Sunday, March 9, 2014

True Detective Season One, Episodes Seven and Eight

The last two episodes of True Detective bring us the setup in the penultimate episode, in which Woody and Mac become one again, and the finale, in which all hell breaks loose, a journey straight into the creepiest hell on earth.

Stan Earnest: The plane takes off like a rocket, wobbles a bit…(will it crash?)…NO, sticks the fucking landing!

Craig Scholes: The last 10 minutes sucked

SE: I know you have never smoked weed, but are you fucking high?

Where the fuck were you last week?
CS: Meh, the ending existentialism was pointless for me.

SE: Spoken like a true existentialist.

CS: Burn.

SE: First, should we touch on last week just a bit? I completely fucked the dog last week. My apologies. Crazy family drama.

CS: By crazy family drama, I’m assuming you went sundress shopping. Did you get yourself a pretty yellow one?

SE: It was a little closer to Woody getting booted out of his house. I may have caused that with a little too much boozing and gambling. I tried to explain that I was just searching for the Yellow King. Didn't work.

CS: So, last week. I have a bunch of incoherent notes. Basically "Gayer John Waters... a.ka. Johnny Joanie Waters, and McConaughey parkour'd his way into the Osteen mansion.

SE: We are totally doing a disservice to our fan base by rehashing this shit before we get to the goods, but I'm not sure we have a fun base, so fuck it. All I have is that great line by Woody, "High praise from a bartender."

CS: I have the line "I should buy one of my kids paintings if I can afford it," which is ironic as he is driving a new Cadillac.

SE: Before you go all splattering green paint on the last ten minutes, let's dabble into the basis of this season. So the season was based on a couple of old time literary works: a short story called "An Inhabitant of Carcosa" by Ambrose Bierce (1891) and The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers (1895). Let me propose a theory: Cohle is the unspeakable man, the man that wants to convince the world he doesn't exist, the enabler, Lucifer. He has been turned, flipped into the role.

CS: Okay.

SE: In The King in Yellow, those that read the story are so affected by it that they slip into madness. Seeing the aftermath, Woody can't bear to think about what he has seen. Cohle, on the other hand, can't be killed. He is the one with yellow hair. There were no other mentions of the yellow king in this episode, just the green ears. I mean, I don't want to go off the rails and say it is literal, but Cohle saying the light is winning at the end of the season would be his version of slipping into insanity.

CS: How would he be becoming insane, when it justified everything he had done up to that point?

SE: He slipped and let go to see his family in the dark underworld, and it was only a ploy. What he has seen has turned him. I think the dark hole he saw before getting gutted was supposed to be his reality, not a hallucination. I just explain it the way I explain things I see on the internet: "Well shit, I can't unsee that."

I hope my dreams don't have shitty bands in them.
CS: I saw it as, he was going insane, and him nearly dying brought him back to reality.

SE: That statement itself is sweet irony, dying to live, like Inception on LSD. Cohle is rounding the black circle only to have his face shown like he was meant to play this game over and over again.

CS: Inception on LCD... it was all a dream?

SE: Inception on LCD Soundsystem: it was all just a ploy for the new record release. Fucking HBO, nothing but cash grabbers!

CS: Lord Jesus, we are spiraling. Flux capacitor must be broken.

SE: Besides, the last ten minutes were worth it just to see Woody sipping his drink, looking like Woody (because no one else has that look), as Cohle wakes up.

CS: So the sketchy dude they shot at on the boat, he was a cop or a sheriff right? HOW IN THE FUCK DOES HE OWN A MASERATI!?

SE: Joe fucking Walsh himself was giggling somewhere, if he even knows where he is at.

George Remus sans yellow.
CS: Two things about the Yellow King: 1) He didn't look Asian at all, and 2) Even Buffalo Bill thinks those guys are gross assholes.

SE: George Remus likes yellow. George Remus doesn't like to clean. Remus likes little girls though.

CS: The Backwater hillbilly bayou Forrest Gump.

SE: I don't think I'm ever traveling to Louisiana ever after that. I think Carcosa is the place in hell where Rob Zombie is going to jam for all eternity.

CS: I once ate at a Denny's in Shreveport that was out of ketchup. True story.

SE: When they were pulling up to the place, I was having flashbacks from Seven. "What's in the box! What's in the box!" I thought for sure that it was going to be Woody's daughter in that shed, but it was way creepier.

CS: I honestly thought I had called it with Woody's daughter. I knew that wasn't the case though when Woody met with his ex wife.

SE: This may be a rapid reaction, but as far as seasons of television shows, where does this season rank for you?

CS: I don't think it makes my top five, top ten probably.

SE: I’m throwing it in my top three alongside seasons three and four of Breaking Bad. No other show has stuck the dialogue, the acting, and story so completely. They trimmed the fat, chunked it into eight episodes of art layered on top of art. It was like a 90s Weezer album.

CS: With less references to KISS and Dungeons & Dragons.

SE: With that said, I can't decide if it should get point deductions or additions for the short season. Boardwalk Empire, as good as it is, would be even better if they cut it down to eight eps.

CS: Always leaving them wanting more. Having said that though, I don't know where else this story could go. It didn't leave any loose ends.

SE: What are you talking about? The Woody & Mac PI show is going to kill. Maybe they can hire Saul Goodman for good measure.

CS: I just meant this story line is complete, anything else would be a new story.

SE: Before we go, throw around some #TrueDetectiveSeason2 predictions.

CS: Jean Ralphio and Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec start a PI service and go on adventures and become best friends.

SE: I'm thinking Bill Murray and Robin Williams. Carrot Top will be the killer.

CS: I'd rather Carrot Top as the victim.

SE: If I were to guess an actual prediction as to what HBO will actually do, let's see, who is the latest washed up actor trying to blaze a comeback trail? Let's go Ben Affleck and…Jim Carrey. Sounds just looney enough.

CS: Batman?

SE: Oh, fuck me.

CS: I would imagine there is a female in season two, so I'll go with Frances McDormand and Sean Penn.

SE: All I can say is that this show stuck the landing, and no one should be disappointed in the ending.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Man on Film: The Wolf of Wall Street

Much like fellow Best Picture nominee American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street is a helluva fun ride that ultimately lacks the staying power that some of the other more serious Oscar contenders have. In other words, 12 Years a Slave The Wolf of Wall Street is not.

While much of the negative response to The Wolf of Wall Street has centered around the perception that the film celebrates greed, it seems like much of the point of the film was lost on those people. Martin Scorcese masterfully captures the grotesque excess by indulging in it. A lesser director would have maintained a measured detachment from the greed, using the distance to preach--I'm looking at you Steven Spielberg--against the actions of the characters.

In The Wolf of Wall Street, Scorcese lets the audience get taken in by Jordan Belfort only to crank up the excess leading to a repulsion to contrast more meaningfully against that urge to like the charismatic lead. In the role of rich asshole, Leonardo DiCaprio once again kills it for Scorcese. While one could certainly wonder if Leo is actually having to stretch much to play a role like Belfort, the fact remains that he excels in this immorality tale.

That isn't to say DiCaprio is alone in his greatness. Predictably, Scorsese gets great turns from the supporting cast. Kyle Chandler and Matthew McConaughey are both fantastic is smaller roles, as Jordan's foil and mentor, respectively. In addition to being stunning, Australian Pan-Am and Neighbours alum Margot Robbie is wonderful as the other half in a very mercurial relationship. Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Shea Whigham, Cristin Milioti, and Jean Dujardin round out the rest of the strong supporting cast; but it is Jonah Hill who gets the most screen time of the rest of the cast, and he absolutely earns his second Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor with a blisteringly hilarious and debaucherous turn as Donnie Azoff, Jordan's right hand and enthusiastic co-conspirator.

Now one could levy claims that Scorcese and screenwriter Terence Winter--Boardwalk Empire in the house--don't punish Belfort enough, but do any of the Wall Street bilkers get any significant punishment? His life is in shambles after his self-destruction, but anyone hoping for Scorcese to do a morality tale is barking up the wrong tree.

The real issues with the film lie with the fact that despite its three-hour runtime--a runtime usually reserved for historical epics or dramas with grave import--The Wolf of Wall Street falls a bit on the forgettable side of things. It's a full-blown debaucherous ride, but somehow a three-hour Martin Scorcese film seems to lack the significance that the rest of his fare has in spades.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Man on Film: Live Action Oscar Shorts

Since this is an atypical subject here, I'll just do a quick breakdown on each of the nominees.

Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn't Me)

Far and away the worst of the nominees. Obvious.

Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything)

A little slow to get moving, but ultimately engaging. Ratchets up the tension well. Effective glimpse into a terrible episode of family drama.


It was a little schmaltzy, but I'll be damned if I didn't tear up. The zeppelin effects were a little weak (an understandable byproduct of a limited budget), but the performances of the three principle cast members, especially Casper Crump, were very strong. A cute, emotionally involving story set against a depressing situation.

Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)

Very Scandinavian. Very funny. Sure, it was lighter than the rest of these entrants, but it was definitely the most fun.

The Voorman Problem

Martin Freeman and Tom Hollander get to chew on some great dialogue. Clever. Wickedly funny. It's available here. In my mind, this one is the class of the category.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Man on Film: Nebraska

Alexander Payne's follow-up to The Descendants is another film about family, this time returning to his Midwestern roots. An interstate road movie about a senile-leaning father and his reluctant chauffeur son, Nebraska springs forth from the fertile ground of a son trying to do right by his father despite a strained relationship.

It is fantastic.

Perhaps my feelings on the film are too heavily informed by my roots, but Nebraska magnificently captured every nuance of small-town Midwestern life. The stoicism of the pre-Baby Boom male. The tried and true topics of conversation of the peoples of largely agrarian, shrinking small towns of the plains. The simple pleasures. The age old grudges. The general kindness and interest in personal minutiae. Bob Nelson's screenplay felt as though it could have been written directly from afternoons in my childhood. It was equal parts knowingly detached and lovingly attached, dancing brilliantly between the two, striking a wonderful balance.

And Alexander Payne pressed all the right buttons. The tone--from the performances to the black-and-white stock--is pitch perfect. Bob Odenkirk and the sublime June Squibb hit every note, but Will Forte and Bruce Dern play the parts of beleaguered but faithful son and father teetering on the edge of senility with perfection. The support, particularly the cast employed in Hawthorne, is also spot on, with the football watching scene being one of the highlights of the last year in cinema.

Seemingly every decision Payne makes works out wonderfully. The dynamic between Forte and Dern is particularly fruitful, but the casting of the relatively little-known character actress June Squibb really sets the movie apart. Nebraska is wildly funny but retains a poignancy and heart that endear it so much more than nearly every other film of the past year. On the heels of The Descendants, it was hard to imagine Alexander Payne making a film as outstanding as it, but in Nebraska he exceeds expectations.

Man on Film: American Hustle

Coming after The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook in David O. Russell's body of work, it was hard to not have high expectations for American Hustle. As a result (and the subsequent innumerable accolades and nominations heaped upon it cannot help for those who have yet to see American Hustle), American Hustle was at least a little disappointing.

That isn't to say American Hustle wasn't good. It is just a victim of its high expectations.

In essence, American Hustle is an acting showcase. From the principal cast to supporting cast members like Robert DeNiro, Elisabeth Rohm, Michael Pena, Louis C.K., and the Boardwalk Empire cameo crew (Jack Huston and the inimitable Shea Whigham), this was an opportunity for actors to shine, regardless of their line count. And as Russell's films virtually guarantee, shine they do.

And while the supporting cast is rock solid, the principle cast is outstanding. Jeremy Renner gets to shine as a faithful family man and politician who actually wants to provide for his constituents. Bradley Cooper turns in a wonderfully complex role, imbuing Richie DiMaso with every bit of obsessiveness, self-pity, egotism, and volatility that it required. Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence are both fantastic and get to make themselves comfortable in these wildly unpredictable and wholly colorful roles. And Christian Bale? Holy shit. Once again, Bale shows that he belongs in that very short list of actors who turn in must-watch performances every damn time. He is brilliant once again, and his brilliance goes far past his physical commitment to the role. Bale disappears into the role of Irving Rosenfeld. He was given a role wrought with pathos, a duality of supreme confidence and insecurity that is thrilling to behold.

After all of this discussion of the stellar acting, it would be a disservice to those working behind the scenes to fail to talk about the production design, wardrobe, and art direction. The painstaking attention to detail that went into realizing the world of this film was obvious in every frame of the film. The uniformity in style and full realization of late-'70s New York/New Jersey is special.

As usual, David O. Russell has crafted a well-directed film. It is hard to argue with the performances or the mise-en-scene. The narrative, however, was just a little lacking in the oomph that his recent films have had. The story in American Hustle was fun but ultimately insubstantial. The richness of characters goes a long way towards helping to remedy this shortcoming, but American Hustle is not a movie that stays with you for more than an hour or so after you walk out of the theater. With a David O. Russell film, this is sort of something that I had come to expect.

Man on Film: 12 Years A Slave

Once again, we republish this as the Oscars draw nearer.

Before you read any further, see 12 Years A Slave. Drop what you're doing. Cancel your plans. Oh, you're supposed to fly home for Christmas, but haven't seen it? Reschedule your flight.

12 Years A Slave is fucking phenomenal.

This is the time of year that theaters are flooded with Oscar trash. The important film: the stodgy period piece, usually adapted from a classic novel; the adaptation of a heavy-handed, award-winning contemporary novel [preferably the Pulitzer] usually neatly packaged with some larger message about sexual repression or religion, with a careful eye toward production design; or the biopic of someone who overcame some personal struggle to achieve something or lead a people. If the film can prey on liberal white guilt, all the better.

12 Years A Slave is definitely a biopic about someone overcoming a struggle, and any white person who doesn't feel horrible about what happened to Solomon Northup is at least 99% likely to be a horrible racist, but holy shit is it amazing. It is brutal--visually and emotionally. The situation Solomon finds himself in is so awful that it is impossible not to feel his pain. And there is a lot of pain. He is stripped of his dignity, his hope, and his humanity and is powerless to do anything about it.

What makes the film is director Steve McQueen's unwavering dedication to his vision. There are so many bold choices, so many shots that linger for far longer than one would expect, so many that drive key turning points. In a less confident hand, these scenes would feel heavy handed. In 12 Years A Slave, the decisions take your feet out from under you.

Of course, all would be for naught were it not for sterling performances, first and foremost being that of Chiwetel Ejiofor. There are other strong performances--Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, and Brad Pitt are all good, Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o particularly are great--but Ejoifor's is the performance of a lifetime. Ejiofor is always a captivating performer, but McQueen uses Ejiofor's face as a canvas, his eyes as a channel to the film's emotive center. There is no better example of this than the scene in which they bury Uncle Abram (pretty sure that's the character). While the slaves sing "Roll Jordan Roll" around the fresh grave, McQueen holds a tight shot on Ejiofor's face, as at first he stands there, numb, any hope that this cruel twist of fate will be miraculously reversed draining from his face, the last shred of belief that he was a free man fading. Then he starts in with his brethren. A slave, but hope of a different sort taking root within him. The scene tears at you, and McQueen's choice to hold on Ejiofor's face and let all these emotions play out over the almost uncomfortably long shot proves to be inspired.

In short, 12 Years A Slave is brilliant, bold, soul-crushing, brutal, and vital. It must be seen.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Man on Film: Blue Jasmine

Here is another old entry with Oscar implications.

To say I've been very bad at keeping up with these entries would be a vast understatement. To put it into perspective, I am twenty-three--yes, two-three--entries behind, most of them being Man on Film entries. I hope to catch up on them in the coming weeks, so while there may not seem to be a rhyme or reason to why I choose what I choose, I can tell you right now that I'm choosing Blue Jasmine because it might just be the best film I've seen this year. And yes, I did see Gravity.

To say Blue Jasmine is good Woody Allen would be a gross understatement. Even when he's been great over the past 20 years or so, it hasn't always felt that Allen was working outside of himself very much. Midnight in Paris and Sweet and Lowdown were great films, but they definitely shared quite a few commonalities with his pre-existing body of work. For the first time in decades, Woody Allen has made a film that doesn't feel like a Woody Allen film.

Yes, the dialogue is still strong and snappy, but this isn't the signature--or in worse cases (I'm looking at you, To Rome with Love), self-parodying--dialogue to which we have become accustomed. The narrative is psychologically complex, structurally nimble, and most importantly breaks from the handful of boilerplate stories Allen routinely falls back upon. Quite frankly, Blue Jasmine is far from what we expect to see from a Woody Allen film, and it's shockingly refreshing.

Much has been made of the performances in the film, and that hubbub is largely justified. Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins are particularly great with Blanchett's performance being enough to carry the film regardless of what the other actors did, but with the rest of the cast being superlative, Blue Jasmine is simply stunning. Even in light of the recent big hit Midnight in Paris, Blue Jasmine wastes little time distinguishing itself from the rest of Allen's curriculum vitae as a standout achievement, and by the time it gets to its conclusion you're shocked that he was even its auteur.

That's a good thing.

Man on Film: Gravity

With the Oscars coming up this weekend, I'll be putting up the Man on Film entries (both old and new) for this year's big nominees. Here goes.

If there is one thing that Alfonso Cuarón is inarguably capable of doing, it is making a film that must be seen on the big screen. In the case of Gravity, that means IMAX and 3D because no one maximizes the medium of film like Cuarón does. Unlike any film that's come before it, Gravity manages to use the scope and technology at today's filmmaker's disposal to its fullest potential. While I would still posit--even after having seen Gravity--that 3D simply doesn't add enough to the experience, Gravity is definitely worth the price of admission if only for the spectacle of the IMAX presentation.

Yes, Gravity is worth every penny paid to see it. The film is an event that warrants seeing it on the big screen. Unfortunately, the simplicity of the narrative finds a way to wither in the majesty of the presentation. That isn't to say that the film isn't emotionally affective. It is. Over the course of the movie, it is nearly impossible not to feel for Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) as they are left adrift in space without contact to the outside world. Cuarón masterfully builds the characters and the suspense to keep you engaged. Both of the film's stars are everything you would want them to be.

It is just strange that the film's story is so intimate when cast against the magnitude of the film itself. It's a brilliantly conceived vision; it's just that the contrast in scopes of narrative and mise-en-scène is so drastic as to almost be distracting. Obviously, this was Cuarón's intent, and really, who am I to question a man as brilliant as he? It just seems that this film was all about the spectacle, emotional as it may have been, while failing to stay with you once you left the theater.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Series Four, Episode Nine

We come to the conclusion of the fourth series of Downton Abbey with the 90-minute Christmas Special, and Wordy Ginters and myself will once again be your guides. Lady Rose is presented and we get our first proper glimpse at "the season." The Crawley family becomes entangled with Mr. Sampson again, as a damning letter penned by the Prince of Wales gets lifted from his mistress's possession. Bates's criminal ways show their value, though not before it is deemed likely that he did avenge Anna's rape. Cora's mother and brother, Martha Levinson (Shirley MacLaine) and Harold Levinson (Paul Giamatti), come to London for Rose's debutante ball. The Fourth Series is available for the low, low rate of $24.96 on Blu-ray and $21.96 on DVD.

Old Man Duggan: Perhaps it was that history was playing much more centrally in the goings on or that there seemed to be larger problems facing the Crawleys, but this was far and away the best episode of the season. It made me remember the best of Seasons One and Two.

Wordy Ginters: Downton definitely closed strong. The last two episodes were solid.

OMD: Maybe it's just that Julian Fellowes finally had the budget to show a "season" in London, but I will say it was nice to finally see what the hubbub has been about. The troika of Crawley girls and now Rose have had so much relying upon their being matched that it was refreshing to see the presentation of a debutante to the King and Queen.

WG: It makes for some pretty television, the pomp, the circumstance, the handsome visage of Giamatti at a picnic.

OMD: Miss Sarah Bunting, aside from being no taller than five-foot-one, is sort of pulling the same bullshit that Edna Braithwaite was on Branson. This whole uppity-broads-guilting-Branson-for-marrying-up thing can go away any time, Fellowes. I'm sure it was and probably still is a thing, but I think we've gotten the point. Can we move along please?

WG: Is Branson hot for teacher or still wrestling with the do I or don't I belong class consciousness thing? If I had my druthers, Branson would be dealing with a troika of suitors, not Lady Mary. And fucking-A, how about cuffing Thomas around for that impertinent tone? I know the fog of grief, the responsibilities of running a pig farm, and dreams of a different future are clouding his vision, but Jesus H. Christ, if Thomas being a major league prick can't bring the clarity of brutal violence, what can? Thomas deserved a punch in his cigarette hole on several occasions. But whats new, eh?

OMD: Yeah, fuck Thomas. He was such a conniving shit this episode.

So it would appear that Brownshirts did Gregson in. Or at least waylaid him. For over a year. Goddamn proto-Nazis. Let's hope they didn't detain and brainwash him only to release him back into the UK a spy.

WG: I'm holding out hope for The Manchurian Candidate scenario. Once the proto-Nazis beat you, you stay beaten. Forays into the US and the Rhineland are a nice way for Fellowes to keep things fresh next season.

OMD: Much of the episode centered around a purloined love letter written by the Prince of Wales--and future King Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson as seen in The King's Speech--to the married but dallying Freda Dudley Ward. Of course, the shitty Mr. Sampson played an integral role in the misdeeds. It seems shocking to me that Sampson hasn't been thrown out of high society on his ear. It's too bad Gregson wasn't there to school him, but I suppose if ever there weren't a need for Mr. Gregson it would be when there is an ex-con capable of murder in the fold waiting to ply his skill set.

WG: I dug the development of Bates over the course of this season. From ardent lover of Anna to shadowy master of the criminal arts. Forgery. Pick pocketin'. Perfect murders. Penny Licks. The man is like a proto-James Bond. I was the opposite of chuffed when Lady Mary was thinking about dropping a dime on him. Is Hughes the only one on that damn show with a lick of sense? Thankfully, the purloined letter evidently tipped the scales enough for Mary to torch the York to London train ticket in the fireplace. That was some satisfying TV. Burn ticket burn.

OMD: Mos def. Hughes is always right. They may as well change the name of the show to Mrs. Hughes and All of the Wrong People Around Her.

The scheming to get the letter was quite a bit of fun in a Downton Abbey kind of way. Ultimately though, the crafty Mr. Bates pulled a couple of metaphorical rabbits out of his hat of underhanded tricks and put off dishonor to the Crown for another day. I liked that his learned skills in forgery first saved Molesley and now the monarchy, but no one knows that it was Bates himself who penned the letter granting them access to Sampson's quarters.

WG: Bates was the inspiration for the Digable Planets song "Rebirth of Slick."

OMD: And we have our exit music.

Mary and Rose's gasps of shock when Robert showed them the letter was really fucking funny.

WG: I laughed out loud.

OMD: While I wasn't entirely sold of the fact that Madeleine Allsop would seem to fall for Harold Levinson, the fact that he still wanted her to write to him was sweet. Fellowes does a good job of injecting the show with these nuanced minor characters who provide the audience with an anecdotal glimpse at a type of person a la mode. I, for one, hope we get to see more of Madeleine, even if Paul Giamatti--who I liked here--doesn't make a return appearance.

WG: You've doped out the heart of it. Fellowes elevates Downton above trifling replacement-level soap opera entertainment precisely because of these types of characters and nuance. He's got a knack for developing characters that are relatable, regardless of their station. When they choose the righteous path, it's damn satisfying. On the other hand, I never quite bought into Lady Allsop being truly rehabilitated. I'm still smelling scheme. The guy who plays her old man was equally crooked in Sexy Beast.

OMD: Ivy looks to be headed stateside. I've got nothing to say about that. Didn't ever give a shit about her.

WG: If she thinks she can escape first date finger-blasting by fleeing across the Atlantic, she's tragically mistaken.

OMD: Mary and Hughes knowing but ultimately being all right with the fact that Bates murdered the odious Mr. Green is kind of awesome. It took Mary a bit longer to come around to Mrs. Hughes's line of thinking, but Bates is invaluable to the family and the damning evidence is commingling with the burnt cinders in Mary's fireplace at Crawley House.

WG: Damn right it took Mary a bit longer. I'll be generous and posit that she's been preoccupied with matters porcine.

OMD: Given the fact that so many characters have perished in the past two seasons, I was damn near certain that the Dowager Countess was going to die in her sleep after she and Martha's tête-à-tête in the hall after the party. "Violet, I don't mind looking in the mirror because what I see is a woman who's not afraid of the future. My world is coming nearer, and your world? It's slipping further and further away. Good night." That seemed to me to be a farewell speech to Violet.

WG: I haven't followed the trades like I should. Has Maggie Smith already indicated she isn't coming back? That last scene is a fitting coda, but I hate to see her go off into that dark night without getting the last word.

OMD: Thus far there's not been any announcement. If I remember correctly, Siobhan Finneran's departure wasn't announced until early spring of last year, well after Downton Abbey had aired in the UK.

There was a lot of talk about the past and future going on in this episode. This is clearly a time of transition for the UK, and Fellowes wanted to be sure to drive that point home. Between the old guard scrambling desperately to find themselves new revenue streams to recover the fortunes that they were unsuited to hold onto in the changing times and the old guard being informed that they must be adaptable to survive, this more than any other episode really tried to advance the cast of characters into the 1920s. Even Carson cut loose on the beach, with Hughes holding his hand as they waded into the sea of change.

WG: Without Carson and Hughes holding things together, Downton's pants would fall down around its ankles inside of two weeks. It was a cool moment seeing them with clasped hands in the ocean. I would have definitely lost the "will we see Carson's bare feet" prop bet for sure. The show has leaned on change as a back drop pretty frequently. The war. The depression. Post war. I'm eager to see how far Fellowes will advance the calendar for the next season.

OMD: Still no sign of Gregson. Mary still bats around a couple of gents. What direction do you think Fellowes will take us on those two fronts? There has been a fair amount of talk about this fourth season being a virtual recap of Season One. Do we get the Great War and William dying from war wounds in Season Five? Where, oh where are you Mr. Gregson?

WG: I'm guessing Fellowes wrings some good mileage out of Germany and Gregson. Too many rich writing opportunities to let that thread wither on the vine. I'm less interested in Lady Mary's "plight". How about a wild-card suitor? Jack Ross? Or maybe a new character altogether. Regardless, by finishing up with a solid run of ep's at the end of the season, at least I'm looking forward to next season.

OMD: Yeah, after Matthew's untimely (and widely spoiled) death, it was hard to get it up for this season. With the rape happening early on, I was very worried. Hopefully the ship has been righted.

True Detective Season One, Episode Six "Haunted Houses"

This week's installment of True Detective brings us a showdown between Marty and Cohle. Marty slips into some more infidelity. Cohle slips into Marty's wife. Epic blood bath thus ensues in the police department parking lot.

Hey Marty, this is how many inches I gave your wife.
Stan Earnest: Talk about the massive heartbreak episode. Why didn't they run this on Valentine's weekend?

Craig Scholes: Valentine’s Weekend is going to be my sappy love song parody band of Vampire Weekend.

SE: That clashes more than HBO following True Detective with Girls.


SE: Girls: naked, boring Seinfeld.

CS: I’m totally on board, except the boring part. Anyway, shit got real this episode.

SE: How bad was Woody in the sack at home that a five second blast from Cohle from behind was the best she has had in years?

CS: How dare you, McConaughey easily gave her a good 20-second rogering.

SE: Nothing says sexy like some of the ole in-out, in-out amidst crime scene photos of rape/murder victims.

CS: Really sets the mood. I’ve clearly found out what I've been doing wrong all these years.

SE: I knew this episode was going to get steamy when basically every warning HBO has flashed before the opening credits.

CS: Started a bit slow though. When Woody whipped those two youts' asses, I pictured a scene in Coneheads. I hope when one of those guys goes to pick up Wood's daughter for a date they say the line, "I hope you didn't hurt your hand fucking up my face."

SE: Marty's character may be the most flawed mess of a man since George Costanza. Beats a couple kids up, pukes, fucks the girl prostitute he tried to save years ago, and sits around in his undies eating noodles in front of his family. I hope Larry David is doing a golf clap somewhere.

CS: And he's kind of an idiot.

SE: HOW DARE YOU! George Costanza was not an idiot. I would go with genius savant.

CS: No, I mean Woody's character is kind of an idiot.

SE: But even by association that makes Woody a genius.

CS: Except, he's an idiot.

SE: An idiot genius.

CS: I don't think you know what the word genius means.

SE: I'm putting the number of times our editor and captain of this mess, OMD, rolls his eyes/shakes his head during the last five sentences at ten, and I'm taking the over.

CS: Was it you or I that predicted that Woody's ol' lady was going to participate in acts of blanket hornpipe with McConaughey?

Complete with Woody Harrelson chin.
SE: Props to both of us. We both nailed that one, literally.

CS: It was pretty cold-blooded how Mrs. Harrelson broke the news to him though.

SE: He totally had that coming, but that was rather abrupt. She didn't just throw Cohle under the bus; she also drove it over him.

CS: By far my favorite part of the episode was the Wrath of Khan like "COHLE!"

SE: Marty tackled Cohle like he was Lawrence Taylor trying to end Joe Theismann’s career.

CS: And when Woody said "I'll follow you," I immediately thought that he was going to pull him over for never fixing that broken taillight.

So give me your best #TrueDetectiveSeason2

SE: I feel this is like when we are making Super Bowl odds for the next season immediately after the season is over. I don't really know how this all plays out yet, but I would stand to reason that another comedian-esque actor could play the Woody role, like Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, or Bill Murray, and a well-known, passionate actor could play the McConaughey role, like say Daniel Day Lewis or Michael Shannon. Although, I wouldn't mind seeing Michael Douglas and Matt Damon reprise their exact roles from Behind the Candelabra for #TrueDetectiveSeason2

CS: Isn't Boardwalk Empire ending? Which means Michael Shannon is definitely in play, Buscemi too. HBO has a tendency to recycle their guys. Which is why the police major actor played the exact role he played in Entourage. And if I get an Adrian Grenier #TrueDetectiveSeason2 I’m gonna be pissed.

SE: So who do you think the Yellow King is?

Jason Alexander has Woody's rug man's number.
CS: I’m sticking with Jackie Chan.

SE: My guess of the tent revival reverend fell flat. This show definitely has this eerie tone, like they are going to catch the killers with Woody's daughter like you called it. It is probably going to get extremely intense. It reminds of this movie I took a gamble on Netflix watching called The Kill List. Starts slow and boring with family stuff, explodes into crazy cult shit in the woods, and then ends with a gut punch, making me sick to my stomach.

CS: I've exhausted everything I had.

SE: Say something funny.

CS: I’m disappointed we didn't touch on Segways or anal sex.

SE: Well it looks like we just did.


Follow Craig @anaveragegatsby and Stan @StanEarnest
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