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Archive for the ‘Television’

The recent horror in Game of Thrones had better be for a reason.

May 25, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Television No Comments →

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There’s been a lot of controversy over “Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken”, the 6th episode of the 5th season of Game of Thrones. Many viewers were upset because something horrible happened to one of the major characters that reminded them over previous instances when this horror occurred on the show. Can’t the writers think of something besides that, they demanded. The previous times, the horror unfolded pretty much as it had happened in the books. This time, since the series has started to differ from the books in a big way, the horror is a development cooked up by the showrunners. (Differing from the books is a good decision, because if you’ve read Book 5, it’s a slog. Too many minor characters who are not real characters but expository devices; too much of Daenerys moping over Daario. That book makes you wonder if GRRM made a mistake in killing off all the really interesting characters.)

Game of Thrones is a show that delights in upsetting its audience and throwing them for a loop. However, those unpleasant events served not just to upset the viewers, but to move the story along. In this case the story was going there anyway, did they have to throw in that horror?

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Our problem with episode 5.6 is not just that horror, which is not a big surprise because the current season has been building up to it. Our problem is that the episode was strangely flat and badly-paced. Momentous things happened, but the way they occurred seemed too casual and throwaway. Example: Jorah Mormont learns that his father the Old Bear is dead, but then the moment is forgotten. Game of Thrones has been consistently first-rate, so it’s almost shocking to see lazy filmmaking.

Ramsay Snow-Bolton has been built up as a cut-rate Joffrey Baratheon, but he’s not nearly as compelling. If you just wanted another Joffrey, you should’ve kept the original Joffrey.

The encounter between Jaime Lannister and Bronn and the Sand Snakes, which had promised to be one of the (non-book-based) highlights of the season, was a particular non-event. They’re all supposed to be terrific fighters, even if one of them is missing a hand, but the action scenes were a snore. Someone in that fight may have gotten a lethal dose of poison, but the significance is lost on non-readers (So that person better not die of the poison).

The horror that transpires at the end of that episode had better be for a reason. (We mean storytelling-wise, not “But these things always happen in Westeros”-wise.) Theon Greyjoy had better wake up from his Reek stupor and flay Ramsay Bolton alive since that’s the Bolton sigil anyway. Sansa had better stab Roose Bolton in the heart, take Walda back to her father and kill all the Freys. The people of the North had better rise up and overthrow the Boltons. Stannis Baratheon’s army had better show up and name Sansa Queen in the North. And when Littlefinger returns with an army from King’s Landing and the Vale, Winterfell had better crush them and Sansa cut off Littlefinger’s head.

These things will probably not happen, but all storytelling decisions have consequences and this is the payment for the horror.

Wolf Hall: The realpolitik of sex and power

May 15, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Television No Comments →

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On the day of execution, the prisoner is led out of the tower to a small stage in front of an eager crowd. The prisoner, a woman who once had the King of England under her thumb, looks pale and child-like. As she approaches the stage, trailed by her ladies-in-waiting, she opens her wallet and hands out coins to random spectators. She keeps glancing up at the tower, as if she expects some last-minute reprieve. In the audience is the king’s secretary Thomas Cromwell, who had engineered her rise to power then at the king’s behest, engineered her fall.

That is the penultimate scene of the BBC miniseries Wolf Hall, and this is not a spoiler—for nearly 500 years, people have known the outcome of that royal drama. What is admirable about Peter Straughan’s adaptation of the novels by Hilary Mantel is that we know exactly what’s going to happen, but we still lean forward and stare at the screen, drawn in by the almost-unbearable tension and the bleak beauty of the scene. Wolf Hall is so good, it is spoiler-proof.

Read our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld.

The Jinx is the creepiest TV show we’ve seen this year, and it’s a documentary.

April 24, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Crime, Current Events, Monsters, Television No Comments →

A dismembered body is discovered in Galveston, Texas, wrapped in trash bags. It is missing a head. The dead person is identified as Morris Black, resident of a run-down boarding house. Police find clues in the trash bags and blood in the house. They arrest Black’s neighbor, a middle-aged mute woman named Dorothy Ciner. Who, it turns out, is neither mute nor a woman.

Why was Robert Durst, scion of a New York real estate empire, living in a crummy boarding house pretending to be a mute woman? It was not the first time he was in such close proximity to a corpse. Twenty years earlier his young wife Kathie, a medical student, disappeared and was never seen again. Ten years earlier his best friend Susan Berman was shot dead in her house in Beverly Hills. In both cases Durst had not been treated as a suspect.

Read our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld.

How To Get Away With Murder: First, don’t hire these lawyers.

April 17, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Television No Comments →

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The latest hit from super-producer Shonda Rhimes (Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy) promises to teach us How To Get Away With Murder and then throws in needless complications to make sure we flunk the course.

The first question we might ask of the series is, “Whose murder?” This show does not stint on corpses. Is it the week’s high-profile case being handled by hotshot attorney Annalise Keating (Viola Davis)? Or the murder of sorority girl Lila Stangard, which seems to have been committed by everyone on the University of Pennsylvania-like Middleton campus?

Or is it the murder we keep catching glimpses of in flashbacks that may trigger seizures? This last one is presented like a coy, spastic striptease; by the time we have all the facts our eye muscles could bench-press law books from all the rolling exercise. I suspect that if events unfolded in chronological order instead of arbitrarily flashing forwards and backwards, this show would be a routine murder mystery.

Read our TV column The Binge in BusinessWorld.

Things we will miss while we’re away

April 15, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies, Television No Comments →

We’re off to Udine for the film festival next week, then Vienna and Budapest. We’re always thrilled to be travelling, but we will miss some things we’d been looking forward to.

1. The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Blast. But it’ll still be showing when we get back, or we can watch it there, where it opens later than it does here.

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Who does the Avengers’ laundry? Iron Man could just fly through a car wash, but the other costumes look dry clean-only. If they put them in the washing machine, they would shrink…

Toss them in the washer! Toss them in the washer!

2. The start of Game of Thrones Season 5

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Would the showrunners have made Grey Worm a more prominent character if Jacob Anderson, who plays him, weren’t so cute? They actually cooked up a relationship angle for an Unsullied. Not that we mind. Also we hear he’s the most fluent at the Valyrian language.

We have fond memories of the Tyrion and Bronn show on the road from Season 1 and are looking forward to the Jaime and Bronn/Tyrion and Jorah shows on the road this season.

3. Marvel’s Daredevil

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Promises to erase memory of the movie. We’re glad Marvel’s TV arm got its act together after the Agents of SHIELD debacle. Loved Marvel’s Agent Carter, hope they do another series with Peggy in the 1950s-60s.

By the way we loved the pilot of The Cosmopolitans, Whit Stillman’s Amazon series which could be a sequel to his movies. (Apparently its continued existence is in doubt, which is not surprising but is still dispiriting.) Chloe Sevigny could be playing the same character from Last Days of Disco, Adam Brody could be reprising his role from Damsels in Distress, and we expect Christopher Eigeman to turn up any minute. Back to repeat viewings of Metropolitan and Barcelona.

4. The Pacquiao-Mayweather fight. Specifically, the 28 Days Later emptiness of Manila’s streets while the boxing is on. Then again, you just know there will be a rematch.

Bill Murray sings the love theme from Jaws; Miley Cyrus makes us shut up

April 14, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Music, Television 4 Comments →

The sketch in the Saturday Night Live 40th anniversary special that caused food to shoot out of our nose: Bill Murray as lounge singer Nick Ocean singing the love theme from Jaws. (Remember his theme from Star Wars?) Here he is, introduced by Maya Rudolph’s spot-on Beyonce.

The musical number that made us shut up and listen: Miley Cyrus singing Paul Simon’s 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover. In the lower register, none of that screeching every pop singer now resorts to. Her country style really works for the song. When she tires of being an easy target, that singer must be taken seriously.

In other music news, here’s an astute analysis of Madonna’s increasingly desperate attempts to get attention: Madonna Kisses Drake. It was recommended by our friend who has just realized his “mother” is fallible.

It’s like having your aunt kiss you at the graduation party. You know, the creepy old one who wears too much makeup and winks at you when you’re in the kitchen… The one who’s unmarried and seems to want to sleep with no one so much as YOU!

I get it Madonna. There’s ageism in the music business. But you can’t complain about it if you don’t ACT your age. You’re acting like a twenty year old. With all these publicity stunts, getting the brain dead press to fawn over you, because you give them access.