Homeland is a strong, ambiguous, and complex thriller that holds a mirror up to viewers, but it’s also walking a highwire that could potentially lead to a devastating fall.
It would be easy to write Showtime’s Homeland, which debuted to smashing ratings, off as a classic Cold War drama updated for the modern age; plucky, driven CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) believes the returning American hero, rescued prisoner of war, is not what he seems, turned by the
Russians Al Qaeda and preparing an attack against the United States. It’s a story about pursuing the case against all odds, including opposition from superiors (who is loyal? who is a double agent?) set against a background of tight camera angles and almost no music at all. Dark. Gritty. Artfully stark.
Except for two things.
Intended as guides or not, the next generation of boys is learning how to be fathers, how to treat mothers, and what to expect of their children from shows like Doctor Who.
The latest season of Doctor Who (a long-running UK scifi/fantasy series about a time traveling even-longer-lived body-changing alien — whew, shortest summary ever!), the second of current showrunner Stephen Moffat’s tenure, lacks depth and humanity when it comes to anyone who is not male, white, and straight. And, indeed, spends rather a lot of time killing off women’s autonomy and autonomous women. Although Doctor Who has always been another TV iteration of the story of the Independent Rich White Man Having Adventures, in the first few years of the reboot (seasons 2005-2009), with all that can be said against it, there were at least engaging female characters who grew over time. As Moffat seems to have given up characterization in favor of baroque, excessively complicated storylines, the viewer has been deprived of these dynamic, if flawed, portrayals of women. There’s just not much there to engage with when it comes to complex female/nonwhite/queer characters, and none of it is good. So lo! Let us talketh about the men, and — because it ain’t for nothing that “patriarchy” means “rule by the fathers” — about dads particularly.
Every frame of Drive oozes class, bleeds cool.
Drive is slick. Spy Hunter slick. Every frame oozes class, bleeds cool. Newman cool, McQueen cool, O’Neal cool. Ryan Gosling is their heir apparent, a silent human machine, driving gloves and satin jacket. His ice-cold protagonist is a grease monkey in the morning, stuntman in the afternoon and getaway driver by night.
His mantra is Eastwood, “If I drive for you, you give me a time and place. I give you a five-minute window, anything happens in that five minutes and I’m yours no matter what. I don’t sit in while you’re running it down; I don’t carry a gun…I drive.”
Boardwalk Empire cuts to the heart of the idealised and romanticised era of gangsters, cronyism, and smuggling.
The critically acclaimed Boardwalk Empire returned for its second season this week with ‘21,’ which informed viewers that all was not well in Atlantic City, and set the stage for what looks like another smashing season of the hit HBO series. It was visually lush, laden with subtext, and deliciously scored; Boardwalk Empire is clearly determined to continue living up to the hype, which is considerable. Part of the season two promotions involved running, yes, a vintage subway on New York’s 2/3 line. Clearly, they’re breaking budget records if nothing else.
I foolishly consented to a Mad Men marathon over the weekend, forgetting that watching more than two episodes in a row tends to leave me in a state of deep depression and sensory overload due to the rich, layered complexity going on with this show.
Netflix has just made Mad Men available on streaming, just in time for the announcement that shooting for the long-awaited season five is due to start next week. This, of course, led my editor to propose that I watch and review season four, to get everyone all fired up for the fifth season, and thus it was that I foolishly consented to a Mad Men marathon over the weekend, forgetting that watching more than two episodes in a row tends to leave me in a state of deep depression and sensory overload due to the rich, layered complexity going on with this show.
Basically, I’d consented to eat the television equivalent of 13 flourless chocolate tortes in a row, without stopping. I briefly considered laying in a supply of martinis and curious foods artfully packed into Jello molds and decorated with sprigs of wilting parsley, in true ‘60s tradition, but ultimately, I decided to go it alone, fearing that I would become insensate from alcohol poisoning midway through episode three if I approached the endeavor as a drinking game (unless the game was ‘drink when you see a Black person’), and rightly avoiding Jello for the culinary and sensory offense that it is.
If the Grey’s creative team does make the decision to terminate the non-traditional parenting relationship between Mark, Callie and Arizona, it represents a tremendous missed opportunity and a loss for queer representation on television.
Last week’s Grey’s Anatomy ended with a cliffhanger this viewer predicted at the very moment we saw Callie and Arizona in a car; crunching noises and the show’s classic fade to white, warning that one or more characters is probably about to die. We’re working up to that time of year where shows are starting to set up minor arcs to lead to end of season storylines, and this one promises to be a doozy in grand Grey’s Anatomy tradition.
Viewers have been following the Calzona, as some fans like to call it, relationship with much interest through its tempestuous twists and turns. Grey’s went out on a limb in the fifth season by daring to reorient a character viewers had interacted with as straight, and turning Dr. Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) into a bisexual character with the famous ‘glasses moment’ with Dr. Erica Hahn (Brooke Smith) in bed. First the show was praised for depicting bisexuality, and then it was slammed for Dr. Hahn’s abrupt departure, which smelled of gaywashing to some viewers.
Astute viewers may note parallels between the tarnish on the gilded age of Downton Abbey and our own class problems today.
UK import Downton Abbey wrapped up its stint on PBS last weekend, complete with an appeasing note to viewers already howling about the ending (gosh, I hope the outbreak of the First World War wasn’t a spoiler for anyone), noting that another season is in production and will hopefully be making its way here soon. Helmed by Julian Fellowes of Gosford Park fame, the show has made a big splash on both sides of the pond, and no wonder; it represents British drama at its best, such a brilliant distillation of art and culture that producers in the US didn’t dare attempt to produce a hamfisted ‘adaptation’ to sully the airwaves, instead going straight to the source.
Set in the tense years before the outbreak of World War I, Downton Abbey could fall into the trap of glamorising the golden age. It’s certainly set up to do so, with the drama revolving around the lives of the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) and his family living in a great manor house, the titular character. And make no mistake, Downtown Abbey is a character in the drama, just as the costuming and setting also play vital roles.
“For the first time in human history we’ve produced something that has consequences for 100,000 years. What does that mean?”
I first encountered Michael Madsen’s “Into Eternity” at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam this past November. What struck me most about the film – a visually and sonically stunning, existential leap into the very future of civilization via Finland’s nuclear waste storage facility Onkalo – was how little it resembled a documentary at all. Images from “Lord of the Rings” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” danced in my head as I tried to wrap my brain around the overwhelming concept of this enormous underground burial chamber that will continue to be under construction until the 22nd century, that is to be built to last for 100,000 years. Fortunately, I was able to sit down with the Danish director in the lobby of the infamous Hotel Chelsea before the flick opened at NYC’s Film Forum to discuss documentary versus fiction genres, the current cinematic climate in Denmark, and the necessity of myth in our modern-day rationalist society.
Eminem is not a “good guy” in the traditional sense.
In a recent interview with Anderson Cooper, Eminem posed an interesting question: Why does he [Eminem] seem to be the focus of intense media scrutiny when it comes to his homophobic and sexist lyrics? Eminem wondered, is it be cause he’s white? That is, do people pay particular attention to his lyrics (as compared to other, black rappers) because he is white?
“I felt like I was being attacked…. was being singled out. I felt like, ‘Is it because of the color of my skin? Is it because of that that you’re paying more attention?’
Eminem’s question provoked a bit of an outburst in the media that I think reveals some interesting things about how race is dealt with in mainstream white media. (more…)
Oliver Stone had a relatively quiet decade after his nuclear bomb directing style in his 90s movies.
Gordon Gekko has been lying low. Biding his time in sing-sing away from the dollars and the greed and the sub-prime madness; he’s been plotting his come back with a Machiavellian precision as cold blooded as his lizard namesake. After-all “Money Never Sleeps.”
Armed with a cell phone the size of an ICBM, Gekko suffers the humiliation of being jettisoned from jail without so much as a rented limo to give him a ride – even rappers ride stretch these days. (more…)
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