Friday, September 22, 2017

The People V O.J. Simpson

The People V O.J. Simpson obviously follows what was dubbed by some to be "trial of the century", that being football star O.J. Simpson being tried for the murder of his wife. This series could almost be described as a train wreck waiting to happen, yet to its credit it never does happen. Now to be sure there are times where the train starts sparking near the tracks, and losing traction, but it never falls off completely. Those moments are mostly found in the depiction of the man himself particularly in his most personal situations where the show veers heavily towards camp, this also is not helped by Cuba Gooding Jr who wildly overacts in the role as well as just is a poor fit for him to begin with. The bits we get of the "juice"'s personal life seemed purposefully skewed towards the melodramatic. The show shines however when we get into the courtroom where the show successfully reveals the circus, but also the intense complications involved that unfortunately are made to go beyond the man's guilt. Inside the courtroom the big personalities work for the defense, except for John Travolta who just goes a bit too far even for his role. The series though successfully though unveils the curtains on those personalities, or at least has some fun with their egos and presence. On the prosecution side though the show is perhaps at its best in revealing the unique struggles of the two attorneys who aren't quite ready for what the circus of the trial, the media, but each have their very personal investment within the case. There is where the most potent material is found, and it successfully bridges sort of the spectacle of the trial, with a real emotional connection realized. When the series is succeeds it is often quite great particularly in recreating those most intense interactions in the courtroom, when it's off it is more than a little odd. In the end the series seems to give you both the tabloids and the real journalism approach to the story. This creates not the most consistent tone, however the series is on point most of the time, which is certainly more than enough to create a compelling story.
4.5/5

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Mini Series

It is in many ways true that television is better than it has ever been, and it now where many of what will be seen as the classics of television may be created. I write this because that sort of "list" doesn't yet exist, in say the way we have a Sight and Sound poll for the greatest films of all time. Although there are series that still are treated with affection from the earlier period they are few and far between. There were earlier indications of change though with a rise in mini-series of note beginning around when this Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy premiered in the late 70's, and adaptation of John Le Carré's novel of the same name. Although it must be noted that some of technical and budgetary elements due date it as a television production of the time. Thankfully the same cannot be said for the storytelling which brilliantly captures the world found within the novel, a world of dark twists and turns, of a specifically glamorized spy world. This actually further reflected in that low key production in many ways, as the offices of the spies could be of any old office, they just are living in a normal world just like anyone else, on the surface anyway. That lack of veneer plays directly into the idea of this spy world though which is entirely without glamour or glitz found in a James Bond. These are just tired older men doing a job, although that job is one of duplicity and mercilessness. The series is brilliant in crafting this world and realizing through the various characters headlined of course by Alec Guinness's outstanding turn by George Smiley, that apparently influenced the way Le Carré wrote the character in future installments. The series is about low key yet powerful moments that capitalize on the incisive nature of the writing and the strength of the performances. It might not have the production value of a film, but it does have excellence in storytelling, perhaps even more so as the series is an early example of making use of what television has to offer that film does not.
5/5

Friday, September 1, 2017

Game of Thrones Season 7

Game of Thrones Season 7 brings the series nearer to its conclusion with the showrunners deciding to reduce rather than expand the length of the season. An odd decision if there ever was one, given the complexity of the show, though originally I thought perhaps it was to expand each individual episode, but though there were a few episodes that were a bit longer their total length is only about twenty minutes more than seven hours. This must be said was a mistake. Although there were naysayers saying the early seasons took to long in their pace, I would say that is a nonsensical reaction to the show's story telling and storytelling in general, a recent attitude among some viewers who seem to crave character deaths than a genuinely compelling or entertaining show. Never cater to these viewers who frankly should just read a Wikipedia page entry on any given show since what happens seems to matter more than the actual execution of it. Although I suppose I won't become an overly critical sort, as again when something is popular this can lead to nitpicking rather genuine criticism, such saying "where'd the army of the dead get those chains" is a nonsensical thing to gripe about, however the carelessness involving geography is a worthy claim given it had not been ignored, for the most part, in the previous seasons. Again another point though is that the source material also fell into problems in its last two entries partially due to mind such ideas, which is noble, yet it ended up being perhaps a foolish notion given the expansion of the world lead George R.R. into a corner that might be unable to escape from. That leaves the show to attempt to close out their series in their own way, their own way apart. Now in part this season, though the pacing was particularly swift did accomplish more than expected in creating a compelling conflict between not only Cersei and Daenerys, but also Daenerys and Jon Snow. In the first half of the season, though they perhaps should have slowed down just a tad accomplished much and did seem to find the complexity of the politics in the world in quite the effective fashion. It also delivered on its "promise" of Dragons finally in a truly stunning sequence which was also was not simplified due to the character involved. Its second half are where the problem arose though when it shifted to the threat White Walkers, who were never a problem before. This is where the pace really went into a downright ridiculous overdrive particularly in the contrived mission, by the writers not the characters, to get a Dragon beyond the wall. That is where all the proper build up the series went out the window. It went beyond just the pacing as it also so quickly removed certain complexities particularly within the Snow and Daenerys conflict. Now a slower pace could have allowed the writers to build to a more natural reason for this development but instead we got a rush job. The same goes for our side story of Winterfell, the Stark sister and Little Finger's last scheme. The downfall behind the man quietly behind the entire series was sensible in terms what should have caused it, and again even within that situation in a single season it could have been completely satisfying. The reduced time though forced the false conflict between the Stark sisters, as well as made Little Finger's plan seem just a little too slight, again slowing things down would have only benefited all. Now having said that I again do think the slathering of criticism is ridiculous. The accusations of fan service, aka when the loved characters are successful is mostly unfounded. It it rather the need of a show to eventual fulfill expectations as to constantly subvert them would be impossible, not to mention if you've subverted them long enough that becomes the expectation. Even with the flaws of this season it was still a highly entertaining show even in its weakest episode, and the characters we've become so invested are still compelling, for the most part. Hopefully the showrunners will take a step back slow the pace down for the final season to give the show a proper sendoff worthy for the entire series. This season after all was not a failure as the greatness of the show was still evident, even if the flaws were the most evident since season 5. 
4.5/5