Category Archives: SEEN

The Wire (Series)

 

By Christopher Schmaltz

Um, ok. I finished watching the entire series The Wire this past weekend. I binge-watched the last 2.5 seasons or so, but watched the entire series beginning to end over the last 6 months. The last 2.5 seasons were watched over about a 2 week span. It’s fresh in my mind.

I didn’t watch the Wire when it was on HBO a decade ago. I have always read, in all my pop culture and entertainment reading and podcast listening, that the Wire was incredible and woefully under appreciated in modern entertainment culture. I heard and read references to Omar, and Bubbles, and Stringer Bell, and Bunk, and McNulty, and Prop Joe, never really understanding what those references meant. The references, however, were always made consistently in the tones of awe, amazement and reverence. I didn’t understand because I had never watched it.

I understand now.

The Wire is easily the best show I have ever watched. It has to be objectively considered, if not the greatest television drama ever, then top 3 of all time. (Sopranos, and [insert many contenders here] the other 2)

I know, I know. You haven’t watched it, and this statement seems ridiculous. I am here to shout from the rooftops that everyone in America needs to watch The Wire. EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE.

You are right to be skeptical. I absolutely support and encourage your skepticism. I will attempt to provide you with a rationale to investigate and evaluate it for yourself, and convince you why it warrants a Constitutional amendment requiring every adult in America to watch it.

The efficiency and effectiveness of its storytelling over 5 seasons is breathtaking. It follows a group of police officers in Baltimore from Season 1 all the way thru Season 5, weaving tales of drugs, politics, city management, blue collar workers, schools and newspapers in and around the core group. The show examines each of these areas of modern American life, not in a rote or check the box, I need to comment on this way, but in truly elegant organic storytelling. Honestly, I would call it Homeric.

What do I mean by that? Homeric in the sense that the tale is a compelling story, in and of its own right, with characters and plot that are beyond interesting, always engaging the viewer, and demanding attention at all times. And at the same time, every moment is a deep examination of modern American city life, its culture, pressures, power, and humanity. It’s a tale of us, a cultural touchstone for all time.

The show never loses sight of the humans at the center of it. Lots of shows want to be commentaries on, …name your Big Idea. Politics, or Power, or Crime. The humans in those shows are simply vehicles to move around to tell the big tale, or vessels from which flow Important Statements.

And note that it is not until late here that I mention race and race relations. The racism in the show isn’t one of the things it wants to overtly Comment on. The racism is simply a given. Of course the show is commenting on it, but the racism is not treated as a separate thing to be examined, dissected, and disapproved of. The racism, from everyone, is treated as an immutable part of everything that all the characters say and do. The show’s genius is found in its ability to depict the unconscious (and conscious) bias and racism in all the characters, without putting neon on it. And yet, every human watching gets it.
What the makers of the Wire mastered is grounding all that commentary in real humans, making real decisions, from which emerges the devastating view on all those big things other shows try to shout about. Every character evolves. Some evolve in the direction of extinction (real or metaphorically) and some evolve toward some version of success. I am still shaking my head at how they managed to sustain it over 5 seasons, with threads in every season stitching all the central characters together to create a tapestry of hope, love, faith, despair, frailty, chance, pragmatism and outright venality.

Humans encompass all of those things. The Wire depicts it all almost perfectly. It is a stunning artistic achievement. Add it to your bucket list of life, watch it, think about it, discuss it, and share it. It is transformative art.

134 total views, 1 views today

The Expanse Season 1 Rewatch

By Christopher Schmaltz

Damn, what a good show. I binged this show over the holiday break, and was so engrossed in it that I was surprised when the final episode ended and there wasn’t another one. It does such a good job of capturing the books and an even better job of distilling the characters and challenges for an episodic effort. The CG is fantastic. Full stop, no caveats.

I can’t wait till they dig deeper into the rest of Book 1 and the story that unfolds. So much to tell and so much to reveal.

The show also does an excellent job of looking like a plausible human future. The books and this show are tremendous is postulating a future that looks real. From the subtle touches of the high barriers around the Statue of Liberty (to address the rising waters from global warming), to the actual design of human habitation off Earth. The ship designs are great. The idea that ship design would reflect zero g, but also the “gravity” generated by the Epstein drives is excellent.

Bringing Avasarala into the first season was a great idea too. She doesn’t appear until Book 2 I think, but her character is so meaty and fun that it was really smart to introduce her early. Only bummer is her swearing from the books isn’t depicted in the show. They try, but the TV character loses a bit of her no nonsense, I don’t fuck around, from the books.

I love everything about this show. 

148 total views, 2 views today

Swiss Army Man Review

swissarmy

By Patrick Schmaltz

These days, it’s pretty hard to find a film that really comes out of nowhere. So many films are predictable and boring, follow just the basic things we expect. I think the past few years we have seen some really good and original films come out. The Ots (2000-2010) were some of the worst years for film. Everyone had CGI and didn’t know how to use it, not we are getting the revolt and rebalance. Filmgoers are seeing films that are unusual and sometimes crazy. Films like Swiss Army Man gets the “WHAT THE FUCK?!” award for sure.

Story (Plot) 5-5 Swiss Army Man is just insane. Let me lay it out for you – I will be careful not to reveal anything too important – part of this movie’s charm is its ambiguity. You have been warned – small spoilers ahead. Paul Dano, who plays Hank, goes into the woods to escape society for…reasons. He is about to kill himself, because he’s starving on a small island, when Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Manny, washes up on shore as a dead body. Hank comes to find Manny is not dead, but has super powers and helps him to survive in the woods until he finds his way back to civilization. That’s the plot, but the real question is who is Manny? Why is he dead and why does he have these powers? Why did Hank go to the woods? Is this all in Hank’s Mind? It’s so silly and entertaining. Also! NOT a sequel or a remake.

Production (Directing, Editing, Music)4-5 It’s pretty amazing how fun and interesting this movie is. It’s fast and crazy, and the reality just as absurd and they know it. The film is shot beautifully, and edited really well with many fun montages of pretending together and surviving in the woods. The music is interesting also. Playing into the let’s do something different theme, all have instruments and score, but with Dano and Radcliffe singing and humming together, it makes for an eerie choir-like sound. An Example of this is, one of the best scenes is when they hum the theme to Jurassic Park while re-enacting it together. They are just in the woods so part of the music is in Dano’s head but, It works so well. You guys know how much I love movie music!

Characters (Likability, Acting) 4-5 Paul Dano is stellar again. He’s so interesting to watch in all his films. I do not think I have enjoyed Daniel Radcliffe so much since his Harry Potter days, he’s really fantastic in this. Hank is obviously insane. He’s got some things he needs to work through, but he’s so likeable and interesting you are okay with being on the crazy train with him. Manny is like a newborn baby, he doesn’t know anything so he’s having things explained to him by Hank with hilarious results. From farts, to love, to masterbation, all seem to be centered around what society deems to be normal. There are so many interesting things about our society in this movie including: technology isolation, father son dynamics, and sexual expression.

swiss

Writing (Dialogue, Cleverness)5-5 How does anyone come up with something so crazy, and how does anyone read this script and agree to do it. I would have loved to be in the room for the pitch meeting. “Guy stuck in the woods, finds dead body, which comes back to life and has super powers, which he uses to survive”. YEAH, who thinks of this crap? Well it fucking works. The movie is entertaining and fun as hell. The powers they come up with are crazy, all powered by “love”.  The Interaction between Manny and Hank is where it’s at. As Hank explains the world to Manny, we find out about Hank and his perspective and what inevitably led him to running away.  

Emotions (Was it; Fun, Scary, Sad, Do I care)4-5 Once you just accept what’s happening, and you need to accept it pretty quickly, you can just sit back and enjoy the fun! It’s strange and it knows it. It’s so silly and deadpan, with very little explanation. It’s filled with ambiguity, and emotional confusion. You just can’t stop watching it even though it doesn’t make sense. The world is crazy, this is for sure through a crazy person’s perspective, but you just learn to roll with it.

Overall score 22-25 I am just fascinated with this film. It’s crazy, interesting, and out of control. I might just be sick of seeing all the same shit over and over. This is not the same shit. There is some darkness to this movie for sure. The real world questions and emotions that Hank feels are rough. When you walk out of the movie you can’t help but think about it. Ask questions and try and make sense of what you just saw. This film is art and like any good art, it’s in the eye of the viewer.

 

276 total views, no views today

Finding Dory Review

dory

By Patrick Schmaltz

It’s understood these days that when Pixar makes a movie, it’s good for all ages. They seem to know how to tell a great story – one that encompasses heart, well crafted animation, and comedy. Finding Nemo was one of their hallmark all-time successes. I was an adult without children watching this film, and I enjoyed it as much as everyone else did. It makes sense that they would would want to make a sequel to this blockbuster hit; it just took them thirteen years to do it.  

Story (Plot) 3-5 Finding Dory takes place one year after the events of Nemo. Dory is presently living in the reef with Marlin and the eponymous Nemo. Slowly she is starting to remember that she has a family out there, which she has forgotten. She has suffered from short term memory loss her whole life, as seen through adorable Baby Dory flashbacks. She has a series of memories and needs to go find her parents and piece it all together. Marlin and Nemo owe her one, so they go with her to help. This film has a much more a bleak overtone than Finding Nemo. What this story lacks in laughs, it makes up for in emotion-screwing heavy shit.

Production (Directing, Editing, Music)4-5 Pixar does it again. But there hasn’t been much improvement in the level of quality animation in thirteen years – there doesn’t really need to be – it just looks like the same movie. Maybe if you put them shot for shot next to each other you might see a difference, but hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I just wish, maybe, that it looked crazy good. In 2003, Nemo looked crazy good. Now, Dory just looks normal. The music is exactly the same, again: ain’t broke.  The film’s pacing, however, is a little off – things could have moved things along a little faster. You know, gotten to the point a little sooner. Much of the film is told in flashbacks for emotional impact, which problematically creates a herky-jerky movement.

Characters (Likeability, Acting) 2-5 I love the characters. Albert Brooks as Marlin is good, but he’s a side character in this film. Nemo is the child voice of reason, and the glue that holds it together. Here is my major gripe with this movie:  Ellen Degeneres as Dory takes the reins as the main character and that’s where this movie fails. I don’t know that Dory is a strong enough main character. Sure, she is great as a foil in Nemo. But when the main character keeps forgetting what she’s doing, all I felt was frustration. Additionally, the memory loss bit gets old, seems inconsistent, and has no rhyme or reason. She is coherent one second, then forgets the next, and vice versa.

Writing (Dialogue, Cleverness)3-5 They really hit you in the face with some heavy family tragedy here. It’s a good story, and you care about these characters, but man is it sad if you think about what these “people” have gone through. This is all well and good, but where are the jokes? The side characters just are not as funny as the first film. Nemo was funny because of the “Mine” idiocy of the seagulls, and the vegetarian sharks. Dory’s side characters come across as just not as funny or memorable. The best character in my mind is the Octopus Hank played by Ed O’Neill, who is mostly a grump. This movie just lacks the forethought and clever characters. Also, Sigourney Weaver, is all I will say.

Emotions (Was it; Fun, Scary, Sad, Do I care)3-5 They succeeded in making us sad and give a crap about finding Dory’s parents. But where is the whimsy of the first one? Dory just feels way too self-serious. I want fun! I want Adventure! Instead we are given a sad story about losing family. It’s a good story and all, but I think it misses the tone set by the first film. The message of the film mostly centers around how Dory has a handicap, and she inspires the characters around her with how affable and genuine she is. The problem is, you suddenly feel bad about laughing at someone with a disability. They are teaching children some valuable lessons about life, I understand that. But don’t sully my previous enjoyment of a film, now that it has some darker overtones. Dory also never goes it alone – she always has someone there to help her. Someone to guide her, or physically carry her to her destination. I wanted that moment for her character to figure it out alone, yet instead she is guided and falls into things seemingly out of blind luck. Where is the lesson about you can do it yourself?

Overall score 15-25 This movie is very well made, and is already making lots of money, but it just feels soft and flat to me. No big moments of hilarious scenes. No hilarious quotes that stay with you. You don’t walk about of the theater singing this movie’s version of “Just Keep Swimming”. Dory will not be remembered. To my mind, the best word to describe the film is “meh” – it’s good but not great. It’s funny, but not as much as the original. It’s clever but lacks genius. I am sure the kids will love it.

 

238 total views, no views today

Independence Day Resurgence Review

ID4RHEADER

The first Independence Day film came out July 2nd 1996, when I was thirteen years old (THIRTEEN!). I was young, so I loved this film. It was amazing in a few ways; likeable, relatable characters, played by Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, and Bill Pullman. The script makes these characters interesting and alive, and the audience wants them to succeed. The act of film construction was amazing also, as they actually built sets and blew them up, with a little CGI thrown in as frosting. Real sets as backdrops and physical creatures as enemies.  I really enjoyed its fun adventure story, as it made you feel something for the loss these humans faced – millions of humans died in this first movie. And just as you think that humanity may be lost, Bill Pullman makes a speech: “we will not go quietly into the night”. And you say “YEA, fuck these aliens!”

Story (Plot) 2-5 Independence Day Resurgence takes place 20 years later. Humanity has survived and is prepared for another attack should the alien destroyers return. This generation is full of the PTSD-suffering survivors and war trained orphans. It seems like a cool idea, and a solid jump off point into a new battle – except it stops being interesting there. The aliens have no plan; they just kind of bungle around leaving the humans’ weapons and preparations pointless. The plot leaves you with the idea of these groups as two idiots staring at each other. The characters prattle on about how the alien ship is bigger than the ships before, but besides its first attack/landing it serves no purpose, and comes across as pointless. Lacking the vigour of the first film, it comes to Earth smashing soulless, meaningless, distant CGI cities and people.

Production (Directing, Editing, Music) 1-5 The film is downright boring. It wants to be a fun action/science fiction romp about humans overcoming great odds. Instead, they give us a lackluster, idiotic, and senseless film. It has gone the way of the new film genre, the-quick-edit-computer-animated-mess. Just cut every 2-3 seconds, and the people will not realize they are watching stupid shit. The Transformers films are the epitome of this genre. The musical score only serves to stroke your nostalgia, and doesn’t blaze a new path for itself.

I am not convinced that Roland Emmerich knows how to direct anymore, maybe he never did. I did enjoy his early films, so I have given him the benefit of the doubt even after 2012, and White House Down. Maybe I was just young enough to not see the flaws. How much of my positive thoughts about those films( Independence Day, Stargate, Godzilla) is nostalgia overriding sense?  

independence-day-resurgence

Characters (Likability, Acting)2-5 Pretty horrible, really. Liam Hemsworth has been shoehorned into Will Smith’s character’s spot in his absence, but he can’t hold a torch to Will “Welcome to Earth!” Smith! They just gloss over the fact that he is not in the film, because of some accident. I was really disappointed that Smith did not return for the sequel, as I heard he had already promised to do Suicide Squad. Maybe Smith read this script and said “no,” because I don’t know if his presence would have saved this movie. Jeff Goldblum’s character, David Levinson, is a very small part of the film. He really serves no purpose to the plot, as his character doesn’t save humanity as he did before. Bill Pullman plays President Whitmore, who has a moment of greatness speaking to Goldblum and random soldiers who need inspiration again, but his character has become a crazy person, scarred by his interactions with the aliens. So he’s not the enjoyable character we know and love; neither of them are. From the three I mentioned before, one is dead, one is crazy, and one absent and pointless. Thanks filmmakers.

Writing (Dialogue, Cleverness) 1-5 The script is just silly. The dialogue feels forced and overly serious. It just hits the wrong beats: serious when it should be fun, joking when it should be serious. The character pool is just too thin, leaving only surface-level depth to characters. No time is taken for us to get invested or learn about characters we should care about. These characters are shoved down our throats and we are expected to enjoy it. The plot has a nice base, but doesn’t take us anywhere. All the characters and aliens just feel insipid. I found myself questioning the decisions being made by both sides. It’s just a bunch of idiots hurling explosions at each other.

Emotions (Was it; Fun, Scary, Sad, Do I care) 1-5 I wanted to love this movie. The first film was part of my formative years of film appreciation. I look back and think of it fondly and am now afraid to rewatch it for fear of it not holding up. Independence Day Resurgence is boring. I didn’t care about any of the characters, kill them all. I didn’t care about Earth, why should I? The movie doesn’t make you feel the weight of what happened. I have seen this in past disaster films, like San Andreas. These films just gloss over the fact that millions of people are dead, and probably millions injured. The world economy is probably fucked, and it will take them years to recover. “ NO, LET’S JUST BLOW SOME SHIT UP!” is the mindset of the film. I have to give a shit about the things you are blowing up!  Make me care about some people in your film, then I’ll give a shit when you kill them.

Overall score 7-25 Disappointment and betrayal are what I feel towards this movie. Yeah, they got my money. So many people saw this movie because they enjoyed the first film so much. But all they have done is betrayed what we enjoyed about the original. We live in a time of CGI wonders, but when I can see they are standing on a stage with a green screen, you should have filmed it in an actual desert (a scene in the climax). Maybe your film’s acting would be better and more realistic, if your actors were actually acting against something, instead of standing in a green void. I leave you with a list of questions I had throughout watching the film. Some of these have spoilers in them so don’t read ahead if you care about that stuff.

Why does the Queen leave her big ass ship and go herself to hunt down the orb thingy?

Why doesn’t the Queen just chill in her big mothership and drill the core out of the Earth? (the humans have shown they can’t defeat the big ship, and all she needs to do is wait)

Why do the aliens need the Earth’s core? They have advanced technology and they want molten metal? You know once you take the core away from the heat and the mass of gravity pressing down on it, that is just becomes rock and metal, It’s like the core has its own power to it? It’s hot because of pressure dumbasses, not some magic source of energy

Why does the orb come to Earth and say nothing? It has gone to countless worlds where aliens have attacked and it’s got to imagine humans will be on the defensive. Instead it sits and does nothing, getting shot out of the sky, maybe send a message ahead, you fools.

In the climactic fight with the queen, the fighters swarm around her as she bashes the orb out of the base, and two alien ships commandeered by humans are the only ones that break free and are able to shoot her. Why don’t the thousands of ships flying around her shoot them down? Two ships versus a thousand.

Why do humans have all the weapons of the aliens except for the shields? They still prove a problem and not having the shields makes the humans outmatched.

Why don’t the aliens use their ultimate city destroying weapons once? They shoot lasers at the humans, but we never see the city destroying lasers of the first film, just low powered versions used by the humans.

How come Bill Pullman wastes an hour shaving his beard, when the battle is about to happen? Oh yeah, dramatic effect.

How come humans don’t just hack their computers again? Not even a mention of doing this.

What is the point of half the characters in the film? Most of the 10 characters serve no purpose to the plot and just muddy the waters.

Why does this movie have the terrible trope of “once you kill the queen all the others give up” ?  This is so dumb. If you kill my leader, I will still fight you and I will find a new leader, this should stop being written into films.

Why is Jeff Goldblum’s character’s wife/ex-wife not in the film? Not even brought up

Why didn’t they cast the actress that played the president’s daughter in the first film? She is the right age to play the character, and would give us another recognizable face.

Maybe she read the script also? Mae Whitman

Once the first ship shows up, (the orb that they shoot down) why is the planet not on high alert? Get all your defenses ready, power everything up, get everyone to battle stations. Instead, they go forward with their speeches and festivities. It’s Independence Day after all.

 

295 total views, 1 views today

Thoughts on Ex Machina

ex-machina-poster-official

Thoughts on Ex Machina

By Christopher Schmaltz

The robot is hot…until she puts on her short-haired wig. This was one of my thoughts after seeing Ex Machina. See, I’m generally not a short hair fan on women. And exactly therein lies the triumph of Ex Machina.

Ex Machina adds significantly to the genre in movies and literature of the human pursuit of artificial intelligence (A.I.).  It is at the same time cerebral and visceral. Cerebral in that it is a close scientific examination of the attempt to create A.I. – one that is indistinguishable from human intelligence and consciousness. The movie explores one man’s creation, and another man’s testing of that creation. Why it works so well is that it hits the tester (and movie viewer) in both the mind, and even more importantly, in the viscera. The tested program is in a futuristic, elegantly designed female robot form. A form that is very clearly a robot, and yet, has all the visual cues intended to target the id of the tester (and movie viewer).

The film is a surface examination of the attempt at A.I., and a far more incisive exploration of humanity and the combination of intellect and emotion in humans. It’s a fascinating look at how emotion affects judgment, and how it is so difficult to distinguish actual emotion from the appearance of emotion. What I find exhilarating is its central storytelling that explores how emotion can override logic in a conscious being. (That sentence is carefully constructed so as to avoid any and all spoilers.☺)

To me, the movie asks a key question – if humans are fallible in this way, often subservient to emotional reactions from a primordial place in our brain, how can our creations not be influenced by this conception of what we think it means to be a conscious being? And as so influenced, will the A.I. we attempt to create be “flawed” in the same way, or be missing a key ingredient that is impossible to quantify or “create?”

As successful as the A.I. may or may not have appeared to the tester of the A.I., a similar suspension of disbelief happens to the viewer. My reaction, the robot is hotuntil…, is a testament to the art of the film and its insightful exploration of the human experience. Ex Machina is worth your time and thought.

371 total views, no views today

The Leftovers “The Garveys at Their best”

the-leftovers-tease-5-stages-of-grief-in-new-poster-and-promo

 

By Christopher Schmaltz

 

“The foot feels the foot when it feels the ground.”

That is a quote focused on, and slightly puzzled over, in the most recent tremendous episode of The Leftovers. This will be a spoiler free comment, so if you are behind in watching the show, no worries. I was struck by this quote and its usage in this current episode, and its commentary on the show as a whole.

So let’s examine the quote first. It suggests that a thing isn’t aware of itself except in relation to something else. Going further, it offers the viewpoint that the thing, namely “the foot,” needs feedback from an outside force or resistance in order to be that thing. This concept seems totally contrary to the “I think, therefore I am” classical philosophical proposition by Descartes. Or is it? The fascinating use of the “foot” quote in the context of this show continues the show’s deep exploration of emptiness, loss, and the meaning of existence.

How does it do that? IMO, the whole show to this point has been a close examination of the people who remain, and their response to the void that is created (it too remains) when they have lost someone to this unexplained event. It is the existential crisis of all existential crises. A person (or multiple people) that helped define who you are abruptly vanish. The serious theme being examined here is that the people who have lost loved ones (via the event, or because of it in its aftermath) are struggling to come to grips with themselves. The absence of their familial feedback has set them adrift. That void, contradictorily enough, provides strong feedback too. Is the absence of the “ground” also feedback for the foot, when it expects feedback from the ground, or “remembers” the feedback?

“I think, therefore I am” is about knowledge, awareness. It isn’t about feeling/being/living. Knowing you exist and existing are 2 very different things. The show continues to effectively explore that difference. But to what point? Navel gazing for its own sake is a feedback loop to nothing. The payoff is in growth – we’ll see if The Leftovers manages to communicate growth for some or all of the characters by the end of this season.

392 total views, 1 views today

Penny Dreadful, Worth it

penny-dreadful-poster-2

 

By Andrew Schmaltz 7-18-14

Let me establish from the outset that I am not a fan of “cop shows”. And, of course, there are exceptions to the rule, I love Castle (for Fillion), I very much enjoyed SouthLAnd, and the short lived but excellent The Chicago Code. I do not enjoy “cop shows” because they tend to demand so little from the viewer. The CSIs and NCIS’s and Blue Bloods’s (which I admit I have never really watched but seems to be cut from the same cloth as its on CBS and stars a well-known, handsome male lead in his late 50s or early 60s who is competent, straight forward and very handsome) all appeal to the lowest common denominator. Tune in, watch a 42 minute mystery that is always the same. The heroes do their thing, are very smart and attractive and the killer gets caught in time for helpful wrap-up scene.

Penny Dreadful is not a “cop show”. It is a Historical/Supernatural/Mystery/Family Drama. This show not only requires an engaged viewership willing to endure the emotionally wrenching trials of the characters but a working knowledge of Classic English Language Victorian Horror Literature. The characters of Victor Frankenstein, his Creation(s), Dorian Gray, Abraham Van Helsing, Dracula all are included to varying degrees in this intriguing Showtime drama. To crib Aaron Sorkin, “this is Advanced Television Viewing”. Not easy but demanding is part of the point.

I came to this show late and binge watched which made for immediate pay off. I am normally an Event Watcher. I pay for HBO so I can watch Game of Thrones every Sunday, and True Blood and the Newsroom (I’m a life long Sorkin fan). I will watch The Walking Dead and Mad Men every week when they return. Penny Dreadful in season 2 will become Event Viewing for me. I will revel in the 7 days between episodes to talk about and theorize over the episodes. This show demands and deserves that kind of attention. I am happy to pay that price.

957 total views, no views today

The Leftovers

The-Leftovers-Banner

By Christopher Schmaltz (7-16-14)

“What’s the point?” This is the question everyone asks themselves one way or another in their lives after a profound loss or unexpected tragedy or trauma. It is the distinctly human question that has essentially driven the course of our history, writ large from individual and collective moments of pain, doubt and fear. That question is at the core of the new HBO show “The Leftovers” HBO The Leftovers, and it is the essential question of our time.

3 episodes of the show have aired1 to date. A quick intro summary – on October 14 (no year is given, but it is essentially now), 2% of the world’s population instantaneously disappears. That is approximately 140 million people. The people who disappear run the gamut from infants, 34 yr. old persons with Down syndrome, former popes, to Shaq. The show picks up 3 years after that event, and is an examination of its impact on those who remain, focusing on a group of people in a small American town.

Without question, it is a dark, oppressive show. Watching a single episode weighs heavily and lingers. I had to laugh a bit when discussing the show with my wife, because as entertaining as I find the show (we’ll discuss what I mean by “entertaining”), it is a show that is not “feel good” in any sense of that phrase. If one engages in it, it puts the viewer to the question, and it’s tough. I don’t think my wife will be watching, not because of any desire to avoid the tough questions, as she is one of the strongest people I know, but because, to paraphrase her, what time she has to watch tv, she doesn’t want that time to be a painful chore – Life is hard enough, and filled with enough negativity as it is, to spend time watching a depressing show.   I am entertained by the show however, precisely because its ambition is to explore the larger questions, and by that exploration, examine where we are as humans, and what we have yet to be. And also because it asks, from one character, “I can understand a former pope, but Gary f*cking Busey?”

1 An anachronistic term when referring to a cable television channel like HBO.

416 total views, 1 views today