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)