Category: TV

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 …

1996, TV

The Battle Over Citizen Kane (1996, Michael Epstein, Thomas Lennon)

This is an interesting documentary about Orson Welles and his rise to fame, and what happened when he took on one of the most powerful men in America. It’s pretty standard PBS-style but, beyond that, there’s lots of interesting information about both Heast and Welles, their lives and how they were eerily similar personalities. If …

1984, TV

Ballad of the Littler Soldier (1984, Werner Herzog, Denis Reichle)

This is a film made by Herzog and a photographer about soldiers, child soldiers and the consequences of war in Nicaragua and Honduras. It’s brief (made for TV) and is basically just reportage. It has no obvious structure and it really just feels like a film made to try to let people know what was …

1985, TV

The Dark Glow of the Mountains (1985, Werner Herzog)

This documentary Herzog made for TV focuses almost entirely on the preparation for a never before attempted double ascent of two of the highest mountains in world. In typical fashion, Herzog is more interested in the climbers than he is in the climb itself. One of the climbers in particular is articulate and philosophical about …

2014, TV

Jim Jefferies: Bare (2014)

Jefferies is a crude, crass comedian who expresses opinions I both agree with and disagree with. He is both funny and provocative and he definitely crosses the taste line regularly. I like that in my comedy. This is a good special, as these things go. I laughed consistently and definitely felt at least a little …

2000, 2002, 2004, TV

Black Books (2000)

This is one of those mildly amusing sit coms that everyone goes nuts for because it’s British. Okay, maybe that’s a little mean. But I feel like this premise (irascible shop owner and his friends) has been done before. To be honest, it took me a really long time to warm up to this show. …

2015, TV

Show Me a Hero (2015)

I have to say I sort of screwed myself here; my expectations were sky-high. This is a compelling, affecting and incredibly relevant miniseries about a public housing crisis in Yonkers in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. (I say it’s relevant because as it was airing, a government employee has made the news refusing to …

2007, TV

Bigfoot’s Reflection (2007, Evan Beloff)

This is a weird, brief film about Sasquatch that tries both to convince us that Sasquatch exists but, at the same time, attempts to be the objective about it, by including interviews with (a couple) skeptics. The film utterly fails to address the biggest problems with the Sasquat theory: no fossil record and no corpses. …

2003, TV

Angels in America (2003, Mike Nichols)

There is a part of me that wants to say this is one of the great works of American literature of the late 20th century but I don’t know enough late 20th century literature to say that with any kind of authority and, specifically, I can’t tell you how few American plays I’ve seen written …

2014, TV

Fargo – Season 1 (2014)

I normally review a TV series after I’ve watched all the seasons. However, given that the second season of Fargo will consist of an entirely new cast and plot, I am reviewing them separately. Needless to say, SPOILERS!!!  I was really, really skeptical of this idea, not only because I was once a gigantic Coen …