TV Watched Since Summer 2016

Last left off with the Master of None spring roundup, and besides the shows below I’ve also watched a couple miniseries, some Black Mirror and all of Neon Genesis Evangelion since then. It’s been a televisiony year.


Archer seasons 1-4 (2009-2013)

Addictive escapist comedy. I watched season one for two weeks this summer, then the next three seasons in just a few days after the election. Kinda crazy about the show, and it helps that some of my former coworkers helped make it. Nice bookending Bob’s Burgers and Sealab references in season 4.

I knew Archer (Jon Benjamin) and his mom (Jessica Walter of Arrested Development) and Cyril (Chris “Dr. Leo Spaceman” Parnell). Cheryl is Judy Greer (Ant-Man, Jurassic World, Tomorrowland), Pam is Amber Nash (Frisky Dingo), Lana is Aisha Tyler (kickstart-directing a movie called Axis), Ray is show creator Adam Reed. Dave “Meatwad” Willis plays Barry and Other Barry. R.I.P. George Coe, who played Woodhouse.

Most of the cast:

Standoff:


BoJack Horseman season 1 (2014)

It takes a lot for me to start watching a new comedy show: years of increasing acclaim and/or recommendations from an unusual source like Cinema Scope. I finally, grudgingly, checked out the show about the former sitcom star who is a horse and the wreck of his current life, and it’s good.

I skipped the last season of Arrested Development then watched all the shows by its former cast members, so Will Arnett plays BoJack. With Amy Sedaris as an agent/cat, Paul F. Tompkins as an actor/rival/dog, Alison Brie (Community) as the dog’s/horse’s shared human love interest, which sounds gross out of context, Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) as BoJack’s roommate and Kristen Schaal as his TV daughter.

And Patton Oswalt as a publisher:


Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt season 2 (2016)

A bit too much Tina Fey – is it okay to say that? And sometimes Tituss can be overwhelming. These are minor gripes about a nearly perfect show. This year Jacqueline dates David Cross, Lillian fights against gentrification, Kimmy’s bunker-mates make regular appearances, and Tituss dates construction worker Mikey.


Horace & Pete (2016)

I appreciate the concept very much, taking old fashioned ideas of television and making them brand new, and embracing silence and stillness in a unique way. And Louis has lined up a dream-come-true cast, so the acting is always a pleasure to watch. He has also written a relentlessly grim show that ends with his character’s murder at the hands of his psychotic brother, with some suicide and cancer and cheating and abandoned children and drunkenness and depression along the way. For every weirdly wonderful scene, like David Blaine being berated and thrown out for doing magic tricks, or Steven Wright quip, there’s fifteen minutes of everyone feeling lousy. Complaints aside, I’ll buy anything Louis sells, and more promptly next time.


Delocated season 2 (2010)

Yay, Jerry Minor. But for the most part, this show is juuust barely maintaining my interest, and I think I’ll probably check out a bunch of other things instead of continuing. For instance, the guy from Review was in a few episodes – I wonder if season two of his show is online anywhere.

Eugene Mirman works on becoming a stand-up comic whose jokes revolve around vodka so his big brother Sergei (Steve Cirbus, 89th billed in Bridge of Spies) takes over the threats and the killing. Zoe Lister-Jones has the thankless girlfriend role, Mather Zickel takes over as bodyguard, and Todd Barry plays himself.


Girls season 4 (2015)

I’ve become more ambivalent about watching this show about aggressively self-involved young white people… still into it, but I’m also reading The Brooklyn Wars and can’t pretend I’m not noticing the problems. But hey, Ray is joining the city council so there’s hope for more socially-aware content in the future, and I heard season five is really good, though I might take a break.

What else is happening? Hannah’s writer’s retreat thing didn’t work out, she becomes a teacher and dates a coworker, Marnie breaks up Desi’s engagement, Caroline gives birth, everyone seems frustrated with everyone else (or maybe that’s me?).


W/ Bob and David season 1 (2015)

Well, after expectations so absurdly high that I couldn’t bear to even watch this for almost a year, that was… not bad. Wish I’d known that the fifth “episode” was an hour-long behind-the-scenes thing – I kept thinking it was a self-reflexive joke and would turn into more comedy. Special guests Key & Adsit are a nice touch, and Tom Kenny’s appearances are always highlights. More episodes now, please.


Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (2016)

One of the few things keeping us sane these days.


Also watched some standup comedy:

David Cross – Making America Great Again
Ali Wong – Baby Cobra
Michael Ian Black – Noted Expert
Todd Barry – Crowd Work Tour
Barry Crimmins – Whatever Threatens You
Brian Posehn – Criminally Posehn
Doug Stanhope – Beer Hall Putsch

And saw Louis CK live in Omaha.

Didn’t take notes on any of these, but enjoyed ’em all.

I think we watched four episodes of Key & Peele, so that’s half of season one. Haven’t fully invested yet in Enlightened, Lady Dynamite, Documentary Now or Steven Universe. Abandoned Shameless and probably a couple others.

Why Don’t You Play In Hell? (2013, Sion Sono)

“We’re realists while they’re fantasists!”
“Realism will lose!”

I always watch the wrong Sion Sono movies. I heard either Love Exposure or Guilty of Romance was good, so somehow I got the idea to watch this instead – and I hated it, so now my chance of ever watching those others is lower.

Okay, I didn’t hate it. You can’t hate a movie where a group of young, failed filmmakers called the Fuck Bombers end up choreographing an actual gang war, and where stuff like this happens:

But it feels like Sono has cult-ready ideas, good-enough execution, and little sense of timing. Endless hours of build-up, and everything gets repeated to death by the time the end finally comes. Maybe it feels different at a midnight screening with a giddy audience, and at least it’s an improvement on Noriko’s Dinner Table (which I just realized has similar plot points to Alps).

Lead gangster is Jun Kunimura, who I just saw playing the devil, probably, in The Wailing. His daughter, a former advertisement star and the rainbow swordsman above, is Fumi Nikaidou (Lesson of Evil). Rival leader Ikegami is Shinichi Tsutsumi of One Missed Call. Hirata (Shin Godzilla star Hiroki Hasegawa) is the lead Fuck Bomber, and his Bruce Lee-prototype star is Sasaki (Tak Sakaguchi, star of Versus).

C. Marsh in Cinema Scope:

When Hirata dreams of filmmaking, he dreams of the practice’s classical conception, romanticized with the rigor of a hardcore purist: he envisions rack lighting, metres-long camera dollies on steel rails, a trained crew of hundreds, and, above all else, the sprocketed hum of rolling celluloid. In the end that’s what he gets, and it costs him everything. Sono seems sympathetic to the sentiment – he relishes the physicality of the traditional film equipment as much as Hirata does – but he ultimately undermines it. The form itself is a joke. The movie was shot digitally, on Red Epic: and though his characters would be doubtless loathe to admit it, the results look more than fine.

The Thoughts That Once We Had (2015, Thom Andersen)

Some really beautiful, extended clips from great films.

Nice to sit for 100 minutes and watch the clips. Frustrating, though, that I have no bloody idea what this movie’s point was. I’ve never understood Deleuze – his books The Time-Image and The Movement-Image have promising titles but I’m not smart or patient enough to read them through. Andersen doesn’t help, using no narration, just short scraps of written quotes. Just as I played guess-the-movie with the clips, which aren’t identified, I suppose film theorists can play guess-the-context for the quotes.

J. Cronk:

The Thoughts That Once We Had, in accordance with its analytical subject matter, is less a work of criticism than of classification and philosophical contemplation … The director describes The Thoughts That Once We Had as a “musical film,” and there is indeed a sequence dedicated to the movie musical, as well as interludes devoted to the allure of Maria Montez and Debra Paget, the differing though equally magnetic intrigue of Timothy Carey and Marlon Brando, and the use of blues music in American film—there’s even an extra-cinematic consideration of Hank Ballard and Chubby Checker’s nearly identical versions of their signature hit “The Twist.” As in his prior films, there’s a joy to be had in simply watching the clips unfold and comment on each other in alternately humorous and shrewd fashion, and Andersen seems particularly inspired here when diagramming the symmetry between images of a certain spiritual accord, even as they date from diverging periods.

Seed: The Untold Story (2016, Taggart Siegel & Jon Betz)

Loving photography of seeds and beans, with lighting seemingly inspired by Frampton’s Lemon. Sets up the challenges that big businesses pose to small farming, and the weirdo farmers and seed collectors who oppose them. Taggart (The Real Dirt on Farmer John) definitely has a knack for finding strange people in agriculture and building fun, visually interesting movies around them, though it was unsettling to watch this the same week that environmentalism died forever.

The Handmaiden (2016, Chan-wook Park)

Couldn’t enjoy this as much as I should because I was in a weird state of mind, but it’s supremely entertaining, recalling Bound in its story of fortune-seeking men double-crossed by crafty female lovers.

The first half is told from the perspective of Sookee (Tae-ri Kim), a pickpocket working for handsome Jung-woo Ha (Ki-duk’s Time), who has his eyes on bigger marks, posing as a Count and getting Sookee hired as handmaiden to Lady Hideko (Min-hee Kim of Right Now, Wrong Then). The plan is to convince the Lady to marry the Count, then commit her to an institution and share her wealth, but Sookee is double-crossed and committed instead. The second part follows the Lady, who lives with her book collector uncle (Jin-woong Jo, only 40 but given gray hair and mustache) at his increasingly sinister estate, revealing her own moments and motives, some of which I’ve now forgotten because it’s been a very long month, but it’s an audacious and elegant movie and when it comes out on video I’ll happily get lost in it again.

Well-presented to English speaking audiences with Japanese and Korean dialogue in different colored subtitles. This is the year of Hokusai – first the animated biopic, then his wave appearing in Kubo and his porno octopus in this movie. I double-featured this at the Alamo with a 35mm screening of Possession, which was completely incredible and now cemented as one of my favorite movies, and which also features a porno octopus.

The Imposter (2012, Bart Layton)

First movie watched after election day, which knocked every thought out of my head, so trying to recollect them for this writeup.

Con artist in Spain Frédéric Bourdin claims to be missing person Nicholas Barclay, taking us through how he convinced authorities and even the Barclay family to believe and embrace him, despite being the wrong age and having a French accent. His identity is unambiguous to the movie audience – he’s not Nicholas – so the mystery and tension are in figuring out why everyone is going along with his story and when he’ll be found out. A private investigator finally unmasks him, and raises the suspicion that the family was quick to go along with his story because one of them might have murdered Nicholas.

Adam Cook:

Each new twist and turn in this story of lies and untold truths will leave you aghast at both the audaciousness of the tall tales and the stupidity and willingness of the people that believed them. Documentaries tend to deal in truths but The Imposter deals in lies which means you are never truly trusting of anything that is said. It provides the film with a strange quality as you question each and every new piece of juicy information Layton slowly teases.

M. D’Angelo:

First and foremost, it’s a creative essay about confirmation bias, an “affliction” that, as we see here, spares nobody. Whether through pre-interview instructions or judicious editing (and I honestly don’t care which), Layton cannily tells the entire story in the present tense, never allowing Nicholas’ family to attest to knowledge or emotions they didn’t have at the time, and (more crucially) never permitting them to retroactively explain themselves … My only lingering reservation involves the decision — justifiable, given the film’s modus operandi, but troubling nonetheless — to let Bourdin control his own image right up to the last few minutes, so that the extent to which he’s a pure sociopath winds up feeling like a plot twist.

The Mill and the Cross (2011, Lech Majewski)

Rutger Hauer plays Bruegel planning his painting “The Way to Calvary,” as Majewski uses CG backdrops a la The Lady and the Duke, posing actors (including Charlotte Rampling and Michael “Basil Exposition” York) to create a series of motion tableaus instead of relying on dialogue and story. Like living inside a painting for a couple hours, a series of smaller compositions forming a part of a climactic larger one. I’m glad that at least in Poland it won costume and production design awards, which it richly deserved.

Certain Women (2016, Kelly Reichardt)

I’ve been rewatching Reichart’s films and checking out the ones I missed (River of Grass and Night Moves) in prep for this – not only a new Reichardt film but an in-person visit and Q&A in little ol’ Lincoln. Katy liked Certain Women more than she expected to, and between the build-up, the Q&A and after-film discussions, I’ve put much offline energy into this movie, so will keep this post relatively short, leaning on quotes.

Three episodes, based on stories by Colin Meloy’s older sister. Laura Dern is a lawyer representing Jared Harris (I Shot Andy Warhol) who accepted a worker’s comp settlement and now won’t accept that he can’t sue. When he storms a city building and takes a hostage in order to review his file, Laura is sent in to talk him down. Next, Michelle Williams is trying to buy sandstone from elderly Rene Auberjonois (Deep Space Nine), but she and husband James Le Gros are having trouble forming a unified strategy. And third, lonesome rancher Lily Gladstone finds Kristen Stewart teaching night classes and starts attending in order to get closer to her.

Paula Bernstein: “Though the three segments of the film are only peripherally connected, they share the same pensive tone and convey a palpable sense of loneliness.” I thought they were just barely connected (Dern is glimpsed at the end of part three) until Katy pointed out that Dern is sleeping with Williams’s husband in the opening scene.

Alice Gregory:

While a lone man can be a hero — readily and right from the start — a lone woman is cause for concern. Despite their painterly settings and near-silent soundscapes, Reichardt’s films are animated by a sustained unease. The viewer anticipates a threat that could but never quite does progress to a state of emergency … It’s the low-grade but unrelenting sense of hazard that is a woman’s experience of merely moving through the world, an anxiety so quiet and constant it can be confused for nothing more than atmosphere.

D. Kasman:

With the exception of Gladstone’s lone rancher, these certain women are actually doing much better in their lives than Reichardt’s Oregonian outcasts she has so movingly introduced us to in the past, yet they each are united in a common feeling, emotional and existential, of just being on the outside, of being held on the cusp of what would make them happy and fulfilled.

High-Rise (2015, Ben Wheatley)

Loki moves into a class-stratified apartment building topped by The Architect Jeremy Irons, and it quickly goes to hell. There’s lots of drinking & smoking & cocaine & sex (with Baroness Sienna Miller) above, while the lower floors lose power and their composure. Belatedly the movie tries to tell us who is whose secret mistress or absentee father, but we’ve lost interest in personal details by that point. Not a dystopian-universe Snowpiercer thing like I expected from reading some Ballard stories – the world outside the apartment seems mostly unaffected.

I liked Pontypoolian Luke “Not Chris” Evans as pregnant Elisabeth Moss’s shithead-turned-documentarian husband. Some okay music choices too, like closing with The Fall’s Industrial Estate, and an upper-class chamber version of Abba’s S.O.S. (later, the sadsack Donnie Darko version doesn’t work as well)

Evans:

Tom Charity in Cinema Scope:

Seizing on the delightfully oxymoronic possibilities of an apocalyptic period film, Wheatley has retained the ’70s period trappings … Yet the movie feels of our time too, immediate, or perhaps imminent, a flash-forward (not backwards) to a present tense we already know in our bones: savage, chaotic, cannibalistic, and doomed. As Ballard puts it, it exists in “a future that had already taken place, and was now exhausted.”