Archive | TV Matters

Of Apatow, Dunham, Girls, and the Godfather

In my latest Word and Film essay, I anticipate this weekend’s Girls season finale, and explore how Lena Dunham fits into Judd Apatown. An excerpt:

“The severity of the editing and swift tone changes in “Girls”–a sunny “Hard Days Night” cemetery caper followed by a darkly shot throwdown–do not cater to audiences so much as lead them, building upon a devil-may-carefulness that Apatow himself introduced in his first TV ventures. But Dunham takes it further. There’s a steeliness in her show that is inconceivable in the “family values”-laden, endearingly compensatory, slightly slobbering world of Apatow’s directorial efforts. (His confessed love for self-help books shows in good and bad ways.) She presents the denouement of Hannah’s book editor’s death but not of her grandmother’s; the abrupt evacuation of Adam’s sister; and a shakedown in which the Girls rip each other to shreds with terrifying accuracy. What’s more, none of these events are referenced again by characters otherwise well-acquainted with navel-gazing. There’s an incontinuity at hand that feels both deliberate and brutal. When coupled with all those nitpicking confessionals delivered in uptalk, it speaks of a generational callousness that is stunningly observed.”

For more, including a bevy of Godfather references, go here, Sirenaders!

(True) Blue Detective

I woke at 5:30 am to watch the True Detective finale because I knew not to watch it right before bed. I paused midway to bolster myself with a four-shot Americano and a chocolate croissant, and opened all the windows in my blue and gold nest to watch the rest with my small cat by my side. It didn’t help that it was dark outside at 7 am but, man, my efforts would have been all for naught anyway. I’m going to have nighmares tonight. What a series: So saturated in its own mythology that it seeps into your pores despite yourself. Some part of me will be watching that man with dead, wet eyes and scars on his chin fondling his half sister for the rest of my life.

Not-So-Sweet Melissa: The New McCarthyism

What to do with Melissa McCarthy? It’s a question I ask myself with a surprising regularity.
When we reviewed Identity Thief on Talking Pictures, I foundered while trying to explain why I wasn’t her biggest fan. God knows I was loath to come down on one of the few successful large woman in mainstream comedy. Add to that how much I loved her as obsessive-compulsive cook Sookie on Gilmore Girls, how eminently likable she comes off in interviews, and the fact that she’s one of the funniest comic actors around and you can see how I was at a bit of a loss.
Besides Albert Brooks, McCarthy was the only amusing part of the unfortunate This Is Forty, and she’s capable of revving herself into a veritable Cadillac of an insult machine. But in her movie shtick boils a pure vitriol that always pulls me out of my admiring reverie: As a rule, she throws out even more vile than is directed her way. I give her credit for not playing the jolly fat lady. I give her credit for not making herself the butt of every joke. But I’m not sure if I give her credit for what she does instead.
For in films McCarthy refuses to make herself the true butt of any joke, instead playing comedic alpha dog to a degree few others do these days.  (Maybe Chris Rock, which admittedly puts her in excellent company.) Take her sexuality. Rather than poking fun at her decidedly un-Hollywood physicality, she wields it adroitly. In her three biggest movies, Bridesmaids, Identity Thief and The Heat, she’s depicted as intensely sexual powerful. In Bridesmaids she also may read as laughably predatory but in the end that joke’s on us: she captures her very willing sexual bird of prey (played by her real-life husband). I’m not crazy about the subsequent sexy-sex scene—the two fuck while wolfing enormous submarine sandwiches—but even as I type those words I can hear how prudish they sound. Sure, it does seem she’s mocking her own size by playing up the gluttony angle: aha! a fat woman is turned on by eating!  But she commits so fully to the premise that we’re laughing with rather than at her.
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"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy