Posts Tagged ‘entertainment’

The second episode of Girls Season Two, “I Get Ideas”, plays like a fast-paced soap opera.  The thirty minute episode involves quick cuts from girl to girl and scene to scene.  The drama is heightened and Dunham explores the dynamics of specific relationships.  This second episode didn’t create many laughs and when it ended I said to myself, “That’s it?”

SandyDespite the jumping around from situation to situation, Dunham’s character Hannah steals the limelight for the majority of the episode.  Anxious to have her new boyfriend, Sandy, read an essay she has written, she pressures him until he gives her his opinion.  During this process, it’s revealed that Sandy is a Republican but Hannah is okay with it.  That is, until he tells her he didn’t like her essay because it basically didn’t go anywhere.  Kind of like this episode.  She then declares there is no way she can date a Republican who hates Gays and thinks everyone should have a gun.  I shuddered for a moment at the mention of gun rights.  Obviously it is a hot topic now, both politically and socially, but this episode was written way before the tragic events of Newtown, Connecticut played out.  Kudos to Dunham for being ahead of the curve.  With not much more thought than deciding what to eat for lunch, she decides she and Sandy are over.  I suppose this new character is just a distraction for the audience and not a part of the storyline for Season Two.

Later that evening, Hannah’s ex, Adam, shows up unannounced and refuses to leave.  Hannah dials 911, an obvious overreaction, but then thinks better of it.  But, unfortunately for her, the police show up and arrest Adam.  It is the second scene this season where the viewer feels sorry for Adam.  He didn’t mean any harm nor does he deserve the wrath of Hannah, who dumps men like a line cook in a high school cafeteria swats flies.  I dislike Hannah’s actions, mostly because she doesn’t seem to have any sense of remorse or empathy towards the men she leaves in her wake.  I’m not sure if the character is written this way because she’s supposed to be devoid of emotions or because it’s intended to be funny.  I also will suspend belief that the police in New York City respond to an accidental dial of 911 from a cell phone.  I believe they will call you back right away, but it seems questionable that they would automatically appear at her Brooklyn walk-up two minutes later.

Thomas John and JessaShoshanna appears in only one scene during this episode.  She’s in bed with Ray and the audience is clued in that they are now pursuing their relationship.  Jessa also has limited screen time, appearing in just two scenes.  In the first, she is painting a portrait of Thomas-John and they are still completely enraptured by one another.  In the second, she tells Hannah that Sandy should want to read her essay right away, thus planting the seed in Hannah’s head that what she and Sandy have is not love, or certainly not as potent as Jessa and Thomas-John’s love.  It’s too bad that Hannah doesn’t realize that unstable Jessa just threw a stick of dynamite into her relationship with Sandy.

Marnie too had limited scenes, but she makes hers count.  After being rejected for a potential art curator position because the hiring manager tells her she just doesn’t look like the type of person who would have that job, she complains to Shoshanna and Ray and tells them she doesn’t want to be around people who like their lives.  Shoshanna comments to Marnie that she’s pretty and should do something like hosting, but not modeling because she’s not that pretty.  Although she turns her nose up at the idea of taking people to their seats in trendy overpriced restaurants, the next scene shows Marnie in a revealing hostess outfit.  She shows up on Hannah’s doorstep where Elijah is the only one home.  MarnieHe quips, “You look like a slutty Von Trapp child.”  This had to have been the best line of dialogue in the entire episode, and the only time where I laughed out loud.   It’s then revealed that Elijah and Marnie have decided not to tell Hannah of their “almost” sexual encounter and are keeping a secret from her.  Marnie doesn’t like the idea of hiding anything from Hannah, but she agrees to keep mum for Elijah’s sake.  This is an important plot device that will certainly affect some of the upcoming episodes.

Episode Two was not on par with most of the episodes from Girls’ prior season, but I am still hopeful that the current season will not disappoint.  You can almost categorize it as a throw-away episode.  It’s a necessary evil in order to keep the storylines moving forward and set-up situations to come in future episodes, but on its own merits it isn’t very memorable.  The true standout is Allison Williams, who makes the character of Marnie her own and gives her as many layers and as much depth as Dunham’s character, Hannah.  I’m interested to see in which direction Marnie goes.  Will she completely self-destruct or will she make it look like she is the only one who has it together, at least on the outside?  Let’s wait and see.

Its About Time HannahI highly anticipated the premiere of the second season of HBO’s half-hour comedy series, Girls.  Directed, produced and written by its main star, Lena Dunham, and executive produced by filmmaker Judd Apatow, the sophomore show had won my allegiance during its debut season.  There was a lot of buzz surrounding the new series when it first ran in April 2012.  The critics lauded the show, but there was some backlash among the viewing public that it was simply a knock-off of the popular Sex and the City HBO series.  As word started to spread that Girls wasn’t to be missed, then the show’s creator, Lena Dunham, began taking hits for having a show that wasn’t diverse.  The common complaint was that if the show was supposed to be about life in New York, why did it only star white people?  Dunham stayed strong through the hits and let her work speak for itself.

Having always respected HBO’s innovative television choices and unable to ignore both the positive and negative PR surrounding Girls, I tuned in.  I found the pilot interesting enough, but thought that Dunham’s character, Hannah Horvath, was a little whiny, self-obsessed and clueless.  The second episode shocked me a bit for its blatant nudity and sex scenes.  But I stayed with it, and by the time the credits rolled on episode three, I was hooked.  I can also identify the exact point at which I fell in love with the series.  It was Season One’s episode seven, “Welcome to Bushwick a.k.a. The Crackcident.”  When naïve Shoshanna Shapiro, played masterfully by Zosia Mamet (the daughter of famed playwright David Mamet), accidentally takes a hit of crack at a party in a warehouse in Brooklyn and then runs through the streets with no pants, my heart fluttered.  In this one instance, Dunham wrapped every single characteristic about living in New York in your twenties into a perfect little package and served it up brilliantly.  In Season One’s finale, I also cooed when Mamet’s character, Shoshanna, in shock that her cousin Jessa Johansson decided to marry an older man, who she only met two weeks prior, deadpan’s, “Everyone’s a dumb whore.”

If hard-pressed to compare Girls to Sex and the City, I admit I can find some similarities.  They both center on a group of four female friends that live in New York.  If I had to decide which character on Girls is the “rip-off” of a Sex and the City character, I can figure it out quite easily.  Lena Dunham’s character, Hannah, the aspiring writer and main character would be a parallel to Sara Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw.  Innocent and virginal Shoshanna is obviously an ode to Kristin Davis’ Charlotte.  Free-spirit Jessa could be loosely linked to Kim Cattrall’s Samantha and practical but uptight Marnie Michaels depicts a few characteristics of Cynthia Nixon’s Miranda.  But that’s where the comparisons end.  Sex and the City centered on thirty-something women in Manhattan who dressed like runway models, attended events at the hottest spots in the city, and rotated hot men in and out of their lives like a lazy susan at a San Francisco Chinatown restaurant.   Girls follows four women in their young twenties, just out of college, who live in dumpy apartments in grimy, but trendy, Brooklyn.  Most of them can’t hold down a job or a boyfriend.  They are completely clueless and finding their way one mistake at a time.  Where Sex and the City is all pizzazz, Girls is all grit.

The season finale of Girls Season One ended on an ambiguous note.  Hannah wakes up in Coney Island, having accidentally fallen asleep on the F train.  She is reeling from a fight with her best friend, Marnie, and having seen her boyfriend, Adam, get hit by a truck because he was angry that she didn’t want him to move in with her, we, as an audience, are left with an edgy feeling.  We’re not sure what will happen to Hannah and her friends next, and that’s a great setup for Season Two.  I’d wondered how Dunham would deal with her open ending to Season One.  Many shows choose to jump time when they return for a subsequent season and rather than explain what happened to their characters in the interim, they have them trapped in new obstacles six months to a year later, leaping over their original predicaments.  Dunham chose not to take the easy way out and I applaud her for that.  Season Two picks up almost right where Season One left off.  The opening episode involves her spooning with her gay college ex-boyfriend, Elijah.  The audience can infer that he has moved in and Adam hasn’t.  Dunham makes a reference to Adam, but it is more of a complaint that she has to still take care of him.   At this point, she no longer has strong romantic feelings for Adam, but still feels obligated to see him, since it was somewhat her fault he got hit by a truck in the first place.

Its About Time SandyThe next scene goes straight to Hannah having sex with an unidentified new character, named Sandy.  And wait for it…he’s black.  I know it’s 2013 and not 1960 in Mississippi but, if you remember, I mentioned earlier that Dunham faced criticism during Season One for not having a diverse cast.  She made a comment during the taping of Season Two that she would address that concern.  Some viewers were angry that she caved to the pressure and felt that her show didn’t need to answer to anyone.  I expected that in Season Two someone in her inner circle of girlfriends would be black.  But instead, she decided to make her new sex buddy black.  To me it’s a giant F U to the critics, and I think it’s awesome.

Its about Time MarnieThe Season Two opener centers around Hannah and Elijah throwing a house party.  It’s an easy way to assemble the entire cast and show the viewer what is going on with each of the girls.  Marnie, played by Allison Williams, runs into her ex, Charlie, at the party, and although she tries to pretend she’s over him, the audience can tell she is lying to herself.  Fresh off a lunch with her mother, who tells her she looks 30 and needs to act her age, and then she gets downsized from her gig as an assistant at an art gallery, she reaches new heights of self-pity.  She attempts to sleep with Elijah in some effort to make herself feel better.  Maybe she thinks she can even get a gay guy to fall for her.  But although he tries, Elijah just can’t perform and the viewer is left staring at Marnie and can sense her self-esteem plummet.  It’s such an effective scene that the viewer feels like they are right in the room with her.

Shoshanna reveals she is no longer the 23 year-old virgin, but is quite angry at Ray, the coffee store manager who deflowered her.  Apparently, he never called afterwards and she spends the entire time, at the party, trying to ignore him.  The ridiculousness of doing that in a ten-foot living room is laughable.  It’s unclear what Ray’s motives are, but both he and Shoshanna are such eccentric characters that the audience wants to see more of them together.

Its about Time AdamHannah spends half of the episode playing caretaker to Adam, bringing him pain killers and emptying his bedpan.  He has a full cast on one leg reaching to his upper thigh and can’t take care of himself.  He’s moody, angry and depressed.  Not much different from his usual personality, but what Hannah once found lovable she now can’t stand.  She’s in a quandary and wants to do the right thing.  But she finally has had it and tells him they are over.  Adam is left standing on one leg in the middle of his apartment and, for a split-second you begin to feel sorry for him when he never was that likable to begin with.  Is Hannah shallow?  Yes.  But, can you blame her?  No.  How many young twenty-something’s do you know, who would be selfless nursemaids?  She’d rather be back at her party and, for once she decides to do what she wants to do.  It’s obviously not the end of Adam.  Hannah may think so, however the audience knows better.

Jessa, absent for most of the episode, only appears towards the end.  She and newlywed Thomas John, played by Bridesmaids, Chris O’Dowd, appear tanned and Caribbean “islandified”.  They take a taxi from the airport, after cutting the line, and passionately make out.  I’m not sure where their relationship is going and it may be my least favorite storyline.  It just seems too obvious to me that this is going to end in disaster.  Although, Dunham may have something up her sleeve and we’ll have to stay tuned to see if she is going to pull a rabbit out of her magic hat.

If you’re still not sold on Girls, maybe the fact that the show won best television series-Comedy or Musical- at the 70th Annual Golden Globes will entice you.  Lena Dunham also won best performance by an actress in a television series-Comedy or Musical.  Since Season Two of Girls was written and filmed long before the current awards season, I’m optimistic that the second season will live up to its expectations and continue to bring laughs and pure raw awkwardness.

Anna Karenina and A Royal Affair have a few key things in common.  They are both historical films with amazing costume and set design.  But more importantly, they tell stories of forbidden love.  I was highly anticipating Anna Karenina and reluctantly went to see A Royal Affair.  Although, I walked out of the theater after seeing A Royal Affair pleasantly surprised and left Anna Karenina somewhat disappointed.  Let’s take a deeper look at these two films and see what made them tick.

annakarenina-mv-1Anna Karenina was directed by Joe Wright, of the critically acclaimed Atonement, and stars Keira Knightley.  It is based on the novel by the same name, written by Leo Tolstoy.  I have to admit, I never read Anna Karenina.  So I walked into the theater, not really knowing the story.

Within the first five minutes, I found my mind wandering and thought I had just paid $15 to sit through a Disney type musical.  But I gave it a chance, and once Knightley’s character, Anna, shared the screen with Aaron Johnson’s character, Count Vronsky, I perked up.  Their chemistry undeniable, you immediately start rooting for them, even though Anna is already married to Jude Law’s character, Karenin.  Although Anna knows it is wrong and she might be disgraced, not just from her husband but from aristocratic society in St. Petersburg, she carries on with her affair, because her love for Vronsky and his for her is just that deep.  Unfortunately for Anna, it ends rather tragically.

But for me, the story of forbidden love was no match for the wonderfully detailed 19th century costumes, masterful set designs,  and fluid movement of the characters throughout each scene, and from scene to scene as if they were in one two-hour long choreographed dance.  The amazing framing of the shots also caught my eye, whether it was Anna in a field of flowers, carrying a parasol or Anna and Vronsky laying in bed naked, wrapped in white sheets and fitting together like a lock and key.  Director Wright also chose a pastel coloring for the first half of the film, making each scene appeal to the viewer like freshly spun cotton candy.

The cinematography is also exquisite.  The DP, Seamus Mcgarvey, uses the device of freeze-framing the peripheral characters while Anna and Vronsky interact, best used during the ballroom dance scenes.  Mcgarvey also utilizes dolly zooms to move rapidly out of a scene making you literally dizzy.  The biggest accomplishment is that almost every scene in the film is entered through the opening of curtains or doors.

It is for these reasons alone, that I’d recommend Anna Karenina.  It truly is a sight to see.

aroyalaffair-mv-2Where Anna Karenina is more about the fluff than the story, A Royal Affair is all about the story and hits home on themes that are still relevant today.  Set in 18th century Denmark, it centers on a young princess of Wales, Caroline Matilda, who is sent to Denmark to tie the knot with Christian VII of Denmark.  Shortly after the arranged marriage she learns Christian is mentally ill and not well-respected in the Danish court.  But she is stuck in this arranged marriage and resigns herself to a life of misery.  However everything changes, when Christian hires  Johann Friedrich Struensee, a German doctor, to be his royal physician.  Dr. Struensee is a follower of the Enlightenment, and before Queen Caroline even says “Voltaire” the two are sneaking off to carry on a secret affair.

With her new-found alliance, Queen Caroline and Dr. Struensee manipulate Christian VII, to make changes in the cabinet, and they begin to bring the Age of Enlightenment to Denmark by feverishly passing cabinet orders.  They create an orphange for motherless children, mandate inoculations against small pox, abolish torture, abolish censorship of the press, reduce the army, and minimize revenues for nobles.  Unfortunately, Dr. Struensee himself becomes too power hungry for his own good and once word of his affair with Queen Caroline leaks from the aristocracy to the masses, his days are numbered.  Maybe I’ve seen too many episodes of The Tudors, but it becomes quite clear that Queen Caroline and Dr. Struensee’s unethical behavior will come back to haunt them.

What is most fascinating is that although Dr. Struensee may have gotten trapped by his own ego, his heart was in the right place.  Most of his changes to the laws of Denmark were for the common people.  But after passing so many public programs, he becomes shocked that Denmark is out of money.  Which highlights the argument we hear over and over again today; how is the government going to pay for that?

It also blew my mind that over 220 years later, our own country is fighting some of the same battles the followers of the Enlightenment fought.  Separation of church and state was the most obvious correlation between this film and modern-day society.  Although it is 2012, we just witnessed an election cycle where some candidates were trying to go back to the days of where religion dictates policy.  It is both eye-opening and frightening that if Dr. Struensee were alive today he’d still be facing opposition.

A Royal Affair had tremendous attention to detail when it came to costumes, make-up, and sets.  It transports the viewer to Copenhagen in 1776 seamlessly.  But what really stands out are the ideas behind the film and how it reminds us the world is still an imperfect place.