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What Writing Should Be
In the first few minutes of the pilot, you can tell that this is the crew that brought you the west wing. The bustling crowds and flowing crane shots will be familiar and comforting for fans of the previous show. The mock studio that Studio 60 is shot on is both a visually interesting backdrop and a way of clueing you in that you are watching a show within a show, a drama about a sketch comedy show ala Saturday Night Live.
Then during a heated exchange between the show's current producer Wes Mendell (Judd Hirsch) and a Standards & Practices guy, you are reminded why the first few seasons of West Wing were so good: Rapid fire dialogue that is both witty but not so overly technical that the layman gets lost. Wes Mendell, having been humiliated by Standards and Practices, hijacks the "live" show to deliver a Chayefskyian screed that accuses the network of lobotomizing television because they are afraid of nutty religious cults. This speech is also an example of excellent television writing.
The cast is phenomenal. Totally an ensemble group, Schlamme and Sorkin are playing with a deep bench! Bradley Whitford, Matthew Perry, and Amanda Peat seem to be the triumvirate that will 'run' the sketch comedy show. These three 'leads' exhibit a wonderful chemistry. Perry manages to be snarky and sweet without rehashing a previous "well-established" character. Whitford is the quiet , strong guy whose rough past and self-destructive tendencies simmer beneath the surface. Peat plays a mogul who feels that commercial success and artistic integrity are not mutually exclusive and has the talent to walk the fine line between them.
Fans of the West Wing should really pay attention to this show. Writing like this should be rewarded, and I sincerely hope that Studio 60 has a long and healthy career.
An enjoyable film and a wonderful directorial debut!
This movie is credited as being Noir to its very core. However as you watch the movie you will realize that its protagonist isn't wearing a trench-coat or a fedora and that the visual style is way more Sergio Leone than Dashiell Hammett. Unlike Sin City and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang who gleefully cop Noir's trademark look, Brick focuses on Noir's soul. The actors keep what could easily be considered a trite concept 'Bogart goes to Highschool' from falling flat with their dead-on portrayals of Noir Cinema's archetypes: The Femme Fatale, The Vamp, The Kingpin, The Thug, and finally a masterful performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the outcast Shamus. I can understand where people will have problems with this film. It can be slow in parts and the character's distinct vernacular demand that you pay attention in order to keep up. Its plot (aside from a few foreshadowed twists) is fairly complex compared to most popcorn fare. Also at some points the film seems undecided as to whether its going to play its premise for laughs. All in all, this film is an incredible debut for Rian Johnson and makes me want to see what he will do with an actual budget.