Body and Soul (1993)

Categories: 1993 and TV.

I keep a list of movies to watch. There are thousands of movies on the list and I will never watch all of them. I add titles to it all the time. Occasionally, due to laziness, I omit the year a movie was released when I add a movie. I did that with the film noir Body and Soul. So when I reached the “Bo” section of the list I didn’t know which Body and Soul I was looking for. The library had one, and it had Kristin Scott Thomas in it, so I naturally assumed it was the “movie” Read More

Borgen (2010)

Categories: 2010, 2011, and 2013.

Borgen is a remarkable, unique Danish television show that may have established it’s own genre. Every other TV show to focus on politics that I have ever seen has added elements of fantasy; normally these shows and movies are “political thrillers” where someone always dies; occasionally they’re comedies. Either way, there is a balance between realism (in some cases) and concessions to entertainment. Borgen is not one of those shows. Borgen is very like the most realistic fictional TV show ever made about politics. Read More

Frozen Planet (2011)

Categories: 2011 and TV.

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 one of these documentaries, given that it focuses on humans. I learned something! 7/10 Read More

The Blue Planet (2001)

Categories: 2001 and TV.

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 production values improved on the more ambitious one. But this is still great to look at and reasonably informative. 8/10 Read More

Billy Budd (2010, Francois Rousillon)

Categories: 1951, 2010, Music, and TV.

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 being that Britten’s music is entirely too conservative for me. I do like a few of his pieces but, for the most part, I prefer my 20th century music a little more interesting than Britten. But I will say this live production from 2010 (filmed Read More

Hannibal Buress: Comedy Camisado (2016)

Categories: 2016 and TV.

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 effective). I found his material to veer from pretty damn funny to so out of my experience that I wasn’t even sure what the joke was. But, for the most part, it was funny, and a few of the jokes were really good. 6/10 Read More

The Great Train Robbery (2013)

Categories: 2013 and TV.

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 second episode – but overall it’s entertaining and avoids the usual desire to spice things up. Whether or not this is an accurate telling, it feels accurate. Worth your time on a lazy long weekend if you’re into true crime stuff. 7/10 Read More

Hotel Dallas (2016, Sherng-Lee Huang, Livia Ungur)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

This is a thought-provoking, at times very amusing, but very artsy examination of the affect of the TV show Dallas on Romania during the communist era, with ruminations on memory, change, media representations of reality, and other things. Yes, there’s a lot going on here. Perhaps too much. But for the most part the movie – really several different smaller ideas, including a musical, rapped up into one thing- lives up to its philosophical posturing. And it is the rare pretentious art film that is funny – I’ve seen a lot, trust me, I know. Though it is not consistently Read More

Climate Change by the Numbers (2015)

Categories: 2015 and Movies.

This is an interesting TV documentary about mathematical models in climate science. It’s rather cursory in its overall focus – three mathematicians explain to us three numbers from the IPCC’s report – but rather detailed in the individual segments. It’s a good example of good popular science TV, as it’s easy to understand and interesting enough, but its made-for-tv nature and it’s relative brevity keep it from being a must watch. 7/10 Read More

Stonehenge Apocalypse (2010, Paul Ziller)

Categories: 2010, Movies, and TV.

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. There’s stuff about Stonehenge detonating volcanoes and destroying the world. There’s stuff about a map that is among the most poorly drawn maps I think I’ve seen in a movie. There’s a hilarious (willful?) ignorance about how governments work. There’s the totally awful CGI (though Read More

Metal Evolution (2011)

Categories: 2011 and TV.

This is an in depth examination of metal by the man most associated with covering metal on film (though I have yet to see either of his movies). The positive side of this show is that it is a landmark: I don’t think there’s anything like it out there to focus on just a single genre of music. It’s an in depth, it’s informative, it’s enjoyable. The negative: despite it’s length, it somehow manages to miss a bunch of major subgenres (Black, Death, Stoner, Grindcore) but it also feels cursory in its examination of some major bands (FNM!). Also, the Read More

Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980, Rainer Werner Fassbinder)

Categories: 1980, Movies, and TV.

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 is a testament to the quality of some European television that their mini-series could pass for “art house” films in The United States and Canada. One of these films is Fassbinder’s 900 minute adaptation of Berlin Alexanderplatz, a novel I haven’t read but one of Read More

Mad Men (2007)

Categories: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and TV.

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 show. But I want to talk about the show as a whole, and not dwell on its occasional missteps or the fact that it ran on too long (like most other American TV shows…). Read More

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

Categories: 2014 and TV.

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 – we’re protected now, but we once weren’t, when people were able to sell radium-based “tonics” and cosmetics, for example. (Jesus tapdancing Christ.) Anyway, it’s interesting stuff and it’s on Netflix. 8/10 Read More

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

Categories: 2012 and TV.

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, um, fucking stupid – but I appreciate his provocativeness, and his willingness to call out hypocrisy. I do think he’s wrong about a lot – like so many men who believe men somehow have it hard nowadays he utterly fails to put himself in the Read More

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

Categories: 2015 and TV.

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 ALERT!!! Read More

Danger 5 (2012, 2015)

Categories: 2012, 2015, and TV.

I can find no news of a third season of Danger 5 so I will review it here. If another season comes along then by all means I will watch it. Danger 5 is a delightfully deliriously absurd take on those old puppet adventure shows, only it’s live action. It’s set in a permanent WWII, where, every week, the gang have to try to stop the Nazis and kill Hitler, before teaching us how all to make a cocktail. The show may take on easy targets, but it’s the sheer volume of those targets – and their insanely absurd interaction Read More

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

Categories: 1996 and TV.

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 you’re into movie history – or, frankly, the history of the United States in general – then this is worth seeking out. 7/10 Read More

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

Categories: 1984 and TV.

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 happening at the time. It’s pretty un-Herzogian in that sense. It’s certainly interesting – I knew nothing about this – but it’s hardly an essential piece of his oeuvre. 6/10 Read More

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

Categories: 1985 and TV.

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 what he does to an extent that is refreshing and informative. And though this is hardly one of Herzog’s essential documentaries, it is yet another of his penetrating insights into human beings who attempt to push the limits of what is possible. 7/10 Read More

Jim Jefferies: Bare (2014)

Categories: 2014 and TV.

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 offended at times as well. It’s hardly live changing, but it’s a good time. 7/10 Read More

Black Books (2000)

Categories: 2000, 2002, 2004, and TV.

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. Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood. I do feel like it got funnier as it went on, even if the pattern of the jokes really didn’t change much. Sit Coms are generally boring. This is better than many, but hardly one of the great Read More

Show Me a Hero (2015)

Categories: 2015 and TV.

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 uphold the law. Also, it is incredibly relevant given the current war on black people in the US.) It is stocked with a whole bunch of great and name actors playing fairly insignificant roles, which results in a an incredible sense of place and great Read More

Bigfoot’s Reflection (2007, Evan Beloff)

Categories: 2007 and TV.

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. Whether or not the film of Sasquatch shown in the film is real – and though I suspect it is not, I cannot prove that – doesn’t really matter, as the other evidence is the worst kind of evidence: eye-witness accounts and foot print casts. Read More

Angels in America (2003, Mike Nichols)

Categories: 2003 and TV.

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 from then, so, really, I don’t know what I’m saying. It is, mostly, a magnificent work of art. And the staging of it for HBO is, mostly, magnificent (though the CGI has dated horribly). There are a few parts of the play that I think Read More