Talking About The Killing – Sort of…

I started watching AMC’s The Killing back in June. I hadn’t watched the first two seasons of the show, but I was told that I could begin this season without the depth of a viewing history. So I began the series. I wrote my first piece on The Killing along with The Fall on June 11th. Here’s the link:

Then, on June 17th, I wrote a piece on Episode 4 of The Killing. Here is the link to the post: . It was at this point that reader FD stepped in with a comment.

For a variety of reasons, I stopped writing about the series. I hadn’t lost interest, meaning I was still watching the show. Maybe it was a bit of a slump. maybe there were other factors, and maybe I stopped the reviews/write-ups of The Killing because The Newsroom loomed ahead.

I reached out to reader FD and asked him if he would do a piece covering the episodes that I hadn’t. He declined. But he submitted some comments. These were published in the comments area of the post about Episode 4, and as the newer episodes were released, it seems likely that maybe you hadn’t returned to this site for posts about The Killing because there weren’t any updates.

In lieu of written updates, I decided to bring in FD’s comments, and a couple of responses from me. If you are following The Killing, these may be just what you want. An analysis of what might be the key elements of the show, especially since all that remains is the two-hour finale on Sunday.

Further preamble is not necessary – have a look at these comments will shall serve as a replacement for the posts I didn’t write. Kudos to reader FD.

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Talking About The Newsroom: Sn 02 Ep 03 – Willie Pete

The NewsroomSo I had no idea what ‘Willie Pete’ meant other than being the title of Episode 13 of HBO’s The Newsroom. I don’t think that going in that many of us knew what Willie Pete would turn out to mean, with the exception being those of you who have been deployed, in the military sense, as well as in the war zone sense. Or those of you who have prepared weapon packages for H-1 helos.

The episode was rapid fire and above all entertaining. It required one to pay strict attention. And to clear up some of my questions, and/or to create some new questions for you to consider, I’m going to discuss the episode with Noah Gittell of 

Noah’s blog is about movies, tv, and politics, and is filled with good reads. So I think this will be a good talk. Constance Zimmer, who played a senior Romney press secretary called Taylor Warren and her assistant called Cameron, briefed the press with planned and printed talking points memos. We will not have what they call ‘talking points’. We will make it up as we go.

JMM: Noah, I was impressed by the episode’s beginning and end, but less impressed by the middle. I knew Aaron Sorkin had to give the newbies like Hallie, Taylor, and Jerry a lot to do to get their characters up and running, but I thought that there was far too many repetitions like 4 references to Will’s voice mail, 4 Q & A’s between Jim Harper and Taylor, at least 2 scenes with the campaign embeds speaking into hand-held microphones, and at least 7 or 8 faxes. I’m saying that to make the points, Sorkin hit us over the head with the points far too often.

NOAH: First of all, thanks for having me here to discuss the show. I have such mixed feelings about it that I’m afraid I won’t be able to make too many definitive statements about it, but I’ll try. First of all, I loved the title of the episode. Sorkin does this well. He gives an ambiguous, mysterious title, and at some point in the show, he reveals its importance. I thought Willie Pete would be the name of a second witness to Operation Genoa or something like that, but the reveal of its true meaning was a nice moment.

Regarding your point about repetition, I agree it’s a huge problem, but I see where Sorkin is coming from. With the Q & A’s between Jim and Taylor, as well as the scenes with the reporters televising their spots, he’s trying to build the audience up to a point of frustration and then offering them a release when Jim has his own little “mission to civilize” moment on the free press bus. I thought that moment worked well, and I’m not sure if the repetition didn’t help build to that moment. Having said that, I agree with you 100% about the references to Will’s voice-mail. I can tolerate the subplot about Will and Mac’s romance because they’re both great actors, but let’s move past the voice-mail, shall we?

Jim: Can I get 30 minutes with the candidate? Cameron: No or Taylor: No

Jim: Can I get 30 minutes with the candidate?
Cameron: No
Taylor: No

JMM: Thanks and welcome Noah. Back to Jim for a moment – I liked him as a newsman last year, but so far this year he seems — simply annoying.

NOAH: I’m not sure I agree. Well, I’m mixed about it. I did like him as a newsman last year, but I absolutely hated the Maggie-Jim romance, and the further he gets away from her, the more I like him. In between seasons, Sorkin said that he listened to his critics and made some changes for season two. I wonder if putting an ocean between Jim and Maggie was his way of doing that. Either way, it’s looking like a welcome development. I hope he doesn’t get Jim together with that blonde, feminist reporter – I don’t like her either, which just points to how poorly Sorkin is writing women these days.

The bottom line, unfortunately, is that Jim doesn’t have much of a character in these episodes. He’s only there so that Sorkin can point out how lame the Romney campaign was. The incident with Maggie – which caused him to go to New Hampshire in the first place – didn’t seem to factor into his character at all this week. Does this bother you, too? I thought this episode, in general, worked well because it actually let the characters breathe a little, but too much of the time they seem like vehicles for Sorkin’s political views, and this leads to inconsistencies that make it hard to embrace them.

JMM: I agree about the problems stemming from the Jim-Maggie romance which is why I didn’t mention it above. And clearly he’s in NH and she’s about to be in Uganda is an ocean between them… but Maggie is still with him (in his head) on the bus and the bars and drinking establishments they frequent per Hallie (the blond).

Sorry, but the romance between these two seems inevitable.

But about Hallie – why don’t you like her. She’s seems competent to me as well as attractive.

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disgraceIn what seems like it could be eons ago, Rod Stewart put out a song that contained the following lyrics:

If you want my body, and you think I’m sexy
Come on, sugar, let me know.

The title of the song was Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? It was released as a single in 1978. Fast forwarding thirty years, we arrive in 2008. John Malkovich appeared in an Australian film, set in South Africa, called Disgrace.

From Wikipedia we get this as a plot summary:

David Lurie (Malkovich) is a South African professor of English at an unnamed university in Cape Town. After an affair with one of his students, he loses his job and his reputation. He takes refuge with his daughter, Lucy (Haines), at her farm in the Eastern Cape. At first the two experience harmony and Lurie finds peace with himself. However, one day Lurie and his daughter are attacked by three men, and Lucy is raped. Subsequently, Lurie goes through a crisis, not knowing how to cope with his personal and family tragedies. He is also confused by the newfound guilt he suddenly feels about his last affairs.

From my perspective, Malkovich’s character was a professor of Romance Poetry at an unnamed Cape Town University. He taught a course about Lord Byron, the famed English poet who was famous not only for his poems, but for his hedonistic and often scandalous life style.

Professor Lurie was Byronesque in the same way. He was divorced from a beautiful wife, he frequented prostitutes, and he seduced female students. It seems as if Lurie was intent to burn himself out, and if he went down in flames at an early age, like Lord Byron, he didn’t much care.

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The Newsroom: Episode 2 – The Genoa Tip Recap

 Episode 2 of The Newsroom was called The Genoa Tip, and it is near the end of this episode that we see hear from a participant about the Operation Genoa. Because of having to establish the story lines set up in the season’s first episode – this week there were no flashbacks, and no sightings of Rebecca Halliday.  While I won’t call this episode a winner, it did have some worthy parts to it.

To begin the episode, we got Jim Harper finally getting to board the Romney campaign bus. No doubt, thanks must go to Hallie Shea (Grace Gummer) for the good word she gave to Cameron aka Clipboard Guy which went something like – Let him on the Bus.

Fast forwarding to the end of the show, when Mackenzie and Jerry Dantana have the Genoa source, USMC Gunnery Sergeant Eric Sweeney (retired), on the phone, Mack probes for the details of the covert or black ops mission known as Operation Genoa.

Mack: Are you willing to tell the name of the person you heard this from?
Jerry: She’s not understanding…
Sweeney: I didn’t hear it from anyone. I was Special Forces. I was there.

Boom – there it is. An admission from a participant that the US Forces, in the course of an extraction that freed American captives in Pakistan, used sarin gas on civilians. As Sweeney said, they (the Pakistanis) were all dead. Which would be a war crime anyway you looked at it. And, this story and its aftermath will be the basis of Season Two. So this was the really key moment of the show.

Will's non-electric 'hot-seat'

Will’s non-electric ‘hot-seat’

For sure we will see more of Hallie Shea, and we will learn how the story of Operation Genoa went bad. So readers, you now have the opening and just about the closing. What occurred in the remaining 55 minutes? Read on.

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Blackfish Opens Today, Sea World Begins Public Pushback

 Blackfish, a documentary from film maker Gabriela Cowperthwaite, about Tilikum, an orca whale, opened today in a very limited release – two theaters in New York, and one in Hollywood, and one in West Los Angeles.

Beginning next Friday, June 26th, and continuing through the summer, the film will gradually go into wide release. You can find out where and when it will be playing on the Magnolia Pictures Playdates page.

I saw the film back in April at the Sarasota Film Festival. Blackfish opened the festival. Here is a link to my review, dated April 6th, 2013.

I’ve created this post today because , with the film’s release, the film and Sea World are in the news. As you will note in my review, Sea World declined any and all requests by the film makers to be interviewed for the film. So within the film, there is no rebuttal or any thing from Sea World.

With Magnolia Pictures release of the film, Sea World has chosen a very unusual tactic. Sea World has sent a detailed critique of the film to 50 critics. Not to me, so I can not offer a reaction.

Michael Ciely, writing for the New York Times, called this missive ‘a pre-emptive strike‘. He also labeled this, a ‘first step in an aggressive public pushback against the film‘.

This tactic is in itself a topic for discussion. But we won’t be having that here despite the fact that, as Ciely’s piece says, ‘that businesses accused of wrong doing in films often choose to lie low‘.

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The Newsroom : Season 2 Begins – Recap

The Aaron Sorkin Circus aka The Newsroom opened its doors last night for the inaugural of Season 2. We got a new intro and something of the old music. We also got a new format. There will be a continuing story line running throughout this the second season and it would be about the trouble ACN finds itself in around the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013. For The Newsroom, that’s their present time.

From there we will flash back regularly to the events that began roughly 10 days after the close of last year’s final episode (in The Newsroom time) which was roughly the summer of 2011 and proceed forward and back as necessary.

If that sounds confusing – it really isn’t. It just takes a bit of getting used to the forward and back format. It  is Sorkin doing The Newsroom in what we might call Rashomon style.

Is Sorkin getting ready for a group hug, about to bob or weave to his left or right in a ducking fashion. or is he preparing to take a bow?

In this picture, is Sorkin getting ready for a group hug, about to bob or weave to his left or right in a ducking fashion from critical brickbats. or is he preparing to take a bow?

While Sorkin is the creator, writer, and show runner of The Newsroom, he’s also wearing of number of hats that we usually find at the circus. He’s a juggler, a high-wire walker, as well as the ringmaster. He’s also the side-show barker who spins fabulous tales to entice us to part with our proverbial money which in this case – is our time and money. And let’s not forget that he is also a magician who weaves history and fact into stories about fictional people. The Sorkinian Formula broken down to its simplest terms is: Truth & Fiction = Entertainment.

Okay that’s enough preamble and stalling. Let’s get to it.

Over the course of this season, the repercussions from two seminal events from last season’s last episode will be felt, and those events were:

1) News Anchorman Will McAvoy called the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party the American Taliban. And 2) Maggie Jordan had a meltdown on a New York City street as she raved and ranted about her issues – like falling in love with her best friend’s boy friend, who was also her boss, and she was still involved with another Exec Producer at ACN.

We don’t know everything yet. We will get all the blanks filled in as the story progresses this year. But what we do know so far, is that it took a series of events to occur in a specific time frame, and in a specific sequence, for News Night to find itself in its current state which is to say they’re in a world of trouble.

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Magic City – Guessing How it All Turns Out!

Have you ever grabbed a handful of pebbles and tossed them, in a scattering motion, into a pond. Where each pebble falls and sinks, a circle on the water’s surface appears and radiates outward. Eventually these circles begin to intersect and overlap before the pond fades back to stillness.

All eyes are on Vera as she trips the light fantastique on stage

All eyes are on Vera as she trips the light fantastic on stage

That’s how the Starz Network’s series Magic City began. I recall that last year, in Season One, I bailed after three episodes and didn’t return. Then this year, when Season Two was announced, I went back and checked out last year’s episodes that I had missed. My conclusion was that it wasn’t all bad, and as such, I would watch the new season.

After 4 episodes this year, I’m getting ready to bail again. Referring back to the pebbles in the pond imagery, I believe that this season, we can see many similar circles on the surface. Yes, they are all in the same pond and they relate to one another, but they are so obviously separate. And we can easily separate them from another. Besides that, they were so easy to predict and to see them coming.

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Graceland: Episode 1-05 O-Mouth – Recap

After skipping the July 4th Thursday, the USA Network’s Graceland resumed its run on the 11th. It was a very blah episode that lacked action, was dumb in places, tried for some suspense, and basically, just hung around for most of the 45 minutes before leaving us with a couple of cliff-hangers. And for sure the series needed to do something to recapture the viewers who have been fleeing the show in droves. But did it work?

According to the ratings – the first episode garnered a 3.32 on broadcast. But this episode (1-05), called O-Mouth, brought in only 1.88, which means that the week off cost them dearly. Episode 1-04, called Pizza Box got a slight uptick over Ep 1-03, But those gains were lost as people didn’t come back. So aside from that small uptick – the ratings have been trending down.

Seems to me that to sustain decent ratings, a show should be continuous. Establish your time slot and stay with it. So who was the genius who decided the show needed to be off on the 4th.

But ratings, and discussions of ratings are boring. So how about this question. Why spend an entire episode to set up two cliff-hangers in which both Briggs & Charlie, as well as Mike Warren are all in perilous situations; then ruin the suspense by showing a trailer for the next episode in which both Briggs and Mike are hale and hearty.

Of course, it would have been equally foolish to expect a loss of one of the major players in the 5th ep. TV just doesn’t work that way.

Recap with spoilers follows.

So how did O-Mouth go? First of all the term O-Mouth is a reference to how good the drugs injected were. If they were that good, the user might go Oh my! or Oh my god! Hence the term O-Mouth.

Warren came up with a plan to get close to Bella. In fact he got himself set up as Bella’s body-guard. It seemed kind of silly – but Warren was able to ‘protect’ Bella from an uppity sales clerk in a big box electronics store. I mean can you imagine a sales person in a store selling TVs throwing a punch? But it worked, and Bella was ‘impressed’. Mike also had another meeting with that girl Abby from a few weeks back. The beach dog made another appearance, but so far it doesn’t look as if Abby, Beach Dog, and Mike Warren will all live together happily ever.

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Orange is the New Black – New Series on Netflix

Over the years, I’ve watched a lot of movies about prisons. Roll out a list of your favorite and best known actors (past and present) and they’ve done a prison film.

From Paul Newman (Cool Hand Luke) to Clint Eastwood (Escape from Alcatraz), from Burt Lancaster (Birdman of Alcatraz) to Sean Penn (Bad Boys), from Daniel Day-Lewis (In the Name of the Father) to Dustin Hoffman (Papillon), from Steve McQueen (Papillon) to Burt Reynolds (The Longest Yard), from Morgan Freeman (Shawshank Redemption) to Tom Hanks (Green Mile), and Robert Redford in Brubaker – the list is endless.

And that’s not even taking into consideration prisoners of war movies, or the lengthy list of exploitative women behind bars films made in the 70’s or even Sylvester Sly Stallone who has done a whole raft of prison films.

No one aspires to go to prison, yet films of life behind bars seems like a fertile ground for film makers because prison films sell tickets and interest people from all walks of life.

Now showing on Netflix, is a brand new series which premiered at 3:10 AM this past Thursday (July 11th). It is called Orange is the New Black and all 13 episodes are available for your viewing pleasure. You can opt to watch them over a period of two weeks, two months, or you can do what is known as binge-watching and see all of them in one or two sittings.

The central character is Piper Chapman played by Tayor Schilling. When we meet her, she’s arriving at Litchfield, a federal lockup for women somewhere in New York. Chapman once worked (10 years ago) as a mule for an international drug cartel. She carried a suitcase filled with money. Once. And now she is serving a 15 month sentence. She was also involved in a lesbian relationship with Alex Vause who recruited her for the cartel. Vause is played by Laura Prepon who is also incarcerated in Litchfield.

Chapman is an attractive blonde and despite her past, is currently engaged to one Larry Bloom played by Jason Biggs. Over the course of the series, some of the episodes will have flashbacks for many of the main inmates so we can see something of their back stories and how they got themselves behind bars.

As Chapman is a newbie, what we will see is all about settling in, getting accustomed to the rules, procedures, and all the other stuff that she didn’t know when she arrived, but she will have to learn over time.

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