Monthly Archives: July 2006

big block of cheese, pt. 5

In no episode of The West Wing does Mr. Sorkin grapple with God more solemnly, and with more sincere valor, than in “Take This Sabbath Day,” a first-season episode chronicling a long weekend in which the President must decide whether to stay the execution of a convicted drug kingpin and murderer. As usual, the research staff on the show throws up some interesting tidbit of governmental trivia — it turns out we don’t execute people over the weekend out of respect for the Jewish and Christian sabbaths. Mr. Sorkin uses this interesting, perhaps startling fact as a springboard for an exploration of the death penalty and its relationship to religious law; as usual, he is willing to attack issues most fictional shows would never even attempt to comment on, and in sophistication of analysis, he’s clearly in a class by himself. But that only makes the episode all the more frustrating; while his vision of the competing moral claims is extremely sharp, his ability to resolve them into a set of substantive arguments is virtually nonexistent.

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i was told it was a comedy, not a pantomime

This all sounds rather coy, and therefore entirely in keeping with the assessment of lead actor Steve Coogan (Steve Coogan) that the novel “was post-modern before there was any modern to be post of.” But in fact, Steve Coogan is a bit of a pompous and insecure twit who can’t admit that he hasn’t read the book, and we understand that his description, while it makes a great pull quote, is superficial and probably culled from other people’s discussions, overheard in passing and poorly understood. Far truer to the spirit of the film is the commentary by Tristram Shandy scholar Patrick (Stephen Fry, who as Pastor Yorick also gets the titular line): “Tristram himself is trying to tell his life story, but it escapes him, because life is too full, too rich, to be captured by art.”

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mediocre has many names

Here is an unfortunate argument for the Hollywood style of filmmaking: that even when it is lame and conventional, a standard Hollywood television product will often still yield at least minimal pleasures, because Hollywood production is geared toward pleasure, and that desire to please almost never fails completely. But when an independent and highly stylized film like The Girl From Monday is full of everything we’ve seen before, and all done badly, the result can be a total disaster, leaving the viewer with absolutely nothing to grab onto.
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the rehabilitation of ted logan

Keanu Reeves always gets nailed. There’s no denying he’s had his fair share of laughable roles, and there’s no denying the man has taken a long time to learn his craft. He can’t manage Brad Pitt’s intensity, Edward Norton’s chameleon slickness, Matt Dillon’s wry, self-aware charm, Rob Lowe’s comic timing, or even Adam Baldwin’s sociopathic good humor. He first got famous playing a dope and reached the apex of his popularity playing a ridiculous comic-book messiah whose philosophy could basically be summed up as: “Whoa….”

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