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 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | letterboxd

 

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Entries in TV (264)

Monday
Jan122015

Looking for the Promised Land: A Midsummer Night's Queers

If the comments on last week's recap of Season 1 of Looking are any indication, what fascinates yours truly, Manuel, about the show is also the very thing that makes it so divisive. Disclaimer: what follows should in no way be taken as an apology for the show nor a glowing endorsement of it as "the best!" As I pointed out last week, there's room for improvement and Patrick & co. have great heights to scale before being able to sit alongside Don Draper, Selina Meyer, Valerie Cherish, Piper Chapman & Jane Rodriguez (my Top 5 shows for 2014). 

The burden of representation. That's how I diagnosed what has fallen on Looking for the mere reason that it's one of the few shows openly about gay people men. As some of you pointed out in your comments, issues of entertainment value and overall quality depend on the fact that the show (whether intentionally or not) announces itself as a mirror. [More...]

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Friday
Jan092015

Centennial Beauties: Anita & Fernando

Today marks the 100th birthday of two extremely beautiful screen stars of yore, Anita Louise and Fernando Lamas. Anita, born in New York City in 1915 played Titania, Queen of the Fairies in Midsummer Nights Dream (the film that brought Olivia de Havilland into our worlds), when she was just twenty, long before La Pfeiffer got around to shimmering in similarly gauzy long haired Titania fashion in 1999. [More...]

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Tuesday
Jan062015

Ant Man Teaser via Agent Peggy Carter

Agent Carter premiered tonight. I actually thought it was quite good with Hayley Atwell a surprisingly strong presence as the lead. Perhaps she's better suited for TV given that she's never been that exciting on the big screen.

In addition to being top notch at the straight-faced espionage scenes, she was quite willingly winking with camp affection to "spy" shows in her undercover scenes. A good sense of humor all around and bonus points for including Dollhouse's excellent Enver Gjokaj in the supporting cast and for passing the Bechdel Test within, like, the first four minutes. See, it's EASY to do. Much appreciated.

I know I'm not supposed to be talking about actresses but I can't help myself! The subject of this post is the Ant Man teaser. We'll wait for the trailer for a full "Yes No Maybe So" but for now random thoughts...

 after the jump, please enjoy the teaser and my 8 favorite shots from the trailer. 

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Monday
Jan052015

Looking Back: Season 1 Recap

Manuel here bringing us up to date on Andrew Haigh’s first season of his HBO show Looking in preparation for the weekly recaps that will take up this space starting next week. 

“You know how I know you’re gay? You’re boring,” With those nine words, Mick Stingley (writing for Esquire) summed up his reaction to Looking, one which continued to be echoed even as Andrew Haigh’s low-key San Francisco-set show about a group of gay men blossomed into a fascinating (if, yes, clipped and narrow) show, ably experimenting with the long-form storytelling of TV to offer mundane snapshots of the contemporary gay male experience. “Boring” became a code word for viewers (both gay and straight) who for the first time found themselves exposed to gay characters on screen who didn’t mince or flounce (no Wills or Jacks here), nor who aimed to become a banner ad for a movement (no Michaels or Emmets here). It was also an HBO show hard to pin down. It doesn’t have Sorkinean monologues, or Dunhamesque sex scenes. It doesn’t have the acidic comedy of Veep nor the pathos of Enlightened. There’s a level of mundanity in Haigh’s show that's decidedly un-HBOish; this is no Westeros nor Bon Temps. In many ways, it feels like an indie film with its closest kin being Haigh’s 2011 film, Weekend. [Full disclosure, I hated that film, but that’s neither here nor there].

I bring this all up front to showcase what it is that interests me about Looking; its rather transgressive indifference towards politics of representation. There’s transgression in the very banality that so characterized the show's first season which, while climaxing with a wedding, a hook-up, a breakup and a pitch-perfect Golden Girls shout out, nevertheless seemed quite content in what Haigh & co. bill their show as: merely looking, observing really how these young able-bodied (and damn good-looking) gay men navigate their lives. It’s not surprising then that the best episode of the first season was solely focused on Patrick & Richie in a long, romantic date around San Francisco.

So, before next’s week’s premiere episode, let’s briefly recap/meet our boys:

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Monday
Jan052015

Producers Guild Nominations: Lots of Titles Still In Play For Oscar!

Big awards day, huh? The PGA have announced their preferred excellence in production for 2014. No big surprises so the only thing to talk about is the chaos of what might be nominated for Best Picture in less than two weeks.

PRODUCERS GUILD NOMINATIONS

Feature Film
AMERICAN SNIPER
BIRDMAN
BOYHOOD
FOXCATCHER
GONE GIRL
GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
IMITATION GAME
NIGHTCRAWLER
THEORY OF EVERYTHING
WHIPLASH

... Only five of these made my top 30. Not a consensus year for TFE, then.

PGA's list is very similar to the BFCA top ten only they shoved  American Sniper and Foxcatcher in the Unbroken and Selma slots. The AFI was also similar but that Institute also made room for Into the Woods and Interstellar and Selma. In short: the Best Picture race is still rather confounding when it comes to who might be nominated and how many pictures will be there beyond the frontrunners Boyhood and Birdman and, I guess, Imitation Game... though I had previously thought that Selma would have or had already supplanted it in third spoiler position. [More...]

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Friday
Dec262014

Entertainers of the Year, An Alternate Take

Year in Review. Two yummy lists each day. Here's Matthew Eng on "Entertainers of the Year"

Let’s face it: Jimmy Fallon is an okay if utterly predictable choice for Entertainment Weekly’s annual “Entertainer of the Year” title, which can occasionally become more of an honor for being widely-known and well-liked than, you know, being consistently entertaining. (Have they made a truly interesting choice since that three-year, Oscar-certified run of Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, and Denzel Washington from 2000-02?)

Rather than continue to pat the backs of those like Ben Affleck, Taylor Swift, Robert Downey, Jr., and J.K. Rowling – i.e. prominent pop culture presences and former “Entertainers of the Year” whose dominance over their respective industries is already deep and durable – let’s take a moment to honor some of our favorite hard-working actors and actresses who zig-zagged across mediums this year, making crucial contributions to the entertainment landscape, but who likely won’t be collecting any golden statues for their unique and indispensable achievements in 2014.

 

Alan Cumming, who lent his impish, adventurous energy to two wildly disparate roles this year, reprising his bawdily iconic take as the Emcee in Roundabout’s Cabaretrevival, while continuing to play his most unusual role as the sardonic and perpetually stressed-out campaign manager Eli Gold on The Good Wife, which is still the best thing on television. It’s a testament to Cumming’s versatility that he seems equally at home warbling in an evening gown and defiling chorus boys, as he does striding around an office and barking into a cellphone. In between suiting-up on screen and dressing down on stage, Cumming also penned a moving and well-reviewed memoir about his troubled childhood in Scotland entitled Not My Father’s Son.


Viola Davis, who continues to be better than any of the material she’s given, but still acts the hell out of everything she appears in, all the same. I’ve already written about how gorgeously she improves the standard mother-son arc of Get On Up, but let’s also give Davis her due for surpassing such esteemed company as Jessica Chastain and Isabelle Huppert to present the only credible human being in that weirdly noncommittal triptych The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, in which she plays Chastain’s professor and newfound confidante to weary, seen-it-all perfection. And finally, I still have my fingers crossed that How to Get Away with Murder will work some Scandal-like magic and pick up as it goes, but Davis is unqualifiedly great and effortlessly magnetic even amid mediocrity. We can never stop beating the drum for this gloriously gifted woman.

Lindsay Duncan, who, yes, played an indelible cobra as Birdman’s venomous voice of theatrical critique, but who also single-handedly dispels the lazy claims that 2014 was a weak year for lead actressing. I wish enough “pundits” would take it upon themselves to journey past their Wilds and Gone Girls and take a well-deserved look at Roger Michell’s marital dramedy Le Week-end, in which Duncan and a never-better Jim Broadbent work through the poignantly personal travails of ripened couplehood while celebrating their anniversary in Paris. Proudly reckless, boldly tetchy, and gleefully tongue-in-cheek, Week-end’s Meg is a marvel of deliciously detailed characterization and one of the acting achievements of the year, thanks to Duncan’s slyly sublime sorcery. (I mean, that voice alone!) Duncan’s also currently on the boards as Glenn Close’s acerbic, alcoholic sister in the revival of Albee’s A Delicate Balance and she’s still a staple on British television, having made appearances this year on SherlockBlack Mirror’s jaw-dropper of a first episode “The National Anthem” (only recently made available on Netflix), and The Honorable Woman, providing the latter with a quietly memorable take on the exasperated ex-wife, which leads us to…


Maggie Gyllenhaal, who never really reached the summits of critic-stamped screen stardom that surely seemed attainable during the Secretary and Sherrybaby days, but who has nonetheless continued to offer terrific and thoughtful work across a variety of mediums. New Yorkers have a little more than a week to catch her in the current revival of Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing (closing January 4th), in which Gyllenhaal pairs her usual flair for emphatic (if often unstable) eroticism with an intriguingly assured intelligence as an impassioned actress who throws herself heart-first into a relationship with a married playwright. She’s hilariously and cuttingly unhinged as the only reason worth watching Frank, playing the bitter, Bening-ish bandmate/protector of Michael Fassbender’s bobble-headed lead singer. Gyllenhaal’s great in both projects, but she’s downright fantastic in The Honorable Woman, the BBC miniseries that is equal parts timely political thriller and trenchant character study, and which has given Gyllenhaal her juiciest role in years as an unraveling Anglo-Israeli arms heiress urgently trying to bring peace to the Middle East. Gyllenhaal’s elegant and emotionally daring performance is just another compelling reason to keep this weirdly underappreciated actress in play.

Gaby Hoffmann, who is a national treasure. Besides providing such selfless, straight-shooting support to Obvious Child, ensuring that the film remain a warm and witty sketch of a circle of intimates rather than a lopsided vanity project, and giving Girls’ third season a welcome dose of droll derangement as Adam Driver’s loopy sister, Hoffmann is fully deserving of the praise and prizes that Jeffrey Tambor has received for Jill Soloway’s miraculous series Transparent. The entire familial ensemble (to include Jay Duplass, Amy Landecker, and Judith Light) clicks like crazy, with each performer projecting a whole host of complex and authentically-layered affinities, histories, and antipathies around one another, but it’s Hoffmann’s work as impetuous, indecisive baby sister Ali that has somehow lingered the most in my mind. It’s one thing to take the role of the caustic, cash-strapped family fuck-up and make her funny, charming, and inappropriate. It’s another thing entirely to invest so much extra ruefulness, wistfulness, selfishness, self-righteousness, sexiness, continually shifting sensibleness, and totally committed weirdness into a single character that she becomes someone we not only know, but someone we are unable to remember not knowing.

John Lithgow, who has had quite an enviable hot streak this year, the crowning achievement of which is his beautifully loose and lived-in performance as one half of 2014’s most believable onscreen couple, gay or otherwise, in Ira Sachs’ Love is Strange. In addition to his affecting and attentive leading man work, Lithgow also made his mark in two other noteworthy releases, imbuing bit parts in both The Homesman and Interstellar with muted, offhanded conviction. And that’s just on screen! Lithgow also gave good Lear in the Public’s August Shakespeare in the Park production, nailing the punchy imperiousness while adding an ungainliness to the declining King that in its plaintive way was just as tragic as any of the Bard’s plot turns. He’s also currently co-starring with Duncan in that same production of A Delicate Balance, closing out a banner year with yet another reminder that our most abiding and admired talents have endless shades to show us.

Elisabeth Moss, who, on the basis of her sterling work on the Sundance circuit, proves once again that she will be just fine when Don Draper lights up for the last time. She earned raves this year as Jason Schwartzman’s straying, sympathetic girlfriend in Listen Up Philip and rejuvenated some run-of-the-mill themes about marital devotion inThe One I Love with such a persuasive mix of pep and precision that I hardly noticed their familiarity. I’m excited by the prospect of Moss becoming a full-time film presence, but I hope she gets handed at least half as dynamic a role as Peggy Olson, whose professional rise and personal stalling-out Moss continued to chart with instinctive emotionality and endless empathy on the first half of Mad Men’s final season, which began with Peggy collapsing in tears on her apartment floor and ended with her officially taking the reigns from her former boss-turned-humbled colleague. Even if Emmy, SAG, and Golden Globe voters failed to appreciate the magnificence of Moss’ work this year, those of us still watching can take pride in seeing this superbly skillful actress finish off her work as one of TV’s most beloved heroines before heading off into the promising future that awaits her.