December 14, 2009

A Disc, an Award, a List, a Reminder

Remember back in 2007 when I gave away a shiny new copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on Blu-ray? Well, history repeats itself, and I have the BD version of ...and the Half-Blood Prince here for giveaway.

Since I'm not much for Harry Potter arcana, how 'bout we stick with something everybody knows a lot about? Like, say, "Leave It to Beaver"?

Okay, here's the question--continental residents of North America only, please: Over six seasons of "Leave It to Beaver", Beaver kept a number of increasingly exotic pets. Name at least two kinds of animals that were briefly members of the Cleaver household. First correct answer wins.

(Please be advised that the disc sports bilingual (English/French) cover art.)

In other news, I guess it's worth boasting here as well as at the mothersite that we were recently chosen as one of the Internet's finest movie sites by the Broadcast Film Critics Association, an organization comprised of "more than 230 professional film critics spanning TV, radio, and digital platforms throughout the US and Canada." As FFC's always been a bit of a misfit--too vulgar for the snobs, too discerning for the fanboys, and maybe too mean for the faint of heart--the accolades haven't exactly poured in during our 12 years online; I'm not ashamed to say the BFCA made me feel like Buffy at the prom, 'cause getting 230 people to agree on anything can't be easy.

Apropos of nothing, since I literally have nowhere else to put this, here are my Top 10 TV shows of the decade:

10. Firefly
9. The Wire
8. The Sopranos
7. Arrested Development
6. The Office (US)
5. Deadwood
4. Six Feet Under
3. Veronica Mars
2. Mad Men
1. Freaks and Geeks

Let's hear yours, or complaints about mine.

Finally, with the Christmas season upon us, one last pitch for "The Film Freak Central 2009 Superannual": 528 pages, 63 previously-unpublished reviews, and I like to think it makes a really nice gift--especially to yourself. Our distributor, Lulu, is currently offering a whole host of holiday discounts (a new one every day, advent calendar-style), and of course the book is readily available at, too.

Stay tuned for a link to Walter's Avatar review.


Dan said...

Good TV Top 10 (although I've never heard of Kenny Vs Spenny), but do you *really* rate the US Office over the BBC original? I know the US version, by virtue of having a much longer run, has had time to develop the background characters, etc, but the BBC version is vastly superior. It *is* The Office, y'know, and certainly should be ranked above all remakes in a best of the '00s list.

David Brent's the finest comic creation of the past 10 years, and the BBC version truly understood how a faux-documentary is done. The NBC version is pretty much a standard office-based sitcom with a fly-on-the-wall camera technique.

Bill C said...

I really do, Dan, though this season is testing my faith in a big way. Nevertheless, I don't think it's "a standard office-based sitcom," not when there are so many "Less Than Perfect"s and "Suddenly Susan"s to check it against. No argument on the genius of David Brent here, but the British version just doesn't speak to me the same way.

For the record, "Kenny Vs. Spenny" is a Canadian reality series in which two lifelong friends compete against each other in ridiculous endurance tests, like who can go the longest without getting an erection or, yes, who can get farthest sexually with the other guy's mom, which was probably the most cringe-inducing episode of ANYTHING that I've ever seen. (Lawyers were eventually called.) Kenny almost always wins--the loser has to do a "humiliation," which last night involved rolling Kenny's pubic hair into a cigarette and smoking it--because he cheats (he's basically a real-life version of Bugs Bunny), yet you root for him just because Spenny's so righteously above it all and blind to his own douchebaggery. It's basically "Jackass" as a competition, but it's goddamn transcendent in its offensiveness; anyone who thinks "Family Guy" is edgy would be fetal by the end of an average episode.

Bill C said...

Wait--no. I fucked up and forgot "Deadwood". "Kenny Vs. Spenny", we hardly knew ye, but I'm glad I got to say something about it first.

Jason said...

Can someone explain all of the love that "Veronica Mars" seems to be getting? Especially everywhere else on the internet? That's another one of those shows that I'm only 4 episodes into, but none of those 4 episodes gave me much hope for anything to pick up beyond what I'd seen. Plus, all of the self-righteous, deadpan mush-mouth narration from Kirsten Bell... ugh, makes me want to sock her in the face.

Other than that and "Mad Men," which I'm more apathetic about than anything, I'd say that's a good list, Bill. I'd imagine that mine would look similar, with maybe those two shows dropped for "Nip/Tuck" and "Sons of Anarchy." Probably drop "The Office" for something like "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," as well.

Of course, I apparently only watch 4 episodes of anything, so my taste is probably suspect.

Anonymous said...

Good list - I'd substitute Veronica Mars and Mad Men for Buffy and 24; say what you will about the latter, it's often stunning television that's made for some excellent conversation and discussion. Remember back when Season 2 was a parable for the Bush Administration rushing to start a war as a response to a terrorist attack? And the Middle Eastern agent who tried to help Jack was killed in the angry racist fallout over that attack, which was actually allowed to happen by government officials? And Kim's cougar adventures? Good times. I'd also want to put True Blood up there too, and maybe Generation Kill somehow - does a miniseries like that count?

Bill C said...

@Jason/Anon: "Nip/Tuck" and "24" probably would've placed if either had had the good sense to quit while it was ahead. I think S5 of "24" is a better Nixon movie than NIXON, maybe as good as SECRET HONOR, certainly better than FROST/NIXON. But they had to keep going. Ditto "Nip/Tuck", which for me never really recovered from the botch of S3. I still watch both shows, by the way--glutton for punishment, I guess.

V-Mars only solidified for me in S2. But I do love it so.

Jefferson Robbins said...

I would love to see a Deadwood episode where Bullock has to smoke Swearengen's pubic hair.

Justin B-H said...

Rotten Tomatoes has Walter's review linked already.

And the fanboys are out for blood here, led by a guy who calls himself AssKlown...

Tom said...

buffy circa season 6 deserves to be ahead of veronica mars (which i nonetheless like quite a bit), and i'd probably have 'the thick of it' in there somewhere, but other than that my list would prob look something like yours, albeit in a different order. god damn, i really love arrested development, not sure anything can top that. i'd include house as well, i'm guessing it doesn't get so much love around here though.

i don't suppose many of you guys will have seen 'mary and max' yet but look out for it, best animated movie of the year bar zero. decided i agree with ed gonzalez and whoever else concerning 'two lovers' as well, always always worked for me even at the times when it had absolutely no right to. now then, let's read the dreaded avatar review...

Anonymous said...

Curious about "the uncomfortably simpering T2" - would love to hear you riff on that film, Walter. What's your beef?

Kyle Puetz said...

Haha, I'm with Walter on T2; near any scene that has Arnie and Furlong communicating is just kind of nauseatingly saccharine. Arnie's ascent to paternal role is just so obvious, and the ways in which the film mines his lack of social niceties for fish-out-of-water laughs is pretty tired as well. I like the head-scratching time paradox stuff and about any moment with Robert Patrick, but the moment Arnold, despite his complex knowledge of human anatomy, showed a curiosity regarding tears, I almost fucking lost it.

Of the responses on RT right now, my favorite is the one that called Walter's review a "racist, pro-imperialist political screed" for his use of the tongue-in-cheek "Stupid Indians." You'd think, wielding and brandishing snark like a weapon, the fanboys would be able to recognize it as well.

Kyle Puetz said...

Not to mention how Linda Hamilton is stupidly spared toward the end; earlier, it's shown that T-1000 can replicate the voices of those he's mimicking. Why have her cry out for her son when he could simply gut her and cry out himself? The film balks at its own internal logic in order to reaffirm the toughness and dedication of one of the goodies at a point where it's already been firmly established.

Anonymous said...

Funny you should mention that, Tom, because I recently decided to give a more dedicated look-see to "Buffy" and reassess my feelings on Joss Whedon. Out of everything of his that I've seen, my exposure to his first show was always too scattershot--but while the writing is still too cute for my tastes, slowly making my way through it, I really appreciate how he builds on his characters over time. Look forward to hitting Season 6.

Those Rotten Tomatoes comments are... really something. Had no idea that Walter was such a meme racist.

DaveA said...

What's up with the current Office season anyway? I think it's pretty obvious the writing declined, but I find it difficult to pinpoint.

Regarding the list: I certainly would rank Sopranos higher. It's not without flaws, but it surely was the most entertaining series I've seen this decade.

Also, I'm missing Rome in your list. Season 2 was somewhat botched in the end due to the unexpected cancellation, but I say it's still very good, and Season 1 is among the best I've seen.

And maybe this ranks as a guilty pleasure, but I really like Californication... Sure, it's clichéd and all that, and before someone asks: Yes, I'm a thirtysomething...

Dan said...

Not to draw attention from any upcoming Avatar discussion, but Tarantino has named his top 8 movies of 2009.

1. Star Trek
2. Drag Me To Hell
3. Funny People
4. Up in the Air
5. Chocolate
6. Observe and Report
7. Precious
8. An Education

Patrick said...

Now, see, the simpering T2 is *much* improved by the Director's Cut – it's not as great as it could be, but it is great nonetheless. The reason for sparing Linda Hamilton, for example, is pretty clear: exploding the T1000 has given him a few bugs: he bonds uncontrollably with the floor (which is also how John notices the fake) and he can't reliably fake Sarah's voice. There's also a very interesting moment where CD wants to destroy Arnie's chip.

But the father-son things are uncomfortably saccharine, I agree. Still a landmark action film, and still a blockbuster where it doesn't hurt to think. Of course, T3 and T4 don't exist.

My top 10 series:
10. 24 Seasons 1 and 2. Back when the show was new, the gimmick wasn't old, and when me and some friends talked after each episode about what had happened.

9. Kalkofe's Mattscheibe – a fat and crude comic takes on TV. Sort of like Charlie Brooker, if Charlie Brooker dressed up as the people he's making fun of. For an example see here: and go to the 2-minute mark. It's really crude, but it makes you feel soo much better about the shit that's on TV.

8. Stromberg: the German "office". to be honest, I haven't seen much of either the British or the US version, but the German one isn't really funny, but mostly uncomfortably close to reality. And a miracle, too – despite bad ratings since season one, the fourth season has just started on TV, a true prestige project. For a look at how Germany works:

7. Burn Notice: I hate Gabrielle Anwar and her stick figure, but the show is more consistent in bringing the fun than Leverage, so this one made my top 10. I make sure not to miss an episode.

6. Kriminaldauerdienst: If Germany can do one thing, it's crime serials. Every sunday, there's a new "Tatort" (scene of the crime), and some of these are really great and deal with controversial topics. There's "Unter Verdacht" (under suspicion), about a police officer trying to fight corruption whilst working under a corrupt boss, and there's "Bella Block" which deals with the darkest recesses of humanity. So to be the best there is must be something special, and KDD is. Comparable to "The Wire", it tells a continuous story with overlapping storylines and with police officers who are very much not white knights, but all decked out in shades of grey trying to do some good.

5. Dr Psycho: A psychiatrist works with the police to uncover crimes. He is someone who wants to talk about anything and everything, and to reason it out, and the police are anything but – even the sole woman on the team is tough and closed off, one colleague is an alcoholic, another one has anger issues, and they all hate the doctor. A very fun show. The main actor also did "my new boyfriend", where he disguised himself as some kind of asshole (a hippie singer, a rich snob, etc.) and the candidate of the show, a young woman, had to go a whole weekend pretending that he was her fiancee, presenting him to her best friends, her family and so on. The only thing was that they didn't have sex – everything else was pretty much okay. Really uncomfortable, yet somehow great.

4. Angel – the more consistent show compared to Buffy, and Buffy's best seasons were in the 90s (though I love S5).

3. Firefly, and only because it's so short. Awesome.

2. Deadwood. Al Swearengen.

1. The Wire. What can I say? It's the best show I've ever seen. Maybe except for the Prisoner *g*

Patrick said...

Uhm, "CD" in previous comment is supposed to be SC, i.e. Sarah Connor wants to destroy the chip. How that turned into CD? Beats me.

Tarantino is pretty wrong. He forgot Inglourious Basterds, for one.

Bill C said...

Whoops, sorry guys--I fell asleep before I could get around to linking this, which you've all probly read by now:

AVA-TARD, by Walter Chaw -

Patrick said...

...and Avatar gets Golden Globinated for Best Drama. Really?

DaveA said...

BTW, any opinions on Slant's best of 2009? I was a bit surprised - it's almost an ordinary list. Though I've never heard of their #1, I remember that I really wanted to see Two Lovers, but it never ran here in Germany (at least in my city).

Oh, and they have The Box listed...

Jefferson Robbins said...

This guy is defending the use of the term "Unobtanium?" The shorthand term for a lazy SF MacGuffin, now actually sincerely used in a movie as a lazy SF MacGuffin? Really?

Oh, nerds.

Dan said...

@Bill. Maybe it's a cultural thing, because The Office UK speaks more to me, being British. It's more cynical and true to life, see. I can imagine those people existing, as befits a documentary TV show. I often feel the US version is populated by cartoons (esp. Dwight), and it doesn't feel "real" to me.

I know some of its problems are a result of the US requiring vast numbers of episodes -- but, for example, there's NO sense that these people are soon going to be on TV in a documentary, is there. It's all phony to me because of that. In the UK version, it all felt real. The Christmas Specials even leaped ahead in time and saw David Brent coping with his post-show "fame".

Patrick said...

Jefferson: yeah, when reading Walter's review, I actually thought the names and Unobtanium were from an early draft of the script, where the writer simply put in shorthands – and then it somehow made it into the film. "You know what, let's just call her Dr Grace."

Dan: I hear you, though with the German office. They also used Stromberg's TV "fame" – he got to make a commercial for his company, for example. At the end of the third season, however, he was demoted, and I have not seen S4 so I wonder how they brought him out of the dank hole he was put.

Dan said...

Walter's Avatar review makes for fairly dispiriting reading, but I'm buoyed by the fact it's a negative review with 2-stars. That kind of a rave in Walter terms, right? If it was anything less than 2-stars, I'd be worried. :-) This was actually the first bad review for Avatar I've read, so I'm still psyched to see it myself. I trust Walter saw it in 3D, too?

@Patrick: I remember when Stromberg was first released and the makers were threatened with legal action by the BBC because it wasn't an officially-sanctioned remake. I'm glad to hear they kept the realism intact for the German version, at least. The cast of the US version may as well wear red noses half the time.

Bill C said...

24 comments in and still no one's tried to win the Harry Potter Blu-ray. Wizard fail!

corym said...

re: Kenny vs Spenny

I think I saw an episode of that show where they tried to see who could go the longest without taking off a gorilla suit. The guy that won set the other guy on fire.

Bill C said...

@Corym: That's KvS, all right. Believe it or not, Kenny's done worse, like renting an X-ray machine and secretly irradiating Spenny until he's too fatigued to compete and developing a tumour.

Nyarlathotep said...

Parrot, alligator, frog, monkey, and a horse all spent some amount of time in the Cleaver household. :)

The Avatar review is totally unsurprising, and the film seems to revel in the same kind of stupid decisions and lazy thinking that Stanislaw Lem was criticizing nearly 40 years ago. Ugh. If I'd gone to the premiere (when some friends invited me), I'd have lost respect for the film at Unobtainium - it's either colossally lazy, or a winking reference to The Core. As a geologist... well...

O'JohnLandis said...

Dour is not the same thing as real. The Office UK is so narrow--so terrified of risking its perfect yet unimaginative and safe world on anything resembling nuance--that all its carefully constructed claustrophobia and sadness amount to nothing. There's no reason to care without anything that says to us, "Hey, this is the real world. People have strengths and weaknesses." In The Office US, little triumphs and failures can have devastating emotional impact. In The Office UK, it's all pathology and depression. That's just lesser art from a lesser artist, afraid to allow oxygen in his careful pointless world.

The structure's partly to blame. They wanted the awkward feeling of unedited footage that drags on too long, but in doing so sacrifice the "this is a TV show" conceit. What we actually watch as an episode doesn't seem like an actual episode of the finished product, but it's certainly not raw footage either. The US version has too many episodes, but that's something you tend to think about in between episodes. "Wow, this camera crew has been there six years!" But each episode of the UK version reminds you constantly through its schematically constructed realism that it's not real. That said, the Christmas Finale is quite good, but it has nothing in common with the preceding episodes. It stops trying as hard to be realistic, and consequently ends up feeling much more realistic.

Ricky Gervais has, throughout his career, been horribly afraid of having more than one good idea at a time. Extras solves this problem simply by changing what the show is about in the middle. Not surprisingly, it's much better.


I'll attempt a Top Ten, but I'll admit right away that I'm not highly qualified. Catching up on HBO shows I've missed has just seemed such a daunting task. My solution has been not to try, but I might work on that.

Anyhow, my attempt will be the Top Ten Seasons of television since 2000 without repeating a show. I haven't gotten to Season Six of Buffy (though I will), haven't seen an episode of The Sopranos, Deadwood, Six Feet Under, or The Wire, and yet I've seen every episode of Californication and Weeds that have been released on DVD. Sometimes life dictates what TV shows we're able to watch, but if you can't learn how I'd compare Six Feet Under and True Blood, maybe there's still something you can learn about me from what I have seen.

1. The Office - S2
2. True Blood - S1
3. 24 - S1
4. The Class - S1
5. Battlestar Galactica - S1
6. Veronica Mars - S1
7. House - S2
8. Arrested Development - S1
9. Family Guy - S3
10. Californication - S2

What can I say--I'm a sucker for Callum Keith Rennie.

Dan said...

@OJohnLandis: I appreciate your thoughts. I can see where you're coming from, even if I don't agree. But are you saying that the UK Office felt false compared to reality, or fake in the context of other fly-on-the-wall documentaries? If the former, I totally disagree. I work in an office, and it's very true to life for me, whereas the US version is a bunch of comedians fooling around in an office. If the latter, I would counter that perhaps The UK Office doesn't feel like a *real* show to American eyes, because our countries have such different approaches to fly-on-the-wall documentaries.

For me, The Office feels like a genuine show of the type that clogged British airwaves in the early-'00s. In fact, the first series wasn't a hit in the UK because most people mistook it for an actual documentary! There were dozens of UK documentaries around in '01 that were equally as quiet and "boring" (on driving instructors, wheel clampers, etc.) because the format wasn't being exaggerated for entertainment purposes *quite* so much. I saw an American fly-on-the-wall shows where they added a violin sound-effect when someone an eyebrow, so no wonder the BBC Office appears "unreal" if the type of show it's parodying is already beyond parody in your native land.

Rick said...

Family Guy and Californication round off the top 10? Man, slow decade.

Bill C said...

@Nyarlathotep: Don't forget burro, rabbit, and pigeon! (I'm not a fan of the animal eps.) Anyway, let's have your addy. (You can e me at

@Dan: Exactly how much have you seen of the US version? "Comedians fooling around" is maddeningly reductive.

Walter_Chaw said...

Yeah, Cameron makes a 300m dollar movie about how noble Indians are and I'm the bad guy. Anyhoo - I actually think my four-star reviews for Antichrist and Where the Wild Things Are are more representative of my "raves" than a two-star review of a film that cooks, but with a fire set on Native American corpses.

Yeah - I saw it in 3-D. You forget that it is after the first scene (which, with water droplets RIGHT HERE, is sort of cool) - which is a bad thing because subtle 3-D pretty much just means that everything is several values dimmer through those fucking glasses.

Funny thing, my word verification password for this post is "Ofrica" which is what I imagine Oprah will be renaming the continent after she buys it to repurpose as a girls' school.

Walter_Chaw said...

aaaand, by the way, the five-hour Red Cliff is unbelievably good. The truncated abortion, complete with voice-over and title cards, arriving on Western shores soon is a disgrace. And so it goes.

Jefferson Robbins said...

Matt Zoller Seitz is doing a countdown of the decades top film directors over at Salon. No. 10: The Bay.

Dan said...

@Bill: Yeah, perhaps I should have phrased that better. My choice of words were inspired by a flashback of Dwight rempaging around the office blasting a fire extinguisher during a drill. Compare that to the UK "fire drill scene", where everyone quietly filed out down the stairs (as happens in real life) with the girl in the wheelchair being left behind because her chair's too heavy. Understated and funny vs. crazy office nerd who "hilariously" believes the drill is real so he starts crawling around the floor to avoid the non-existent smoke.

I've seen all of season 1-3 of the US version, then a few episodes of season 4, before I just got tired of it. So, I think my opinion is valid. I gave it a good shot. It never bored me, at the very least. It has some great dialogue and jokes, but I just don't buy into its "reality" like the BBC original.

Bill C said...

Fair enough, Dan--different strokes for different folks. I like O'John's defense a lot, but concede that Dwight can be a very big buzzkill, and they're only making it worse this season.

corym said...

Bill C
Fair enough, Dan--different strokes for different folks. I like O'John's defense a lot, but concede that Dwight can be a very big buzzkill, and they're only making it worse this season.

Totally, Bill. Office US might've bungled Dwight, but Office UK messed up David, Tim, and Dawn. If we're arguing about which one is more real, I've got to give it to the US version. I can't imagine an organization in real life that would promote David Brent to middle management. Michael, on the other hand, was a star salesman--and weirdly effective as a manager--despite being a raging moron. As for Dawn and Tim--Christmas special aside--I really think the route UK took was artificially depressing. The relationship between the characters was way to close for them not to get together. We're talking about two young people who are flirting with each other so hard a storeroom quickie would've been more realistic than the relationship as it was portrayed.

It seems to me that UK went for bleakness at the expense character because this made it seem deeper.

O'JohnLandis said...

Dan, I'd say that the structure and editing choices are the main problems with realism, but I'm not prepared to let the characters, the writing, or the tone off the hook. The UK version seems to be trying to avoid criticism--when it's funny and tightly edited, it's archetypal satire or a representation of people trying and failing to speak on camera (Gareth is only marginally more realistic than Dwight), but when it's awkward and loosely edited, it wins points for realism.

The US version, on the other hand, seems to be taking risks and changing the definition of television comedy. Perhaps Dwight's antics sometimes stretch credibility, but the US version as a whole always maintains the consistent structure of a realistically edited documentary populated with characters who are fully aware of being on camera. So Dwight is always trying to project the alpha Dwight, and in doing so strains realism/fails miserably, but a season after you stopped watching, Dwight's character paid off emotionally with a flat brilliant story thread--a mature, damaged, introspective, nuanced bit of observation that is simply operating miles above and beyond the UK version.

Also, who says that realistic art is superior art?

submit movie scripts said...

i enjoy watching six feet under and the sopranos...cant miss one

O'JohnLandis said...

Rick, as for Family Guy, have you seen all of Season Three? Whatever you think of the show, that was the best Family Guy possible, and one of those episodes even has some emotional resonance.

As for Californication, the first season would have been an indefensible choice--and in a sense, I suppose Season Two might be as well--but fuck, have you seen Callum Keith Rennie in Californication? I couldn't be honest with myself and put the second season below any of my other options. If I had allowed myself more than one season of the same show, the second season of 24 and the third season of The Office would've bumped both the offending shows off the list, for what it's worth.

Also, the great comic character of the decade isn't David Brent (not even close) or Michael Scott or Jim or Pam--it's Richie Velch from The Class.


I like Tarantino's list. I'm really looking forward to An Education; Star Trek is wonderfully entertaining; and Funny People has some of the truly great scenes of the decade before it tries to bury itself in the lawn outside Leslie Mann's house.

Still though, I'm pulling for Basterds come awards season.


Now to yell at Bill--what the fuck do you have against Michael Giacchino? The score might have been the only thing about Up that didn't bother me.

I liked Up, but it's a moderate success that's always only mere moments away from being a complete disaster. I, for one, couldn't stop thinking, "well, they simply have to be out of balloons by now." Looking at Pixar's next few films, I am worried for the first time that they're in serious artistic trouble. Certainly not financial trouble--fuck 3D.

Joan said...

Can't believe there's all this discussion about Top 10 TV for the decade and no one's mentioned Breaking Bad. Yes, it's a rather late entry, but it has 2 seasons under its belt, and Bryan Cranston is absolutely amazing as the mild-mannered chemistry teacher/aspiring drug lord. Mad Men, in comparison, puts me to sleep.

Walter's Avatar review was exactly what I expected. Did Cameron learn nothing from George Lucas about the perils of writing your own screenplays? Guess not. Personally I get tired of hearing about how much white guys/the military suck, but I guess there's still a market for stories like that.

Dan said...

@Corym: At the risk of sounding contrary for the sake of it, I genuinely don't think the UK version is unrealistic in the slightest. I have actually *worked* for someone very close to David Brent, who was more interested in sending funny emails, entertaining the "troops" and organizing team-building exercises than doing his job.

I also work with someone who worked in Washington D.C for 4 years and she says the difference between American and British workplaces is pretty stark, because Americans are far more proactive and worried about losing their jobs. A lot of Brits find a middle-management job they can do with one hand tied behind their back, and just do enough not to get fired. Sad, but true. Brent is a very accurate portrayal of British bosses (with a few embellishments for comic effect) and I agree that Michael Scott seems likewise for American audiences.

You're also underestimating the repression of many Brits -- particularly in work-based love-triangles. Again, Tim and Dawn come across as very accurate to me. I myself never made a move on a girl I fancied at work for about 2 years, purely because she had a gym-mad boyfriend -- it's not the "done thing". I had to wait until he dumped her, and even then I gave it 6 months. That's a very typical state of affairs for many Brits, sad to say!

I get the impression there's a cultural disconnect going on here, which is influencing how we enjoy the two Office's.

@OJohnLandis: Yes, interesting point that the US characters are more outgoing around the camera -- in many ways, they all want to be the "star" of the documentary (well, Jim, Dwight and Michael at the very least.) In the UK, the characters were quite wary and introverted about the meddling camera crew following them around, and only Brent was using it all as an opportunity to becom e a big reality TV star (Gervais admits Brent was partly based on a guy called Jeremy Spake, who became a British star after appearing in the doc "Airport").

Bill C said...

@Joan: "Breaking Brad", "Battlestar Galactica", and "The Shield" are personal blind spots.

Anonymous said...

Breaking Brad! Angelina offers Brad Pitt all the adopted children he wants to play John Galt.

Dan said...

Walter has nothing to do with this, right?

Alex Jackson said...

OK, let me show you how it's done.

10. 30 Rock
9. Family Guy
8. Arrested Development
7. (gulp!)Dead Like Me
6. Free Radio
5. The Sopranos
4. Nip/Tuck
3. Deadwood
2. Big Love (Haven't gotten past the first season yet, just been putting it off I guess)
1. John From Cincinnati

Biggest blind spots: Battlestar Galactica, The Wire

Apologies to: 24, Mad Men, My Name is Earl; I liked you guys too but they didn't quite make the cut

"Guilty Pleasures": The Way of the Master, Law and Order: SVU, The Surreal Life, VH1's "I Love the..." series

Profoundly overrated: Joss Whedon, Judd Apatow, Veronica Mars (totally on the outside of these)

Note on Deadwood. Walter is right when he says it's like seeing the dawn of Shakespeare. And like Shakespeare it's kinda dumb to see it on top ten lists and it's greatness is such a concrete inarguable fact that saying that you like it doesn't tell me anything about you.

When all is said and done though I would rather watch JFC or Big Love though.

Bill C said...

@Alex: Okay, I have to ask, then: if you've only seen 1 season of B/L (which I like a lot (I have season 2 here if you want to cover it, btw)), how many seasons of "Nip/Tuck" have you seen? Because its fall from grace has been so precipitous that a #4 placement smells like blind allegiance to me.

I shamefully have only seen the JfC pilot. It was great, I admit. And I don't know what "Free Radio" is, which makes me deeply curious. And "Dead Like Me", well, you're definitely not alone, but I find it insufferable. It's just ersatz Joss Whedon, and the real thing is bad enough. (Except when it's not, I guess.)

Dan said...

@Alex: John From Cincinnati was too bizarre to really connect with me, although I watched it all the way through because it was pretty mesmerizing... and there were many great moments. I thought the finale was a big disappointment, tho. I didn't feel like the journey was worth the effort in the end. Still, nice to see something so different that took chances.

Alex Jackson said...

@Alex: Okay, I have to ask, then: if you've only seen 1 season of B/L (which I like a lot (I have season 2 here if you want to cover it, btw)), how many seasons of "Nip/Tuck" have you seen? Because its fall from grace has been so precipitous that a #4 placement smells like blind allegiance to me.

Would love to do Season 2 of BL, could benefit from a Utahn perspective I would think.

Utterly valid observation regarding Nip/Tuck. Honestly, I stuck with it through season 4 (got a bit spotty there for a while, but still lots of good stuff, I actually liked the future episode a whole lot) and then bailed after the mid-season 5 cliffhanger with the Teddy Bear lady.

Season 5, where they move to Beverly Hills, was indeed pretty horrible. I hated the glib way they dismissed Michelle at the beginning of the season (writing characters off the show is a perpetual weak point in the series)and so many of the new plot developments just did not work. And it was just getting too ugly for me. I didn't get any pleasure out of watching it any more.

My Tivo kept recording it though, and I guess I just ignored it. One night about a month and a half ago, I watched an episode on a whim and I was pleasantly amused to see the Mime robber thread and that Annie was finally having her own issues. Now, it's really the only show I make a point of watching every week. Last night's episode was fantastic and gave me a lot to feed off of emotionally, especially with that happy (not even ironic exactly) family reunion at the end.

Granted though, the strength of Nip/Tuck's first season carried it a long long way.

I'm an early adopter of the hard- to-find Free Radio and maybe once it gets more popular and the backlash sets in and it becomes repetitive than maybe I won't call it the best comedy on television this decade.

Food for thought: one of the major reasons that John From Cincinnati got the number one spot is that it was only one season long and was rather self-contained. The last episode wasn't a dazzler, but it concluded the series in a way that something like Deadwood or Arrested Development (not to mention The Sopranos obviously) could not. Self-containment is characteristically what makes film more attractive to me than television. More than any other factor I think. I like it when it all works together as a whole.

Patrick said...

Sorry, I haven't caught up with the discussion, just wanted to share that I just came from an Avatar screening. First off, is "Believe it, or not" really the tagline in the US? Why not "meh"?

Then, man was this thing looooong. At the intermission, I was actually shocked I'd only reached the halfway point. Blah earthforce blah seeing blah blah stick an apostrophe to a name and it'll be exotic blah let's have all the natives be played by blacks or native americans except for the white saviour, that'll go over well blah here's the Goddess.

"Now you're a man and you can take a wife. Not find one, woo one, charm one – take one. Please, we have so many. And then let's go and shoot with arrows at spaceships for a minute or so, before we notice it doesn't work. Help us whitey!"

Also: Why not choose a main actor who is actually paraplegic, if you have to make it a plot point at all?


Patrick said...

Walter: Why did you like Red Cliff? Saw the first three hours and couldn't get into it at all. It seemed as if I was supposed to know the beats to the song, but being deaf (or not versed in Chinese history), I had no idea what was going on.

I stopped shortly after the to me ridiculously overwrought tiger hunt sequence, where you know after five seconds what's going to happen and then have to watch ten minutes until it does.

Dan said...

@Alex: Yes, the self-containment thing with films I can totally understand. But on the flipside, I know plenty of people who prefer longrunning TV shows because you get to spend far more time with the characters. I'm somewhere in the middle, which is one reason why I was so grateful they gave Lost an end-date. Please follow ABC's lead with Dexter, Showtime...

@Patrick: They still have intermissions in Germany? Independent cinemas tend to in the UK, but none of the big multiplexes bother. I guess they think they make more money if they get rid of the breaks and play more movies every day as a result. But, surely the cash they'd take on their overpriced drinks/snacks would be more profitable? Anyway, intermissions are dying a death here for whatever reason.

Patrick said...

Well, it seems we have intermissions when the film is abominably long :) So 30 minutes ads and previews, then 90 minutes film, then a 10 minute break, and then another 80 minutes of film.

Lurk said...

If Dan didn't convince you, I can confirm that UK Office is both a spot-on riff on early 00's landfill documentary making, and cubicle working life this side of the pond. Examples:

My boss is far more interested in discussing who has the toughest dog with his favourite underlings than doing anything recognisible as work. This disinterest extends right up the food chain to a site boss who is openly slanderous of his Japanese superiors.

The guy who sits opposite me is a pallid psychopath in the vein of Gareth. He smokes reefer on breaks and throws tantrums at the slightest inconvenience. He frequently feigns sickness to avoid work, and likes to expound on insanely racist conspiracy theories. No-one cares enough to get rid of him.

A little further over the room there's a weird courting between a stick thin moper and a smiley girly girl. It's been going on for years and years. Both are attached. It infrequently bubbles up in an awkward proposition from the mopers end. Last time it was an invitation for the girly girl to come and watch him and his significant other have sex. Naturally, she declined. A week or so of awkwardness later, they reset to go-nowhere flirting.

Now granted, I work in a shithole, but The Office was set in a shithole.

Bill C said...

@Alex: Arrgh--the new eps of "Nip/Tuck" haven't aired in Canada yet, so where I am is at Christian marrying Liz and finding out he's cancer-free. Sounds like it got better since. I wish Ryan Murphy had truly appreciated his brainchild rather than using it as a springboard for a sputtering film career and, God help us, "Glee".

JF said...

My TV list would probably go:
1)Deadwood or The Wire
2)The Sopranos
3)Mad Men
4)Breaking Bad
5)Battlestar Galactica

HM: LOST, The Colbert Report/Daily Show hour, Curb Your Enthusiasm

Blind spots: The Shield, Arrested Development, the later seasons of The Sopranos, countless others I don't feel like listing

FYI: Dennis Cozzalio (politely and respectfully) tore Walter a new asshole over the Blind Side review, and I'm personally kind of having a hard time disagreeing with him, as he identifies some aspects of Walter's writing that, as much as I enjoy reading it, tend to make me a little uncomfortable these days:

Walter_Chaw said...

Dennis is a smart guy - I don't mind being his straw man. Movie reviews were always meant to be the beginning of a conversation, not the end of one. If the guys at SLatIFR spend as much time as they have tearing me new ones, well, I guess I'm flattered to be worth the trouble.

Patrick said...

I don't know, I'm with Walter there. I mean, the statement Dennis quoted was exactly the point: even if it was heartfelt, serious and oblivious doesn't make the film less problematic. Perhaps even more so, because it's not even aware of seventy trillion similar movies, nor aware of real-life issues. It's not just evil, it's unwilling to think about itself. It's clueless, and still part of the problem.

Just like Cameron probably didn't want to make a paternalistic Indian fable, but an uplifting environmental call to arms. Yeah, well, tough luck.

Nyarlathotep said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jefferson Robbins said...

Dennis Cozzalio does the discourse a courtesy by defending The Blind Side as a film, not as a "true story." (That's a crutch I see too often: "Well, the movie was a true story!" No, what you're describing would be a documentary, and even that definition is suspect.) But he's critical of Walter for "the level of vitriol he seems prepared to let fly at this rather minor movie," and that too is a crutch. Why is it "minor?" Is it in fact "minor" movie if it's earned $150 million, which means more people have seen it in the theater than have seen Old Dogs or A Serious Man? And if it's so "minor," why does anyone feel it needs defending? It's just a movie, right, so are you standing firm for the movie or for the way the movie makes you feel about yourself?

Nyarlathotep said...

Oh, God, the Avatar icon on the mothersite... so much win. Just checking in to make sure BillC got my address info; if not, I can resubmit by whatever means necessary.

Bill C said...

@Jefferson: That's a not-insignificant observation and I hope you or somebody makes it at Dennis' blog. THE BLIND SIDE is proving to be stubbornly zeitgeisty, and would he be writing about *this* minor movie if it actually were one?

Dennis and I had a somewhat heated e-mail exchange yesterday, for the record; in retrospect, I was more irritated by the piggybacking of other reviews as a blog trend--seems like so many pieces are written as direct responses to other pieces these days instead of mounting arguments that can stand on their own.

@Nyarlathotep: Check yer e-mail.

Jefferson Robbins said...

Massive DRM Fail Kills Avatar 3D Screening.

Walter_Chaw said...

Speaking of minor films - if y'all haven't seen Bronson, find a way to do so. Wow, Tom Hardy.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to see a FFC review of Bronson, partially because, like Walter intimates, Hardy is bloody awesome (in the true sense of the word) and partly because it seems to be summed up and disregarded as an "An English Chopper" which does this film a massive disservice as I don't recall Chopper heavily implying his violence and lust for fame came from repressed sexuality or that Chopper's male and female aspects were at war with themselves. Perhaps if it ever hits DVD in the States?

Rick said...

Funny People has some of the truly great scenes of the decade...

I totally agree, the first half was unbelievably good, and the best lines involved Adam Sandler dismissing Seth Rogen's children of divorce generation as the pussy generation. The reason I love those lines is probably the reason why I did not respond well to Where the Wild Things Are.

I have seen more Family Guy than I would ever want to see, the same for Californication, and I will never understand how these asshole-baiting shows are entertaining to intelligent people like Alex and OJohn. Even season three is so obvious and lazy, I suppose the season has it's moments, but what entire season doesn't? The funniest and most offensive gags are always so easy, so in retrospect they seem worthless to me. Seriously though, you guys like a show most beloved by trashy families who prop their young ones on the couch to watch along with them.

corym said...


I can accept that I've misread David Brent because of the cultural thing. But I can't take the same argument regarding Dawn and Tim. Bluntly, people are people when it comes to fucking. Maybe the actors' natural chemistry messed up what the writers were trying to do. Regardless, I don't buy that the Dawn/Tim relationship would end the way it did. (Again, this is ignoring the Christmas special. But what did the Christmas special say about the way the creators ended the second series?)

Dan said...

Tom Hardy is phenomenal. He's done mainly TV this year in the UK (The Take, Wuthering Heights), but he's been astonishing in everything I've ever seen him in. If anyone wrote him off when he played the villain in the terrible Star Trek Nemesis, they should check out Bronson immediately.

Kinda excited that he's the new lead in Mad Max 4. He's also in Chris Nolan's Inception next year, so expect a few Bat-villain rummours to bubble up soon, no doubt...

Anonymous said...

I was really, honestly legitimately impressed with how good Adam Sandler's performance was. The last dramatic role I saw him in was Spanglish, and dear Jesus was he bad in that. But Funny People, man... if I were to pick any movie to prove Adam Sandler is a legit actor, it wouldn't be Punch-Drunk Love, it would be Funny People. Chaw is right in that it falls apart -- hard -- in the end, but I feel warmly to it all the same.

Rick said...

if I were to pick any movie to prove Adam Sandler is a legit actor, it wouldn't be Punch-Drunk Love, it would be Funny People

I dunno, to expose that level of insecurity in Punch-Drunk Love is far more fearless than portraying a sociopathic asshole. I assume in real life he is a mix of both personas though.

Dan said...

Has anyone else heard the theory that Emily Watson's character in Punch-Drunk Love is an alien? There are a few reasons for this (most that I can't remember), but I think one is that she's always watching the Moon landing on TV?

Anyway, it's been awhile since I saw PDL, but apparently if you re-watch it thinking Lena's a visiting alien, it makes more "sense". Or, at the very least, makes for an interesting alternative take on everything!

Anonymous said...

Watched Avatar last night, and yeah, that was the same movie that Chaw described, all right. It bothers the living shit out of me that there is nothing ALIEN about the aliens -- even if they were actual literal Native Americans, shouldn't there be SOME kind of culture clash, some weird customs, SOMETHING, some characterization of their society besides the fact that they're perfect little children of Mother Gaia that paint with all the colors of the wind?

Something Chaw didn't mention: What about that whole Avatar thing? Surrogates was a deeply flawed movie, but it took the same conceit and rolled with it, at least, while Avatar has no interest in exploring the implications. Didn't it occur to anyone that part of Sully's attraction to Na'vi society is simply because when he's there he has working legs?


Alex Jackson said...

And I drove an hour and a half to see AntiChrist last night. Guys, how could anybody not think this is a great film? What is the intelligent argument against AntiChrist? How could anybody even conceptualize the thought of "I like you Walter, even if you like AntiChrist". It's as factually great as Inglourious Basterds, but not nearly as problematic in its greatness.

Its status as a structurally complex text has to be addressed and cannot be ignored, but it works on a human level as well.

Alex Jackson said...

I take that back.

It's been a while since I've enjoyed Slant Magazine. Most of their writing strikes me as glib and too cool for school and just makes me angry, but I adore David Edelstein, he has to be one of my all time favorites, and his negative review reminds that you can "get" a good film but that doesn't mean you have to endorse it or like it.

Bill C said...

Do you mean Slate, Alex? Although Slant hated AC, too.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen Antichrist but I do find it funny that "Chaos reigns" seems to have become the new internet catchphrase.

Alex Jackson said...

Do you mean Slate, Alex? Although Slant hated AC, too.

No, but that is my fault though. The way I wrote that it did seem like I had confused Edelstein as writing for Slant particularly since the two publications are constantly confused with one another.

But yeah, I dislike Ed Gonzalez of SLANT'S pan of AntiChrist, but I really like David Edelstein of SLATE'S pan of AntiChrist.

Kyle Puetz said...

Does Edelstein even work at Slate anymore? I thought he'd moved onto NY Magazine... (I really haven't frequented Slate since his departure.)

Bill C said...

R.I.P. Brittany Murphy. I wish I could say I'm shocked, but I remember reading an interview with her circa CHERRY FALLS in which she talked about having a heart condition, and between the lines was the suggestion that she was on borrowed time unless she opted to live in a bubble. Like Bernie Mac, I feel like she leaves behind more untapped promise than an actual career, and I confess I never really had an opinion of her other than that she seemed to have truly abysmal taste in material, squandering her 15 minutes on shit like LITTLE BLACK BOOK. Her last movie is apparently Stallone's THE EXPENDABLES, which may turn that gung ho B-movie into an A picture yet. LOVE STORY had it right: what can you say about a thirty-two-year-old girl who died?

Alex Jackson said...

Does Edelstein even work at Slate anymore? I thought he'd moved onto NY Magazine... (I really haven't frequented Slate since his departure.)

And so he does! Googled Edelstein and AntiChrist and the review I read was on NY Magazine.

Good grief....

Bill C said...

Apropos of nothing, just received this comment on my A SINGLE MAN capsule at Rotten Tomatoes:


Vivre la Internet.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Bill, Walter, all:

My characterization of The Blind Side as "minor" is a misstatement on my part-- as Jefferson (I think it was Jefferson) accurately says, the movie certainly seems to have become something more than minor in the way that it has become the focal point of a debate over the legitimacy of telling this kind of story in this way. Maybe a more well-advised word or phrase might have been one that conveyed a sense of it being stylistically, narratively, yes, even thematically somewhat less than ambitious. There are elements of the movie I wish were more fully fleshed out, and elements I wish were afforded something in the neighborhood of poetry. But those reservations didn't make me sorry the movie had been made. My rush to defend it came more from a direct reaction to Walter's review, and a sense, as one of my colleagues (who also did not like The Blind Side) put it, "that it's just out of bounds now to tell the story of a white person intervening for the benefit of a black person."

All that said, I appreciate the opportunity for self-examination that this debate over the movie has afforded. The impulse to examine my own motives and methods is one that I hope never abandons me.

Happy holidays, FFC!

Rick said...

My issues, or more accurately, confusion, with AntiChrist is with the filler/set up content in the first half. All the grieving scenes just seem like a forced set up for a glorified twist, and as means or a plot device to expose Dafoe's character. Was it implied that she was acting during the first half, since the apathetic expression flashback made it clear she lost it a while ago? Did I miss that?

mr b said...

Apropos of nothing, is anyone as aggravated by the Sherlock Holmes trailers as I am? I easily forgive deviations from text, but I can think of no reason to trash Sherlock Holmes like Guy Richie et al are doing. Am I missing something?

Jefferson Robbins said...

I would be interested in a film about the human cost of being Sherlock Holmes, but Billy Wilder already made it. I have to say that the new Holmes looks completely skippable for me.

Dennis: Thanks for your clarification. My first thought on reading your characterization of The Blind Side as "minor" had to do with the film-viewing phenomenon now known as Moff's Law. (Ebert has embraced it, so it must have some weight.) Saying one should "turn off your mind" to experience a movie belittles the other party, the movie, and the entire experience of cinema. I don't think that's what you were proposing; else you wouldn't have found the movie worthy of defending on the terms you set out.

Patrick said...

I've always been interested in the John Rogers version of Holmes:

John Watson is a twenty-six year old combat hard-gadunkadunk with mujhadeen shrapnel buried in his leg (or shoulder, depending on the story), not some foppish fuckwit with a bowler hat. Sherlock Holmes is your substance-abusing perpetual grad student solving cases for the London underworld/working class that the cops won't touch. THAT'S why everybody fraks up Holmes and Watson.

About two years ago I was developing that version of Holmes and Watson with a director to do a TV pilot, and our agents correctly argued that no network was really looking for that. However, it's my fondest wish to someday do that show.

Oh, and they're women. Did I mention that?

The Guy Ritchie one doesn't seem that interesting, and the inclusion of a sexy female villain who gets to strip makes me want to see it even less.

Dennis: I don't think you're not allowed to portray white people helping blacks, it's just if you do, you'd better make sure to address the issue. It's practically the other way round from sexual minorities in film. Where you can't have a gay man or woman without seemingly make the homosexuality the focus of the movie, race and cultural identity in such films are glossed over. Like in Avatar, where there's practically no cultural baggage at all.

Patrick said...

Oh, and addendum: there's a fleeting shot of a levitating woman in the Holmes trailer, and I've heard that it "included the supernatural", and I hate that. Despite being a believer in fairies, Arthur Conan Doyle created the ultimate rational detective. Holmes does not belong in the same world as unexplainable phenomena.

Arlvy said...

Patrick, I agree with you but I think the film might be about Holmes' rationality defeating the occult Aleister Crowley style figure Mark Strong is playing, in a sense (as long as the supernatural elements are eventually revealed to be magic tricks) it's a perfect conflict for the character of Holmes.

Patrick said...

Yes, if it's revealed to be a trick: perfect. But I've seen so many film skeptics revert to faith in so many movies, and Holmes is such a symbolic figure, I'm just afraid they'll frak it up.

Walter_Chaw said...

Sherlock Holmes is really good. I'm no Ritchie apologist, either, but this is the iron poker-bending, cocaine-sniffing Holmes that I remember reading before those Rathbone/Bruce chamber dramas. Nothing levitates - the trailers are misleading - Downey Jr. is fantastic.

mr b said...

The trailers must be misleading based on your response Walter. I may yet be encouraged to see it based on your review. One question: Have you seen the Jeremy Brett Holmes series? I'd be interested in your thoughts on a Brett-Downey Jr-Rathbone comparison.

Paul S. said...

I'm just laughing at the irony of these top 10 lists for "this decade".

When you make your top ten, do you start with zero? No, you start with one. And since there was no year zero A.D., this decade still has another year to go.

Nyarlathotep said...

Paul S.: It's really not ironic. As there is no year zero, the best way to keep time is to simply declare that the first decade had only nine years. Failing that, you could say that the first century of the Christian Era / Common Era was 99 years long, and that all subsequent centuries have followed traditional accounting rules. I tried the "sneer down your nose at the unenlightened" path for a while, but snark's really not terribly rewarding... and anything that makes this decade fade more quickly is frankly welcome in my life.

Assisted living facilities said...

A psychiatrist works with the police to uncover crimes. He is someone who wants to talk about anything and everything, and to reason it out, and the police are anything but – even the sole woman on the team is tough and closed off, one colleague is an alcoholic, another one has anger issues, and they all hate the doctor.

Allen Avakian said...

avatar, i found it like an Indian love story. animation was much better.

Brown Jordan Furniture said...

avatar was a good one. i agree with Allen that the animation was superb.Only the animation thing was the best part of the movie. nice post. thanks for sharing.

Nancy Barrett said...

avatar was horrible to watch. i hated it like hell. i agree with the animation part of Brown Jordan.