Tag Archives: Movies

The 2009 Golden Globes LiveBlog

globes

Open Bar. Slavish appreciation of celebrity and the cult therein. The Golden Globes are not about who wins, really, but that doesn’t mean that I would ever miss an opportunity to complain about it. Watch as I discuss the television awards with a false sense of authority, write about the movie awards with an even more false sense of authority, and gossip about celebrities with the exact amount of zero authority almost all internet commentators have on the subject.

I am not live-blogging the pre-show per se, but I have been writing some tweets, so follow me on Twitter for more fun on that front. But, really, we’re here for the judgments of the Hollywood Foreign Press – those guys are crazy.

7:49pm: First word of warning – time might jump forward an hour, I’m adjusting Atlantic Time to Eastern Time for your benefit and might occasionally screw up. Time for the pre-awards ten minutes of pre-show blogging.

7:54pm: Basics of the pre-show – NBC mindbogglingly combining people in a line so that they could get through more people, resulting in some enormously random combinations. Only real moment of any interest was Mark Wahlberg quite hilariously calling Jeremy Piven out on his mercury levels, and then Piven getting gravely serious about it, resulting in a lot of awkwardness. Otherwise, no drama of note, and I won’t attempt discuss anything related to fashion.

7:56pm: Okay, I lied – Kate Winslet looks really, really good. That is all.

7:58pm: Brooke Burke and Tiki Barber aren’t allowed to have opinions, silly Nancy O’Dell – that’s not why they’re there!

8:00pm: And here we go – wait, the Jonas Brothers are there? Oy vey.

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It is Written: Slumdog Millionaire, Reality Television and the Power of Inevitability

slumdog

It is Written:

Slumdog Millionaire and the Power of Inevitability

Around these parts, it usually takes two things to make me write about a piece of cinema: first it has to be really, really good, and the second is that it has to have some connection to television as a medium. This is a self-imposed standard: I know that there are very few “pure” television readers of this blog (and comparatively “few” readers period), and that everyone is usually interested to hear about a great film. But I’m not a film reviewer, and my critical eye for it hasn’t really been developed, so being able to link it back into the world of television gives me a bit of a comfort level.

It was a comfort level that was in full effect as I watched my first “awards season” film of the year, the powerful and stunning Slumdog Millionaire from British director Danny Boyle. The film is about a Mumbai slumdog on the Indian version of “Who Want’s To Be A Millionaire?”, and diverges throughout the film into how Jamal got to the point wherein he could be on this show, answering these questions, and placed in this position. The structure of the film is clear within the first few minutes: you nod your head, accept what the film is trying to accomplish, and then begin the process of appreciating the stunning cinematography, the wonderful direction, the great child acting performances, and the stunning music.

The film’s conclusion is inevitable, not in terms of result but in structure: you know how the film will progress, and by the time you reach that moment you are capable of choreographing every step of the way. But by the end, presuming you’ve been watching all along, Slumdog Millionaire will rouse an audience like few other films. It is about the smallest of realizations, the broadest of events, and a fine example of how very powerful a film like this can be.

What struck me in that moment is that the film owes more to the trivia game show at its center than just a convenient setting for this tale: its storytelling operates in much the same fashion as does a reality show, introducing a fairly simple structure and following it to the point there the structure is secondary to character, to personality, to humanity. Reality shows in general are only as good as their contestants: every game of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was entirely the same, and every season of Survivor is really the same basic game outside of a few different twists and turns.

I know that some will view this comparison as something almost sacreligious, but it should be seen as a compliment: what takes most reality shows 13 episodes to accomplish is done here in only two short hours, less a rollercoaster than a steady climb up a lift hill. You know what’s about to happen: it is inevitable that you are going to reach the top and rush down the hill to the inversion below. But when this is all happening in such an emotional, engrossing and highly compelling environment crafted by Danny Boyle and the entire team who worked on the film, it feels like something so much more: by the time you’re rushing down, you’re caught between enjoying the ride and looking back with nostalgia on the climb itself.

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On a Grand Scale: The Similarities between “The Wire” and “The Dark Knight”

As has been noted many times when my guest spots on the /Filmcast (Which, excitingly for Kevin Bacon potential, has Kevin Smith as its guest on Monday night) end before the group gets into discussing the latest new release, I’m not much of a moviegoer. When my own visual media renaissance hit a few years ago, Television was just what I gravitated towards – it happened in such a way that I’m still one of those people who has to pretend I’ve seen various classics I haven’t. Just last night I pulled I “I think I’ve seen parts of X” when, in reality, I’m clueless.

But, like a whole boatload of other people, I headed to the theatres last evening to check out the biggest film of the summer. And like any multi-layered epic film of this nature, I do have a lot of things to say, but I don’t really want to write a review. Cultural Learnings is, at the end of the day, a television blog, and part of my life’s curse is comparing everything I read/watch to some sort of television example.

So, I decided that I’d kill two birds with one stone. I’m halfway through Season Four of The Wire, David Simon and Ed Burns’ HBO masterpiece, and I see a lot of connections between the construction of that series and what Nolan has accomplished with The Dark Knight. I’m not suggesting that the two shows are identical, or that Nolan achieves the effect or quality of The Wire’s five season long story arcs within a single two and a half hour film, but rather that some of the decisions and emphases he makes render this story as much an exercise of scale as Simon’s visionary work.

And both in the world of television crime series and superhero cinema, this type of scale is unprecedented.

[Note: Yes, believe it or not, I am going to try to discuss both of these examples without any major spoilers. This means that, while I’m going to talk about themes and characters in both series, I don’t plan on going into major details on either of them. So, people who have seen both can fill in the blanks, and maybe those who’ve only seen one may be intrigued by the other.]

In Terms of Scale

What sets The Wire apart from other crime shows on television is its emphasis on all impacts of a particular event or scenario. It is not a story of the police fighting against the Baltimore Drug Trade, but a show about the expansive impacts of that trade on the people fighting it, the people trapped inside of it, and the people who are simply innocent bystanders caught up in a game they’re not playing.

Similarly, The Dark Knight isn’t a film about one man’s crusade against crime. It is, instead, about Gotham’s reaction to the rise of crime and, in particular, the introduction of the diabolical terrorism of the Joker. Batman is but one of the many players we see – whether it’s new district attorney Harvey Dent, Lieutenant Gordon, Rachel Dawes, or even the people of Gotham themselves. The Joker’s terrorism impacts all of them, and such a broad viewpoint takes this from being a traditional story of good vs. evil to a whole new level of social inspection.

In Terms of Character

While some have criticized The Wire for lacking traditional character development, what it allows is for later seasons to go beyond its set of main characters into something deeper and more thematically interesting. Because the expected actions and reactions of various characters were already in place, Simon and Burns were able to use their time in establishing new characters in relation to them. By constantly adding to the universe, you get a very complicated but rewarding structure wherein heroes are not always playing the hero and villains are not always plotting villainy.

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