Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Show Me A Hero

Show Me A Hero is a six part miniseries focusing on the tensions revolving around the opposition against mandated public housing within the city of Yonkers. The series itself focuses mostly around one of the mayors of the city during this conflict Nick Wasicsko played by Oscar Isaac. The series carefully focuses upon that man's personal story even as the main story continues even past his part of the story. The series also shows random personal stories of the various eventual residents of the housing. I will say that though the intention is obvious in the stories, to give life to those changed by the housing, this are the weakest aspects. They are just very standard stories with nothing particularly interesting or notable about any one of them. Although they can be normal, the problem is they are indeed boring in their normality. Every time it cut away, despite the purpose being there, it felt like we were cutting away from the actual main story. That is the case as the main story focusing on Wasicsko's personal story, which has the needed drama, and the story of the housing is compelling throughout. The drama is there particularly in Wasicko's story due to Isaac's heartbreaking performance. The problem is if you probably got rid of all the side stories except Wasicko's you could probably reduce to a feature length film which would have been engaging throughout which this mini-series is not.

Fargo Season 2

Fargo 2 dares again not only to somehow continue being the greatest show ever inspired by a film, but also somehow making a prequel not feel tired or inspired. In fact the sequel is only greater in scope and ambition, and leads to one of the greatest television seasons ever made. Season 2 switching back to the 70's and this is not just an aesthetic choice. It is intelligent narrative and thematic choice as explores the ideas of the paranoia after Watergate and as well as a changing in America itself. This is represented, with proper subtly, through the central conflict between the family business of the criminal Gerhardt family against the corporate crime group wishing to move in on their territory. The series again feel no constraint in its title instead cleverly moving on to include elements from other Coen brothers films particularly Miller's Crossing and No Country For Old Men. Again though this is never as simple as having it, they blend in all into its always effortlessly compelling narrative and style. This season is also worth noting for its incredible cast where every single member is on their A-game giving a three dimensionality to even the most minor role. No one feels a throwaway and in doing so makes the season all the more complex and emotional even when we have technically one group of bad people killing another group of bad people. It is so much fun, yet always investing again in that it uses tropes we know always as strength by either using good ways, using them in new ways, or subverting them in a most clever fashion. The season is a masterpiece which proves just what is capable within the medium of television.

Fargo Season 1

Fargo Season 1 attempts to create a good television show out of adapting a great movie, the idea behind this is commonly attempted yet most often leads to failure, in fact there was even already an unsuccessful Fargo television series pilot before this one. Of course that earlier series and most commonly go oh here's the movie character, played by someone else, going on a different adventure every week. Well this Fargo series tosses all that out instead taking the tropes of the show and playing with them. This season takes the idea of a hapless salesman, a dogged atypical police officer, and a vicious killer then does what it pleases. Their paths being highly divergent from the original film with but a final scene. The series continues to mess with the ideas by throwing a few other killers, worthy of their own story into the mix, along with bumbling FBI agents, dark crime syndicates, and black mail scheme on top of the overarching criminal investigation. The series goes as it pleases never confined by the series instead it offers it more material and the overarching style found in the series' direction worthy of a feature film.

True Detective Season 1 and Season 2

It is best to look at both season of True Detective together as that is the easiest way to see how season 2 could go so wrong after season 1 went so right. Both seasons are written with thick philosophical dialogue within in its long convoluted plot. Season 1 thrives in this regard as it importantly grants the dialogue to characters marked around death that being Matthew McConaughey's Rust and the killers they find deep in the swamps of Louisiana. The dialogue seems fitting to the minds of those men and also all the performers, particularly McConaughey make it natural in spoken form. Season 2 is less careful giving often to random characters such as Vince Vaughn's gangster who is only strangely poetic and it does not help that Vaughn struggles with the lines. They never seem natural to those who speak it and little sense is given to how odd they all sound. Now in neither season does the plot flow as smoothly as say a L.A. Confidential or a Chinatown. Season 1 though you can follow it fairly well, maybe only lost a point here or there. Season 2 the whole plot is thick yet wholly unengaging so even though the information is said it is hard to care. Both focus on the character's personal lives yet the first season has two characters of contrasting values, and though Woody Harrelson's Marty is also troubled he outwardly seems happy. In season 2 the series bluntly hits you with four main characters all desperate in one way or another that comes off as almost a parody of a gritty cop show. One of the most damning elements of season 2, and one of the strongest elements of season 1 is the directorial vision. In season one there was the singular vision of Cary Joy Fukunaga which created such a vivid and captivating horror atmosphere out of its setting. The direction amplified the writing and even helped to overcome some of it weak points. There is no cohesive direction in season 2 leaving it often a lifeless affair and making nothing out of its urban world, after making such a rich one during season 1. Another unfortunate loss was in that otherworldly horror hinted at in season 1 that helped make the series unique, while this is almost wholly dropped in season 2 for an often rote story about corrupt cops trying to cover their tracks. Season 1 was not a flawless series but it was series that was able to even wear its flaws well. Season 2 is a deeply flawed series that has the occasional inspired moments muted by those flaws.
5/5 - Season 1
2/5 - Season 2

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road is probably the greatest action film ever made, but the question there is of course why. Well in terms of a film it is fascinating example of a when a director gets to go back to their own property, with real enthusiasm, and finally perhaps to get the film they always wanted to make in terms of budget and the allowances of current technology. Although one can wax nostalgic for Road Warrior, Fury Road is the superior film, but then again it is superior than perhaps all films in its genre. Fury Road in a way is pure cinema and is such an accomplishment in that sense. Now I mean pure cinema in the way so many silent films are but also in terms of being a story told in a way only possible in film. Fury Road is even a film that would not be possible in say television as its pacing is part of its splendor. The film runs like a Swiss watch, in utter perfect timing as it is one of the best edited film well ever. Every sequence flows so naturally and fluidly, and they even flow naturally and fluidly from one to the next. There are no pitfalls or bumps. The set pieces are all daring in their own ways, thrilling in their grandeur, yet intense as they need to be. There are no missteps. Fury Road though has actually led some to claim there is no story, the same people who probably complain about films with too much exposition as well, but there is the exact story the film needs. The plot is technically simple but the world is expansive and vivid that it works within it. The development of this apocalypse takes predecessors of the originals yet is wholly original in itself in its development of the various factions and cultures present. Nothing is left just to be, everything has a story within that the film makes vivid through the important though minor details and its minimalistic yet meaningful dialogue. The film does not forgo character at any point. This includes the central leads who all have their own arcs crafted so beautifully and with such emotion even though they only ever flow along with the film. The side characters though are never dismissed as the film provides ample understanding to each, even side henchman are surprisingly vivid in their realization. The film shows what film itself is capable of, and is masterpiece of cinema.

No Country For Old Men

No Country For Old Men was the film that won best picture in the year of the masterpieces, though only competing with fellow "masterpiece" There Will Be Blood in terms of the actual Oscar nominations. The film is notable as it finally brought Coen brothers their Oscar wins for picture and director, although this came with only their second adaptation of a source material, and really the first since O Brother Where Art Thou was heavily altered from the Odyssey. Despite being an adaptation of it is in no way truly a departure for them with the filming of opening monologue directly alluding to the opening of their first film Blood Simple. It technically is bit more serious even in terms of their dramas though they still find ways to bring forth their trademark humor, though often through very subtle, very dark methods. These are most often small pauses or slight actions such as when Javier Bardem's serial killer Anton Chigurh almost chokes on what he's eating, when hearing the gas station attendant he's playing a life and death game with married into his gas station. Those moments, which are through out, provide the Coens touch in perhaps the most overt fashion but that is not all there is in terms of their adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's bleak novel. The efficiency and effectiveness of their work is remarkable, while outside of one curious factor. That curious factor being the set decoration which in no way alludes to the story's 1980's setting, which is a bit strange for a Coen brothers film. However every other technical element is immaculate, but never at a distant. Whether that is Roger Deakins's, again, incredible cinematography creating such a beautiful yet desolate and foreboding Texas, or the incredible, almost scoreless, sound design the Coens take these elements to craft such a such a tension filled thriller. The film though comes into question though in its end result which is of nihilism rather than the technical optimism of a different type of thriller. The Coens's work does not lose their style but rather amplify the theme through the dread filled reality they create within the film. Although it is not my favorite Coens brother film or film from 2007 it is a remarkable film in its right as well as a fascinating stretching and alteration of the directors' usual style.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford

The Assassination Of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is Andrew Dominick's follow up to the crazy character study Chopper, and though that is a good film Dominick makes a great leap as a filmmaker here. This is one of the greatest sophomoric efforts by a director as he crafts a masterpiece, in sort of the year of masterpieces. The film is in part character studies of the two men the legendary outlaw and the hanger on who eventually killed him in his own attempt for fame and fortune. The film dissects both men brilliantly but it goes further than this in its ambitious intention. As it also captures the idea of the creation of a legend and the falseness of such a thing. This is part by the complex performances by Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck as the titular pair, aided by the just about spotless supporting cast. It goes further though in the way it in front of your eyes creates the legend while also subverting it. The technical elements are all consistent in creating the legend whether it is Roger Deakins's awe inspiring cinematography or Nick Cave and Warren Ellis's elegant score. The writing though subverts it so cleverly yet also emotionally. What is so remarkable about the film is it does not set any villains or heroes within the picture rather offering complicated men that it so effectively dissects. It shows both Jesse as the charismatic outlaw and the vicious psychopath, it sympathizes with Robert's choice but also his regrets. The film never simplifies only offering a complex and effortlessly compelling portrait of the west.