The Good Wife: Open Source

E:  It’s a funny thing.  Based on last week’s brilliantly appalling episode, and the preview for this week’s, I really expected to hate Open Source;  I’m not entirely sure how this happened, but I don’t think I did.  I don’t know that I liked it, exactly, but I’m grateful for a few things, which I’m going to tell you up front.

First of all, there was actually interesting courtroom time, which was so very welcome.  I missed caring about the case of the week!  Next, this election plot is blessedly coming to an end.  Whichever way the election lands, I’m going to be glad to be done hating Alicia in this way, even if I have to move on to new ways of being disappointed in her.  Also, the ending was managed a bit better than I thought it would be. And that’s good? But there’s a lot of ground to cover before we get to that debate.  So, no more waiting. Welcome to Open Source: Less Vomit-Inducing Than Expected!

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The Good Wife: Mind’s Eye

E: First, we got a look inside Will Gardner’s consciousness in the masterpiece The Decision Tree.  Then, we pinged around the inside of Elspeth Tascioni’s bouncy brain in Shiny Objects.  Finally, our series of head trips takes us on a visit to Alicia Florrick’s mind.  What we learn is in some ways impressive — she has a really fun work process — but in many others unpleasant, confused and controlled, thoughtful and self-serving.  I can’t but admire the brilliance and subtlety of the episode’s structure and writing, but I also can’t help being sick to my stomach over where we seem to be going.

It’s often been said that The Good Wife is a show about the education of Alicia Florrick.  I’m not sure it was until this episode that I realized that this is an education in the same sense that Breaking Bad‘s Walter White was “educated” into being a drug kingpin, willing to cross more lines and worse lines as his story continued.   I’ve always assumed that the goal of the show was for Alicia to find her way through the competing roles she’s been assigned — wife, mother, lawyer, boss, candidate — and arrive at a place where she can truly be herself.  That she would find a way to be more than society told her she could be, that she would make the roles bend to her. That she would not merely recover from the hurt done to her, but thrive. It wasn’t until this episode that I started to think she might never get there at all; that the person I grieved with and respected and cheered for all these years is in fact on the verge of disappearing altogether. That instead, she is literally and figuratively losing her voice.  That she may end up a highly successful shell of a human being, a cautionary tale for women with ambition. And once again, we’re left to ponder whether we can still like her because she knows she’s making corrupt choices when she makes them.  Continue reading

March is for Meh: March 2015 Movie Preview

E: So, M, what was it that you were saying about a sea change in the studio release schedule?  Let’s look at all March’s amazing offerings. Oh, wait.

M: Okay, look, the schedule for March was already lined up when American Sniper went and busted the block. Another plus, the February box office was up almost 10% over last year.

E: And considering the weather, which has been slamming the North East and dropping actual snow in the South, that’s pretty impressive.

C: People need some comfort! Plus, they can’t even use the sidewalks, and malls are one of the only places left in New England where you can park. But yeah, more good movies year round would be a good thing.

M: I’m still hopeful we don’t get as many months like this in future years. Continue reading

The Good Wife: Dark Money

E: This show spoils me for everything else and even, ironically, itself; the bar has been set ridiculously high.  When there’s an episode that’s just good instead of amazing, it’s hard to remember that we still get the usual tight plotting and investigation of Alicia’s nuanced moral world.  This week the problem is two-fold: first, it’s not a game-changing episode like Hail Mary, and second, it’s just really depressing to see Alicia so compromised and so unhappy.  Let’s all hope it’s building to something better.

Fun bits of the episode?  A kind of meta-conundrum in which our team sues a television show with ripped-from-the-headlines plots for defamation.  Ultimately, however, it’s not in TGW‘s best interest to actually prove the plausibility of defamation, is it?  Because then who knows – Aaron Sorkin or Mark Zuckerberg or Ryan Murphy might send a few lawyers their way.

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Oscar 2015 Wrap Up – Winners and Losers

E: There’s something a little deflating about an Oscarcast when you don’t really like the film that wins.   I don’t expect it to be my favorite film of the year (though obviously that’s the ideal), but it’s still good to like the movie. It’s been since No Country For Old Men that I’ve felt so deflated; this year might be a little more disappointing, even, because while I liked Birdman more than No Country, I loved Boyhood, and was hoping against hope that it could pull out a better showing. Maybe it was that the marvelous Neil Patrick Harris wasn’t as consistently funny as I hoped, or maybe it’s just that the mad season of trying to see all the nominees is done with, but I’m feeling a lot tired, and a little melancholy.

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Striving for Greatness: Who Will Win at the 2015 Oscars?

E: This year’s Oscar nominees, all of them, are born along on a relentless tide of ambition. Be someone; do something; make your mark. Figure out how to live, and live up to your promise.  Struggle against your ultimate irrelevance to history. Each of the 8 stories nominated for Best Picture show men (and a few women) struggling to better their own lives or impact the lives of others, from a civil rights leader on the verge of historic change to a lobby boy turned hotelier, from a professor’s wife and caretaker to a college drop out turned professor, from a once-famous actor trying to change his creative legacy to a drumming prodigy hoping to make good on his promising talent, from a scientist attempting to stop a war with a computer to a soldier trying to protect his brothers-in-arms with a sniper’s scope.

Though the critics have been united in their favorite picture of the year, Richard Linklater’s beloved Boyhood, the guilds have spread the love around.  Each of the acting winners will come from a different film, and it’s quite possible that the film that takes best picture could lose all the acting awards and director.  This we know going into the awards ceremony; the acting awards feel pretty solidly set, at least three of the four, but Best Picture and Director are up in the air.  Last year, we waited the entire season for confirmation that Gravity and Twelve Years A Slave‘s picture/director split really would go through; it was an odd separation, but very clear from the critics and guild awards who was going to take home which hardware.  This year, on the other hand, it’s a real toss up.  There’s no consensus, and that makes things pretty interesting.

For your reading pleasure, I have created for you below a comprehensive discussion of the most prestigious Oscar categories.  Who’s going to win the acting awards?  Who will win Best Picture?  Which desperate dreamers, reaching out their hands, will grasp their own little piece of theater immortality?

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Oscar Talk: Boyhood, Staying Alive

E:  Looks like there’s a little uncertainty left in this year’s awards race!  Here were all were thinking that the BAFTA — Britain’s Academy Awards — would put the nail in Boyhood‘s coffin, would prove it to be 2015’s version of The Social Network, and show us definitively that Birdman had almost inexplicably won the love of every guild and would sweep the Oscars.  And what happens?  Boyhood, virtually given up for dead, nabs BAFTA’s best director and best picture.  Don’t let my brother and his talk of American Sniper‘s box office ascendancy fool you; this is the race right here. And with all the major precursor awards given, there’s no saying which way Oscar’s going to go.

It’s a little less clear why this is so. Boyhood has dominated the critics groups, and that type of movie rarely wins best picture; all season I’ve been looking for the film that would replace it, thinking perhaps epic Selma or cerebral British dramas The Theory of Everything or The Imitation Game. Sure, the whole “filmed over 12 years/labor of love” headline is a compelling one, but is this gentle film really writ large enough for Oscar?   On the other hand, Birdman‘s the type of backstage story about the Artistic process and Artistic integrity (and the lack there of) that actors love, but that’s not generally the type of film that wins best picture, either: you tend to get a more popular beast, something more sentimental and accessible that audiences will enjoy like The King’s Speech or A Beautiful Mind.  Mostly Oscar-winning films are crowd-pleasers or something that screams Important Cinema, like 12 Years a Slave and Schindler’s List.  Birdman just doesn’t fit either bill.  Though I can’t explain it’s rise, however, there’s no denying that it’s a top contender for the big prize.

Perhaps, like last year, we’ll see a split between director and film.  Two years ago, Ben Affleck’s snub in director guaranteed his film the best picture win but put Ang Lee over the top for the directing prize.  Last year, though 12 Years was a shoe-in to win best picture, voters couldn’t resist showing their love for Alfonso Cuaron’s effects marvel Gravity by giving him the direction prize.  Perhaps this year Richard Linklater will get rewarded for his lengthy commitment to Boyhood without the film itself taking the big prize; I don’t think we can even be sure once the winning director takes the stage just which picture will triumph.  And there’s a lot of fun in that.

BAFTA did give us a little bit of clarity, though.  Michael Keaton, veteran though he be, seems destined to make way for fresh faced Eddie Redmayne losing his body to the ravages of ALS.   Much as Hollywood loves a good comeback story (and Keaton’s is almost embarrassingly on the nose) they’re just as fond of physical transformations.  After taking home the SAG and the BAFTA, Redmayne has to be considered the frontrunner.  He may not be a prohibitive favorite like Arquette, Simmons or Moore, but he’s almost as inevitably got his fingers locked around the award.  Will it stay a fight until the end?  I can’t wait to see.