Something is horribly wrong in this episode and I’m disturbed

You guys #nyff (at Alice Tully Hall)

It’s on (at Joyce Kilmer Park)


Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me.

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.

Seamus Heaney
(spotted on the subway)

Autumn nights in Brooklyn #nofilter (at Bedford Stuyvesant YMCA)


The pilot draws on our by now well-established political TV vocabulary to pack a lot into its narrative: there is some intrigue, some comedy, some nice moments of marital harmony, and of course the need to perform some political gymnastics in order to do good in the world. There’s also a bit of Thomas Aquinas from Bess’s husband Henry (Tim Daly), an apparently appreciative religion professor at Georgetown (stay tuned for commentary, if this becomes significant), and a cast of minor characters that recall the fun quirk of the minor characters who pop up in another political TV show: West Wing. Also, it’s nice to see Leoni, aged 48, in a leading role.

Actually, Madam Secretary recalled West Wing to me in several respects, not just for the marriage and the characters, but for the way it characterizes politics in DC. Over at The AV Club, Sonya Saraiya gave the pilot a B+, saying that the show is solid and has the seeds of being something great, but “its idealism and patriotism both sound a little too uncomplicated for the modern viewer choosing among True DetectiveGame Of Thrones, and Homeland on a Sunday night.”

So I’m gonna go out on a limb here: I’m totally okay with that. For a reason I hope is good.

Don’t get me wrong: I love dark, sinister political comedies, which have been the stuff of drama for a long time (well before Shakespeare wrote Macbeth orRichard IIIon which House of Cards is based). Critics have alternately praised and lamented the fact that after The West Wing, our political dramas have been almost wholly cynical, featuring bad people twisting the political process to bad ends.

But, people: all of our dramas are doing that right now.

Read more here.

First instruction on my microwave popcorn bag


Today over at the New York Times’ “Op-Talk” page, Hanna Kozlowska takes a look at what made Gilmore Girls so popular—and what’s behind its continued appeal.

This is, of course, prompted by the recent announcement that the show will be streaming in its entirety, beginning October 1. That announcement exploded the Internet in a good way (something we don’t see all that often these days, what with the NFL and the Middle East and the outrage-of-the-day), as Kozlowska points out.

In case you lived under a rock in a prior decade, Gilmore Girls was a WB (and CW) dramedy that aired from 2000 to 2007. In it, Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) was a single mother who raised her brainy daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel) in the small Connecticut town of Stars Hollow, populated by quirky, lovable characters, especially Luke (Scott Patterson), the gruff guy who owned the diner and Lorelai’s on-and-off love interest, and Lorelai’s best friend Sookie (Melissa McCarthy!), a chef. The show was funny, noticeably fast-talking, and mostly friendly enough for parents and teens to watch together; it grappled with some very big themes in both Lorelai’s and Rory’s coming-of-age stories, and it did it without seeming like a Story About Growing Up.

Read more here.


A time-honored tradition of movies follows these basic contours: adult progatonist’s parent dies/relative gets married/family celebrates holiday. Adult protagonist returns to ancestral home from comfortable, grown-up life to discover that everything that he/she has assumed about him/herself is blown to pieces, and he/she must rediscover self in the company of an inevitably zany but ultimately loving family.

Usually a parent or other elder relation is unhinged. Explosions, accidents, or sexual escapades of a dubious nature ensue. Frequently the protagonist’s romantic life is on the rocks, which is convenient for the introduction of an old or new flame who can reveal to the protagonist some new dimension of life or identity. Ultimately, protagonist must learn to loosen up or accept people for who they are or take life one day at a time or something else you might read in a slogan on Pinterest.

I inexplicably adore this genre—even the mediocre-to-pretty-bad ones. I can rattle off a list off the top of my head from the last decade or so: Garden State,Margot at the WeddingRachel Getting MarriedElizabethtownA Christmas Tale,August: Osage CountyThe Royal Tenenbaums (lots of Wes Anderson’s work, actually).

So, as an aficianado, I beg of you: if you get the impulse to see This Is Where I Leave You, save your money and watch any of the above films. Any of them, even the ones with low Rotten Tomatoes scores. They’re all better than this one.

Read the rest here.

Long run recovery, in one picture #Sunday


One kind of crime story sticks to the crime, sometimes straying into comedy (the Oceans films, for instance) or horror. But another sort fills the slot that larger, cosmic myths used to fill: they seek the origins of good and evil and plumb the shoals of redemption and damnation.

The Drop (along with other stories by Dennis Lehane, like Shutter IslandGone Baby Gone, and Mystic River) is of the second type. People (mostly men) do bad, even reprehensible, definitely irreversible things. And then they suffer the consequences, which are less about punishment than psychological self-torture.

Two such men are at the center of The Drop: Bob (Tom Hardy) and Cousin Marv (James Gandolfini, in his last role). Cousin Marv owns a bar called “Cousin Marv’s Bar” in Brooklyn, or at least he did until a few years ago, when the mob came knocking and he caved. Now he just lookslike he owns the bar, though he’s functionally just the manager, and he lives with his sister and watches his life pass by.

Bob tends bar - he is, in fact, Cousin Marv’s actual cousin, though everyone calls him that - and seems to have a pretty quiet life otherwise. He lives in the house he grew up in, both his parents having died. The bar is sometimes the designated “drop bar” for all the under-the-table transactions that go on around the city; he takes care of that when necessary. He gives the old lady at the end of the bar free drinks and takes the ribbings the regulars give him. He (literally) saves a puppy he finds beaten and abandoned in a trash can, cleans its wounds, names it for a saint, and adopts it.

He also goes to 8am mass every day. But he doesn’t take the Eucharist.

New plates. (Wait for it …)


It’s a question that’s been asked since the earliest days of man, one that seems implicit in the stories as far back as Noah’s. It’s asked again with Sodom and Gomorrah, and it crops up over and over. If mankind is wicked, why keep them around?

The line between apocalyptic and dystopian in part is drawn by the answer to that question. Hunger Games is dystopian, and seems to imply, in the end, that it would serve humans right if they got wiped out. A story like The Road (and perhaps against its author’s will) implies that it is the small acts of human kindness that make us worth preserving; the fact that we’re capable of loving and caring for one another means we deserve to go on as a species, even after the social order has been wiped out. Even after the rules and structures that keep the barbarians at the gates from entering have disappeared.

Even after the barbarians that reside in us have taken over.

The season finale of The Leftovers wanders tenuously down this line betwen apocalyptic and dystopian, and never comes to a definite conclusion. 

Read more.


It’s a question that’s been asked since the earliest days of man, one that seems implicit in the stories as far back as Noah’s. It’s asked again with Sodom and Gomorrah, and it crops up over and over. If mankind is wicked, why keep them around?

The line between apocalyptic and dystopian in part is drawn by the answer to that question. Hunger Games is dystopian, and seems to imply, in the end, that it would serve humans right if they got wiped out. A story like The Road (and perhaps against its author’s will) implies that it is the small acts of human kindness that make us worth preserving; the fact that we’re capable of loving and caring for one another means we deserve to go on as a species, even after the social order has been wiped out. Even after the rules and structures that keep the barbarians at the gates from entering have disappeared.

Even after the barbarians that reside in us have taken over.

The season finale of The Leftovers wanders tenuously down this line betwen apocalyptic and dystopian, and never comes to a definite conclusion. 

Read more.


It’s a question that’s been asked since the earliest days of man, one that seems implicit in the stories as far back as Noah’s. It’s asked again with Sodom and Gomorrah, and it crops up over and over. If mankind is wicked, why keep them around?

The line between apocalyptic and dystopian in part is drawn by the answer to that question. Hunger Games is dystopian, and seems to imply, in the end, that it would serve humans right if they got wiped out. A story like The Road (and perhaps against its author’s will) implies that it is the small acts of human kindness that make us worth preserving; the fact that we’re capable of loving and caring for one another means we deserve to go on as a species, even after the social order has been wiped out. Even after the rules and structures that keep the barbarians at the gates from entering have disappeared.

Even after the barbarians that reside in us have taken over.

The season finale of The Leftovers wanders tenuously down this line betwen apocalyptic and dystopian, and never comes to a definite conclusion. 

Read more.