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.

“Fedoras are worse than genocide.”

It’s starting to get rather sad-sacky for a comedy, isn’t it? There’s even an assisted-suicide storyline. I took less pleasure than usual in watching the four girls (and Ray) descend into career disappointment and make poor relationship decisions. Adam’s Broadway play was a nice development, and based on the final scene it looks like they’re changing things up next season.

Richard E. Grant is amazing as Jessa’s drug-addict buddy. John Cameron Mitchell is killed off, also killing Hannah’s book deal. Adam’s insane sister (Gaby Hoffmann) appears to be dating Laird (Jon Glaser).

Small roles by Amy Schumer, Kim Gordon (a rehab patient), Patti LuPone (as herself), Felicity Jones (Grant’s daughter) and Deirdre Lovejoy (Rhonda from The Wire; as Hannah’s aunt).

Absolutely the best scene:

World of Tomorrow (2015, Don Hertzfeldt)

Emily Prime is contacted by her third-generation clone, discussing memory, robots, love and life in the outernet of the future.

Only 16 minutes long but I watched it seven times.

Choose You (2013, Spike Jonze & Chris Milk)

Written by Lena Dunham and directed by Spike Jonze – and yet it’s terrible? I think that’s because it’s a corporate-sponsored short made for a music video awards show. Anyway, subtitled and censored, club dude’s ex-gf is now dating DJ Michael Shannon, some girl he doesn’t even know freaks out about this, then Jason Schwartzmann hosts a choose-your-own-adventure ending and double suicide is chosen.

The Discontented Canary (1934, Rudolf Ising)

A sad caged canary gets his chance to escape, but nature beats the hell out of him, so he returns home, learning to appreciate his captivity. At least he wasn’t hit by lightning like the feral cat. Moral: life is just horrible.

The Alphabet (1968, David Lynch)

Now in high-def!

Les jeux des anges (1965, Walerian Borowczyk)

Heads roll.
Pipe organ becomes firing squad.
Angel wings.
Infinite scrolling.

Mouseover for decay:
image

The Sinking of the Lusitania (1918, Winsor McCay)

Didn’t realize this was a WWI propaganda film. “Germany, once a great and powerful nation, had done a dastardly deed in a dastardly way.”

Intro explaining how difficult the movie was to create, and plenty of title cards, so the nine minute short has maybe four minutes of animation. But the animation is real good stuff, all water and smoke.

We Give Pink Stamps (1965, Friz Freleng)

Absurd fun in a department store as the Pink Panther torments the night janitor.

Closed Mondays (1974, Will Vinton & Bob Gardiner)

Great claymation. Wino wanders into an art gallery, hallucinates (?) all the paintings and sculptures coming to life.

Night Mail (1936 Wright & Watt)

I’ve heard this is one of the greatest short documentaries. True, it’s admirably put together, showing all the moving parts in a great, manned machine that moves the mail across England and Scotland really damn fast. And it makes you marvel at the heights of human endeavor. And it ends with a post office rap song. So yeah I was gonna say it’s just a doc about a mail train, but I guess I see their point.

Monster (2005 Jennifer Kent)

Beginnings of The Babadook (there’s a pop-up book and everything). Monster-doll grows into full monster and attacks son, mom screams at it, tells it to go to its room.

Fears (2015, Nata Metlukh)

Terrific 2-minute animated short linked by Primal.
A man literally embraces his fears.

Restaurant Dogs (1994, Eli Roth)

Student film in which an evil brigade of fast-food restaurant mascots is bloodily defeated by a young dude who’s given a mission from the Burger King himself to save his daughter the Dairy Queen. Something like that, anyway. I thought the guy only wanted to buy a milkshake, and suspected he was drunk, so I’m surprised he signed up for the murderous mission so quickly.

Given all the trademarked properties being mixed with nazi images via Terry Gilliam-style cut-out animation, I thought I’d better watch this as soon as I heard about it, rather than wait until our corporate overlords remove it from the internet like they did the Soderbergh cut of 2001: A Space Odyssey which I’d been meaning to watch. Besides Reservoir Dogs, there’s some Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now in the grimace/hamburglar flashback scene.

Ritual (1979, Joseph Bernard)

Under three minutes, viewed online as a trailer for the new Bernard blu-ray, which I obviously need. Drawings, figures, people and scenes and stuttering colors cut together into changing rhythms and overlays. My favorite bit has an overlay of two scenes, one of which is cutting, an effect I don’t see often.

Girls season 1 (2012)

“I don’t want to freak you out, but I think I might be the voice of my generation… or at least a voice… of a generation.”

I loved this. Most comedy shows look sloppy, like Parks & Rec, 30 Rock, The Thick of It, I assume as part of the improv/spontaneity/rewrite routine of ensemble comedy, but I love them anyway because of the actors, the characters, the writing. But this show has all those things plus a strong visual style.

I know Lena Dunham from Tiny Furniture. Best friend Marnie is Allison Williams, daughter of NBC News anchor/30 Rock guest-star Brian. British friend Jemima Kirke was also in Tiny Furniture, and her hyperactive virgin cousin Zosia Mamet is daughter of David. Lena’s boyfriend Adam Driver is the bass-voiced guy who says “outer… spaaace” in Inside Llewyn Davis. Marnie’s now-ex-boyfriend is Christopher Abbot of Martha Marcy May Marlene, Lena’s boss/Abbot’s best friend Ray is Alex Karpovsky, also also of Tiny Furniture and Inside Llewyn Davis.

Derek season 1 (2013)

The episodes follow a formula: Story setup, negativity and unappealing behavior, suspicion that the whole thing is exploitative of the aged residents who barely get any lines, gradual story resolution featuring Derek-provoked awkwardness, then beautifully compassionate Derek comments that leave me extremely happy and wanting to watch more episodes. Sometimes it’s too Derek-glorifying, like Gervais is compensating for his infamous The Office character by playing the most inspirationally compassionate character he could dream up, and the ending’s a total tearjerker but I think it’s setting up Derek’s dad for season 2. Regulars: Derek, Hannah, handyman Dougie (Karl Pilkington), gross hanger-on Kevin and volunteer Vicky.

Peep Show season 1 (2003)

The longest-running show by Mitchell & Webb (of two other self-titled shows, plus Bruiser and the new Ambassadors). Never seen these guys before, but I like ’em. Mark/Mitchell is the guy with the steady job and Jeremy/Webb is the outgoing slacker roommate. The show’s gimmick is a first-person camera, swapping frequently between the two guys plus other people they meet, accompanied by voiceover of their thoughts, all quite well done.

Mitchell:

Webb:

Olivia Colman of Look Around You and Hot Fuzz (“Accidents happen all the time. What makes you think it was MUR-DUR?”)

30 Rock seasons 6 & 7 (2012-2013)

Still a good show, even if it stopped being a great show. Tina settles down with Cyclops and adopts babies. The show is cancelled, Baldwin becomes CEO of GE and appoints Kenneth president of the network.

We missed Tina Fey’s new Muppets sequel. Tracy Morgan did a voice in the Boxtrolls, was reportedly in a critical car crash this summer. Jane Krakowsi has a star-(and Adam Sandler)-studded sci-fi video-game comedy out next year. Jack McBrayer (from Macon, not Stone Mountain) is in They Came Together (and hopefully Wreck-It Ralph 2). Scott Adsit’s on some of the Adult Swim shows I’ve been missing and voices the inflatable robot in Big Hero 6. Judah Friedlander played Toby in American Splendor, appears in lots of horror sequels. Alec Baldwin’s upcoming films are still confidential or unconfirmed (there’s still hope that Boss Baby will fall through). Toofer’s got the lead in a drug-addict drama, Cerie appeared in horror Nurse 3D, Grizz has a show called Common Sense Police, Dot Com is in a romantic comedy about food in NYC which Katy will definitely watch on netflix someday, Lutz is a writer on Seth Meyers’s talk show, Jonathan does voices for two current cartoons, and Dr. Leo Spaceman is on Suburgatory and Archer.

It’s a nice change that Ti West makes old-fashioned, slow-moving, simply-plotted horror films, but I think he goes too far in that direction. I didn’t like House of the Devil either, but at least the ending of that one was overall less lame. Here he gives the lead girl an inhaler (assuming nobody in the audience has ever seen a movie before), allows crappy, predictive string-drone music to detract from the decent cinematography, and sets up a boring haunted-hotel scenario with dense characters who do things like go down to the basement when they’ve been warned not to.

Claire and McGillis:

Claire (Sara Paxton of Last House on the Left Remake) costars with Pat Healy (a Ford brother in The Assassination of Jesse James), who was the one character I kinda liked, because he’s so flaky. He runs a terrible-looking website about hotel ghosts, but he’s lazy as shit and doesn’t seem too excited about ghost-hunting (turns out he invented all his ghost stories). And at the end, after declaring his love to Claire and saying he’ll do anything for her, he flees the hotel in terror, leaving her to die alone (from ghosts? or asthma? we’ll never know!)

1980’s starlet Kelly McGillis plays a surly washed-up actress and spirit-healer, Tiny Furniture‘s Lena Dunham has one scene as the annoying girl at a coffee shop, and George Riddle, looking like a death-bed Gene Hackman, is an old man who wants to die in the room where he stayed on his honeymoon.

Claire stalked by undead Gene Hackman:

“I saw that your dyslexic stripper video got like 400 hits!”

An inventively well-shot movie with mostly static camera, the opposite of the handicam mumblecore thing I’d expected. Apparently most people can’t tell one kind of movie from another, so Criterion enlisted Paul Schrader to explain exactly how this is not a mumblecore movie, and they also put writer/director/star Lena Dunham in a room to converse with Nora Ephron – an unlikely but pleasing set of extras. I liked the movie more than I expected to, and kept liking it more after it ended. A good comedy that never acts outright comedic – not overwritten, with flawed characters who are obviously not idiots, just people with real problems dealing with ordinary life.

Lena at left, with skeptical-looking friend:

P. Lopate: “Lena Dunham’s work is related to this mainstream comedy of embarrassment, but she takes it one bold step further, producing a much more subtle and sophisticated comedy of chagrin. And in Dunham’s world, there is no happy ending, only an enlightened realism.”

Looks like a Dylan album cover:

Lena plays “Aura,” back in NYC after college in Ohio, and casts her actual mom and sister as her mom and sister, which makes some of the character conversations even more awkward/hilarious if you think about it. Aura sabotages her relationship with her college-best-friend Merritt Wever (hotel girl in that short The Strange Ones) and falls back in with her NYC best-friend Jemima Kirke. She hosts an internet-famous artist (Alex Karpovsky of Beeswax) at her house, gets a restaurant job with sous-chef David Call (the older boy in The Strange Ones, “kinda American Psycho-looking”) and spends most of the movie trying to get either of them to want to have sex with her.

Lena and her sous-chef:

Anyway, I’m sure I should have watched Creative Nonfiction first, because now it’ll probably take me years to get to it, as newer, shinier movies keep coming out and screaming for attention.

Lena’s mom tells her that lightbulbs are “in the white cabinet”: