Monthly Archives: February 2015

Red

Greg Gutfeld, right, holds court on his final Red Eye

 

Good Greg, Bad Greg

 

Fox News court jester Greg Gutfeld hosted his final Red Eye on Friday, which leaves me with mixed emotions.

There is Good Greg, and there is Bad Greg.  Good Greg most often showed up on Red Eye.  Bad Greg materializes on other Fox programming, most notably The Five.

Gutfeld shined on Red Eye because he is quick-witted, creative, and wields a warped sense of humor.  No one took him seriously on Red Eye – including and especially himself.  The result was a talk show that was often funnier than Bill Maher’s Real Time or Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show.  But then there is Bad Greg.

Bad Greg can still be found weekdays on The Five, another panel show on which Gutfeld is expected to tone down the humor and offer his (somewhat) serious political insights.  This is where we witness Gutfeld’s off-putting anger, and his desire to please The Powers That Be at Fox, including Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes.

Gutfeld is developing a new weekend series for Fox.  Time will tell whether it’s hosted by Good Greg or Bad Greg.

 

*****

 

Oscars

 

Academy Awards Ratings Dip

 

Hollywood, in general, produces two kinds of movies:  superhero/comic book/special-effects franchise films that please teenagers and viewers in China, and independent, small-budget “prestige” pictures.  Millions of people see the blockbusters, which aren’t good enough to win Oscars.  Nobody sees the smaller films, which are often Oscar-worthy but, again, nobody sees them.

Unless Tinseltown rediscovers its sweet spot – movies that are good and popular – Oscar ratings will continue to slide.

 

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a

 

My niece was a big fan of the TV show Lost.  She was convinced that I’d love ABC’s science-fiction hit, as well, and urged me to watch the series, start to finish.

Sigh.

 

Once upon a time, a friend would give you a book for Christmas, or recommend a good movie.  The expectation was that you would enjoy the book or film, and afterward you two would have something to discuss.  But a movie takes no more than a couple of hours to watch, and you can knock off a 300-page novel in a week or two.

But Lost?  That show ran for six years and comprised 121 episodes.  My niece, bless her heart, was basically saying to me:  “You should watch this show.  It will take you months to get through it, provided you don’t take breaks to watch anything else.  And say goodbye to your social life (assuming you have one).”

And that brings me to Breaking Bad, the AMC drama that every Joe and his brother have proclaimed “One of the Greatest Shows of All Time.”  Unlike Lost, Breaking Bad aired just 62 episodes.  I decided I could manage that.  I caved, and I “binge-watched” the saga of Walter White, high school chemistry teacher turned drug lord.  My impressions:

 

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Ω

 

Lots of shows are unpredictable.  A scene will surprise you and you’ll think, “Wow.”  But moments later, you’ll also think, “That could never happen in real life.”  What makes Bad so good is that it’s both surprising and logical.  It catches you off guard, but the shocks almost always make dramatic sense.

 

 β

 

Anna Gunn, the actress who portrays protagonist Walter White’s wife, wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times about the stream of online vitriol directed at her character and, by extension, at Gunn herself.  Apparently, Skyler White was viewed by many fans as a drag on Walt’s ambitions.  This hostility makes little sense to me.  Gunn’s performance was superb and her character, Skyler, was no “ball and chain,” no whining shrew.  If anything, Skyler gave wayward Walt more support than he deserved.  In fact, by the end of the show, she was the more sympathetic spouse.  My conclusion about the online Skyler/Gunn haters:  There are a lot of idiots out there.

 

c

 

Producers originally considered filming the series in California but moved it to New Mexico for budget reasons.  That was a great decision for a couple of reasons:   1)  The desert scenery is often spectacular, and 2)  I, for one, am sick to death of shows set in Southern California.  It’s a big, gorgeous country, is America; must every other TV show be set in Orange County?

 

 

Bad routinely accomplishes something I used to think only big-screen features could pull off:  It generates genuinely thrilling action sequences — often.  This is a tribute to the writers and the production team, especially the editors and directors.

 

Ψ

 

Critical praise for Breaking Bad seemed to build each year, so that by the time the series ended after five seasons, it was hailed as one of the best TV dramas of all time.  I don’t disagree with that, but to me the show’s first three years are its best three years, when Walter and young Jesse are climbing (or descending) the criminal ladder.  Season four had plenty of great moments, but I thought the cat-and-mouse war between drug kingpin Gus and Walt/Jesse went on a bit long, and the story at times was a bit predictable, a bit repetitive.

 

 

Binge watching Breaking Bad – I have mixed emotions.  On the one hand, it’s wonderful to watch a series start to finish without commercials, without week-long interruptions.  However … there is a lot of violence and the tone is often relentlessly intense.  So intense, that maybe breaks from Breaking Bad aren’t so bad.        Grade:  A

 

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Creator:  Vince Gilligan  Cast:  Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, Bob Odenkirk, Giancarlo Esposito, Jonathan Banks, Laura Fraser  Aired:  2008 – 2013

 

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Boston

 

Bill Maher whined about having to watch so many reports about New England snowstorms.  This, coming from a guy who lives in a state that gets nonstop news coverage of mudslides, wildfires, and minor earthquakes – Mother Nature events that bore the crap out of most non-Californians.

 

*****

 

The danger of watching too much Fox News is that, if you’re not careful, you can become like Tom Hanks and Wilson the volleyball in Cast Away:  You might begin to think of the mindless Fox pundits as your pals.

I don’t make fun of Fox all that much, simply because there are not enough hours in the day.  Here are a couple of dumb Fox quotes from this week:

 

Perino

 

Dana Perino on The Five:  “I was thinking, you know, President Obama is very attractive.”

OK, so we took that quote a bit out of context, but it seems obvious that Perino lusts for Obama in her heart.

 

The Five’s Greg Gutfeld considers himself an expert on words and grammar.  Gutfeld’s “banned phrase“ on Friday’s show:  “I Don’t Disagree.”

“You’d save a lot more time if you’d just say, ‘I agree,’” barked Gutfeld.

 

Uh, not really, because the two phrases aren’t synonymous.

“I don’t disagree” means you’re not sure; you might agree or you might disagree, but at the moment you’re not doing either because you haven’t made up your mind.

How about we ban Gutfeld until he gets a grasp of the English language?

 

*****

 

I was a bit surprised that Saturday Night Live didn’t parody Rachel Maddow on its big anniversary special last weekend.  But then I remembered that SNL has already parodied Maddow.  Quite a bit, in fact.  Who among us could ever forget “Pat”?

 

Pat2

 

Pat1

 

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 The Station Agent

Agent

 

Tired of movies with world-weary, cynical points of view?  Had enough of characters who don’t speak dialogue so much as argue and snipe at each other?  Then you might dig The Station Agent, a quiet little film about quiet little people who find friendship in rural New Jersey.  Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) plays a dwarf who moves to Mayberry– er, Newfoundland, to live in an abandoned train station and, with any luck, to escape society’s jerks.  But his new neighbors (Patricia Clarkson and Bobby Cannavale) won’t leave him alone.  That’s the plot – take it or leave it.  I took it.   Release:  2003   Grade:  B

 

*****

 

Septimo

Septimo

 

Ricardo Darin, star of Argentina’s Oscar-winning The Secret in Their Eyes, teams with Belen Rueda (The Orphanage) in a thriller about the hunt for two children who vanish from an apartment-building stairwell. I complain about Hollywood’s recent penchant for stretching every movie, no matter how deserving, to interminable runtimes, but Septimo might be one film for which 88 minutes are not enough.  After a tense opening hour, in which estranged parents Darin and Rueda deal with the apparent abduction of their kids, the ending is abrupt and leaves more than a few loose ends.   Release:  2013   Grade:  B

 

*****

 

Women Aren’t Funny

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The title lies.  Some women are funny, like Bonnie McFarlane, who wrote and directed this behind-the-scenes peek at the life of a typical stand-up comic — or in this case, two comics:  McFarlane and her husband, Rich Vos.  The documentary, during which McFarlane conducts short interviews with a gaggle of American comedians, is more amusing than laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s hard to diss a flick in which the writer/director/star flashes her own bare butt while strolling bottomless through a field.   Release:  2014   Grade:  B

 

2

 

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Travolta

 

What  …  the  …  fuck?

 

*****

 

Brooke          Melissa

 

Brooke Baldwin (above left) was flummoxed by a daring prison escape in which two women dressed in skimpy police costumes managed to seduce the prison guards.

“I’m not laughing at all,” said Brooke.  “I’m just fixated on those little negligee outfits and thinking, how the heck did this whole thing happen over that?”

This might explain why you’re still single, Brooke.

 

*

 

Melissa Harris-Perry (above right) gushed over Eric Holder as she interviewed him for MSNBC, confessing that her pet name for Holder is “The Duck,” and asking him to … oh, never mind.

Sometimes it’s a good thing that nobody watches your show.

 

*****

 

As if we needed more reminders, we found out again this week just how much the media loves … the media.  Jon Stewart, Brian Williams, and David Carr all leaving the media?  I don’t seem to give a shit – do you?

In the grand scheme of things, Stewart’s ratings were insignificant, Williams was a pompous ass, and outside of the media world, no one knew who Carr was.

On the other hand, I am sorry to lose Bob Simon.

 

*****

 

Capture

 

Obama continues his crusade to prove that black presidents can be just as bad as white presidents.  Now if we can just get Hillary elected, we’ll learn that female presidents can be just as bad as male presidents.

 

*****

 

So according to The Huffington Post, there are now only 49 states?

 

Missouri

 

*****

 

The CNN Quiz Show – What terrible timing.  Just when everyone is criticizing the blur of news and entertainment, thanks to Brian Williams, CNN decides to launch a game show in which it asks respected anchors to behave like a bunch of buffoons.

 

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by John le Carre

Spy

 

 

Twenty years ago when I read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, my first taste of British novelist John le Carre, I described it as “endless cloak-and-dagger shenanigans that were all the rage in the 1960s.”  After reading a second le Carre novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, I am still underwhelmed.

This time, we follow British agent Leamas, who embarks on an elaborate charade to snare a villainous Cold War foe, and in the process discovers cross and double-cross.  It’s a cliché to say this, but still true:  Spy is all head, no heart.  Its central romance is shallow and its characters are either remote or unpleasant.  Yes, it’s cleverly plotted and there are some nice twists, but the downbeat tone and lack of relatable characters left me, well, cold.

 

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Grand Delusions

  Quaid

 

Apparently those of us worried about Rupert Murdoch taking over the world’s media have had misplaced concerns, because Rupert has had much bigger fish to fry:  the destruction of Randy Quaid.

I just watched Randy‘s new movie (above) and, I’ll have to say, the special effects are even more impressive than what we saw in Independence Day.

 

*****

 

TedWilliams

 

What we suspected turns out to be true:  Brian Williams’s portrayal of Ted Baxter is more realistic than Bradley Cooper’s Oscar-nominated portrayal of Chris Kyle.

 

*

 

From The Huffington Post:

 

“Esposito referred HuffPost to an NBC News spokeswoman who declined to comment.”

Now that’s a job I’d love to have:  a spokeswoman who doesn’t have to speak.

 

*

 

I did a Google search for “late night comics hammer Brian Williams” and … I’m still searching.  With the exception of one zinger from Conan O’Brien, it appears that America’s hard-hitting, edgy kings of late night — am looking at you, Jimmy Fallon and David Letterman — prefer to let their buddy Brian off the hook.

 

 

*****

 

Lots of smug giggles over the old television clip of Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric discussing “what Internet is.”

I still don’t know what Internet is.  As far as I’m concerned, Internet is something magic in the air that puts pictures and sound into a glass box on my desk.

 

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