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Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Affair Season 4 Finale: Best Scenes



A heart-wrenching, sage, so powerful season 4 finale of The Affair just on - with a triple episode - that the most I can do at this point is list some of the best scenes in the series, between key people, that populated this episode.  In no order, because they were all great -


  • Noah and Helen, when Noah tells Helen she is strong not broken, and she'd be the one he'd go to feel safe:  best conversation between these two in the entire series so far.
  • Cole and his mother, when she tells him he is strong.  Cole is great in every scene, but this one was exceptional because his mother was outstanding, too.
  • Cole and Luisa, when they come to terms about taking care of Joanie after they both acknowledge that they're "done" as a loving couple.
  • Cole and Noah, when Noah comes to talk to him about Alison's ashes in the urn.  This perhaps wasn't as astonishing and satisfying as the first long conversation between them a few episodes ago, but it had a quietly memorable power.
  • Noah and Anton at Princeton, where Anton explains to an angry Noah why he (Anton) did just what writers do - draw on people they know.
  • Noah talking to the English professor on the bench outside, as the students wrote in class.  One of my favorite parts of The Affair has always been seeing Noah interact as a famous writer with various people, and this was one of the best.
  • Vic and Helen - and Helen telling him over and over that she loves him (you had to be unconscious to have a dry eye after that).
I could go on, but you get the idea.  And bear in mind that all of this was done, all the characters said what they said, under the misinformation that Alison took her own life.  Even Cole, who at first (correctly) objected to that conclusion, has apparently accepted it.  So all of these honest conversations - so honest and truthful, at long last - are predicated on a lie.

Speaking of which, it was supremely galling, wasn't it, to see Ben at the funeral, saying a few words about the woman he murdered.   There has to be more justice in this broken world of ours than this, right?

Which brings me to the last point I'll make tonight:  I read somewhere online that there was some thought about making what we just saw the finale of not just the season but the series.  There's some logic to this, I'll admit.  Helen and Noah's story is resolved, Helen and Vic's story resolved, etc, etc.  But Ben's story most certainly isn't.  And we need to see what happens to this killer, next year.

I'll be back then to let you know what I think of that.


And see also The Affair 3.1: Sneak Preview Review ... The Affair 3.2: Sneak Preview Review: Right Minds ... The Affair 3.3: Who Attached Noah? ... The Affair 3.4: The Same Endings in Montauk ... The Affair 3.5: Blocked Love ... The Affair 3.6: The Wound ... The Affair 3.7: The White Shirt ... The Affair 3.8: The "Miserable Hero" ... The Affair 3.9: A Sliver of Clarity ... The Affair 3.10: Taking Paris

And see also The Affair 2.1: Advances ... The Affair 2.2: Loving a Writer ... The Affair 2.3: The Half-Wolf ... The Affair 2.4: Helen at Distraction ... The Affair 2.5: Golden Cole ... The Affair 2.6: The End (of Noah's Novel) ... The Affair 2.7: Stunner ... The Affair 2.8: The Reading, the Review, the Prize ...The Affair 2.9: Nameless Hurricane ... The Affair 2.10: Meets In Treatment ... The Affair 2.11: Alison and Cole in Business ... The Affair Season 2 Finale: No One's Fault



the Sierra Waters time-travel trilogy



Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Sinner 2.3: Julian's Mother



An excellent episode 2.3 of The Sinner tonight - continuing to present the exploits of one of the most humanely compelling detectives ever on television: Harry Ambrose.

But the biggest detective scoop tonight comes from his de facto partner, Heather Novack, who discovers that Julian's mother is none other than Heather's missing lover of 12 years ago, Marin.   We also learn in this extended packet of information that Marin is not necessarily dead.  She's just missing.

The important development comes at the very end, when the doctor who signed Julian's birth certificate takes his own life in the present, rather than continue the interview by Harry and Heather.  That's because he's a member of the Mosswood cult (by the way, does that head in the stone carving look a little like George Washington in profile, or is that just me?)

Meanwhile, Harry continues to provide an appealing combination of smarts and empathy - for Julian and Heather, if not so much himself.  It was therefore good to see him cross paths with a love interest from his youth, who reveals to us that he's now divorced (good).   This provides at least the hope of his having a healthy romantic relationship with someone.  (On that account, it's worth noting that we haven't seen Harry go for that dominatrix stuff that dominated the first season.)

Looking forward to the next episode - when, with any luck, Harry and we will find more evidence that what Julian did was justifiable homicide.

And before I go - good to see Logan Crawford at the beginning, playing a reporter, which he frequently does - in addition to being an actual news guy and anchor in real life.  Here's a clip of Crawford on The Fresh Outlook interviewing me and another panelist a few years ago about Hurricane Katrina 10 years later, Facebook, and other stories:





See also The Sinner 2.1: The Boy ... The Sinner 2.2:  Heather's Story


Monday, August 13, 2018

Justin Hayward in Tarrytown


Mike Dawes, Justin Hayward, Julie Ragins
photo by Tina Vozick

Tina and I saw and heard Justin Hayward at Tarrytown Music Hall earlier this evening.  The concert, in one word, was splendid.   But here's more:

I often say that The Moody Blues, of which Hayward is still very much a member, is my fourth favorite rock group of all time, behind, in descending order, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys.  To be clear about what I mean by that:  I think the best of The Moody Blues songs - let's say "Nights in White Satin," "Tuesday Afternoon," "Question," "Isn't Life Strange," "I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock 'n' Roll Band)," "Your Wildest Dreams," "I Know You're Out There Somewhere," to name just just a few, in no particular order, and there are more - are as good as the best songs by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys.  But I put these groups higher, because they have a lot more best songs - in the case of The Beatles, a lot lot more.

But The Moody Blues are up there, though not everyone agrees.  In 1992, after Tina and I saw The Moody Blues "Red Rocks" Concert on PBS, I queried Rolling Stone if they'd be interested in an assessment of The Moody Blues by me.  I received a snooty reply to the effect that no one was interested in The Moody Blues any more.  (Memo to young writers: That's why I decided to never again query an editor about a potential article.  My philosophy had usually been, before then, to write the article or story first, then shop it around. After 1992, my philosophy has always been that.)

But back The Moody Blues, Justin Hayward was always their stand-out member - being their best songwriter, singer, and guitarist all in one.   Of their songs I listed above, only two of them - "Isn't Life Strange" and "I'm Just A Singer" - were written by another group member, John Lodge.  Hayward has an ear for watercolor detail and an exquisite voice to match.  And he brought of all that to Tarrytown earlier tonight.

He indeed sang all of his songs listed above, and a fair number of new ones.  These were wonderful, too.  You can always tell what a performer is made of when you like his or her songs you never heard before.  I especially liked, among tonight's new ones, "In Your Blue Eyes" and "Western Sky" from Hayward's most recent Spirits of The Western Sky album.

He was joined tonight by Mike Dawes - a young maestro guitarist - and Julie Ragins on keyboards and fine backing vocals.   I suppose I would have rather been at a full Moody Blues concert, but not by an overwhelming margin.  That's because Justin Hayward captures the best of The Moody Blues, and a little something more, with a personal, honest, and charming repartee between numbers.




The Affair 4.9: Two Alisons



So The Affair 4.9 - as brilliant an episode as ever there was, which is to say, pretty brilliant - had two Alison half hours.  Not only that, they covered just about the same time, and were quite different.  As different as if the first episode wan not Alison's, but someone else's - like, just for instance, Ben's - except both the first and second half-hour episodes were clearly labeled "Alison".

So what are we to make of this?  The best that I can do is the first Alison is the way she would've wanted it to be with Ben - truthful from the beginning, vulnerable, and loving - in contrast to the second half hour, in which Ben is quite the opposite, and indeed kills Alison at the end.

But here's a question: where does Alison's voice come from in that second half hour, when she is unconscious and eventually thrown into the water to die by Ben?   Is that her unconscious talking to us, when she is literally unconscious?  If so, that's a new gimmick to pull out of a hat - especially at this juncture, when we the audience are hanging on every world, in our keen attempt to learn what actually happened.

The end of the half hour clearly shows Ben as the killer.   But from whose point of view? God's?  That would be something new on this show.   And if it's Alison talking to us in her unconscious state, that would be something very new, too, as I just said (but it's worth saying twice, in this review of this double Alison episode).

All of which means that this next-to-last episode of the next-to-last season of The Affair, which seems to tell us an awful lot, actually conclusively tells us not too much at all.

Seeing as how there's an episode and a season still to go, I guess that's a good thing.  (As indeed were the sterling performances of Ruth Wilson and Ramon Rodriguez, the only actors in the entire hour.) I certainly enjoyed this episode - until the last few minutes - immensely.  And I'll see you here next week with a review of the season finale.


And see also The Affair 3.1: Sneak Preview Review ... The Affair 3.2: Sneak Preview Review: Right Minds ... The Affair 3.3: Who Attached Noah? ... The Affair 3.4: The Same Endings in Montauk ... The Affair 3.5: Blocked Love ... The Affair 3.6: The Wound ... The Affair 3.7: The White Shirt ... The Affair 3.8: The "Miserable Hero" ... The Affair 3.9: A Sliver of Clarity ... The Affair 3.10: Taking Paris

And see also The Affair 2.1: Advances ... The Affair 2.2: Loving a Writer ... The Affair 2.3: The Half-Wolf ... The Affair 2.4: Helen at Distraction ... The Affair 2.5: Golden Cole ... The Affair 2.6: The End (of Noah's Novel) ... The Affair 2.7: Stunner ... The Affair 2.8: The Reading, the Review, the Prize ...The Affair 2.9: Nameless Hurricane ... The Affair 2.10: Meets In Treatment ... The Affair 2.11: Alison and Cole in Business ... The Affair Season 2 Finale: No One's Fault



the Sierra Waters time-travel trilogy

Friday, August 10, 2018

She's Taking the NY Area by Storm!


The Blue Dahlia’s been taking the New York area by storm! Eleven concerts and counting in the past month!  All as prelude to release of her new album early this morning - La Tradition Américaine, which I raved reviewed here - and as ramp-up to her move to France later this month.

And ...  I’ll be joining her tomorrow night for the opening number - a special duet performance with the Blue Dahlia of my "Today Is Just Like You" - as she ignites her CD release and bon voyage party with her kicking band at Barbès in Park Slope, Brooklyn, at 7:30.   If you're in the area, come on by and say hello!  Hey, it's worth making a trip for (the album is fabulous).   But if can't come by, I'll be streaming our opening performance on my Periscope channel - you'll be able to see it here.

More details in this announcement from The Blue Dahlia last night:




The Blue Dahlia's new album 'La Tradition Américaine,' releases everywhere tonight at midnight!

Album release and bon voyage party this Saturday, Aug 11, 7:30pm at Barbes!
Over three years in the making, and with the contributions of my amazing bands on both sides of the Atlantic, the new album 'La Tradition Américaine' releases everywhere tonight at midnight, plus CD's available from my website!

Read about the album HERE.

Come celebrate with us:
Saturday, Aug 11th,
starting at 7:30pm,
at the place where it all began:
Barbes, Brooklyn
(376 9th Street)

Free with $10 suggested donation.

*With a special opening song by writer/composer Paul Levinson!

Then, The Blue Dahlia is followed by the most fun band I know, besides us, of course :), Cumbiagra!

In addition, before departing for France, The Blue Dahliawill also perform these FREE, family-friendly, outdoor shows:

Tomorrow, Fri. Aug. 10th, 4-6pm at Ruppert Park
&
Sat., Aug. 11th, 12:30-1pm at Summer Streets NYC, Midtown rest-stop (E 25th Street at Park Ave S)

Then, see The Blue Dahlia this summer-fall-winter in France!

Thank you for you love and support!
                                                                          

And here's the Periscope video of Dahlia and I singing "Today Is Just Like You" are The Blue Dahlia CD-release party with The Blue Dahlia band on August 11


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Sinner 2.2: Heather's Story



The second episode of the second season of The Sinner, just on tonight, was mostly devoted to Heather.  She's Harry's de facto partner in the investigation.  And tonight we learn that, just as Harry has a strange past barely revealed, so does Heather - and hers concerns Mosswood Grove, the commune in which Julian, his mother, and the couple he (presumably) killed all lived.

We find that Heather had a friend who disappeared in some way on the commune.  More than that, her friend was her lover - or, at least, they were romantically involved - and her friend was clearly attracted to one of the men on the commune.  Beyond that ... who knows ... other than something likely no good happened to the friend.  And while we're at it, we don't know how much or what Heather knows about happened to her friends.  That's the way The Sinner rolls - doling out the bare necessity of information, which makes the narrative even more appealing.

Harry has a good conversation with Julian.  Conversation is Harry's strong suit.  He learns from every sentence, every facial expression of the person he's talking to.   In the first season, Cora mostly wanted his help.   Julian isn't there yet.  But I'm guessing at some point Harry will get through to him.

Julian's mother seems the likely villain at this point, but, knowing The Sinner, it just can't be as simple as that.  Is she really in or out of command in Mosswood, despite the impression she gives of being in control?  And, if so, who then - what person or group - is really calling the shots?

However well disguised that is, we can count on Harry to unravel it, and I'm looking forward to seeing how he does it.

See also The Sinner 2.1: The Boy

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Sharp Objects #5: Men in Badges



Another mostly lateral Sharp Objects on Sunday night - #5 - which didn't really move the investigation much along, but provided important detail about Camille.

We learn that she's actually carving words into her body when she cuts herself.  It's not clear yet if there's a message in them, but this certainly means she's more than a casual cutter, if we were ever inclined to think that for a minute.  Amma finds out about it, and this has the effect of bringing the two closer together.

About Amma, she goes missing for a little while, and I keep thinking she's going to be the next victim.   But, actually, I hope that doesn't happen, because I'm finding Amma to be a deeper, more important character with every new episode. Kudos to Eliza Scanlen here for fine acting in a pivotal role.

It was good to see Camille and Richard finally in bed together in the end, albeit in Camille's way.  One of the ladies at the Calhoun Day Event remarks earlier that the Crellin woman go for men in badges, which points to the chemistry between Adora and Vickery, and the possibility (even likelihood) that Vickery is Camille's father.  We'll see.

But we get no more evidence or insight into who did the murders.  Which leaves me free to flog my pet theory:  Alan's the killer.   Of course, we have no evidence for that, either.  And until we see the restriction on strength refuted - meaning, it's not the case that a woman couldn't have done the crime - we're left with just a mere handful of suspects.

See alsoSharp Objects 1 and 2: Serial Tennessee Williams ... Sharp Objects #3: Lateral ... Sharp Objects #4: "You Can't Change History"

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Affair 4.8: I Don't Believe It



This review of The Affair 4.8 will have a spoiler from the hour that upended the entire series - so, seriously, if you don't want to know that, don't read on.

I entitled this review "I Don't Believe It" because I find it hard to believe that Alison is dead.  But for her not to be dead, the only thing I can think of was that Noah was lying when he identified her in the morgue.  And we've seen no motivation for him to do that.  So, although there is a slim possibility that we'll discover what that motivation is, I can't hold out much hope it.  (His crying in the dinner in his own very brief segment would then be crying for what he did to Cole, if Noah was lying in the morgue and after.  But much as I'd like to believe that, it seems very unlikely.) (Nice call-back in that scene, by the way, of how Alison ad Noah first met, with the attractive waitress bantering with Noah.) (And great acting by Joshua Jackson and Dominic West throughout the hour - good to see the two of them riffing off each in other in so many scenes.)

But back to the matter at hand: I find it even harder to believe that Alison committed suicide.  This is certainly what Cole believes - that Alison wasn't a suicide. But if Alison didn't take her own life, who did?  I can think of three suspects - I'll list them in order of most likely, first -

  1. Alison's father.  We know the least about him, and his motive could be that Alison refused to give him her kidney.   He seemed shocked when he got the news that Alison was dead, but he could have been putting on an act.
  2. Ben.  He's a liar for sure.  But a killer?  We've seen no evidence of any violence in him on a level of murdering someone.  Possibly he could have flown into a rage in a scenario in which Alison refused to continue her relationship with him.  I wouldn't be stunned if he killed her.  But his denial to Cole and Noah was pretty convincing.
  3. My wife suggested Luisa.   She has a strong motive - Alison alive is getting in the way of both her relationship with Cole, and her getting documented on the strength of being Joanie's adoptive mother.  But ... of the three suspects, she seems the least likely to kill Alison.
So with three suspects, none of them terribly likely, maybe we should consider the logic of Alison's suicide.   She had her heart broken by Cole, Noah, and now Ben.  Plus, her father broke her heart in a different way.  That's a lot of heartbreak.  But ... sufficient for suicide, for leaving Joanie without her biological mother?

Tough call.  But I'm going to go with murder, at this point.


And see also The Affair 3.1: Sneak Preview Review ... The Affair 3.2: Sneak Preview Review: Right Minds ... The Affair 3.3: Who Attached Noah? ... The Affair 3.4: The Same Endings in Montauk ... The Affair 3.5: Blocked Love ... The Affair 3.6: The Wound ... The Affair 3.7: The White Shirt ... The Affair 3.8: The "Miserable Hero" ... The Affair 3.9: A Sliver of Clarity ... The Affair 3.10: Taking Paris

And see also The Affair 2.1: Advances ... The Affair 2.2: Loving a Writer ... The Affair 2.3: The Half-Wolf ... The Affair 2.4: Helen at Distraction ... The Affair 2.5: Golden Cole ... The Affair 2.6: The End (of Noah's Novel) ... The Affair 2.7: Stunner ... The Affair 2.8: The Reading, the Review, the Prize ...The Affair 2.9: Nameless Hurricane ... The Affair 2.10: Meets In Treatment ... The Affair 2.11: Alison and Cole in Business ... The Affair Season 2 Finale: No One's Fault



the Sierra Waters time-travel trilogy

Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Sinner 2.1: The Boy



Great to see The Sinner begin its second season on the USA Network - for me, tonight, just a few minutes after my wife and I binge watched the first season on Netflix, which we thought was outstanding.  It's of course too soon to tell if the second season will be as brilliant and transfixing as the first, but it looks to have most of the ingredients.

Cora's case is over.  The perpetrator this time - presumably - is a 13-year old boy, who poisons his parents to death.   I say "presumably" because, unlike in the first season, we didn't actually see the act - the boy putting the poison in the tea he brought his parents - as we did with Cora stabbing Frank on the beach in the first season.  But the kid sure looks guilty.  He brought them the tea, and (so far) we know of no one who might have put in the poison without his knowledge.

And I guess you could also say "presumably" about the victims being his parents.  We know he was on some sort of religious commune, and it's likely that his parents took him away from that.  But, for all we know, his real mother is back on the commune, and the victims were not his parents.  A woman shows up at the end and says she's the boy's mother.

Fortunately, Harry's back on the case.  He's the essence of the series.  And, fortunately for the narrative, the double murder has taken place in his home town, affording him and us a chance to see what it was back then that deformed his childhood, and therein the rest of his life.

I'm very much looking to seeing and reviewing the rest of this season.

See also: The Sinner season one: Wild, Unconventional, Irresistible Mystery

 

The Sinner season one: Wild, Unconventional, Irresistible Mystery



My wife spotted an admiring review of The Sinner, which just began its second season on the USA Network.   Before watching that, we binge watched the first season on Netflix.  Herewith my review - and then in my next post, a review of The Sinner 2.1.

The Sinner (season one) is a police detective mystery like nothing I've seen before on television.  A seemingly happy woman, married and with a young child, stabs to death a guy on the beach, in front of everyone.   Cora, brilliantly played by Jessica Biel, knows that she did this, but hasn't really a clue as to why.  Clearly, she was the furthest thing from happy.  Fortunately for her, Detective Harry Ambrose, takes an interest in her case.

Bill Pullman does a great job playing Harry, a sort of modern-day Columbo, with the some same schlepish qualities as Columbo, and certainly as smart, but endowed with dark past that, as far we know, Columbo didn't have.  Against all odds, Harry pursues the case and discovers why Cora did what she did.

The burden of the story was enormous - how can someone, who we saw with our own eyes brutally murder a guy who was posing no immediate threat to anyone, have any justification for doing this? But the first season pays off amply and in full at the end, as the complicated motive and all the moving parts fit into place.  The result leaves of us wanting more of this indefatigable detective.

The name Sinner is no accident, since a crucial part of Cora's story is why she was motivated to take her sickly sister out of their house, with a mother whose religious bent crippled rather than supported her daughters.   The locale - the Kingston area of New York - also worked well for the ambience.  Harry would have had much more trouble getting his way had he been obliged to conduct the investigation in New York City.

Anyway, enough said about the plot, I don't want to give anything more away.  Snap this up if you're in the mood for a wild, unconventional, irresistible mystery.  And I'll be back in a few minutes with my review of The Sinner 2.1.

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