Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Golden Globes 2018 Predictions: What Will Win, What Should Win

January 3, 2018

Best TV Series, Drama
The Crown
Game of Thrones
The Handmaid’s Tale
Stranger Things
This Is Us

WILL WIN: To paraphrase Bruce Wayne, Globes voters are a superstitious, cowardly lot. After anointing The Crown over worthy competition last year as a nod to our collective norms, expect voters to join the #Resistance and crown The Handmaid’s Tale this time around.

SHOULD WIN: As usual, Game of Thrones aimed highest and hit hardest.

ROBBED: Where to begin? The Americans, Better Call Saul, Halt and Catch Fire and, most flagrantly, The Leftovers are all all-time-great series that the Globes have seen fit to circumnavigate.

Best TV Series, Musical or Comedy
Black-ish
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Master of None
SMILF
Will & Grace

WILL WIN: This is wild: The only series reappearing from last year’s suite of nominees is Black-ish. Your guess is as good as ours, but this certainly seems like a sign it’s a favorite.

SHOULD WIN: Go Black-ish, the most thematically ambitious of the bunch.

ROBBED: The final season of Girls, critical darling The Good PlaceBetter ThingsBroad CityCrazy Ex-GirlfriendSilicon Valley, InsecureVeep … seriously, it’s easier to list the shows that weren’t nominated than the ones that were.

Best TV Limited Series or Movie
Big Little Lies
Fargo
Feud: Bette and Joan
The Sinner
Top of the Lake: China Girl

WILL WIN: Big Little Lies has the star power and the critical acclaim in the most perplexing Globes category of them all.

SHOULD WIN: Fargo, hands down. It’s a season of television that speaks directly to our current predicament without ever lecturing us about it.

ROBBED: Never in the history of television award ceremonies have shows been as badly neglected as Twin Peaks: The Return and The Young Pope. The latter is a contender for the all-time surreal greats right out of the gate; the former was crowned as “the most groundbreaking TV series ever” by this very publication. Ignoring these shows makes the Globes a goofy joke, to be honest, though we’re happy to laugh along as long as we can.

Despite not caring about awards, I’ve come to both enjoy and be pretty good at predicting them. Go figure! I wrote up my predictions — as well as should-wins and snubs — for the massive, crazy Golden Globes slate for Rolling Stone.

Netflix Turned a Creative Corner In 2017 With Originals Like ‘Dark,’ ‘Suburra’ and ‘The Punisher’

January 2, 2018

Call it the Lilyhammer of the Gods.

In February 2012, Netflix established its creative model right out of the gate. Its first original show, Lilyhammer, starred “Little” Steven Van Zant, fresh from playing a mobster on The Sopranos…as a mobster, albeit one who’s relocated to Norway for witness-protection purposes.

The road from Lilyhammer‘s quirky Sopranos rehash to Stranger Things‘ unabashed theft from ’80s pop-culture staples is not a particularly long one. All that changed was the company’s self-identification as a creator of original content rather than an online video store, and its subsequent accumulation of user data and development of a predictive algorithm to deliver the goods.

Many of the network’s original series —”original” being a relative term— speak to this desire to please the crowd with things that have already pleased them. Why have only one off-beat comedy about the mildly crazy lives of young people set in New York (Master of None), for example, when you can also have one in Chicago (Easy) and Los Angeles (Love) as well? It’s too bad Donald Glover titled his show Atlanta and took it to FX, or else I’m sure Netflix would have something on the docket for that youth-culture mecca as well. In a more traditional move, reboots are common, from the campy (Fuller House) to the acclaimed (One Day at a Time). And that little row of Netflix Original rectangles contains enough grim-visaged cops, crooks, and killers to look like a photo array you’d use to identify suspects in the world’s most focus-grouped crime.

Which is what makes shows like DarkThe Punisher, and Suburra: Blood on Rome stand out. From the outside, these 2017 debuts seem like status-quo programming. But each veered of the course they could have cruised down effortlessly, taking creative risks that yielded entertaining and provocative results.

Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, the third time it’s enemy action: Over at Decider I wrote about the possibility that Dark, The Punisher, and Suburra represent a creative turning point for Netflix, in which the sheer volume of material the network puts out is now enabling some shows to complicate and interrogate their genre elements rather than serving them up straight.

The Best TV Shows of 2017

January 2, 2018

15. On Cinema at the Cinema / The Electric Sun 20 Trial

14. The Punisher

13. Girls

12. Dark

11. The Affair

10. Billions

9. Suburra: Blood on Rome

8. The Americans

7. Better Call Saul

6. Fargo

5. Game of Thrones

4. The Leftovers

3. The Young Pope

2. Halt and Catch Fire

1. Twin Peaks

I’m a TV critic, and to my astonishment I realized that this year I watched and reviewed every single episode of twenty-three different shows in addition to whatever else I watched for fun or edification. (Which to be honest was not a whole lot, considering the amount of time the paying gigs ate up!) I’ve always preferred tailoring my career to that kind of episode-by-episode writing (the term of art is “recaps” but thats a preposterously inadequate term for what anyone worth reading does) because it keeps the focus on the work itself instead of the conversation surrounding the work. The art is what goes on the screen and how it affects you, not what’s being said about it in tweets and thinkpieces. That sounds condescending, and I guess maybe it is, but I’ve preferred this approach ever since I was primarily a comics critic, reviewing three books a week every week for a couple of years, and tons on either side of that too. My pal Matthew Perpetua always took that approach to music with his Fluxblog — that’s how we became friends — and over time maintaining that outlook has been a real sanity saver. It doesn’t hurt that this makes my precarious full-time freelance existence a lot more predictable in terms of workflow, scheduling, and income than it would be if it were dependent on pitching new essays every week.

Anyway! It was an absolutely marvelous year for television, which is funny to reflect on given the wave of “prestige drama is over” pieces that crested during The Young Pope and just a couple of weeks before Twin fuckin’ Peaks. (I have strong, pretentious, goth feelings about why many of my peers prefer adorkable comedies to drama, and overreact to novelty over quality within the drama category too, that I’ll keep to myself.)

If you look at that top 15 list, I’d say the top 7 are genuine for-the-ages seasons of TV, an extraordinary amount of great work compared to almost any other time even in the New Golden Age. Twin Peaks aired the best season of any show ever, imo, and I’m not sure it’s even close; it was the best work of David Lynch’s career, and I love David Lynch’s career. (The blu-ray box set used a quote from one of my pieces as the pullquote on the back of the box, which I imagine Lynch voicing his approval of in Gordon Cole’s voice.) Halt and Catch Fire‘s last few episodes were so fucking warm and humane without ever getting sappy or feel-good that it skyrocketed straight to my all-time list. The Young Pope did, too, right out of the gate; I laughed with pure delight and admiration a whole lot during that show. With the exception of the animated sequence that ripped off that World of Tomorrow guy, which is very much not my thing, I thought Fargo Season 3 was unfairly maligned compared to its predecessors (and especially compared to Legion — there’s that novelty bit I mentioned); Thewlis, Coon, Stuhlbarg, Winstead, and Wise all crushed it, and McGregor caught up by the end too, and V.M. Varga is the villain for our time if you go for that sort of thing.

There were some surprises too. Like a lot of people I felt like this season of The Americans was impeccable on an episode by episode basis but didn’t add up the way past seasons did. To my shock, Billions became one of the most entertaining and meticulously constructed shows on TV, and all of the cast additions this year were a ton of fun. Netflix went from having aired close to zero shows I really give a shit about to three that I adore in what felt like overnight: Suburra, an intensely emotional Italian crime drama about three extremely handsome young criminals; The Punisher, a show that was much better and more moral than it could have easily gotten away with being when you see Blue Lives Matter-branded Punisher skulls everywhere you look; and Dark, a horror-tinged sci-fi story that is actually a ruthless character drama.

I don’t care for very many sitcoms and find it hard to compare comedies to dramas no matter what, since the main responsibility for characters in a comedy is to be joke delivery mechanisms and thus you can’t really evaluate them on a human-emotions basis. (Or at least you shouldn’t!) But Girls is basically a very funny drama, like Mad Men, or a very mean comedy, like Curb Your Enthusiasm, so I’ve always enjoyed it, and the On Cinema Universe is like freebasing Tim Heidecker.

The big letdown for me this year was Mr. Robot. I loved Season 2, and while I could see that Season 3 was a deliberate move back toward the more straightforward rhythm of Season 1 I was right there with it because it’s so good at portraying how bleak contemporary existence can be — until the big second act climax, after which I thought it lost its way. Oh well!

One thing I love about my job is that without it, I would never have watched DarkSuburra, or Billions at all, and wouldn’t have stuck with BillionsThe LeftoversThe Americans, or Halt and Catch Fire past their first seasons, or even just a few episodes into their first seasons. So that’s nice!

I also watch cartoons with my kids sometimes. Nearly every kids’ cartoon on Netflix is insufferable, but they love Gumball and Uncle Grandpa on Cartoon Network and so do I. Those are shows that really are for kids and are totally hilarious to them but are also totally hilarious to me, and not in a “here’s a joke about mortgages, Dad” or “now let’s get serious about our feelings, neurotic millennial who is also watching this children’s show” kind of way — they’re just funny, like Ren & Stimpy used to be.

I’m looking forward to doing more writing about television this year and doing it the only way I know how to do it. I’m excited to be off twitter for the process, too. If you need me, you know how to find me.

The Boiled Leather Audio Mixtape Vol. 1!

December 31, 2017

A holiday gift for you from Boiled Leather! Sean proudly presents a surprise collection of music from the Boiled Leather Audio Hour and the Boiled Leather Audio Moment — full-length versions of our opening and closing themes by composer Kevin MacLeod, plus 17 superb songs from across the musical spectrum that Sean threw on the podcasts just because he felt like it. Enjoy, and we’ll see you this time next year for Vol. 2!

DOWNLOAD IT HERE

LISTEN ON SOUNDCLOUD

Dark Times – Kevin MacLeod // Seattle – Public Image Ltd. // Twist – Goldfrapp // Into the West – Annie Lennox // Spin Spin Sugar – Sneaker Pimps // Long, Long, Long – The Beatles // Bang – Yeah Yeah Yeahs // Nutmeg – Ghostface Killah // The Court of the Crimson King Including the Return of the Fire Witch and the Dance of the Puppets – King Crimson // Running the World – Jarvis Cocker // Go Get It – Slowdive // Into the Void – Nine Inch Nails // Set Adrift on Memory Bliss – P.M. Dawn // To the Moon and Back – Fever Ray // Ballad of Maxwell Demon – Shudder to Think // Last Caress – The Misfits // Back to Back – Drake // Fairytale of New York – The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl // Lone Harvest – Kevin MacLeod

The Boiled Leather Audio Moment #15!

December 31, 2017

Moment 15 | Tinfoil

It’s our final BLAM of 2017, and man is it a juicy one! This episode of our subscriber-exclusive mini-podcast concerns a question pitched to us by subscriber Björn Mark Helgoe, who’d like to know which tinfoil-hat theories we believe in that the majority of the fandom doesn’t, and why. Strap on your thinking cap, subscribe to our Patreon for just $2/month or more, and listen in to Sean’s “Oberyn poisoned Tywin” theory and beyond. Thanks to you all for subscribing and listening! Happy New Year!

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The Boiled Leather Audio Hour Episode 70!

December 31, 2017

The Impact of Ice and Fire

For our very special 70th episode of the podcast, and our lucky 13th installment of 2017, BLAH is going big! In this freewheeling, wide-ranging episode, Sean & Stefan trace the effects of A Song of Ice and Fire (and Game of Thrones) on our lives, our minds, and our world. How has ASoIaF shaped your illustrious co-hosts’ thinking on art and literature? How can it help us understand the simultaneous rise of the New Golden Age of Television and nerd culture, including nerd culture’s toxic elements as well as its positive ones? Where would each of us be without it? The answers to all these questions and many more await you in the grand finale of our three-part holiday special!

DOWNLOAD EPISODE 70

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The 10 Best Comics of 2017

December 22, 2017

MIRROR MIRROR II edited by Sean T. Collins & Julia Gfrörer

Darkness is as intimate as a caress and as distant as history in this chilling anthology of horror comics….This collection doesn’t just feel haunting; it feels corrosive.

Mirror Mirror II, the comics and art anthology I co-edited with my partner Julia Gfrörer ( @doopliss ), was named one of the 10 Best Comics of the Year by The Verge. As always, I’m so pleased to learn how this book has reached people.

The 10 Best Musical TV Moments of 2017

December 20, 2017

2. The Young Pope: “Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO

“Sexy and I Know It” is Paolo Sorrentino’s ambitious, emotional, confrontational series about an autocratic American-born pope in miniature. Granted, using LMFAO to represent your drama about faith, loneliness, power, corruption, and lies is a bit counterintuitive compared to, say, summing up Twin Peaks with a song from the Twin Peaks score. That’s the joke, in part: It’s very stupid, and therefore very funny, to watch the Holy Father dress up for his first address to the College of the Cardinals while Redfoo drawls about wearing a Speedo at the beach so he can work on his ass tan. Girl, look at that body … of Christ?!

But like so much of The Young Pope, there’s a much deeper and more serious meaning beneath the craziness and camp. To wit, the brand of tyrannical, uncompromising religion the pontiff formerly known as Lenny Belardo (Jude Law) embraces depends on craziness and camp. Look at the obscene decadence of his subsequent entrance to the Sistine Chapel, borne on a litter like an emperor of old. Listen to his megalomaniacal speech, demanding that the Church remake itself in his bizarre and imperious image. Watch how he demands his followers demonstrate their obedience by literally kissing his feet. It’s a contrast to the self-aware silliness of “Sexy and I Know It,” yes, but it’s a contrast achieved by taking that song’s boasts as deadly serious claims to superiority. He’s got passion in his pants and he ain’t afraid to show it. Spiritually speaking, anyway.

I wrote about the 10 best music cues on TV this year for Vulture. As is always the case with lists of this nature when I write them, it is objectively right and I shall brook no dissent.

The Boiled Leather Audio Hour Episode 69! (nice)

December 19, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Sean. Stefan. Star Wars. ’Nuff said! Discover why Sean rates The Last Jedi as his least favorite Star Wars movie and learn what Stefan thinks it has in its favor as we go in-depth about Rian Johnson’s peculiarly divisive film in our longest episode ever!

DOWNLOAD EPISODE 69

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The 50 Greatest Star Wars Moments

December 18, 2017

30. Porgs! (Episode VIII: The Last Jedi)

What’s a four-letter word for “cute little calico penguin puffin pug owl cat hamster Ewok Mogwai Tribble Furby Pikachu hybrid thing”? Ask literally any child you know and you’ll get the answer. These preposterously adorable critters, designed by Jake Lunt Davies, are so insanely marketable and merchandisable that Disney may as well have fired them via drone strike under every Christmas tree in the country (for a fee, of course). Even so, it’s hard to begrudge these island dwellers, several of whom take up residence in the Millennium Falcon, since they really are as delightful as advertised. The scene where Chewie can’t bring himself to chow down on roast porg will do more for vegetarianism than a million naked PETA ads.

With Star Wars: The Last Jedi now in theaters, I revisited and revised my list of the greatest Star Wars moments for Vulture, incorporating the new movie and cutting it down to a nice round 50 entries.

Just for fun, here’s how the list breaks down, movie by movie:

20th Century Fox theme for Episodes I-VI 1

The Phantom Menace 3

Attack of the Clones 2

Revenge of the Sith 6

Rogue One 3

A New Hope 10

The Empire Strikes Back 9

Return of the Jedi 10

The Force Awakens 4

The Last Jedi 2

Does the number for The Last Jedi tell you anything about how I felt about the movie? Hmmmmmmm.

The Boiled Leather Audio Moment #14!

December 18, 2017

Moment 14 | Believing in the Big Prophecies

That’s right, folks — Sean & Stefan are going back to back with two new BLAMs in a single night! The topic for our latest subscriber-only mini-podcast comes from $5/month patron Steve Shapiro, who asks why everyone’s so certain that the major story-ending prophecies involving Azor Ahai Reborn and “the dragon has three heads” will come to pass given Marwyn the Mage’s memorably profane line, “Prophecy will bite your prick off every time.” We love prophecy questions here at BLAM because they exist right in the venn-diagram overlap between theories and theme, so we really dig into this one. Keep your night of hot Boiled Leather content going strong by subscribing for just $2 a month at our Patreon and listening in!

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The Boiled Leather Audio Moment #13!

December 18, 2017

Moment 13 | Re-Adapting A Song of Ice and Fire

When George R.R. Martin finally sends A Dream of Spring off to the printer, will a Game of Thrones redux be on the way? That’s the question posed by $10/month subscriber Tom Berman in the latest episode of the BLAM mini-podcast, exclusive to our $2-and-up patrons! Sean & Stefan discuss the likelihood of a second film or television adaptation of ASoIaF, wonder who might be suited to do one should it happen, and compare it to recent developments in the re-adaptation front, like Watchmen and The Lord of the Rings (kinda). Subscribe for the low low price of $2 a month and enjoy!

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The Boiled Leather Audio Hour Episode 68!

December 17, 2017

2017: The Year in Review

BLAH takes a look back at the year that was in our long-related return! On this episode of the Boiled Leather Audio Hour, Sean & Stefan discuss 2017’s most memorable books, films, and TV — from Twin Peaks to Dunkirk and beyond. The state of superheroes and prestige TV get a good going-over too. You’ll also hear about stuff from past years that helped keep us afloat during a year when the world went adrift. Plus! A candid discussion of the illness that kept us from recording for the past month. This is just the first of three episodes we’ll be rolling out this month to thank you for your patience and faith in us, so listen up and stay tuned!

DOWNLOAD EPISODE 68

Additional links:

Our Patreon page at patreon.com/boiledleatheraudiohour.

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A brief note on Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

December 15, 2017

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This is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen in a videogame

“Mr. Robot” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Ten: “eps3.9_shutdown-r”

December 15, 2017

SPOILER ALERT

The best part was the axe murder.

When Dark Army fixer Irving drives the blade into corrupt FBI Agent Santiago’s chest, and eventually many other parts of his body, a lot of things happen at once. Bobby Cannavale is finally given a chance to cut loose after a season of playing Irving as a model of chatty, casual restraint; now he can go full Gyp Rosetti, and it’s a thing of beauty. Moreover, Mr. Robot has had horror in its DNA, from Tod Campbell’s often eerie cinematography to the roots of fsociety’s iconography in a slasher film; an axe murder seen in that light seems almost overdue. Finally, an explosion of intimate, savage, gory violence after a season full of tension and sadness, in which even a gigantic series of terrorist bombings is witnessed only at a remove, takes all of the show’s unspoken resentments and hatreds and buries them in a warm, wet body, over and over again. “These are for me,” says Irving as he sends his traumatized and cowed new slave at the FBI, Dom DiPierro, away. They’re for everyone on the show, really.

I wish the rest of Mr. Robot’s Season 3 finale (“eps3.9_shutdown-r”) cut half so deep. Instead, it’s a claimant for the most disappointing episode in the history of the show — a profound narrative miscalculation that sees the show retrench rather than create new possibilities, yet also denies the basic sense of completion and catharsis you’d think such a retrenchment would require. Axe murders aside, it just sort of sits there, waiting for something else to happen.

[…]

All told, it doesn’t surprise me that the finale, and the season itself, is being held up by other critics as a return to form. It was — to a fault. Audacious episodes like the Tyrell Wellick spotlight and the long-take high-rise thriller, the highlights of the season for me, now feel like respites in a long act of creative backpedaling, to get the show back to where it was when it was a zeitgeisty phenomenon during Season 1. “Like 5/9 never happened”? More like if Season 2, a phenomenally bold season of sweepingly despairing and vicious television that risked alienating the audience the show had built, never happened. We’re headed back to the start, and that’s not a ride I’m sure I want to take.

I reviewed the season finale of Mr. Robot, which made one baffling and disappointing narrative choice after another for an hour, for Decider. A truly dispiriting letdown.

“Dark” thoughts, Season One, Episode Ten: “Alpha and Omega”

December 15, 2017

The true innovation and genius of Dark — the thing that separates it from even the most entertaining time-travel stories, from Back to the Future to The Terminator to The Time Machine itself — is that it’s not just an exciting riddle about creating and escaping time warps for you to try and solve, nor a chilling look at a dark future we wish to avoid (until that final scene, anyway). As I put it in an earlier review, “Dark’s true interest isn’t in the characters’ inability to escape the spacetime loop, but in using that premise to explore their inability to escape their own nature.”

The adult Jonas makes this point explicitly to his younger self. In the middle of a speech about how he has to leave the teenage Jonas locked up in Noah’s chamber, because his experiences inside will be necessary to make him the man he becomes, he drops what almost feels like a non sequitur: “Why did you kiss Martha?” Then he elaborates: “We’re not free in what we do, because we’re not free in what we want. We can’t overcome what’s deep within us.” At this, the younger Jonas begins sobbing, begging his older self to stop talking over and over again. “I want everything to go back to normal,” he says.

But there is no normal. Just as the wormhole locks the people of Winden in an inescapable loop of misery, so too do their own unchangeable natures and desires. It’s the boldest wedding of time travel to a provocative psychological theme I’ve ever encountered. For that reason alone I’ll follow Dark into the future.

I reviewed the season finale of Dark for Decider. It ends with my least favorite scene in the series so far, and it’s a bit deflating to see it reach the end zone only to trip over its own untied shoelaces, but whatever. Still a show to be reckoned with.

“Dark” thoughts, Season One, Episode Nine: “Everything Is Now”

December 15, 2017

It occurs to me now that among its many other antecedents, Dark feels like a version of Lost folded in on itself, in which the action on the magical, spacetime-traveling Island and the secret-revealing, surprise-laden, character-driven backstory flashbacks all occur simultaneously. “Everything Is Now” indeed.

I wrote about the baroque complexity of Dark’s penultimate episode for Decider.

“Dark” thoughts, Season One, Episode Eight: “As You Sow, So Shall You Reap”

December 15, 2017

Like so much great genre art, Dark uses its fantastical elements not just because they’re compelling in their own right, but because their spectacular nature is closer to the inarticulable gravity of the emotions we experience every day.  Helge, Ulrich, Mikkel, Hannah, Jana, Jonas, the mysterious stranger, and (in a striking reveal) Claudia Tiedemann all seem to have driven to mental illness by the wormhole’s impact on their lives, but as another great work of genre fiction about family and murder once put it, we all go a little mad sometimes. And what else do the worst disasters and failures of your life feel like if not a tear in the fabric of space and time themselves?

I reviewed episode 8 of Dark, which really fucking went there, for Decider.

Awards

December 13, 2017

Between Bon Jovi, the worst rock and roll band of all time, getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Twin Peaks, the best television show of all time, not getting nominated at the Golden Globes, this is a bad fuckin’ week for awards.