Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Watch It, Pal! #1: House of Cards

Welcome to the first installment of Watch It, Pal!, a (hopefully)series of posts wherein I tell you about a show, rank it using VERY SCIENTIFIC SCIENCE(which is inscrutable because IT'S SCIENCE), and probably make a few dick and fart jokes because I'm only human.

All shows I bring to you under the Watch It, Pal! heading will be available on one streaming service or another at the time of writing. The purpose of these posts are merely to inform you on what a show is about, and from there you can decide whether or not you want to invest your time. But, if you're reading as a way of looking for recommendations, know that I will never waste time writing a lot of words about a show I don't think you should watch, because I'm lazy and pragmatic.

This is the first one so some parts of the different scoring categories will have to be explained as necessary.
The Show: House of Cards(original to Netflix, adapted from British series of the same name)
The Venue: Netflix
Three Word Netflix Description: Witty, Dark, Cerebral
The Hook: Kevin Spacey(American Beauty, The Usual Suspects, a billion other things) is Francis 'Frank' Underwood, multi-term Democratic congressman(and majority Whip) from South Carolina negotiating the Washington, D.C. waters backed up by his wife Claire(Robin Wright, who straight up kills every single scene she's in).
The Real Hook: Very early in the first episode, Frank is informed he's being passed over for Secretary of State, a position he was promised in order to gain his help in electing the sitting President. Frank and Claire basically decide all bets are off and begin their quest to dropkick the shit out of the administration.

WMP Index: Alright, this one is either White Male Protagonist or, as I'm referring to it until I get bored, Weapons of Mass Privilege. As you've probably noticed(and in case you haven't, now you will), the main character of pretty much every hourlong drama(no matter what channel) is a white male. This guy is equal parts hero, villain, badass, cool guy, and smartest-most-clever asshole in the room. This happens because white males ages 18-49 are the target demographic for basically every company(they usually have the most disposable income and are therefore more lucrative eyeballs for advertising), and if you can tap into what me and the other Hollywood insiders call "the Reddit Hivemind" you can gain a ton of word-of-mouth support for your show.

All that being said, this show scores very highly on the WMP scale. What does a high score mean? Well, while Frank Underwood is certainly the star of the show, the badassery is split about 65-35 with his wife(technically it's 50-50, but the show is mainly about Spacey's character so he gets a ton more screen time). Together they are the streaming-television embodiment of a power couple. They have each others' backs at all times, in all endeavors, as long as their mutual success and/or increase in power and influence is the projected and anticipated end result.

The Media: Okay, so this category will have some(*cough*a lot*cough*) bias on my part. If you're reading my blog and don't know me personally, here's all the backstory you need: I have a BS in Mass Media and way, WAY over 10,000 hours devoted to media literacy. This is where I rank the portrayal(if any) and general aptitude(if any) of the media(whatever form) in the show. House of Cards has an ongoing B-story(sometimes C-story, but ALWAYS present) involving political journalists.

Now, I know what you're thinking, "but Dave, journalism is even more dead than print, and print was dead like 3 years ago!". You're right, but on this show at least they try. When someone puts forth the effort to make journalists look as hard-working as detectives from The Wire, my heart grows three sizes.

Supporting Cast: Kate Mara, Constance Zimmer(Dana Gordon from Entourage!!), Gerald McRaney, Molly Parker(Alma Garrett from Deadwood!!) Rachel Brosnahan(The Blacklist).  Lots of old white men who look like garbage fart human beings(a.k.a. Congress and senators).

Binge Factor: HIGH. Imagine Breaking Bad, but without all the stomach punches that might make you stop for the night after 2 or 3 episodes.

Final Score: After doing all the math and many VERY SCIENTIFIC calculations, House of Cards finishes with a score of 94.5

That's out of a hundred, in case you were still wondering whether or not you should watch it.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

How True Detective Reeled Me In By Scaring Me To Death

I wasn't sure how to approach this post. When I write I often find myself spending the first paragraph talking about not knowing how to begin whatever I'm about to say. This time I know what I want to say I just don't know a) in what order, b) how spoiler-y it might get and c) how inflammatory some parts might be. Or how long it'll be. I just know I can't sleep until it I get it out. Maybe not even then.

I guess I'll just say c) sorry in advance, I guess. It's not like I can get boycotted or anything, b) I'll try to not give anything away but some basic plot things I talk about happen just a couple of minutes into the pilot and a) I'll try and not jump around too much.

I don't watch horror movies. Period. Full stop. I don't like horror movies. I don't dislike/avoid them because they're 'scary'(they're not), I just get literally zero enjoyment out of sitting around watching poorly-lit people walking really slow until something jumps out and stabs them. TO ME, it seems like the most un-fun way to spend 90 minutes. 

That being said, I immensely enjoyed the Rob Zombie movie The Devil's Rejects because it taps into the one thing that can really, truly scare the shit out of me: the cross between serial-killing and that weird gray area that combines parts of Voodoo(including West African and Haitian but mostly 19th century New Orleans), Santeria, ritualized sacrifice/torture, and mental illness(these four combined are henceforth referred to as 'stuff'). Some good old-fashioned Southern Gothic, only turned up to eleven.

Except True Detective turns it up to about a 14.

This stuff doesn't scare me because I think it's 'real', because, well, it is and it isn't. Ghosts aren't real. Paranormal activity isn't real. There is no Bigfoot or chupacabra. Healing crystals didn't do anything for Andy Kaufman and they won't do anything for you. New Age products and services are just snake oil for your brain. Now, I'm not just taking a crap on the religious people because believe me, I know about a billion atheists who believe in ghosts and can't put two and two together on the irony.

I'm not saying this so I can make a smug face in the mirror while adjusting my fedora and patting myself on the back for enlightening the sheeple, I'm saying it to set the stage for why that stuff scares me.

The things I'm talking about when I refer to the gray area are scary because they're plausible. Because they happen. This television season I watched all 13 episodes of American Horror Story: Coven and the only interesting part was the stuff based on Delphine LaLaurie(played by Kathy Bates in the show). You know why? Because it happened. And the scariest thing?

It doesn't matter why she did those things or what power it she believed it would bring her, because she just did them.

The people or groups who are involved with this kind of stuff are not the people who get on cable news to scream about their religious freedoms being attacked or how they're treated by the media or why they feel persecuted all the g.d. time.

Because they never got around to monetizing their faith.

They're too busy practicing it.

And(here's my main point) it doesn't matter how much you or I believe in it, because THEY believe in it enough for you, me, that guy, those kids over there on their field trip, and everybody else. Isolation + unhinged + parts of any of a hundred creation myths thousands of years older than any blonde-haired blue-eyed person has heard of is a recipe for me getting the heebie-jeebies a hundred times out of a hundred.

I don't have to believe in Carcosa, or the Yellow King, or gris-gris, or the proper functionality of a devil trap(pictured above). That doesn't stop the person who does from abducting and torturing me until they dump my methamphetamine-and-LSD-filled corpse in a bayou. Or using my bones as part of their next shrine.

I quit smoking in July of 2012. This show made me want to smoke more than any stress I've had in the last 22 months. When I started watching the show I had expected it to be something in the vein of Se7en. If it had been anywhere in the realm of that movie I would be asleep right now instead of telling tens of people how an HBO show scared me so shitless I was physically ill during almost every episode.

Or maybe I just really dig crazy hillbilly occult stuff?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

May 1st Netflix Update: It's a big one

I spent what we'll call an "embarrassing amount of time" trying to figure out an opening blurb for this post before I remembered the whole point of bringing you here was to just tell you a bunch of the new things up on Netflix. This isn't the full list of new titles, if you want to see all however many pages of the new stuff I recommend bookmarking InstantWatcher.
  • Adventures in Babysitting
  • The Big Chill
  • Boys Don't Cry
  • Bram Stoker's Dracula
  • Candyman
  • A ton of classic Bond movies
  • Forrest Gump
  • From Dusk Til Dawn
  • Gladiator
  • A bunch of Godzilla movies from the 1950s/60