• Drunk Napoleon

    My personal favourite 5 Second Film:

    What did we watch?

    • Drunk Napoleon

      The Wire, Season Two, Episode Eleven, “Bad Dreams”
      Maybe I was wrong about lightening up on the dramatic devices, because everything’s coming back this episode. Ziggy murdering those guys is coming back on everybody – the detail, having lost a major element of the case, and Frank, who has to deal with the fact that his son, you know, murdered a guy on top of his using the Greeks is screwing over his chances for re-election. I’ve seen multiple people refer to Ziggy as the most tragic character; taking them literally, Frank seems more like the truly tragic character, seeing as how his actions all lead up to him walking up to the Greek to get killed (no spoiler,seeing as how obvious it is).

      Also, we see Omar meet Brother, and this is another really great meeting between two people who understand the game and are willing to play it to the end. I don’t think any two characters have understood each other better so far, which leads to that utterly awesome moment of trust when Omar realises he’s been played.

      We also get two big musical setpieces based around the same song, very unusual for this show.

      Breaking Bad,Season Three, Episode Five, “Sunset”
      “Name one thing in this world that is not negotiable.”
      We open with a totally meaningless setpiece where the cousins murder the fuck out of a random cop. It’s badass though.

      We meet Walt contemplating another painting before the plot stumbles on him. I actually really like that best as a contemplative moment in a drama, because it’s long enough to alert us to some contemplation while not outstaying its welcome. Anyway, Walt has started living the philosophy Gus sold him on and has started providing for his family even if he’s not allowed to be part of their lives. I really like the idea of a drama that has characters explicitly discuss their motivations inbetween; a nice balance between dramatic purity and complex characterisation. He also throws himself into spending money on things he wants regardless of the point.

      Walt heads into the laundry meth lab, where he and we meet Gale! I forget who it was that described Gale as past-Walt, someone with all his past weakness and insecurity; season three Walt isn’t so far gone that he can’t enjoy the company of a like-minded individual, and he even listens to Gale recite When I Heard The Learn’d Astronomer (it’s funny how we change in subtle ways – back in 2013, I liked Gale; now I find him kind of irritatingly obsequious). I don’t quite know what to make of Gale’s reciting of the poem, aside from characterising him as a gentle nerd out of place. Perhaps that’s enough.

      Jesse’s starting to claw his way back into the business, having learned what he’s learned (hilariously, he brings up the key buzzer thing when discussing fixing the RV). He knows what he actually wants, and he’s willing to chase it. What he doesn’t know is that Hank is on his case, which Walt discovers when Hank calls him for advice about Jesse. This kicks off the main plot of the episode, when Walt starts to call Jesse, thinks better of it, calls Saul, and realises he has to solve the problem himself.

      He runs over to where the RV is stored to organise its destruction, and strongarms Impound Lot Guy into helping – “I go down, we all go down”. It’s funny seeing a protagonist do the limiting of action instead of being subject to it. Badger happens to be there at the time, and he alerts Jesse to Walt’s actions, which brings Hank down upon them. He and Awesome Old Guy manage to rules lawyer Hank out of busting into the RV and finding Walt, but he’s forced to fuck with Hank’s family and make him believe something happened to Marie.

      (This is a rare case of Walt feeling guilty about something I’d have been pretty shameless about, myself)

      We get a very subjective setpiece when Hank runs to the hospital, only to get a call from Marie that lets him know she’s okay; the colour is drained for this sequence right up until he gets the call. I think it works alright, and a drama show that deliberately went much broader and did that kind of thing all the time could work. This is followed up with a montage of the RV getting destroyed. My favourite detail is Walt pointing and clearly explaining something about the process to Jesse, such a Walt thing to do.

      We end with Gus meeting the cousins in the desert, and directing them to kill Hank instead of Walt. The scene is shot in an archetypically Western style, and it’s so purely dramatic; I love how cheap pure drama can be to shoot.

      Blackadder The Third, Episode Six, “Dual And Duality”
      It’s taken a good, long while, but we’ve finally reached the peak illusion of depth, from which the rest of the show will plateau. This iteration of Blackadder has been subtly different, more ably burying his true feelings under a mountain of wit and blank facial expressions, and this episode provides us with a specific, character-rooted explanation for that shift in behaviour, delivered through a straightforward dramatic plot.

      We open with a scene of Blackadder moaning about life in general, and it really only works if you’ve seen the series up until this point – while most sitcoms, especially in that era, design themselves around the idea that each episode is the first one you’ve ever seen, this one requires you to have seen the episodes leading up to it to fully grasp Blackadder’s world-weariness (including the second series – one of his complaints is that he’s of noble blood but serving a fool).

      After that, Blackadder discovers the Prince has fucked the nieces of the Duke of Wellington , who is now honour-bound to kill him in a duel, and for most of the episode preventing that is what he’s preoccupied with – generally by playing mixed identity, involving his identical Scottish cousin MacAdder and disguising himself as the Prince – until he finds the only option left is to sacrifice himself in a duel for the Prince, at which point Blackadder tells the Prince to get stuffed.

      I said before that one of my favourite parts of Blackadder The Third was seeing Atkinson add a layer onto his performance, playing the good butler but letting his true emotions come out from underneath it by degrees. Here, he turns off the butler charm completely, letting loose a lifetime of bitterness onto the Prince. Within the episode, it’s simply a consequence of Blackadder being at his last tether, but there are two extra layers on top of it.

      Firstly, it’s an explanation for Blackadder’s actions all through the third series. His foul treatment of the Prince and Baldrick, his schemes, even the way he carries himself and reacts to people are down to him holding back a profound anger at the world for putting him in a position where his intelligence and life are wasted serving the village idiot. This is a fairly typical way episodic television creates depth – think of how the characters on Always Sunny have had their behaviour explained over the decade that show has been on the air.

      Secondly, it retroactively makes the previous seasons meaningful. Part of the reason we feel (or at least recognise) Blackadder’s rage is because we’ve seen what he’s missing out on; whereas Lord Blackadder was always reading, eating, or otherwise doing whatever he pleased when we looked in on him, Mr Blackadder is always working in some capacity, usually doing something that irritates him. Blackadder benefits from both the immediate, emotional pleasures of drama, and the long-term benefits of literature.

      Funny Lines
      Blackadder: I want to be remembered when I’m dead. I want books written about me. I want songs sung about me. And then hundreds of years from now I want episodes from my life to be played out weekly at half past nine by some great heroic actor of the age.
      Baldrick: Yeah, and I could be played by some tiny tit in a beard.

      Blackadder: You’re perfectly safe.
      Prince: Well, hurrah!
      Blackadder: Ah! Until six o’clock this evening.
      Prince: … hurroo.

      Blackadder: Baldrick, does it have to be this way? Our valued friendship ending with me cutting you into long strips, and telling the Prince that you walked over a very sharp cattle grid in an extremely heavy hat?

      Wellington: Now, sir, to business. I am informed that your royal father grows ever more eccentric, and at present believes himself to be… a small village in Lincolnshire, commanding spectacular views of the Nene Valley.

      Blackadder: Tell me, do you ever stop bullying and shouting at the lower orders?
      Wellington: Never! There’s only one way to win a campaign: shout, shout and shout again!
      Blackadder: You don’t think then that inspired leadership and tactical ability have anything to do with it?
      Wellington: …No! It’s all down to shouting! BAHHHHHH!

      Blackadder: A man may fight for many things: his country, his principles, his friends, the glistening tear on the cheek of a golden child… But personally, I’d mud-wrestle my own mother for a ton of cash, an amusing clock and a sack of French porn.
      (This is kicked up by Atkinson’s articulation of the word ‘porn’)

      George: I hope men will say of me that I did duty by my country.
      Blackadder: I think that’s pretty unlikely, sir. If I were you, I’d try for something a bit more realistic.
      George: Like what?
      Blackadder: You hope that men will think of you as a bit of a thicky?

      My writing
      I said months ago that playing chess seemed to activate the dramatic parts of my brain – getting my brain into a logical, problem-solving mindset before writing (I’ve since found that playing Left 4 Dead is even better, because it requires my brain to be ‘on’ all the time and forces real-time thinking). I found yesterday that writing literature immediately after watching The Wire helped, and decided to figure out why.

      I have found, in the past, that thoughtful art I enjoy tends to inspire creativity; but I settled on the idea that thoughtful art/criticism/etc at the very least inspires me to riff on a thought for a while – ways I relate to the topic the art/etc explores, how I agree with its take, how I disagree, etc. And at the same time, making and seeing the leaps in the connections within the art/etc gets me primed to see connections in other things.

      To put it in practical terms, I wanted to write about Killbot intelligence. So I thought and wrote about different representations of artificial intelligence in fiction (knowing enough about that topic and having strong enough opinions on it to not have to spend time looking it up and reading about it). I eventually settled on the way I would like my robot psychology to work, and then stumbled upon a way to use that information to get to a character beat I wanted to do.

      • ZoeZ

        I’m excited to learn about Killbot intelligence. There are two things where all science fiction writers have to decide for themselves how they will work if they have them, concepts that are available as tropes but impossible to do generically: AI and time travel.

        The Breaking Bad scene with Hank trying to get into the RV is an excellent example of the show’s ability to find the way domesticity and civility can grow into drama. This scene could almost be an excerpt from some a farce–what’s the rule for a bedroom farce? Three people, one bedroom, two doors?–only it’s devastation that’s getting avoided instead of awkwardness. Walt’s insistence that he’s doing all this for his family has a way of not only ruining his family by bringing the meth business into it but warping the meth business by bringing family into it. The Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? dinner part in season five is a direct extension of this.

        • Drunk Napoleon

          Re Killbots:
          The really great thing about it is I found myself caught between two equally good but completely contradictory takes on the idea, and only ended up choosing one because it’s more appropriate for this story. So I have another literary scfi AI story in me!

          The particular way I’m doing has been done before, but never to my satisfaction. It’s like years of being annoyed by even good scifi is paying off.

          Re BB:
          The interpretation I’ve been going with has been that Walt wants his family and his meth empire equally, and that’s his downfall. If he’d chosen just to cook meth and abandon his family, he and everyone around him would have been better off. Everything you write here really feeds into that.

      • The Ploughman

        This is one of the more memorable BB episodes for me, and I would venture to say it’s the tipping point where the show has shaken off enough of the details that weren’t working to start its remarkable 2.5 year finishing run. The phone call moment could have been played as no big deal, or at least not as big of a deal as some of the decisions that have come before. But I like how it’s treated as another line crossed that should not be – taking advantage of a loving bond to get away clean in your crimes. Even Saul feels icky as he destroys the burner phone.

        David Costabile is the perfect casting choice for Gale.

        This episode also has my favorite humorous moment of the series, where Jesse can’t help but follow up his assertion of his rights against search and seizure with “…bitch!” Walt’s expression is priceless.

    • Twin Peaks, season two, episodes 16 and 17. These episodes feel more like “proper Twin Peaks”, BUT on the other hand, they deal primarily with the worst character in the whole series, Josie. I’d take James’ shit road trip or Super Nadine to any of Josie’s story any day (actually she does have one good moment, comparing safe keys with Ben – but that’s IT). On the plus side, Billy Zane appears, playing his role like he’s escaped from 1930s Hollywood, Coop talking Harry out of his grief-rage is very sweet and everything to do with the weasels is delightfully insane.

      Also I just watched all of these 5-second films, and they’re great. Father & Son is my favourite.

    • Handmaid’s Tale, Episode 5 – We see a clear act of hypocrisy here – for all their piety, the Commander’s wife is willing to circumvent the religious copulation ceremony if it means Offred getting pregnant. The brute act of insemination is more important than all their religious values that hide the handmaids’ true purpose: brood mares. The wife has their driver try to impregnate Offred, but Offred revists the driver later, and they fuck. It’s hot and heavy, and the first time in her new life that Offred receives any sexual pleasure.

      It’s the first nudity in the series, which is a small quibble. We see Elizabeth Moss’s boobs, which are nice, but it’s her scene about her pleasure, contrasting with flashbacks of her marriage, where she is active and vocal about what she wants in bed. So why not show male nudity and have some female gaze? Give this act of rebellion more urgency by making the man more vulnerable. Show us her pleasurable headspace.

      Also of note is the Commander’s attitude. He treats Offred very well, inviting her to play Scrabble and read beauty magazine (women reading is forbidden). But he also squeezes her thigh during their mating ceremony, and when she protests later, he tells her she liked it, too. It’s a creepy parallel to rape apologists saying how the woman liked it, so it couldn’t have been rape, and solidifies that no matter how well he may treat her, she is his sex slave, forced to copulate against her will and consent.

      • Fresno Bob

        There may be a time when TV will no longer be free of dick (in the literal sense), but as a medium it persists in being dickless to the detriment of us all.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          American Gods seems to be going in a good direction “Dick every episode goddamn it”.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            “I mean all the time, morning, day, night, afternoon, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick.”

    • Fresno Bob

      Oh, well, what DIDN’T I watch?

      We’re grinding our way through Buffy season 5 to the end. This is the one where Glory finds the key, Amber Benson gets to act brain damaged after her and Willow have an endless, boring fight, and I continue to not give a shit. Did the interns take over or something? I mean, Riley sucked, but I haven’t enjoyed the show since he left (aside from The Body). Whedon needs to get back in the saddle, because this shit is NOT good.

      Master of None: New York, I Love You – The best episode thus far, and it barely has any of the regular characters except for at the beginning and the end. It was heartwarming and funny and infuriating all at once.

      Great Expectations (1946 – David Lean) – Elegantly constructed and emotional involving, with wonderful production design and performances. It’s neat, because I detect some influence from Powell and Pressburger at times (touches of whimsy, impressionistic elements to the set designs), but Lean is much more direct and pointed in adapting the story and deriving drama through the characters. It’s a fantastic film

      • ZoeZ

        I remember season five of Buffy being my favorite–or at least in a close match with season three–but it’s been so long since I’ve watched it that now I’m wondering if my perception might have been skewed towards being really positive towards the season as a whole because it contains some of my favorite episodes (“The Body” and “The Gift,” primarily).

        • Fresno Bob

          It has great episodes, but this whole stretch has really seemed off its game. Even season 4, with its goofy Initiative stuff and a weak villain, was more consistently involving and entertaining. Thank God for Spike.

          • Rosy Fingers

            Spike really was the main reason to keep watching by this point.

      • I’m intrigued by how negative you’ve been on S5. I remember thinking it was an overrated season (Glory is a pretty dull villain) but still a large step up from S4. I’ll be looking forward to your thoughts on S6, which is certainly a more interesting season, but also considerably more divisive, too.

        • Fresno Bob

          Honestly, I’m kind of tempted to pick and choose episodes and watch the finale rather than slog through TWO MORE seasons of this.

          • With 7, I’d totally recommend that. 6 is doing something more complicated that might not register with just selected episodes.

          • 6 has a lot of good stuff in it, but it’s a slow build. There’s lots of fallout from the season 5 finale. 7 was OK, but I can’t fault anyone for skipping around.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Low key ownage in that Master of None episode with Fred the doorman and the adulterous asshole who ultimately backs down. It was SO satisfying.

    • ZoeZ

      The Handmaid’s Tale, “Offred.” A brutal, visually-stunning pilot. The particicution was especially well-done and especially complex, with a lot of emotional turmoil–this state-sanctioned murder is the only expression of their anger they’re allowed, this rapist represents every incident of rape they can’t avenge, this man who led to a miscarriage represents their own scuttled hopes. Terrific production design, too. Some of it feels a little rushed–I could have done with the mystery about Ofglen dragging out a little longer–but it’s very promising.

    • DJ JD

      Agents of SHIELD, the wrap-up. I thought they had two or three episodes’ worth of wrap-up to do before I saw this one. After I saw it…I still thought they had two or three episodes’ worth of wrap-up to do. This season has been knocking me right over but this felt more like a wrap-up montage than a proper episode. Plus, it was edited all kinds of weird: when they cut from [REDACTED] slowly stabbing [REDACTED] in the heart right in the middle of the scene to Coulson and May verbalfumbling their way back to yet another romantic reset, I made my wife laugh by hissing As if any of us care about you! at the screen.

      I’ve commented on Wen and Gregg’s lack of romantic chemistry, but really, this show just doesn’t do romance well. So far, we’ve got May and Coulson (who may as well be related for all the sparks they’ve got), Fitz and Simmons (who have had an amazing, revelatory arc this season and also had “Twoo Wuv” written on their foreheads–and still come up bland), Mack and Yo-yo (who found their groove best when they made no effort to have one at all), Hunter and Mockingbird (okay I’ll cop to just hating whiny, irrationally-written Hunter), Daisy and _____, etc.

      The show makes a big deal out of its romantic interests, but those relationships only ever really spark onscreen when they’re all-the-way wrong: Ward’s scary/pathetic fascination with Daisy, Good!Ward’s slow-burning, dignified heartbreak, Evil!Fitz hopelessly wrapped around Ophelia’s finger and Ophelia’s later role change towards him all worked like crazy for me.

      • pico79

        I made my wife laugh by hissing As if any of us care about you! at the screen.

        You and everyone else watching. My personal theory is that they did some reshoots and tried to edit them in (there’s no way – no way – the surprise at having another, unexpected Russian representative at the gov’t meeting coincided so perfectly with last week’s news cycle!), but it was all so last-minute and rushed that there are whole sections that just don’t make sense. Like they just had to push this clunky apparatus over the finish line.

        • DJ JD

          I can’t really get too angry at this season, but it certainly felt less graceful than previous episodes did. And yeah, having a massive, politically-manipulative false flag operation run by a couple of goons with Russian accents didn’t seem all that elegant a form of commentary, really.

    • I have hit, for the first time, a film so dull that MST3K cannot save it: The Beast of Hollow Mountain. I keep falling asleep on this, even though the gang is doing its utmost to keep things funny. But lord, what a stinker. (Note: never watch a terrible western right after watching Fistful of Dollars.)

      The trailer for ST Discovery felt very un-Trek for the most part. And really makes me think that a series set 10 years before TOS is a bad idea and will only annoy hardcore fans without offering much for casual fans. And what’s up with those uniforms?

      • I would love a series set a few hundred years in the future of TNG, et al. It would explain how their tech looks so much better than the 90s shows, and it gives them enough distance to where they aren’t enslaved to continuity. Like, ST:D has to end with everything in place for TOS. Something in the future could be radically different.

        • This seems to continue the trend that started with Enterprise and continues into the Abrams/Lin films where everything HAS to go in a certain direction. And the films were specifically created to NOT need be so slavish.

          • The Ploughman

            You’d think Enterprise would have taught a lesson. I haven’t been tracking its development very closely, but I know enough about modern television not to get my hopes up for a “planet of the week” format.

          • Had it been on CBS proper, it might have been more episodic. That might actually be a secondary reason it’s not on CBS, where all those older viewers aren’t into longform storytelling.

            That said, DS9 and Enterprise both leaned on serialized storytelling heavily, and still found a little time to do one-offs that didn’t serve the arc. So maybe we will get one or two hours that do the same.

      • DJ JD

        It’s so tough to tell if they’re masking some genuinely creative content with homogeneous trailers or if that’s a fair cop to what we’re going to get here. Either way, I agree with what you and scb said; it’s an odd choice of setting in some ways. I hope they don’t need to pull a Lucas and make everything that happens in the entire galaxy revolve around a few characters we already know, and I dearly hope they go in a more cerebral direction than the recent movies have.

    • Better Call Saul–Not the most recent episode; the one from last week. This is the first time I’ve actually felt sorry for Chuck; Jimmy played the hearing very dirtily, and while Chuck is certainly not above that sort of thing, I understand where he’s coming from, too. He just looks so pathetic at the end of the episode.

      Silicon Valley–The most recent episode. Poor Dinesh. Poor, poor Dinesh. Also, the ongoing battle of wits between Bachman and Jian Yang continues to be a highlight.

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore – Really loved this one even if the third act doesn’t quite pay off the arc of Ruth realizing how insane and petty her demands for accountability and justice from the burglars are. Nevertheless its well made, funny, gruesome (in keeping with Blair, a Saulnier collaborator, making his debut), and actually has a meaty role for Melanie Lynskey, who is both hilarious and deeply relatable in her misanthropic need for someone, anyone to pay for their misdeeds.

      Otherwise I’ve been on vacation so I haven’t been watching much. Did start Aqua Teen Hunger Force season 1!

      • pico79

        Is this your first time through ATHF? To think we briefly lived in a world where that kind of show was one of the least weird things Adult Swim was airing.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          Kind of! I watched a bunch off and on.

        • The Ploughman

          I’m still trying to repair the parts of my brain that were exposed to 5 oz Mouse.

    • The Narrator

      Rumble Fish: This and One From the Heart form a nice pair of movies with maximalist aesthetics applied to seemingly straightforward stories. And while Heart occasionally failed in its melding of the two, Rumble Fish makes all of its stylistic wankery (and there’s even more of it here) fit the anxiousness and conflicting emotions of its characters.

      • Son of Griff

        If RUMBLE FISH was released when I was in junior high school, it would have been my favorite movie ever. It’s romantic, go-for-broke expressionism perfectly articulates the poetic verisimilitude of male adolescent romanticism. Come to think of it, APOCALYPSE NOW pretty much did that for my friends and I in high school.

    • pico79

      Working our way through Sense8 in preparation for a big ol’ article on it. The show’s finally finding some visual trickery to sell its conceit – there’s a restaurant fight in ep. 8 that seem to argue for a whole new visual language for the show’s central idea – though it doesn’t always work. Still as much a mess as it’s always been, but a mess I don’t mind spending time with.

      Of the shorts above, I’d give the prize to “Missing,” which is delightful. Second place to “Father & Son,” especially for that kid’s performance!

  • Defense Against The Dark Arts

    Missing, Father and Son, Late for Work. Funny stuff. There’s something about comedy of the absurd that tickles me.

    • The Ploughman

      Watching several of these is the closest experience to reading The Far Side that I’ve been able to find this side of the 90s, where some get a chuckle, some get a shrug, a few are incomprehensible, and every now and then one (like “Late for Work”) tickles something primal and becomes a part of your humor vocabulary.

      • Belated Comebacker

        “Watching several of these is the closest experience to reading The Far Side that I’ve been able to find this side of the 90s”

        That’s a really great way of putting it. Never considered the link between these super-short videos and the one-panel humor of “The Far Side.” (Albeit with fewer science-related jokes, I’m sure)

  • These 5-second films are great. It reminds me a lot of Vine, my favorite time-wasting internet thing (RIP, friend).