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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Orange Is The New Black Has A Flashback Problem

Flashbacks are essential and integral to Orange Is The New Black. They are part of the make-up and fiber of the show. They’re useful to not only provide three dimensional shading to a character, but they help prop up the show’s themes and point of view. Orange is about showing us the inequalities of race and class within our country, and about how prison is the great equalizer. The prisoners are a purposeful melting pot, and by bringing to light the backstories of multiple individuals, the show is able to bring taste and color and richness into the dish. Outside of the Piper and Vause backstories- which the story has rightfully steered away from as it chugs along- getting to know where different characters and where they came from and how they existed outside of the Litchfield prison walls helped shape them when you saw them inside the walls. Unfortunately, as the cast of Orange gets bigger and bigger, and the need for side detours gets smaller and smaller, the flashbacks have become a distraction. Further, the writing for the flashbacks have become weaker as the show has progressed.

Within the show’s first two seasons, we got flashbacks of prisoners like Watson, the runner who just wanted to fit in, Red, the would be crime boss trying to rise through the ranks, and Morello, the woman who wants to be loved by Christopher. These flashbacks were well fleshed out which in turn gave the audience a deeper understanding of who they were watching. For the most part, these flashbacks were also mini-vignettes with their own arc and storylines that just happened to be spread out over the course of a single episode. Therefore, when the flashbacks ended, they provided their own emotional weight and punch. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case anymore.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Rest In Peace Buddy Ryan

In 1981, Buddy Ryan almost lost his job as the defensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears. The team was atrocious, and the team’s owner, George Halas, was cleaning house. Head coach Neill Armstrong was let go and Ryan was soon to be next. However, Buddy Ryan was so beloved and the team cared for him so much, that they wrote a letter to Mr. Halas pleading with him to keep Ryan on. It’s a move you don’t see too often in professional sports, yet it worked. What’s even stranger is that Halas brought in former Bears tight end Mike Ditka to become the team’s head coach, sticking Ditka with Ryan and not allowing him to hire his own defensive coordinator. Even though Ditka and Ryan were not the best of friends, Ryan’s players loved him and would go to the end of the world and back again for him. That’s the type of man that Buddy Ryan was. He was a smart man, and a well-respected one. He truly was one of the titans of the game of football, and he will be sorely missed.

Ultimately, keeping Buddy Ryan on as defensive coordinator was a smart move. Even though Ryan notoriously butted heads with Ditka, the two respected each other. Ryan had his defense and Ditka had his offense. Buddy Ryan installed what came to be known at The 46 defense. Commonly misconstrued as the four – six defense (and based upon the number of defenders who would rush the passer or drop into coverage at all times), Ryan’s 46 defense was based upon strong safety Doug Plank, who wore number 46. The basis of the defense is a constant barrage of men attacking the line of scrimmage; eight men would crowd the box with 6 men at all times on the line. And the defense worked.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Disney Almost Erases Decades of Misogyny with Zootopia. Almost.

Early on in Disney's newest animated feature Zootopia, our hero, a bunny named Judy Hopps, voiced by Gennifer Goodwin, enters the police station in which she'll be working for the first time. She's greeted by a huge (pun intended) cheetah named Clawhauser, voiced by Nate Torrence, who comments on how cute Judy is. Judy responds by saying that only other bunnies can call each other cute, but not other animals. Clawhauser sheepishly apologizes for his ignorance and helps direct Judy to her first ever police briefing.

In a way, Zootopia is an apology for the decades of both overt and latent misogyny its released in the world over the past decades. Whether it's one of their earlier films like Sleeping Beauty or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs which taught girls to sit quietly while you wait for a man to save you, or one of their later films like The Little Mermaid which teaches young girls to actively be quiet while you attempt to lure your crush with only your looks, Disney studios does not have a good track record of helping to mold the minds and attitudes of young females. Which is unfortunate considering how instrumental they are in their development.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Retrospective on How I Met Your Mother

Binging on Friends and watching the series for the first time earlier this year whet my appetite for one of my all-time favorite sitcoms: How I Met Your Mother. After finishing Friends, I dove head first into HIMYM. Re-watching the first five seasons re-affirmed my love of the show and just how smart and funny it was, and dredging through seasons 6 and 7 (I just started 8 as of the writing of this post) made me realize how much Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, the creators and showrunners of the show, ruined their own legacy. There is an obvious dichotomy of How I Met Your Mother, between its excellent first half and its subpar second half a la Full Metal Jacket. A lot of the problems of the show’s second half seemingly stemmed from the fact that Bays and Thomas took the title of their show way too seriously, and dragged out its lead character Ted Mosby’s (played by Josh Radnor) relationship and journey to meet the mother of his children far past its natural creative endpoint.

A common critique of the show as its latter seasons were airing was that Ted just needed to meet The Mother already and get it over with; have the show be a modern version of Friends with The Mother becoming the sixth member of the gang. However, time has given me some perspective, and I can understand why Bays and Thomas waited so long to introduce The Mother. Todd VanDerWerff wrote an excellent piece forGrantland after the series finale about how the show itself was all about failure and disappointment and the realities of living in your late 20’s in the mid-to-late 2000’s and transitioning into your 30’s. That was the whole point of the show from the getgo ever since we learned from the pilot that Robin was not The Mother. So how can the audience demand a happy ending where we meet The Mother already when the whole purpose of the show is where we never actually get what we want? It’s easy to say the show should end up like Friends because on the surface HIMYM looks like Friends, but the two shows are fundamentally contrasted from each other.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

In Defense Of: The 22 Minute Episode

On January 22, 2016, The Ringer’s Andy Greenwald had an excellent interview with Michael Schur. Mr. Schur was a former writer on The Office, he’s the creator of Parks and Recreation, and the co-creator of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. You can listen to the podcast in full here. In the discussion, Mr. Greenwald brings up Mr. Schur’s upcoming NBC show The Good Place, and why Mr. Schur decided to go back to a broadcast network as opposed to a premium channel or streaming service. Below is an excerpt from that discussion:

MICHAEL SCHUR: I believe that there are many, many, many, many advantages to doing a show on a premium cable or streaming service like, for example, there’s no commercials, you can curse, you can do whatever you want, you can make the episodes whatever length you want-

ANDY GREENWALD: I like that “doing whatever you want” was the third thing after “cursing”.

MS: Cursing, I, I wholeheartedly support cursing on TV. I think there should be more cursing in general- and more bleeping

AG: But bleeping is funnier than cursing.

MS: I kind of agree, um, but you can also, like there’s on network you run, you have to run the credits over the show which interrupts the show, there’s snipes for other shows that interrupt your show… so I, there obviously, there are many obvious advantages of going somewhere besides a network, but I think there are also advantages that are maybe less obvious of staying on network, besides just a sense of loyalty that the NBC Peacock means something to me, it does. I think comedy works really well when there are a lot of obstacles to it, um, I think obstacles breads creativity and breeds good problem solving and I think that comedy works best when it’s very crisp and lean, and I think that if you say to someone like, “You can have as much time as you want, and you can- there’s no commercials, and you can mill around, and just get in that pool and swim around”, I think a lot of- my opinion, some comedies, many comedies, or at least half hour shows that are on other networks, premium  networks we’ll call them, can get a little “meander-y” and a little kinda soft. And that’s not to say that’s bad, or maybe that’s exactly what they’re going for, but there’s a way in which having to write in a crisp, three-act structure, or now it’s like a four-act structure- which is a whole other problem, but having  to write to, a certain, when you’re breaking stories it forces you to be really lean and mean, it forces you to edit yourself, it forces you to think about the classic storytelling structure of Act One, Act Two, Act Three, and I, and I, it’s not that you don’t remember those things, you don’t suddenly forget them if you go somewhere else, but I think it becomes less vital to your process, and I kind of believe that it’s good for writing to be, to be presented with those specific obstacles- for comedy at least.

MS: The show should be as long as the story demands, not as long as you can take with it. And part of what I like about being on a network is- it’s a little annoying that every episode has to be exactly twenty-one minutes and thirty seconds, I think it’s extremely unlikely, that the optimal length for every single episode of every single show is exactly that long… but it is a sort of, like, this is the deal man, that you have to write, and edit, and act a story that is length, and it’s not very long, and there’s something that’s kind of perversely appealing about that to me.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Red Hot Chili Peppers Are Doing Just Fine Without John Frusciante: My Review of The Getaway

The world was ready for a great Red Hot Chili Peppers album, and the band, now in their fourth decade of making music, finally gave one to us. The band has a steady stream of popular, good, and enjoyable hits, but their albums have been up and down. For every Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik and Californication is an I’m With You and One Hot Minute. The Getaway sturdily falls into the former category and is a must listen for even the casual Chili Peppers fans. It’s easily the band’s best albums since Stadium Arcadium- which was released a decade ago.

For the vast majority of the band’s run, the core has been lead singer and lyricist Anthony Kiedis, bassist Flea, and drummer Chad Smith- who just happens to be a doppelganger for Will Ferrell. For most of their albums, the band’s guitarist was John Frusciante, one of rock and roll’s greatest guitarist and the only one who could rival Jack White as the greatest guitarist of the era for latter Millennials. Without realizing it, Frusciante was the band’s soul. Kiedis and Flea brought the energy and the funk to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and it’s their band, but John Frusciante built the foundation that allowed Kiedis and Flea to play on.

My Review of Finding Dory

Generally speaking, all movies from Pixar studios are the same two movies. It’s either an adventure film where characters have to get from Point A to Point B (Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo, The Good Dinosaur, Inside Out, Monsters Inc.) or it’s a coming of age film where the main characters stay in one place and fight (Cars, Ratatouille, Monsters University, Toy Story 3, A Bug’s Life). Sometimes the film is a combination of the two (Wall-E, The Incredibles), but more often than not, the plot and the story of a Pixar film is something you’ve seen many times before, often times from a previous Pixar film. However, Pixar remains the top of the animation mountain- both in terms of box office success as well as quality of work. Pixar has been able to consistently churn out great film after great film for over two decades. Even a decent film like Finding Dory is lightyears ahead of most of the animation crop.

Yet there are clear tiers within each individual Pixar films. The tiers used to be “Holy cow, that’s friggin one of the best movies of all time” and “That’s very good, but it’s not one of Pixar’s best”. Films like the Toy Story franchise, Wall-E, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles fall into the former while other films like Cars, Ratatouille, and A Bug’s Life fall into the later. Unfortunately, ever since Cars 2 came out in 2011, we have unfortunately needed to create a third category for Pixar: “wow, that surprisingly was not a good movie”. Films like Cars 2, Monsters University, and Brave has unfortunately taken their place among the Pixar lore and semi-hurting the legacy. Since 2011, Pixar has made some Friggin Best Films of All Time movies like Inside Out and Toy Story 3, but for the most part, the films are either Surprisingly Not Good, or just bordering it. Pixar’s last two films, The Good Dinosaur and Finding Dory are good films and films that I would give a positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes if I had a vote, but clearly rank among of the worst films the studio has ever produced.

Monday, June 20, 2016

My Review of Casual

Jason Reitman has directed six films: Thank You For Smoking, Juno, Up In The Air, Young Adult, Labor Day, and Men, Women, and Children. All six projects involve characters or ideas that are just a bit off of the mainstream path. Thank You For Smoking and Up In The Air follow professionals with jobs that would sicken you if you met them in the real world- a pro-cigarette lobbyist for the former and a guy whose job it is to fire people for the latter; Juno stars a pregnant teenager with her own weird-Millennial-esque lingo who inadvertently hits on a married man; Charlize Theron’s character is a straight up miserable, horrible human being in Young Adult, and the point of the film is that her character should embrace that; Labor Day follows an agoraphobic who falls in love with a felon; and there’s all sorts of messed-up in Men, Women, and Children including Judy Greer’s character who pimps out her high school aged daughter. Yet for all of the fucked up things Reitman has done, his projects are all grounded in realism. You’re not looking at a surrealist Tim Burton vehicle; you’re watching something right outside of your house window. His latest project Casual is no different.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

How Game of Thrones Became The Most Enjoyable Show on Television

Game of Thrones is arguably the most popular show watched in America. It’s the one show you need to watch live unless you want to live in a hell hole without social media, it’s the most pirated show out there, unlike its closest competitor The Walking Dead, it’s actually good and wins Emmys as a result. Despite what recently departed guest star Ian McShane says about the show, it’s not all about tits and dragons.

Game of Thrones was not always the huge ratings behemoth (relatively speaking) that it is today thanks to word of mouth and The Internet in general. It also wasn’t the show that it is today. Based off of an extremely dense series of fantasy books by George R.R. Martin, the HBO show has had a lot of material to work with and adapt to a 10-episode series. In the beginning, we needed time to get to know this world. Martin literally built an entire world and the show spent an enormous amount of time sucking us deeper and deeper into it.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

If I Had An Emmy Ballot: Comedies (2016 Edition)


- Vanessa Bayer (SNL)
- Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine Nine)
- Loretta Devine (The Carmichael Show)
- Kether Donohue (You're The Worst)
- Noel Wells (Master of None)
- Debra Winger (The Ranch)

JUST MISSED: Elizabeth Banks (Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp), Jane Krakowski (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)

Kate McKinnon seems to be the break out star from this batch of SNL females. She was nominated in this category last year and she’s starring in the upcoming Ghostbusters reboot. However, my heart will always remain faithful to Vanessa Bayer, who has quickly become SNL’s true chameleon… From a current SNLer to an SNL alum we have Noel Wells for her work as Aziz Ansari’s love interest in Master of None. Like Bayer, Wells brings a calm, Girl Next Door charm to her comedy which contrasted well with Ansari’s comedy stylings… Hollywood veteran Debra Winger also played well alongside her TV significant other, played by Sam Elliot, in Netflix’s The Ranch. Winger was able to bring emotional heft and witty one-liners to help make the show as good as it was… Another TV Mother played by an TV veteran that did excellent work this past year was Loretta Devine as the matriarch of the Carmichael clan in The Carmichael Show. The show itself is mainly a medium for comedian Jerrod Carmichael to express his political views and hot button issues, but the show never loses sight of its characters and Devine helps ground the familial structure... Someone who is never grounded is Lindsay, played by Kether Donohue on You’re The Worst. Aya Cash did most of the heavy lifting this past season with her depression storyline, but it was Donohue’s Lindsay spiraling out of control after her divorce that ended up being the best part of the show… Lastly, we have Stephanie Beatriz. I love Brooklyn Nine Nine, and normally I choose both Beatriz and Melissa Fumero, but I gave the slight edge to Beatriz as the show gave her more to do with the storyline of a love interest played by Jason Mantzoukas and then dealing with the fallout of his disappearance.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

If I Had An Emmy Ballot: Dramas (2016 Edition)


- Jon Bernthal (Daredevil)
- Kevin Carroll (The Leftovers)
- Michael McKean (Better Call Saul)
- Pedro Pascal (Narcos)
- Nick Sandow (Orange is the New Black)
- Christian Slater (Mr. Robot)

JUST MISSED: Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)

Pedro Pascal has that charm and that energy that fills up your television screen with joy, and then he’s gone and you anxiously await his return. He was like that as The Viper in Season 4 of Game of Thrones and he’s like that as DEA agent Javier Pena in the Netflix guilty pleasure hit NarcosKevin Carroll’s John Murphy’s presence at the very beginning of Season 2 of The Leftovers was initially jarring, but Carroll’s performance sucked you in to this brave new world which made The Leftovers one of the very best shows of 2015… I can understand why Jonathan Banks gets all of the Emmy love for Better Call Saul, but like last year, I throw my hat in the ring for Michael McKean. McKean’s Chuck’s holier-than-thou smugness contrasted with Bob Odenkirk’s lovable rule-bender Jimmy is the key to what makes Better Call Saul work as well as it does without feeling like a true Breaking Bad prequel like the world Banks’ Mike Erhmantrout inhabits… Jon Bernthal’s performance as The Punisher in Season 2 of Netflix’s Daredevil definitely does not scream prestige, award-worthy television, but Berenthal and his incredible screen presence are so good that I found it difficult to leave him off of my list… There are so many great performances, mainly by females, in Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black, but Nick Sandow as Joe “Beercan” Caputo struggling to keep the prison afloat and then dealing with his Corporate Overlords was excellent in this past season… Even though you saw the twist coming regarding Christian Slater’s Mr. Robot, it didn’t diminish that wonderful feeling you got knowing that Slater is back and in a project worthy of his talents. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

If I Had an Emmy Ballot: Limited Series and TV Movies (2016 Edition)


- Bryan Cranston (All The Way)
- Oscar Isaac (Show Me A Hero)
- Andy Samberg (7 Days in Hell)
- Paul Sparks (The Girlfriend Experience)
- Courtney B. Vance (The People vs. OJ Simpson)
- Patrick Wilson (Fargo)

Bryan Cranston’s portrayal of Lyndon B. Johnson in All The Way is the stuff they should teach in acting classes. We knew the 4-time Emmy winner could act thanks to his work on Breaking Bad, but holy cow did he put the exclamation point on his career. It’s cliché, but you truly lose Cranston in the role… The only other actor that comes close to Cranston is Courtney B. Vance- who was the prohibitive favorite when The People vs. O.J. Simpson ended. Vance’s portrayal of famed lawyer Johnnie Cochran was that of legend. He perfectly played Cochran’s boisterous public persona but brought humanity and warmth to the role when we saw him in his private life… Andy Samberg doesn’t have a snowball’s Hell in chance of winning this award for his work in the delightfully silly 7 Days In Hell, but he sure was great in it. Perfectly shot and edited in the style of an ESPN 30 For 30 film, 7 Days in Hell is a goofy parody with Samberg’s bad boy tennis star Aaron Williams leading the charge… It took me a while to get over the fact that Paul Sparks wasn’t the annoying Mickey Doyle from Boardwalk Empire when I was watching The Girlfriend Experience- which is a testament to how good Sparks was as the sleezy David Tellis… Time has already proven how great of an actor Oscar Isaac is, and watching one scene of Show Me A Hero lets you know that Isaac deserves all of the awards… Patrick Wilson was not as flashy of a name as Billy Bob Thornton, or even Martin Freeman, but he’s an excellent actor who brought quiet grace and honor to a young Lou Solverson in the second season of Fargo

Monday, June 13, 2016

Does Orange Is The New Black Have A Piper Problem?

Jenji Kohan’s show Orange Is The New Black is based off of Piper Kerman’s book of the same name. The show centers around Taylor Schilling’s Piper Chapman, who is obviously based upon Kerman herself. After three seasons, the first name to appear in the opening credits is Taylor Schilling and the first name to appear in the closing credits is “Executive Consultant Piper Kerman”. The entire first season is centered around Piper Chapman’s life, how she got into prison, the instances in her life that made her who she is today, and balancing life in prison with her old, outside life. While the show is truly an ensemble cast, Schilling’s Chapman is clearly the lead. Yet for as much as people love Orange Is The New Black, they can’t stop themselves from demanding a show without Piper Chapman.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

How The Fall of TV's White Male Anti-Hero Will Lead To One Of The Weakest Best Actor Emmy Nominations

Hollywood is not lacking in roles for white men. Considering the massive influence The Sopranos had on prestige television, television networks love to spit out shows starring the White Male Anti-Hero (WMAH). From examples like Walter White on Breaking Bad, Don Draper on Mad Men, and Dexter Morgan on Dexter, the way to create great television was to have it star a middle aged, white, male anti-hero. For the longest time, these male anti-heroes were actually interesting, fascinating, and worthy of Emmy nominations. James Gandolfini (The Sopranos), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Hugh Laurie (House), and Damien Lewis (Homeland) all have a plethora of nominations (and wins) for playing this archetype. Sprinkle in a handful of nominations for guys like Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire), Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom), Timothy Olyphant (Justified), and the two leads of season one of True Detective and you have more WMAHs than you can shake a stick at.

Yet for any problems (mainly lack of diversity and creativity) you may have with these roles and the actors who portray these anti-heroes, it’s difficult to say they weren’t all deserving of their nomination. You could nitpick here and there, but for the most part, these roles were excellent and the actors truly were deserving of an Emmy nomination. However, in 2016, the tide has changed. Networks are still making shows with the WMAH, but they aren’t nearly as good and this trope is starting to feel derivative and less worthy of a nomination.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Why The Old School Thinking Of Current Greatness Is Wrong

NBA players whose heyday was 20+ years ago love to shit on the Golden State Warriors. Despite the fact that they are the defending NBA champions, have the defending MVP and reigning MVP, and just won 73 fucking games, these players can’t stop themselves from shitting on this team. Scottie Pippen says his Bulls team would sweep the Warriors in the Finals and Charles Barkley can’t shut his damn mouth about this team. Everyone else vehemently disagrees with these players, because we’re semi-rational and competent human beings, but that hasn’t stopped the mindset of many former players who think Golden State is just a fluke and a flash-in-the-pan versus the dominant Goliath we know they are. The reason many players feel this way is because The Game and how Golden State plays it is radically different than it was when these players were playing it. These players saw what it took to win and that’s drastically and fundamentally different than how the Warriors win. Truthfully, what the Warriors are doing is just different, but these retired players are conflating “different” with “bad”.

What we are seeing in basketball is also true of what we are seeing in baseball. I’m guilty of this as well. I saw the 2015 Kansas City Royals and was just dumbfounded by how they were winning. Even after the Royals won 95 games and first place in the American League, I was convinced that a team like the Toronto Blue Jays, who had a strong rotation and lots of power, was better suited to win the pennant. Cut to a few weeks later and the Royals dominate the postseason to win it all and the Blue Jays are just another asterisk in baseball history.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Death of the Superhero Origin Story

Despite the ten hour run time, Captain America: Civil War was a really good movie, and despite my general aversion to Marvel superhero films and movies that have too long of a run time, I thoroughly enjoyed the latest installment set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are a lot of things the film did right, but the one thing I want to harp on is the origin story of its two new characters.

By far and away, the best part of Civil War was its introduction of Spider-Man into the fold. Not only does Tom Holland, a 19-year-old actor, actually look like a high school student (as opposed to early 20's Tobey Maguire and late 20's Andrew Garfield), but the character acts like one too.

After the flop of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Sony leased the rights for Marvel to use the character in its MCUMarvel didn’t waste any time and added the web-slinger as its 76th superhero involved is this internal struggle. Whether it was because Marvel didn’t have the appropriate amount of time to add any more scenes (the rental occurred in the midst of pre-production of Civil War), the film was already too long, or because the general public already fucking knows how Peter Parker became Spider-Man by now, Civil War smartly skipped over Peter Parker’s entire origin story and introduced the character as already being a crime fighter for six months. By the time Tony Stark introduces himself to Peter Parker and Aunt May, Uncle Ben has already passed and the high schooler is already jumping off of buildings and kicking ass. Civil War doesn’t tell us why this character exists, only that he does and that he’s ready to join hashtag Team Stark.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Jose Quintana: The Underrated White Sox

Every casual baseball fan knows who Chris Sale is. He’s the pitcher who just missed the AL Cy Young two years in row and started off this season going 9-0. Arguably, he’s been the South Siders best pitcher for the past handful of years now. However, as good as Sale is, he’s no Jose Quintana. As of the writing of this post, Quintana currently leads all American League pitchers in WAR (2.8) and has the 4th best WAR in the Majors. Chris Sale and his 2.3 WAR is not far behind Quintana and has the second best WAR in the AL, but for some reason, Chris Sale gets all of the love and Quintana gets stuck playing little brother like the White Sox to the Chicago Cubs.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

My Struggle Getting To Like Preacher

I really want to like AMC’s newest show Preacher. It’s from the minds of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and executive produced by Breaking Bad’s Sam Catlin. Hearing Seth Rogen discuss the comic book the show is based upon along with the litany of smart people behind the scenes, Preacher should be a masterpiece. Two episodes in, the show might be, but I just can’t tell yet. I have no idea if I like this show or not. After an hour-and-a-half premiere and an hour long second episode, I have a good idea of who these characters are and what their intentions are. The problem I am having is that I don’t have an emotional investment in any of them. Preacher so far has gone for style over substance, which it turns has made for a frustrating television watching experience.

The show is extremely confident and knows exactly the story it wants to tell and how to tell it. Rogen and Goldberg have been around television and movie making long enough that it would have been a disappointment if the show didn’t come out guns blazing. Set in rural, Friday Night Lights – esque Texas, the show feels like a science fiction Western. It has the looks and feel of a Western that just so happens to have aliens and vampires. The cinematography is gorgeous and perfectly lit and feels like a visual representation of a gritty and dark comic book.

Further, it’s characters are fully formed. It helps that Rogen and crew have pages of source material to determine what these characters should be and how they should act (and act with each other). Preacher throws you directly into its world like it’s the alien force jumping into Father Jesse Custer.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Death of the Auteur in a Cinematic Universe?

Marvel now (in)famously has a reputation of making sure their films do not have a particular directorial style attached to them ever since Edgar Wright, the director of Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, departed Ant-Man and was replaced with Peyton Reed, the director of Bring It On. Further, uber-nerd Joss Wheedon has left the Marvel Cinematic Universe and has been replaced with The Russo Brothers, who’s prior claim to fame was directing episodes of Community and Arrested Development. I am enjoying these later installments of the Avengers franchise, and I thoroughly enjoyed its latest- Captain America: Civil War- but it’s obvious these films lack a distinctive visual style. Despite having directors like Wheedon and Jon Favreau and Shane Black, the films within the Marvel Cinematic Universe feel like they were made by one person. And that’s precisely how Marvel producer Kevin Feige likes it.

The idea of auteurs and cinematic universes are in the news again thanks to reports that Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One are going in for re-shoots as Disney execs, “screened the film and felt it was tonally off with what a‘classic’ Star Wars movie should feel like”. While reports of why the film is going in for re-shoots have beendisputed, Disney is now starting to get the stigma (whether rightly or wrongly) or being anti-auteur.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Same Trade, Different Year: The White Sox Trade For James Shields and Still Seem Destined to Fail

Six weeks into the 2016 season, the Chicago White Sox sure seemed like the team to beat in the American League. They had a 22-10 record, Chris Sale was unstoppable, Adam Eaton was a crazy good maniac, and the team was on a roll. Five weeks later and the team is in free-fall. They have lost 18 of their past 25 games and currently sit in 3rd place in the AL Central, only a half game up on the 4th place Tigers. In an attempt to stop the hemorrhaging, last Saturday they traded two prospects to the San Diego Padres to acquire starting pitcher James Shields. On its face, it seems like a pretty good trade for the South Siders. They trade away a 26-year-old pitching prospect (who can barely be called a prospect any more) and a crazy young shortstop prospect who may or may not develop (but certainly won’t help the team win now) and get a proven veteran and innings eater- while only paying half of his salary. As The Ringer wrote, it’s a deal that shows the White Sox are serious about competing this year.