Friday, July 18, 2014

My Week on TV! (23/06-29/06)

This week followed many finales so we only had two shows. Luckily for us, they are probably the best of their respective seasons. There will be spoilers.

2. Halt and Catch Fire: "Close to the Metal" (Seasons 1 Episode 4)

If last episode only hinted that Donna is just the best, this episode here confirms it and how. Cameron has apparently put her back-up discs close to her music and after a vacuum cleaner is plugged in, her whole BIOS coding is lost. The only person who knows how to do something other than yell pointlessly at Cameron is Donna, who risks her job but ends up saving the day and impressing a reporter who was considering writing about Cardiff. But, she's too smart to stop at that and putting two and two together (using her knowledge as a housewife too) she realises that it was Joe who had orchestrated everything to look good for the reporter. This was the most exhilarating episode of the first six, fast-paced but easy to follow, putting things at stake and showing fully developed characters. If the show keeps this up, it is going to be a hell of a ride.

MVP: Kerry Bishé with whom I am deeply in love already.

1. Penny Dreadful: "Possession" (Season 1 Episode 7)

It would have been very easy for Halt and Catch Fire to be number one this week. But, Penny Dreadful upped its ante and gave us the best episode of its first season. A bottle episode, no less. After last week's sexytimes with Dorian, a demon has possessed Vanessa and the crew has to exorcise her to save her life. There. That's the plot. It could not be simpler and yet it works like a charm due, in no small part, to Green's wonderful performance. The dialogues are also great, pointing out at the existing relaationships between characters and how they are affected once the demon intervenes. It's also worth noting the restrain in the make-up and special effects. Even though Vanessa's being possessed is easily inferred visually, by not changing her physical aspect beyond recognition (à la Linda Blair in The Exorcist). It might take away a little of the fear it could cause by not recognising her (seriously, nothing is scarier than Linda Blair possessed in The Exorcist) but it makes up for it in allowing us to not forget the human behind the demon, how Vanessa's well-being is everyone's priority. In conclusion, a fucking great hour of television.

MVP: Eva Green with whom I have been in love for quite some time.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Week in TV! (16/06-22/06)

This is tremendously late but for one it was not Orphan Black's fault but Halt and Catch Fire's. As always, there are spoilers.

6. Orphan Black: "By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried" (Season 2 Episode 10)

So, it is official. The second season of Orphan Black has been quite disastrous. The finale was heavily flawed but had a perfect moment. I'm talking about the dancing, of course. If Grey's Anatomy has taught has anything (it has taught us a lot, actually) is that a finale is always better when the characters dance it out. For a split second I thought that this was going to be the end of the episode and that I was going to be happy. But no, oh no. Following a pattern that no tv show should follow and that I always associate to True Blood, the finale had two parts clearly divided. In the first, the season is somehow tied up and in the second, the following season is set up. I don't like this pattern because it rushes closure and in rushing it, almost cancels it. We'll have time to see what is going to happen next year, don't worry. That being said, I understand the need for a cliffhanger (rewatching Friends, I discovered that it had the most brutal season cliffhangers ever). But a cliffhanger is a five-minute thing, not a half episode deal. Here, we had a lot of yabba-yabba with Sarah and Rachel. Cal reappears and all is right in the world. Cosima seems to die but no luck because Kira has the Book of the Magic Answers and finally we get to the cliffhanger which is actually two-fold. First, project Leda is going on with a little girl who is also a clone, sadly, not played by Maslany, (she should have painted on freckles, borrow Mrs. S. braids and stand on her knees). This I'm ok with because it involves Michelle Forbes and she is very cool. But then, we have the second cliffhanger of the night when we discover that on top of Project Leda, there was a Project Castor (someone is really smug about their mythology course on freshman year) so we have a pack of male clones. Porny-face clones. Sad trumpets and see you next year.

MVP: Tatiana Maslany dancing with herself.

5. Louie: "Pamela Part 2" (Season 4 Episode 13)

I don't like Pamela. She is always unnecessarily mean towards Louie and she acts like a five-year-old most of the time. In fact, this episode begins terribly thanks to her influence. I feel that Louie has always been a show that has understood the importance of art even if it had to mock its protagonist for not getting it (it comes to mind one of my favorite moments in the show when Jane is playing the violin, Louie tells her to stop and she replies "But it's beautiful!"). But the beginning of this episode is basically saying: "contemporary art is so stoopid, LOL". And it's because Pamela is a cynic. And her cynicism poisons the show. I think there is a ray of light when at the end of the show (as pictured) they seem to feel something. And also, when Pamela finally embraces being with Louie after the very romantic picnic thing. But I hope that, if this is going to go over to the next season, Pamela's jadedness is smoothed out considerably. This is not a cynic show and it does not suit it.

MVP: Louie, for putting up with the devil incarnate.

4. Penny Dreadful: "What Death Can Join Together" (Season 1 Episode 6)

First, a diclaimer: I paid very little attention to this episode because we watched it right after the Game of Thrones finale and I was still shaking. And, honestly, I cannot remember it all that well. Vanessa and Dorian have super savage sex but she leaves halfway through. Caliban kills Van Helsing because he really wants a lady Frankenstein. And Sir Malcolm and Mr. Chandler do something but I have no clue what could it be. Honestly, I should rewatch this.

MVP: Eva Green is the best in general.

3. Louie: "Pamela Part 3" (Season 4 Episode 14)

Pamela, my favorite character Pamela (I hate her, actually), decides in the beginning of this episode that it would be hilarious or something to get rid of all the furniture in Louie's home and force him to buy it all again. Seriously, if this kind of people exist, I never want to meet them. Then, she is put into an awkward situation when asked to drop the kids at her mother's and is just her annoying self. And then, while watching Louie, someone she supposedly cares about, perform she does not even smile while he's on stage. I hate her very much but this episode was funny thanks to her incapability to function as a sentient human being and the final notes in the bathtub were really sweet. But, God, don't bring her back next year.

MVP: Again, Louie, for putting up with her.

2. Halt and Catch Fire: "High Plains Hardware" (Season 1 Episode 3)

I'm still not up to date with this show but having seen the first half of the season, I can say that it is quite a good one. It still suffers from some things like bad lighting (maybe it's intentional since the 80s must have been terrible to look at?) and a protagonist that is the least compelling character but it's getting there. And the best move this episode does is bringing Donna up front. She'll have more to do in the next episode but it's here where the writers realise they can play with our sexist expectations and to have the smartest character be the one that, so far, has been the wife and mother. It's her idea to layer the motherboard and it's thanks to her influence that Gordon can grow a pair and fire Mr. Moustache. Meanwhile, Lee Pace kisses a man. Because not to have a bisexual leading man is so first half of 2014, right Penny Dreadful? Most likely than not, Joe only seduces a man to piss off said man's wife. But we'll take what we can. Oh, and Cameron is having trouble and trying to figure out code writing with lipstick on a hotel mirror while a pack of punks dance around in their underwear. The 80s, amirite?

MVP: Kerry Bishé starts showing in this episode that she plays the most interesting character on the show.

1. Game of Thrones: "The Children" (Season 4 Episode 10)

So, Orphan Black... This is how you make a season finale, actually. I still cannot think about this episode and not tremble a little but here we go. First, up north, LoveActuallyandBrightStarBoy dies to help Bran get to the magical tree. Down South (or in the East, well, somewhere), the Hound dies too. At Brienne's hands no less. And Arya refuses to go with her (not knowing that she'd probably reunite with Sansa) and gets on a ship to the land of money (I'm awesome remembering names!). Daenerys has to lock up her dragons (the two she has managed to get a hold on) after a wonderfully set up scene where we find out that they are not into eating sheep anymore. And, in King's Landing, Jaime and Varys release Tyrion who ends up killing both Shae and Tywin. I love how these scenes are not played in a "Yay, revenge is great!" tone but in a very sad and almost solemn way showing that Tyrion is hurting while doing the only thing he can do. It helps that Dinklage is amazing. I cannot believe that we have to wait another year for more Westeros. It seems it has been a week since this season started! Oh, and this episode was also great for avoiding the whole Lady Stoneheart bullshit.

MVP: Peter Dinklage as Tyrion. And still he should choose the trial for Emmy consideration.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Best Movie I Saw Last WeeK: All About My Mother

Even though I haven't watched a lot of movies this week, it has been an embarrassment of riches. First, because we finally were able to see Under the Skin, the new and jaw-droppingly good film by Jonathan Glazer. The only way this was not going to be the best movie of the week was to put it in competition with old favorites. Which brings us to the second reason for this amazing week: an impromptu Almodóvar mini-marathon. Pedro is my favorite director ever (only Lynch  could have a claim to the throne) so, of course, the winner would be one of his films. That film is All About My Mother (1999, Todo sobre mi madre), and this time was my fifth watching it.

The main plot is quite simple: Manuela's son dies and she moves from Madrid to Barcelona to deliver the news to his long-lost father. But, this being an Almodóvar film, things are a lot more complicated than that. The lives of several women come together in this beautiful script which, dealing with death and loss is one of Almodóvar's most cheerful and positive. The director wears his influences on his sleeve and, in fact, they are made explicit during the movie. All About Eve, A Streetcar Named Desire and the work of Lorca are all present in the film both as meta-texts and as constant references in the lives of Manuela and the rest of the women.

These women are brought to life by a supporting cast of wonderful actresses. Antonia San Juan plays Agrado, a character so interesting that she could have her own movie and the best source for the amazing one-liners that abound in the script. There's also Penélope Cruz in her first substantial collaboration for Almodóvar playing Sister Rosa with a wonderful innocence that I don't think has ever reappeared in her career. One of the many muses of the director is also present in Marisa Paredes playing the larger-than-life Huma Rojo. Her girlfriend is played by Candela Peña, dangerous and angry but with a good heart and a healthy interest in both breasts and penises.

But the movie is Cecilia Roth. Hers is a performance for the ages in which she gives Manuela everything. In my opinion, one of the best parts of the performance is how she plays with the degree of restraint that Manuela shows. When she cries and laughs she really cries and laughs but she also shows that Manuela is a very intelligent woman who likes to take care of people.

In the film, there are also men but none as striking as Toni Cantó. He is a terrible actor who does a terrible job in this film and yet, I don't think that other performance would fit the movie better. This is how good the film is, its flaws are its strenghts too.

Other films I watched this week:

Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2014)
Volver (Pedro Almodóvar, 2006) [Rewatch]
Hable con ella (Pedro Almodóvar, 2002) [Rewatch]
King Kong (Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1933)
Gegen die Wand (Fatih Akin, 2004)

Friday, June 27, 2014

My Week in TV (09/06-15/06)

I am extremely late this week but that's what happens when you put off watching Orphan Black as much as humanly possible. Without further ado, this is the ranking of the Tv shows I watched a few weeks ago. Careful, there will be spoilers.

6. Orphan Black: "Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done" (Season 2 Episode 9)

I watched this episode and the last one back to back. I think that if I had watched this on its own I would have liked it even less because it is only set-up for the finale. Cosima is seriously dying, you guys, so Sarah and Siobhan make the very logical decision of asking an eight-year-old if she'd like to undergo surgery. She says yes because Kira is good, did you get that? Meanwhile Helena, is impregnated, learns the truth about her religious sestra's impregnation, puts a huge needle filled  with horse semen up the religious leader's ass, burns the farm down and runs away after freeing her religious sestra and her porny-faced lover. A busy couple of hours she has. Alison and Donnie have to dispose of Leekie's body but Vic and the hilariously-named Angela DeAngelis (as David put it, where is Professor Professorson?). And finally, for some reason, someone decided it would be a good idea to put the bad-ass Maria Doyle Kennedy in two braids. Two fucking braids that made her look like Lina Morgan. But don't despair, in the finale there will be Huisman and there will be dancing.

MVP: Tatiana Maslany as Helena keeps being pretty awesome.

5. Louie: "In the Woods Part 1" (Season 4 Episode 11)

Well, it happened. An episode of Louie that I did not like. I understand and appreciate the experimental approach to this season but I think these two episodes, and especially the first one, did not work very much. For once, the longer running time was duly noted and they did not feel as tight as other episodes. Also, the absence of Louie himself for so long was a bummer. This has nothing to do with the episodes themselves but with the beginning of the first part, I anticipated a couple of episodes dealing more directly with the relationship between Louie and Lily. And it's not like I hated them, the dynamics between young Louie and his two male influences in the episodes (teacher and dealer) are very interesting. But still...

MVP: Jeremy Renner as the shady dealer (aren't they all?). He is a really good actor and he should do more of this interesting stuff and less being brainwashed in Marvel.

4. Halt and Catch Fire: "FUD" (Season 1 Episode 2)

I liked this episode just fine but I was not very invested in it. "Something legal" happened that required the three leads to work on the "something computer" separately and they scream and they fight and they finally have a breakthrough when they decide to build a laptop. This sounds like I did not enjoy the episode but I actually did, although I guess it was more an enjoyment of the moment with all the actors and the hope that I still could understand the plot than an enjoyment for a later recap.

MVP: Lee Pace as Joe. He really sold the weird scene where he opens his shirt and shows his scars.

3. Louie: "In the Woods Part 2" (Season 4 Episode 12)

I should probably give this couple of episodes another chance because by the end of the second part I had warmed to it much more. I guess the whole thing makes more sense after you see it all, as it should be. I really liked how they played the escalation of the scales problem (am I funny yet?) and how the story was not sugarcoated at all. Also, the resolution with Louie learning to communicate a bit better with his daughter was a bit obvious but worked perfectly. And there was F. Murray Abraham, which never hurts.

MVP: This one goes to Skipp Sudduth as Mr. Hoffman in the role that (given the surname) was probably intended for Phillip Seymour. He is really good in the part and had a very easy, believable chemistry with young Louie.

2. Game of Thrones: "The Watchers on the Wall" (Season 4 Episode 9)

I was fully prepared to hate this episode. A whole hour up at the Wall? Why don't you kill me now? And then, something happened. Something like Neil Marshall is an amazing director. And the episode was so cool. I absolutely loath most of the characters that appeared in it (Sam, die, please). The main exceptions being Jon "puppy eyes" Snow and his bearded friend who died (sad face) on the fight with the giant. Yes, this episode had giants and mammooths and I liked it! But what can I do? Marshall knows how to direct action. He took a space so uninteresting as the wall (it's a wall. It separates two parts of the world. That's it) and divided it in several smaller spaces where the battle was happening and it was gorgeous, very easy to follow and breathtaking. So, a very nice surprise of an episode, indeed.

MVP: The kid who kills the fake Emma Stone, obviously.

1. Penny Dreadful: "Closer Than Sisters" (Season 1 Episode 5)

I am enjoying Penny Dreadful a whole lot more than I had anticipated. I love how it's like no other Tv show; it follows the beat of its own drum. It wants to introduce half the main characters in the second episode? It does so. It wants to keep secrets for twice as long as any other show would do? It does so? And this week, it wanted to spend its forty minutes providing backstory for the most interesting character, and so it did. And in an epistolar episode, no less. And it was glorious. Thanks, in no small part, to the amazingness that is Eva Green. She plays the young Vanessa with such innocence and joy that it is a pleasure to watch  her and it is a blow for us too when she discovers that her mother and Malcolm were having an affair. She becomes jaded and her powers start growing also thanks to the devil (in Malcolm's guise) who visits her at the asylum where she is. It might sound like a pointless exercise in filling out the voids but it was a truly great episode that captured perfectly the tone of the show.

MVP: Eva Green, again, quite obviously.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Best Movie I Saw "Last Week": Now, Voyager

Between a weekend trip and a serious case of Friends addiction, this has been a very light week and a half. Still, we managed to watch a few Best Actress Nominees and it is one of these films the one that has the honor of being film of the week. Now, Voyager (Irving Rapper, 1942) is a wonderful Bette Davis melodrama.

Davis plays Charlotte Vale, the black sheep in a very important family. She is meek and ugly and is therefore single and without prospects of marriage. Thanks to her sister-in-law she leaves her mother to go to a resting house and there she blooms. She begins to be social, to dress amazingly and to be generally not ugly. I find Bette Davis to be a beautiful woman but the make up and wardrobe people might not have been that sure because the really piled on her frumping her up. It's one of those makeovers where it is impossible not to improve. Really, when the movie begins, she looks like this:

I guess the transformation is all the more striking because of Davis' acting. She, the actress that had been Leslie Crosbie, the actress who would be Margo Channing, is completely believable as a woman suffocating under her mother and once Charlotte is out of her shell, she plays her with a warmth and empathy that never quite lets you forget how she began the story. What I really like about the script is how it manages to handle both the triumphs and the disappointments. I would say the film has an optimistic outlook but still, by the time Davis delivers the last line in the film ("We have the stars, let's don't ask for the moon") I was crying my eyes out.

In the technical aspects, it is a very elegant film in which the camera is as in love with Charlotte as we are. The costumes are amazing and the music is so beautiful. The score was nominated but not the costumes (I'm sure that this is only because the award did not exist yet) and it managed a Supporting Actress nod for Gladys Cooper (playing Charlotte's tyranical mother) apart from Davis' nomination.

Other films I wacthed this week:

The Member of the Wedding (Fred Zinnemann, 1952)
The Song of Bernadette (Henry King, 1943)
The Yearling (Clarence Brown, 1946)
The Two Faces of January (Hossein Amini, 2014)
Gentleman's Agreement (Elia Kazan, 1947)
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Francis Lawrence, 2013) [Rewatch]
Byzantium (Neil Jordan, 2013)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Best Movie I Saw This Week: Sleeping Beauty (1959)

This week was best-actress-nominee heavy and I loved Mike Nichols' Working Girl a lot (I had not enjoyed my first viewing of the film) but the winner is an animated movie, that is, nevertheless, filled with actresses, even if only in voice. This film is Sleeping Beauty (Clyde Geromini, 1959). I actually was able to watch this film thanks to the dreadful Maleficent because the Dvd had been discontinued forever and they re-edited it to accompany the Jolie vehicle. And thank goodness since this is an amazing movie.

To start off, the animation is breathtaking. There is this tendency to assume that all Disney animation looks the same and while they always have common ground I think this is not the case. In this movie, for instance, medieval art heavily influences the drawings and it could not be more beautiful. In my opinion, the reasoning behind this mental homogeneity is two-fold. First, some people remember the merchandise (where the princesses are very washed down) more than the films themselves. Second, Disney animation is showing signs of fatigue and of defeat. I don't care how many million dollars it has made or how catchy "Let it Go" can be, Frozen (Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, 2013) is a very badly animated film. Granted, I am not a fan of Disney's 3d movies but, for example, Wreck-it Ralph (Rich Moore, 2012) showed a different style than Tangled (Nathan Greno and Byron Howard, 2010) but Frozen is just the same princess with a different color palette. What's worse is that with this success, I don't think they are going to stretch much for the future.

Anyway, and back to the good movie and forgetting the ones that infuriate me, Sleeping Beauty is a classic story of good versus evil without any of the post-modern ethical mumbo-jumbo that is our bread in animated movies today. Aurora and the fairies are good, Maleficent is bad. Because they are, because they choose to be. Not because someone took their fucking wings. The movie is a classic fairytale that works like clockwork precisely for its timelessness. And, for such a short film, it has everything. The dance around the woods is one of the most romantic moments in the Disney canon, the fairies getting the dress and the cake ready in one of the funniest moments in the Disney canon and Maleficent turning into a dragon is one of the most terrifying moments in the Disney canon. Whether in pink or blue, this movie is a masterpiece.

Other films I watched this week:
Love Story (Arthur Hiller, 1970)
Morocco (Josef von Sternberg, 1930)
Hester Street (Joan Micklin Silver, 1975)
The Constant Nymph (Edmund Goulding, 1943)
Love Field (Jonathan Kaplan, 1992)
Working Girl (Mike Nichols, 1988) [Rewatch]
The King and I (Walter Lang, 1956)
X-Men: Days of Future Past (Bryan Singer, 2014)
Maleficent (Robert Stromberg, 2014)
Todos están muertos (Beatriz Sanchís, 2014)

Monday, June 9, 2014

My Week in Tv! (02/06-08/06)

Here is the ranking of the shows I saw last week. Because of its special nature, Orange is the New Black will have its own post. Careful, spoilers are real.

6. Orphan Black: "Variable and Full of Perturbation" (Season 2 Episode 8)

Aaaaaaaand, after the episode I enjoyed most, here comes the one I enjoyed the least. I think the trans clone can be a good idea, but maybe it should have waited until season 3. I don't think we need any new clones now, we need the plot to advance a little, not more mysteries. Otherwise this will end up being Lost. All questions, stupid answers. Cosima's storyline was completely bonkers. "I'm dying by the end of the episode so let's get high on helium with the stupid doctor who insists on talking French to people when she's spoken to in English!" Alison and Donnie were a downer. I don't want them to be back together and stronger than ever. Donnie is the worst. He is a puppet who does not deserve his wife. Alternate romantic interest for Alison, stat. And the Tony thing was, well, cluttered and unnecessary.

MVP: Jordan Gavaris as Felix. I really feel for this character because he should have gotten from the clone mess away a million years ago but he is always caring for everyone and being level-headed and very cool.

5. Halt and Catch Fire: "I/O (Pilot)" (Season 1 Episode 1)

I was a little scared after reading about the first reactions to the show but I really liked the pilot. I'm not very invested in the computer world but the theme is broad enough to be interesting. And really with those actors you could not go wrong. Adorable Lee Pace playing someone not too adorable, Mackenzie Davis (MVP in That Awkward Moment next to Miles Teller) is our small-screen Lisbeth Salander and she is very good at it, Scoot McNairy is already a great character actor and I'm looking forward to seeing him develop a character over time and Kerry Bishé is finally getting some worthwhile work after her turn in Argo. It's true that so far it is not Mad Men, but let's face it, nothing is and nothing will.

MVP: McNairy is the one who does the most with his character in this episode and shows already how to inhabit a complex character.

4. Louie: "Pamela (1)" (Season 1 Episode 10)

This was another brilliant Louie episode but at this point who's counting? After Amia leaves, Louie is heartbroken and Dr. Bigelow tells him, in a great monologue, that this is the good part. Afterwards he receives a text from Pamela and he smiles. In the middle of the episode there's a lengthy stand-up scene about God, women and the naming of clothing after crimes. In the scene after this, Louie insists on kissing and holding Pamela when she doesn't want to. In my opinion, and this is what some reviewers are clutching their pearls at, Louie (the director) is fully aware of this juxtaposition. Louie (the character) is behaving in a way that goes against the insight that he has shown in his monologue. This is not a faux-pas; this is a very intelligent way of showing the attitude of some men (even intelligent men) towards rape and rape culture. Louie shows that it is a brilliant, complex show again.

MVP: Let's give it up for Charles Grodin as Dr. Bigelow. He is the breakthrough of this season. I hope they keep him around.

3. Penny Dreadful: "Demimonde" (Season 1 Episode 4)

I had been a little on the fence about this show but I really enjoyed this episode. It started on a grim note with the boring Dorian Gray in an, admittedly, really cool room with a lot of whores of both sexes. When they leave, he opens a hole in the wall behind a painting and passing an, admittedly, really cool mirror corridor, arrives to where his painting is kept. But we don't see it yet. That's a nice touch. I like how the show has been playing so far with what we know and we don't. A clear example is the first Frankenstein monster we see being the second and in this episode, the whole "What is going on with Josh Hartnett?". Is he a werewolf? Is he just squeamish in a show with a lot of blood? In the first part of the episode, Victor and James Bond try to cure the vampire by giving him clean blood (Ethan refuses, which is fishy) but it doesn't work, no matter how artfully Eva Green can throw an apple. The second part of the episode takes place in a grand guignol theatre where Ethan takes Brona and where also Dorian and Vanessa are. After a bloodbath of a play, the four characters come together and after a little bit of playful banter between Ethan and Vanessa, Brona gets jealous but also sad because she has the Satine disease and leaves. Dorian invites Ethan to a Fight Club-esque place where a dog has to kill rats while people place bets. More interestingly, they retire to Dorian's place and after having a few drinks... They kiss! And start undressing each other! And then the episode ends! Awful timing! I was not seeing that one coming in a million miles. But, obviously, I like it. Bring on the bisexualities!

MVP: Billie Piper as Brona because it is a delight to watch her reactions in the theatre scene and can also sell the fight scene with Ethan and the whole coughing-blood-and-falling-down business.

2. Louie: "Elevator Part 6" (Season 4 Episode 9)

All good things come to an end and so does Louie and Amia's short-lived love affair. They have one last romantic dinner in which Amia convinces a waiter at the restaurant to read/translate how she feels about Louie but the hurricane/tornado/storm can wait no longer. Most of the people in Brooklyn are dead and Manhattan is starting to be evacuated. Louie rents a car (the guy working there is deliciously oblivious to what's going on) and goes to get his ex-wife and two daughters. This is one of the most oddball episodes in the show, not very reliant on laughs but still darkly funny. A great episode all around.

MVP: Eszter Balint has been consistently great during Amia's arc and her looking at Louie while the waiter read was heartwarming.

1. Game of Thrones: "The Mountain and the Viper" (Season 4 Episode 8)

The show had taken a week to cool off and it came back with a vengeance. This was an amazing episode even though it started in the north (snore). But, soon, we forget about them and follow Reek in his adventures. Ramsay Snow's plan works and his father gives him his name but he still is an asshole to Theon. In the Vale, Little Finger is answering incriminatory questions from some random elders who want to hear Sansa's testimony. She comes clean by telling who she is and when it looks like she's about confess, she says that her aunt committed suicide. As she says herself, it was the smart thing to do since Little Finger is the only person protecting her and she even knows what he wants. Sex. They're talking about sex. Very close to Sansa (physically at least) is her sister Arya who has arrived with the Hound to the Vale where they inform them that the Lady Arryn has just died. Maisie Williams proceeds to laugh in an awesome manner. Danaerys is not laughing since she has learned that Jorah was spying on her and makes him leave forever. Sad face. And finally, in King's Landing, the trial by combat is about to start but first we get a really nice scene with Tyrion and Jamie bonding over a mentally challenged cousin which quickly develops in an angsty scene where Tyrion really needs to know the meaning of life. Isn't this show the best? And, at last, the fight. Prince Oberyn has this in the bag and dances circles around the Mountain. Oh, no. Wait. He does not kill him since he wants him to confess about raping and killing his sister and the Mountain throws Oberyn to the ground punching out his teeth (yes, plural. Very plural, in fact) gouges out his eyes and finally, makes his head, literally, pop. It's a incredibly tense scene that is one of the best things ever in this show. We won a bisexual male in Penny Dreadful but we lost one here. Long live Prince Oberyn. Now, what's going to happen to Tyrion? Are they really going to kill him?

MVP: Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark, finally learning how to play the (ominous music) Game of Thrones.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Best Movie I Saw This Week: Stella Cadente

This has been a pretty light week with only six films (it's what happens when you are rewatching Friends and watching Pushing Daisies) but still there have been two monumental films. Since a lot of poetic has been waxed over Murnau's film (not that it doesn't deserve it), I chose to talk about the other one. And that film is Stella Cadente (Luis Miñarro, 2014).

A man looking into the camera tells us that he's been asked to be king of Spain. The man is Amadeo de Saboya and will be king of Spain for only three years. He has very progressive ideas both politically and in his personal life. His views on government and politics are the part drawn from history. He wanted to modernise the cities, to improve the quality of education and to have a monarchy with a Parliament. In the film, he even describes himself as a republican king. The film extends this progressiveness into his personal life and has him being a vegetarian and very open-minded about sexuality. 

This is not your regular biopic. This film is what would happen if Marie Antoinette by Sofia Coppola (2006) and an experimental film had a child and the child turned to be gay. From Marie Antoinette it gets that sense of ennui in someone who has everything but can do nothing. From the experimental filmmaking it gets anachronistic music, voice-overs out of nowhere and a sense of not taking things too seriosuly. As for its being gay, there is a lot of homoeroticism in the film, mainly because two characters (the king's valet and a lackey) are infatuated with the king, not only in a sexual way, but also in a spiritual manner. This leads them to several actions by which they try to get closer to the monarch.

The cast is terrific. Àlex Brendemühl plays Amadeo with a tremendous sensibility and with an amazing dead-pan-ish sense of humour. His assistant is the not shy at all (he doesn't have any reasons, he is gorgeous) Lorenzo Balducci. The lackey is played by Àlex Batllori in a manner that would make Visconti proud. And, being actressexuals as we are, we cannot forget the women. Amadeo's wife is brought to life by the wonderful actress who should be cast in everything Bárbara Lennie and the cook is played by a very fun and game Lola Dueñas.

Technically, the film is a delight. It is filmed in a crisp digital image that is not off-putting at all as it sometimes can be. In fact, it contrasts beautifully with the decorations and the costumes which are amazing. As I mentioned the film has a playful experimental side and we get jumpcuts, a series of shots thought as slides in and old-timey projector, a dance moment that is simply great and a lot of other small details that make this movie a truly delicious one.

Other films I watched this week:
Tumbleweeds (Gavin O'Connor, 1999)
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (F.W. Murnau, 1927)
The Good Earth (Sidney Franklin, 1937)
Edge of Tomorrow (Doug Liman, 2014)
Hermosa Juventud (Jaime Rosales, 2014)

Monday, June 2, 2014

My Week in TV! (26/05-01/06)

Here is a ranking of the episodes I watched last week. Only six! Summer must be around the corner... Careful, this is no country for spoilerphobes.

6. Penny Dreadful: "Resurrection" (Season 1 Episode 3)

I did not enjoy this episode a lot. It was not bad but maybe, apart from Josh Hartnett's ass, a little unremarkable. The first part with the first monster was ok, I liked that his backstory was set in the theatre but I still preferred the second creature. He was gentle and his hair was not silly. Also, how come they quote Shelley? If Shelley exists in this world, does Mary Shelly exist too? And if she exists, what is going on? Is this Stranger Than Fiction? And then, I was a little lost. Vanessa had a vision so they went to the zoo but not for any fun stuff, just to find a vampire lair. They kidnap one of the vampires and try (to no avail, I think) to interrogate him about Mina. In the end it turns out that the vampires want Vanessa because she is the best and Mina is just bait. The best parts are Ethan and Brona having sex and Dorian Gray being nowhere to be seen.

MVP: Whoever decided to have Hartnett naked.

5. Orphan Black "Knowledge of Causes, and Secret Motion of Things" (Season 2 Episode 7)

I think this has been the best episode of the season so far. And yet, it only has made it to a fifth position but it was battling heavy weights. Finally, we see the plot thickening in some way I can understand. Finally, the clones are getting closer together again. One caveat though: no Helena is bad. But at least we had a lot of Alison and I even liked Cosima. And Kira obviously likes her since she is willing to give her teeth for her. So now that we know why Rachel wanted Kira, everything makes a little more sense. Except the fact that two characters in this episode have conversations that are not supposed to be overheard in places where it was impossible not to be overheard. First, Vic talks to Angela Deangelis (what kind of a name is that?) and Alison overhears and then Delphine talks to New-guy-in-the-lab (not his real name) and Cosima overhears. Seriously people, secrets are not kept this way. Daario is left alone without Kira but since Rachel is asking for him we hope he'll be back. Oh, there's also Michelle Forbes being bitchy and plotting to kill Leekie. Rachel shows a little mercy and lets him go but he runs into Donnie who has just now learned the whole clone'n'probing thing and is shot by accident. Leekie-leekie no more!

MVP: Tatiana Maslany as Alison! It is basic but I love the old switcheroos between clones and the whole scene in the rehab facility was really fun. Also, the face she did showing the gloves to Vic.

4. Louie: "Elevator Part 4" (Season 4 Episode 7)

I really should start taking notes during Louie because by the end of the two episodes, they start blurring together. This one was the one with the flashback to when Louie and Janet get pregnant. And it was so good. The show can always sell this stuff making it special but without making a big thing of it. the first part of the episode dealt with them both in therapy trying to decide what's best for Jane. The scene was pure gold. From Louie getting up and screaming out the window to his asking "Can we leave now when this feels even?" after Janet seems upset because the therapist say she is less guided by her feelings. 

MVP: Conner O'Malley playing the young Louie. He captured the mannerisms, the laugh and his general spirit perfectly.

3. Galerías Velvet: "Cuenta Atrás" (Season 1 Episode 15)

Another finale! And it was a doozy... The episode was set up in the classic TV trope: "How did we get here?" with Cristina arriving at the church and being told that Alberto has not arrived yet. We go back ten hours and we see the process of getting prepared for the wedding. And it turns out that Cristina is a total bitch. There had been clues during the season but in general, the goodie-goodie side tended to win. But now, in HER day nothing is going to go against her wishes. Ana has the opportunity to meet with Someone Important to her Dress Collection but because the bride needs her there she cannot go. Frankly, Ana handled the whole thing terribly. If she's been sweet and suggested someone else (although they were all occupied) maybe it could have happened. But alas, we are supposed to see Cristina as a monster, not only because of this but also because she urges Raúl to leave the galleries after a scandal from his past reaches him. I was convinced they were finally going to get him out of the closet but it was a plagiarism thing. I hope he sticks around for the second season because he is awesome. And, by the way, I still prefer Cristina over Ana.

MVP: Manuela Velasco as Cristina who managed to spin the character around but still being her.

2. Louie: "Elevator Part 5" (Season 4 Episode 8)

This was a truly great episode. For starters, I loved the sort-of framing device (that already started in the previous episode) about the tornado killing Lebron... and 12 million people. The first third of the episode was Todd Barry's life as someone withouth a spouse, without children and without many responsibilities. And it was not a sad thing. He likes his life and the whole bar cheers him on winning a small battle. Then Louie and Amia start considering whether or not to get intimate. After all, there is only one more Elevator episode left. It was a really funny and really special episode.

MVP: Ellen Burstyn as Evanka, first almost dying with a piece of candy and then giving one of the best moments of wisdom saying that if you don't fuck the cow, you don't own the cow.

1. Mad Men: "Waterloo" (Season 7 Episode 7)

In the fake season finale Mad Men flies us to the moon. And it seems that alien life is welcoming since it looks like things are looking up. Well, until the devastating epilogue, that is. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The Apollo 11 launches and the lives of the characters don't stop because of that. Don is almost fired for breach of contract but even though Joan is against him (gasp!) he stays. His marriage is not that lucky and he and Megan call it quits. After saying "Bravo" to the moon landing, Bert dies. This is traumatic enough in itself, but it also means that Jim can fire Don. Luckily, Roger is smart and deals selling SC&P to a bigger agency if they give him and Don five-year contracts. There is a catch, and Ted has to come too but he is fed up with advertising and wants to quit but Don is Don and convinces him. I love how this story brings to mind the end of the third season when they created SCDP, only now, there is a certain weariness to it all. They are older, they are more tired and they don't know how many times they can do it again. In this mindset, the last scene is a great musical number (inside Don's head) where Bert sings that the best things in life are free. This is how television is done.

MVP: Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olsen. She wins the burger chef account and has a terribly good emotional moment with Julio. She is the soul of the show. And she better win an Emmy.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Best Movie I Saw This Week: Madame de...

This was also a heavy week with a lot of heavy-weights as Haneke, Bergman or Kalatozov but my pick for the weeks belongs to Ophüls. Madame de... (Max Ophüls, 1953) is wonderful.

As the title in English suggests, the movie follows a pair of earrings that take on very different meanings according to the context (so polysemic, as David put it). The first time we see them is because a Countess (a magnificent Danielle Darrieux) is considering selling them to pay off some debts she has. She is presented as a frivolous and somewhat vain woman who prefers to hold on to her furs than to the earrings that her husband (Charles Boyer) gave her as a wedding present. She pretends to have lost them in an elaborate act that shows how good an actress she is. The conflict starts when the jeweller (after promising he would not) tells on her to her husband who buys the earrings again. This time, he gives her to his lover, a woman who gambles them convinced that number 13 is going to be lucky for her. This scene, where she is gambling is a departure from the main plotline and reminded me of the movies of Wong Kar-wai in the sense that we could have an entire movie devoted to this secondary character because it is treated with such interest and care. Baron Donati buys the earrings and, as fate would have it, ends up falling in love with the Countess Louise and gives her the earrings. She has to play an act with his husband as to why she has found the earrings. He, however, understands everything and forces her to give them to a relative. Husband and lover duel and as the Countess runs toward them she hears only a shot, which means that Donati is dead.

I just love how the movie plays with the main character's acting. She mentions that she is a bad liar when in fact, we are seeing her being an expert at it. The exception is a moment that recalls Anna Karenina, where she cannot hide her fear that Donati is hurt.

The film is not only interesting thematically, it is a visual feast. The long takes are breathtaking and the movements of the camera are as elegant as the people it follows. In terms of production it is as rich as can be. The art direction and the costumes are wonderful. In fact, its only nomination for the Oscars was for its costumes, showing that, already in the fifties, that branch was willing to look at deserving films even if they were not obvious frontrunners. The performances are also excellent with Danielle Darrieux, Ophüls muse, being the clear standout. After all she is Madame de...

Other movies I saw this week:
Godzilla (Gareth Edwards, 2014)
Grace of Monaco (Olivier Dahan, 2014)
The Cranes Are Flying (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1957)
10.000 Km (Carlos Marques-Marcet, 2014)
Cinderella Liberty (Mark Rydell, 1973)
Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005)
Cimarron (Wesley Ruggles, 1931)
The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)