Posts Tagged ‘Television’

The Internet, Porn, and Chat Roulette

March 16, 2010

Technology is RAPIDLY changing our everyday lives, and it is no more prevalent than in the realm of entertainment.  As technology becomes more and more advanced, one would think that the need for liver interaction and community would be completely eradicated in exchange for the glossied, hyper-air-brushed, pristine world that film, video, and new media can give us through editing and cinematography.  I’m not even adverse to this direction, but the simple fact is that it is not completely accurate.  I was on Current.com the other day when I watched their episode of Vanguard (an EXCELLENT documentary program, btw) which was on Porn 2.0.  The intent was purely research, OF COURSE…*ahem*…Anyways, the creator of Kink.com (I know, it’s hard to keep a straight face for ME, I can’t imagine how you guys reading this are doing it) which is one of the leading pornographic hubs which has embraced the digital age, said that piracy and the rampant availability of content on the internet was DESTROYING their profits, so they knew that they had to turn to different strategies of entertainment to retain customers and continue to be viable enough to draw out a buck from the everyday consumer.  Ironically, the format that Kink has decided to go with is that of developing their live community.  Kink has invested in developing a sense of communion amongst viewers that can only be established by presenting live, original, exclusive content to their paying customers, which additionally provides an outlet for group interaction.

As creepy and far-fetched as the above trist may have seemed, it has been festering in my mind the last few days and became even MORE apparent when I found this video online of someone messing with others on Chat Roulette.  For those who don’t know, Chatroulette.com is a site where you interact with other webcammers on a totally random basis.  You have no idea who you will get and you can skip to the next person at any given time.  Kind of like speed dating only with even LESS commitment.  The overwhelming complaint of Chatroulette is that it is almost entirely comprised of lonely guys looking to show off their packages.  This, however, opens the doors wide open to an entirely different, improvisational use for the site and further makes me wonder if live performance is, in fact, not dead, but simply being reformatted to fit the newest parameters of our digital society.  Check out the video below and give Pianochatimprov some HUGE support on the Youtubes.  He deserves it!

Advertisements

Best Films of 2009

February 9, 2010

I realize how late this is, and I apologize.  But with the Academy Award noms in full swing I am finally being forced to lay decree to the year of 2009.  To tell the truth, it has taken me AT LEAST this long to catch up on most of the material in 2009 (and I’m still quite behind).  While I was initially going to give in to the popular kids and stack-rank, I decided that this year had too many excellent selections from extremely broad-ranging categories.  So, I decided to list the best picks that fit together and then list my number 1 and 2 favorite movies of 2009.  Yay for experimenting with narrative!  This list is of my absolute favorite flicks of the last year, complete with basic defenses of each selection. In the year that ended up being dominated by a record-breaking work of spectacle over ten years in the making, I seek to highlight some of the very positive advances in story that may have been overshadowed, both at the box office and overall.  So, without further ado…

_In the Realm of Innovative Story and Character:

Adventureland, (500) Days of Summer, Up in the Air,

Adventureland holds a special place in my heart.  While Mottola’s story is nothing revolutionary by any means, the overall style of the narrative itself along with the sincerity and charm that he managed to bring to the  characters all combined to create an encapsulating story about love and post-grad fears.  The acting is quite spot-on with Kristen Stewart, Jesse Eisenberg, Ryan Reynolds, and Martin Starr playing post-teen angst and confusion with actual commitment and conviction.  Adventureland really plays like what a John Hughe’s movie would exist as in the decade of “returning to naturalism.”  While Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, and Matt Bush play more slap-stick roles in an effort to keep the movie buoyed between overwhelming depression and light comedy, the characters are overall so well-written and played so close to life by the actors that sympathy can be garnered for any, one character at any given time.  Despite infidelity, lying, false bravado, and apathetic sexual encounters, every character is so completely engrossing and thoughtful that the audience identifies with them and keeps from objectifying them.  An early win in the year for character and story, Adventureland did poorly at the box office and failed to garner an abundance of critical praise.  While skimmed over for its simplistic plot whimsical style, the piece is a great character study in the lives of young, idealistic people at a cross-roads in their lives.

Marc Webb’s first feature, (500) Days of Summer, is an awesome example of how narrative can be the crux of the story.  And while that may seem like an obvious statement, the point I’m trying to make is that Summer’s story is best told through the seemingly random sequence of narrative segments that we view to discover the rise and fall of the story’s main relationship.  I don’t want to give anything away, but everything about Summer is perfect.  The characters are completely attainable and relatable while still keeping enough of an essence of individuality to keep you guessing as to how the story will pan out.  Summer also takes full advantage of surrealist storytelling to make a common romantic rendezvous into something that both genders thoroughly enjoy.  Elements of the surreal keep most detractors of the genre ensconsed while the heart of the affair provides more than enough drama and romance for the die-hard followers of the style.  Summer may be, in effect, the first truly unisex romantic comedy.

Initially, when I was stack-ranking this list, I had included Up in the Air as the number 3 film of 2009.  Reitman constantly impressed me with a gorgeous story and an intriguing message that added the perfect piece of punctuation to the end. Clooney’s performance was dazzling, as well, as he carried the story on his back and managed to upend the “anti-hero” archetype by story’s end. As it is, Reitman ends up displacing all archetypes in Up in the Air, opting instead for turbulent characters that accomplish more in 109 minutes than most characters do in entire television seasons.  Expertly written and expertly directed, Up in the Air helped me wash the taste of Avatar out of my mouth as they were released around the same time.

_In the Realm of Imaginative Storytelling and Experimenting with Narrative:

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Where the Wild Things Are, and Moon,

Let me preface this entry by stating two things, outright.  Number one, I have a GREAT affinity for Terry Gilliam’s style and vision.  And number two, like every Gilliam picture, The Imaginarium has some MAJOR flaws.  That being said, the story is FABULOUS.  Gilliam has managed to weave another fantastical fairy tale together involving some of the greatest actors of our generation.  Despite a huge crisis in the way of Gilliam’s lead, Heath Ledger, passing away in the midst of filming, Gilliam had to forge ahead and finish his work with some revisions to the script and the entire story, as a whole.  The characters are magical, the story is quite fun and imaginative, and, overall, Gilliam manages to remind us what CGI should be regulated to for the time being: Images and moments that we all understand to be completely surreal, anti-realistic, nightmarish, or absurd in nature.  Not to recreate life.  While the future will eventually bring about this technology, we just don’t have it yet.  AND THAT GOES FOR YOU, TOO, CAMERON!  Er…*ahem*…Sorry, allow me to get down from my soapbox…Anyway, this breed of absurdist fantasy combined with a stellar cast of actors and a director who can pull it off, really hit the mark that 2009 was otherwise devoid of.  While the third act does COMPLETELY fall apart and actually ends up being quite dreadful, the rest of the movie made me smile so wide it actually made up for it.  Oh, and did I mention that Tom Waits is in it?

There’s nothing that I can say in praising Where the Wild Things Are that hasn’t already been said.  Jonze characterizes childhood as expertly as possible with what is, in my humble opinion, the most fitting narrative form, absurdism.  Jonze’s use of language and plot structure don’t matter nearly as much in Wild Things as the raw emotional tone of the film matters.  I have often read that the film’s emotional core drives the narrative and acts as the crux of the film, rather than any concrete plot structure or story arc.  And I couldn’t agree more.  Along those lines, I would love to see a subset of cinema better explore this exercise, as it seemed to truly work for almost all audiences and I would love to see this largely unutilized technique become a more prevalant aspect of the industry.  Just think everyone!  Wouldn’t it be great if all films endeavored for an overarching catharsis!?!

Moon was another film that was largely overlooked last year but that deserved much more attention.  Again, there is much in this movie that I DO NOT want to give away, so I will merely say that the flick’s driving force is its adherence to the importance of its tone, above all else.  Like Wild Things, Moon’s emphasis is on the tone that it establishes with its audience early on and its experimenting with its tonal shift.  While Moon’s plot is quite exciting and original, it still is not as unique as the movies overall feel and it’s emotional bearings that it constantly shifts, forcing its audience to re-assess and re-evaluate what has occurred.

_In the Realm of “Just Plain Fun” Films That Kept Me Captivated While Adhering to an Excellent Structure

Zombieland, Star Trek, District 9, Taken, and Sherlock Holmes

An uncharacteristic amount of films came out in 2009 that didn’t exactly leave me awe-struck from a technical standpoint.  Nor did they inflect any sort of reverential admiration in the way they were written or produced.  While these films weren’t exactly revolutionary in any premiere way, however, they did still manage to evoke a visceral infatuation from me that the rest of 2009 failed to:  In other words, these films were a TON of fun.  Zombieland was a simply awesome romp following Woody Harrellson at the top of his game acting like a bad-ass tutor to the likes of Jesse Eisenberg as Eisenberg experiences his coming-of-age during a zombie apocalypse.  While fairly color-by-numbers the very criticism that detractors can take against Zombieland is the main reason I adored it.  Though you know every move that’s going to be made before they make it, the characters are so enduring that you desperately WANT to see these characters make those said choices.  Nothing shocking appears in this story and that’s exactly the way I wanted it. 

Taken was much the same way.  While extremely over-the-top and ridiculous at points, Taken fully understands the realm its playing in and unapologetically pushes it forward.  Liam Neeson spends the entirety of the movie kicking ass and taking names and the movie brilliantly succeeds because of it. 

Sherlock Holmes was fairly campy (adding martial arts to nineteenth century England usually incurs the wrath of the word “campy”)  but it truly was fun to see Downey battle it out with English degenerates while matching wits and solving capers.  Honestly never thought I’d say that.

District 9 actually WAS revolutionary, but only in the way it accomplished everything it set out to, and more, with a meager budget.  While still a simple sci-fi statement on imperialism, District 9 produced results MUCH MORE efficiently and creatively than James Cameron came close to…

And, of course, Star Trek.  Everyone’s favorite and the film that is receiving the most sympathy for being snubbed at the Oscar nominations.  An incredible reboot of the franchise with a fantastic Chris Pine helming the endeavor, Star Trek was EVERYTHING I wanted out of the film, a simple-yet-exhilirating and fun ride.

_Most Underrated Movie of 2009

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs along with Where the Wild Things Are proved that all you need are a handful of sentences and some childlike imagination to take an audiance on a wonderful adventure through storytelling.  The film was EXTREMELY loosely based on the children’s book in that food did, in fact, fall from the sky in both productions.  Going into Meatballs I was extremely skeptical, as I have qualms about rendering stories from pre-existing materials, especially when those materials are darling of children’s literature.  Meatballs quickly shut me up, however, with its lovely array of characters that proved to be both charming AND complex.  Each character had its own arc and structure and it truly reflected the care that the writers put into the film.  Meatballs easily made its money back, but did so gradually, and without much more than a peep from critics.  It deserves to sit as a distant second, but still tangential addition to the likes of Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are as proof that adaptations can take both successfully take artistic liscense, as well as actually produce entertaining cinema.

2. Up


Pixar rarely fails to awe, and Up is no exception. In addition to the small task of producing one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, Pixar managed to market this endeavor without giving away ANY crucial plot turns, WHATSOEVER.  Short of the “elderly citizen reluctantly takes kid on adventure in flying house” clips that we were shown, nothing that is central to the plot can be surmised from the entire advertising campaign. And the end result was a movie choc-ful of surprises.  Within the first 20 minutes of the movie I was welling up with tears, and by the end credits, my eyes were bleary again.  Ed Asner delivers a wonderful starring performance and proves that a narrative revolving around a senior citizen, a boy scout, and a flying house can captivate audiences better than any blockbuster revolving around giant, killer robots.

1. Away We Go


Completely underrated and unbelievably snubbed by the academy, critics, and end-of-the-year-list-makers alike, Sam Mendes’ latest directorial treat was absolutely wonderful in every cinematic aspect.  John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph both brighten up the screen in their melancholy world.  Conquering the mid-mid-life crisis, Kransinski and Rudolph’s characters both carry Mendes’ film as it explores our position in this life and how we, as people, come to find our meaning.  There is so much truth in this movie that it made me complete reassess Rudolph and Kransinski as actors.  After only seeing them in comedies on TV, it was so refreshing to come away from a film with MORE respect for actors,rather than less.  And while the acting is what fully sold me, the story, pacing, and overall style of the film are impeccable, as well.

Now, before anyone starts screaming about how many wunderbar flicks I left out, remember, these are my PERSONAL tastes.  It’s is SO hard to delineate what makes one film better than another.  I loved Zombieland, of course, but I feel Mottola hit more cinematic buttons with Adventureland, and besides, they are two COMPLETELY different films.  To be fair, however, I’m going to keep a tab of films that, as of January 13th 2010, I have not seen and therefore could not qualify in my list, however, I do recognize that they were regarded as “good.”

ANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNND the embarassingly long laundry list of flicks that I have yet to see:

Movies I Have Not Seen So I Cannot NOT List Them:
_The Princess and the Frog
_Invictus
_A Single Man
_A Serious Man
_Brothers
_The Bunny and the Bull
_The Road
_Fantastic Mr. Fox
_The Box
_The Men Who Stare at Goats
_Precious
_A Christmas Carol
_An Education
_The Hurt Locker
_Big Fan
_The Reader

Conan O’Brien Beats NBC With a Weapon They Know Nothing Of: Tact.

January 12, 2010

My, has it been an exciting week in Hollywoodland!  First my dreams come true with the usurping of Raimi’s Spider-man franchise, and now Conan is finally telling NBC to shove it!  Hurray for bold moves!

What has developed over at NBC is the result of piss-poor decision-making and NBC’s acquiescense to Jay Leno, the antiquated comedian who ousted Letterman for the very position in question oh so many years ago.  The Peacock Network had moved Leno up to an unprecedented 10 o’clock time slot from his 11:30 time slot on The Tonight Show in an attempt to replace more expensive, scripted programming with Leno’s much cheaper, theoretcially more popular, late-night show.  The move was absolutely disastrous for NBC’s late-night ratings, and eventually proved to be poisonous to all surrounding programs, even local news sets!  As the show directly following Leno, The Tonight Show (now manned by a promoted Conan O’Brien) began to lose steam in the ratings race, as well.  Things became so bad for NBC that local broadcasting affiliates threatened to drop the network if it did not resolve the late-night fiasco and attempt to salvage their numbers. 

No answer is easily found in this equation.  At least not to the exectutives.  For me, it’s quite simple.  Fire Leno, forever, and leave Conan right where he is.  Replace that God awful attempt of a show that Leno perpetrated with the scripted television that he replaced.  Le sigh.  But this isn’t my world, pretties.  No, this is Earth.  The same place where Paris Hilton is still allowed to exist.  Anyway, the problem is that Leno is financially more bankable than Conan in the numbers game.  Well, he was, at least, when all these prior moves went down.  The other problem is that Conan and Leno both have AMAZING agents and managers who have managed to give NBC a huge headache over this whole debacle.  Conan is contracted to host The Tonight Show, and cannot be removed from that franchise, which means that they can’t merely push Conan back and call Leno’s new failure “The Tonight Show.”  That is Conan’s and Conan’s only.  The loophole is that they CAN simply move the age-old Tonight Show wherever they want it.  Which is precisely what NBC would like to do.  Word broke on Sunday that The Jay Leno Show would be moving to an 11:35 time slot and would promptly push O’Brien’s Tonight Show to 12:05.  This seemed to solve all their problems at once, as it made good on Conan’s contract and it put Leno (who is contracted millions of dollars whether he works or not, so dropping him is simply out of the question) back where he is most poised to make money.  This seemed to solve all of their problems…until Conan did what I absolutely love him for.  He unwaveringly stood his ground.  O’Brien issued a statement on January 12th stating that he would not move the program to the new time slot as it would “damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting.”  O’Brien also sighted that the move would be unfair to his replacement on Late Night, Jimmy Fallon.  With an incredible amount of poise and tact, Conan went on to describe how he had been preparing for years for the opportunity to host The Tonight Show and that he refused to see it eventually go down in flames due to NBC’s negligence. 

Whether or not you believe that Conan is really looking towards the future and actually attempting to salvage everyone’s career who is involved, you have to acknowledge that Conan has managed to come out on top of this situation the least-unscathed.  And while it very well may be that this is all one big ego trip about time slots and who’s playing second fiddle, I honestly don’t think it matters.  Conan’s points about the franchise of The Tonight Show inevitably tanking are all MORE than relevant, and his comment regarding being unfair to Fallon is a double-edged sword which reminds the public just how unfair NBC is being to Conan, himself!  O’Brien was promised the chance to carry on The Tonight Show’s legacy and that chance is being further and further diminished by NBC’s thoughtless business practices. 

Which brings me to my favorite part.  As Conan himself states in his letter, you needn’t be sorry for him. While he doesn’t specifically address this notion, the fact of the matter is that he is far too lucrative a talent to be thrown to the wolves.  If NBC refuses to make good on what they promised him, Conan will EASILY be able to find other, better opportunities elsewhere.  Personally, I think that O’Brien is a gargantuan talent that has not been able to fully grow yet, as a comedian and an artist.  I wish that he would enlist with a low-budget cable network (*ahem* Comedy Central *ahem*) where he would have full creative control and be restricted by absolutely nothing but his own mind.  Regardless of where he ends up, however, there is one thing that I would certainly put my money on: Conan O’Brien WILL have the last laugh.  And that puts an even bigger smile on my face than the one I had yesterday when I heard that Mopey Maguire would no longer be Spider-Man.  At this rate, I can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow!  Maybe Michael Bay will end up in prison for 35 to life!

P.S.  This is the Yahoo article which contains Conan’s public letter.  A great read!

The Return of Relevant Television

May 4, 2009

nbc_newyork

It’s been a LONG, long time but for the first time in who knows how long, I am actually excited for a network series!  NBC has greenlit Community, a comedy about a lawyer who gets his liscense revoked and has to return to community college.  What’s exciting is not the said premise, but the attached cast of characters.  Joel McHale (host of The Soup!) will play the down-on-his-luck lawyer who begins a Spanish study session in order to woo an attractive fellow student, played by Gillian Jacobs.  In response to the study session, McHale and Jacobs are joined by comedy legend Chevy Chase, Derrick Comedy member, Donald Glover, Asperger Syndrome-sufferer Daniel Pudi (who has appeared in almost every advertisement I’ve seen in the last 8 months), and Yvette Nicole Brown (from Tropic Thunder).  John Oliver, from The Daily Show, rounds out this supercast as McHale’s Colleague and friend.

I’m a HUGE Joel McHale fan, I grew up on Chevy Chase, I think Derrick Comedy is one of the best up-and-coming troupes out there, and I love John Oliver’s style and wit.  I have monstrous expectations for this, despite the fact that (judging by the trailer) I’m sure it will inevitably attempt to slide more towards the overdone, sappy dramatic rather than the comedic, but at this point in TV’s history, I’ll take whatever nuggets of gold I can find.

Oh, and did I mention that it’s being directed by Joe and Anthony Russo of Arrested Development fame?  I know!  OMG!!!

Here’s the trailer.

[clearspring_widget title=”Community – Featurette” wid=”4727a250e66f9723″ pid=”49ff5a6e43f435ac” width=”384″ height=”283″ domain=”widgets.nbc.com”]

Video Recaps | Full Episodes | Webisodes

I Told Myself I Wasn’t Going to Do This

April 24, 2009

jayconan

I wasn’t going to weigh in at all about the Jay Leno sick-scare, because, frankly, I’m not a fan…I’m a Conan-buff.  I figured that Leno either had a mild prescription drug scare or something equally ludicrous like a severe inner ear ache.  However, while perusing the intrawebs today I found an interesting little tidbit over on Chucklemonkey.com about the late night juggernaut.  Jay has not missed a single taping of The Tonight Show since taking over from Carson in ’92.  Couple that with the fact that Jay performs weekly at the Hermosa Comedy and Magic Club, and it would appear that the man really does deserve the title of hardest working comedian.  As much as I truly don’t find him that funny, I have to say, I respect the work ethic.  Taking a page out of Chelsea Handler’s book, Jay, you have my blessing.