Monday, January 27, 2014

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

In this fifth installment (by the way they aired in the U.K.) of Downton Abbey's fourth season, Alfred tests at the Ritz, Baxter endears herself to the household, Bates finds out the truth about what happened to Anna, and Lady Edith surreptitiously visited the doctor.

Old Man Duggan: Judging by the fully healed bruise, we must be a few weeks post-rape. Obviously, this is where the heart of the episode lies, but let's save that for the end.

Alfred heads off to the Ritz, emboldened by his success with the Bouchées de Fromage. Reported success on the savory delights notwithstanding, it seems uncharacteristic of Fellowes to hurry a servant off the show. Nothing good can come to them without a few more hours of Downton Abbey programming, and his letter of rejection would indicate things have not changed. I hope he had fun in London, all things considered, but I sort of doubt it. I did like when Ivy told Jimmy to stop being a dick to Alfred.

Wordy Ginters: Me too. Alfred is a simple earnest SOB, hard not to like the big dumb lug. Jimmy, on the other hand, is too cute by half. I'm hoping Alfred gets pushed to the point of mussing him up a little bit, if only for the joy that it would obviously bring Carson. Sweet, silly, naive, Carson. [Insert the Dowager's odd, three beats too long little exasperated laugh while she was in the garden here] Pumping Alfred with bromides like hard work is the key to success. Carson, of all people, should realize this empty rhetoric for what it is, considering the "hard work" he sees from the wealthy knobs who boss him around upstairs.

OMD: I have no idea what to make of Baxter. She is indebted to Thomas for getting her the job, but it seems like there's a bit of trepidation to jump in with him altogether. I know Patmore must be scared shitless of her. She can use an electric sewing machine. She must be possessed of the devil in Patmore's eyes, even after mending her apron. Mending her apron? Definitely a sex thing. I'm very curious to see why Baxter is as grateful as she claims to be. Must be something a bit off in her background.

WG: Good on Fellowes for painting Baxter as an ambiguous, but leading proponent of cutting-edge household technology. I assume since Thomas appears to wield some leverage on her, things will ultimately get nefarious and shitty. Patmore's fear of household goods is to Fellowes as the bunt is to Ned Yost. A sacred thing intrinsic to their respective milieus. Neither could exist without the other. Nor should they.

OMD: When is Isobel going to let Doc muss up her hair already?

WG: It's coming. An accidental touch that lingers too long, perhaps while applying a bandage. A shared and knowing glance. I've been seeing too many Cialis commercials. One minute they'll be having a humorless discussion about saving some unfortunate sod, the next they'll be all tangled up in a sweaty pile of limbs and mustache. Then she'll have the baby. Then the awkwardness of Isobel having a son and a grandson of the same age.

OMD: Lady Edith heads off to the doctor. No word from Gregson. This can't be good. It seems like it must be about time for Fellowes to head down the abortion path for the socio-historical angle that it can bring into the show.

WG: Right? Has to be.

OMD: Molesley. What a dipshit. This is pretty much the opposite of everything coming up Milhouse.

WG: Molesley should appear in scenes, wordless, holding a big card that says "comic relief". Like Dylan in the "Subterranean Homesick Blues" video.

OMD: Is it at all disturbing that Mrs. Patmore seems to think that a refrigerator might in fact be able to replicate food? What a loon.

WG: The corset cuts off oxygen to her head, resulting in fantastical visions.

OMD: Pegg, Pegg, Pegg. If you nicked that paper knife, Maley will have your head on a pike and on display outside the Dower House. The King of Sweden doesn't hand out paper knives all willy-nilly. One look at Maley, and you can be certain that he's taken more than one life in his day, likely with his bare hands.

WG: Maley was a particularly hard-looking gardener. They take that shit seriously in England.

OMD: Bronson was a gardener, wasn't he?

Evelyn Napier is back. I guess we are going to head down a path with nothing but suitors being thrown at the widow Lady Mary. One every four or five episodes until she chooses a Matthew 2.0. At least Evelyn Napier is a pleasant chap.

WG: I didn't remember the guy. Lady Mary seemed a little more fired up about this dude than the last one.

OMD: Evelyn brought that beautiful Turk to Downton and indirectly introduced Mary to the wonderful world of sodomy.

Tom Branson, Future American. I'm guessing that we're at that point where the actor is no longer under contract and is prepared to move on. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems like perhaps we should be preparing to bid our favorite "uppity chauffeur" adieu.

WG: I'd dig it if the show established a beachhead in the U.S. Wasn't Lady Grantham's mother in Florida? You are probably right, though; seems like a convenient way to write a character into oblivion.

OMD: Bates lurks behind the corner, overhears there's something amiss in true Downton fashion, and sets off to play the part of John Bates, P.I. Strong-arming Hughes into divulging the gory details of Anna's horrible assault was cagey. Dark Bates is back, and he's going to off a motherfucker. It's hard to put yourself in his situation and not want to do the same thing. I, for one, hope he does it and gets away with it.

WG: As brutal as that storyline is, Fellowes appears to have handled it with some measure of decency. Bates going Death Wish has a visceral appeal to it.

OMD: I will say I got teary-eyed when he consoled Anna. Anna is definitely his soft spot. I hope he confides in Robert, who can maybe find a nobler way to dispose of the odious Mr. Green.

WG: 'Twas some powerful shit. So awful that it's hard to contemplate. Bates is a proud and noble kind of guy. It will be interesting to see if he can find justice without ending up back in jail.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

True Detective: Season One, Episode Three "The Locked Room"

"The Locked Room" brings the supreme acting clinic that is Woody and Mac into overdrive. A stick man is finagled out of a beer can. Woody actually fucks his wife. And the two finally catch a lead that might lead to the killer.

You should see my sculpture of Rod Beck.
Stan Earnest: Yes! We get a Shea Whigham sighting! The guy deserves more praise than he got for Boardwalk Empire. I'm diggin' the Elvis preacher man.

The interplay between Woody and Mac is beautiful. They both are great detectives in different ways. They both hate each other. They both intensely respect each other. It all seems natural, too, like these guys are two real detectives.

Craig Scholes: And they are both absolutely crazy in different ways.

SE: I love how Woody is a guy hell-bent on ignoring life's existential questions, and Mac is bent on exposing everything. It sure is funny watching these two make each other squirm.

So now it's not "Get off my lawn!" It's "I LIKE TO MOW MY LAWN!"

CS: What a horseshit lie. No one likes mowing.

SE: No way, dude. Mowing is legalized drunk driving if you have a rider.

CS: That yard wasn't big enough for a rider. Funny story though: I heard a guy describe yard size as a count of beer consumption. He had moved into a new place and said that with his rider it was a three-beer yard.

SE: I had a place once with a six-beer yard. And there is nothing like donning a sombrero, putting some live Grateful Dead in my ear, sauntering along with a nice sixer, and welcoming skin cancer. Ok, I lied about the sombrero.

CS: Finally got a Creole accent with the dude in the boat.  He was the first dude to have any sort of Creole accent.  For this taking place in Louisiana, there have been very few backwater Louisiana types.

SE: I thought that was Johnny Gomes' dumb ass. 

CS: They could get Michael Rappaport to double down on his shitty Southern accent he is using in Justified.

SE: So Woody's way of describing how fucked up he has become is to refer to himself as Wile E. Coyote running off a cliff? Now that is fucked up.

CS: So it’s the law when there is an emergency vehicle with its lights on that you must pull over, but you never see a car pull to the side in a chase scene.

SE: I think I saw one old dusty Buick pull over. 

Synesthesia! Warning! Warning! *Psychology nerd alert.* That is a real thing, and a famous scientist Ramachandran posits that it is the basis of artistic creativity.

CS: I can taste emotions.

SE:  Woody's sidepiece can taste bologna.

CS: You and your obsession with Woody’s bologna. 

SE: I've seen some shitty slow country music playing shitholes where the old fogies get down on a Saturday night, but that bar has to be the saddest sad bastard bar I've ever seen. If that band was playing any slower, they might as well have been downloading a song using NetZero dial-up.

CS: That very well could have been Twisters here in Pittsburg.

SE: Just finished the ep, so the killer is Walter White?

CS: Clearly. 

SE: What's this "in two weeks" bullshit? The Super Bowl is a bigger monster than the killer. Looks like a total shit-hits-the-fan episode though.

CS: I don't disagree.  I am only going to watch the game because I feel obligated to attend a social function.

SE: I've been invited to probably an amazing party where there will be nothing but Broncos fans there. Great people, but I might have to wear a Richard Sherman jersey just for spite.

CS: Tebow jersey.

SE: The Tebow Patriots shirsey would throw them all out of whack. They hate the Patriots, but love Tebow. It would be a nice touch.

We have to skip a week of True Detective for this?
CS: Maurice Clarett jersey.

SE: O.J. Simpson Bills throwback!

CS: But that doesn't really have any tie to the Broncos.

SE: Well, just one Bronco, a white Ford.

CS: This has really gone off the rails.

SE: I really don't think half this shit should make it, but I mean not a lot to say about these episodes other than the script is fucking mind-blowing, and the acting is flawless.

CS: So much more happened this episode than the last one though.  At least this episode advanced the plot.

Editing this episode of the podcast is going to be a real fucking asshole. 

SE: You deserve it for the nightmare that this is. 

CS: Says the guy who completely forgot about it.

SE: Mario Galaxy with the kids is fucking addictive.

CS: We haven't even talked about this episode at all.

SE: Preach brother, preach. What do you want to say?

CS: I love how judgmental Woody is of McConaughey (I accidentally spelled that right) while being completely oblivious to how big a piece of shit he has become. I’m not the type of guy that can wax poetic about the technical mastery that McConaughey is doing.

SE: I think we need to give props to Woody just for keeping up with that.

CS: Oh yeah, he isn't doing anything wrong in the show.

Brokeback Mountain II: Psychedelic Mushroom Farmers
SE: I'm just happy to see a show celebrate the dirtiness detectives must be crawling in. I mean, one has to be some kind of evil bastard to catch evil people. It just comes with the territory. Woody is self-absorbed in worrying about his marriage and then the episode flips the script to McConaughey that just explodes the "sin" in every direction. He knows he is bad. What does he care? He thinks he is just a biologically programmed monkey like those he hates, so there is this strange masochism present. I can't remember a character so eye-opening in the last few years.

CS: Yeah, he makes no apologies for being the way he is.

SE: The beer can stick figure was amazing. I can't even shotgun a beer without cutting my hand.

CS: I honestly just thought he was turning that can into an ashtray.  My old roommate was this proper asshole who could be judgmental about anything and everything.  But that asshole wouldn't buy an ashtray; no, he would have these fucking ghetto Coke cans with the top cut off, but we couldn't have a coffee table because it collected clutter.

SE:  I had a roommate that used stacked empty pizza boxes for a coffee table. Fucking roommates.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

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

As always, Wordy Ginters and I take you through this week's installment of Downton Abbey, denoted by its original British airing, which means this is the third episode that aired in the U.S. since PBS randomly decides to air two episodes back-to-back during the season. This week Tony Gillingham rather aggressively courted Lady Mary, Tom Branson deals with the fallout from an ill-advised night with the odious Edna Braithwaite, Anna and Bates struggle in the aftermath of Mr. Green's assault, and Lady Edith lays down with Michael

Old Man Duggan: The pall of a brutal sexual assault and the specter of passed lovers loomed over this episode while out-of-wedlock sex of the voluntary (but possibly ill-advised) variety potentially sets the stage for what is yet to come--at least for those patient souls who are waiting for the episodes to air stateside. Let's start at the top.

Given Thomas's nosy predisposition, I would imagine that it is he who lets Bates know what has happened to his tattered bride. I really have no idea who is going to take care of Mr. Green/Gillingham. Perhaps I spend too much time watching insanely violent fare, but I really cannot fathom a scenario playing out in which Julian Fellowes doesn't have the fucker offed in some way, especially given his master's apparent wariness of the rapey manservant. Fellowes is clearly dead set on raking Bates and Anna over the coals, but I have a hard time believing that he'd go down the tired old route of sending Bates back to the clink. My guess for who eventually offs the fucker (and at this point, I've neither seen nor heard anything about what is to come): Thomas, though I sort of hope it's Hughes with the fucker's blood splashed across her face like Boyd Crowder in what seemed like half of the Season Five premiere of Justified.

WG: Thomas, eh? Bold pick. That sly, oily, and smug schemer would be redeemed somewhat in my eyes. He's like a physical manifestation of every characters self-doubt and insecurity, always prying and whispering and finding people at their most vulnerable. I'll throw down with Molesley, who will then parlay his new found blood-lust for revenge murdering into the role of bounty hunter alongside Jamie Foxx in Django Unchained 2: The White Gloves of Justice.

OMD: They're really dragging this tax jibber-jabber out. With how freely Fellowes advances time, you'd think this aspect of the season's arc would have taken a step forward. Alas, we wait another week for what is to come of Downton Abbey in 1922.

WG: Between the multi-episode estate tax arc, and poor Lord Grantham complaining about health care and "free labor" at dinner, it's abundantly clear that no one suffers like the rich.

Be afraid, Edna. Be very afraid.
OMD: Fucking Braithwaite. One goddamn night of guilt-fucking Branson, and she's sinking her fucking talons into the poor sod. "Suppose I'm pregnant? What will you do then?" What would Montgomery Clift do? Take her out in a rowboat and hit her in the head with a fucking oar before dumping her corpse in the lake. I loved Hughes calling her on her bluff. I hope this is the last we see of Braithwaite, but given the fact that between the end of the last episode and this one there were three characters who had sex they could regret, it'd be uncharacteristic of Fellowes not to punish one of them with an unwanted pregnancy. Let's hope it's not Branson who gets punished, if only to spare us of that pasty, alien-looking she-devil.

WG: Hughes definitely saved Branson from having to play the A Place in the Sun gambit. Of the three characters who had naughty dirty sex, the the whammy has to hit Edith, right? You know Gregson's seed was super potent before he left for Nazi summer camp. Hughes is the shit. I like how the downstairs "lord and lady" are generally more level-headed and decent than their upstairs counterparts.

OMD: I did like the scene where he went to Hughes, and she laid down the law. I liked it almost as much as when Thomas laughed at Braithwaite in the stairwell. I really like it when Fellowes gives us a reason to like Thomas. Maybe it was the soft-spot for Lady Sybil at work or maybe there's only room for one servant who is too big for his/her britches, but I was glad to see him turn on that opportunistic wench.

WG: The exchange of unpleasantries was definitely a nice touch. Any time Fellowes gives some counter-intuitive shades to the characters, he's at his best.

OMD: I liked the two scenes with Hughes and Carson. Their mutual admiration makes for some really nice moments, especially as sparingly as Fellowes parses them out. The framed picture was a nice touch.

WG: They'd make a hot couple. I winced when I saw Carson's long lost love though, she looked like Joe Torre. She was in the singing group "The Lark and the Dove," which sounds a lot like a Neko Case album title.

OMD: Holy shit is the Daisy/Alfred/Ivy/Jimmy love quadrangle tiresome. At this point, the only one of them I actually care about is Alfred. Daisy's dipshittery rendered her unlikable from Jump Street. Jimmy is a preening tool. Ivy has yet to be even remotely developed. She was basically thrust into the show to add another set of working ovaries to the mix downstairs. And now Alfred could head off to London? I am all for this stupid series on one-way affections (do we really think Jimmy isn't just biding his time with Ivy?) to be done with, but Alfred is the only one of the four who is worth a damn.

WG: I'm warming up to Daisy. But I generally agree with you. Alfred's a big decent lug. Jimmy is obviously toying with Ivy because he can. I wouldn't mind seeing Alfred tearing apart Jimmy like a loaf of fresh bread. And then heading off shirtless to the boot room with both Ivy and Daisy. Afterwards, he'd prepare them omelets, and a terrifying breaded asparagus dish. I'm definitely ready for some closure. If the Valentine's Day shenanigans didn't put too fine a point on the one-way love, I don't know what will.

OMD: Really not a fan of Jack Ross's diction. His mouth was open so wide horizontally that it made me want to curl up into the fetal position on the ground and cry. Bring the corners of your mouth in, fella. At least he was smooth on the dance floor. Of course, "A Rose by Any Other Name..." wasn't nearly as smooth. A little on the cuff. Sidenote: as if we needed more reason to dislike Lady Rosamund, she outs herself as a stodgy racist. Sure, it's just that stodgy, upper crust variety, but still, not cool.

WG: I admire Fellowes for tackling some big issues, but Jesus, so easy to miss the mark. I'm not optimistic. Trying to do this through the lens of a period piece only complicates things. I give him credit for having such strong female leads, but on the same hand, he has them entangled in and acting out some very negative stereotypes. What the hell is he going to do with Ross?

"One swallow doth not a summer make."
OMD: Tony! Toni! Toné! Put the brakes on there, bud. I believe the Duke of Crowborough, the dearly departed Owen Sleater, put it thusly: "One swallow doth not a summer make." You've been in Mary's company for all of, what, three days? Get a grip. If anything, this has to have Mary thinking that if this is how he approaches marriage, then he must surely be a prejacker. Also, she fills his brain? There has to be a better way to put that, dork.

WG: What a guileless prick for painting her in a corner and demanding an answer lest he marry Ms. Lane Fox. Shitheel move. I wish Mary would have had Carson remove him from the grounds via a series of kicks to the ass. I'm glad she said no. Too eager. Too cloying. Too big ears. Too Tony.

OMD: Nothing good can come from Lady Edith sleeping with Gregson, can it? I mean nothing good has ever happened to Edith in the long-run. One night of coital bliss, and she'll likely find herself with child and running a paper while her would-have-been mate is brainwashed and turns into a founder of the Nazi Party before catching an errant bullet that had been fired into the air on New Year's Eve at the Alexanderplatz.

WG: First A Place in the Sun, and now The Manchurian Candidate, I like it when you work TCM. As long as Fellowes is playing with race and rape, why not add antisemitism to the mix? No, of course nothing good can come from the Germany. I do hope the show picks up on some of that historical context, although I don't think Hitler hits his stride until the 30's. I like Gregson, but he's married, and a journalist. Perhaps you could find worse traits in a lover, but it wouldn't be easy. I like to imagine that somehow Mary will kill Edith via F2FA.

OMD: So who is your money on for who gets screwed for getting screwed? If forced to bet, my money's on Edith.

WG: Most definitely Edith in a literal sense. Figuratively, Bates.

True Detective: Season One, Episode Two "Seeing Things"

The second installment of True Detective continues to be character-driven. McConaughey trips. Woody cheats. Epic dialogue is exchanged in between.

"Hey Woody, wanna see my secret garden?"
Stan Earnest: Once again I'm going to start with the opening credits. They are mesmerizing.  

Craig Scholes: I actually haven't seen the opening credits yet.  

SE: Can somebody call Craig and tell him we are reviewing a show here?  

CS: Both weeks I started late, and tried to get live by skipping the opening credits. Of course this week I've spent the last 50 minutes trying to get something out of my teeth to no avail.

SE: I've heard gargling with horse semen works well. Get your shit together Craig. Go back on the DVR and watch the opening credits for two minutes. The only other opening credits I liked this much were from Boardwalk Empire. Dexter's were great until about the 3rd season when they decided they were never changing them. At all.  

CS: The Game of Thrones opening credits are amazing. I also hated The Wire's opening credits, but I think I’m the only one.  

SE: Correct and correct. The Game of Thrones opener is top five and probably top three. I hated The Wire's too. Even though it was a Tom Waits song, it didn't vibe with me.  

CS: So other than seeing epic bare sweater meat, what happened this episode? Alexandra Daddario can put me in handcuffs any time.

SE: So that's the real name of Bumbletits McGee? I was going to ask you the same question. Nothing happened, but it works, all character- and dialogue-driven. What happened was that we find out that these two detectives don't realize it, but they have the same fucked-out viewpoint of life. That and some realistic tripping by McConaughey, and hallucinations being realistic is just weird.

CS: Yes, that is her name. I have randomly seen her in a bunch of stuff, and always took a liking to her. And I just watched the opening; it’s good, but it’s not as good as you made it out to be.

Wooderson appears to be a sneaky badass.  

SE: I really don't think we can call McConaughey Wooderson with Woody as his partner.

I want to be a detective because I realized this episode that you could really not do shit but drink and whore around for days and get paid for it.  

CS: I agree, but I had to call him Wooderson at least once. I could actually see this as his career path after getting those Aerosmith tickets though; they were top priority of the summer. Also, I think if you are good enough at your job you could do nothing but drink and whore around for days.

SE: After the SAG awards speech, I think McConaughey plays himself on this show. The dude is in outer space. He's the perfect car salesman: you know the dude is nuts, but he sprinkles in the stark truth once in a while, and it fools you.


SE: I have a friend that I like to hang out with just because he's dangerous--throws hatchets and shit. I feel like I could lose a limb at any point in time. I've seen this dude jump off of a roof to scare people, break a deer neck to mercy kill it after hitting it with a car, and shoot a Mack 10 into the air in the middle of the woods. His favorite movie is Red Dawn, which is scary enough by its lonesome.  

CS: But does this friend play the bongos naked?

SE: I've seen him fire dance to Sublime with an Indian headdress on. Does that count?  

CS: That’s pretty darn close.  

SE: I've also seen him scream at the cops, "NAZIS, NAZIS, NAZIS!" and not get arrested. Did I mention this guy was a school teacher? It takes all walks of life.  

CS: Well that’s because unlike Germany, it isn't illegal to scream Nazi.  

SE: One of the funniest texts I've ever gotten from you was about how you called someone a Soup Nazi in Germany to the sound of crickets and the looks of Ralphie's mom in A Christmas Story when he dropped the F bomb or whatever he said that's bleeped on TV.  

CS: Yeah, that was a moment of blatant obliviousness to my surroundings. I have those occasionally. Except, what made it worse was that I didn't actually call them a Nazi, I just used the word in a manner like the Soup Nazi. The explaining of the Seinfeld episode didn't help matters at all.

 SE: Woody had one of these moments in the show: "Even your mom thinks you're a ballbuster." Marital Fighting 101: tell your spouse false things about how their parents feel about them. Woody is playing dirty.  

Mac with his hashish filled bongo drum.
CS: Woody seems like a loose cannon.

SE: What odds do you give it that McConaughey is going to be boning his wife soon?  

CS: Oh man, I had that thought too. If she finds out that Woody cheated on her with epic sweater meat girl, then I say the odds are very good. But if not, I don't think she does. Though I do think she does find out, so I’m only going 5:1 odds.  

SE: I'm putting money on the Mac.

CS: Why would someone graffiti Dobby from Harry Potter on a burnt down church wall?  

SE: So your theory is that the killer is a J.K. Rowling fan? Makes sense, I've never seen any reason to kill somebody or read Harry Potter books.  

CS: I’m sure I could do a 6 degrees from Wooderson to Daniel Radcliffe, but I'm not going to.

SE: Well, going forward, I'm still sold on the show. I like this episode as well as the last. I don't care if nothing happens as long as Mac and Woody fall deeper and deeper into Louisiana sin.  

CS: Fin.

Listen to Craig at Eureka Podcast and follow @anaveragegatsby
Follow Stan @StanEarnest

Sunday, January 12, 2014

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

Downton is in full entertaining mode. Varied noble guests are staying with the Crawleys as are a pair of rather dubious ones. Edith tries to get her beau face time with Lord Grantham. Card games lurk behind every corner. Mary makes nice with Lord Gillingham. And the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone in Downton happens to someone we all know and love. As always, the titular episode is listed as it aired in the UK, which means this was the second Downton Abbey episode that aired in the US, as the first week saw us treated to a two-in-one special of sorts.

Old Man Duggan: So this is the episode that stopped me dead in my tracks when I was still going through the rigmarole of watching the show as it was airing in the UK. It is not without a large degree of trepidation that I both rewatch this episode and press on in the coming weeks. It seems impossible that Fellowes will not get excruciatingly entrenched in the story line that this week's development would seem destined to unfurl. Yet press on we must.

Wordy Ginters: No more raping. Is that too much to ask?

OMD: Through the up-turned nose of good ol' Charlie Carson and the good-hearted Mrs. Hughes, we get a glimmer of what's going on in the noble class in the UK post-war. Lady Raven, set on hard times. The British aristocracy didn't fare well in the early part of the 20th Century, and I'm guessing the Lord Grantham is supposed to be representative of the precise reasons why. Is Lady Raven's plight his future? Will he be reduced to *gasp* living north of the park?

If only everyone's worst day was immortalized in a mugshot
WG: Short answer: Yes. I fully expect Grantham to look like Nick Nolte's mug shot by the end of the season.

OMD: Fuck Edna. Lunch at the pub. I hope she drowns in the tub. Also, if Hughes tells you to do something, Edna, hop fucking to it. Every time she opens her mouth in Branson's presence I want him to roundhouse her into the wall. And getting him drunk only to take advantage of him later? She is so fucking loathsome.

WG: Not much nuance with Edna is there? She's got the face and upturned nose of a naughty little pixie, or Rebecca De Mornay's evil little sister. She'll have Branson in the sack in no time. Who is hornier, Edna, Rose, or Alfred?

OMD: I'm assuming I can't say fucking Ethel? If we're talking who is the most likely to give their life over to lust, it's Rose without a doubt.

Eight minutes in and we finally come to the first laugh of the episode. The Dowager Countess bringing it with: "Lord no, but if I were to search for logic, I should not look for it among the English upper class."

WG: The Dowager and Molesley are the go-to actors when it's time for chuckles. Benny Hill music should be playing under Molesley, and a slide whistle after every Dowager bon mot.

OMD: Oh shit. Mary's going to go riding with Lord Gillingham? We all know what riding with visiting young men leads to. Going Turkish. F2FA is in Mary and Gillingham's future. "I haven't been in the saddle for ages. I'll be stiff as a board the next day." What Gillingham doesn't know is that Mary's nether regions have killed more British aristocracy than the Crusades. We can only assume that Mary was riding side-saddle as a preparation or reaction to the analizing from Gillingham. She's an old pro. I don't know about you, but when the door to Mary's room opened post-Gramophone fiasco, my first thought shot straight to Mary's deadly anus. Honest question: do you think that Mary makes Anna give her rectal stimulation and that's what leads to Anna's horrifying ordeal at the end of the episode? Only Mary's asshole can unleash such horrid traumas upon the world.

WG: The same damn thought crept into my heathen mind when we were taken back to the den of F2FA death. Hilarious. Anna may lead Mary through a rigorous daily regimen off ass kegels. Mary's anus is like Pandora's Box, or maybe The Box. If you choose to press upon it, untold pleasures await, but a stranger dies.

Lady Mary's anus

OMD: The latest turn in Molesley's march toward pauperdom: delivery boy for Bakewells. And then he plays second to Alfred's first footman.

WG: The glory from the Grantham Cricket triumph is dust in the wind. Tears in the rain. Gone. Faded. Forgotten. Those same skilled hands that led to many drives, double hat-tricks, centuries, helicopter shots and hip flips are now sadly cloaked in shameful white gloves. The ignominy of the gloves was far worse then seeing Molesley tonk hot cinder into the streets of Ripon.

OMD: Indeed it was. Ignominious to say the least.

Are we to determine by Jimmy's fall trying to toss the jar up in the air to himself that Brits can't catch anything without falling over? British readers, is this a thing? What a dink. "Clever clogs" indeed, Mrs. Patmore.

Proto Clever Clogs
WG: That jar opening would have been too obvious for Chevy Chase. Patmore whipping out the "Mr. Clever Clogs" only partially redeems her for silently mouthing the words in the recipe book she was reading. Best shorthand for dolt: mouth-breathing or moving lips while reading?

OMD: All right, wait just a goddamn minute. Mr. Pattinson? They have a librarian, and no one can find a book without him. I've never seen him once. Are the Crawleys actually literate?

WG: Grantham is a drip. Sure, he'll rise to the occasion now and again, out of happenstance and a basic tendency towards goodness, but he's still pure douche at his core.

OMD: I fucking loved when Cora flipped shit on Robert for not having Dame Nellie Melba dining with the dinner guests. "Am I the only member of this family living in the 20th Century?" I think you might be, Cora. The fact that he didn't even give it a second thought was pretty damned telling.

WG: One of the reasons I enjoy Downton is that it's fairly radical in how it places power with female characters, Ultimately, women make most of the important decisions, and in most of the relationships in the series, the women are the power brokers.

OMD: I agree for the most part. It definitely has a markedly pro-female if not quite feminist streak running thick through its veins.

My favorite part of the episode is the gambling arc. Mr. Sampson runs through his marks like a buzzsaw through plywood, stringing them along with hope despite the fact that he's stacking the deck. Then Gregson takes him to school. Brilliant stuff, letting Sampson have it and then getting everyone's money back from him with the threat of blackballing looming if he doesn't. "I've revived a dubious talent from my misspent youth."

WG: You know some newspaper guy isn't going to get clowned by a dandy card-sharp. Gregson is pretty damn likable for being a Nazi-sympathizing scandal sheet printing adulterer.

OMD: I just can't believe Edith is going to be Lady Edith Goebbels when all is said and done.

And finally, from the get-go, it was clear that Mr. Green/Gillingham was a bit forward. I think if we are to trust Bates's judgment--and he definitely ferrets out the shitbirds and dickholes pretty accurately--it was pretty clear early on that Mr. Green was a no-goodnik. His card game in the pantry looked to be asinine and utter horseshit. Bates's derisive sneer from his fireside rocker toward the dipshittery was justified. After only a few shots, his deficiency was obvious. I think it was the raper's eyes that gave him away. Still, fuck me. Brutal shit. The first thing that shot into my mind as it was happening was, "Well, Bates is going back to prison." I really have no idea how Green doesn't end up strung up in some gruesome position, dickless, with his face stuck in a petrified scream.

WG: Viewer expectations DENIED once again. That smug fuck Gillingham saying goodnight down the hallway when Bates was sussing out the aftermath, just to test whether or not anything was going to get said was brutal. I understand that future episodes deal with racism as well. Nothing says upstairs/downstairs like racism and raping. Tread carefully Fellowes.

OMD: Honestly, I'm not looking forward to where this season heads on the Anna/Bates arc. Nothing good can come of it. He will eventually find out (again, I've not seen past this episode), and there will be hell to pay. Unless, of course, Mrs. Hughes puts a bullet in the fucker's head. Regardless, with Lord Gillingham seeming to be the next in line to be Mary's love-interest, his rapey manservant will surely be back far too often for my liking. I hope Bates fucking curb-stomps the piece of shit and dumps his body in the Thames.

WG: Bates throwing Gillinghams severed leg into a bog would be a nice echo of the time he chucked his leg brace. We've joked about the crude misery that Fellowes seemingly has in endless supply for Anna and Bates, but you are right, this arc seems too dark and discordant.

OMD: It definitely seems like it is impossible to come back from this point.

True Detective: Season One, Episode One "The Long Bright Dark"

The first episode of True Detective entitled "The Long Bright Dark" brings us a dead woman with deer antlers for a crown, then spills over from there into the personal life of two detectives, one with family and earnest living concerns and the other with a concern for good old-fashioned alcoholic self-destruction. 

Killer Joe vs. Billy Hoyle

Stan Earnest: T-Bone Burnett! Fuck yes! Love the opening credits. 

Craig Scholes: Mc-Con-uh-hey ages like shit in this.

SE: YOU SHUT YOUR MOUTH! We are in the McConaussance!

CS:  Long-haired, handle-bar mustachioed, arm-tat future Mc-Con-uh-hey looks like a real pederast.

SE: Don't mess with the Jesus.

CS: It’s a good thing this takes place in Louisiana instead of Miami; I'd hate for this to be a Dexter spinoff.

SE: Fuck the last season of Dexter with the passion of a hundred-million suns. I'm a big true crime fan, so it has been a long time coming for a fictional show that does detective work any justice. I have high hopes for this show. This better not be some hybrid CSI bullshit, so far so good.

CS: You'd think smoking at a crime scene would be frowned upon.

SE: I've always thought hovering around a crime scene would be weird. How are cops not required to wear gloves immediately? Not securing the crime scene was the key mishap of the Jon-Benet Ramsay case.
Alright, alright, alright! Mc-Con-uh-hey is really putting on a clinic here.

CSHe has come a long way since trolling for high school chicks.

SE: Do you think they used superglue or velcro for Woody's mop? He really is putting Bruce Willis's hair stylist to shame. Stay sexy Woody.

CS: I hope they used that aerosol spray-on adhesive for Woody's rug.

SE: "It's all one ghetto man. A giant gutter in outer space." My lands, this shit is gonna be dark.

CS: I was on the fence about this show until the very last line: "Then you better start asking the right fucking questions."

SE: I'm sold, and the reason is that most detective shows fall flat because either: a) shitty acting, or b) trying to make a detective case have to many twists and turns. This one has character. They are somehow making these scenes where nothing happens matter. I haven't quite figured it out yet.

CS: For me I don't even care about the case or where it’s going. I want to know where Mc-Con-uh-hey is going. I should really learn how to spell his name.

SE: Matthew McConaughey. I have to admit that I checked IMDB for that. I also thought that was Lester Freamon in the church, but IMDB says no. [**CORRECTION** IMDB now has Clarke Peters listed as an actor in True Detective.]

CS: Lester Freamon on a case, and it won't be a case for very long.

SE: That’s right, gotta have some good old-fashioned existential drunks on the scene. Maybe Lester is the killer. I mean he loved him some tiny furniture crafting, maybe he's moved on to those little devil's nest thingies.
All the pieces matter.

CS: Lone Star tall-boys to the rescue!

SE: Wife has The Golden Globes on, I think Joaquin Phoenix's neck beard could play a role in True Detective. McConaughey's stache would kick its ass.

CS: Of course Joaquin will always have a disadvantage in the facial hair department because of the harelip.

SE: One episode in and Craig is in true form. You’ve already picked on fictional characters (Flynn from Breaking Bad), now you're in a full-on war with harelips?

CS: *Shameless plug alert* You should hear what I have to say about kids with Down Syndrome on my podcast. episode of the podcast is called "Mid-American Charlie Sheen”.

SE: Yes, listen to Craig's podcast. I laugh ballz [OMD: Fuck you, Stan. That alternate spelling instantly made this website the worst ever. I hope you're happy.] at least once an episode. (I'm setting the over/under on the text I get from Old Man Duggan for putting that last sentence in at 237 characters and I'm taking the over).

So what is it about this show that you think makes it so good? I hope this slow burn keeps weaving the characters into more sinister places and doesn't worry about too much of a let's-catch-this-killer-now plot.

CS: Honestly, the first half didn't have me at all. I don’t care much about shows just about murder solving. I’m a big fan of the idea of them rehashing the story ten or so years down the line. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens between them because they don't appear to really be fans of each other.

SE: That scene in the car with McConaughey waxing about his biological programming while Woody tried to verbally put his burning cigarette out ranks up there with only a few scenes I can remember off-hand where I was just in awe. I'm thinking Donald Sutherland and Judd Hirsch from Ordinary People for some reason.

CS: I'll have to go back and re-watch that scene. That was around the time I was losing interest.

SE: You're a monster, Craig. That was where I was gaining interest. The script in that scene is admirable.

CS: So where do you hope this goes? I personally already don't really give a shit about Woody. I just want to know where McConaughey goes in this.

SE: I want to see how Woody stands up next to the force that McConaughey is, so far so good. I'm just hoping this doesn't become unhinged after a few eps like the other detective show I unfortunately watched all of (The Killing...ahem). 

HOLY SHIT, HOLY SHIT! As I type this McConaughey wins a Golden Globe and opens his speech with "ALRIGHT! ALRIGHT! ALRIGHT!"

CS: Money!

Follow Craig @anaveragegatsby  and Stan @StanEarnest

Friday, January 10, 2014

Reading Rainbow: Riding the Rap by Elmore Leonard

With Justified having returned this past Tuesday, now is probably as good a time as any to get this one up. I actually read Riding the Rap when I went to Europe back in August. It was coincidental, but I started reading it about a day before Elmore Leonard died. I followed it up promptly with When the Women Come Out to Dance, the book that contained "Fire in the Hole," but I'll talk more about that in a separate entry.

Picking up after Raylan shoots Tommy Bucks dead--which is where Pronto left off and is the scene that kicks off the aforementioned series, Justified--Raylan is with Harry Arno's ex-girlfriend, Joyce. Harry Arno, at least arguably the co-lead of these first two books, is at the end of his rope when he ends up getting held hostage by three fellow lowlifes who set off to try to work Harry over to get the money he's stashed away in a Swiss bank account.

The cast of characters is every bit as colorful as anyone with Leonard's work has come to expect. The natural evolution and escalation of violence as the crime spins out of the captors' control has that wicked Leonardian logic to it that makes you smile in horror. Raylan's wise-cracking never stops being hilarious, and with Timothy Olyphant having immortalized him on television, the reader gets the added bonus of imagining him quite vividly acting out every look of irritation and anger, adding an originally unimagined layer to the reading experience.

Just as you would expect, Riding the Rap is a fuckload of fun and drops you right off at the front steps for where "Fire in the Hole" and the Justified series picks up.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Man on Film: The To Do List

It's been quite a while on this one. I saw The To Do List like three days after it opened. Apparently that means it was July. Jesus. In fact, it's been so long that you can buy it here on Blu-ray or stream it here.

Quick thoughts:
  • Aubrey Plaza was very likeable. 
  • Scott Porter and Rachel Bilson were both really funny and playing against type. 
  • Bill Hader was funny. 
  • I liked the period style choices, and the fact that it was a lifeguarding in the 90s movie hit close to home for me. 
  • Good first go at things for writer/director Maggie Carey. 
  • There need to be more movies about/for women taking ownership of their sexuality. It definitely feels like things have been trending more and more this way, but the stigma attached to women *gasp* enjoying sex can fuck right off. 
  • Despite its ribald subject-matter, it's not nearly as bawdy as it could have been. 
  • Not spectacular, but a relatively enjoyable way to spend 104 minutes.

Reading Rainbow: Resuscitation of a Hanged Man by Denis Johnson

My last run-in with Denis Johnson in full, novel form was with the 2007 National Book Award winner Tree of Smoke. Personally, I felt like the sprawl engendered all the wrong feelings, and rather than reading like some wild work of genius, it was a mess of a book. It was not a beautiful mess.

His novella Train Dreams was fantastic, and the short story collection Jesus' Son was entirely deserving of the mounds of praise that have been heaped upon it. My experience then with Johnson had been that his pieces that required less extended focus for him were thrilling while the full novel I'd read was an overrated borderline clusterfuck.

Upon finally wading back into the world of the full Denis Johnson novel with Resuscitation of a Hanged Man, my trepidation regarding Denis Johnson the novelist was proven to have been completely unfounded. This time around the reader is treated to a first-person narrative from the point-of-view of the scarred, outsider protagonist, Leonard English, who moves to gay haven Provincetown, Massachusetts, to split time between working at a radio station and helping the station owner, Ray Sands, with his private investigation side business.

Awkward at nearly every turn, unable to connect on any meaningful level with just about everyone with whom he comes into contact, English makes for an unique lead in what is at least primarily a private eye novel. I say "primarily" because we are talking about Denis Johnson here, and Johnson definitely puts his own spin on the conventions of the genre. Leonard watches his subjects from the periphery rather than more directly engaging with them. The case--and life--is happening around him, but much like the reader his involvement is limited to that of the spectator. When Leonard does attempt to take action, it generally doesn't go well for him.

The book itself is really damn good. It sits down in a genre I love and deftly subverts its conventions. Johnson's prose is simultaneously propulsive and impressive, alive and jumping from the page. Despite its humbler aims, Resuscitation of a Hanged Man stands well above his more recent bemedaled tome.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Man on Film: The Wolverine

While it is tough to move past wondering what could have been if Darren Aronofsky and Christopher McQuarrie had remained attached as the director and writer, respectively, of this film, measuring The Wolverine (on Blu-ray / DVD + DigitalHD or On Demand) against its lackluster predecessor more than puts those wistful thoughts of a film never made to rest. James Mangold's entrant into the larger X-Men series certainly fares well, incorporating Chris Claremont and Frank Miller's Japanese saga into the film universe while giving the gruff and brooding hero a better, more streamlined platform by which to infuse both the history and the pathos that makes Wolverine a character to whom the audience is drawn.

Much of The Wolverine's success goes back to the initial casting of Hugh Jackman as Logan. For the past 12 years or so, he has embodied what any X-Men fan had always hoped to see on the screen. A lot of the other casting wasn't as successful, but Jackman fits the brooding, brawny Canuck naturally.

Most importantly, though, this installment in the series is much less a slipshod series of vignettes loosely strung together to resemble a film with a plot, which the first Wolverine film sadly was. One shouldn't have to worry about whether or not a movie is going to feel as though it had been haphazardly thrown together, but two of the previous three films in the X-Men universe definitely passed that burden down to The Wolverine. While The Wolverine may not have been as good as some of the Marvel Studios films that have come out in the past few years, it was definitely the second straight step in the right direction and was a much needed salve to the wound left by X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Here's to hoping that the franchise continues down this path.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Series Four, Episodes One and Two

Dukes and Duchesses (Duchi?), we're back to hold your hand or possibly even your hair back as you vomit into the nearest toilet. This week, PBS pulled another one of those air-two-episodes-back-to-back-for-no-good-reason-other-than-that-they-are-the-first-two-episodes-of-the-seasons. That means you'll have to suffer through an exceptionally long back-and-forth from myself and our old friend, Wordy Ginters. In this double-installment, we suffered through an especially bitchy Lady Mary lashing out at everyone in her own privileged way, watched helplessly as that horrendous Edna snaked her way back into Downton, wondered why Lord Grantham has to be such a dumb cluck, and breathed a sigh of relief when Mary was found to have inherited Matthew's portion of the estate after all. The ghost of Matthew Crawley still casts a significant shadow across the estate.

Old Man Duggan: For as evil a shrew as Mrs. O'Brien was, Julian Fellowes sure dicked the audience over on her exit. No cathartic firing where all of her dirty deeds were exposed. She simply slips out in the dark of night. I'm sure this is a byproduct of Siobhan Finneran not coming back for a fourth go at things, as that was also why Matthew died so suddenly. I guess this leaves the door open for the insidious O'Brien to slip back through should Finneran want/be asked to return. Still, disappointing that her goodbye wasn't more explosive. Hell, she could have at least slipped on a bar of soap and cracked her fucking skull open on the side of the tub.

Wordy Ginters: O'Brien slinking into the gloomy dark was a buzz-kill. Were there any justice, the divisive seeds of anger and strife she has sewn over the years would have resulted in some kind of hilarious comeuppance. Fellowes gets off on denying we viewers our simple pleasures. I would have settled for seeing what pithy comments she left in those cards on the mantle. "Dearest Anna, Please fuck right off." I had conveniently forgotten how much her hair skillz were appreciated up north in Duneagle with the country cousins.

OMD: In the past, I have definitely been a bit of an apologist for Lady Mary, but holy shit was she unbearable this week. Skulking about the house in black, "Poor little orphan" this, "Have a happy time" that. Just sitting around doing absolutely nothing while expecting the world to pity her. We jump ahead six months, and she's still sulking like Matthew had his run in with a lorry last week. And her lashing out at Carson when he tries to encourage Mary to take an interest in the running of the estate was most definitely irksome. When Mary began to cry in Carson's office after apologizing to him, I thought she was going to morph into the alien from Alien.

There ain't no iguana.
WG: In my mind, every time Mary spoke I could only hear the Rolling Stone's "Paint it Black." When Kanye West plopped young Lord George in Mary's arms for the first time, you would have thought she had given Mary a diseased iguana. I'm glad Carson stood up to Mary. She was headed straight towards Cruella DeVille territory, which may have been interesting, but you've got to keep your love/loathe ratio of characters in balance.

OMD: Of course, much of Mary's malaise was being enabled by Lord Grantham, though for his own selfish reasons: his need to feed his fragile ego by running the estate into the ground. He's the proto-Dayton Moore--probably a nice enough guy, well-intentioned, but clearly outmatched when it comes to carrying out the task at hand. Thank sweet baby Jesus for the Dowager Countess. She slapped the dick right out of his mouth.

WG: I consulted last years edition of Downton Prospectus, they list Dayton Moore as Grantham's top comp, right in front of Jim Fregosi and Bob Boone. How many times does Grantham get to squander the family fortune before they take away the checkbook? If Lord Grantham needs to be a heel to introduce nascent women's rights issues, so be it. I'd love to see Fellowes have the balls to go 12 Years a Slave and display how gruesome male/female relations really were back then.

OMD: It's weird when a character is so odious as to have you rooting for Thomas, but it was obvious Nanny West was a foul fucking creature. Where the fuck does Nanny West get off telling Isobel she can't see her grandson?

WG: Yeezy was hilarious. A shittier Patmore.

OMD: At least we still have Molesley for whom to feel empathy toward. It doesn't hurt that Spratt was such a dick to him. Speaking of Spratt, is it just me, or was he Joel Murray channeling Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys? Mashing the tar. 'Tis a sad state of affairs in Mr. Molesley's world.

WG: Poor Molesley. Crying and tarring. Bubbles is spot on. What the hell is going on with the servant class back in England circa 1922? Talk about a bunch of scheming round heels. God forbid that Thomas and Spratt ever sync up, they'd be damn near unstoppable.

OMD: It's been very clearly established that Lady Edith cannot have nice things. Where is this German divorce play heading? Does Michael Gregson become a key figure in the National Socialist Party? Is he Hitler?

WG: Edith hasn't got what she wanted since she sexually accosted that commoner in the work shed a few years back. I had high hopes that maybe we'd run into Gertrude Stein or Hemingway at that "literary" party. I'm kind of digging the evolution of Edith. You are right though, moving to Germany for a divorce doesn't seem like the wisest move.

OMD: So Gwen's married? That typing fetched her a husband, I see. I'm assuming it's Jon Snow.

WG: Red Wedding part duex?

OMD: At first news of Matthew having drawn up an informal will leaving his portion of the estate to Mary, Robert starts a-draggin' his feet. There are so many times that I want to ascribe the label 'twat' to him, but here in this moment at the beginning of the second episode I feel justified in stamping it across his forehead. His first instinct is to hide the letter from Mary until its legality can be determined. Ugh. Once Mary says she has an interest in the estate, Robert starts in about all of the minutae, taking the piss out of her at the dinner table.

WG: His Lordship can be a real horse's ass. I think the alliance between Branson, Carson, and the Dowager will probably keep him in line. I still get a kick out of Branson having his humble roots jammed back in his face from time to time. Hopefully he flips out and burns something down.

OMD: Bates: The Social Butterfly. I could get used to that. I loved Bates's reaction to Anna and Molesley's surprise at his friendliness. I really liked how Bates worked up the fake IOU. Did you get a load of those pound notes? Gigantic.

WG: Jesus H. Christ, I loves me some Bates and Anna. Totally my fave couple. What the hell is Anna doing though? She's setting herself up for some Thomas fuckery. Completely inevitable, right?

OMD: I'd bring up the Rose/Sam Thawley bit or the return of Mr. Grigg, but really who cares? Having seen the next episode (or at least the next hour), I can safely say I'm not looking forward to next week.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Man on Film: Homefront

Generally speaking, Sylvester Stallone the screenwriter has a pretty strong grasp as to what his audience wants. This doesn't always result in high art, but it's usually fun. His latest screenplay that made its way to the screen is Homefront, a star vehicle for Stallone's now-frequent collaborator Jason Statham directed by Gary Fleder (Kiss the Girls, The Express). Though Statham has a helluva time sticking with the accent established in the open, he does get to play the part of the one-man wrecking ball. If there's one thing the audience wants in a Jason Statham movie, it is to get to see him kick a whole lot of ass. Homefront delivers that in spades.

What Homefront also has is a fairly strong supporting cast. James Franco plays the country thug with flair. Kate Bosworth is surprisingly good as a meth-head mom. Winona Ryder, Frank Grillo, and Clancy Brown round out the support.

In the end, though, it's all about Statham, and Homefront is one of the better showcases for his skill-set in recent memory. It may not reinvent the wheel, but Statham can use that wheel to beat the fuck out of you.

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