Archive for September 29, 2017

The Boiled Leather Audio Moment #10!

September 29, 2017

Moment 10 | New POVs

Which characters’ heads are we hoping hardest to get inside of for the first time in The Winds of Winter? That’s the simple question posed by listener/subscriber Pascal, and the answers lead to a short but sweet episode of BLAM, our Patreon-exclusive mini-podcast. Note that we’ve exhausted all of our $10-level questions, so if you wanna move to the front of the line for our next episode, up your ante to ten bucks a month and ask away! And if you’re not a subscriber yet, pledge $2 a month and listen in!

“The Deuce” thoughts, Season One, Episode Three: “The Principle Is All”

September 27, 2017

Despite the abundant charms of this episode, problems remain. Why is James Franco playing twins? Like, narratively speaking? It’s easy to understand stunt casting like this when it enables writers to depict two distinct personalities using a single actor, insinuating that they’re two competing aspects of human nature. That’s how Kyle MacLachlan’s Dale Cooper/Dougie Jones/Coop-elganger Twin Peaks trinity worked; it animated Ewan McGregor’s performances in Fargo‘s last season as well.

But Vinnie and Frankie are more like two peas in a pod than two sides of the same coin. They look alike, they sound alike, they groom their facial hair alike. They even work at the same place for the same mobster boss. In theory, Vincent’s way more responsible – working man, business owner, yadda yadda. He’s also more likable, able to get along with pimps, prostitutes, cops, mafiosi, straight waitresses, gay customers and even violent vagrants like this episode’s sinister breakout character Big Mike. But is the way he ran out on his wife and kids to make a new life for himself in Manhattan really any less reckless than his brother racking up gambling debts or busting open jukeboxes to steal their cash? On the flipside, is Frankie’s boyish charm really that different from his more straight-and-narrow brother’s people skills?

I reviewed this weekend’s episode of The Deuce for Rolling Stone. In the words of History of the World Part I, “Nice. Nice. Not thrilling…but nice.”

“Halt and Catch Fire” thoughts, Season Four, Episode Six: “A Connection Is Made”

September 27, 2017

This weekend I was tweeting excitedly about how good Halt and Catch Fire is. A friend, no stranger to the world of TV drama, replied, “It’s back???” This speaks poorly of how the critical community is covering Halt and Catch Fire. As of this week’s episode, “A Connection Is Made,” it’s one of the richest, loveliest, most unsparing, most humane dramas of the year. And think about the year of dramas we’ve had! We should never, ever shut up about this thing.

I wrote about this weekend’s sumptuous Halt and Catch Fire for Decider.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Luciferian Towers

September 24, 2017

“An end to foreign invasions. An end to borders. The total dismantling of the prison-industrial complex. Healthcare, housing, food and water acknowledged as an inalienable human right. The expert fuckers who broke this world never get to speak again.” Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s demands are firm, but, you know, fucking fair.

These demands come attached to a press release for the band’s new album, Luciferian Towers—a title that recalls the fiery horror that befell London’s Grenfell Tower and the gruesome class inequity that disaster exposed just weeks before the album was announced. Song titles include “Anthem for No State” and “Bosses Hang.” Fire courses through the “context” provided by the band in a press release: “We recorded it all in a burning motorboat.” “The wind is whistling through all 3,000 of its burning window-holes!” “The forest is burning and soon they’ll hunt us like wolves.” By the sound of it, post-rock’s most overtly political and unapologetically powerful band seems ready to toss the ravenous zombie corpse of neoliberalism on the pyre for good and all.

Seen in that infernal light, the sound of Luciferian Towers is the last thing you’d expect. The pulverizing, prophet-of-doom riffs that characterized Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! and Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress, the band’s previous two albums, are gone. So are the six-to-ten-minute stretches of drone—the anxious calm before those records’ storms. Ominous field recordings—a one-time Godspeed sonic standby, already pared down to a minimum on Allelujah! and eliminated entirely on Asunder—are again nowhere to be found. The album barely even hits minor-key territory until six tracks in, before resolving the melody into a more uplifting mode within a couple of minutes. If you’re looking for Lucifer, search elsewhere.

I reviewed Luciferian Towers, the new album by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, for Pitchfork.


September 24, 2017


signing and book release party

Thursday, September 28th
Desert Island
540 Metropolitan Ave.
Brooklyn, NY

Lala Albert
Sean T. Collins
Al Columbia
Gretchen Alice Felker-Martin
Julia Gfrörer
Aidan Koch
Laura Lannes

Also debuting the latest new works from these authors:
-Wet Earth by Lala Albert | Sonatina
-By Monday I’ll Be Floating in the Hudson with the Other Garbage by Laura Lannes | 2dcloud
-No End Will Be Found by Gretchen Alice Felker-Martin | Thuban Press

poster by Laura Lannes

“Halt and Catch Fire” thoughts, Season Four, Episode Five: “Nowhere Man”

September 24, 2017

In the closing montage, Donna loads up Cameron’s infamously difficult video game, while Gordon digs up the painstakingly maintained journals he’d been keeping of his deteriorative brain condition’s progress. Donna cracks the code that had thwarted so many players: Instead of trying to choose a path forward, you move upward instead, beginning a beautiful journey that leads you back home. As she does this, Gordon takes his journals and throws them into the fireplace, seemingly determined to live in the now and stop worrying about the future altogether. The accompaniment for the sequence is PJ Harvey’s “Rid of Me,” a song in which Harvey simultaneously brags about how she’s so irresistible her ex will never want to be free of her, but will wish he never met her all the while. Sound familiar?

I reviewed last week’s episode of Halt and Catch Fire for Decider. This week’s review coming soon.

The Boiled Leather Audio Hour Episode 66!

September 20, 2017

The ‘Game of Thrones’ Season Seven Post-Game Show

You wanted it, you got it. Sean & Stefan vs. Game of Thrones Season 7. ’Nuff said! NOTE: Since a lengthy illness on Sean’s part prevented us from getting this episode out in a timely fashion, we’re rushing it to you with minimal editing. Ooh baby we like it raw!


Additional links:

Sean’s Game of Thrones tag at, featuring links to all his work on this season for Rolling Stone, Vulture, In These Times, and more.

Our Patreon page at

Our PayPal donation page (also accessible via

Our iTunes page.


Previous episodes.

Podcast RSS feed.

Sean’s blog.

Stefan’s blog.

Harry Dean Stanton: 10 Essential Movies

September 18, 2017

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)

“I’ve already gone places. I just wanna stay where I am.” Stanton’s role as tired-looking trailer-park owner Carl Rodd in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks prequel was as cryptic as everything else in the film, lasting just a few short minutes and some spare lines of dialogue. But he packs decades of world-weariness into his brief screen time; nobody could turn “It’s just more shit I gotta do now” into a punchline that doubled as a declaration of existential despair. Stanton reprised and expanded the role in Peaks’ astonishing third season this year, cracking jokes about defying death one minute, bearing witness to unspeakable tragedy like an earthbound angel the next – a moving, bonus grace note in a long, legendary career. STC

I consider it one of the great privileges of my career as a writer to have written about Alien and Twin Peaks for Rolling Stone’s list of 10 Essential Harry Dean Stanton Movies.

“The Deuce” thoughts, Season One, Episode Two: “Show and Prove”

September 18, 2017

By now, perhaps you can detect the pattern emergingCandy discovering porn, Vincent moving from tending bar to owning one, Lori getting a crash course in street life, Abby choosing la vie Bohème: In case after case, The Deuce isn’t just introducing us to its characters and their world, it’s introducing those characters to their world. And while it may be new to them, the approach is, frankly, getting a little old.

Think of The Deuce as the world’s seediest superhero-team movie – Avengers After Dark, say – but one in which every hero and villain’s origin story is squeezed into a single movie before anyone so much as throws a punch. Or, closer to home, imagine a version of The Wire in which newbies like the young low-level drug dealer Wallace were our entry point into every storyline. Pretend that McNulty’s a rookie cop instead of a seasoned detective; Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell meet for the first time rather than run the gang together; Tommy Carcetti campaigns for student council president instead of mayor, et cetera. No matter how much you love the Marvel and/or Detective John Munch Cinematic Universe, you can see how same-y and sloggy that would get.

For writers, this approach is awfully convenient. It gives you a semi-organic way to include exposition, since someone has to tell these noobs what’s what. And as your protagonists get an eye-opening view of their new world, learn their new role and discover whether they’re good or bad at it, you can quickly assemble their character arcs like so much Ikea furniture.

But for viewers, it’s rote and repetitive. Despite the presence of master crime novelists George Pelecanos and Richard Price in the writers’ credits, “Show and Prove” leads you by hand through the most basic of plot beats – headstrong young women hugging disapproving mothers goodbye, wide-eyed naifs getting their first look at the dark side of the city, down-on-their-luck dudes deciding that this mafioso is different from all the others, yadda yadda yadda. It all feels as predictable as the nightly visit from the paddy wagon that the women of the Deuce. Can we at least get some Chinese takeout too?

The Deuce is suffering from origin-story overload; I reviewed its second episode for my beloved Rolling Stone.

“Narcos” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Ten: “Going Back to Cali”

September 18, 2017

The finale of Narcos Season 2 was the best episode of the series. The finale of Narcos Season Three…isn’t.

…yeah. I reviewed the disappointing finale of Narcos’ aimless third season for Decider.

“Narcos” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Nine: “Todos Los Hombres del Presidente”

September 18, 2017

If you need to sum up the problem with Narcos Season 3, you could do a lot worse than to show what victory for Agent Peña and his allies looks like: the Rodriguez Brothers, cozying up behind bars. This is what all of Peña, Feistl, Van Ness, and Salcedo’s efforts have amounted to: the Cali Godfathers, hanging out together in a jail in which they have full rein, their momentary internecine enmities forgotten. What was it all for? You’d have to ask Narcos‘ writers for the answer.

The penultimate episode of Narcos Season Three left me questioning whether the whole exercise has a point. I reviewed it for Decider.

“Narcos” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Eight: “Convivir”

September 18, 2017

The star of “Convivir,” Narcos Season 3 Episode 8, is the camera. Once again, standout director Fernando Coimbra lets imagery convey emotion and comment on the plot, in what is otherwise a very straightforwardly shot series. And in this tense, cruel hour of TV, that willingness to show rather than tell matters more than ever.

I liked episode eight of Narcos Season Three quite a bit too. I reviewed it for Decider.

“Narcos” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Seven: “Sin Salida”

September 18, 2017

All told, it’s super-engaging genre television. But thanks to director Fernando Coimbra, it’s well made genre television as well. Coimbra lends a certain glow to the nighttime lighting of the city and the base where Peña and Serrano plan the raid. He cleverly mirrors church-door entrances by Pacho and Peña. And he echoes it again when he shows Miguel breaking down from exhaustion and fear in a doorway in his largely destroyed safehouse, emphasizing the fact that unlike the other two men, he’s not moving forward. (It’s actor Francisco Denis’s strongest moment in the role, too.)

Bottom line? This is more like it.

I reviewed episode 7 of Narcos Season 3 — the first one I really liked — for Decider.

“The Deuce” thoughts, Season One, Episode One: “Pilot”

September 11, 2017

Set in 1971, David Simon’s sleazier-than-thou new HBO show treats Manhattan like a Magic 8-Ball, where losers from the outer boroughs, uptown or across the country get shaken up; the hope is that they come up with a better future for themselves than “REPLY HAZY, ASK AGAIN LATER.” Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Eileen, an ex-suburbanite better known as “Candy,” one of Times Square’s most in-demand sex workers – she can switch identities simply by removing her blonde explosion of a wig. James Franco stars both as Vinnie, a Brooklyn bartender who slaves away seven nights a week, and his dirtbag twin brother Frankie, whose two most prominent personality traits are wisecracks and gambling debts. The renaissance-man actor eases into both roles simply by growing a period-appropriate mustache – a facial-hair accoutrement that transports you to the age of Richard Nixon and Travis Bickle more effectively than a million music cues. It’s a show about transformation, both onscreen and off.

Co-created by The Wire/Treme impresario and his frequent collaborator/acclaimed crime novelist George Pelecanos, The Deuce boasts an impressive array of talent in the executive producer chairs alone, including Gyllenhaal, Franco, director Michelle MacLaren (Game of Thrones/Breaking Bad), and The Night Of co-creator Richard Price. It also comes hot on the heals of HBO’s other big-budget–era NYC period piece from a pedigreed showrunner: The Sopranos/Boardwalk Empire vet Terrence Winter’s ill-fated music-biz drama Vinyl. The two series’ proximity makes apples-to-apples comparisons both irresistible and instructive. One title conjures up the nostalgic idea of a lost golden age, when music, and by extension life itself, was real, maaaan. The other is just a forgotten and nondescript nickname for 42nd Street. This ain’t no dream factory, kids.


[But] clocking in at around eighty minutes – nearly the length of many of the movie landmarks set in the era it’s portraying – it features a whole lot of … well, atmosphere is putting it generously. As we slowly get to know the sprawling cast, few if any surprises are on offer: smiling pimps with hidden mean streaks, workaholic husbands with restless spouses, college kids dabbling on the wrong side of the tracks, sex workers who (gasp!) have a family they’ve left behind, yadda yadda yadda. It’s tough to justify the sheer amount of screentime involved for figures who do so little but play their appointed roles.

I’ll be covering The Deuce for Rolling Stone this season, beginning with this review of its series premiere. It’s nothing to write home about yet, but to be fair you coulda said the same thing about The Wire after its pilot, too.

“Halt and Catch Fire” thoughts, Season Four, Episode Four: “Tonya and Nancy”

September 11, 2017

Can’t any of these people ever do anything that isn’t in some way designed or defined by each other?

Well, no, of course not. That’s the point. That’s the resonance and relevance of Tonya and Nancy — two athletes forever linked by the former’s attack on the latter, and the latter’s response. You can’t tell the story of one without telling the story of the other.

I reviewed yet another lovely episode of Halt and Catch Fire for Decider.

Emmys 2017 Predictions: Who Will Win, Who Should Win

September 11, 2017

Best Actor in a Drama
Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
Anthony Hopkins, Westworld
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us

WILL WIN: Here’s a Drama category in which the absence of Game of Thrones actually doesn’t wreak havoc, since HBO nominates everyone from Peter Dinklage to Kit Harington in the Best Supporting Actor slot. Plus, last year’s winner – Mr. Robot‘s Rami Malek – isn’t even nominated this year, so the field is wide open. Our guess is that the mass appeal of This Is Us gives the excellent Sterling K. Brown an edge over the star power of Anthony Hopkins on Westworld, whose show has plenty of other opportunities to take home trophies.

SHOULD WIN: Matthew Rhys and Bob Odenkirk are both plumbing such depths of unhappiness on The Americans and Better Call Saul that their performances should come with an antidepressant prescription; we’d give either of them the gold, particularly over such “well, we’ve got to nominate these guys again, I guess” choices as Schreiber and Spacey. Let’s go with Odenkirk, thanks to his material’s higher degree of difficulty this year.

ROBBED: Rami Malek won the Emmy in 2016 for his indispensable work on Mr. Robot; this year he wasn’t even nominated. The yeoman’s work that Justin Theroux has done on The Leftovers for years deserved recognition. And while we realize the networks decide which actor is submitted for which character, it’s nutty that Jeffrey Wright got tapped for Westworld‘s Best Supporting Actor and Sir Anthony got Best Actor, rather than the other way around. But tops on the list is Michael McKean on Better Call Saul, delivering a performance of such profound misery that you’ll forget Spinal Tap and Laverne & Shirley within minutes.

The tradition continues: I took a stab at predicting the outcome of all the major categories at this coming Sunday’s Emmy Awards for Rolling Stone. I have no truck with awards shows as barometers of quality, but they can be a lot of fun to analyze like a sport.

“It”: Everything You Need to Know About Stephen King’s Killer Clown Story

September 11, 2017

Pennywise is one of modern horror’s greatest monsters
He’s the original killer clown from outer space and the most infamous villain in Stephen King’s bibliography, which is saying something. (All apologies, Randall Flagg.)  Pennywise the Dancing Clown is the form most frequently taken by a malevolent entity that’s been haunting the entire town of Derry, Maine for centuries; it’s lurked beneath the land since it hurtled through the cosmos and crash-landed on Earth from another dimension millennia ago. This shape-shifter can transform into its victims’ worst nightmares, feeding on both their fear and their flesh. Its preferred target: little kids, whose vivid imaginations give it an extensive menu of terrors to choose from. This also explains the monster’s default mode: What kid doesn’t love clowns? (At least before It more or less singlehandedly ruined their image, that is.)

But in addition to being one mean, multifaceted predator, Pennywise has exerted a malign influence on the entire town. He himself – or It Itself – only emerges from hibernation once every 27 years or so for a feeding frenzy that lasts roughly a year to 18 months. But Its presence in the sewers beneath Derry radiates an evil that makes the small town the murder capital of New England … and generates a sort of willful amnesia among the population. Such forgetfulness keeps folks from reflecting on their sleepy burg’s history of atrocities, disasters and mass murders. It also prevents people from connecting the dots when the creature resurfaces and kids start going missing en masse.

Overall, Pennywise combines a killer look and set of powers with one of King’s strongest concepts: a fairy-tale troll that hides out not under a bridge, but an entire city – a ghost that haunts not just one house, but all of them. As our foremost chronicler of small-town American evil, King has a royally good time with the idea.

I wrote a primer on It — the book, the miniseries, the movie, Pennywise, Tim Curry, That Scene, you name it — just in time for the release of the new blockbuster film adaptation for Rolling Stone.

“Narcos” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Six: “Best Laid Plans”

September 11, 2017

There are problems on the (nominally) good-guy side of the story, too. Feistl and Van Ness are fun enough to watch, with their Mutt-and-Jeff height difference and the contrast between Van Ness’s uptight demeanor and his awesome collection of ‘90s band t-shirts. (Wu-Tang is for the DEA as well as for the children, apparently!) But poor Javi Peña spends so much time running around by himself — literally running around, in this episode, thanks to his foot chase with Franklin Jurado in the streets of Curaçao — that he might as well be starring in a completely separate show. Without a foil like his former partner Chris Murphy or regular in-person contact with any of the other current main characters (Feistl, Van Ness, Jorge, the Rodriguezes, whoever), his adventures feel disconnected and weightless. His dull narration (the episode’s big concluding speech begins with “Things don’t always go according to plan” — no shit!) does him no favors either.

I reviewed the sixth episode of Narcos Season Three, which pours on the bloodshed but feels oddly empty despite the spectacle, for Decider.

“Narcos” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Five: “MRO”

September 11, 2017

“It was a mistake, not stopping it sooner,” says Christina Jurado of her life near the beating financial heart of the world’s largest drug cartel. “Have you ever done anything like that?” “I have,” responds Javi Peña, presumably thinking of his role in starting the Los Pepes death squads, but perhaps also rueing ruined romantic entanglements, or just his general penchant for being a pain in everyone’s ass.

This exchange (between Donna from Halt and Catch Fire and the Red Viper from Game of Thrones, as if my dreams were doing the casting) sums up “MRO,” the fifth episode of Narcos Season 3. A whole lot of people are reaching the point where they’re in over their heads, and should have stopped swimming away from the shore a long time ago. Some, like Christina — whom Javi is pressuring to persuade her cartel financier husband to turn on his bosses — realize it. Others don’t.

I reviewed episode five of Narcos Season Three for Decider.