Thoughts on Some Interviews

For class this week, we were assigned 3 TV interviews to watch (which I cannot link at the moment because of computery issues but will edit them in when I can), and evaluate the relative merits of each. The interviews were a) Jon Stewart’s takedown of Mad Money’s Jim Kramer, b) a TED interview with Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, and c) a Stephen Colbert interview with Julian Assange.

 

I would rate the Jon Stewart interview far and away the best, and the Colbert interview above the TED talk. My reasons for this come down to the perhaps superficial quality of memorability and the less superficial presence of follow-up, which may very well contribute to memorability. What do I mean?

 

I mean that after watching the TED interview, I could barely recall anything interesting being said, even though it went on for 20 minutes. It just wasn’t memorable, because the interviewer never seemed to stray from his script — he seemed to have questions he planned on asking, and even when Assange’s answers were vague or not entirely to the point, he didn’t press him for clarification or ask any follow-up questions.

 

This is in stark contrast to Stewart and Colbert, who frequently used their interviewee’s own words against him in their follow-ups, pointing out inconsistencies and hypocrisies within their statements. Stewart even called up footage that directly contradicted Kramer’s claims, leaving him floundering for a way to save face.  That’s memorable TV, and it’s a lot more informative than simply allowing someone to spout the party line without comment or criticism or context.

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REVIEW: In-class viewing of “Good Night and Good Luck”

I have to say, there is definitely something lost in the viewing of a movie like this in a classroom setting. What do I mean?

I mean, look. George Clooney and other handsome men in suits? Robert Downey Jr. in crisp black-and-white close-ups? (Seriously, there was a Buzzfeed list about why Robert Downey Jr is the sexiest man ever and it is a travesty that there was not one mention of how incredible he looks in black and white. I mean, for real:

Mmmmmmm.) Point is, in a classroom setting, there’s no one around to squeal with you about these wonderful gifts of cinema, and that’s just tragic.

Okay, I’m emerging from the shallow end of the pool now.

On a more intellectual level, I would compare this movie extremely favorably to The Newsroom, and consider it to be about on par with House of Cards, which, if you’ve read my reviews, is high praise.

It’s better than The Newsroom because it features the same message but gets it across so much more effectively and less annoyingly — instead of having characters rant and rave and speechify about how idealistic they are and how much better the news should be and explain over and over again what they’re going to do to make it better, the characters in Good Night and Good Luck just do it. When they know they’re going to lose advertisers over a controversial segment, they just immediately agree to pay the difference out of their own pockets. Actions speak louder than words, yo. Consistent problem with Newsroom is that its words far outweigh its actions.

The House of Cards comparison is mostly on the level of pacing. Both are what I’ve heard people refer to as “slow” but are what I tend to think of instead as “atmospheric.” There is such a thing as too much atmosphere and not enough story (see: Star Trek: The Motion Picture), but in my personal opinion (and hey this is my blog so who else’s opinion were you expecting), both House of Cards and Good Night and Good Luck found a good balance for the stories they were telling. While watching, I felt completely immersed in the world of the movie/show, and felt like the story unfolded and developed at an appropriate speed. In politics and newsmaking, things don’t happen all at once, people don’t constantly shoot spitfire dialogue back and forth, high drama isn’t constant, and I enjoy its depiction here.

MOVIE REVIEW: Gattaca

I freaking love this movie, I’ll just get that out there right from the start.

It is tightly written, it is alien but scarily plausible, it is well-developed down to the fictitious slang terms the characters use, the objectives are so clearly defined, the characters are likeable, the details are precise and painstaking (the letters in GATTACA are all letters from the genetic code, entirely appropriate for a movie about a dystopian society where everyone is judged based on their genes), the stakes are high, every scene adds something to the overall picture . . . it is just a thing of beauty.

This was my third time seeing this movie — the first was in AP Bio after we’d taken the AP and class became basically party time, the second was when I forced my dad to get it from Netflix and watch it (he fell asleep grrrrr) — and even on my third viewing I have only three minor complaints:

 

1)   The murder victim whose death shifts the movie from fascinating setup to whodunit mystery is not someone we viewers ever meet. This is a minor quibble, because meeting him is obviously not necessary, but I really would have liked to know who he actually was and why he opposed the mission he was killed for opposing.

2)   The final confrontation between the narrator, Vincent, and his brother Anton kind of turns into a testosterone fest. There was a great line about motivation — Vincent says, “I never saved anything for the way back” in order to explain how he could swim farther than his genetically advantaged brother — that almost makes it worth it, but I’ll admit the scene is kind of silly.

3)   I’d have liked to have seen more of the world outside the Gattaca institution and its astronauts. How do the other genetically perfect people spend their time? What futuristic jobs do they do? I don’t know where this would have fit in, but I am CURIOUS.

 

Things I loved that far offset these tiny criticisms:

 

1)   The concept of exceeding your preordained potential. As Locke from LOST would say, “DON’T TELL ME WHAT I CAN’T DO!” I’m pretty sure Vincent says that verbatim at one point.

2)   Jude Law is fantastic as the wheelchair-bound Jerome. Favorite role I’ve seen him in by far. (To be fair, the only other Jude Law movie I can recall seeing at the moment is Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, but still.)

3)   Uma Thurman is stunning. Also, her performance is very poised, but she conveys so many nuances in every slight change of her expression. Makes me want to see more of her movies.

4)   The fact that once people perfected genetic engineering in this universe, they apparently stopped bothering to find cures for things. Like Jerome broke his back and there is no surgical procedure even suggested in order to fix it. It’s a culture of disposability — like going to an Apple store with a problem with your laptop and instead of fixing it, they just give you a new one.

5)   The doctor is played by Mason from 24.

 

So what I’m saying is, if you haven’t seen this movie, you’re missing out big time.

Liveblogging Some Music I’ve Never Heard Before

Assigned for class! I’m not a big music listener — haven’t been since high school — so this should be interesting.

 

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros — Om Nashi Me

 

There’s a babbling brook in the background, like an instrument in itself. Interesting choice. I like it.

Now actual instruments. Pretty.

Words I don’t understand. But it all sounds very majestic. I think that’s a flute? I like it.

Okay, this is nice music to use for background noise. It’s long and repetitive and I’m not tempted to sing along because I don’t speak the language.

 

 

Fleet Foxes — Mykonos

 

Actual English words. I like the rhythm, feels like a song that wouldn’t be hard to memorize. Since I tend to use music that has utility to me, ie, that I can sing to in the shower, that’s definitely a plus.

It sounds like a soft indie music song that would end off an episode of House or Grey’s Anatomy. But I don’t think it would ever get covered on Glee. But who knows; that show steals from everything

 

 

The National — Conversation 16

 

Dark, atmospheric, sounds a bit techno.

It’s kind of dull, though. Not the kind of song I like to sing along to. Kind of draggy, melodically. I think that’s partially due to the lead singer. He sounds a little bored, not very expressive. Sort of monotone. Not blatantly so, but enough that it’s hard for me to focus on what he’s saying and it all kind of blends.

Now the song sounds like it’s about zombies? What?

Overall not catchy enough for my taste, but I can see why others, especially fans of piano driven music, would like it.

What is up with this White Paper thing??

The media seems to be all in a tizzy about a “White Paper,” which was unearthed by NBC News’ investigative reporter Michael Isikoff. According to what I saw in this Rachel Maddow clip, the White Paper is an abridged version of a ~super secret~ memo that gives the Obama administration its legal justification to order targeted drone strikes on American citizens without due process.

So people seem a bit freaked out by the idea that the government has that kind of authority, and matters are not made better by the vague language employed by the White Paper. There are no concrete criteria for determining what kind of evidence is required before your government can kill you. You just have to pose an “imminent threat,” which sounds fairly reasonable, until you get to the part where “imminent” is clarified to be referring to a “broader concept of imminence” which could mean…basically anything? That’s disturbing.

Many in the media have criticized others in the media for not completely freaking out about this. Nick Gillespie at Reason.com says that journalists are too “awed by power” these days and make excuses for Obama because they’re not in his place, don’t know what he’s going through, etc. Others, such as Buzzfeed, have amusingly laid out in gif form the contrast between how Democrats would have reacted to Bush employing certain policies vs. how they currently react to Obama employing such policies.

I’m pretty sure that if this White Paper had surfaced under the Bush/Cheney administration, it would have been outright declared to be a tyrannical abuse of power and everyone would have gone bananas. People just don’t see Obama that way. And I’m in no way claiming that he is a tyrant; I’m just saying that the facts are open for interpretation at this point, and that’s an interpretation Democrats don’t seem to be making, for whatever reason.

I don’t think this White Paper is entirely evil and will end civilization as we know it. I think it needs clarification, a LOT of clarification — what does “imminent” mean, what is considered a force “associated” with al-Qaida, how much evidence is required before an assassination is justified, how it is determined that capture or arrest is “infeasible,” and so on and so forth. But I do think that in certain cases, as unpleasant as it is (and maybe I’m just totally corrupted from watching too much 24), it may be necessary to assassinate a terrorist leader even if he or she is an American citizen.

 

REVIEW: Louie — Season 2, Episode 1 — “Pregnant”

This episode was screened in class after we were told only the name of the show, the title of the episode, and the fact that it was written, produced, and strictly overseen by Louis CK in all creative departments.

My expectations were pretty simple. I have seen very little of Louis CK’s work, but I know his basic reputation via internet osmosis and eavesdropping on friends’ and strangers’ conversations. Because that’s what I do.

Like most standup comedians these days, Louis CK is extremely crude and often profane. But I’ve heard it said from various sources (that cannot be cited due to lack of documentation) that he also has a unique way of infusing his comedy with pathos that the crudity and frankness somehow enhance.

And after seeing the episode, I have to agree. It’s refreshing to see a gruff, pizza-munching man’s man talk openly about how much he passionately loves his kids, but with brutal honesty about the trials and tribulations of parenthood that keeps the show well clear of becoming what anyone could possibly consider saccharine or sentimental. The crudity throws the emotion into sharp relief. I’m a fan, though I could never show this to my mom, who won’t even watch The Simpsons.

My favorite thing about the episode, though, is the way Louie manages to mine pain for humor. Human Survival Rule #1 = you laugh or you die, and I’ve always had the most respect for comedians or writers or friends who can me laugh at my pain. Louis CK is like that awesome buddy you call up when you need some perspective on something awful that just happened, and he obliges by pointing out the absolute ridiculousness of life in general and your situation in particular until you’re laughing so hard you can’t hold the phone anymore.

The Huffington Post has called CK “a prophet for the age of lessness,” because he makes comedy out of being average, overweight, divorced, and unappreciated, “channel[ing] bummer zeitgeist.” Amen to that, brother. Splitsider discusses the pacing of the show and the way it isn’t full to bursting with snappy one-liners but rather builds “slow comedy.” I think it aligns better to real life that way, and allows viewers to more easily see themselves in the situations depicted.

Other critics, such as the Los Angeles Review of Books, have noted that some episodes of Louie depict preposterous and absurd situations that are meant to evoke “how the real world sometimes feels, not how it looks,” but there are also episodes like this one, in which everything from his daughter’s confession that she likes her mother better than she likes him, to the neighbors coming to help in a crisis, all could conceivably happen, and I have a feeling I’d prefer these episodes. But that remains to be seen.

 

Rating: 4/5 stars