2008-04-30 : Movies and TV

The Shield, Battlestar Galactica, The Office, Knocked Up, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Michael Clayton, maybe some more.

There may be spoilers. Avert your eyes.

1. I'm caught up on The Shield. It's kind of an uncomfortable feeling. For some reason I liked knowing that, out there in the world, there were people who'd seen the future.

Shane is a colossal cock-up. Vic too. My money's still on Ronny. He's more unlikeable the less he's opaque.

2. Dear Battlestar Galactica,

Who's a Cylon isn't a gripping mystery all by itself. When I know that there's one Cylon unaccounted for, trying to create suspense by casting suspicion on several characters doesn't work. That doesn't create suspense, it only tells me that it doesn't matter who the cylon is. If it could be any of them, it might as well be any of them, and I'm non-gripped.

Your friend, Vincent

3. Look, I already knew what was going on between Michael and Jan. I really didn't need to see it layed out, so uncharacteristically, in all its nakedness and filth. Generally The Office strikes such a sweet balance between making me laugh and making me cringe, but that episode was way too cringe-y.

On the plus side, when Rob was up we watched a couple episodes of Coupling, and while funny it showed just how unstudied The Office seems. Dinner at Michael and Jan's aside, what a good show.

4. Judd Apatow likes his characters and is good to them. The opposite of, oh, Alexander Payne, Neil LaBute, or Christopher Guest.

5. Oh yeah, The Office and Michael Clayton, what they reveal about suspense.

I watched a half dozen episodes of season 4 of The Office, then went back and watched the whole series from the start with Meg. Here we are in seasons 2 and 3, and I know full well what's coming between Pam and Jim in season 4, and the suspense is killing me anyway. Every barrier makes my heart sink, and I honestly fear that they'll never be okay.

In Michael Clayton, we see his car blow up in the first ten minutes. Nevertheless, when time catches up with that preview, and his car's about to blow up for real? Suspenseful anyway.

Why is that? Why is it that I can know what's going to happen, but not TRUST it?

1. On 2008-04-30, Guy Shalev said:

I love The Office, we didn't get Season 4 here yet.

It's amazing how much it can make me cringe, like, "No, he didn't do that, oh please, someone, stop him!"



2. On 2008-04-30, Ben Lehman said:

We just caught up on Avatar. Much the same feeling.

Oh, here's a letter:

Dear Avatar,

Please do not take your awesome, unconventional, mischievous, deeply human girl character and make her into a stereotypical "busybody/little-mama/no-fun-bossy-girl" character. It's not character development. It's falling back on stereotypes. Just because you have introduced an even less conventional girl character doesn't give you the excuse.


P.S. While you're at it, please research the history of both Tibet and Japan before and during WW2.


3. On 2008-04-30, Z-Dog said:

yeah, I don't know what it was about that bomb in Michael Clayton either. the spot that got me was when he was pounding his GPS display. the first time I was like, huh, that's random. the second time I was like, "DON'T DO THAT! THERE'S A BOMB IN THE CAR!"


4. On 2008-04-30, Vincent said:


I saw the movie in the theater with Emily, then again with Meg a couple of nights ago. So it was the fourth time I was seeing him driving too fast on that road upstate, and I was still biting my fingernails.


5. On 2008-04-30, Guy Shalev said:

Thank you Z-Dog, I had no idea who Michael Collins was, but I too watched Michael Clayton, and that part with the road and the horses was surreal.


6. On 2008-04-30, Brand Robins said:

I just watched the very first episode of the Shield last night, as Mo was ready to give the series a try.

I'd forgotten how much I hated the majority of the characters. How very, very much I hated them as individuals and a collective.

But I do, indeed, hate them. Some day I'll figure out why I so like a show about characters I hate so much.


7. On 2008-04-30, Vincent said:

Michael Collins! Dort. I'm going to edit that.


8. On 2008-04-30, John Harper said:

I'm with ya, Brand. Hate. So much.

It's weird, huh? Usually there's at least someone I respect on a show I like. But The Shield... I don't know.

Then, on the total other end, is Veronica Mars. I was honest-to-god in love with her—that fictional person, as a person—for a while there. Not the fanboy crush thing like with Willow or Spike, either. Also weird.

TV is powerful is what I'm sayin'. :)


9. On 2008-05-01, Charles said:

I saw a smattering of episodes of Couplings when I was at sea a few weeks ago (one of the other techs was a hard-core fan). The showed seemed well done, but so heavily gendered as to border on deeply sexist. It definitely seemed like a show capable of developing mind-worms, but not ones I wanted to get infected with.

The question of the last cylon is kind of like the question of what is the cylons plan. The opening credits tell me I should care, but it doesn't strike me as being an important thing to try to guess. Maybe they'll do something interesting with it when they do a reveal (if they do a reveal, we never got a reveal on that plan the cylons had), but there's other stuff that matters more.


10. On 2008-05-01, Brand Robins said:


I was not in love with Veronica Mars.

But my inner 16 year old was in a desperate and eternal crush on her.


11. On 2008-05-01, Z-Dog said:

I spend more time telling myself who I DON'T want the Cylon to be. Adama? No way. It was just crush it for me. It actually almost blew it out of the water for me that Ty (sp?) is one. I mean, c'mon. He's 100 percent human, right? No? What! In some ways, it kinda neuters the character for me. Ty questioning way! He's all about conviction! But hey, I guess there really isn't any way to go after you kill your wife (and lived out life to it's fullest convictions by killing her). So far, the deck cargo guy being one is HOT. I loved last week: I married her 'cause it was the safest choice! That shreking wife of mine! Damn! Talk about emotional honesty!


12. On 2008-05-02, Joshua A.C. Newman said:

Tigh's a ball of self-doubt wrapped in bluster and ineffective decisionmaking. He always has been. He's a drunk with a bad temper who's lucky enough to have someone who makes decisions for him.

I only care about who the final Cylon is because the Cylons are so torqued up about it.

But here's how I want the series to end. Mix and match to suit:

- The Cylons beat the humans to Earth.
- The Cylons and Colonials fight over Earth and destroy it.
- It's about 1000 BCE. Colonials and Cylons, unable to fight any longer, set up proxy wars on Earth between religions, creating the myths and cultures that we know. N.B. the monotheists do pretty well for themselves in the end.
- Roslyn actually dies for reals, not knowing if she's led the Colonials to Earth.
- The Penultimate Four discover that they're not sleepers at all, that they're completely conscious and possess as much free will as anyone else. That makes Tori a regular scheming, violent person as much as it makes Tyrol a loving but troubled man. Tigh's still a dick and Anders is just some guy who likes to fly planes, kick ass, and fuck his hot wife.
- The Cylons, or some faction within, wind up allying themselves with the Colonials and wind up living together, miscegenating hotly.


13. On 2008-05-02, Avram said:

Damn, I forget where I read someone talking about the difference between suspense and surprise. Might even have been here. There was something about Hitchcock having defined suspense as being when the audience knows something that the characters don't.

Speaking of bombs in cars, one of the most suspenseful scenes in all of film is the opening of Orson Welles's Touch of Evil.


14. On 2008-05-02, Matt Wilson said:

most of the above, for me, is so good because it's a character study. I don't really care what happens, plot-wise, on BSG, as long as it reveals something new about the people involved. They can go to earth or not go to earth, whatever. Just set up some interesting thing for them to react to that brings out something we haven't already seen.

Meredith and I were kind of meh about Michael Clayton because Clooney is kind of a guarded actor. Who is Michael Clayton? I don't really know by the end.

Shield, I agree with John, though sometimes the agony turned up to 11 seems like an unskilled way to provoke a reaction, like how every goddamn oprah book has to have incest in it. Gaming, in general, could learn how to be better by trying to be less like the Shield sometimes.


15. On 2008-05-03, Lisa Padol said:

"If it could be any of them, it might as well be any of them, and I'm non-gripped."

Exactly. I've come across this before. (Not in BG, which I have yet to see any of. Will eventually rectify this.)

Diana Wynne Jones is usually Good to Really Really Good as an author, and one thing the Harry Potter books did was to put her back on the radar. But, I did not care for her novel Hexwood. We got so many explanations of what was really going on that by the time we got the real, actual, no foolin', this time it's true explanation, I just didn't care. It could have been any explanation. Yawn.

I had a similar problem with Strange Days, a movie I liked, but wished I'd been able to like better. Who's the serial killer? Well, really, it could be anyone. There's no feeling of "Yes, that fits perfectly! It had to be that person!" Oh, I was able to find one or two small things that made it work a little better, and it didn't kill the film for me, but it was definitely a weakness.

Oddly, I didn't have a problem with Babylon 5's episode where the crew is looking for the Psi Corp infiltrator. I'm not sure why.


16. On 2008-05-04, Ron Edwards said:

About the Shield: I like every character in *some* way, different for each one, except for Vic Mackey. Him I despise. However, that's part of the point. I like the show because (to me) it's about whether justice exists - with him as the ultimate dodger. Can it finally get him? Can that be told, in a TV show, in a way doesn't rely on dumb coincidences?

About Battlestar Galactica: fascinatingly, I find myself disliking Admiral Adama and President Roselyn intensely. I especially like the secondary characters: Felix Gaeta, Sam, Calley, and others at that "rank" of character. The character I really want to see again is Scar.

Having just finished 3.0 last night, I was surprised at where I perceived the show's moral voice to arise, I mean, beyond the obvious in the climax of the final episode. I'm talking about during the course of the episodes. I found it in Helo, which isn't surprising (as pretty much the only character who made it through the New Caprica storyline without horrible trauma), and ... of all places ... Gaius Baltar! Cecilia and I were watching one episode and she turned to me and said, half-laughing and half-surprised, "I like Baltar!" (implied: again) And I did too, as much or more as I liked him in the first season.


17. On 2008-05-04, Brand Robins said:


Re: the Shield... I think I agree, save that I don't find Mackey more hateful than others, in many ways. He's more egregious and immoral, certainly, and blatantly contemptible, but he also has an aggressive, unyielding energy the very lack of which is what makes many of the more morally noble (a very subjective term) characters become contemptible themselves.

But that note aside, I think the show gets my love because it is about the question of justice, law, and morality in a world where people are self interested, blind, and full of prejudice.

Re: Battlestar. I have never been able to stand Baltar. Not even in the "I love to hate him" sense. I mean in the "get this shit off my screen" sense. I've never been sure, however, if that's a fair reaction to the character or it has to do with the fan service fetish doll Cylon fantasy bullshit scenes that constantly parade about him. It's always felt so very fan-wanky that I was never able to take any part of his subplot seriously. (And in many ways I think that is one of the major reasons, along with my dislike of Starbuck, that makes me unable to enjoy the show the way many do.)


18. On 2008-05-04, Brand Robins said:


I think it's telling that when you said "Strange Days" my brain said "Oh yea, I love that movie. Man, Angela Basset rocked my world."

It was only a few minutes later that I remembered that Angela Basset wasn't the main character.

Which is to say, yes, I very much agree with you. And lacking that sense of "yes that is just right" I never felt any true sense of the depth of the main character.


19. On 2008-05-05, Joshua A.C. Newman said:

About Battlestar Galactica: fascinatingly, I find myself disliking Admiral Adama and President Roselyn intensely. I especially like the secondary characters: Felix Gaeta, Sam, Calley, and others at that "rank" of character. The character I really want to see again is Scar.

Adama is an Admiral and his humanity, in the form of his "family", is fading away into their own human fates. His relevance is becoming increasingly practical.

Likewise, Roslyn is quickly learning to justify the means with an end—however hypothetical. Her Realpolitik is as brutal as it ever is.

Baltar's a knob, and he'll follow anyone who tells him he's important.

... you know, I can't think of any characters I really like right now. Cavil (#1) is interesting in the same way Roslyn is. Six alternates between pathetic and manipulative. Lee's trying to reassemble himself. Kara alternates between self-destructive and inhumanly driven.

But I'm sure enjoying them all flail around.


20. On 2008-05-05, Z-Dog said:

The movie Manhunter (which was based on Red Dragon) had the Toothfairy serial killer working in a photoshop type place with a blind, beautiful co-worker. They start to date. Now, it's not scary to me that he might kill her: that's the obvious thing. What was scary to me was the idea that here was something unexpected. Not a victim. Not an obvious problem to be eliminated: a date, a woman to date. It really, really threw me, even though I knew it was all going to end badly.

That, for me, is suspenseful too: taking what I think is going to happen, and I've seen many times before, and adding a wrinkle, a totally unexpected wrinkle.

Serial killer killing: fun! but predictable.

Serial killer dating: Huh! OK, how's this going to turn out?


21. On 2008-05-05, Z-Dog said:

sorry, I really meant to say: serial killer encounters a shot at true love: that's kinda scary to me!


22. On 2008-05-05, Marshall B said:

Avram wrote:
There was something about Hitchcock having defined suspense as being when the audience knows something that the characters don't.

That's dramatic irony.  I've been harping about it to various roleplayers I've known for years.


23. On 2008-05-06, Lisa Padol said:


Interesting—I don't have a problem with the main character from Strange Days, Lenny, I think. (Checks IMDB) Yep, Lenny.

See, it isn't really sf—you probably know that already. It's noir / Chandler. It's even got the Old Flame singing a torch song. Okay, it's a, what, heavy metal torch song, but that's not the point.

So, Chandler, the one quote I know, or think I know, is "Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean." And that's Lenny. Lenny is slime, but never scum. He is horrified by the murders. And, the reason Mace (Bassett) sticks by him is because, as the flashback shows, when she came home to see cops crawling all over the house, and rushed to find her child, Lenny was on it, sitting down with the kid, not in uniform, and reading to him. That's really all we need to know about him.

Oh, he's far from flawless—the Old Flame thing, the career choice, all that. But, when he sends Mace to the head of the police, the one man he thinks he can be sure is not corrupt, he is right. He has to be right.

No, my problem is with the murderer.

That said, I love, completely and utterly, that there is no uberconspiracy, and that the catalyst for the events of the movie was—L. A. traffic patterns.

That said, not only was the murderer just an "Oh, yeah, sure, I guess, but really, it could be anyone" to me, the riot scene at the end was oddly flat. I mean, here's the mob scene that the movie has been building to from the beginning, and it's just—a note off.

Just came from seeing Iron Man, far simpler, far more obvious, lots of fun—and my forehead is still smarting 2 hours after I smacked it at the throwaway reveal that Josh and I didn't see coming and so should have.


24. On 2008-05-06, Vincent said:

Strange Days : L.A. Confidential :: Bladerunner : Devil in a Blue Dress.


25. On 2008-05-06, Matt Wilson said:

I'm loving Baltar in the current season—and Brand's analysis of the six vision in Baltar's head is so dumb I'm not speaking to Brand ever again. Pandering to fandom? I told Meredith that, and she's all "what a fucking jackass." Okay, she doesn't really say things like that, but she was probably thinking it.

I love how I just can't tell right now just how sincere Baltar is. In season one it's all about saving his own ass. Armageddon and he's not "oh no, billions of dead people!" He's "oh no I'm going to get in trouble!" But now... maybe. I love that I watch and my opinion keeps flipping. It makes wherever he lands at the end all the more potent.


26. On 2008-05-06, Brand Robins said:

Yea, well Meredith hates me anyway, so its no surprise.


27. On 2008-05-07, Ron Edwards said:

Yeah, Matt. Like that, with this too, for me:

I realized that against all expectations, Baltar keeps ending up in positions of power. And the funny thing is, even though he's hopeless in all sorts of ways, when he's in that position, he also always manages to come up with ugly truths that people in the show really ought to listen to, more than a little bit.

Basically, everything he wrote in that little book of his struck home, really hard. I thought it was important that Roselyn actually ended up quoting him at the end of the "miner's strike" episode, and I'm not sure whether she even realized she was doing it. Leigh's rather powerful speech in the final episode (and that was some damn good writing) also flowed directly from the points that Baltar had been saying for a while.

Yes, he's a cowardly, occasionally vicious, self-obsessed, pretentious git. But when you're right, you're right. The way he's written, I at least, as a viewer, find myself realizing how much we resist the truth depending on who it's coming from.


28. On 2008-05-13, Vincent said:

Dear Pam Beasley,

If you go into work tomorrow and say "hey Jim would you move to Philadelphia with me and work crap jobs to support me through school for graphic design?" he'll say "oh wow I'll have to think about that yes. Do I have time to pack a toothbrush or are we leaving now?"


Your friend,


29. On 2008-05-19, Mo said:

You have not watched the Office unless you have watched it with Brand, or rather, with Brand not watching it. A trait he inherited from his father that delights me to no end... when the humour on the Office gets just too painful, he can't watch. Unlike his dad though, he doesn't get up and leave the room. A glance over at him at the worst points at he'll be looking off about 45 degrees from the TV like he's averting his eyes from the chaos of an accident scene.

It's like, reason #1479 that I love him.


30. On 2008-06-07, Raven Daegmorgan said:

Vincent, it occurs to me that's exactly the point of casting suspicion around: it doesn't actually matter who the Cylon is. That it might be—could be—any of them is the very point being made.


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