Pompeii

February 25, 2014

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Seeing the British Musuem’s Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibit in 2013 was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.  That might sound over the top, but even beyond my fascination with ancient Rome and my more general history nerd impulses, there was something incredibly profound in glimpsing a world that has been dead for almost 2,000 years, and one that was so remarkably preserved.  Beyond the stunning sculptures and paintings of the nobles you had amusing graffiti, a funny comic strip of a bar brawl painted on a wall, and stick-figure gladiators drawn on a frescoed wall by some children.  It’s alien and strange but familiar, and the biggest takeaway from the exhibit for me was the seemingly trite but actually quite profound feeling that humanity shares certain basic things in common and, despite millennia of world-changing events, there’s a familiar connective tissue that binds us.  The charmingly banal things stay the same, it turns out, and that’s a humbling thought.   Read the rest of this entry »

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True Detective and Hannibal

February 17, 2014

This contains SPOILERS for everything up to episode 5 of True Detective.  It is also written from the ignorance of not having seen the final three episodes left.  So hello posterity, I hope you’re having a good and hearty laugh.

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If it’s true that in the new age of “sophisticated” television drama, the best ones teach you how to watch it, then HBO’s True Detective is an absolute befuddling mess.  The first season of a planned anthology show (i.e. each season will be self-contained with different characters/actors/directors) is a gorgeously hypnotic investigation of a genre that’s so peculiar in its mannerisms, intelligence, and plotting that half way through, I quite frankly have no idea where it’s going to go or, more importantly, what it’s trying to do.  This could be seen as a fault, of course, but the HBO brand – not to mention the star power and directorial talent involved – has ensured a degree of kindness when it comes to giving the benefit of the doubt.  It is certainly odd, however, that the show premiered within a year from the debut of another serial killer investigation show, also strangely featuring naked female corpses with antlers.  NBC’s Hannibal is quite easily the best network drama on air, and though that’s a pretty low hurdle to jump, it shouldn’t take away from Bryan Fullers twisted, nightmarish achievement.  Read the rest of this entry »

The LEGO Movie

February 12, 2014

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When correspondents on the Fox Business channel did a segment complaining about The LEGO Movie’s bad guy being “President Business” and why Hollywood has to teach kids to demonize CEOs, it should have been a parody.  Charging what is basically a feature-length advert for a huge corporation’s product as some sort of anti-capitalist propaganda is so self-evidently absurd that only a dry wit or a complete lack of self-awareness an be responsible.  I have little doubt in my mind that it was the latter in this case, but I will give them some credit after having seen the film:  Though what they were suggesting was incredibly stupid, The LEGO Movie certainly defies easy “Right v Left” categorization.   Read the rest of this entry »

Inside Llewyn Davis

February 3, 2014

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One can approach a Coen Brothers movie in a number of ways, especially when writing about it.  The narrative of their career is interesting and unique, and their recent financial success deserves any number of think piece analyses of the trajectory of commercial and artistic potential.  There’s the way their recent films have more or less exploded the old belief that their films were either darkly comic thriller-dramas or absurd goofball comedies.  There is, perhaps most importantly, the fact that they rival and often exceed the arthouse auteurs from around the globe, not only in the depth and quality but doing so in a decidedly intelligent, unflashy way.  They’re also, in their way, classicists when it comes to their approach to filmmaking – unfussy visuals that pack a hell of a whallop when they need to and an organized, almost clinical in their storytelling.  One can investigate the historical aspects of the 60s Greenwich Village scene depicted in Inside Llewyn Davis, but I won’t because, for one, I know close to nothing about it and for two, I don’t particularly care.  There’s also the fact that ILD is perhaps the most critic-friendly movie they’ve ever made as it’s about a frustrated artist, and let’s be honest, many critics and bloggers are frustrated artists.  Read the rest of this entry »