Monday, October 16, 2017

Review of Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles 17 of X: The Split

We arrive in Rob Sheffield's documentary/docudrama in print - i.e., vividly told book, Dreaming the Beatles - at a sad juncture.  Not the saddest, to be sure. That still awaits.  But sad enough, and the lowest ebb we've encountered so far:  which is the Beatles' final album, and whither (not wither, I'd insist, but we'll get to that) Paul McCartney.

The question of the final album is Abby Road vs. Let It Be, the former recorded after but released before the latter (I think I have that right).  Sheffield sees pros and cons to both albums being final, and goes with Abby Road, assuming the we don't take Let It Be to be an album.  It's certainly not a purely Beatles album, for sure, having been mutilated with the worst overdubbing of Phil Spector's career.  Now, I've always loved much of Phil Spector's work, from the Teddybears to "Black Pearl," but what he did to Let It Be just ain't it.   So whether it's an album or not, since it's not just something The Beatles recorded - it's much more than that, and for the worse - the prize of final goes to Abby Road.  I don't blame Paul McCartney and in fact admire him for releasing the album in the 21st century stripped of Spector's sounds.   (I should add: my group The Other Voices was co-produced by Ellie Greenwich, and she loved Phil, and she's gone now, so sincere apologies to Ellie's spirit.)

But this brings us to McCartney - the album as well as the man.  As I've told you now in these reviews a bunch of times, my very first published article was "A Vote for McCartney," sent into The Village Voice as a Letter to the Editor but selected by editor Diane Fischer as an article, for which I was paid $65 in 1971.   This started me, for better or worse, on my career as a writer.

The letter turned article was a defense of the album and the man - and its follow-up, Ram - from a snooty, vicious attack by Voice critic Robert Christgau, who at some point was appointed by someone as the "Dean" of rock criticism.  You can read my full article here (if you missed the link above), but, to make a long story short, I consider "That Would Be Something" and "Every Night" to be superb (along with "Maybe I'm Amazed," which Sheffield acknowledges is excellent) from McCartney, and "Too Many People," "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey," and "Heart of the Country" to be masterpieces or close to, which would fit well on Abby Road as Beatles songs.  But the Paul McCartney overdubs make everything on these albums breakthroughs in music production, which go beyond the Beatles insofar as they were pretty much done by one person.

As I've also noted in these reviews before, Sheffield admires Christgau, and doesn't share quite my high opinion of McCartney, certainly not in these years.  But that's ok.  Certainly Sheffield is right that the combination of these albums and the way he left the Beatles - with the infamous Q & A that said he wouldn't even miss poor Ringo - marked McCartney the man with a reputation as the wheeling-and-dealing Beatle, who played at business and egoboo in a way that supposedly hurt the music.  Or, at least Sheffield is right that that's what many regularly published critics started saying back then and some are still saying to some extent.

As for me, most  of what I publish is not rock criticism, but I suspect my view of McCartney as great in his solo years (as were Lennon and Harrison) - different, of course, from the Beatles, but still unsurpassed -  is shared by millions of fans to this very day.

More reviews of this outstanding book soon.

See also Review of Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles 1 of X: The Love Affair ... 2 of X: The Heroine with a Thousand Faces ... 3 of X: Dear Beatles ... 4 of X: Paradox George ... 5 of X: The Power of Yeah ... 6 of X: The Case for Ringo ... 7 of X: Anatomy of a Ride ... 8 of X: Rubber Soul on July 4 ... 9 of X: Covers ... 10 of X: I. A. Richards ... 11 of X: Underrated Revolver ... 12 of X: Sgt. Pepper ... 13 of X: Beatles vs. Stones ... 14 of X: Unending 60s ... 15 of x: Voting for McCartney, Again ... 16 of x: "I'm in Love, with Marsha Cup"

Just published ...




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" ...

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Curb Your Enthusiasm 9.3: Benefits

Ok, I said I wouldn't be reviewing Curb Your Enthusiasm, but episode 9.3 was such a gem, an instant classic, that I'd be a fool not to review it and become part of the history of rave reviews which this episode will no doubt garner.

The benefits of fatwa which Salman Rushdie delivers to Larry - the real Salman, not spelled or pronounced like the fish - are sheer genius, even though there are but two that Rushdie mentions: you become a magnet of dangerous sexual energy, and you have a great excuse for not attending events you'd rather miss.

Most the episode is taken up with evidence of the first, as Larry attracts Elizabeth Banks, playing herself in this episode.  It's good to see Larry with someone, after Cheryl has left him - and hooked up with Ted Danson no less - though Larry and Elizabeth, alas, didn't last too long in this episode.

Their budding relationship fell victim to Larry's inevitable tendency to derail a good relationship with one tick or another.  This time it's trying to get Elizabeth to make up a story, so Larry isn't nailed for damaging a police car.  As Elizabeth says, she didn't have much time to prepare.

The episode also has lots of great Larry one-liners, my favorite being his observation, 100% true, that for some reason people in Brooklyn pronounce the word "donkey" as "dunkey".  I actually pronounce donkey that way, too - by the way, is a donkey, however it's pronounced, the same animal as an ass? - though I'm from the Bronx.  Wait, my father was from Brooklyn, maybe that's why, though I have no recollection of his ever saying that word.

Ok, enough for this comedy, there are dramas to review.  But, by the way, I agree with Susie that Larry looked better in his disguise.

See alsoCurb Your Enthusiasm 9.1: Hilarious! ... Curb Your Enthusiasm 9.2: Wife Swapping

Just published ...




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" ...

Ray Donovan 5.10: Bunchy's Money

With just two episodes left to go, it makes sense that at least one crisis in the family Donovan this season has been resolved: in episode 5.9, Bunchy at last gets back his stolen money.

It took all three Donovan brothers to do it, with Terry saving Ray's life, and that was a memorable scene.  But was that enough to get Ray to forgive Terry for helping Abby take her life?  Or at least begin to come to terms with what Terry did?  Of course not.  Ray never forgives and rarely comes to terms with anything his older brother and father do or did.  Ray's a veritable Rock of Gibraltar when it comes to holding grudges, or at least, never forgetting.   He barely let Avi live, after all the years of service Avi had rendered, when he wasn't addicted and was Ray's always reliable aide-de-camp.

Which brings us to Samantha Winslow.  She has some sort of power over Ray - at least, enough for Ray not to put up more of a fight after she orders him to kill Doug Landry.  Why would Ray take anything she says seriously, especially an order to kill someone, or else?  Wouldn't Ray elect to kill her rather than be under her thumb that way?

That's my guess about he'll do, in the end.   In the meantime, he has to get Bridget out of jail, and do something about Dr. Bergstein, played by Kim Raver, whom I always think of as Audrey on 24, another incredibly irritating but well played character whom Jack Bauer would have been much better off without.

But I digress.  On Ray Donovan, crises and challenges are rarely resolved as easily as Bunchy getting back his money - and that wasn't easy at all.  I'll see you back here next week (and note that I'm invoking the 10-foot-pole rule and not talking about what happened to poor Mickey tonight).

See 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

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

Just published ...




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" ...

Marilyn and Monet

Just published ...




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, October 10, 2017

Ray Donovan 5.9: Congas

Episode 5.9 of Ray Donovan was just the way I like it - back to the classic Ray.  Although he hasn't gotten over Abby's death, and never will, he's beginning to focus on some other things.

But, actually, my favorite scene, for some reason, was Mickey playing congas on the backsides of the prostitutes in Ray's home.  Or would bongos be a better analogy?  I don't know.  But Jon Voight, who's been giving Emmy-deserving performances in every episode of this series, was never better than he was last night.

I'm also enjoying the writer's-plight-in-Hollywood story that Mickey is delivering this season.  As I said in an earlier review, it rings true as a bell.  I'm always rooting for Mickey, but never more than about this movie.  I hope we get to see it made the way he likes it.

I wasn't happy to see Natalie dead on the bed.  Lili Simmons deserved a bigger or at least longer-lasting role.  But, hey, that's Hollywood, too.  And we now have the mystery of who killed and her sleaze boyfriend or whoever he was exactly.  As soon as he left his dog in the bar, I figured he'd soon be getting his just desert.  As to who killed them?  I'm betting Samantha Winslow.

Back to Ray - so now he's lost not just Abby but Natalie.  About the only bright spot in this episode for him is that Bridget came home.  And she handled what she saw going on with her uncle and grandfather and those prostitutes pretty well.  Will she forgive Ray for what he did to the boy in New York, depriving him of his life-saving treatment?  Will she understand that Ray did it, yes, out of selfishness but still out of love for her mother?

Ray Donovan has always been about family, so I'm thinking the chances are pretty good.


 FREE on Amazon Prime  


See 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

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

Monday, October 9, 2017

Outlander 3.5: The 1960s and the Past

Outlander 3.5 finally got Claire and Jamie back together - twenty years after they last were together, in the 1700s, with Jamie now in Edinburgh.  There were lots of nice touches, including Jamie being located by a literary device - literally - I first noticed in Isaac Asimov's The End of Eternity (still my all-time favorite time travel story) back in the 1950s.  The person in the past wanting to let someone in the future know where to find him or her puts an ad in a newspaper with some reference to some event that hasn't happened yet (Asimov's method) or a poem from the future (Jamie's method) as a marker for the future to see.   It's a nice, soft touch, and usually does the trick.

Claire's anxiety about whether Jamie will still love her, find her attractive, makes sense and was handled well.  But, as is always is the case for Outlander for me - and maybe this stems, again, from my not having read the books (I almost sound like John Lennon here in "A Day in the Life") - there are some pieces of this unfolding narrative that don't quite make sense.

Such as, why doesn't Brianna and her beau, an historian no less, go with Claire to the past?  That would alleviate at least some of Claire's qualms.  I get that Claire doesn't want to risk her daughter's life, and wants her to have the benefits of living in the United States in the second part of the 20th century, but why was this not even discussed at some length?   Also, let's face it, the 60s especially in America were a time of turmoil and assassinations - by Christmas 1968, not only JFK, but Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had been killed.  Wouldn't Claire at least have considered the benefits of removing Claire from that?

My wife also noticed a minor error of history in the episode: women weren't admitted to Harvard proper until the mid-1970s.  They could take Harvard classes, and earn Harvard degrees, but as Radcliffe students (Radcliffe was Harvard's "sister school").  With all the talk of Brianna dropping out of Harvard, some small mention should have been made of that.

But it was nonetheless wonderful to see Claire and Jamie together again, and I'm looking forward to more in two weeks.

See also Outlander Season 3 Debut: A Tale of Two Times and Places ...Outlander 3.2: Whole Lot of Loving, But ... Outlander 3.3: Free and Sad ... Outlander 3.4: Love Me Tender and Dylan

And see also Outlander 2.1: Split Hour ... Outlander 2.2: The King and the Forest ... Outlander 2.3: Mother and Dr. Dog ... Outlander 2.5: The Unappreciated Paradox ... Outlander 2.6: The Duel and the Offspring ...Outlander 2.7: Further into the Future ... Outlander 2.8: The Conversation ... Outlander 2.9: Flashbacks of the Future ... Outlander 2.10: One True Prediction and Counting ... Outlander 2.11: London Not Falling ... Outlander 2.12: Stubborn Fate and Scotland On and Off Screen ... Outlander Season 2 Finale: Decades

And see also Outlander 1.1-3: The Hope of Time Travel ... Outlander 1.6:  Outstanding ... Outlander 1.7: Tender Intertemporal Polygamy ...Outlander 1.8: The Other Side ... Outlander 1.9: Spanking Good ... Outlander 1.10: A Glimmer of Paradox ... Outlander 1.11: Vaccination and Time Travel ... Outlander 1.12: Black Jack's Progeny ...Outlander 1.13: Mother's Day ... Outlander 1.14: All That Jazz ... Outlander Season 1 Finale: Let's Change History

Curb Your Enthusiasm 9.2: Wife Swapping

Well, it wasn't really wife swapping, and I said I wouldn't be reviewing any more episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm - because I don't usually review comedies - but here I am with a review of Curb 9.2, in which the wife swapping which wasn't really wife swapping was one of the funniest parts.

It's not really wife swapping because Larry and Cheryl (the fictitious couple) are no longer married, though Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen really are - in reality - even though not on the show.  Which means (I think) that by the internal logic of the show (or any logic, even Aristotelian), Larry and Ted would not have been trading mates if all parties had agreed to Larry's suggestion after Ted came to ask/inform Larry about Ted's interest in Cheryl. Not that anyone actually said it was wife swapping.  But what is the case is that Cheryl and Mary both look great, and Mary turning Larry down because he's just not her "type," only to be seen by Larry walking cosily with a man who looks a lot like Larry was pretty funny, too.

By the way, speaking of what Larry looks like, wouldn't you agree that he never looked better than in his Buck Dancer disguise, that he's using to avoid the fatwa?  He looks, like, I don't know, maybe an older rock star who can still do a good concert, or even like Don Johnson and whatever he might look like now.

The other best part of tonight's episode for me were actually two unrelated things that both speak to same brilliant part of Curb Your Enthusiasm: the difficulty of opening a pickle jar, and the stupidity of using tongs to pick up cookies from a table in a hotel lobby (or, by extension, at any public event).  Larry always has a way of putting his finger - in this case, a hand, or a tong - on an aspect of our lives which is illogical, even ridiculous, but we somehow put up with, anyway.  Larry in effect is the voice for what we all believe but never quite get around to actually saying or complaining about.

Lots of other funny parts in tonight's episode, but, as I said last week, I don't like assessing what makes comedies comedies, so I'll end this now and may or may not be back here next week.

See also: Curb Your Enthusiasm 9.1: Hilarious! 


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Review of Doug Hill's Not So Fast: Worth Reading, Not Too Quicky

 photo Not So Fast_zpsdbrxn5pv.jpgI've had an advance reading copy on hand for quite some time of Doug Hill's Not So Fast: Thinking Twice about Technology, and I guess, given the title, who could object to my taking so long to read and review it?  But I've slowly been reading and reviewing two other books - Grant Wythoff's The Perversity of Things and Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles - and, anyway, now that I've finished Not So Fast, I can tell you two things about it:  I strongly disagree with its premise and just about every argument Hill makes in the book, and I recommend it.

Now, it's rare that I would recommend a book with which I disagree, but it happens.  Before I tell you why, let me tell you why I disagree with this book.   I'm a technological optimist.  Not because I'm ignorant of the many critics of technology Hill cites in his book, but because I've read them all and found them wanting.   The critic often thinks the optimist is ignorant, but the optimist can just as often be a critic of the critic.  In my case, though I don't preach the singularity or any kind of technological utopia, I think technologies help us fulfill our human goals on multiple levels.  I've been saying this since my doctoral dissertation, Human Replay: A Theory of the Evolution of Media (New York University, 1979), which was recently put up on Amazon.

Unfortunately, Hill overlooks the most reasonable pro-technological arguments, and relies instead on quasi-mystical futurists as his opponents.  And sometimes he misrepresents a seminal thinker such as Marshall McLuhan, for example, who didn't turn from pro-technology with the global village to critic of technology with discarnate man as Hill says.  McLuhan instead insisted that he never made value judgements, and indeed his global village had beds of roses with plenty of thorns.

So, why, then, am I recommending Hill's book?  Because I think it's important that we continue to discuss and strive to understand the nature and impact of technology, which is what Hill does in Not So Fast.  I also think it's important to draw into the discussion ancient philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle, and modern practitioners ranging from Edison and Ford to Steve Jobs.  (Indeed, I think touching base with such minds is so important that I frequently include them in my science fiction.)  It's also good to see outright critics of technology ranging from Jacques Ellul to Langdon Winner given such play, if only to offer avenues to students of all ages who are new to the game of fathoming technology.

But in the end, as the Nobel laureate biologist Sir Peter Medawar liked to say, what's most human about us is our technology, which means that to oppose it with a tone or implication of apocalypse amounts to despairing of the human condition itself.


Top of the Lake: China Girl: Top of the Genre

My wife and I saw all six episodes of Top of the Lake: China Girl on Sundance last night.  It was that good.  The first season a few years back took a little longer, and not just because it had seven episodes.  It was compelling and memorable, but meandered down side stories a little too often.  In contrast, China Girl was even more compelling, and tight as a drum in its complex, multi-tiered plot.

Elisabeth Moss is back as Robin Griffin, a detective with a palette of smarts, passions, and vulnerabilities like none you've ever seen on television (I guess Gillian Anderson as Stella Gibson in The Fall would be about the closest, but even she is figuratively as well as literally continents apart from Robin).   Robin's back in Sydney from her visit in season 1 to New Zealand, this time to investigate the death of a prostitute who turns out to have been part of a surrogate mother ring.  Robin's personal life is woven in perfectly - which is to say sometimes harrowingly, sometimes lovingly - into the plot, including her 17-year old daughter last seen by Robin shortly after she was born.  Moss's performance is incandescent.

Her police partner is a nice surprise - Miranda Hilmarson played by Gwendoline Christie from Game of Thrones, with Christie showing a much greater gamut of acting talent than she did on Thrones.  Robin and Miranda are a complicated, ultimately powerful team, alternately screaming at and consoling each other, and one of the best scenes in this series is the two of them sitting on a dock, coming to terms.

There are paucity of really worthwhile men in this story - I'd say maybe one and a half - with the majority being liars, psychos, sleazes, and killers.  But that's the story, the scoundrels are very well acted, and some of the women are close to despicable and well acted, too, including Nicole Kidman (with grey hair) as the adoptive mother of Robin's daughter.

The plot contains all kinds of twists, some sudden, some long and dangling, and I'd rate these six hours as among the best ever on television.  Kudos to Jane Campion who wrote and created this.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Review of Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles 16 of X: "I'm in Love, with Marsha Cup"

Back with a review of the next two chapters of Rob Sheffield's continuing-to-be-excellent Dreaming the Beatles.  These chapters were particularly superb, replete with discussions of the Abby Road photographs and the Paul-Is-Dead controversy - actually, almost every chapter so far has been particularly superb - but what I most enjoyed was Sheffield's assessment of the public's input on what are the lyrics of a song, transcending at times even the lyricist's, because he or she may not quite know what the lyrics are (certainly not what they mean - see what I say about I. A. Richards below), and may not even get them right.  As examples of that, Sheffield cites Lennon's "two foot small," which he sang in "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" instead of the intended "two foot tall," or the debate about whether Lennon was singing "hold you in his armchair, you can feel his disease" or "hold you in his arms, yeah, you can feel his disease" in "Come Together".

I've always been an "arms" man myself, but, then, again, when I first heard Elvis's 1957 #1 single I was sure he was singing "I'm in love, with Marsha Cup," whoever exactly she was.  But those kinds of mishearings happen all the time, and what Sheffield is really probing is what is the ultimately correct lyric when there is no absolutely factual record to consult?

Here I. A. Richards, a literary theorist who made his mark back in the 1920s, always struck me as being of great value.  Richards argued that it is the reader (which can easily be translated to listener) not the author of a text who is and has the ultimate authority on what that text means.   In the case of the acoustic realm, where the words are intrinsically not as clear as in the visual, the question can sometimes become not just what the lyrics mean, but what they are.

Sheffield develops the question of lyrics and their reality out of the Paul-Is-Dead nonsense from the late 1960s and after, which emerged out of interpretations of lyrics played backwards.  Although I never believed any of that for instant - it was a form of fake news, years ahead of its time -  I can report that Paul was definitely alive and well and sounding great at his Nassau Coliseum concert last week

Unless he was an imposter.  But, in that case, that imposter has done an unbelievably great job, as Sheffield points out, from "Hey Jude" to "Golden Slumbers" and "The End".  McCartney sang them all last week, including "Let Me Roll It," proving the imposter continued showing his mettle even after the Beatles disbanded.

And I'll be back with another review soon.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Deuce: NYC 1971 by way of The Wire

I thought, what's not to like about The Deuce, a new series,  now four episodes along, on HBO?  David Simon and George Pelecanos, best known for The Wire (unarguably one of the best series ever on television) are producers and writers, as is Richard Price (author of the superb Bronx novel, The Wanderers, as well as The Night Of, last year on HBO).  The Deuce even has two great actors from The Wire - Gbenga Akinnagbe and Lawrence Gilliard Jr. - and a riveting storyline about prostitutes and porn back in 1971, with lots of skin in the story.

So what's not to like about The Deuce?  Absolutely nothing - meaning, it's another example of outstanding and unique television, as only HBO and sometimes Showtime, have been able to deliver.  For HBO, The Deuce is very much in The Sopranos, The Wire, and Treme lineage -- meaning, memorable characters, searing narrative, served up with vivid color and style.

Richard Price and his way with words is in evidence all over.  Barely a conversation goes by without an apt phrase and a ringing line.  Simon and Pelecanos come across with their keen eye for detail, as a character mentions Penny Lane as a good song, and the songs playing the background are always bang-on right for the time.  I walked down or close to those New York streets, and nothing in The Deuce looked out of place.

And the characters and their vectors and actors are real and rewarding, too.   Gbenga Akinnagbe portrays a pimp with heart, Gary Carr with maybe a little less kindness but more than enough swagger to make up for it.  Maggie Gyllenhaal is just right as an older prostitute who wants to be in show business aka the porn industry; Margarita Levieva is very appealing as an NYU student who drops out (where I was student just a few years later - too bad I missed her) and into porn or prostitution or maybe not, it's still too to tell; and Emily Meade as the ingenue hooker under C. C.'s thumb (played by Gary Carr) and more, as they may be falling in love, or at least something, is just perfect.

Yeah, and I haven't even mentioned James Franco, who plays a bartender turned bar owner with a heart of gold - with money put up by the mob (with boss played by Michael Rispoli, who played nearly the same role years ago on The Sopranos, but doesn't look a day older) - as well as a gambler twin brother who's not quite as golden, with his typical sensitivity and splash.

The upshot: I'm looking forward to watching The Deuce for a long time.





Monday, October 2, 2017

Curb Your Enthusiasm 9.1: Hilarious!

I don't usually review comedies - I'd rather just laugh than try to explain to myself and to you why I'm laughing, which is what it takes to write reviews of comedies - but after watching and reviewing tonight's episode of Ray Donovan, I need to write about something that lightens my soul.

Fortunately Curb Your Enthusiasm, back for its ninth season after who knows how long, more than fits the bill.  Like the prior seasons, it's flat out hilarious.  And I've got to say that Larry David is not only uniquely funny but pretty lucky, giving Jimmy Kimmel a central role in tonight's episode.  I mean, Larry could gave chosen the other Jimmy, and missed getting all the well-deserved good vibes that Jimmy Kimmel now brings to anything he says.

Meanwhile, Larry continues with his unerring sense of putting various kinds of truth up there for us to laugh at.  The Ayatollahs in Iran do have very similar sounding names.   Various plastic devices including soap dispensers are indeed infuriating to use (in a previous season, Larry railed against plastic packages that were impossible to open).  And his riff on why to hold open or not hold open doors for approaching people, based on an algorithm of how far away they are and what they look like, is right on.

Larry's strength has always been standing up for what we all want to, but getting burned by it.  He's completely right, also, that it's hard to get too upset about a friend's parakeet kicking the bucket, even if it has been saying "Seinfeld".

Speaking of which, it was good to see at least a few of his funny friends back in action, including Richard Lewis.  I'm looking forward to more, and I'll be watching every episode, but don't expect me to write about it.  This review may have been ok, but it didn't do the comedy the justice it deserves.

Hey, if you'd like to read a better analysis of Curb Your Enthusiasm, here's an essay written a few years ago by my daughter.

And more humor here, in Extra Credit, an academic, science fictional farce ...

Ray Donovan 5.8: Paging John Stuart Mill

Tonight's episode 5.8 of Ray Donovan was so terribly heartbreaking that I almost don't want to write about.  Maybe it's better that it just rest in peace, like Abby.

But I think there's a vitally important morale to this story, somewhere not that far beneath the surface, that needs to be said.  It's the cliche that where there's life, there's hope.  Words strung together become cliches because they contain some truth.

Ray, despite the horrible thing he did to that patient in New York, injecting him with meningitis so he would be disqualified from the trial, did indeed have the key to Abby's survival.  We saw on an earlier episode this season that the trial surgery worked on another patient.  I guess that's no guarantee that it would have worked on Abby, but we were shown the success with the other patient for a reason.

Ray's doing what he did to save Abby does not justify what he did to get Abby into the trial - the ends do not justify the means if the means cause someone else's death - but that doesn't negate the strong possibility that Ray may have saved her.

And that in turn means, I would say, that it's not only tragic that she took her life because it's tragic that she died, but it's also even more tragic because she took her life when perhaps she didn't have to.  Not that she would have wanted Ray to do what he did, or approved of it after he did it, but it must be said that, in light of what Ray accomplished back East, Abby may taken her life unnecessarily.

This is why I've always had mixed feelings about suicide being legal.  I'm a strong believer in adults doing whatever they please to themselves and their bodies, as long as that doesn't harm anyone else.  But like John Stuart Mill, who argued the same in the middle of the 19th century, I can't quite extend this to suicide.  Or, to put it otherwise, I think someone who prevents or tries to prevent someone from committing suicide is more likely than not to be doing the right thing.

But these are wrenching issues, personal as well as philosophical, and Ray Donovan deserves lots of credit for putting them out on there on our screens.


 FREE on Amazon Prime  


See Ray Donovan 5.1: Big Change  ... Ray Donovan 5.4: How To Sell A Script ... Ray Donovan 5.7: Reckonings

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
InfiniteRegress.tv