Category: TV

2017, Movies, TV

Crooked House (2017, Gilles Paquet-Brenner)

This is an atmospheric adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel with an all-star cast that does a very good job aesthetically, even though it gets a little over-the-top, but I’m not entirely sure the source material is quite as strong as it needs to be. SPOILERS

2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, TV

The Wire (2002)

It’s been about 10 years since The Wire finished and 16 years since it started. In that time, I have managed to watch the first three seasons four times (I think), the fourth season three times and the notorious fifth season twice. (The only other dramatic show I have ever watched more than once is Deadwood.) I …

2013, Movies, TV

Horici ker [Burning Bush] (2013, Agnieszka Holland)

Burning Bush is a 21st century version of those unaccountably good European TV mini series which are released in North America as films (often in abridged form). Though we have been living in a golden age of television in North America since right before the beginning of this century, it wasn’t always like that here. …

2017, TV

The Keepers (2017, Ryan White)

The Keepers is a fascinating, moving, infuriating and ultimately frustrating true crime documentary mini series both about who killed a nun in 1969 but, also, on a larger level, the moral corruption of the Catholic Church and the government authorities who have protected the Church or at least ignored complaints against it. HUGE SPOILERS but …

2017, TV

The Problem with Apu (2017, Michael Melamedoff)

The Problem with Apu is a brief, made-for-TV documentary about how the only major American (east) Indian character on TV for a very long time was a stereotype voiced by a white guy. As a white guy myself, of course I never had any problems with Apu. Fortunately we now live in an age where …

2012, Books, Non-Fiction, TV

The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Forever [Updated] (2012) by Alan Sepinwall

Sometime while I was making my way through The Wire and Deadwood for the first time, I had an idea for a book. It would be about how a bunch of HBO shows, and a few other select shows, altered the nature of fictional TV series (drama but also comedy) forever, finally bringing TV to …

2017, TV

Five Came Back (2017)

Five Came Back is an affecting and interesting mini-series about five major Hollywood directors who helped the US propaganda efforts in World War II. Each of the five directors is paired with a modern director/admirer who helps tell the story. That conceit is a neat one which helps distinguish this documentary from the numerous others …

2017, TV

A Christmas Story Live! (2017, Scott Ellis, Alex Rudzinski)

Like many other people my age, I grew up with A Christmas Story. For as long as I can remember, I have watched it every few Christmases except for when, at one point, I watched it every Christmas. Unlike the vast majority of movies I loved as a child, my adult cynicism has not yet …

2015, TV

John Mulaney: The Comeback Kid (2015, Rhys Thomas)

iThough I have heard his name, I have never seen John Mulaney perform before. And since this came to Netflix, I’ve learned probably a little too much about him, given the AV Club’s coverage of him back in 2015 or 2016, whenever he had his show. As usual, hype can be dangerous, as I found …

2017, TV

American Vandal (2017)

The best pop culture satires and parodies manage to combine a scathing critique of their target genre or conventions with a true enough adherence to those conventions that you actually end up scaring while you enjoy the critique. American Vandal is an excellent, note-perfect satire of true crime series like Making a Murderer that somehow manages to …

2017, TV

The Vietnam War (2017, Ken Burns, Lynn Novick)

This mammoth, 17+ hour documentary about The United States’ war in Vietnam is not perfect; it is a flawed film in at least two ways. But it is essential viewing for anyone alive today who hopes to understand the United States, its role in the world and its continued (seemingly endless) foreign policy mistakes, which …

Books, Movies, Music, Philosophy, Politics, Society, Theatre, TV

In Praise of Cultural Appropriation

This article is about the accusation of “cultural appropriation” being thrown around at works of art. I may not be entitled to write this.

1981, TV

“Brideshead Revisited” (1981)

This is a nearly unprecedented 700 minute TV adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. It is about as good as it gets for these British “chamber” TV shows, and is a reminder (when you watch it) that we are seriously missing out because more classic literature isn’t adapted into TV miniseries.

2011, TV

Frozen Planet (2011)

This is yet another pretty good Attenborough nature documentary. However, there is a strong sense of deja vu. I feel like I’ve seen these scenes before. I probably haven’t but you can always watch so many documentaries. But it’s pretty. My favourite part was the last episode, actually, which was more interesting and unusual for …

2001, TV

The Blue Planet (2001)

This is a beautiful nature documentary about the world’s oceans. Having watched the excellent Planet Earth earlier, this feels like a bit of a let down, just because I think Planet Earth is more magnificent. That isn’t the fault of The Blue Planet, but I can’t help feeling some deja vu and also, that the …

1951, 2010, Music, TV

Billy Budd (2010, Francois Rousillon)

To some, Billy Budd was the greatest English-language opera ever written when it premiered, to a few its even the greatest English-language opera ever. (To those people I say, have you ever heard of John Adams? But anyway…) I did not love it when I first heard it, for any number of reasons, the biggest …

2016, TV

Hannibal Buress: Comedy Camisado (2016)

Probably like many people who don’t pay a lot of attention to stand up, I first heard of Burress after the Bill Cosby thing blew up. In this Netflix special he deals with that, and does his particular brand of observational humour. Burress has an odd and sometimes endearing delivery (though sometimes it seems less …

2013, TV

The Great Train Robbery (2013)

I like the conceit of this very brief miniseries (two episodes): first, tell the story of the crime, then, tell how it was solved. And the results are reasonably good, the show is well acted and reasonably well made (for TV, of course). There are a few issues with the direction – particularly in the …

2010, Movies, TV

Stonehenge Apocalypse (2010, Paul Ziller)

How do I put into words how monumentally dumb this movie is? I’m not really sure. It’s one of those films that you want to live blog o live tweet because of the inane/insane lines, the utter ignorance of scientific facts and the budget (and what is forces the characters to do/say). It’s just awful. …

1980, Movies, TV

Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980, Rainer Werner Fassbinder)

In 1980, there was no real way for for North American audiences to digest non-English language television. So, on occasions when multiple-episode television programs made there way over to North America, they were screened at film festivals as “films.” A number of European “art house” films from the ’70s and ’80s are actually made-for-tv. It …

2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, TV

Mad Men (2007)

I watched Mad Men over an even longer period than most of you, so my memory of the individual episodes is not perfect. I know there were some weaker ones in there, and there even parts of seasons (perhaps even whole ones) that I didn’t enjoy on the level of the best parts of the …

2014, TV

American Experience: The Poisoners Handbook (2014, Rob Rapley)

This is a fascinating history of both the emergence of forensic science in New York City in the 1920s and 1930s, but also of homcidal (and accidental) poisonings in NYC. It’s a useful reminder about how much we take for granted in the criminal justice system but also in our food and other safety laws …

2012, TV

Bill Burr: You People Are All the Same (2012, Jay Karas)

This is the first of Burr’s specials I’ve seen. Burr is funny and provocative. He has a pseudo-folksy wisdom that he uses to say things that offend (that even offend me, which is hard). I may not agree with much of what he has to say – I think comparing domestic violence to gold-digging is, …

2015, TV

Making a Murderer (2015, Moira Demos, Laura Ricciardi)

This is a documentary in the grand tradition of The Thin Blue Line, Paradise Lost and Brother’s Keeper, but with the time-span of something like Hoop Dreams or American Promise. And, as a 10-episode TV show, it adds nearly unprecedented depth to its subject, comparable only to a Ken Burns documentary series, or Shoah. SPOILER …