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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Curb Your Enthusiasm 10.1: Reunited!



Not quite reunited.  But Curb Your Enthusiasm was back last night on HBO for the beginning of its tenth season.  And it hasn't lost a thing.  Larry David and his situations are as funny and stiletto relevant as ever.

And, Larry is back in bed with Cheryl, where they both belong.  She does have an allergic reaction to the talcum powder he douses himself with, but we won't go into that.  It lands her in the hospital, but she's ok, and this promises an important course correction in the series.

Larry, as always, is too right in the grievances he finds all around him.  But this season has some winning updates.  Larry finds that wearing a MAGA hat can get him out of (and of into) all kinds of trouble.  He has his eyes on a woman serving hors d'oeuvres, because she never seems to walk by him - another great example of a legitimate grievance that rings true.  But she mistakes his staring for ogling, and when she confronts him, Larry of course accidentally does something that lands him in #metoo territory.  Just for good measure in this area, we learn that Jeff is often mistaken for Harvey Weinstein.

Back to the MAGA hat, there's bound to be lots of politics, served up Larry David's way, in the months ahead.  We can certainly use a little humor to leaven the grim headlines.  I'm betting the real Bernie will make an appearance sooner or later.


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Avenue 5.1: Playing Captain



Caught up with Avenue 5 tonight - the debut show of the new HBO series was on last night.  It's billed as comedy science fiction.  I'm always up for that.  I like The Orville in many ways better than most of the Star Trek sequels. And as I mentioned in my review of Zoey's Fabulous Playlist last week, I discovered I really like science fiction musicals.   Comedies and musicals are related, at least a little, right?

But I have to say that the first twenty minutes of so of this first episode of Avenue 5 were too slapstick for my science fiction tastes.  The humor varied from forced to moronic.   So, given that I don't usually waste time reviewing a series with no redeeming value, why I am reviewing Avenue 5?

Because, obviously, something in the last five or ten minutes makes me think it does have a lot of redeeming value.  Here's the set-up:  some kind of space luxury liner is out there in space, far from Earth, around Uranus.  Actually, I think the place is closer to Saturn, but it's way out there, somewhere in that vicinity.  And it suffers a glitch that causes two things to happen: a guy doing work outside the ship (the Avenue 5) gets killed, and the ship gets knocked off course.  The upshot: the Avenue 5 will take three years not eight weeks to get back home to Earth.

Ordinarily, the Captain will marshall all of his or her smarts and assets and take some corrective action.  The Captain is Ryan Clark, played by House's Hugh Laurie.  And in a redeeming instant, we learn of a kicker, which makes most of that stupid humor worthwhile.  Clark is not really a Captain.  He's just playing a Captain, hired to do this because of his reassuring manner.  The real Captain was the poor guy who got killed in space.

So, suddenly, I'm interested.  I'll put up with the dumb schtick for at least a few episodes and report back to you, as fast as I can.


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Sunday, January 19, 2020

Ray Donovan Season 7 Finale: Linda to Elvis



And an emotional powerhouse to a brilliant season to end this seventh season of Ray Donovan tonight, pretty much sandwiched between Linda Ronstadt singing Desperado at the beginning and Elvis singing You'll Never Walk Alone at the end, what more could you ask for?

Several points that especially struck me -

  • Daryll more than Declan was responsible for Smitty getting shot to death in that shoot-out.  Although it was Declan's bullet, Daryll was the one who started shooting.
  • I'm of course glad that Terry didn't jump off the Empire State Building.  Did he go up to observatory knowing that he couldn't jump off, or did he discover that after he got up there?  I'm hoping it's the first - which would mean that Terry's conversation with Dr. Amiot (an absolutely perfect scene) had some impact on Terry.
  • I'm not entirely convinced that Mickey would've walked away, leaving Smitty there on the ground.  All season, we have seen Mickey becoming a little bit more of a semi-decent mentch, especially after his resurrection.  So, I just don't know if that was fully motivated.
  • I'm guessing that Ray and Molly are finished now, but that's too bad.  They were a good couple.
  • No resolution of the Mayor vs. Ray, but that's ok, because it gives at least one major storyline for the next season.  (My wife points out that the judge surviving puts the Mayor in hot water, but we didn't see how that played out.)
But this season proves that, all in all, New York City has been very good indeed for Ray Donovan the series.  I've never been more disappointed that a season ended.

 See also Ray Donovan 7.1: Getting Ahead of the Game ... Ray Donovan 7.2: Good Luck ... Ray Donovan 7.3: "The Air that I Breathe" ... Ray Donovan 7.4: Claudette and Bridget ... Ray Donovan 7.5: Bing! ... Ray Donovan 7.6: Phone Booths and Cellphones ,,, Ray Donovan 7.7: Back Story ... Ray Donovan 7.8: The Wife ... Ray Donovan 7.9: Pulling for Life

See also Ray Donovan 6.1: The New Friend ... Ray Donovan 6.2: Father and Sons ... Ray Donovan 6.4: Politics in the Ray Style ... Ray Donovan 6.6: The Mayor Strikes Back ... Ray Donovan 6.7: Switching Sides ... Ray Donovan 6.8: Down ... Ray Donovan 6.9: Violence and Storyline ... Ray Donovan 6.10: Working Together ... Ray Donovan 6.11: Settled Scores and Open Questions ... Ray Donovan Season 6 Finale: Snowfall and Mick

See also Ray Donovan 5.1: Big Change  ... Ray Donovan 5.4: How To Sell A Script ... Ray Donovan 5.7: Reckonings ... Ray Donovan 5.8: Paging John Stuart Mill ... Ray Donovan 5.9: Congas ... Ray Donovan 5.10: Bunchy's Money ... Ray Donovan 5.11: I'm With Mickey ... Ray Donovan 5.12: New York

See also Ray Donovan 4.1: Good to Be Back ... Ray Donovan 4.2: Settling In ... Ray Donovan 4.4: Bob Seger ... Ray Donovan 4.7: Easybeats ... Ray Donovan 4.9: The Ultimate Fix ... Ray Donovan Season 4 Finale: Roses

And see also Ray Donovan 3.1: New, Cloudy Ray ... Ray Donovan 3.2: Beat-downs ... Ray Donovan 3.7: Excommunication!

And see also Ray Donovan 2.1: Back in Business ... Ray Donovan 2.4: The Bad Guy ... Ray Donovan 2.5: Wool Over Eyes ... Ray Donovan 2.7: The Party from Hell ... Ray Donovan 2.10: Scorching ... Ray Donovan 2.11: Out of Control ... Ray Donovan Season 2 Finale: Most Happy Ending

And see also Ray Donovan Debuts with Originality and Flair ... Ray Donovan 1.2: His Assistants and his Family ... Ray Donovan 1.3: Mickey ... Ray Donovan 1.7 and Whitey Bulger ... Ray Donovan 1.8: Poetry and Death ... Ray Donovan Season 1 Finale: The Beginning of Redemption


It started in the hot summer of 1960, when Marilyn Monroe walked off the set of The Misfits and began to hear a haunting song in her head, "Goodbye Norma Jean" ...

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Fifth 2020 Democratic Presidential Debate: Winners

The six-person Democratic presidential debate just concluded on CNN was easily the best debate so far - best in clarity, power of ideas, and even charm - so far.  Whether this was because of the fact that six candidates had more time than ten and more to express their views, or because these six candidates had better views to express ... well, it's probably a combination of both.

But I thought Klobuchar and Steyer especially stood out in their answers to just about all of the questions, and their concluding comments, and I expect that will help both of them in Iowa and beyond.   But Biden, still not the most articulate person on stage, was clear enough.  And Warren, Bernie, and Buttigieg were articulate and passionate, too.

My favorite exchange, in terms of both truth and humor, was between Biden and Bernie:
  • Biden: Kim Jong-un said: "Joe Biden is a rabid dog who should be beaten with a stick" 
  • Bernie: "Other than that, you like him." 
  • Biden" "0ther than that I like him.  And then he sent a love letter to Donald Trump"
Next, I thought Warren got the better of Bernie in the "can a woman be elected President" controversy.  Although Bernie denied saying that, and offered his view that of course a woman could be elected President, given that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016, Warren just seemed more believable in both her unspoken denial and her commitment to women in politics, with her example of woman being more electable than men.

On health care, I still remain unconvinced by Bernie and Warren about the way to get to universal health care in America.  It's a laudable, essential goal, but Klobuchar, Biden, Steyer, and Buttigieg made more sense in building towards on what we already have, via the Affordable Care Act.

Warren was also excellent on politics not being the most important thing - in this case, returning to Washington and sitting as a senator in the trial of Donald Trump takes precedence.   All the candidates agreed that, one way or another, Trump has to be removed from office.  Seeing him voted out of office by the Senate would be satisfying, but I'll take any of the candidates on stage tonight beating him in the election this coming November.

See also  First 2020 Democratic Presidential Debate, Part 1 of 2: Winners and Losers ... First Democratic Presidential Debate, Part 2 of 2: Winners and Losers ...  Second 2020 Democratic Presidential Debate, Part 1 of 2: Winners and Losers ... Second 2020 Democratic Presidential, Part 2 of 2: Winners and Losers  ... [missed third debate, I was in Canada] ... Fourth 2020 Democratic Presidential Debate: Winners and Losers

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Outsider 1 & 2: Two Places at the Same Time



What do you get when Stephen King writes the novel and Richard Price the screenplay?  You get a television series as slap-in-the-face riveting as it comes.  The first two episodes of The Outsider on HBO tonight were that and more.

Here's what we have so far, in terms of narrative.  A boy is brutally murdered.  The suspect's blood is on the victim, and reliable witnesses put him near the scene.  But a video shows him at an academic conference many miles away, and his fingerprints on a book he handled at the hotel where the conference took place are confirmed as his.  Too.

The "too" is the key and paradoxical point here.  There's an old Yiddish saying, with one tuchas you can't dance at two weddings.  In the supernatural police story that is The Outsider, Detective Anderson (perfectly played by Ben Mendelsohn whom I last saw in Bloodline) realizes that, of course, one person cannot be in two places at the same time - the same person can't have committed a horrible murder at the same time he was video-recorded at at academic conference miles away.

As an academic, I can testify that I've been to some conferences that are so boring as to be maddening.   But not to the point of making someone commit murder, and certainly not at a place miles away from the conference at the very same time.

So, what's going on?  Since Stephen King wrote the novel (which I haven't read), there has to be some kind of supernatural element.  We do see a person with a hood, standing at the edges of some of the tragedies.  We don't yet know what his story - assuming it's a "his" - is.  Maybe some spirit or monster than assumes the shape of an innocent person and employs that shape to commit murders?

I'm looking to seeing how this plays out, against the grit and dialogue that is itself a fine example of a film noir police procedural.

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