Friday, August 30, 2013

Seen in August



Cate Blanchett as the haughty Jasmine, a contemporary Blanche Dubois

Hell on Wheels, Season 2
I've been workin' on the railroad, oh and killin' and thievin' and stuff. This series set in a travelling work camp that is building an intercontinental railway has made a habit of killing off characters that are inconvenient but the evolving protagonist Cullen Bohannon is the grease on the wheels.

Blue Jasmine
Woody Allen's latest drama is one of his best in years. Many have commented that "Jasmine" and her story is an update of Blanche Dubois and A Streetcar Named Desire which is easy to see. Jasmine's life of affluence collapsed when her financier husband is found out to be a cheat in love and business. She moves to San Francisco to stay with her more pedestrian sister to make something of herself. What she makes is yet another affectation to find another suitable husband. But it is her affectations and reinventions that again land her trouble. Jasmine, it turns out is as untrue to herself as she to others. It seems as though all the outward layers of manners and clothes are to hide a person of whom she is deeply ashamed. To thine own self be true is some fatherly advice Jasmine could have used along the way. There is more to her than meets the eye, but that's the only part she ever wants anyone to know.

Bling Ring
The problem with making a film about spoiled, affluent, vapid and superficial teens is that vapid and superficial people learn nothing from life's lessons. This Sofia Coppola film is the retelling of actual events of a ring of L.A. high school kids who successfully rob people even wealthier and more vapid and superficial than themselves. Coppola's lens neither condemns nor celebrates (well, it does a bit) the crimes of these kids. It is obvious to rational people that these teenagers live only to consume, critique, and fetishize celebrity and fashion. They find it fulfilling. It is not fulfilling. They do not care. And that's where the film fails a bit - these adolescent criminals weren't clever for walking into unlocked homes and raiding closets, they were lazy but they succeeded anyway and their comeuppance was brief and unsatisfying. In fact, their arrests gave them the media attention they coveted and all with barely a wrinkle in the cosmic karmic universe.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
I'm not sure why I avoided this funny and often uncomfortable comedy of four friends who (sort of) run their own bar in Philadelphia. This is not "Friends" and their exploits are not the family friendly, harmless pap of most sitcoms. This Gang of Four make poor decisions and avoid the consequences at all costs with little success.

Agora
The story of the death of the philosopher and mathematician Hypatia and notably one of the few influential women of antiquity. It is also the story of the role of early Christians in the fall of Alexandria and its famous library. In fact, early Christians look pretty much like arseholes. I guess that was the only thing that left a bad taste in my mouth. Not that I care about the P.R. of early Christians, but they are depicted as fanatical and all of these fanatic Christians were played by Middle Eastern looking actors while the pro-science Pagans were played by Europeans. It just seemed like they were casting early Christians as Arabs and the logical Pagans as the "West" as if to sort of knock it over our heads about the difference of religious fanatics and the rational West.

Ripper Street
Take a contemporary police procedural and set it in 1880s post-Jack the Ripper London. A lot of surprising gore, very stylish, great acting with three great and engaging lead characters, each with their own fascinating back story.

This Means War
Two CIA agents who are friends fall for the same woman and in a gentlemen's agreement vie for her affection. You know that part of a movie where they make a montage set to music to quickly show a passage of time and compress events like two people falling in love or an athlete training or an army preparing for battle. Well, this whole movie felt kinda like that.

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