Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Huffington Post's Eve Simon defends Aaron Sorkin in the most awful way possible

By insulting the intelligence of anyone who criticizes The Newsroom, Simon shows just how shallow her understanding of the show is.

Jeff Daniels stars in Aaron Sorkin's new HBO series.
If you don't like The Newsroom, Eve Simon thinks you're a moron.

In a fairly awful opinion piece that ran yesterday on The Huffington Post, Simon takes any and all critics of Aaron Sorkin's new drama to task for contributing to the dumbing down of American society. Apparently anyone who didn't enjoy the show, who thinks it's flawed or overly preachy or just plain bad, only formed that opinion as a result of the anti-intellectual forces that have insidiously taken over the country and made intelligence into a vice. A NASCAR New World Order, if you will.
After watching the pilot of Aaron Sorkin's new HBO drama The Newsroom, I'm not at all surprised that people have been beating on it like some alien weed they're hell bent on destroying. 
The show is just too smart. Smart as a pejorative*. And that scares the shit out of everyone. 
Stupid people hate that he calls them out on their lack of engagement, and smart people are scared to death to admit publically that he's absolutely right. Why? Because that would validate the picture painted of them in the press: Elitist, smug, self-important, superior, condescending, and not Real Americans (FuckYeah!). 
In these days of advanced citizenship*, I'm truly horrified to say that being smart has become the ultimate liability. And instead of doing something about it, we sit back and wonder why the media is taking our national culture to hell on a speedboat*.
Even ignoring the fact that Simon is proving her own straw man counter-argument by coming off as one of those "smug, self-important, condescending" smart people (because why try to subvert the stereotype when you can play into it?), and even eliding her apparent belief that Sorkin is the lone holdout in a television landscape filled with reality shows and procedural crime dramas (this in a year that brought us a subtle exploration of gender roles and power struggles on Game of Thrones, bold creative choices on Community and a brilliantly funny, bitterly pointed political satire in Veep, to name only a few), Simon's rant displays the limitations of her own understanding of Sorkin's drama.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mother Jones' Game of Thrones attack ads: Tywin Lannister (and Gob Bluth) would approve

Mother Jones came out with some Game of Thrones attack ads that are as funny as they are sharply satirical. The videos, which focus on Daenerys, Joffrey and Robb (not Robb!) lampoon some of the characters' dumber decisions (Dany, why did you think your dragons would be safe in an unlocked wooden box?) while simultaneously sending up collective political freak-outs like the birther movement and John McCain's anti-Obama "Celebrity" ad.

The ads also underline Game of Thrones' similarities to Arrested Development (because why not?). Check out the birther-esque ad that accuses Joffrey Baratheon of being a bastard:

Hilarious - I particularly like the moment when the narrator asks "What is King Joffrey Hiding?" and the onscreen text responds with "Incest? Murder? Adultery? Deception? Dwarves?" - and quite similar to the attack ad that Gob Bluth creates for George Michael's quixotic campaign against Steve Holt for the position of student body president:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Five reasons The Vampire Diaries is better than True Blood

Left: Nina Dobrev on The Vampire Diaries. Right: Rutina Wesley on True Blood.

Spring has officially ended, and the good TV shows have gone the way of non-sweltering weather and the snowdrops outside my old apartment. (On a side note, I have a new apartment now, and my move from the one to the other is what has kept me from blogging. It takes a long time to assemble an entire apartment's worth of Ikea furniture.) Game of Thrones finished off its phenomenal second season with a threat from the perpetually icy North, and was replaced on HBO's Sunday night schedule with the considerably muggier atmosphere of Bon Temps, Louisiana, and the baffling fifth season of True Blood

At this point in its lifespan, True Blood mostly exists as a reminder of how much I miss the CW's infinitely superior supernatural thriller The Vampire Diaries. (Also as a way to see Alexander Skarsgard nude.) So, to honor the return of Bill, Eric, Jessica and Sookie's magic fairy vagina, let's take a look at a few of the many, many things that The Vampire Diaries does better than True Blood. (Note: SPOILERS for the third season of The Vampire Diaries and every season of True Blood abound.)

No irrelevant side plots that distract from the action

True Blood's first season (which seems so long ago) was almost entirely focused on a single storyline: the serial killer targeting women who had sex with vampires. Yes, there were digressions here and there where Sookie lost her virginity to Bill and Jason got addicted to V, but the action was all driven by the main plot and the problems it posed to the residents of Bon Temps. Not coincidentally, the first season was the high point of the show, which has since degenerated into a shapeless mass of unrelated stories stitched together into a tonally incoherent mess.

The Vampire Diaries, on the other hand, has a talent for pulling every side story, no matter how irrelevant it may seem, into the main thrust of the action. You might think that Tyler becoming a werewolf has nothing to do with the threat of the Originals, but then Klaus turns him into a hybrid and a whole new, emotionally compelling storyline is born. Elena's concussion might have seemed like a cheap way to build tension, but it paid off in spades when she drowned after being cured with vampire blood and turned into a blood-sucker. Speaking of which...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Six things I learned from Funny or Die's musical spoof of The Wire

"Chess is a metaphor for drug deals,
Avon is the king and we're the pawns.
But the game don't change and the king will stay the king,
While you and I will soon be dead and gone."

In honor of the tenth anniversary of The Wire, Funny or Die put together a sublime sketch that answers a question we've all asked ourselves at one point or another*: what would the five-season portrait of America's decaying inner cities look like as a musical? With the help of a surprising number of original cast members - Michael K. Williams (Omar), Sonja Sohn (Kima), Andre Royo (Bubbles), Larry Gillard, Jr. (D'Angelo) and Felicia Pearson (Snoop) appear in the clip - we now have our answer (via The AV Club):

There are six lessons I took away from this inspired endeavor:

1. Larry Gillard, Jr. is a pretty damned good singer! Andrew Royo, on the other hand, sounds remarkably like a latter-day Bob Dylan.

2. Michael K. William's broad grin, combined with his exaggerated musical theater shenanigans, suggest that the man has a future in comedy.

3. Omar's immortal line "I got the shotgun, you got the briefcase" was meant to be sung.

4. Snoop is significantly less intimidating in a dress, although I'm sure the fear would come right back the second she got her hands on a nail gun.

5. "Way Down In The Hole" performed by a barbershop quartet works surprisingly well.

6. A four-minute, family-friendly spoof of The Wire is still better than either Glee or Smash.

*Or not, as the case may be.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Game of Thrones Photo Recap: "Valar Morghulis"

"Valar Morghulis" took the propulsive momentum from "Blackwater" and ran with it, powering through a multitude of story lines with flair while keeping up the pace. The big scenes worked just as well as the intimate characters moments, and a plethora of supernatural elements were front and center without seeming out of place. As always, check out the best moments from the episode below, then keep reading for the best quotes. And if you need to find me in the off-season, just give a copy of this recap to another TV blogger and repeat these exact words: "Valar Morghulis."

The night's best moments: an eerie journey through the House of the Undying, Joffrey Baratheon finds a new wife, and the episode ends with a doozy of a cliffhanger.

The best quotes from "Valar Morghulis": Jamie and Brienne make a great team, Theon Greyjoy is not the absolute worst person in Westeros, and I know what question I would ask Jaquen H'Ghar.

"How do you know about that?" "I thought you said you knew who I was." Really, Varys is one of my favorite characters. I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up the most powerful man in the Seven Kingdoms.

"Apparently eating is now a crime." "No, stealing is." The way that Jamie and Brienne immediately put aside their bickering and coordinate in the face of a threat makes me think they would be a pretty formidable force were they to team up.

"Send more ravens." "You killed all the ravens." You took the words right out of my mouth, Maester Luwin.

"Do you know what it's like to be told how lucky you are to be someone's prisoner?" This was a beautifully written and acted speech that sheds a lot of light on Theon. He's a lot more understandable when his actions are viewed through the lens of a prisoner who was raised to be honorable by the man who killed his brothers and took him away from his home.

"Why would I lie about it?" "To create strife between my sister and me." "Where before there was nothing but love." Varys is a tricky man, but I get the impression that he really has Tyrion's back.

"There are many who know that without you this city faced certain defeat. The king won't give you any honors, the histories won't mention you, but we will not forget." This was a really nice moment between Varys and Tyrion, but I suspect that being an unsung hero is not what Tyrion wants out of life.

"How did you know we would come this way?" "Of all the things you have seen, this is your question?" I have to agree with Jaquen; there are about thirty questions I would ask before this one, and after watching this episode I definitely know what the first would be.

"I need to find my brother and mother. And my sister. I need to find her too." I suspect that, whenever Arya meets back up with Sansa, she's going to have to seriously reconsider her opinion of her sister.

"Maybe I told the Great Stallion to go fuck himself, and came back here to wait for you." Romance, profanity and challenges to the gods in one package; that's Khal Drogo for you.

"Take all the gold and jewels!" This one wasn't so much about the line but the delivery, the way that Jorah roared it with the gusto of a pirate.

"If you step back and think about, the thing about Gilly that's so interesting is..." Please don't be dead, Sam. Please do not be dead.