A movie to wrap up the two seasons of HBO's Rome is apparently in the works.
[Series creator Bruno] Heller would not discuss plot ideas, but the original series outline for "Rome" next called for the hedonistic Roman leaders to deal with the rise of a certain problematic rabbi...Ray Stevenson, who played the Shaftoe-esque character Pullo, is looking forward to reprising his role. This is by no means guaranteed to happen, but I'm excited. (via Roman Times) (3) #7/9/2009
Crooked journalist from The Wire to direct fantasy TV show pilot! Less sensationally, Tom McCarthy -- director of The Station Agent and The Visitor and the guy who played Scott Templeton on The Wire -- is directing the pilot of Game of Thrones, the fantasy series based on the books of George R. R. Martin coming to HBO.
(4) # 5/7/2009
I missed a few things in my "Notable 2009 consumptions, so far" post, and have one update, so here they are:
I saw this only a few weeks ago and I've already forgotten most of the plot points, but this movie was worth it solely for the gun shootout sequence near the end (for which director Tom Tykwer built somewhere in Germany a full scale replica of New York's Guggenheim Museum) -- one of the best scenes of its kind I've seen since perhaps Heat. I felt bad for screenwriter Eric Singer, though, who said in this podcast interview that he hoped the film didn't come off as a feature-length set up for that one scene -- to me it sort of did. Along with Children of Men, Clive Owen is now the master of well-shot action scenes.
Important Things with Demetri Martin
I haven't enjoyed a sketch comedy show this much since Mr. Show. You can view clips on the Comedy Central website.
The Hazards of Love (The Decemberists) (update)
Last night, The Decemberists played this entire album live and in full at SXSW, and NPR has the whole thing up on their site. It's not quite as tight as the album (not surprisingly for its live debut), but the energy is there. One odd thing is that the stream has pre- and post-show commentary by NPR hosts, although it was interesting to hear that the crowd didn't get fully into the performance until Shara Worden came on stage.
I haven't been posting much recently for various reasons, and I can't honestly say whether that will change or not. But one thing I haven't done here recently is mention a few things I've read/seen/heard in 2009 that are worth recommending/commenting on. So here goes:
2666 by Roberto Bolaño
I read this earlier this year and was alternately floored and bored by it (mostly the former) -- which is not all that surprising for a 900-page novel split into five tonally unrelated parts. It's such a brutal book to read at times, especially the fourth part which describes in clinical detail the murder of hundreds of women in a Juárez-like city in northern Mexico. But it's been a long time since I've read a book that immediately after I've finished compelled to me to skim through the entire book again right there, even at that late hour. And I had to go on an Internet quest after finishing it as well, enjoying especially this Nation article which delves into Bolaño's real life obsession with the Juárez murders.
I missed this seven-episode miniseries when it aired on HBO last summer, partially unmotivated by its military subject matter. But I should have never underestimated David Simon and Ed Burns -- the team that brought us The Wire. The same keen dramatic eye they brought to the city of Baltimore is played out here in the more narrowly-focused world of military command, and with the sheer power of realism they have created some of the tensest war scenes I've seen. I probably don't have to add that there's some subtle and not-so-subtle political commentary as well.
The first season of this HBO series suffered from several flaws, including a half-hearted attempt to be a Mormon polygamist version of Desperate Housewives. It's still a flawed show, often teetering on the edge of contrivance (sort of like Six Feet Under), but the current season has gotten a lot darker, and more willing to explore the lesser known aspects of Mormon culture.
Real Time with Bill Maher
Sometimes this show has the best political commentary on TV (like the first episode this season with Chrystia Freeland, Tina Brown, and Rep. Maxine Waters on the panel) and sometimes it's painful to watch (like Friday's episode with Michael Eric Dyson and Andrew Breitbart). But on average, it makes even the best of cable news embarrassing to watch.
This is probably the least consistent show I've ever watched to completion. I can't wait to see the season finale this Friday so I never have to watch this show again.
On the other hand, Lost is really good! It faltered during seasons 2 and 3, but they've found their voice during the past two. This is the only solid sci-fi entertainment I can find right now. (Please, help!)
Those of you who have read my thoughts on Beowulf 3D know that I'm a big promoter of 3D cinema, and Coraline 3D just took it to another level. Since it was filmed with stop-motion animation, watching it felt like I was miniaturized and placed into its fascinating world. And the story and art design are very good, surpassing The Nightmare Before Christmas, I think.
I enjoyed many parts of this movie, but overall the experience was ruined for me by Zack Snyder's ham-handed directorial style, especially the musical selections and over-heightened sense of violence. Surprisingly, I thought the acting was solid, and the story was handled somewhat well. I'm afraid this is the type of movie which makes viewers less likely to read the source material, which is unfortunate as Alan Moore's comic book is a subtler read.
The Hazards of Love (The Decemberists)
I've heard some good music this year, but I want to comment only on this new album from The Decemberists for now. I absolutely loved The Crane Wife, partly for its operatic rock feel. I was disappointed with my first listen to The Hazards of Love, partially because I found the subject matter fairly uninteresting for a pseudo-rock opera, but it's really grown on me with several listens, particularly the parts with Shara Worden from My Brightest Diamond singing the role of The Queen.
This New Yorker profile on Will Oldham AKA Bonnie "Prince" Billy (who made my #4 album of last year) is an interesting read, and not just because I learned that he played the father of Baby Jessica in the TV movie about her fall into a well. (I had already seen him in John Sayle's Matewan anyway.) (via @Schenkenberg)
(1) # 1/5/2009
Jason Jones's interview with the current mayor of Wasilla is awesome.
(9) # 10/21/2008
AMC is developing a TV series based on Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars. I loved the book when I read it in my high school days, and remember hoping for an adaptation. It's notable for its realistic take on the colonization of Mars, taking into account hard science, geology, cultural differences betweem the colonizers based on their Earth origins, and even colonial terrorism. (via aicn)
(2) # 10/3/2008
An exchange on the David Foster Wallace mailing list after reading this remembrance from a Pomona colleague:
Me: Since you mentioned it, I have to ask: was he fond of The Wire? The Wire, to me, comes very close to the ideal he wrote about in his Dostoevsky essay about the modern novel, even if it was more of a telenovel.
KF: He was, in fact, extremely fond of The Wire -- he stopped me in the hall one day last year and said, look, I really want to sit down and pick your brain about this, because I'm really developing the conviction that the best writing being done in America today is being done for The Wire. Am I crazy to think that?
And all I could think was -- David Foster Wallace wants to pick MY brain?
For some reason, this exchange put me in a much better mood.
Ken Burns (The Civil War, Baseball) is working on a six-part, 12-hour miniseries on America's National Parks, to be aired next year. I've been a yearly National Park Pass holder for 4 years now, so I'm looking forward to this one. (I've been to only 23 of the 58 National Parks -- I still haven't been to Nevada's one park, yet somehow the Dry Tortugas got a visit!) (via ecoscraps)
(13) # 9/9/2008
A profile on Rachel Maddow, who just got her own show on MSNBC, and is one of my favorite news personalities. Watching her go head-to-head with Pat Buchanan on MSNBC has been the highlight of the Democratic convention for me.
Unlike Olbermann, Maddow plans to interview some conservative guests. But she is determined to avoid the left-right pairings that sustain much of cable news. "It creates fake balance," she says. "I'm sorry -- we're going to have a debate about whether or not the Earth is flat? It doesn't make sense to have a debate about whether offshore drilling is going to bring down gas prices. You know what? It's not. The fact that it's false ought to be reported, or you're advancing a lie."(4) #8/27/2008
Within two days, both Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper have announced that they are cutting all ties with At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper, because Disney-ABC wants to take the show in a new direction (which probably has something to do with the fact that Ebert is still incapable of speech). The TV show has been running in various forms since 1975, most of the time with Ebert and Gene Siskel.
(7) # 7/21/2008
Juliet Lapidos at Slate argues that the current and 4th season of ABC's Lost is the best one yet, in no small part because of the narrative jumps to the future. While I think there were some individual episodes in past seasons that surpass those of the 4th, I agree that the current season has been the most narratively tense and consistently good.
(12) # 5/28/2008
Six months ago, I mentioned that Bob Odenkirk and David Cross were working on a new show for HBO, the network that produced Mr. Show. Now, new details have emerged about the show, titled David's Situation:
Odenkirk and Cross co-wrote the project, which will star Cross as himself. He leaves Hollywood to move into a suburban, gated community where he has two roommates, a right-wing conservative and a liberal hippie.That could be the description of a terrible sitcom on a network, but I have high hopes. (via aicn) (2) #3/21/2008
The creators (David Simon, Ed Burns) and the high-profile writers (Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, Richard Price) of HBO's The Wire have written a pledge in Time to practice jury nullification when it comes to non-violent drug offenses:
If asked to serve on a jury deliberating a violation of state or federal drug laws, we will vote to acquit, regardless of the evidence presented. Save for a prosecution in which acts of violence or intended violence are alleged, we will — to borrow Justice Harry Blackmun's manifesto against the death penalty — no longer tinker with the machinery of the drug war. No longer can we collaborate with a government that uses nonviolent drug offenses to fill prisons with its poorest, most damaged and most desperate citizens.(thx, luddite robot) (18) #3/6/2008
The Wire creator David Simon rants about New York City:
I mean, here is a fact... an honest to God fact: last year, there were more corpses on the three Law & Order franchises, which were all set in Manhattan... there were more dead people shown on that show than there were actual homicides in Manhattan.(3) #1/7/2008
Multiple people have sent me this semi-critical article by Mark Bowden on The Wire, which starts it fifth and final season on HBO this week. Bowden respects the show and its verisimilitude, but takes on David Simon for letting his personal anger get in the way of "accuracy and evenhandedness." I don't buy the argument that the show's bleakness is exaggerated, although I do think the show has become more didactic in its later seasons. I also dismiss the argument, which I've seen elsewhere, that the show merely serves to comfort the guilt of liberal viewers -- one might as well make the same argument about any great work of social realism. Thoughts?
(0) # 1/4/2008
Variety is reporting that new episodes of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report will be returning to Comedy Central on January 7th, 2008.
[T]he shows will try to work around the missing writers (and the guild rules that bar anything that's traditionally the domain of scribes) by relying heavily on pretaped segments from the field.(via aicn) (10) #12/20/2007