Blood, Babes, and magic Bows

From the producers of 300 comes....well....300...Two? 301? What comes next? Whatever. It's better. And I don't say that lightly.

I saw 300 in theaters about 6 times. Granted I had plenty of ins at my local cinemaplex so I didn't have to pay for most of my viewings but my point is, I was REALLY into 300. And it's been ousted. Immortals comes on the scene boasting an R rating but not much else. At least to the untrained eye. The trailers showed off a lot of the film's visual beauty (a trademark of helmer Tarsem) but very little violence is promised in the previews. That was the first mistake the marketing folks decided to make.

This movie is violent. Really violent. Granted most of it is digital blood and guts but since 95% of the flick is digital anyway, it doesn't ever stand out or seem wrong. In fact, Tarsem has managed to make a very digital film and still manages to fit in a ton of the incredible art direction that make his films worth watching. There's plenty of crazy set pieces and insane costumes to beat the band. The Gods' outfits in particular would make fashionistas around the world drop to their knees in anguish. Not because they're bad but because Tarsem fuckin pulled it off. He pulled off solid gold costumes.

The Gods are responsible for most of the over the top wardrobe. But thats okay. Their overdramatic demeanor and fuckin ridiculous combat skills allow them to dress a tad nutty. It ends up just making them even cooler once you reach the point in the film where you see what they can do.

Now I threw babes in the title which is a little misleading. This isn't a Zak Snyder film we're talking about. But come on. If you're going to cast an oracle in a movie like this it'd better be Freida Pinto. She's easily one of the most beautiful human beings walking the Earth and so Tarsem shows off that he knows his audience. When everybody (and by that I mean men) watches this movie they're fairly swept up in the action. And when thats not happening, what should they be paying attention to? The story? Yeah okay. No. You pay attention to Freida. And you're fine with the fact that she isn't stabbing people or even running around topless. It doesn't matter. Her friggin face is quite enough. Anymore and men watching might overload from her angelic presence.

At the end of the day this movie wouldn't be a movie without 300 coming first. Much of the styles are incredibly similar. That said, I really do believe Tarsem took what 300 did well and copied it. And what it didn't do well, he improved. It's not a perfect movie. It's got plenty of dumb things happening for that kind of label. But it is incredibly enjoyable. And with all the ways to spend 12 dollars these days, why not spend it on something that'll leave you grinning all the way home?

Melancholia and the Infinite Sadness

Fox: Every time I finish a Von Trier film I can't even talk about it for at least a few hours. I need to give it time to stop bouncing around in my head. I need it to stop smashing every cerebral wall I've ever built in my brain's "expectations for a film" section.

I had the opportunity to see the first hour of this one and then have to wait about a week to see the rest. What that really ended up doing to me was forcing me to think about the film before I'd seen the entire thing. That's a no no for me when it comes to Von Trier.
As far as the film itself goes, I really loved it. Probably more than I've enjoyed any of the other VT flicks that I've seen. The reason for this is that I find it to be the most mature thing he's every produced. In addition to that it’s also fully realized. There's no jump the shark moment in it and I could probably list specific instances of Lars jumping said shark in every other one of his films that I've seen.

As for maturity, Lars seems to have finally found a truly adult way of expressing his problems with the world. Antichrist at least seems to have appeared after Lars had a bad breakup. We've been saying that as a joke about the film since we all saw it but the truth of the matter is Antichrist seems to reek of embitterment. Melancholia instead approaches an incredibly serious topic, that of severe depression, with a sage-like calm. Kirsten Dunst's character Justine never really flies off the handle. She acts erratic at times for sure but most of the film shows that depression can be awful. It can be debilitating. It can be mean. And the instances that Lars has chosen to depict prove above all else that he has most surely experienced this horrible condition. The first conclusion I really came to after viewing the film was that Lars wanted to tell a story about depression but he almost wanted to apologize for those who were close to him during his own depressed period. Kirsten Dunst somehow remains a sympathetic character throughout the movie even though she is such a handful to everyone around her. And most of the people around her really are doing their best to make her or keep her happy. It seems to me that Lars really wished to show that in retrospect he is fully aware of how troublesome he was to other people during his dark times and Melancholia's basic story seems to be his expression of that awareness.

Scout: Well, I'd leap in to argue some point, but I agree with all of this. I think this is, if not his most mature, then certainly the film that contains nothing of his "Fuck you, audience" attitude, beyond, of course, the conceit, nothing of what I'd call his purposefully trying to be called an Enfant Terrible (though Bruce LaBruce would have a problem with that, at his age), and there's nothing here to upstage the action; no visual tricks, no winking at the camera, no talking fox. In other words, this is his 13 Assassins. In my review I got to roughly the same points, and I think the most important point is that this is the first character he's written that is entirely him. Charlotte Gainsbourg in Antichrist is too over-the-top to be anything like a convincing facsimile, though I think he wanted us to believe they were equal. Justine is him though, and in an eerie coincidence, the two of them fucked up a big ceremony with their behavior - how no one at Cannes caught onto this is fucking ridiculous. It's as simple as this: no one gets raped (unless you count Brady Corbett, and I don't) or maimed, so he was making sure that the audience wasn't entirely safe. Alfred Hitchcock used to do his own previews where he wanders around the set, trying to blend fact and fiction before presenting his work of art, putting you on unsteady ground. Von Trier was doing the exact same thing when he gave that press conference. If he couldn't fuck with you in the film, he was going to do it before you walked in. And then it gave him further opportunity to bow out of public in disgrace, vowing to "never give another interview." In other words, making himself out to be even more like Justine. If you think I'm bullshitting you, look up every single Cannes press conference the man has given. There's a little bit of nonsense like that in everyone, if the film's don't have enough in their already. I'm pretty sure Mark Kermode has my back on this one.

But regardless I have nothing to argue with in your reaction. It's my favourite Von Trier and though the establishment would pick Dogville or Dancer in the Dark as his objective best, I say fuck them. This is it. This is his Vertigo, or The Birds (both get shout-outs), or whatever people agree is Hitchcock's best (I’d go Notorious, they share a velvety texture, a blonde in trouble with the ultimate, unthinkable, unfeeling evil and insanely high stakes). Even the Wagner prelude he uses sounds like one of Bernard Herrmann's perfect scores (I realize I've got that backwards, but you get my meaning). I have very few complaints about Melancholia. It's very near the top of my list of best films of the year and I can't wait to own it.

Fox: I guess if I have an argument it isn't with the film but instead it’s with the Cannes judges. Not that Kirsten isn't wonderful in this film but Charlotte Gainsbourg ultimately gets more screen time to herself. At least it seems that way. I guess Cannes giving Kirsten the award isn't a point of contention with me as much as it is a false advertiser for the story itself. I went into Melancholia expecting a lot more Kirsten then I got. And Charlotte is absolutely lovely in her half of the film. I'm not even upset I was surprised I'm just really taken aback by Lars' choice to split the perspective like he did. Especially since Kirsten's half focuses so heavily on her depression while Charlotte's storyline is all about the planet. Each half of the film takes on one half of what the story is about. These aren't complaints or arguments. In fact now that I look back I'm just puking all over this post but there you are. Whatever you can make of my comments I'd love to hear your take.

Lars actually does play it smart by splitting the film seemingly in two. Part one is horror masked by pure joy. Part two is horror unmasked. Like the kind of depression that Justine is dealing with, the end of the world in imminent and entirely out of control. It was be incredibly ineffective to tell the latter half of Melancholia from Justine's point of view. The calm nature that springs from her depression would be truly difficult to relate to. The audience needs to be Claire. We need to want to fucking destroy Justine just as Claire admits she wants to. We like Claire fear this destruction. Even though he shows it to us in the opening of the film we still, like Claire, have some sort of hope in the furthest reaches of our minds that Melancholia will simply pass us by. So every time Claire picks up the homemade planet detector we're on the edge of our seat.

Meanwhile, Justine is a goddamn robot. She moon-bathes. She barely eats, speaks, or rides Abraham. But even after we detest every moment we have to spend with this depressed person we are so happy she is with us at the end of the world. She's there right next to us, holding our hand and comforting our son who we can't even bring ourselves to do because we are so scared. The more I think about this film the more I realize it’s so much bigger than it lets on.

Although I really would like to know about the bridge. Abraham won't cross it. The golf cart dies on it. What is that bridge?

Scout: To pick just one thing to go with here, to start, I think the bridge is normalcy. The bridge is the "happy" life that Claire has for herself. Justine has chance after chance to get happy (or at the very least pretend) and everytime she fails, Claire's response is to get her out of bed, most of the time to ride the horse (who at first looks like a counterpart to her ex-husband-to-be) but the bridge means accepting the life. She bucks the happiness her family assumes she wants/has, just as the horse won't cross the bridge. The dynamics are maybe a little hard to pin down, but I do think that her refusing to get over the bridge is her not wanting or willing to accept normalcy. She's ill and needs to be cured, and her beating the horse is the same thing as her pretending to get married and being punished by everyone around her. Think about every passive aggressive thing that they say to her on her wedding night, I'd bet money that for every comment, there's a crack of the crop on poor Abraham's back.

I agree entirely about needing her next to us because what seems at first a total downer (as the film itself might if you're explaining it's bullet points to anyone), is all the comfort you could possibly have in that situation. "Shut the fuck up and enjoy the spectacle/that you're with the only people you love in the world when it happens." Melancholia is just death, and while Claire tries to run from it, she can't and though Justine may not have a Healthy attitude, at least she isn't in hysterics when it drives up the block and crushes her. It's not much consolation, but on the purest level, Von Trier found the one upshot to depression and I know that I've long thought that myself. Think about death enough and you've got to be slightly more prepared for it than everyone else. This is of course nonsense, but Justine and I seem to have the same outlook on things. Which is why the film is so goddamned compelling to me. Every Single Thing she does makes perfect sense to me, so there's a sublime sense of warmth watching her actions. She's right, for once, and she knows exactly what she's doing.

As for Cannes, my only explanation is that Charlotte got it last year.

Judgment at Cannes

Submitting to film festivals for the first time in my life, I've come to see that there's no rhyme or reason to why something is chosen over anything else. I know that sounds like the testimony of a jaded loser, but I don't mean to say that because my films didn't get accepted as often as I'd like I've decided to rail against the system. No, that's absurd, I'm not even 22, I have quite a bit left to learn; my point is that Drive is still being shown at film festivals in the southern United States despite having had a massive theatrical run, winning best director at Cannes and having a publicity-drawing lawsuit leveled against it. What could you possibly stand to gain by including it over say...Tomboy, the brilliant new Céline Sciamma film or something local and low-budget? Something that could truly stand the publicity. I'm not saying that Drive doesn't deserve every accolade it's been given, but it's entered the culture's diction. Ryan Gosling is a household name and anyone who was going to see it, has. Earlier this year I was invited to the Las Vegas Film Festival where eight or ten feature films were screened out of some three or four hundred being awarded. Here's the bitch, everything screened was given an additional prize and no one was able to see, in any form, the hundreds of other films being awarded. And most maddening is that more time was given over to panels with the people who were the inspiration for the characters from Goodfellas than any of the films my peers had submitted. So on the closing night ceremony we sat and listened to each other speak blindly about films we would never see. After watching grossly undeserving movies like the one paid for by The Ski Channel or Behind Your Eyes, which is the worst film I've seen this year, I was a little miffed that I would never understand why my film was given the prize. I'm hugely grateful for the award, the attention and the opportunity, to be sure. My self-esteem still hasn't sunk since I got the email saying I'd won. But why bring us out there if we couldn't share our work and learn from each other? What message does that send if we only see six movies that they deemed worthy of the top prize?

I bring this up because I've seen every single film from the main competition at the 2010 Cannes film festival and can say without question that they were all on an even keel. No one had a bigger budget or mise-en-scene too far removed from anyone else. From Kiarostami to Kitano, everyone's film was a sober, clinical look at family and/or deep (often metaphorical) relationships. And I agree entirely with their decision to award Uncle Boonmee, for despite it's pace and style being similar to its opponents, it was the most sublimely unique and unforced of all of them. This past year's competition makes much less sense. To a certain point I get it. We Need To Talk About Kevin, Melancholia, The Tree of Life, The Skin I Live In, Drive and The Artist all take ideas or conventions the public is familiar with and runs with them in daringly audacious directions with boisterous, explosive style. And then there's Kid With A Bike, which does neither of those things. It's a film by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne about a kid with separation issues learning to overcome his behavioral problems and be a good son to a mother figure who only wants the best for him. The style is identical to the other films by the Dardennes, which is to say beautiful in its understatement. I liked it a lot; Not as much as Lorna's Silence, but it's a beautiful little movie. What I'm having a little trouble understanding is why Cannes put it next to Drive or Melancholia. How in christ could anybody possibly compare them with meaningful results? They have less than nothing in common. I've enjoyed most of the films I've seen so far (exception: Sleeping Beauty) but I find the notion that The Tree of Life gets the Palme d'Or and Kid With A Bike gets second prize a little nonsensical. The Dardennes are royalty on the Croisette and so inviting them back makes sense. Pitting them against movies about the creation of and destruction of the earth, respectively, doesn't. And other than favouritism, I can't see any reason it demonstrably deserved the Grand Prix over Drive, Skin or Kevin. Aki Kaurismäki's Le Havre is an evolution of the style of its directors' other works, which means it has absolutely nothing you could use to reasonably compare it to Lars Von Trier's apocalyptic Melancholia. I haven't even seen half of the films in competition, but with each new work I take in, the slate makes less and less sense all the time. How do you compare the featherweight papal comedy We Have A Pope (which I have seen), whose style is much more in keeping with last year's slate than the apparent majority of this year's with Takashi Miike's 3D samurai epic Hara-Kiri (which I have not)? How do you compare Tree of Life to We Have A Pope? The style and aesthetics seem to come from alternate universes and their goals are entirely distinct. I've been racking my brains trying to come up with something that ties together the films from the main competition that I've seen. Everyone's human? Good luck keeping that attitude during Sleeping Beauty. Drive does what it can to humanize its villains, but that isn't because Nic Refn was going way out of his way to get you to sympathize with them, but because Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks are fantastic actors. Melancholia doesn't exactly encourage you to think that about the characters played by Stellan Skarsgård and Charlotte Rampling.

So, I guess my question is what exactly the jury saw as the connective tissue between these disparate films? Is it fair to extend an invitation to the Dardennes, whose film is in every respect a country cottage among mansions and skyscrapers, and then give them second prize for evidently getting more right than films with much crazier subjects and unchained stylistic ambition? I enjoyed Kid With A Bike, I just don't think it sends the right message to reward it when you invited a 3D samurai movie by the director of Zebraman. And furthermore what message does it send to (superficially) ban Lars Von Trier, perhaps the festival's most inventive and doggedly challenging honor student the year he releases his best film and does exactly what he does everytime he sits in front of a microphone? I don't think anyone would argue with Tree getting top prize because I doubt any of the other films are as bold, daring or sweeping in their scope and execution. The problem is that zanier choices then seem like novelties. What chance did The Skin I Live In stand next to the two sober winners even if, to me, between it and Kid with a Bike it's the more entertaining and well-designed film and as a cinephile with a lifelong love of horror, I liked the many reference points in Skin over those in Tree. Skin gambles bigger than Kid and so perhaps doesn't win everytime but Kid With A Bike takes almost no risks. So why then does it warrant the Grand Prize? I still need to see 12 more films to get the full picture, but from where I'm standing, something's off.

Anonymous misleads audiences from the getgo...

My attraction to Special FX auteur Roland Emmerich's latest had very little to do with the man's name. In fact it had little to do with any names at all. Rol Rol made sure, like in many of his films, to cast a troupe of actors who, though brilliant, won't be pinned under one towering name. The problem, in America at least, is that audiences here need a recognizable face to get them into a dark room. Without a name the movie seemingly carries no value. Emmerich managed to quell that by instead filling his movies with such a frenzy of special effects that audiences didn't need a familiar face. Explosions would do.

But there are no explosions in Anonymous. Instead there's genuine acting, plot twists and enough beautiful period costumes to make your head spin. But there's also a pretty solid premise. The trouble with this "solid" premise is that the trailer told you absolutely nothing about it. The film appears to be a story about the theory that Shakespeare as we know him never existed. But that's only half the story and it's the lesser half if that makes any sense. The much larger story arch revolves around the British aristocracy. Characters lie, cheat and backstab their way to positions of power. It all ends up being a pretty engrossing political thriller where most people thought they'd be having to deal with iambic pentameter and brilliant but difficult language.

The film does dwell in the over-dramatic from time to time but luckily its populated by a number of brilliant English actors who can handle the demands of the script. The result is a film that though written in simpler language isn't unlike a Shakespearean play. The themes are universal and ever present, the drama is over-the-top and always earth-shattering and the limelit royal family is used for target practice.

It's not a perfect movie but there are enough fun twists and wonderful actors to keep it going. Emmerich forced himself to downplay and the result is surprisingly enjoyable. I won't give it a rating because I'd like to develop some ludicrous system before I do so. 8 out of 17 dirtbikes. Lets try that on for now.
-Fox Johnson

So, let's first say hello to Fox Johnson (and Tim, too, but you've seen a few of his pieces by proxy by now, so he's less special) who'll be writing about music, TV, graphic novel and film from time to time with the rest of the staff (if he thinks he's writing about video games he's got another fucking thing coming). And let's second add to this, at his behest.

Roland Emmerich and Anonymous are funny cases. It's worth noting that this movie comes at the end of a year where dependable filmmakers' latest historical epics were given something less than the time of day and just more than a kick in the taint. Roland Joffe's There Be Dragons, by all accounts a return to form from the director of The Mission who'd languished in the youth market, losing control of the likes of Captivity and doing christ-knows-what on the set of Undressed, was a day late and a dollar short to everyone but me. Robert Redford's The Conspirator was treated like a middle school textbook-to-be and Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar is currently being yawned at across this great nation of ours. I enjoyed all three. Have my tastes become more populist or am I seeing something other critics don't? Often I find myself in a screening room with nothing but men and women easily 50 years my senior, so perhaps it's me. All the same, "craft" has become synonymous with boring in most reviews, so I feel like someone has to step in and offer Emmerich a life preserver.

The negative reviews I've encountered seem to stop at "what an insulting idea!" And yeah, admittedly, if I thought Emmerich cared about the thesis, I might be slightly outraged that a man as rich as he is would make a film positing that an uneducated pauper could become the world's most celebrated playwright. But, Emmerich, like myself, doesn't seem to give a tinker's damn about Shakespeare. I spent most of Elementary school and high school being told what brilliant work he did. And I believed that he did write beautifully until I was subjected to his best works over and over and fucking over and over and over again and I've lost my zeal for his work. My favourite Shakespeare adaptation is My Own Private Idaho, so that ought to tell you my level of admiration these days. So bring on the revisionist history I say. I count myself among Buñuel's biggest fans, think The Savages is one of Merchant Ivory's best films, and worship Peter O'Toole in The Ruling Class. Why wouldn't I want to watch a movie where Shakespeare is either an incestuous, snobbish prat or a drunken illiterate murderer? Tell me beautiful lies about this beloved figure. And while you're at it, show me Vanessa Redgrave having the time of her life as a scene-devouring Queen Elizabeth, second only to Quentin Crisp in Orlando. Show me anything that proves that a centuries old monarchy is populated by the grotesques who wound up in the man's greatest plays.

Emmerich admittedly has an edge over an academic elite who might make a film about Shakespeare the man, rather than this, a beautifully played, conspiracy-fueled hatchet job, in that he has trillions of dollars to spend on some of the most lavish costumes and sets I've ever seen in my life. Anna Foerster, using the Arri Alexa for the first time on a feature film (advantage Emerich), manages to combine the filth and darkness of your typical period film with the wooziness of Terry Gilliam. The effect is engrossing and absolutely fucking gorgeous. It rakes over the costumed bastards running around John Orloff's vision of England, which takes the reverence we reserve for royalty and Shakespeare and throws it face first in the mud outside the Globe. And for the first time in a long time I was interested in the bard's words again. Sure, it could be read as anti-intellectualism (and in case you think that I agree, ask anyone who's spent ten minutes with me. They know I'm the biggest fucking snob in this part of the world), but unless you're a Shakespearian actor (and frankly Derek Jacobi's here, so I doubt they care), I think slavish worship of the man over the works represents an .08 percent of them anyway. And you know what? John Milius and I would probably shoot each other if we talked politics over dinner (the fact that I made vegan food might incense him enough to pull a gun. Why did I cook? He's a guest here, I'm not gonna make him cook) but the man knows his way around a camera. I hesitate to use the word craft again but watch the orgy scene in Conan The Barbarian again. It's fucking amazing and no one says a word. Absolutely top-notch filmmaking. Shit, people still study Leni Riefenstahl. So, let's stop hiding behind the argument that content = style because suggesting Shakespeare might have had a different name and background than we know is a lot less evil than Nazi propaganda. Nazi Propaganda, I hasten to add, that I was shown clips from not four years ago in a film class. And it's not like the whole thing is oppressive class warfare, either. The most sympathetic character in the film is Ben Johnson, far from the filthy rich Earl of Oxford, who dies penniless anyway (again, all in this film's universe), the words he writes more important than power or even knowing his own legacy would be carried on. The money-hungry Cecils are unquestionably the film's enemy and the greedy, lustful Shakespeare is no angel himself. So I don't get how this fairy tale could possibly enrage people (as it did Keith Phipps, whose D+ betrays his feelings about the plot's implications. I'd also point out that he gave Margaret a C and Paul W.S. Anderson's execrable retelling of The Three Musketeers a C fucking minus. One shade should not separate one of the year's best movies and a goddamn Matrix-ripoff in a corset) to the extent it has. Just fucking look at it! 

And if design does nothing for you, how about Joely Richardson's ravishing young Queen (and a bonus for devotees, she grows into her mother, something I was beside myself to discover when they revealed both actresses), Rafe Spall's hungry ambition morphing into murderous pride, David Thewlis' take on Professor Snape-style string-pulling, or Edward Hogg, one of the best living actors, turning in one of the year's best performances as the eel-like Robert Cecil and nearly walking off with the whole film, managing to be the embodiment of evil on one hand and still capable of peeling back layer after layer to get my sympathy in his most important scene. To get me to like someone I hated the minute I saw him (granted the script doesn't give him a ton of nuance) is no small feat, especially in a movie by the guy who made 2012. Even Sebastian Armesto, who has a little troubling as a convincing shouter when paired with the effortless disgust of Rhys Ifans or Spall's cunning bastard, is a distinct and beautiful enough presence that he wound up the most likable character in the film. I was consistently surprised by how much I loved this film when until this point I was ready to give up on Emmerich. So, let's not pretend we're above this sort of thing because goddamnit we cannot ignore talent when it finally, blessedly makes itself known. And I will not have Emmerich go back to making empty spectacle when I know he's capable of brilliance.


And the winner is…

Pilot season’s winners and losers (mostly losers)
by Tim Earle

PAN AM – Best New Show about the 1960s (In other words, it was better than The Playboy Club.)
What interests me most about shows about the “good old days” is when they show us what sucked about those time periods. Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire even Game Of Thrones which isn’t set in an actual historical time period, each show us a world we think we know from movies and books but shown to us in the light of complete disclosure, and of course, hindsight. Then we have Pan Am, a show that’s frank Sinatra scored, glossy exterior is really all you get. Underneath it all is just more Sinatra and more gloss. This to me seems like the wrong direction for media to take, revising the past as it goes. But at the same time, swimming in a pool of gloom and social inequality it’s a nice break to see the someone saying “Yeah, but the 60s were so NEAT!”

TERRA NOVA – Biggest Disappointment
You know what my favorite part of Jurassic Park was? All of it. Every part of the movie was awesome. Every silly caricature. The fat hacker, the smoking Sam Jackson, the gruff paleontologist who’s uncomfortable with kids, Jeff Mother Fucking Goldbloom. It was simple and campy and fun. So why does Terra Nova suck so much? I think the simple reason is that the characters are all boring and stupid. I would describe them all but just describing them in snarky ways would still bore you. So I’ll just do the dumb ass son with stupid hair cut. He goes out drinking by the river outside of the compound even though there is a high chance of being murdered by dinosaurs. Because he’s a teenager and teenagers like drinking, right? This is all played totally straight faced by the way. Speaking as someone who was only a few years ago a teenager, this is fucking stupid. Kids usually drink because they are bored. If there had been dinosaurs when I was 16, I would have been sober as fuck. It’s like showing up in a world populated by pink elephants and purple trees and thinking, “Man, I could do with some acid right now.”

HART OF DIXIE – Worst Cliché
I wish people who wrote TV did their research sometimes. We begin with a med school student who wants to be a heart surgeon. She does really well but her superior says that she isn’t connected enough to the patients to be a doctor, which is funny because training to become a surgeon begins with thinking of a body not as a person. So then little med school bimbo moves to the south where some old dude really wanted her to take over his practice. And in the south they don’t have any “new fangled” coffee places so med school bimbo is lost and out of place. The show steadily lost more and more credibility, convincing me the writer had never lived in New York or the south. By the end I was having a hard time believing the writer had ever even talked to another person before.

SUBURGATORY – Most Surprising Success
There are certain things that everyone loves to hate. So much so that you just sort of get sick of hearing about them. Like Nazis, or the suburbs. Ever since Edward Scissorhands it’s become really hip to diss the suburbs. So while this show certainly began on that obvious note, I really like the direction it decided to take. Instead of turning it into a Juno-fest of sarcastic remarks and loathing, the show took what worked from Edward Scissorhands, the surrealism. There were a couple moments that had me dying of laughter such as the pink clad soccer mom singing along to gangsta rap or the woman grilling a pair of children’s sneakers on the Bar-b. But then in the end the show managed to turn round an unexpected corner. It decided not to hate the suburbs. Or at least not to hate the Cheryl Hines, who sort of represents the suburbs in this show. In the end they made a point to show us that while she is creepy and weird, she really means well. And maybe she’s something that a teenage girl needs in her life.

HOW TO BE A GENTLEMAN – Worst Gender (part 1)
I’ll admit I was curious about this show. I thought the dissection of the male gender by deconstructing its two counter parts, gentlemanliness and brute oafishness, would be rather interesting. But at the end of the day this is just a show about Johnny Drama and a pansy. It reinforces every stupid male stereotype without a hint of self irony.

HOMELAND – Best Pilot
I initially wanted this to be another list about how every show this pilot season sucks, but then I saw this show. And, putting my huge crush on Claire Danes aside, this was a great pilot. With as ambitious a premise as this show has I was really surprised that it was so even paced and consistently toned, even with the gratuitous sex scenes that every Showtime show feels it’s obliged to insert. The thing I like the most was how it played with the audience, making us watch with Danes through the hidden cameras searching for any clue that this Marine is secretly a terrorist. And while doing this I found myself thinking some awful thoughts, like “Oh, that means he’s a terrorist. He’s totally a terrorist. Wait, why am I thinking this? I do that. Oh god. I’m turning into the patriot act!”

In a lot of ways this show was successful. It had some really superb acting from Connie Britton and Dylan McDermott. It was well directed, and certainly peculiar. But the problem was that at the end of the day, it wasn’t scary. Like, not at all. It was weird, yes, creepy, a little, sexy in a really ugly way, sure, but not even a little scary.

ENLIGHTENED – Worst Marketing
I thought this was going to be a comedy. I think so did everyone else. It wasn’t. But that’s OK. I enjoyed it regardless, but as an honest portrayal of someone trying to recover from a nervous breakdown. This isn’t to say that the show didn’t have its funny moments. Just, none of them were really "Haha" funny.

LAST MAN STANDING – Worst Gender (part 2)
I think this show is about a Psychopath. A man so uncomfortable with the gay guys running his grandchild’s day care that he decides to bring his grandchild to work with him, at a hunting store. But unlike shows like Better Off Ted or South Park, the show is completely without irony. At the end of the day all he gets is a mild slap on the wrist or some eye rolling. It all reminded me of a great scene in Louie where he flips out on the set of a sit com because when his character does something awful his wife says “I love you.” And when asked, “What do you think she should say” he says, “We should get a divorce.” I’m not suggesting that every show have a totally downer ending. I’m just saying that you have to earn a loving supportive family. You must prove to the audience that there is a perfectly good reason this family loves the dopey dad. And just being Tim Allen isn’t enough of a reason.

MAN UP! – Worst Gender (part 3)
Yes, another show about a bunch of middle aged guys figuring out how their gender works. And thankfully it was not as morally repugnant as Last Man Standing. Honestly, if it weren't for all the other gender questioning/affirming bullshit this season I would have called it solidly middling. But I'm just so fucking sick of what TV shows seem to think manliness is (and I know, every woman reading this has been dealing with this for their entire life). It's being uncomfortable with gays or having proclivity towards violence. It’s not crying, singing, caring about how you smell or other people’s feelings. Why can't being a man just mean being a reasonable, decent guy who doesn't constantly try to prove how manly he is?

BOSS – Silliest Show
I always wondered what The West Wing would have been with a darker, less romantic view of American politics. Unfortunately Boss loses not only the romantic notions but basically all semblance of realism. Kesley Grammer spends this pilot beating up people in his office, drugging people, buying drugs, putting someone’s ears in a garbage disposal. Nothing in this show seemed even remotely believable. So in the end it becomes ineffectual at displaying the inherent corruption of power and just reads like a farce.

ONCE UPON A TIME – Worst use of those creepy growing violin sounds they always used in Lost
“Rumpelstiltskin knows your daughter’s name!”

GRIMM – Worst Premise
Despite David Greenwalt’s nice use of camp and humor, this show has the dumbest fucking premise. I guy can see people for what they really are… fairytale characters. Honestly, if it was deemed that American audiences really needed more Grimm fairytales, then why not just make a show about the actual fairytales instead of all this hodgepodge shit.

ALLEN GREGORY – Most Disturbing
The final scene of this pilot shows us Allen Gregory hitting on his sixty year old principle in a rather sinister way. It’s obvious she wants out but is somehow trapped with this creepy seven-year-old. This is after the superintendent basically told the principle that she was supposed to date him. Nothing about this is funny. The main character is beyond annoying. He’s despicable. And him being seven doesn’t really make up for this. In fact, it just makes it worse because I spent the whole episode wishing someone would just fucking smack him. So then, in the end he walks into the sunset while the principle looks down in shame. Are we supposed to find this funny?

HELL ON WHEELS – Least Informed View of the 1860s
This show was created by a guy whose last film’s tag line was “Slow Justice is No Justice.” That’s all you need to know, really, but I’ll go on. I imagine the writer’s room for this show went something like this.
“What’s awesome about the wild west?”
“Indians, gun slingers, trains, drinking, fighting, whores, open frontiers.”
“Okay. I wrote down all the things you just said. I’m now going to put those things in our show.”
“Good. Let’s get paid now.”
The problem is if you just show us one “Western” image after another without the proper frame work, it winds up seeming jumbled and a little racist. So, while my eyes kept saying “This is a western” my brain kept saying “No, this isn’t even a plot.”

So that’s it. No more pilots. I could make some broad sweeping statements about how this season represents the cultural standing of our country. About how feminism is dying or how we’ve entered a state of self destructive nostalgia. I could talk about how our political frustration has grown to the point where we need to completely deface authority figures on TV, or how all the good comedians already got TV shows so now we’re stuck with Whitney. Instead I’m just going to pretend I Hate My Teenage Daughter doesn’t exist because I only have so much hair left to pull out and I want to get back to watching The Walking Dead.