Movie Review/Oscar Talk: Inglourious Basterds

E: It’s been said before, but the S.S. uniform does most of the work for Christoph Waltz’s Colonel Hans Landa.  The so-called Jew Hunter saunters into a small stone house, where a dairy farmer is thought to be harboring his Jewish neighbors.  He’s affable, charming.  He’s open and pleasant, jovial even.  He waxes discursive about the metaphorical relationship between Jews and rats, and the unthinking reactions of Nazis to both.  The scene spins on and on, and the tension is unbearable.  Your skin crawls.  It takes forever.

And that’s Inglourious Basterds.  There are sharp bursts of action and odd blips of humor, interspersed between years of drawn out, stomach-churning anxiety.  The five chapter narrative structure is nothing like what you think it will be, though the action in many ways is completely predictable.  Quentin Tarantino’s latest fantasia – a rewritten history of WW2 nominally about an elite American unit of Jewish Nazi assassins, out to scalp at least a hundred Germans each.

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ETV: Project Runway and Models of the Runway

E: Two of our quirkiest designers face off in the bottom two, fallen leaders in a challenge both old and new.  The bottom made sense, and I end up feeling sorry for people who go home even when I think it’s the right choice.  The top?  Hmmm.  There was quite a bit more drama on the model side, and not so manufactured as in the past.  The proverbial reality show bus rolls into town; follow after the jump to see who went flying out of the way, and who got  to watch the wheels go round and round up close.

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TV Review: Caprica

M: Last week the pilot of the prequel to the newer version of Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, was aired, and tonight the show begins in earnest.  The pilot had already been available to download, on DVD and on demand (since April!) but new episodes of the show start tonight.  As the Siblings were all fans of the new BSG, and E and I were fans of the original, we figured we’d check it out.  Only, E wasn’t able to due to time and sick children, while C had issues with not getting The Network Formerly Known As SciFi.  FYI, in my effort to not acknowledge the ridiculous name change, all references to where it airs will be “TNFKASF”, therefore I will do everything I can to avoid mentioning it from this point on.  Take that, suits!

Anyway, back to the show.  The show is set 58 years before the recent version of BSG, which puts it approximately 18 years before the end of original cylon wars.  It follows two families, the Adama family and the Greystone family.  Both families have to deal with tragedy of losing daughters (and in the case of Adama, his wife) in a terrorist bombing, and how they deal with it and what they do in response is the basis for an even more character-driven drama.

Dr Daniel Greystone (Erik Stoltz) is the creator of cylons, and a whole host of other robotic and cybernetic devices, including the “Holoband”, a device totally ripped off from Star Trek’s holodeck.  Immediately, the show set me off on two of my pet peeves.  First, I can’t stand the term “prequel”.  I don’t know why, really, it’s perfectly appropriate linguistically.  It just rubs me wrong every time I hear it.  However, my dislike of the term is far less of a pet peeve than the other…  I hate it when prequels are made and the technology of the society is VASTLY advanced from the technology in the society in the original.

For example, I understand that the technology in the original Star Wars trilogy was supposed to reflect a society in decline, and that the ability to do sooooo much more with special effects existed.  However, consistency is FAR more important in my book.  Use the technology at your disposal to make incredible special effects for things that still existed in your fictional universe 18 years later.

In Caprica, we’re supposed to believe that 58 years after the events we’re watching now, the holoband has not only completely disappeared from society, but that it’s been completely forgotten AND not replaced by any advancement in technology.  That’d be like making a movie set in 2068 and saying that not only do we no longer have smart phones, but we don’t even have phones.  It’s just not believable.  It wasn’t just the holoband, as the Greystones have pretty cool little robots that provide butler and home security duties, as well as target practice for the cylons that Dr Greystone is developing at work.  Sorry, I really have trouble getting past these type of blunders.

That aside, the show itself was a mixed bag.  It was very dark, and is clearly going to be more drama than action, unlike its predecessor.  Esai Morales was good as Joseph Adama, a mob lawyer with pangs of conscience who is hiding his family name to avoid persecution for being from the planet Tauron.  Stoltz was his usual solid self, adapting to the role of the cocky science whiz with a bit of a peter pan complex and questionable moral character.

The show is creating a stylish world, one with cosmopolitan cities and serene landscapes, but it is also replete with “racial” tension, terrorism, political corruption and religious discrimination.  It’s a world where most of the children escape into the virtual world of the holoband to violate every moral, while some escape there for religious freedom.  The Greystone’s daughter Zoe (Alessandra Torresani) escapes there to create a virtualization of herself, one that by the end of the pilot becomes the basis for the consciousness of the first true cylon, and the device that will move the drama of the show.

In the end, the pilot was a bit disappointing.  I’ll admit, the first time I watched it I actually fell asleep pretty early on.  Though it was really late, I don’t usually fall asleep during things even when I’m exhausted, so that wasn’t a good sign. The second time around was a better experience, but much of the plot was recycled elements from so many other works: the corrupt politician that the mob has to shake down… the brilliant scientist who may lose his government contract so he resorts to corporate espionage…  the mad scientist who cannot get over the death of a loved one and tries to reanimate them.  So much of this we’ve seen before under different names, and in many instances we’ve seen it done far better.

Still, I’m interested enough to see where they take the series, partly because of the show that preceded it, partly because they had such a long gap between making the pilot and the new episodes, and partly because TNFKASF originally only signed on for a few episodes, then ordered a half season, then the full season, so it makes me think there may be something good coming.  All I can say is that they better get to it pretty quickly.

Movie Review/Oscar Talk: Precious

E: The movie Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire has wormed its way into my mind.  I can’t stop thinking about it.  I can’t put down the characters or the issues they raise.  In some ways, the plot is easily encapsulated:  brutalized teen learns to love herself and stand up.  Clarice Precious Jones, a pregnant teen in New York City back in 1987, lives in daydreams; in her glittery fantasies, her light-skinned boyfriend, her fans, and the whole world finds her Precious.  In one such scene, she imagines herself running away with her middle-aged math teacher.  (Her heartbreaking belief that a Harlem public school teacher could afford to live in Westchester still makes me want to cry.) In reality, she lives with her vile, tyrannical mother Mary and stumbles through the day just trying not to get smashed down too badly.  Those daydreams sustain her; she escapes into them during beatings and worse.  With the help of a kindly counselor (played by a very pragmatic, frumpy Mariah Carey) and some determined educators, Precious learns that she does have worth, that she can have a future, and that she can make one for her children.  Precious, a child herself, stands up to protect her own children.  And she learns not so much to fight back against her searing, shockingly mercurial and vicious mother, but to stand up and take herself out of harm’s way.  She doesn’t get caught in the cycle.

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Masterpiece Review: Emma

C: Some famous person said “comparisons are odious.”  I say, “comparisons are inevitable.” The Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma in 1996 was one of the reasons I started reading Jane Austen; I wanted to see it, but I wanted to read the book first.  Without Emma I might not be the costume drama obsessive I am today.  It’s by no means a perfect adaptation of Austen’s novel, but it’s a very stylish, charming, and enjoyable one.  So when I heard the BBC/Masterpiece would be filming a new version, it was natural to question: did we really need it? (click here to find out!)

E: I too had some reservations going into this new miniseries, and top of the list was Jonny Lee Miller.  I adored him as Eli Stone, but Jeremy Northam has long been my picture of Mr. Knightley – firm, upright, angular – and Miller couldn’t be further from that image.  As our friend the Presidentrix put it, he’s wooby.  And Mr. Knightley is not wooby.

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