James Bond is still alive after 60 years despite every villain in the world knowing his name but somehow a whole fleet of MI-5 agents gets murdered each year). By quality I mainly mean two things, the production value and the story content. I thought for sure while watching the first episode, where evil aliens cause manikins come to life, that I had loaded up the wrong show but no sure enough it was Doctor Who. I got over the cheesy look pretty fast but I am still a bit disappointed that the plots are not more complicated, quite a bit of emphasis on the fiction and not so much on the science. And I understand that I have only observed the show for 15 episodes out of almost 800 episodes (roughly 2%) over 40 years and those 15 episodes are about 700 episodes into the series (roughly the 87th and 88th%’s from the fall of 1997*) so I blame myself far more than I blame the show, I am surprised they were able to capture my attention at all. Also I understand that some of the look is intentionally cheesy (i.e. the Daleks) because they were in the show way back when and to keep true to the story they were not given a facelift, bold move that I am sure pleases the diehards but that doesn’t stop them from looking ridiculously outdated. Christopher Eccleston does great, Billie Piper starts out average but quickly picks it up, and there are quite a few decent cameos here and there. My favorite episode was probably the Father’s Day one despite the preposterous flying whatever-they-weres, it seemed like the tipping point for me where I actually became invested in the show. The reason I started watching in the first place was to get a look at more of David Tennants work but unbeknownst to me he doesn’t take over the role of the Doctor until season two so now I will probably have to continue on with the series which is just fine by me.

*if the percent’s were somehow ordered chronologically and the series ran continually, playing a little loose with the numbers on this one.

Posted in movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



Today marks the end of Hulu’s docudrama Battleground. Rule of thumb, if the series ends and it feels like a loved one has died, it was a great series. In its thirteen episode run my only complaint would have been that the episodes were too short. Each episode ran about 21 to 22 mins, and they definitely should have been in the 45 mins range.

Battleground is a mockumentary style show, but with more drama than humor. It focuses one the day to day of characters running a senatorial campaign. It’s much more realistic than the West Wing, and I’d say all and all, its a better series.

Hulu has been making original program for just over a year now (as far as I know) and this is the first program of theirs that I’ve watched (I also watched a series they had called Whites, but I believe that was made by BBC, not sure) and to be honest had little faith that a website could compete with the big network stations. But this show was far better (in my opinion) than most of the network shows.

It’s not for everyone, If you don’t like politics you prolly wont love it like I did, but if you aren’t an idiot I would definatly recommend this to you.


Some Questions were left unanswered So Hoping for a Second Season

Posted in uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Does This Make Me Sexist?

I don’t know how to start this post. I want to preface it by saying I’m not sexist, but whenever people feel the need to tell you they are not sexist, racist, what have you, I feel like they are really just acknowledging that they are those things. So I’m not going to preface this by saying I’m not sexist.

Ill simply acknowledge that in my life I have met women who were considerably more intelligent that I am, or will ever be. And contrarily, I’ve met girls who are functioning idiots. The point being, that neither could drive very well.

I am a college undergraduate specializing in Mass Communication. In an advertising ethics class today we looked at a case where a notable Ad exec said that he believed women were unable to balance family with work. Due to the tremendous backlash within the industry, he stepped down two weeks later.  I can’t remember his last name, it was like Ford, or Long, or something.

Usually we only spend like 15-20 minutes on a single case, but my professor decided to dedicate the rest of the hour to talk about sexism in the work place. I don’t think she originally intended to spend so much time talking about this subject, but once she started she had a lot to say. Apparently the advertising industry is about 70% female, but the majority of people in higher level positions are white men. This ratio is more than reflected in my class’s demographics. Usually there are about three men (including myself) out of 25 total students.

So while this lecture was about how bad it is for women, and how wrong the system is, all I could think about was how nice it would be if this were really true. All of my fellow students are in actuality my competition for internships and jobs, so I’ll take whatever advantages I can get. The more my professor went on about how unjust the system is, the more hope it inspired in me. So far in my life being a male has been of little benefit to me, it’s about time to cash in on this.

The longer she dwelled on how its only men who get promoted, the more I wondered, maybe these men were just simply more ambitious, or more qualified, or just better. If we acknowledge that there are fundamental differences between the sexes, maybe it’s those differences that make one sex better suited for…you know I’m just  going to stop there.

So basically I had a day of hearing about the many ways men are bad (in that they only promote other men) and how the industry is bad as a result; which I accept as the truth. So I go on about day, finishing up classes, going to work, and when I got off of work I went to my PRSSA meeting. PRSSA stand for Public Relations Student Society of America and it’s basically an organization that all of the people in the department who actually care about getting jobs post graduation go to.

We have a small department, and I would say that the members of prssa are the best students within our department. I believe we have something like 17 member, and of that 4 are men, and of the men, only 2 (including myself) showed up to today’s meeting. Our faculty advisor wasn’t there so the meeting was much more informal than usual.  We got through about two points of interest before the group was unmanageable.

By that I mean, that it was so loud with the sound of groups of girls talking about their day, their social situations, and yes some gossip. There was loud, high pitched laughter, and for some reason even a few gleeful screams. It sort of reminded me of when a group of girls have a sleep over, if you’ve ever been around one of those you know what I mean.

While all this was going on me and the other boy sat quietly. He turned to me once and ask how long we have to stay here. “I don’t know” I replied, “this defiantly doesn’t have anything to do with prssa.” I was looking for a time to get a word in with our president to ask if we could bounce, but she was deep in a conversation about (not making this up) how she went hiking in Estes Park CO, in UGG’s because she didn’t think the other girls would commit to the hike for very long, and that she ripped her $200 jeans.

The other gentleman and I continued to wait for the discussion to head back to something more official, but it never did. That guy happened to have the same ethics class earlier in the day, and we talk about it a bit before he asked me, “Would you promote any of these girls?” I thought about it for a moment, listening to the girls banter, the cadence of the conversations resembled children more than college seniors. I looked back at him and said, “No, I wouldn’t even hire them.”

Posted in philosophy, uncategorized | 1 Comment

That Obscure Oscar of Desire or The Persistence of Award Shows

The 84th Annual Academy Awards are coming up in a few weeks (Sunday, February 26) so I figured I would jot down some thoughts that have been on my mind grapes. Not super psyched to watch it but there are a few gems I am looking forward to see win plus it is a reasonable excuse to get drunk, the Oscars are pretty much the Superbowl for people who don’t give a shit about sports and commercials.

The Artist (Hazanavicius, 2011)

This is probably the best movie of the bunch and has the highest chance of taking home Best Picture. It is original, looks great, and is surprisingly entertaining. Michel Hazanavicius really has a knack for capturing the feel of bygone eras. In his previous two films OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (Hazanavicius, 2006) and OSS 117: Lost in Rio (Hazanavicius, 2009), he parodies the 1960 spy movie genre perfectly by not only incorporating aspects of its characters and plots but also its sets, action, scores, direction, and overall tone. He does the same thing with The Artist, to an even greater effect, but steps back 30 years further in movie history. Both Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo are justly nominated for Lead Actor and Supporting Actress respectively. I can’t even begin to imagine how tough it must be to deliver a moving performance without words but they do it. Dujardin has a charisma that just won’t quit and Bejo makes my dreams come true. I was a bit skeptical going into this film because the handful of silent films I have watched, mostly Chaplins and Keatons, were not nearly as enthralling as this. Although The Artist was not my favorite film of 2011 (that honor most likely goes to either Warrior (O’Connor, 2011) or 50/50 (Levine, 2011)), it is an excellent experience and my choice out of the nine.

The Descendants (Payne, 2011)

Second in the running for Best Picture, The Descendants, is another all-around great film. Alexander Payne fails to disappoint yet again, going four for four in my book. Some notable points of interest – Shailene Woodley gives an outstanding performance despite being the main character on what I can only assume is an awful and mind-numbing ABC Family television series entitled The Secret Life of an American Teenager (Hampton, 2008); the screenplay is co-adapted with Payne by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash both of whom I recognize from their minor recurring roles on Reno 911! (Garant, Kenney, Lennon, 2003) which I found both surprising and pleasing, I would be interested to find out how match ups like this happen; and baaah I don’t really have a third point of interest, all things considered it is an above average film and a wonderfully compelling yarn but I just do not envision it beating The Artist.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Daldry, 2011)

The kid, Thomas Horn, pulls out a few show stopping monologues and I was quite surprised that he did not get nominated for this performance while Max von Sydow joins Dujardin and Bejo as the third person this year nominated for a role in which they don’t speak. I enjoyed the movie but I really had to try to enjoy it. Normally a movie that panders this hard is impossible for me to watch so instead I just chose to ignore how overtly it attempts to personally connect with each viewer. The kids performance is the best, the pandering is the worst, and everything else falls somewhere in the middle, not really much to say.

The Help (Taylor, 2011)

Another nominee that exceeded my expectations, I had firmly believed that this was going to be terrible but as it turns out it really wasn’t that bad. I doubt that it needed to be 146 minutes, seems like they spent far too much time on meaningless subplots but I watched it from start to finish anyway. Viola Davis does great, Jessica Chastain is pretty good too, but I really don’t think Octavia Spencer was all that impressive especially considering her performance was deemed better than both Shailene Woodley and Berenice Bejo at the Golden Globes earlier this year. The Help is average in all other areas.

Hugo (Scorcese, 2011)

I have not watched it.

Midnight in Paris (Allen, 2011)

This is my second pick for Best Picture but unfortunately it stands no serious chance of winning. As far as Woody Allen films go, Midnight in Paris is better than his recent average but I have yet to see a film of his that I have not enjoyed. Like Wes Andersen and Quentin Tarantino, Woody Allen is a director who has a very distinct style which means that if you like his past films then you will like this one and if you don’t then you won’t. Somehow he manages to put out a good-to-great movie every year (for the past 43 years) which he writes himself as well as directs. I can see how some people might view his work as annoying but he seems like one of the few people around still genuinely interested in making a decent film and not just a large profit and for that he should probably be admired. Back to the movie, Owen Wilson performs capably, relieving the apprehension I had about him in the starring role. Marion Cotillard is amazing as usual, it would be a pretty tight race between her and Berenice Bejo for who pulls off the sexier 1920s look. Michael Sheen, as the pedantic intellectual, and Corey Stoll, as Ernest Hemingway, manage to stand out in their rolls amongst a full cast. I wish it hadn’t been so long since I took my 20th century literature class; it would have enriched the experience understanding more of the expats references. I did however smile when Owen Wilson was telling Luis Bunuel to make a film about a party where no one can leave since I happened to watch it a couple years back. Overall – excellent.

Moneyball (Miller, 2011)

The writing of Aaron Sorkin makes this film great. The director, Bennett Miller, is more than competent and the great cast of actors doesn’t hurt either but Sorkins unique and impressive writing style sets Moneyball apart from the crowd. Sorkin, like Woody Allen, has a particular tone that is either love it or hate it and in his case I…don’t really want to say love but I greatly enjoy it nonetheless. Jonah Hill makes a resounding entrance into the dramatic acting arena and I would be quite happy to see him take home the Best Supporting Actor Award. Chris Pratt from Parks and Recreation (Daniels, Schur, 2009) makes a minor appearance but not nearly as impressive as his role of Andy Dwyer. Brad Pitt and Phillip Seymour Hoffman perform great as well but that has come to be expected of them. Moneyball is a…homerun.

The Tree of Life (Mallick, 2011)

I will reserve my full judgment of this film until I see it again. I started a review of it earlier this year when I saw it in the theater but stopped half way through out of boredom/frustration. It has now been so long since I watched it that I have lost most of it in my memory. On the shallowest level possible, The Tree of Life is lengthy, slow, and tasking. I have watched four of Terrence Mallicks five films and can’t say I am a fan of any. I take full responsibility for this opinion, I find it hard to believe that anyone could put a great deal of thought and effort into a piece of work and have it be critically acclaimed yet at the same time still have it be what my interpretation of it was as I was leaving the theater. So either the director is talentless and the critics are wrong or I missed it entirely. Odds favor the latter.

War Horse (Spielberg, 2011)

I have not watched it.

I will stop at the Best Picture Nominations since writing much more would make this article unreasonably long. One last thing, each year the nominees tend have interesting similarities. What caught my eye this year was the number of actors who were in more than one Oscar nominated film. The folks working double duty this year include: John Goodman, Viola Davis, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jessica Chastain, Jeffrey Wright, Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. This is by no means the first time this has happened but the large volume does stand out to me.

Posted in movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Sign of Five Under-watched Television Series or A Study in…Five Under-watched Television Series

Hi, my name is DonnyBagg and I am a blogger and it has been 6 months since my last post. I assume that the lengthy hiatus taken by (almost) all of the factoseintolerant authors will have been enough to shake even the most devoted of readers and I will likewise assume that I am currently addressing myself. Today I am going to deviate from my usual area of…let’s go ahead and say expertise, movies, and discuss pretty much the same thing, television series. Here is a brief list of shows currently on air that I feel more people should be watching:

1. Sherlock (Gatiss, 2010)

A co-worker tipped me off about this show last year. The series catalogs a number of mysterious cases taken on by the London based consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes, who along with his friend and colleague, Doctor Watson, work tirelessly to solve crimes that baffle the ordinary police force. He uses a special brand of logical deduction (induction) to string together facts and formulate wildly improbable but nonetheless correct solutions and…like almost everyone already knows who Sherlock Holmes is so this summation has just been unnecessary bullshit. I don’t know why I do that sort of thing, it has got to stop. Anyway, this show kills it. Benedict Cumberbatch portrays an excellent Holmes; I would place his rendition just below Hugh Laurie in House M.D. (Shore, 2004) and slightly above the old Jeremy Brett performances (which are surprisingly good for a late 80’s television series that I watched in the late 00’s). I am also fairly certain that he outperforms Robert Downey, Jr. in the Guy Richie versions but this could just be because I prefer the introverted Holmes and Robert Downey, Jr. puts on a little too much charisma. Of course, this is all coming from a guy whose Sherlock Holmes literary knowledge encompasses once skimming The Hound of the Baskervilles during my junior year of high school, so perhaps I am not the best judge of character. Cumberbatch is accompanied by Martin Freeman, who does an equally outstanding job as Watson, and IMDB informs me that they will be pairing up again next year for the first installment of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (P. Jackson, 2012). O and the first season of the Sherlock series consist of three 90 minute episodes (WTF BBC?) all of which are available on Netflix instant play with more episodes to air this January.

2. Luther (Cross, 2010)

Another amazing drama about bobbies from across the pond. Luther stars Idris Elba as Detective Chief Inspector John Luther. It is pretty much a tossup between Luther and Sherlock for which is better so I just recommend watching both of them. I don’t have a bad thing to say about this show, great acting, complex characters, intricate plots, and some pretty crazy villains. I didn’t think I could enjoy Idris Elba any more than I did when he played Russell “Stringer” Bell but in all honesty DCI Luther is just as much a badass and performed equally well. The only drawback (so I guess I do have a bad thing to say about this show) is that there isn’t enough of it. Season one was six episodes at an hour a piece and then season two was only four one hour episodes that pretty much played as two two hour episodes (WTF BBC?), so when compared to great dramas from the colonies like Dexter (2006) it lacks the depth that you gain from a twelve episode arc. Also, factoseintolerant (the author, not the website, legally obligated) would like to note the perturbedly thin upper lip on the character Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson), he is convinced that it ruins the entire show but most rational people will get over it or even more likely not notice it. The first season is available on Netflix instant play, the second season is available for pirating on the internet, and they are currently in discussions for a third season but odds are looking good.

3. Delocated (Glaser, 2009)

Delocated is a great little show on Adult Swim about a family in the witness protection program that also take part in a reality show, which sounds like a childish and trite premise but once you get past that you will find one of the funnier shows on television. It stars Jon Glaser who was relatively unknown to me before seeing the show, as it turns out he was a writer for Late Night with Conan O’Brien for quite some time as well as Pretend Time (Swardson, 2010) and Human Giant (Woliner, Huebel, Scheer, Ansari, 2007)(a series cut down before its time), he can be spotted in 30 Rock (Fey, 2006) if you look closely and somehow played a part in the only episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm (David, 2000) I have ever watched. He also has this website called Auto Buds where people send in pictures of two identical cars parked next to each other and for some reason it makes me laugh every time I visit. A number of other familiar faces pop up including Eugene Merman, Jerry Minor, and the hilarious Todd Berry (who actually isn’t that funny in this particular show, but definitely check out his stand-up). Delocated has the normal ridiculous and absurd sense of humor possessed by all of the Adult Swim shows but out of the handful them that I actually watch it is by far my favorite. It began with a couple 11 minute episodes or half half hour episodes (WTF Adult Swim?) in season one but expanded into regular 22 minute episodes during its second season and will be airing what I can only assume will be 44 minute episodes beginning in January.

4. Archer (Reed, 2009)

Slowly becoming one of my favorite shows, Archer is a cartoon comedy about internationally renowned secret agent Sterling Archer. It incorporates some of the best aspects from two past greats – Arrested Development (Hurwitz, 2003)(another series cut down before its time) and Sealab 2021(Thompson, Reed, 2000). Created by Adam Reed, it still possesses some of the humor of Sealab 2021 and a great deal of the look but as the series has developed (phrasing!) it has started to show more and more signs of Arrested Development. Besides the use of recurring jokes, many of the voice actors play characters similar to their roles in Arrested Development; if Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) was Baby Buster (Tony Hale) then he would share that strange love/hate relationship with his overbearing mother Malory Archer/Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter) and his paternity would be thrown into question with Len Drexler/George Sr. Bluth/Uncle-father Oscar Bluth (Jeffery Tambor) also Cheryl/Carol/Crystal Tunt/Kitty Sanchez (Judy Greer) is a slutty incompetent receptionist and this is stretching (both the theory of the character relations and the structure of this sentence) it a bit but Noah/Tobias Funke (David Cross) is a doctoral candidate in anthropology/doctor of psychiatry so that’s kind of similar, right? Anywho, great show, on FX, back in January.

5. Homeland (2010)

I have been watching Homeland this season and it has quite a bit of potential. Damien Lewis plays Sergeant Nicholas Brody, a U.S. marine captured and tortured by terrorists for 8 years until he is finally rescued and who…spoiler alert!…may himself in fact be a werewolf (wait, that’s not right). I listened to an interview on Fresh Air awhile back with one of the producers I believe (not sure, it was awhile back) but I guess it is based on an Israeli television series which I was planning on looking up more information about but I got lazy. Lewis is great in this as he was in Life (Ravich, 2007) (another series cut down before its time) and Keane (Kerrigan, 2004), very good at playing the man with the troubled and mysterious past but what the hell was he doing in Your Highness (Green, 2011)? Claire Danes works well opposite of Lewis with the exception that when her character gets worked up all I can see is Temple Grandin. They are supported by Mandy Patinkin (haven’t viewed much of his work but what an excellent name) and Morena Baccarin (who until now I thought looked familiar only to find out just now she played Inara in Firefly (Whedon, 2002)(another series cut down before its time)). I have yet to see the 90 minute finale (WTF Showtime?) because was fucking around yesterday but it is up today so I shall be watching it presently.

5 out of 5 great shows

Just checked the Golden Globe nominations, Homeland along with both stars all received nominations as well as Idris Elba for his work in Luther which the Golden Globes is considering a mini-series or TV movie so I guess I have to rewrite this whole fucking article now. One last question, did you slip Afsal Hamid a razor blade?

Posted in movies, uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Contemporary Prostitution

So why is pornography legal? Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way saying that it should become illegal. However I am curious as to why it is completely legal in the United States and prostitution throughout the majority of America is completely illegal. When you think about the two, they are really not that different. The definition of prostitution is: the act or practice of engaging in sexual intercourse for money. If one adds “and is videotaped” to the end of the sentence they would have the definition of pornography. Just to say I did my due diligence, the definition of pornography is: obscene writings, drawings, photographs, or the like, especially those having little or no artistic merit. It seems that the definition of prostitution is a better fit for pornography than its actual definition, at least as far as the videos go.

Now, there are different types of pornographic videos, some with plots that are completely original, and some story driven pornos are parodies of notable films/tv series/ current events. But by and large the majority of hardcore pornography is anywhere from 2-10 people meeting each other (sometimes for the first time) and fucking.

I just can’t rap my head around how this is 100% legal government sanctioned action , yet prostitutes continue to fill up jail cells in metropolitan areas across the United States. The only realistic difference between the two professions (prostitute & porn star) that I can conceive of is that in porn, both sides get paid, leaving the possibility that neither side wants to engage in sexual intercourse with the other.

So, hypothetically, could I cruise the strip for a male and a female prostitute, pay them to have sex with each other, video tape it, then distribute said tape for a marginal to large profit? Seemingly I have just made pornography, so is that legal then? To me that seems somehow worse than just fucking a prostitute. With that mindset, what would happen if someone were to pick up a prostitute on a sting, and when being arrested simply explain that one was in fact going to purchase another prostitute and film the act….do they have to let him go? And could the undercover cop be in breach of contract if she doesn’t go through with it?

That does bring up contracts, which I assume are necessary in the porn world? There must be some sort of regulation that makes it different right? I’m not trying to harp on porn for being horrible. I think porn can be an excellent tool to enhance lovemaking with others, or one’s self. I also think it’s great that it employs a lot of women with let’s face it, no other marketable skills. Some of whom get paid exorbitant amounts and receive a certain amount of self gratifying fame. I cannot attest for the quality of their lives after porn, or how they spend their money, hopefully they invest it, or have some sort of savings. If I were to stereotype whores, I’d say they are probably not the smartest investors.

I would assume that once the porn industry is done with you, ones left with more negatives then positives, but that is neither here nor there. No matter the situation, porn actors are much better off than prostitutes. Sure, your booty-hole isn’t being broadcast to anonymous millions via the internet, but I’d wager people you meet still know you’re a prostitute. And prostitutes aren’t banging huge dick, muscle clad pros, (though I bet prostitutes prefer smaller members with quicker release) they have well…different clientele. Point being that prostitutes (commonly held as the oldest recorded profession) have no refuge in America.  They have no safe-work place, and no standard pay. Apparently new girls in the porno industry make a $500-$600 for a standard boy/girl scene, and more notable contract girls make $2,500-$15,000 a week, which is considerably more than pimps give their bottom bitch, or top bitch, I don’t know the pimp/ho scales.

Porn Actresses have it considerably better than prostitutes. This isn’t because their employer’s care for them, it’s a safe assumption that their boss’s care level is comparable to that of a pimps. But actresses in the adult film industry, while having the exact same job description, have standard salaries, required health check up, and legitimate taxable work. Whereas Prostitutes earn what they can, risk violence and STD’s, and routinely get thrown in jail.  And what’s responsible for this gaping discrepancy in treatment between two professions that are more or less the exact same?  It’s all in how the government chooses to view the two jobs. Though I can’t tell the difference, even when I see it. Now, I would say that there is a fairly large social injustice here, one that merits actual consideration, but really…who gives a shit about prostitutes?

Posted in politics, uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The List

Everyone has a list of favorite tv shows, or at least they should. That list should not be finite, there is always room for ones taste to change, and for better material to be produced effectively adding itself to the list. The following are three additions to my top ten list, and the three shows that got to go.

Add: games of thrones

I cant say enough good shit about this series. I was hesitant at first. All my friends were raving about the show. I thought, yeah…I’m not really into castles and fantasy stuff,  so I’ll be alright skipping this one. But everywhere I went people were loving the series, and then I heard it got like 4 emmy noms so I was like whateves, I’ll watch an episode see what it’s all about. I ended up finishing the series in two nights. I don’t know how people managed to wait a whole week for the next episode when it was on TV, and I’v no f-king clue how I’m supposed to wait an entire year for the next season. I may have to do the unthinkable and crack open a book. Lets hope it doesn’t come to that.

Remove: Weeds

OMG Weeds get over yourself. I stopped watching after Agrestic burned down. I’ve managed to catch an episode her and there, but I’ve stopped watching because I don’t care for what the show has become. It had a good thing going, I was signed up to watch a series about a mother trying to make ends meat by selling a bit of pot, and I was down with them exploiting the shit out of Mary-Louise Parkers’s body. However I did not sign up for the grandiose adventure they are making it become.

Add: the sopranos

You’ve already heard everything you need to about this show. I always intended to watch this show back in the day, but I didn’t have HBO, and every season on DVD still goes for like 50 bucks. I even tried watching when it got syndicated on A&E, but I figured watching it that way would be a disservice to the makers. I finally got around to netflixing it, and yeah, its good.

Remove: Lost


I heart the first two seasons, I bore the next three seasons, and I hated the last one. I know everyone has their own opinion on the way Lost concluded, some look past the story arks that went nowhere in-order to buy into the big picture, and I would be willing to do that too, but I genuinely hate the big picture. After watching the series I did the due diligence, I read several fan-explanations, all of which went crazy in depth trying to justify the (shitty) ending. Normally I would say whatever, the series didn’t end with a big pay off, so what? The Sopranos had a pretty shitty ending, but that doesn’t seem to bother me. That’s prolly because, for me, The Sopranos ended too abruptly, and I wanted more, whereas Lost took forever to end, and when it finally did..I wished I’d never watched it at all.

A series has never made me mad. I have never watched a TV show and upon its conclusion been filled with rage, mainly because I’m not a stay-at-home mom. But Lost seriously pissed me off. I had to watch so many episodes after I (and seemingly the writers) had generally given up interest. I sat through countless child birth scenes, asinine plot twists, Jin & Sun’s stupid fucking love stories, and for what? For a “they all lived (died) happily ever after”. Fuck that. Fuck Lost.

Add: the wire

Unlike Game of Thrones, this is a show I was never told about. I’m a little perturbed at the amount of HBO subscribers who wont shut the fuck up about greasy muscle clad Vampires buttfucking each other or whatever they do in Trueblood, but don’t have the common courtesy to tell me about The Wire. I have chosen, of my own accord, not to watch Trueblood. It may be a great series, and I do not have any justifiable reason not to watch. Yet people keep telling me I have to watch it(more last year). But I have never once been told by anyone to watch the wire. Where were all these TB fans, who apparently know what I am going to enjoy (sidebar: wont stfu about it), when The Wire was on? Either they never saw it, or they are nincompoops, prolly both.

Now, it not like I have never heard of The Wire. I had heard little about the show, but at the time I always confused it with a show that was on around the same time called the Shield, which I had the occasion to watch, and did not care for. After my bout of confusion passed, I never gave The Wire a second thought.

After finishing The Sopranos I had some extra time on my hands and I wanted a similar show to fill the void the Sopranos left. I recalled an episode of The Office where The Wire was referenced, and what I got from the reference was that the show delt with drugs, and was too sophisticated for Michael to understand. After a quick check of imdb, I saw that it had a 9.7 rating and figured I could give it a try. Obviously I’m glad I DID. I LOVE THE SHOW AND ALL THE CHARACTERS (that was an accidental caps lock, but I stand by it). This is one of the best television shows ever made, ever.

 Remove: The Office

Does anyone relate to Jim anymore? Now that the Jim-Pam will they won’t they aesthetic is gone they seem like they are kinda dicks. I’m not going to go off on this, but it seems like they have a tendency to be rude and/or showboaty to the other workers, who by now seem more like their friends than just casual co-workers. Generally when everything works out for the protagonists, the stories over.

Here’s my real beef. Post season 2 the show lost its mockumentary balance; its become 80% mock and 20% umentary. With the addition of Ed Helms and the focus being taken off the relationship aspect its just lost its allure to me. All the excess time allotted to supporting characters, allows them to be become more rounded characters, and they all have their own bizarre eccentricities, a little too bizarre in some cases. But, I mean, I like the supporting characters, and all, the show is still funny, but for me it’s lost the special something that made it great.  Now it’s just another sitcom.

Posted in television | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Paranormal Redundancy or Titanic 2: Titanic

I am a tremendous fan of bad movies. I was going to begin by saying that watching the bad films helps you appreciate the good ones but I just don’t believe that and it probably is not true, I watch them strictly for entertainment purposes. For me, they elicit a similar reaction most people receive from horror films. I cannot watch horror films as they bore me to death, but put a terribly poor written and low-budget movie in front of me and I will be on the edge of my seat in anticipation of the next awful plot twist (just like their masked mass murdering counterparts, they come out of nowhere). Occasionally, you come across a gem that is so good at being bad that it miraculously becomes good again, such as Plan 9 from Outer Space (Wood Jr, 1959), The Room (Wiseau, 2003) and Ankle Biters (Minarovich, 2002). Unfortunately, neither of the films I will be reviewing today were able to cross back over that line and sadly remain solidly in the bad movie genre. Did I mention I will be reviewing the knockbuster hits Paranormal Entity (Van Dyke, 2009) and Titanic 2 (Van Dyke, 2010)?

Alright, brief synopsis. Paranormal Entity is clearly a knock-off Paranormal Activity (Peli, 2007). I think they are horror films but I can’t really tell as nothing much happens throughout the combined 174 minutes. Watching either film will guarantee you a restless bedtime experience filled with poorly acted nightmares. Both films suck, but they suck equally. They are indiscernibly similar, so if you liked either movie then you are probably a jackass. Those statements feel a bit too harsh and I don’t want any readers out there to mistakenly assume I feel “too” anything about these movies. They are, at best, lukewarm garbage, and not the cool environmental pollutant type garbage that corporations dump maliciously, I am talking about a couple of spare beer cans and an empty bag of Doritos that have been sitting in a puddle of rain water for like a week. That is the most scathingly ambivalent review I can give.

Titanic 2 was something I really thought I could sink my teeth into. 100 years after the tragic sinking of the Titanic (Titanic 1, if you will), a billionaire playboy/engineering genius/actual director/writer/star/actual grandson of Dick Van Dyke decides it would be appropriate to build a ship, christen it Titanic 2, and sail from New York to London (the lanes reversed!). Meanwhile, an iceberg the size of Manhattan or something falls into the Atlantic and sends waves crashing into the ocean liner, I think. Now I kind of forgot what happens because, to be honest, I watched this film over a month ago. I remember one scientist in Greenland is taking ice core samples by scooping up freshly fallen snow with his hand and putting it in a container. I was under the impression it took special drills digging hundreds of meters into the ground under sterile conditions to retrieve ice core samples but I doubt Mr. Van Dyke and his crack team would have over looked such a thing. The story is preposterous, the dialogue is awkward, the acting is stiff, the visual effects are terrible, and best of all they take themselves seriously but the movie still doesn’t manage to make you laugh often enough to make sitting through it worthwhile.

Now let us take a step back and I will tell you a bit about the think tank that puts out these straight-to-DVDs. Aptly dubbed The Asylum (It is insane that these movies turn a profit)(I believe it is a subsidiary of Tantamount Studios), this quality allergic production company has streamlined the way knockbusters are made. They begin by figuring out what is going to be popular 3 to 4 months from now, and they end by putting a hastily thrown together “movie” on the shelves of your local Blockbuster, or in my case Netflix instant queue, to coincide with the actual blockbusters theatrical release. According to Wikipedia, they spend “well under a million dollars” and write each film in anywhere “from an hour to a few weeks.” Now that is what I call talent. Oh, except it is talent in the way that I can touch my tongue to my nose or I can snap my fingers in a strange way are talent. Their apparent success is derived from piggy-backing on the massive marketing campaigns put in place by the high-budget originals. How a commercial for Transformers (Bay, 2007) could cause anyone to rent Transmorphers (L. Scott, 2007) is beyond me, but many folks out there hate them for this deceptive practice. I was inclined to agree, but after some thoughtful reflection, I have concluded that I just really don’t care. Do the people being tricked deserve to be tricked? Well, if you cannot tell the difference when you are renting this film then you most likely cannot tell the difference when you are watching this film. Are they destroying art to make a profit? Absolutely (and also probably not a super great thing to be doing) they are, but so is like almost everyone else. What they are doing is fine in my book as long as they don’t start to develop a non-ironic cult following. The second I find out a large group of people sincerely enjoy their films then I will be sincerely pissed off. So for now I give them:

1.5 out of 5 homophones

I started off discussing how much I enjoy watching bad movies and meant to talk about Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, who, in my opinion (and a lot of other peoples), suck it big time. As an example, the five related lists that appear first on Seltzers IMDB page include: Directors Who Somehow Still Get Work, directors trying to destroy the movie business, PLEASE disappear off the face of the planet………please. PART II, The worst directors of all time, and peores directores que jamas hayan existido. According to my three years of Spanish education, that last one translates to something directors what something something exist. According to Google Translate, that last one translates to the worst directors who ever lived. Incidentally, while perusing their IMDB pages, I noticed that I have yet to see their latest release Vampires Suck (Friedberg, Seltzer, 2010) so I will be pushing that to the top of my queue and reviewing it shortly. Did I include too many rhetorical questions in this article?

Posted in movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Armageddon 2: Armageddon¹

Well guys, we made it past the first of the Armageddi, and now it’s onto the sequel, and it’s a real doozie2. That is right people, not long until the Mayan Calendar ends and this time we can’t just get a new one. This time that crappy kiosk in the mall that sells almost exclusively calendars doesn’t have anything for you, unless you need a set of those metal ring puzzle things. Let’s take a look at all the evidence:

The End of Numbers

The Mayan Calendar Ends. This alone should be enough evidence, how could a culture that got trashed by the Spaniards get this wrong. This long count calendar in conjunction with their Calendar Round allowed the Mayans to specify dates for periods longer than 52 years (the length of the calendar round due to their years having 260 days vs. our 365). The whole idea that a calendar coming to an end (which the Mayan Long Count calendar cannot) would signal the end of time is asinine. O, and historians believe that they predicted an age of enlightenment, not the end of the world, at… an age of enlightened doom.

Well, it's a scary picture

Geomagnetic Reversal.The South Pole will become the North Pole, Dogs will turn into Cats, Boys into Girls, Christians into Atheists… all hell will break loose. But to be clear, they think that a process that has happened many times in the planets history to be something that could cause major extinction, despite our distant ancestors living through the last geomagnetic reversal. But even if it does become an issue, we just need to crack open the earth and pry out all the molten nickel from the core and shoot it into outer space so the magnetic poles won’t have an opportunity to switch on us and that will show them. Or us.

Planet X is going to skullfuck Earth.So what if no one can see this planet and NASA says it doesn’t exist. People have predicted that this will happen because… well just because. It was supposed to be here in 2003, but they recalculated, and will you look at that… 2012. But, if this happens we will just send up a team of sexy astronauts and a British nanny with a nuclear bomb to blow the whole thing up. Which is the exact plot of Armageddon… There was also a bit of Mary Poppins in there.

Green Lantern's Light

Sun’s Solar Flares are going to heat up. It’s going to be near the peak time of the eleven year cycle. The same cycle that peaked in 2002-2003. They are playing pretty fast and loose with their science, but they are playing with science nonetheless. This one actually works in conjunction with the magnetic reversal theory, they think that the loss of our protective magnetic shield will allow solar winds to kill us all. This perfect storm of conditions could cause a few satellites to malfunction.

Nostradamus… FTW! A guy who maybe predicted something about some other random things and got them right might have predicted 2012 as the end of the world. It is a solid argument with some real science behind it.

You're going nowhere

The Rapture. I’m more worried about the Four Horsemeals of the Egg-Porkalypse.

Robot Overlords are going to take over. We have angered them by turning their leader into a disgraced politician and they won’t rest until their circuitry is bathed in the blood of the innocent… This is a theory I can get behind.

I think it’s pretty clear that I think that this is total crap, and hopefully you agree. Somehow things like this get media attention, and I am sure that there are much more important matters3. History is full of people predicting the end, and yet the world goes on. But then again… the world is for sure going to end, for sure. So everyone be sure to live constantly in fear, and invest heavily in gold.

[1] Bad title.
[2] Doesn’t hold a candle to Titanic II (Van Dyke, 2010) 4
[3] I understand the hypocrisy.
[4] Review by DonnyBagg to come!

Posted in comedy, science | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment