HBO isn’t all bloody dramas and sex. It’s also witty, sharp comedies.
Christopher Guest is finally (and delightfully) back behind the camera with Family Tree, a new half-hour single-camera comedy on HBO co-created with Jim Piddock. The production is a bit of a departure for Guest, who’s made his name in film (A Mighty Wind, This is Spinal Tap, Best In Show) rather than in television, but if the first episode, ‘The Box,’ was any indicator, this will indeed be Guest at his best, showcasing his ability to move seamlessly across a variety of media and to work well with a variety of actors, even those who aren’t part of his usual ensemble. (more…)
“I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that a lot of very bad things happen when people have good intentions”
“Fiercely intelligent” is the phrase used by a recent acquaintance, whose husband worked on “Shadow Dancer,” to describe the film’s director James Marsh. It’s a spot-on assessment that I couldn’t agree with more. The Oscar-winning filmmaker behind “Man On Wire” – who I last interviewed for Global Comment in 2011 about his follow-up doc “Project Nim” – is an artist drawn to exploring the complexities and puzzles in life, rather than to providing grand conclusions or even any solutions. Such is the case with Marsh’s latest narrative feature, a nail-biting, Belfast-set thriller (starring the dynamite duo of Andrea Riseborough and Clive Owen) about a single mom forced to choose between going to jail for her involvement in an IRA bomb plot, or turning government informant and spying on her hardliner family. I spoke with the British-born, Denmark-based director prior to the flick’s NYC theatrical release on May 31st. (“Shadow Dancer” will also be available on iTunes and On Demand everywhere else.)
Mothers play a role in their childrens’ lives, yes; but they are not blank cardboard cutouts with nurturing expressions and no political awareness.
Try this exercise: What’s the last thing your mother said to you?
If you can’t remember, you’ve got company: I failed that exercise myself. The power of a mother’s voice is undeniable; it comes from a place so deep and ancient that the actual words she speaks are often overlooked, fogged over by a misty emotional aura. Politicians often invoke images of their own mothers, or the mothers of their children, to add to the mythmaking about their own journeys to power or to simply score political points. Pollsters cite the “soccer mom” demographic in elections, as if this were a real group with real positions on issues (it isn’t).
The sad fact is, I think Sam Morril’s job as a stand up comedian is a lot more important than he does.
On April 23, I wrote to Sam Morril that I wanted to work with him to change the conversation about rape jokes. That conversation, I said, was stuck in a frustrating, repetitive pattern: “Feminists say rape jokes are offensive, comics say they have the right to offend people, and we just keep repeating the same lines from that point forward.”
This new plot line feels like an utter betrayal of everything she’s been over many, many seasons, and of her role as a childfree icon.
Christina Yang. Fierce, independent, strong, and long one of my favourite characters on Shonda Rhimes’ ongoing hit Grey’s Anatomy. Played by the fantastic Sandra Oh, Yang is the epitome of the gifted, talented surgeon who’s set her heart on a goal and is working towards achieving it. She works in cardiothoracics, traditionally one of the most demanding surgical specialties, and one heavily dominated by men; a study in 2009 noted that 97% of surgeons working in this field were men. This was actually a worse statistic than in 1996, when 5% of cardiothoracic surgeons were women.
These guys grow up, go into entertainment, and then react to the presence of an audience as if it’s a form of armed robbery. But female comedy fans exist. We go to shows. In the age of social media, our microphones can be as big as any comic’s.
I tried not to embarrass Sam Morril.
To understand how hard this was, for me, I should start at the beginning. Which was: On April 15, I went to a comedy show. The opener was one Sam Morril. And his opener, as per my notes, went as follows: “My ex-girlfriend never made me wear a condom. That’s huge. She was on the pill.” Pause. “Ambien.”
The question here wasn’t if the building was going to collapse, but when, and how many workers would be trapped when it did.
Today marks International Workers’ Day, and many marches, actions, and activities around the world as most of the globe’s workers and families celebrate labour and fair rights for workers. (The glaring exception being, of course, the US, which observes a separate Labour Day in September rather than joining in with May Day celebrations.) Tremendous strides have been made in the field of labour rights in the last century, but in other ways, it seems like workers are stuck on a treadmill, unable to progress much further from where they were in 1913, or 1863, for that matter.
When it comes to social justice, referenda are frequently on the wrong side of history. Putting fundamental rights up for debate by an unaffected majority is an ugly, ugly precedent.
This week one site spread like wildfire over the Australian parts of the internet – http://australianchristianlobby.org/. Unfortunately for notorious anti-gay group Australian Christian Lobby, not every website domain linked to their name delivers precisely what is promised. The above website was created by another ACL group – the Australian Cat Ladies, who promise a pro-marriage equality platform of “family values, hard work, and lots of tummy rubs.” As with everything on the internet, you know things are getting serious when cats are involved.
This is a man whose time has come.
Slavoj Zizek, The Year of Dreaming Dangerously, Verso, 2012.
The work of Slavoj Zizek is by now a genre of critical theory in itself, complete with its own distinctive characteristics. These include: discussions of Hegel, Marx and Lacan; analysis of recent political events interspersed with sections on recent popular culture; David Lynch and Hitchcock; counter-intuitive reversals of liberal, leftist and feminist prevailing wisdom; and large segments copy and pasted from previous books. All of these, with the exception of Lynch and Hitchcock, feature in the slightly uncharacteristic new book from Zizek.
The subject, as the title suggests, is the recent post-recession social movements across North America and Europe – Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring, and the right-wing fascist movements that have also emerged in Europe. Topic is always a little blurry with Zizek – one cannot always say a book is “about” any one thing in particularly – but The Year of Dreaming Dangerously sees Zizek strangely energised and focussed.
Some of the chapter on Occupy was initially delivered at Liberty Plaza/Zuccotti Park using the “human microphone,” repeated one phrase at a time. The systemic crisis in capitalism world-wide, from the North American stock market crisis to the Eurodebt debacle, gives new urgency to the Marxist Zizek’s political writing: this is a man whose time has come. “The true dreamers are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are,” he points out.
In an excellent chapter, Zizek argues that the television series The Wire shows the systemic failure of the Baltimore micro-economy – a failure at every level from police to courts to schools to politics. In The Wire’s Baltimore, politics proper cannot take place. Zizek quotes Wire creator David Simon, who says that “I accept that [capitalism] is the only viable way to generate wealth on a wide scale.” Zizek rejects this pessimistic diagnosis, in contrast arguing that the dreams of the Occupy movements et al chart a different way out of the current predicament.
Yet these are not altogether safe times. Zizek has longed noted the increasing authoritarian nature of liberal democracies – what he sees as the becoming-Chinese of capitalism in squishing dissent, “capitalism with Asian values.” In another chapter, he delves into the emergence of right-wing movements in Europe. The Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivek proves a useful barometer for nationalist sentiment – a xenophobic murderer who aimed not at the racial Others he abhorred, but his liberal mutlticulturalist political opponents. Zizek points out that Breivek’s politics are embedded in state violence against Others, as well as the odd combination of Zionist anti-Semitism of the extreme right-wing that comes in the support of Israel’s apartheid policies against the feared Muslim Others (Breivek, of course, thought that there are too many Jews in the United States). The danger, Zizek points out, is that Europe could fall into fascism again – a not unwarranted warning given the situation in Greece with the neo-nazi party Golden Dawn, for example.
The Year of Dreaming Dangerously is not Zizek’s most theoretically audacious work – for that you must turn elsewhere, particularly to his work on MIT Press. However, it is the most focussed popular writing that Zizek has written for years. Highly recommended.
What is it about Veronica Mars that compels so many to adore this show so fiercely that they become rabid evangelists? Here’s your chance to catch up
Like Veronica Mars fans the world over, I waited with bated breath when creator Rob Thomas launched a Kickstarter campaign challenging fans to pay for the movie he’d been promising since the show went off the air in 2007. His fund raising goals seemed ambitious, but we couldn’t help but nurse high hopes—especially since the numbers on the Kickstarter started turning over faster than our eyes could follow once it went live.
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