This would make a good double-feature with Dead Ringers, another 1980’s movie about twin doctors who fall for the same woman. In this one, Oliver and Oswald (twins, separated conjoined, I think Oliver is the blond one) are played by Eric and Brian Oswald (brothers, not twins) – zoologists studying animal behavior when their wives are killed in a car accident while being driven by Alba (Andréa Ferréol of La grande bouffe, The Last Metro, Street of No Return). They become increasingly obsessed with Alba, with each other, and with chaos and decay, freeing zoo animals and shooting time-lapse films of ever-larger dead ones.

These three are surrounded by some suspicious characters: a woman called Venus (Frances Barber of Secret Friends) and a mad surgeon named Van Meegeren, who amputated Alba’s leg after the car crash and now wants to amputate the other leg. She finally turns down the twins in favor of a new man who is also missing his legs – I think she dies at the end but not sure exactly why, and the brothers stage a suicide before the time-lapse camera to add their own decaying images to the collection.

It sounds like a bunch of weirdness from a plot description, but in practice it’s much weirder. Obsessed with Vermeer, decay, snails, symmetry, doubles, the alphabet, fakes and missing limbs – with the great pulsing Nyman music, and always more than one thing happening per shot, each splendidly composed frame full of motion.

I finished two of these shows on the same day, deciding that’s a good amount of TV to write about, and wondering what to watch next. Looking through the archives I started numbering these posts retroactively, just to amuse myself, and this is roughly the 44th roundup of TV shows.


The Knick season 1 (2014)

It’s so hard to decide which Prestige TV Drama I am gonna waste 8-13 hours watching when they churn out a hundred per year and I get around to watching maybe one. This seemed safe, since it’s where Soderbergh had ended up after “retiring” from the film industry. But it took me a year to finish watching, and in that time Soderbergh has released two new films to theaters, so his fake retirement needn’t have been a factor. First half of the season is rocky, mostly unfun, with gruesome surgery scenes (most patients die) and a hella unlikable lead (moody racist drug addict Clive Owen), establishing a whole pile of characters, then the second half lets loose raining down all the drama in the world upon their heads. The writing is trash, actors mostly good, and the style pretty cool, with a terrifically unusual shot every couple scenes and bloopy Cliff Martinez music. Mobile camera, longish takes, some crazy subjective shots and a couple wicked angles per episode. But that trash writing weighs heavy upon the show, and after hate-watching the last couple eps, I’m skipping season two.

Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen, last seen in Valerian) is our hero, a brilliant doctor thinking ahead of his time, addicted to cocaine and morphine and a huge racist, though he becomes enlightened and suddenly stops being racist in episode six, just in time to defend against race-rioting whites in episode seven.

Nurse Elkins (Eve Hewson, a Hanks family member in Bridge of Spies) is the new nurse, sent to awaken Thack with coke injections before surgery. They’re having an affair by the end, and she’s on the drugs but not as hopelessly as he is.

Nurse Elkins:

Cornelia (Juliet Rylance of Sinister) is one of the hospital’s all-important rich benefactors. She goes on adventures with the health inspector tracking Typhoid Mary through the city, is a childhood friend of Dr. Edwards, and they have an affair but she decides to marry another rich white person with a pervert father instead.

Cornelia in distress:

Dr. Edwards (André Holland, Kevin in Moonlight) is just as brilliant as Thack, but black, so nobody respects him except Cornelia and post-racism Thack and he ends up opening his own secret clinic in the hospital basement. He’s asked to abort his own baby after getting Cornelia pregnant, is an excellent boxer, and likes to get his ass kicked in bar fights when frustrated.

The hospital boss is Barrow (Jeremy Bobb of the show Godless and Under the Silver Lake) who sometimes seems underwater from all the drama but can be very determined, like when he hires Thack’s opium dealer Wu to murder the gangsters who punched him in the dick. Other major doctors include young upcomer Bertie (Michael Angarano of Red State) whose dad wants him to work someplace nicer with a better salary, and pissy Everett (Eric Johnson, Flash Gordon in 2007) who was supposed to get the position that Edwards holds.

Doctors Edwards, Bertie, Everett Gallinger, Thackery:

And the others… Dr. Christiansen (Matt Frewer: Max Headroom, Trashcan Man in The Stand) was Thack’s mentor, kills himself in the first episode after the failure of an operation that the others later perfect. Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan of Guardians of the Galaxy 2) is an ambulance driver who steals other hospitals’ patients and starts an underground business with abortionist nun Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour, abused Aunt Linda in Jack & Diane). Everett’s wife Eleanor (Zoe’s sister Maya Kazan, who would play a character named Zoe on Sleepy Hollow) loses her baby, kills the adopted replacement baby, then is sent to the booby hatch where they pull all her teeth. Dr. Zinberg (Michael Nathanson of TV’s The Punisher) is the Jewish doctor who Thack feels is his greatest rival. And Bunky (Danny Hoch of We Own the Night) was the lead gangster/loanshark/pimp killed by foot fetishist Wu (Perry Yung of John Wick 2). John Hodgman does not appear, despite a bunch of people kinda looking like John Hodgman.

Cleary and Barrow:

Bad Medicine: a pregnant woman is told to stick her belly in ice water. A nurse dies putting out an electrical fire with a bucket of water. Barrow puts his head in an x-ray machine for an hour. Thack’s ex Abby loses her nose to syphilis and gets her arm and nose grafted together. Holes are drilled in peoples’ heads, limbs are lost, things are burned and severed and pulled, and towards the end it’s all done without anesthesia because war in the Philippines has caused a cocaine shortage, causing Thack to go increasingly mental from withdrawal and kill a kid with a bad blood transfusion after misunderstanding how blood types work.

The stinger ending is the hospital shareholders vote to move uptown and Thack is given a new drug called heroin to cure his coke addiction.

The lighting is often quite nice:

Weirdly, the writer/creators are best known for a Kate Hudson romantic comedy, a Tim Allen Disney remake, and short-lived sitcoms starring Tony Danza and Jeff Foxworthy.

To make sure I don’t watch season 2, I’m spoiling it on wikipedia… looks like the abortionist nun goes to jail and Cleary blackmails their former clients into bailing her out. Bertie goes to work for Dr. Zinberg then quits after killing his own mom during cancer surgery. The guys start a prostitute clinic, discover radiation therapy, learn how to cure syphillis, and separate conjoined twins. Thack studies addiction, trying lobotomy and hypnotism. Everett becomes a eugenicist, decides to sterilize the poor, and sabotages Edwards’ surgeries. Edwards’ secret wife arrives, and he considers black nationalism. Abby dies during nose surgery. Barrow kicks out his wife, who then blackmails him over the money he’s stolen from the hospital. Nurse Elkins murders her abusive preacher father. Cornelia’s rich dad dies saving her from a fire set by her brother. And Thack performs surgery on himself, passes out, and the show was mercifully cancelled before his fate was revealed.


Assy McGee season 1 (2006)

Animated cop-show parody starring a drunken, mumbling ass with legs who often shoots innocent civilians while failing to solve silly crimes. Not a good show, but the whole season is only an hour so I let it keep running. Larry Murphy (Teddy in Bob’s Burgers) does most of the voices, including Assy, his partner Sanchez, and his angry supervisor. The creators have cred: Carl Adams wrote for Dr. Katz and Matt Harrigan for Space Ghost C2C. Director David SanAngelo worked on Home Movies and WordGirl.

Related shows to check out(?): Ugly Americans, O’Grady, 12 oz. Mouse


BoJack Horseman season 2 (2015)

Maybe the most consistently funny show about depression. BoJack gets everything he wants in this season – a perfect girlfriend who’s never seen his TV show, the leading role in his dream film, renewed friendship with his first girlfriend, and a big-ass boat – and throws it all away because he’s a self-destructive prick. Meanwhile, Princess Carolyn starts a new agency with a coworker/lover, Diane falls into a funk and hides at BoJack’s house for months, Mr. Peanutbutter hosts a hit game show produced by JD Salinger, and Todd joins an improv-comedy cult.


The Good Place season 2 (2018)

I didn’t watch most of season 1, but after hearing about its ending (it was the Bad Place all along and the entire neighborhood is Ted Danson’s torture experiment, which is why there are so many frozen yogurt stores), I joined Katy for this one, which was terrific, opening with hundreds of “reboots” of the experiment, until a desperate Danson confesses and enlists the others to play along so they all don’t get sent to the real Bad Place. Also: Chidi teaches ethics classes, Janet becomes more powerful and erratic and creates a boyfriend named Derek, they sneak into Bad Place HQ and ask mercy from a goofball Judge, then are sent back to Earth for further study.


Tales from the Tour Bus season 1 (2017)

“Paycheck stole Patsy Cline’s car!” I only heard about this from a Robbie Fulks post, am assuming it mostly flew under the radar. Good-natured stories of the highs and (mostly) lows on tour with some country legends, with generous song clips balancing out the bad behavior, animated and rotoed by Mike Judge, who clearly loves this stuff. Will be interesting to see if the new Blaze Foley movie can stand up to his episode here, and how the less country-focused second season will go.

Tammy and the President:

Johnny Cash cameo in the Waylon Jennings story:


Master of None season 2 (2017)

Bookended by double episodes with Dev’s almost-girlfriend Francesca, first in Italy then New York, the middle half has Dev hosting a cupcake show. More movie references than ever, a couple standalone/gimmick episodes, some good flashbacks in a Denise-focused episode (with Angela Bassett as her mom) and lots and lots of food.


Big Train season 2

This belongs in the pantheon of absurd sketch shows, with Mr. Show and Kids in the Hall and Human Giant and Chappelle’s Show. Created by the writers of Father Ted… so maybe that show is good? The three guys from season 1 are now joined by The Dark Haired Woman (Rebecca Front of The Day Today, The Thick of It season 3) and The Woman With The Bouncy Curls (Tracy-Ann Oberman of EastEnders).

Scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Working Class”:


And we watched enough of the Great British Bake Off to last a lifetime – though I’m slightly curious to check out the Boosh-hosted season. Also watched a Todd Barry standup special, the Fred Armisen one about drumming, and probably a few others I’ve forgotten. With limited TV time we still haven’t finished The Deuce or the new Mystery Science Theater 3000, gotten back to Atlanta or Blackish or Steven Universe, or started the latest seasons of Kimmy Schmidt or Search Party or Black Mirror [edit: one of these things is no longer true – stay tuned for details in Season 45].

Our second Black Audio Film Collective film after Testament, this one a collage-style doc about the 1985 Handsworth riots – with at least one scene from the 1977 Handsworth riots, the country having failed to solve racism during the intervening years. A good mix of music and sounds, collaged like the visuals. Interviews with community members about mistrust of cops because of bad policing, combined with the story of an innocent woman shot by police in her own home give the sense that nothing has changed between Handsworth Songs and Crime + Punishment. Racism remains unsolved.

I’d been wanting to see this for ages, it having appeared on some list somewhere of great films, and am glad I held off on the bootleg VHS copies to see it properly projected in a theater. Not that there are such splendid visuals – it’s mostly news and interview footage – but there’s at least one innovative move in here: lit photographs hung in a dark room, the camera slowly moving through the room in 3D like an early version of the Ken Burns effect.

Vikram Murthi:

Akomfrah sought to redefine blackness in British culture for a new generation as a reaction against conservative Thatcherite policies along with the respectability politics of their immigrant parents. In turn, the Collective demonstrated that the best way to examine the noxious ideologies in the culture was to trace their historical lineage. As a middle-aged black woman tells a British reporter, “There are no stories in the riots. Only the ghosts of other stories.”

Uptight fashion designer is spellbound by a young waitress and pulls her into his wondrous world, then loses interest and goes back to his old bitchy, needy ways. She resents her treatment and finds a way to make herself needed once again. Retired movie star Daniel Day-Lewis appears with upcoming movie star Vicky Krieps (Gutland, The Young Karl Marx) and, as the designer’s sister who runs the business while he stomps around being a fragile genius, Lesley Manville (of most Mike Leigh movies). Katy did not like it. Apparently the third movie of the year in which men are poisoned by mushrooms (I haven’t caught Lady Macbeth yet).

Robert Koehler in Cinema Scope:

Woodcock is reminded more than once of his place in the class system, that he doesn’t own the house in which his House is located; he’s paying rent to a wealthy client landlord. Like an architect, he’s bound to these clients, financially and spiritually: their bodies inspire his designs, and their money allows him to pay the rent. The thematic connection of designers and architects to filmmakers, and thus to the dreaded autobiographical thread, is never too fruitful for critics to follow, and it doesn’t work here at all. But what this project does reveal about Anderson is his interest in turning away from isolated obsessives toward the alchemy of collaboration.

Happy SHOCKtober!

This is pretty advanced for a low-budget hour-long mid-1980’s British horror, beginning with a closeup of a sleeping head, crossfading to a naked tree, its branches recalling the nervous system. “Just a bad dream” – Marion (1970’s TV actress Heather Page) is awakened by gentle husband Alex (Scottish filmmaker Bill Douglas). They’re having guests for dinner: her old friend Angela (Joanna David of Secret Friends) and husband Richard (Nickolas Grace of Salome’s Last Dance), who we’ll soon learn is an absolute ass. The home-cooked meal is ruined by a window blown in by the storm, so they go out to a restaurant run by the Captain from Fraggle Rock, and the bulk of the movie seems to be an extremely painful dinner conversation. Drunken sniping rules the meal, mixed with references to sleepwalking and hypnosis.

L-R: Alex, Marion, Richard, Angela:

What with the storm and the drinking and the late hour, Angela and Richard reluctantly agree to spend the night. And as the dark synth music rises, a sleepwalking Marion kills everyone in the house with a knife. Perhaps that’s what happens, anyway.

After watching Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde, I thought I’d make my own Fury Road reunion and watch Tom Hardy in Dunkirk. Of course I would’ve loved to see it in 70mm and/or imax, but an all-day road trip was out of the question. Alamo preshow was all Nolan stuff, video essays on commonalities in his previous films and interview segments mixed with 1940’s newsreels and trailers.

Three stories happening on three intersecting timelines – it’s a very simple war story with a complicated structure… if you missed the opening title cards, you could miss the structural games altogether.

In the three segments: (1) Kenneth Branagh commands a horde of soldiers stranded on the beach at Dunkirk, (2) Tom Hardy is a fighter pilot tailing enemy planes, and (3) a civilian boat comes to help the trapped soldiers and picks up shellshocked, panicky Cillian Murphy along the way. The ground and air segments are mostly notable for action, leaving the sea segment to carry the emotional aspect – Mark Rylance as the civilian captain, Tom Glynn-Carney his son, and Barry Keoghan the local boy who meets an unfortunate demise. Fionn Whitehead as Tommy, the lead grunt in the ground segment, is considered the film’s lead, but didn’t make as much of an impact as the sea fellows to me – maybe next time. Also: the line of helmets on the beach a nice Prestige callback.

Search Party season 1 (2016)

Awful young NY woman, with too much money and not enough responsibilities, gets obsessed with finding a former classmate gone missing, whom she never even knew or liked very much. I read MZ Seitz’s review (“The condition of believing oneself sensitive while feeling very little has rarely been examined with such exactness”), realized it stars Alia Shawkat, and set to watching immediately. I keep seeing Shawkat in tiny roles (Night Moves, Damsels in Distress, 20th Century Women) so the star turn here is appreciated.

Dory is joined by weak-willed boyfriend Drew (John Reynolds, a cop on Stranger Things) and self-obsessed friends Portia (Meredith Hagner of Hits) and Elliott (John Early). They get help/hindrance from crazy person Rosie Perez, the missing girl’s ex Griffin Newman (Vinyl) and private investigator Ron Livingston (Office Space), crashing the missing girl’s vigil, a wedding and a Parker Posey-led cult on their way to the ridiculous truth.


Metalocalypse seasons 3 & 4,
and The Doomstar Requiem: A Klok Opera (2009-2013)

Two more seasons of fun and violence and ridiculous humor, leading to the musical masterpiece that is The Doomstar Requiem.


Archer season 5 (2014)

The gang loses their spy agency but gains a large shipment of cocaine, which they spend all season trying to unload. Sterling Archer is a father. I’m not crying, you are.


Charlie Brooker’s 2016 Wipe

Things have gotten more grim and less funny, but I appreciate Brooker sticking with it.


Twelfth Night (2017, Simon Godwin)

Not television or movies, but we watched a really nice filmed National Theatre broadcast with a rotating set, and Tamsin Greig (Black Books, Green Wing) as Malvolia, greatly tormented in the second half.

Fascinating docu-blend telling the story of late playwright Andrea Dunbar, who lived in a low-income neighborhood. We also see scenes from her plays being performed in the park of this neighborhood in present day. And increasingly the story becomes about Dunbar’s daughter Lorraine, who appears to be following in her mom’s footsteps of hopeless addiction. And all this (except the outdoor performances) is told through actors lipsyncing the words of the real people. Beautifully staged and totally unique movie, though Katy got depressed by the death and drugs and abuse.

Lorraine and Lisa inside a childhood memory:

S. Tobias:

Though the synching is remarkably close to unnoticeable, the style takes some getting used to, mainly because The Arbor isn’t dramatized like films with actors generally are. The scenes are more like eerie tableaux where the “characters” tell their stories straight to the camera, wandering the haunted backdrop of Bradford’s Buttershaw Estate and other settings. This ingenious conceit, borrowed from Robin Soans’ 2000 play on Dunbar, called A State Affair, solves the longstanding problem of documentaries penned in by static talking heads.

N. Rapold in Film Comment:

What’s disorienting are the muted tones of the interviews, which were obviously not originally spoken with the intonation of a dramatic performance. This lends a curious low affect to the recounting of extraordinary incidents, and this disjunction, as well as Barnard’s hyper-immaculate RED photography, are a characteristic of other recent film work by artists such as Steve McQueen and Miranda July. As Lorraine becomes the central focus in the second half of the film, her matter-of-fact, downcast delivery becomes a drumbeat anticipating her inevitable downfall.

A long, complicated movie – Criterion summary:

The film follows the exploits of pristine British soldier Clive Candy as he battles to maintain his honor and proud gentlemanly conduct through romance, three wars, and a changing world. Vibrant and controversial, it is at once a romantic portrait of a career soldier and a pointed investigation into the nature of aging, friendship, and obsolescence.

Blimp in WWI with John Laurie:

I wrote in 2006: “Oops, I thought this was a comedy. I’d somehow convinced myself that Powell makes comedies and I’m never right.”

At the beginning, the movie seems to be about fiery young soldier Spud, then he disappears for 2.5 hours while Candy goes into a “when I was your age” story. This threw me off the first time I saw the movie, as did Deborah Kerr’s various roles. Throwing me this time: Roger Livesey, handsome romantic lead of I Know Where I’m Going, so convincing as a blowhard old man.

Not covered by the summary above: Candy’s lifelong friendship with German soldier Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff (Anton Walbrook). Candy provokes an international incident in the early 1900’s (during the Boer War) and gets himself into a duel with Theo, then they recover together, both in love with Deborah Kerr #1, who marries Theo. In WWI, Candy meets Deborah #2, a nurse, and marries her. And in WWII, Theo has moved to England and Deborah #3 is dating young Spud, is a favorite assistant of Candy’s for obvious reasons.

Deborah Kerr thinks highly of me:

No character in the film is named Col. Blimp – he was a political cartoon character, a blustery old officer who proclaims his dated ideas in a Turkish bath, the WWII version of Candy. The movie’s a bit long and rambling, but a total pleasure to watch, with color cinematography that is beyond excellent. One of my very favorites.

Duelist Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff:

Powell sounds soooo tired on the commentary.
On Kerr: “I got enthusiastic about her hats.”

Scorsese is more fun. I like when he appreciates the visual design while also saying that you don’t have to care about this stuff if you don’t want to:

Look at the use of red in the menus … These are things I kind of enjoy. I don’t say that as you’re watching the film you should be pointing out where the red is. I think you should just look at the movie and enjoy it, hopefully, and probably you shouldn’t be even listening to this narration, you should be watching the film.