akashiver: (Default)
Everyone else seems to be talking about their media-watching habits today, so why not?

My big discovery this summer was Breaking Bad, which I devoured in a massive marathon. I'm now caught up, and while I'm not completely happy with some of the characterization choices in Season 5, there's no question this is a spankingly well-written show. It's brutally dark, funny, suspenseful, and at the same time an intensely moving human drama.

Unlike, say, Mad Men, which I also like, but which is also a show preoccupied with slick surfaces, BB is preoccupied with people's raw interiors. And, like Downton Abbey (*there's* a comparison I bet the showrunners never saw coming,) it's about people who fundamentally like each other. Or, you know, despise each other. Either way, when the chips are down and characters are doing desperate, stupid, awful things to save the people they care about -- as a viewer, I care too.

I said in an earlier post that BB is brimming over with lessons for good writing, and for me this is a useful takeaway. It's not as simple as "writing characters who care" -- Hollywood movies are full of heroes motivated by their relationships. But usually, in such stories, the heroes wear their hearts on their sleeves. It's much more compelling when characters *don't* telegraph how they feel, or aren't themselves aware how much they care about a certain issue, until they are put into a conflict. BB repeatedly *tests*  its characters, and the outcome of those tests isn't predictable. It makes for compelling television.

What else? I'm steaming ahead with Babylon 5 and with the new Dr. Who, which I'm charmed but not compelled by. And Project Runway, where Dmitri is my personal fave, for personality if not design reasons.
akashiver: (Default)
My Breaking Bad love continues unabated. I'm now caught up to the current season, and may I confess my writerly love for character-driven storytelling?

On that front, I think my favorite episode so far has been "Sunset" -- aka the "trapped in the RV" episode. It's a perfect example of how a VERY unlikely scenario can come across as plausible if it emerges from the actions of characters who would ABSOLUTELY DO THAT. Watching the three main characters react to each other's actions is like watching a string of dominoes collapse in a chain of ohgodno. And it's a wonderful payoff for the show's character development.

.
akashiver: (think of the kittens.)
I'm back in DE and trying to get an article out the door. Hopefully it'll be on its way tomorrow, and then I can turn my attention to the backlog of crits and writing projects that I owe people. Somewhere far down that list is another tall ship post. But in the meantime, I interrupt this study break to say:

OMG! BREAKING BAD!!!! So good!!!!

Yes, I know this is a total news flash, but yes! This show is good! I started Netflixing it last week and I've almost blitzed my way through 2 seasons already.For a person who generally watches only a couple hours of TV a week, this is pretty good.

I'm starting to hit a point where I have to slow down though, because damn, this is getting dark. I keep wanting characters to be nice to each other and turn their lives around, but I've read the creator's concept for the series and "people getting their shit together" is not it. Alas.

Two observations:

1) I think BB's appeal is that of a dramatic version of The (British) Office.  The Office is cringe comedy: it *hurts* to watch a lot of the time, because the humor is generated from likable characters suffering through horrible social situations. Breaking Bad is cringe drama. I like it, but it hurts to watch.

2) BB has an extra layer of charm for me, because I'm watching it through a genre filter. Sometime around when Walt shaved his head I thought: "Huh! This show is the Smallville I always wanted to see." And it really is: squint your eyes a bit, and it's the Lex Luthor Show with the annoying Do-Gooder Heroes reduced to bit parts. 

I was still chuckling about that when a character wandered onscreen, saw Walt in mid-downward spiral into EVIL and said, "You look like Lex Luthor!" OMG. IT'S A THING.

Breaking Bad is just really good Real World (tm) Smallville fan fic.

You heard it here first.
akashiver: (totoro)
So Mark Seal’s nonfiction book "The Man In The Rockefeller Suit" is going to be made into a movie. I just finished the book a few weeks ago, and it was a fascinating read. The ease with which Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter adopted different identities and slipped into people's lives is frightening to think about: How well do you really know the people you are close to? So I recommend the book, particularly if you're interested in true crime and strange people. No idea how the movie will turn out.

What else? Sony is planning an Assassin's Creed film, the new film version of Akira has finally been greenlit, and there are a bunch of interesting TV projects in the works: an adaptation of the Kapanese anime "Noir," and an adaptation of Karen Russell's Swamplandia!, which I hear is wonderful, but which I still haven't read. There's going to be an American adaptation of the UK show "Misfits." (Has anyone seen this one? It sounds like something up our collective street.)

In other news, I'm charmed by the description of Shia LeBeouf's new movie, A Giant:

The story follows a girl, broke and running from a series of bad relationships, who moves back home to reconnect with her brother. Instead she forms a relationship with a 20-foot-tall man-child (LaBeouf) who lives next door. Gil Kenan ("Monster House") will direct from a script he wrote.

I like movies that wear their quiet-but-high concept on their sleeve.

akashiver: (Default)

So I've had a chance to see the pilots for Homeland and American Horror Story. Both were pretty good. Both also clearly bear the seeds of badness within them. I'm curious to see how long Homeland can go without moving into the implausible excesses of 24, and how long American Horror Story can go before it a) kills everyone b) crosses over with Supernatural or c) just makes us tired of all its freaky shit.

American Horror Story: I liked the creepy teen boyfriend, the creepy busybody neighbour, the “don’t make me kill you again” line, the time distortion, the bodysuit.

I disliked: the fact that this family is portrayed as so dysfunctional from the start that I don’t think they have a chance of surviving. Also, while I’m sympathetic to their massive problems, I don’t find any of these characters likable.

I am indifferent to: the cabinet of curiosities in the basement, the mad doctor figure, the opening scene.

None of this matters. AHS is all about throwing MOAR STUFF at the audience, and as long as a high percentage of that stuff is interesting, I’ll watch.

Homeland, like S0 1 of 24, starts with a compelling premise: a CIA agent suspects that a freed American POW is now working for the terrorists. Unlike Jack Bauer, however, the CIA agent in question is struggling with a mental illness and may be psychotic. If 24 posited a vigilante American protector who is always right, Homeland posits a paranoid, delusional American protector who may be persecuting innocent people in the name of national security. Clare Danes turns in a fine, twitchy performance as the CIA agent, and it's nice to see her have a role that gives her something to do.

But on watching the pilot, I have a couple of gender-issue questions. The first, which may just be unfair, is "isn't it interesting that the first time we have a woman in the Jack Bauer role is also the first time we portray that role as untrustworthy and mentally unstable?"

Read more... )

Eh. That's just my thoughts on episode 1. Maybe subsequent episodes will make me feel churlish for having doubted the show. Or maybe not. Only time will tell.

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akashiver

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