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Scott & Bailey (2011)
Just binge-watched this show on Netflix, and loved how well it dealt with relationships on and off the job - certainly the Bailey character stretches the limits of credibility, but for some reason, it works, and by the end of Series 3, you find yourself rooting for her, hoping that she works out the dysfunctional kinks in her personality.
I agree with other reviewers that the show is not kind to men - and it exaggerates the influence of women, in my opinion. Both female leads(boss Gill is a real scene-stealer, she ended up being my favourite)are decidedly not in the same realm as those who come from Hollywood's casting couch. Having been conditioned by the stiletto- heeled sex kittens featured in most US-based shows, I found myself having trouble seeing the Scott character as the alluring person the role was intended for, with men stalking her and wanting to be with her at any cost. Really?
So, yeah - smart, supposedly-irresistible women coppers, unimpressive, over-reactive and not-so-smart male colleagues... perhaps the show is a bit guilty of exaggerated stereotyping, but at least the pendulum swings us into exploring women as problem-solvers, and good ones at that.
Art For Heart's Sake
I don't pretend to know the inner realm of performance art; each creative genre has its own secret system of valuation. What struck me most about Marina as an artist in general, though, is her ability to rise above everything and dedicate herself to the truth as she sees it.
It is incredibly difficult to sit and look directly into someone's eyes, whether a stranger or your most intimate partner. Most of us go days without doing this; try it yourself and see (pun intended). There was no doubt a significant exchange of oxytocin (a feel-good hormone) between her and the hundreds of thousands of people who sat across from her and partook in the social experiment (in fact, it seemed to me to be more of a social experiment than performance art, but again, that's just labels). I don't think anyone would argue that there was a lot of mental energy being exchanged, and as we learn more about the brain through ongoing studies, I'm sure we'll realize that this artist is tapping into a futuristic version of ourselves communicating by energy and emotions only.
It also seemed very "zen" to me, and I noticed that at least one of her visitors was a Buddhist. In essence, she was performing a form of sitting meditation, and the three-day retreat that she insisted on for her fellow performance artists was very close to the spiritual practises of eastern philosophy.
I found the documentary very moving, startlingly refreshing, and a wonderful profile of a courageous, dedicated artist who is a true soul- seeker. The only critical comment I have is that I thought the other artists - the ones who valiantly took on her past tasks and who spent an equal number of hours being "tortured" into stillness - did not get much acclaim at the conclusion of the documentary. Bravo to all of them!
In conclusion, a documentary well worth watching, a woman worthy of our admiration, and an art perhaps emergent in its influences over society.
Great acting, credible content
This show pulled me in with great acting and the credibility of the relationship which develops and deepens between the two main characters. I'm tough on shows, and feel that most of them don't deserve more than two seasons (a series should not just "go on forever", although that's what happens with too many of them - they get milked for more advertising revenue, the stars want more money, and the story line is stretched thin or extended, when really it was just one great story that should have only lasted one or two seasons to begin with). This one, I think, deserves a third season, if only to follow the ongoing challenges of Alison Mundy (Lesley Sharp) after the demise of her antagonist.
The show carries two story levels really well - each episode covers a "ghost" story and background, while we continue the flow of Alison's personal life, made difficult by her psychic gift of being able to see and communicate with people who have "passed over" from life to a form of purgatory. As a highly-intellectual sceptic, Robert Bridge (Andrew Lincoln) is a wonderful foil for her drama, and a brilliant way to showcase the eternal battle between science and esoteric mysticism. Lesley Sharp can go from calm and angelic to screaming and hysterical within seconds; her acting is award-worthy in my humble opinion.
I thought she very accurately portrayed someone who has been doubted, bullied, scorned and made fun of her entire life. Would have loved to have found out more about the wedding ring she's shown wearing when she has her tragic train accident! There's never any mention of an engagement or a husband in her life. I highly recommend this show for those of us who want to believe in ghosts, but can't quite wrap our heads around it.
Powerful acting - puzzling plot
What a shame - there is so much potential in this quirky little drama, with enough acting power to achieve masterpiece levels. Perhaps it was an attempt to over-achieve that made it so ultimately flat; from the title, I expected a movie about the spiritual rehabilitation of the prisoner, self-named as "Stone." De Niro's presence quickly took over, though, and made it a story about repression and a dysfunctional marriage (with flashbacks to a terrorist-style abuse that never surfaces again). Then it becomes a movie about two con-artists? And ultimately, the movie is parenthesized by a "sound" scene, of a fly buzzing around just before its death. The religious references are dreary and depressing, the marriage feels as "crepey" as the skin around Frances Conroy's eyes (playing De Niro's wife), and the prison scenes give the impression that working the system is hell on earth. There are no scenes of sincere redemption or revelation - even the treatment of the house fire is mysteriously vague, and overall we're left wondering why everyone took so much abuse and never fought back. Or why there seems to be genuine affection between Stone and Jack (De Niro's character), even after we're led to believe that Stone is as manipulative as his girlfriend. The movie raises more questions than was originally intended. Ed Norton is as impressive as ever, yet one can't help feel that, when he's in a role, there's going to be a twist. Perhaps it didn't translate well from play to movie. Conclusion? Watch it for the superb acting, but don't try to follow the story.
Craigslist Joe (2012)
Put Me Back on Track
We need more of this type of average-Joe content, although this Joe is far from average. As I watched this tender and inspiring documentary, I realized how cowardly we have all become by ingesting so many fear-based stories from the media and Hollywood alike. We don't trust each other anymore, and our default button is set on "be suspicious", which is really too bad.
Joseph Garner is a modern hero. He shows admirable tolerance, an ability to suspend judgement, and the compassion of someone whose ego hasn't replaced his heart. I laughed, I cried, I felt so inspired by the end of this movie that I wanted to go out in the street and start hugging people. I have grown too cynical, and Joseph Garner reminded me that cynicism is a dangerous stance, putting our own humanity at risk. We can't turn on each other, or isolate ourselves, without suffering huge repercussions on a global basis.
As we move into the next year, may we all find it in our hearts to be more open to strangers, to reach out with help when we can, and certainly to embrace community whenever and wherever we find it.
Great movie, bad directing?
I just caught this quirky movie on Netflix. Yet another exploration of the ennui that surrounds celebrity status, this is a great little gem that showcases Spacey's talents well. It came very close to being great, but stopped short, I suspect because of bad decisions in direction and editing. Characters were brought in (Robin Williams being one) for side stories which never quite connected to the main plot. Pot addiction is shown as a series of untimely naps, which is not realistic. The audience never gets a glimpse into the main character's despair, or the circumstances surrounding his wife's death. A love interest is developed and then never followed through. Characters walk in and out of the story without strong reasons. The ending is trite, as if they just needed to wrap it up. Too many loose ends, and a waste of some good talent. Nonetheless, because of Spacey (and a nod to the well-developed friendship with his drug dealer, that was fun to watch) I hung in there happily right to the end.
Downton Abbey (2010)
Well done period piece
This is beautifully filmed, with authenticity and societal values inherent in both script and acting. The story weaves in and out of two layers of society -- the masters and the servants -- giving us glimpses into the power struggles occurring on each level, and the colourful characters who inhabit both. I particularly enjoy seeing the large-scale production involved in taking care of a household of this magnitude, and the care taken with all the details. Given today's rapid pace, it's almost peaceful to watch this deliberately slowed pace, and to get a genuine sense of what it was like to be an estate-owner in this period. Housemaids who gossip, independent young men who don't appreciate the butler's code of honour, catty women and genteel sophisticates all combine to make this a very enjoyable romp among the rich of yesteryear!