‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6, Episode 1: “The Red Woman” Reaction

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For the first time since HBO began airing Game of Thrones, those of us enthralled by and dedicated to A Song of Ice and Fire and aren’t plugged into the inner circles of George R.R. Martin, David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, or anyone else steering the ship of the franchise in either media are officially in uncharted territory. We’re all equal now; nobody knows exactly what’s going to happen. To be clear, the sense of security and/or authority any of us who knew the books ever felt about the course the television series was taking or how events would unfold therein had always been misguided, presumptuous, or spurious at best, and was demonstrated to be so increasingly over the time Game of Thrones has unfolded, but now it is ironclad. Regardless of how and to what extent the novels unfold it can no longer be argued (if it ever could) that the books are canonical in manner superior to the television series. In the present and immediate future, the television series is now driving the narrative in at least equal footing with the books. Whether or not Mr. Martin eventually completes the cycle, it is totally inconceivable that the books would overtake the television series at this point.  Continue reading

‘Doctor Who’ Season 9, Episode 3: “Under The Lake” Reaction

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Most Doctor Who stories can be divided into one of two categories: ones where The Doctor is basically forced to confront an old adversary and ones where he chooses to confront or investigate something unknown out of curiosity. “Under The Lake” is a fine example of the latter category and one of the better installments thereof in some time in terms of quality.

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‘Doctor Who’ Season 9, Episode 2: “The Witch’s Familiar” Reaction

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I’ve come to almost fear two-episode story arcs on television for the simple reason that the concluding episode is almost always disappointing. Having compared “The Magician’s Apprentice” to the Season 6 premiere “The Impossible Astronaut”, I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that the last time a concluding episode delivered relative to the first on Doctor Who, in my opinion was “The Impossible Astronaut”/”Day of the Moon,” the latter episode being every bit as engaging and satisfying as the first installment, if not even more so. While I wouldn’t go that far in describing “The Witch’s Familiar” (or “The Magician’s Apprentice,” for that matter), I was certainly pleasantly surprised by how no momentum was lost between the first two episodes of this season. Indeed, “Familiar” possessed several qualities and raised several questions that the previous episode did.

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The 87th Oscars Or (The Unexpected Result of Risk Aversion)

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It has been said in so many ways so many times, but there really is something rather obscene about the spectacle of a disproportionately white and male collection of individuals almost completely out of touch with the general population getting together in an exclusive and bizarre setting to essentially pat each other on the back for perpetuating the very things that set up and reaffirm the disconnect and lack of diversity in the first place.  Continue reading

Top 10 Performances of 2013: #3

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3. Michael Fassbender: 12 Years A Slave


A textbook performance. Best Supporting Actor was the only Oscar outcome I really had an issue with. Leto did fine work in Dallas Buyers Club, but I thought Fassbender was miles ahead of him. From the first moment he’s onscreen in that profile close shot the tension onscreen increases exponentially. From a narrative standpoint, supporting characters are meant to introduce a variable to the main storyline that wasn’t present prior to their entrance. Nobody did that more effectively or more importantly than Fassbender did. In the hands of a lessor actor, this role could have been something of a “mustache twirler,” but Fassbender absolutely nails the complexity of this character, a professional dehumanizer who clearly hates himself and attempts to hide behind religion and booze. His every move is threatening, unpredictable, but Fassbender’s brilliance here is in how he doesn’t ever fully boil over, even in the enthralling “whipping sequence.” I really feel that with all the praise heaped at this film, Fassbender’s performance was somehow overlooked and subsequently under-praised. McQueen himself appears to feel the same way, highlighting his performance specifically in so many of his award acceptance speeches. Actors and filmmakers will be studying this performance for a long time to come.

‘Lost’ On Its 10th Anniversary

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Even including the disappointing series finale, I believe Lost is the finest drama in network television history. No series before or since has exhibited such bravery, inventiveness, or attention to character. Lost was and remains a true outlier in the wilderness of network programming. It stretched the limits of the televisual medium in ways no other series, including those on cable, ever had before. It stands with The Wire as one of the only shows to remain truly unique. There’s a direct link from The Sopranos to Mad Men and Breaking Bad; there’s nothing that comes close to resembling the approach and sociological exactness of The Wire. Similarly, there is nothing approaching the narrative method and attention to character in the fashion of Lost.

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Top 10 Performances of 2013: #4

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4. Michael B. Jordan: Fruitvale Station

The biggest Oscar snub by far in my opinion. He’s been at it since he was young and was great on The Wire as a teenager but this is an incredibly mature and accomplished performance for someone his age. There was no more full picture of a single character than Jordan painted for us in Fruitvale Station. This film reminded me a bit of classic neo-realism like Bicycle Thieves, showing us a single day in the life of a completely ordinary citizen simply living his life that day and all that entails. Fruitvale is not about a shooting, it’s about a young man who’s life was taken abruptly and unexpectedly. What the film does best is show us Oscar Grant’s humanity, which is channeled through and personified to the smallest detail by Michael B. Jordan in a nuanced, understated and moving performance. The academy seemed to only have enough room in their collective hearts for one “black film” this year, which is a real shame, because I actually thought this one was better than the one they chose.

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Top 10 Performances of 2013: #5

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5. Jennifer Lawrence: American Hustle

Lawrence manages to deliver a performance that’s equal parts hilarious, sexy, and maddeningly ridiculous. She’s even better here than she was in Silver Linings. The only thing funnier than “the microwave scene” in 2013 was the “quallude sequence” in The Wolf of Wall Street. “Don’t put metal in the science oven” is now my favorite David Russell line. This is one of those supporting performances that you want to be a bigger part, but its part of why she’s so compelling is that when she’s on screen she dominates and when she’s not you miss her presence. Her manner and her energy remind me a bit of Gena Rowlands, and I do not make that comparison lightly. She’s just a natural with a presence and maturity way beyond her years.  When you watch her she comes across as a twenty-year veteran, not someone in their early twenties, and her trophies already accumulated are a testament to that. I would pay money to watch her fold laundry for two hours. She’d get an Oscar nomination for that too.

Top 10 Performances of 2013: #6

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6. Chewitel Ejiofor: 12 Years A Slave

I find it incredible how this performance got lost in the shuffle of awards season. Were I a member of the AMPAS, he would have been my second choice for Best Actor after my #2 pick from this list, and I thought 2013 was the best Lead Actor pool in recent memory. I’m not quite sure the average viewer is aware of the physical toll this part must have taken on him, to say nothing of the mental aspects. I’ve been a fan of his for years, and this is his masterpiece. My favorite moments of his in this film are all dialogue-free: his reactions in big moments, his gracious smile, the singing of the spiritual at the funeral, and any moment in which he’s listening. He’s just got “that face” and he can communicate and do so much with it. He can do anything.

Top 10 Performances of 2013: #10

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10. Lupita Nyong’o: 12 Years A Slave

In the months since I posted my 12 Years piece on tumblr, the world has rightfully fallen in love with Ms. Nyong’o and it is safe to say she is an unknown no longer. The utter despair and pain captured in her performance continues to resonate.  This is the sort of performance you can feel in your bones and makes you squirm in your seat.  The whole film is like that, really, but her performance stands out in this respect because her situation is so uniquely desperate and hopeless.  She’s literally hard to watch at times, not because of the brutality she endures, but because the despair and sense of being trapped is so complete and dire in her face, in her actions, her voice.  Great work in what ought to be a star-making performance.  Now, if only the American film industry created roles for black women…