‘Blue Is The Warmest Colour’: Review

Blue Is The Warmest Colour

Blue Is The Warmest Colour is like a realist coming-of-age movie. Sure, you see a ton of them disguised into teem dramas and comedies, but they’re usually pretty light of heart, with some simple message or something attached to them. “Colour” though presents these ideas with serious levity. Not only is our main character Adele working her way through school, but she’s also discovering her sexuality and discovering who she is. She has sex and dates a boy, but it doesn’t really feel right, that is not until she meets Emma in a gay bar, and fully recognizes love and who she is.

We follow them over a couple years, Adele getting her life on track, becoming a teacher, living with Emma and gaining a hold over her life. As quickly as it all comes together, though, it all falls apart when Emma gets jealous of Adele spending time with a  mutual male friend, and flips out on her over the affair. Adele is gutted and at a loss without Emma, something she can’t fathom, but is now left out all on her own. They meet up a time later, when wounds could possibly have been healed, but Adele is still madly in love. Emma on the other-hand is not, she’s moved on. A mutual understanding of forgiveness is settled upon, but Adele will and still feels for Emma in a way that she doesn’t reciprocate. They both go on their ways, changed from their time together, but never to repeat it.

That’s the entire crux of the film and its themes. Adele is young and inexperienced in love and sex, and especially the confusion she felt earlier on. This is her first connection with someone on this level, and the loss of it is crushing and feels like her whole world is lost. She’ll get over it eventually, maybe not for a bit, maybe not fully, but she’ll love again. Possibly and probably someone more than Emma. Emma was older and more experienced, she knows how these things can go, but Adele is just trying to find herself in this world. It’s all for Adele about learning her way through, gaining as much love and affection and moving forward. It’s hard for her to face at her age, but that’s what “coming-of-age” is, a realization of yourself and your place in life, while coming to terms with nothing is really ever set in concrete.

8/10

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‘Frances Ha’: Review

Frances Ha

Frances Ha is like a French expressionist New York hipster film, and I say that in the best way possible. Noah Baumbach of course gets pigeon-holed into making “hipster” films, whatever that may be, basically indie movies set around New York and concern a protagonist a bit off-kilter and retro than others trying to deal with some shit. There’s plenty of that here, Greta Gerwig plays a dancer in her late 20s, trying to scrape by with little money, and really just trying to find her way in life. If that isn’t enough, the film is in B&W and takes several music cues from 60s French films. Paris is even seen as not only a vacation destination, but a destination of mind for Gerwig, who uses the place as an escape from New York to try and get her life in order.

I haven’t thought all too much about this, but I feel like Baumbach’s films are kinda like stripped down versions of Wes Anderson films. I know they’re friends, and make seemingly similarly themed films, but they’re often different in presentation. Anderson films are more of an extravagance, a grand presentation with a cavalcade of characters and oft whimsy. They don’t take themselves all that seriously at all, while occasion the seriousness is backed by some kind of wacky background. Baumbach’s films are more small, and deal on a more personal level, largely concerning the plight of one main character. The Squid And The Whale, Margot At The Wedding, Greenberg and now Frances Ha, are a long line of such films, an exploration of these people in a stage of their life, their oddities and considering just how they fit into the world.

Greta Gerwig is consistently great throughout, and easily carries the film on her shoulders. She’s often in a world of her own, a bit odd and aloof, but carrying of the people around her, and sometimes unable to see when a separation between them occurs. It’s often cringe-inducing watching her try and interact with people, but you feel for her all the same, being a small fish in this large pond she’s been thrown into. She anchors the film wonderfully, and gets us to feel for every hardship she endures and triumph at her successes.

8.5/10

My 12 Favourite TV Shows Of 2013

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So, these are my favourite shows of 2013. I’m not really going to call them the “best shows of 2013,” because that’s subjective and my mind is always changing, but these are the ones I enjoyed the most. And, yeah, don’t put too much stock in how I ranked them, because I have no clue, I like them all, and my opinion of them is always shifting and jockeying. In fact, I just thought of a new order to put them in…..

1. Enlightened

A simply beautiful show that masterfully handles comedy and drama better than either full-fledged dramas or comedies can. Elements of short stories and a long form narrative give the show everything it needs to be successful on a plot level. Laura Dern, Mike White, and Luke Wilson among others are perfect in their roles and inhibit areas of sadness that make their characters feel so, so real. I’m crushed it won’t get a third season, but I’m happy with what we got.

2. Breaking Bad

Not as high on it as a lot of people, but I still greatly enjoyed the ride. That’s the keyword, “ride.” I don’t think the show is particularly all that great, or even close to the best show of all time, but it was damn fun, suspenseful and entertaining that actually got me counting down until the next episode aired.

3. The Americans

The best new show of the year, a spy drama in the 80s. Faced under Cold War pre-texts a married Russian spy couple goes undercover in the States. Not only is it a action drama in that sense, but it also gets great depth out of it’s portrayal of a forced together and crumbling marriage and how to deal with these emotions in the face of geo-politics.

4. Orange Is The New Black

Even better than I anticipated after all of the hype. Mainly focalized in a women’s prison, it allowed the show to work through a formed structure and keep the action clicking along under one roof. Very funny and dark, and mixes these two elements perfectly.

5. The Good Wife

Has always been good, but season five has pushed things to a new level. After Alicia and co. have moved on from Lockhart/Gardner they face all sorts of new problems dealing with their own firm, and the fall out from where the once came. The best show on network TV, a procedural, but bucks all preconceived notions that come with that title, keeping it fresh every episode.

6. Hannibal

The most surprising show that not only turned out to be good, but was often great in spots. One of the few shows to have actual imagery that was frightening and rivaling most current horror movies. Hugh Dancy is utterly perfect as Will Graham, a frayed and conflicted Special Agent who gets unraveled to his last piece of yarn. Mads Mikkelsen is equally chilling as Hannibal, driving the suspense to a constant peak. I’m not sure what season two will bring, a lot of shit went down at the end of the first, but I’m just glad we’re getting some more of the show.

7. Justified

Consistently one of the best shows on TV. Olyphant continues to own the role, really like he was born to play it, and just oozes cool at every step. They always tell a compelling, intertwining and smart story with enough action and twists and turns to keep you guessing. The odd stand-alone episode only further cements how great this show is, and how in control of its motives it truly is.

8. Masters Of Sex

Was very unsure and luke-warm to the show at first, but progressively grew on me as the episodes wore on. As the sex studies experiments became more in-depth and real so did the relationships that it accidentally affected and changed for the better or worse. Michael Sheen is great as the withdrawn and calculated Masters, while Lizzy Caplan puts in excellent work as the driven assistant who becomes much more than that.

9. Mad Men

A down year of the show in my eyes, not that it wasn’t any good, but to the standards I hold this show (one of my favourites of all time), it wasn’t what I had hoped.

10. Game Of Thrones

I really like this show, but sometimes it becomes a slog for me becuase I really can’t stand fantasy. That being said, there were some fantastic episodes, of course “The Rains Of Castamere,” and there’s usually always some crazy shit going down or about to go down, with seemingly nobody safe.

11. Treme

I like this show a lot more than most, but I see why others don’t like it. Yeah, it comes off boring and not much plot propulsion, but it really is just about the characters, the city and the atmosphere of these intertwining people and the short stories trying to recover in their own way from disaster.

12. Homeland

Yeah, I was pretty disappointed with season three, and it turned me off of a lot of the show, but goddamn if I still like watching and see what ridiculous well they go to next. It’s an entirely different show from when it started out, and I never really know what they’re going to do next. That’s pretty much it, I look forward to watching the show still, and they continue to somehow keep roping me back in.

‘Treme’: A City And Show Of Culture

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Treme is a fantastic show if even by any traditional means that we measure how good a television program is. Characters, plot, engagement, or whatever, Treme has it in spades, maybe not to the degree of others, but it certainly has that. No, what makes Treme so great is the atmosphere it created, its celebration of culture and how it made the city of New Orleans a living, breathing character that became more pivotal and influential than few others on TV over the past five years.

There is no other show that just absorbs you into its world and refuses to let you go for an hour. I’ve never been to New Orleans (one of these days…), but the show’s insistence on realism, a David Simon show after all, places you right in the middle of everything. Never has culture been so beautifully represented on a TV show than Treme. Plot and narrative development is jettisoned so we can listen to a live blue/folk song for five minutes. Conversations in bars over a couple Buds are the order of business. Drinking, partying, music, family, culture, selflessness. Treme. New Orleans.

Treme has been much maligned because of this, really not being about much, not any huge intertwining plot, just enough to keep things going enough for a show, and the characters just filling in the blanks wonderfully. Fantastic actors like Wendell Pierce, Clarke Peters, Kim Dickens, Melissa Leo and countless others fill out the cast as people you know and not just imagination that fills your TV set. Real-life musicians of old and new fill the stage and the show, adding to that sense that you are there and this is all real, which for all intents and purposes it is, this has all happened in some form or shape.

Treme is a slice of life show that makes you want to have a good time, drink and party and have enjoy all of what New Orleans and life has to offer. But, it’s also about reflection, self-worth, reflection and realizing how every great thing in your life could be taken from you in an instant. Hurricane Katrina did that to the wonderful folks of New Orleans, it took physical property from them, but never broke their will, not for a second. Yes, Treme is about rebuilding after a disaster, but it’s also about reaffirming everything that they and we have, about what really matters, and how no matter of water damage will ever affect it.

I’m going to miss Treme for so many reasons, but the experience of it is what I’ll miss most. Just living in the show and its world, is nothing that any other show could ever deliver. The normal tenants of television don’t apply when Treme is on the air, storytelling doesn’t really matter, not much does besides the atmosphere, the music, the people. Quite simply, the culture, something we all live in, but often fail to appreciate, the experience and enjoyment always lingering under our nose, through thick and thin.

‘Peep Show’: Yet Another British Sitcom Filled With Excellence

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I don’t really have much to say about Peep Show, except that it’s really funny. I’ve been trying to immerse myself more in British TV, more specifically British comedy/sitcoms, because everything I’ve seen out of it has been nothing short of brilliantly. I’ve really only seen the big-name shows, and the ones that are at least relatively well-known over here in the west, like The Office, ExtrasSpaced and The IT Crowd. Peep Show seems like it’s pretty well known to, and for good reason, but I’m always looking for some deep-cuts. So, if anyone actually reads this and knows of some great British comedies, or shows in general, throw some ideas my way.

I was unaware of the POV style at first, where the camera films everything as the POV of each character and switches around. I was unsure of this, and thought it might be distracting, but you quickly get used to it and hardly even notice it a few episodes in. It’s a cool device that really helps with all the inner-monologues and gives them a sort of backbone.

The show uses cringe humour effectively, like it seems all British comedies do, and drives the main source of the comedy. Often coming from our two polar-opposite roommate protagonists trying to get/hook-up with girls, usually to their detriment as something goes awfully wrong as it only further spirals out of control. Mark is the plain white bread kind of guy, an office job likes watching TV and studying history, all the while looking for that special girl. He’s in one instance a stereotypical “nerd,” but doesn’t always fall into this category, more like just being “awkward.” Jeremy, his roommate is an aspiring out-going musician who has better luck with the ladies, but gets himself in just as many finicky circumstances with them as Mark does.

So, yeah, I’m struggling to find anything to say “critical” for the show in any in-depth way, good or bad. It’s really funny and cringy, which is a pretty sure-fire way to get a reaction out of people, not that it’s easy, it’s hard to do, but when pulled off it’s results are pretty much uniformly positive. There’s one more final season to air next year, and I’m curious to see how they’ll go out. Each season there’s usually some sort of through-line of plot, often superfluous for me, but works sparingly, so I’m sure we’ll see some type of resolution for Mark and Jeremy.

‘Home Movies’: An Animated Show With A Unique POV

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I never really put too much stock in an animated show. Of course, I grew up watching and loving them, but over time my attitude towards them has kind of diminished. Sure, I still watch them, but really as just an easy, joke machine that I can use when I want a quick laugh, or lighten the mood after watching something dark. The vast majority of animated shows are like this, a conduit for easy jokes and ones in which you really couldn’t make through any other genre of television. I guess I should clarify that I’m talking about the like “teenage to young adult”-type of shows like the Sunday line-up of Family Guy, American Dad!, and The Simpsons and such on FOX, and as well as the more adult-orientated programming on Adult Swim, which I’m less familiar with, but know enough about.

Where shows like Family Guy and American Dad! are strictly joke machines with no heart, or they at least try for heart but never maintain it, thanks to Seth MacFarlane they’re a beast of their own. Home Movies is something different though, and reminded me, at least dramatically of early “Simpsons.” The Simpsons has always been an extremely funny show, but what always took it over the edge for me, especially beginning in seasons 4 through 6, was the heart it displayed and its willingness to tell stories about pain, trouble growing up, tribulations of parenting, and just deal with human issues along with the comedy. It was a beautiful thing and an insane clip at how many of these episodes were being produced and to the extreme quality that they were maintained at. Of course, now that they’re pushing double-digit seasons, it hard to maintain that balance, and the easier course of more stricter reliance on joke-telling begins to win out, and thus a big source of the dip in quality. South Park is more inherently out to tell jokes, but especially nowadays is heavily and brilliantly marred in the veil of satire, which lets them turn real and serious current issues and events into dick and fart jokes.

Where Home Movies plays into this all is its refusal to shy away from any of its subject matter. Where a multitude of more sit-comy animated shows revolve around a whole family, Home Movies is just Brendan Small, an eight-year-old, living with his divorced single mom and his younger sister. They deal with the traditional problems this situation would lead to, Brendan wondering about where his dad is, Paula (his mom) struggling to find steady work and provide for her son and create a good environment for him. The show is titled Home Movies because of Brendan and his friends Jason and Melissa’s penchant for making movies, basically at least one an episode, and also provides away to channel the themes of an episode and create an outlet for Brendon’s feelings, although it’s not always that blatant. I’m kinda making this show out to not be funny at all, but trust me it is, and H. Jon Benjamin is a huge part of it. Benjamin’s Coach McGuirk, Brendan’s soccer coach, is an increasingly big part of the show, as sort of a pseudo male role model to Brendon, but in the worst way possible with him saying and engaging in conduct that wouldn’t be the best for an eight-year-old to emulate. He’s endlessly funny, and is dually fantastic in large part to Benjamin’s skill as a voice artist.

Home Movies is great firstly because it’s funny and very much so, but also because of it’s realism and dealing with real human and family issues within this animated comedy framework, that usually doesn’t go that far. It’s an unseen point of view on my albeit limited experience with animated shows, but one that made the comedy realer and helped create a more lived-in universe.

‘Scrubs’: More Than Just A Wacky Comedy?

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I’m not the best when it comes to comedy on TV. Really when it comes down to it, as long as it’s funny, that’s all I care about, make me laugh and it’s all good. Sure, depending on the show, that need some rough through-line of plot or some narrative, but usually I could care less, unless it’s some great vehicle for great laughs. My favourite comedy shows, things like The Office (both versions, but the UK one is one of my favourite shows in any genre) and Parks & Recreation usually have a nice balance of comedy, with a dramatic backbone or driving force, mainly spurned on from the characters rather than plot that helps to give the comedy something to mold around. I also like these shows because the comedy is grounded in reality. Sure, they can be a bit loopy and pushing the boundaries of sensible, but largely makes comedy out of real-life situations. While I appreciate running a good narrative throughout, I also love shows that are literally all jokes, and don’t really care about doing anything serious. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia has been doing this for awhile now, and Curb Your Enthusiasm does this as well, but it’s type of comedy (improv/cringe) comes from a different area than “Sunny’s.”

Scrubs is an interesting show, because it tries to do multiple things and ideas of comedy under the same banner. On the one hand, it’s an increasingly silly show, with random jokes, flashbacks, dreams and just really cartoony behaviour. But, along with this, there’s always two main driving forces of “dramatic” narratives or overarching plot, with the following of the doctors career trajectory and their love lifes. Now, over a nine season show, it varied quite a bit where they would put the emphasis on. In the early season, some of my favourites, dealed a lot with J.D. and such coming to grips with the pressures and challenges of being a young doctor and what everything meant. It was a comedy show, but patients actually died, and it wasn’t always fun and games around Sacred Heart. Of course, it’s still all wacky and funny too, and something that would oft be the focus in later seasons, when all the characters romantic entanglements were pretty much set in stone and there wasn’t much of a chase anymore.

Although, I find Scrubs very funny, it’s also very silly, and not entirely my favourite brand of comedy. It’s immature, but not in really in the dick and fart joke variety (although, they are aplenty), but more that it’s seemingly aimed towards a preteen audience in the types of jokes they tell and would’ve seemed insanely suitably to being on Nickelodeon instead. It’s very much a live-action cartoon, with, I guess, it being part of the joke that J.D. and Turk are doctors and surgeons with people’s lives in their hands, all the while being the most immature people on the wayside. Again, I’m only being critical of this because it’s really not my brand of humour and maybe because I’m too old for it (?), I don’t know, but sometimes it was a little much for me.

Even going off that idea of this being a show skewed towards a slighter younger demographic, beyond the comedy there was always a lesson. Not that it was constantly (“after-school special-ish,” although it was known to), J.D. and subsequently us would learn a lesson at the end of each episode, like it’s okay to make mistakes, everybody isn’t always who they seem, trying your best is all you can ask, and countless other things and anecdotes you’ve heard before. That’s why it reminds me of something youth-skewing, by giving you all the silly comedy you love, but pushing that lesson that you should’ve learned in the last two minutes of the episode, because that’s what TV is for, right?

Because of the no-holds barred level of comedy, it really takes a cast who will go full bore on the jokes to completely sell them, a make-or-break element of the show. John C. McGinley is great, really just in general, but also here. He’s an asshole, and demands a lot, and has a stony exterior, but of course he’s a softie at heart who cares about his fellow staff. Ken Jenkins is of the same cloth as McGinley’s Perry, and is equally as great. Donald Faison always has great reactions and is a nice counter-point to J.D. Judy Reyes is probably the weakest member of the cast, not really caring much of the comedic load, she’s not very good at it even when she does get the chance, and is often a nag, but I still like her!!! Neil Flynn is great, in general as well, but you can tell how much fun he’s having as the janitor, and it was kind of a trip watching The Middle before my descent into Scrubs, as it’s a completely different role.

I don’t think it’s just me, but there’s an incredible lack of great female comedic leads and just characters in general. It’s not the actors, I think, but really the parts. I’m not talking about the pay cable varieties of Lena Dunham, Laura Dern, Edie Falco, Laura Linney, Mary Louise Parker and such, they’re all fine and do their thing, but I’m talking about the balls-out “I don’t care about my image, let’s put the joke up front.” Julie Louis-Dreyfus is maybe the greatest example, with all her success, Melissa McCarthy is the go-to lady now, and she’s knocked everything out of the park that I’ve seen. Kaitlin Olson from “Sunny” has been one of my favourite’s for years, never really having a boundary, and being an expert in physical comedy. I think physical comedy is a big measuring stick and something that is not a fluke that all these great women have in common. It’s an example of them going full bore into a joke, not caring about their looks or looking stupid, but just being in service of the joke. Sarah Chalke is another incredible actress of this class, and she’s so fully invested in her role in Scrubs that it’s infectious to how far she’ll go. She’s sometimes played as ditzy, but really just a person who wears her heart on her sleeve and cares about everybody who comes in her path. Often that gets her into certain situations, but no better person to deal with them then Sarah Chalke.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve obviously come to Scrubs late, and had both experienced Zach Braff through his Garden State and the incredibly underrated The Last Kiss. I love both of those films quite a bit, and in great part to Braff’s performance, not really the comedic parts (even though they were good), but the dramatic tendencies and the way he handles so greatly the spirit of a “dramedy” (Ugh. I hate that word and  typing it, but it’s a good descriptor). He’s funny of course in Scrubs, even if he is the most immature and annoying of the cast, but also suffers a great negative that I’m beginning to think is of the actor and not the character. Zach Braff is smug as all shit and a douchebag. I mean, J.D. in Scrubs is smug as all shit and a douchebag. He’s constantly a dick to pretty much everybody in the show, through his various relationships he’s always a douche to the girls, often only thinking of himself and sex. As I said this often gets annoying, but it’s got me to think is this just the character, is it just the characters Braff picks, is it Zach Braff himself, is Zach Braff a douche and thus picks characters that suit him, such as a douche? Now, it’s no secret that a lot of people like Zach Braff, but it seems just as many or more think of him as a dick. Now, I’ve always been team Zach Braff, and I still am, but it’s curious that he’s kind of a dick in everything’s he’s in. Maybe, it’s just that he’s good at it, and so here we are. Anyways Zach Braff is a cool dude, but sometimes his portrayal of J.D. got a little too much in the douchebag and dick department, thus making him annoying and really hard to care about personally as a character.

Hey, so, I guess we should talk about season 9, hahaha, actually no we don’t, but I’m incredibly fascinated with it, so let’s do it. I’m not entirely sure everything behind this, and I’m too lazy to look it up, but something about bringing back the show at the last minute, and having some of the old cast members show up and usher this new generation of interns, all to be finished after 13 episodes. I mean it’s really weird, because it looks like a completely different show, with a new main core, and some OG Scrubs member cameos, but actually kinda, but not really season 9 of the show. Dave Franco’s character was so dumb and made me laugh way too much because he was so stupid, so that’s a plus I guess. The lead girl, who I can’t remember her name, was pretty bad/boring and Eliza Coupe was pretty good/cool and I like Coupe very much. So, that’s what I took from that weirdo thing of season 9.

Scrubs is a fun and very entertaining show, and that’s really the main thing I’ll take from it. I mean, yes, we’ve talk about it’s few dramatic hits and the success they had in that realm, but the comedy was and is always the main part, and it was enjoyable, for the most part. I don’t know how/or if I’ll revisit this show, maybe not, maybe so, there’s a couple stand-out episodes, but nothing that’s entirely drawing on it’s own. If I see it on TV, I could totally see myself flicking it on and having a good time with it, no matter where it is in the run, and I think that’s a great positive for the show, or any.  Put it on, and I’ll probably enjoy watching some part of it. Thanks.