Saturday, December 28, 2013
Friday, December 27, 2013
|Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks|
Thursday, December 26, 2013
If ever a TV show appeared to have made for the express purpose of being buried, it’s HBO's Getting On. An adaptation of an acclaimed British series, Getting On is set in the extended-care ward of a large, Southern California hospital. It’s a workplace comedy, but set in a workplace where the medical personnel are just doing whatever they can to make things easiest on people who have exhausted modern medicine’s ability to do anything to improve their lives. Whether they’re near death or lost in dementia, they’re just waiting out the clock, and so are their caregivers. The show is a black comedy, but a dry, poker-faced black comedy, about doing a job that numbs you to the everyday tragedy of human beings coming to the end of their road.
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
The death last month of the Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing at the age of 94 drew a shower of obituaries and appreciations from across the English-speaking world. But few of those pieces talked about Adore, the movie French director Anne Fontaine and English screenwriter Christopher Hampton adapted this year from a story published in Lessing’s penultimate book, a collection of novellas entitled The Grandmothers. (It was published in 2003; Lessing’s final book, the novel/memoir Alfred & Emily, came out in 2008). As literary critics praised Lessing to the skies for her unabashed candor about female sexuality in novels like The Golden Notebook, credited as an influence to the second-wave feminist movement in the sixties, and for her revolutionary spirit, movie critics far and wide condemned Adore for its sexually transgressive subject: women who sleep with one another’s teenage sons. The movie people – largely male – who objected to Anne Fontaine’s lyrical and sensual depiction of what is, in essence, an incest story, didn’t acknowledge that the plot, tone, perspective and most of the dialogue came directly from Doris Lessing. And the literary people – often female – who eulogized Lessing didn’t rush to defend the movie. Why?
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Monday, December 23, 2013
|Rachel Weisz, Daniel Craig and Rafe Spall in Betrayal|
Mike Nichols’ Broadway revival of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal has star power and impressive production values. Ian MacNeil’s set reconstructs itself from scene to scene in geometric pieces that, suggestively, don’t quite connect. Ann Roth’s handsome costumes provide subtle commentary on the three characters, two men and one woman who form the points of a love triangle. And Brian MacDevitt’s lighting is magnificent, especially in the transitions in and out of the pivotal scene in Italy, where Robert confronts his wife Emma with evidence that she’s been sleeping with his oldest friend, Jerry; it creates ghosts behind the backdrops to suggest the idea that the third member of the trio is inescapably present, just out of reach, whenever the other two are alone together. The designs make clear, provocative statements, so Nichols must have communicated a strong vision of the play to his collaborators. Yet the production itself doesn’t seem to be about anything except three actors on a stage.
Sunday, December 22, 2013
|The final episode of AMC's Breaking Bad aired this past September.|
The past twelve months have brought an embarrassment of riches to the dedicated television viewer. Not only a number of promising new series, but technological and industry developments have made television viewing richer, more diverse, and more convenient than it's ever been. But even on wholly traditional terms, TV has had a good year. AMC's Breaking Bad came to a powerful and satisfying conclusion. FX's Justified had another strong year, and its fifth season is set to air early in January. After some uneven early episodes, CBS's Americanized Sherlock Holmes procedural Elementary went from strength to strength, culminating in a powerful first season, and this fall has proven itself to be much more than the pale shadow of BBC's incomparable Sherlock it threatened to be on paper. In November, TBS premiered The Ground Floor, a new laugh track rom-com/office comedy from Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Cougar Town) that has grown more charming and likeable with every passing episode. And a year ago, long before Fox's Brooklyn Nine-Nine hit the airwaves in September, who could have guessed that the best comedy team-up on television would be Homicide: Life on the Street's Andre Braugher and Saturday Night Live alum Andy Samberg? All in all, we have a lot to be thankful for this year. Below I review some of the more interesting developments in television in 2013.