• Fresno Bob

    Ever wonder what Chief Brody’s life was like back in NYC? Well, he definitely drank Instant Coffee!


    What did we watch last night?

    • Twin Peaks, season two, episodes 14 and 15. Well, what do you know? I really enjoyed both of these. I seem to have made it through the worst bit of the show only finding one episode to be sort of bad! I’m chalking this up to most of the plots I remember dragging first time around not actually taking as long to resolve as I remembered, and also Twin Peaks being amazing. The Diane Keaton-directed episode in particular is a gem, full of striking images and great moments, but the Leo Johnson mini-slasher-movie scene in the other episode is great too. Oh, and I really like Doc Hayward’s new hat.

    • clytie

      Unsolved Mysteries and Forensic Files I gotta cut back on these things, though the former had 2 segments I’d never seen before in the same episode, which happens like never.

      Brad Pitt’s segment on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert While I boycott this show, I briefly lifted that because Brad Pitt!

    • Fresno Bob

      Three episodes of Master of None. I really enjoy this show. It’s elegantly written and directed, and it manages to delve into some potentially cringey material without being unpleasant to watch.

      Also, and I apologize for this superficiality, but holy hell the actress playing Francesca is stunning. She has tremendous screen presence, and her eyes are dazzling.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Alessandra Mastronardi is one of the most beautiful women I’ve seen onscreen recently and she’s charming as hell. She’s one of the big reasons that subplot actually works for me (that and I am a sucker for bittersweet swooning romances).

    • Drunk Napoleon

      The Wire, Season Two, Episode Ten, “Storm Warnings”
      There’s not so much a single plot rolling through this episode as a bunch of themes. Perhaps, having established itself with a fairly dramatic story, the show is willing to shed all vestigial dramatic/formulaic elements and embrace being purely literary.

      Ziggy’s plot is resolved, as he finally reaches his limit for humiliation and impulsively kills two greeks. His confession is heartbreaking, as he tries taking on as much responsibility as possible. Multiple people have referred to Ziggy’s story as “tragic” – taking them entirely literally, I don’t think that’s true, seeing as he didn’t really seal his fate until he pulled the trigger (contrast Lane’s fall in Mad Men, where he genuinely seals his fate as soon as he steals the money).

      Greggs and her wife are expecting a child, and Greggs is preoccupied, asking Russell how she acts being a cop and a mother. That is so clearly not going to end well.

      Presbo’s increasing loyalty to the very concept of po-lice is, ironically, what does him in when he punches Valchek.

      Breaking Bad, Season Three, Episode Five, “Mas”
      The opening flashback, showing how Jesse got the RV, is almost pointless from a plot perspective – it explains how Hank manages to track down the RV at the end of the episode. What seems more important is that it gives us a chance to take stock on how far Walt and Jesse have come as people.

      I can see now how Skyler is a bad dramatic character. At this point, she’s spinning her wheels, defined very well by what she’s not doing and not very much but what she is doing (such as enjoying heated bathroom tiles, which I can tell you are deeply overrated – or possibly I’m too much of a filthy leftist socialist to enjoy them). She does, at least, allow Walt back into her life as a father if nothing else.

      Saul, on the other hand, is a perfectly solid dramatic character despite being equally interested in a status quo, but having to deal with both Jesse and Walt escalating. Jesse and Walt’s divorce seems more violent and emotional than Walt and Skyler’s, and he’s trying desperately to keep the peace between them until he realises he can make a buck off one of them.

      Speaking of Walt, he makes a deal with Gus in which he reveals even more of his lying nature. He tries to sell Gus on the idea that he isn’t proud of his personal meth cook, just offended by Gus’ lack of professionalism dealing with Jesse. In response, Gus shows Walt his meth cook site, hidden under a laundry, filled with high quality equipment. He offers Walt the ultimate deal for any artist: total creative control and pick your own hours and days, so long as you deliver product. When Walt turns him down again, Gus sells it to him based on the idea of manhood: a man provides for him family even when his family hates him for it.

      Walt clearly finds this very, very attractive and accepts. I’ve been building up the idea that, counter to popular interpretation, Walt was not ‘evil’ from the start. He never set out to create a meth empire, and 49 year old Walt would be disgusted by 51 year old Walt. It was as much what he learned going on that twisted him as it was his true nature emerging – or perhaps it was a tug-of-war between nature and nurture. Thinking on it, I’m reminded of ZoeZ observing Walt lost ‘permission’ to be evil when his cancer went into remission – now he has permission again.

      Finally, Hank is suffering PTSD and depression, and is hiding it from Marie. Say what you will about Marie, she doesn’t do subtext all that well, and openly talks to both Hank and her sister about their problems. When Hank sees what his obsession with Heisenberg has cost him, he buries his feelings even further, acts the cool guy at the Gomey Away Party, and throws himself further into Heisenberg, which pays off with a lead on Jesse’s RV.

      Blackadder The Third, Episode Five, “Amy And Amiability”
      This episode opens with Mr B frustrated because his finances are in the shitter. In my own writing, I’ve been finding it easier to write drama by starting with the character committing an action on the very first sentence and going from there; this episode demonstrates that you could also begin with the character desiring something specific. Baldrick offers the option of becoming a highwayman, which Blackadder politely turns down. His first plan to turn to the Prince falls apart when it turns out the Prince is broke too, having discovered a game called ‘cards’. It’s here we get the main meat of the episode: Blackadder must find a rich girl to marry the Prince.

      His options are comedically limited so that he only has one girl: Amy Hardwood, heir to a fortune. Blackadder goes to meet her, and discovers she’s a delicate, fluffy, irritatingly twee thing; knowing the Prince will hate her and she him, he must scheme to get them together, which goes roaringly well until he discovers she and her family are actually broke and calls the whole thing off. He gets home to discover the Prince has spent loads of money in expectation of the wedding, meaning they’re even worse off.

      He gives up and decides to become a highwayman, as Baldrick suggested. The successful robbery gets him in the sights of the Shadow, who turns out to be Amy. She offers him a deal: rob the shit out of the Prince and run away with her to Barbados. We get a hilarious revelation of character when Blackadder pretty cheerfully accepts her flattery and accepts her offer with only a moment’s thought. He and we are completely unsurprised when she turns on him, and he and we are delighted when Baldrick saves him in the nick of time, letting him finish things off with one more scheme – anonymously turning in Amy as the Shadow.

      This episode has some interesting back-and-forth between dramatic structure and comedic elements, where the comedy essentially ‘allows’ the dramatic aspects to happen, but the comedy is the whole reason we’re here to begin with. Blackadder’s options are limited in the first place because of the abject stupidity of the world he’s in (my favourite example: the woman who’ll never be convinced to marry Prince George, because she’s met him); the razor-sharp plotting and comedy are in complete harmony to create a pleasurable viewing experience.

      Funny Lines
      George: You know the kind of girls I like! They’ve got to be lovers, laughers, dancers…
      Blackadder: … and bonkers.
      George: (raises eyebrows) … That goes without saying.

      Blackadder: She is famous for having the worst personality in Germany. And as you can imagine, that’s up against some pretty stiff competition.

      Blackadder: Now, let me see… “Beau Brummel in purple pants probe”… “King talks to tree: phew, what a looney”… God, The Times has really gone downhill recently.

      George: Honestly, Blackadder, I don’t know why I’m bothering to get dressed. Soon as I get to the Naughty Hellfire Club I’ll be debagged and radished for non-payment of debts.
      Blackadder: Radished, sir?
      George: Yes, they pull your britches down and push a large radish right up y-
      Blackadder: Yes, yes, yes, all right! There’s no need to hammer it home.
      George: Well as a matter of fact, they do often-
      Blackadder: No, no!

      Prince: All right then. Well, take this down. “From His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, to Miss Amy Hardwood. Tally-ho, my fine, saucy young trollop! Your luck’s in!Trip along here with all your cash and some naughty night attire… and you’ll be staring at my bedroom ceiling from now ’til Christmas, you lucky tart! Yours with the deepest respect, et cetera, signed, George. P.S. Woof woof!” Well, what do you think?
      Blackadder: It’s very moving, sir. Would you mind if I changed just one tiny aspect of it?
      Prince: Which one?
      Blackadder: The words?
      (Like a lot of Blackadder’s best insults, I find myself thinking of variations on this whenever the entirety of something horrifies me)

      Blackadder: I can see where your daughter gets her ready wit, sir.
      Hardwood: I thank you!
      Blackadder: Although where she gets her good looks and charm is perhaps more of a mystery.

      Blackadder: Sir, I come as emissary of the Prince of Wales with the most splendid news. He wants your daughter Amy for his wife.
      Hardwood: Well his wife can’t have her!

      Blackadder: Saddle the Prince’s horse!
      Baldrick: That’ll be difficult. He wrapped it ’round that gas lamp in the Strand last night.
      Blackadder: Well, saddle my horse, then!
      Baldrick: What d’you think you’ve been eating for the last two months!?
      Blackadder: Well, go up into the street and hire me a horse!
      Baldrick: Hire you a horse!? For ninepence? On Jewish New Year in the rain? A bare fortnight after the dreaded horse plague of Old London Town? With the blacksmiths’ strike in its fifteenth week and the Dorset Horse Fetishists’ Fair tomorrow?
      (I’m always a fan of escalating punchlines)

      Cheapside: You’ll never get away with this, you scoundrel! You’ll be caught and damned well hung!
      Sally: I think he looks pretty well hung-
      Blackadder: Madam, please.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        I’d kind of love to use George’s letter as an Okcupid message but I imagine the recipient would be understandably horrified without getting the reference.

        • Drunk Napoleon

          You could definitely put “Looking for lovers, laughers, dancers, and bonkers” in your profile.

    • Fireworks Wednesday–A minor Farhadi work, but given that it is Farhadi, still pretty riveting nevertheless. Per usual, the mix of suspense, mystery, and domestic drama is captivating and works toward a cruel but natural ending; it lacks some of the propulsion of something like The Past or A Separation, and the plot, being split between both husband and wife here, is shaggier than the precise, clockwork-like mechanisms of Farhadi’s best. But I love the format–discovering a slowly dawning mystery entirely through the limited POV of the housecleaner is a great way to navigate this story.

    • The Narrator

      Marie Antoinette: My third (Sofia) Coppola rewatch in preparation for The Beguiled, and I think the wait for that movie may just kill me at this point. This was previously my least favorite of hers, but now I’m not sure, because it’s so much goddamn fun. And since that first viewing, I now get the All That Jazz references.

      • clytie

        I saw it once a decade ago and found it pretty meh, but the film has aged well in my memory, so I keep meaning to re-vist it.

    • Defense Against The Dark Arts

      Aside from drinking Folgers, Brody had this racist partner named Popeye and they went on this crazy car chase through the city. No wonder he wanted to move his family to some place with no crime (but more sharks).

      • Fresno Bob

        Too bad he ended up as a driver for the Donnelly mob, and eventually took up a truck driving job in Los Columnas. Dude’s had a rough go of it.

        • silverwheel

          That’s actually my (silly) fan theory – that Scheider plays the same character in The French Connection, Jaws, and Sorcerer.

        • Defense Against The Dark Arts

          He did get to fly a super cool futuristic helicopter though. Life is a series of gutters and strikes.

    • silverwheel

      The Asphalt Jungle – I’m used to John Huston films having a lean, propulsive script, so this film’s much slower, moody rhythm was quite a surprise. The exteriors of this film have a bit in common with Kubrick’s Killer’s Kiss, and while Huston doesn’t indulge in them, they are striking, firmly placing the film in its anonymous Midwestern city. Huston has made several films better than this one (this is not meant as an insult), and yet I can’t shake the feeling that The Asphalt Jungle is very ahead-of-its-time with its emphasis on mood and willingness to allow much space between its story beats. In particular, the heist in the middle of the film is completely unhurried, with no musical accompaniment, and it ventures into Frankenheimer/Mann territory in that it is content to simply let us watch people doing things. I especially liked how they all have to scoot across the floor just before the vault to avoid one of the security measures – Huston shows each of them doing this, each time they come to this spot. Most directors of this era (and heck, plenty of contemporary directors as well) would have been content to show is once, maybe twice, and then skip past that part in editing. Huston shows it every time, and the deliberate care and pacing of the scene points directly toward the heist sequences in Thief (whether or not Mann was deliberately referencing this film, they are definitely brethren). And the mood of this film…wonderful. Noirs are dark by nature, of course, but this one is almost Fincherian in its bleak tone. Its dominant theme seems to be “did you actually think that you could get away with any of this?” Most films would have gone for tension after the heist with the police closing in and the criminals desperately trying to stay one step ahead. That’s what happens on the level of plot, but the film’s pacing is just as unhurried as in the first half; getting captured is an inevitability, as certain as death. Everyone is on borrowed time after the heist and the film knows it, so it doesn’t rush anything. You may outrun it for a little while, you may get the alibi you need, you may enjoy some pleasures in the interim, you may even get to the verge of getting away with it, but none of it will last. Shoot, hardly anybody even wants possession of the bag of gold and jewels because it’s worth too much money, and they know there’s no way they can fence it without getting caught. And like Heat the film knows that criminals, no matter how careful they are, will have to make allegiances with people they distrust out of necessity.

      Quite a cast to this movie – Sterling Hayden (burying his natural charisma and intelligence for something much more dangerous), a small-but-important role for Marilyn Monroe, a freakishly young James Whitmore (and by that I mean a normal adult age James Whitmore), and a murderers row of supporting character actors all sinking their teeth into the great material without every trying to steal the show from one another.

      • Defense Against The Dark Arts

        The trailer for this movie is great. “Jean Hagen as Doll, the dime-a-dance dame who wants to share that shabby dream.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXrP6Uo4nUI

      • Babalugats

        Great write up!

        What Huston movies do you prefer to this one? The only one I like better (and even then, narrowly) is Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, but there’s still a lot I haven’t seen.

        • silverwheel

          The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, Key Largo.

          • Babalugats

            Respectable. Key Largo is very underrated. I don’t think people realize how deep Bogart’s filmography is. Or how well most of it has held up.

      • Son of Griff

        Film noir is, at its core, about men who take pride in the professionalism of their criminality. It’s the one thing that distinguishes them from the collapsing world around them. Only Hayden feels a degree of self loathing with regard to the profession he’s fallen into. Action films, on the other hand, spectacularize the violence emenating from the characters’ self righteousness without much attention to process.

        As for Huston at his most langorous and proletarian, check out FAT CITY, another low rent masterpiece from the lower depths.

    • pico79

      Agents of SHIELD: after an unexpectedly stellar season… did not stick the landing. Tried to do about three episodes’ worth of material in one, and it’s kind of an incomprehensible mess at times. At least it ended on some truly bizarre stingers, so… Onwards and upwards?

      Otherwise, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the most compelling thing on television right now is the news, because what the hell? Someone joked that Netflix must have bought the year in news and decided to release it all at once this week.

    • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

      Better Call Saul, “Off Brand.” Unfortunately, as this show has a tendency to do, terrific episodes are often met the next week by episodes that need to Slow Burn everything and provide appropriate levels of Breaking Bad fan service. (It’s Krazy-8! It’s Lydia! It’s the laundromat!) I was genuinely impressed that Rebecca’s words affected me a little; of course, through it all, Chuck is mentally ill and does need help. I just can’t blame Jimmy for not wanting to be the one to give it to him anymore.

      Oh, and we see the debut of Saul Goodman. Another instance where Chuck’s continued vendetta leads to creating the thing he most fears.

      Veep, “Justice.” It’s Veep; you know what your’e getting. Mostly good episode– I can definitely feel those moments where it feels like the writers are straining, though. Jonah of course gets the funniest moment of the episode, with his insane Daylight Saving (not plural or possessive!) Time rant, although Catherine’s laugh at the news of Selina’s heart attack was close. (As was Dan’s reaction to finding out his sperm motility means he’s likely infertile. And, of course, Richard accidentally confirming the rumor that Selina was being considered for the Supreme Court vacancy.)

      Norm Macdonald: Hitler’s Dog, Gossip, and Trickery. Liked it better the second time around.

  • Son of Griff

    FAMILY PLOT– This movie definitely qualifies as a Hitchcock B-side, a minor but still overlooked comic mystery. The movie follows a pair of nervously romantically entangled con artists (Barbara Harris and Bruce Dern) out to bilk an aging heiress of some money by locating her long lost nephew who the family shunted off for adoption some 40 years earlier. Unbeknownst to the pair, the nephew (William Devane) has grown up to become a suave jewel thief who, along with a raven haired accomplice (Karen Black), starts moving up to kidnapping, and will thus resort to any means to cover his tracks. This isn’t Hitchcock at his most creatively dynamic–the pace drags and with one exception, a runaway car scene conveyed entirely from the POV of the driver, the suspense set pieces are well choreographed but perfunctory. The screenplay structure, which weaves to interlocking narratives that converge at the past possible moment, is deft, and the misanthropy of 70s Hollywood suited Hitchcock better than one might expect.

    It woks better than SABOTEUR, probably Hitchcock’s weakest “innocent Man on the Run” thriller. The heroes of these pieces possess a charming combination of wiliness and naivete. Robert Cummings, alas, only projects the latter here, and it gets pretty hard to invest in his plight when his ability to get out scrapes springs from no established foundation for his character.

  • pico79

    Cannes has commenced: here’s Dowd with a lovely write-up on Desplechin’s opening-night film. What are y’all looking forward to the most? (For me: Zvyagintsev, Lanthimos, and JC Mitchell (whose film looks gloriously weird).)

    • The Narrator

      I’m down for the Haneke, Lanthimos, Haynes, Ramsay, Joon-ho, Baumbach, Mitchell, and Polanski, with a special place in my heart for The Beguiled. I am not, however, down for the neverending hand-wringing over the Netflix films.

      • pico79

        French gonna French. But also “Will Smith clashes with Pedro Almadovar over streaming service” is one of those headlines that just screams 2017.