Serial Murder, and Me

February 23, 2015

Another Odd Couple

I don’t watch TV, an admission that usually meets with startled surprise from people I meet.  “You mean, you don’t have a TV?!”  I do have a TV, or what passes for one these days, i.e., a large flat-screen on which I watch Netflix mostly, generally on DVDs, but sometimes streaming.  I also admit to watching old Hawaii Five-0 shows while I exercise.  But television shows, TV series, no.

I have tried to watch a few series that have a lot of buzz around them:  I made it through three episodes of “Breaking Bad,” tried, Treme, and a few others. I just don’t like the form – it makes me think of The Sims.  Create a world, people it with characters, disturb it, watch what happens…  I prefer to have the sense of watching a story.  Something with a beginning, a middle, and an end, a dramatic arc.  So, I tried True Detective, and I like it!  It’s only eight episodes long (half the length of The Prisoner!)  Maybe the fact that it’s written by a novelist helps.  The whole point to a regular series is just to keep you watching, to keep the show going…for years, if you can.

I rather like Rust Cohle, and his worldview.  I’m down with his philosophy of mind, his dismissal of the fantasy of personhood.  Maybe he’s a David Hume fan too?  For some reason, his cogitations get him down, instead of bringing him joy.  Perhaps he needs to read Fontenelle:

“All this immense space which holds our sun and our planets will be merely a small piece of the universe? As many spaces as there are fixed stars? This confounds me — troubles me — terrifies me.”

“And as for me,” I answered, “this puts me at my ease.”

There are two sex-scenes in the first three episodes (as far as I’ve gotten to-date) that set me thinking.  The first shows Marty getting it on with his hottie from the DA’s office.  She’s naked, he’s not.  The second shows him doing the same with his wife; she’s naked, he’s not.  How come women get naked but not men, I asked my wife?  “Sexism,” she replied.  Not acceptable to show naked men on TV.  (I avoid the word “nude,” which I associate with art history.)  “Not that I want to see those guys with their clothes off, anyway,” she said.  Point taken.  But it emphasizes that it’s a man’s world we are seeing on the screen.

And what is the point of these scenes?  The first was to deepen Marty’s character: it was supposed to be a bit of a shock after hearing him go on about family values so much to anyone within hearing, and there was only a brief hint earlier of his philandering.  The second..?  My wife again:  “It was supposed to show that he was a tortured soul.”  To me, he just seems like a guy with a lot of deeply held and self-serving ideas.  But then, I’m partial to the philosopher of the pair who questions all…  And I guess the fact that his deeply held ideas aren’t helping him so much is part of the drama after all.

Overall, a higher order of television than I’m used to!

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Angels in America

November 25, 2011

When Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes won the Pulitzer Prize in 1993, the Regan era and the full-bore ravages of AIDS in America were not far behind us.  The play, at least as it is (faithfully, I’ve read) adapted in the 2003 HBO mini-series, deals with several emotionally churning themes – love, death, disease, the end of the Cold War, American assimilationism…well, those last two are emotional hot-button issues for some people.  The HBO series was highly praised, and when I watched the first part on a DVD, I was taken with it.  There was drama, there was suspense, there were spectacular sights and portents of great meaning.

There were also fine actors:  Al Pacino was great playing the “pole star of evil,” Roy Cohn, the right-wing hatchet man and all around corrupt operator, who hid is homosexual nature, or as he said, the fact that he “likes to fuck around with guys,” and that he was dying of AIDS.  Meryl Streep does her chameleon thing, playing several roles, but even though I am thoroughly used to that, her portrayal of a ratty orthodox rabbi in the opening knocked me out.  Jeffrey Wright was great as Cohn’s nurse and the friend to all.

But that was not enough.  Part II barely kept my attention, it petered out in a fit of sentimentality; the boy gets boy, boy loses boy plot lines were tedious, and one of the main characters, the guilt-ridden politico-Jew who abandons his AIDS stricken lover, was boring, trite, and basically repellent.  In the end, I felt I’d been had:  What was that mess about anyway?  We should all be nicer to one another?  Without Pacino, I don’t think I could have made it through the show.  Thank you Roy Cohn for a wonderful experience.


The Homecoming

November 20, 2011

Perhaps I should not write a word about this 1973 film adaptation of Harold Pinter’s play, The Homecoming.  After all, silence, heavy and oppressive, is such a major element in the dialog.

A man comes home to his father, uncle, and two brothers, after having been away and out of contact for nine years.  They are working class Londoners; he has become an American philosophy professor:

Take this table, see, but what do you do once you’ve taken it?” “He’d probably sell it…Chop it up for firewood!  Har har ha!”  Love that skewering of philosophy chat.

He brings a wife, pretty, very pretty, and respectable…but she was different before.  The brother who is a pimp (a very young Ian Holme) senses that right away.  Nobody can process reality, let alone speak the truth aloud about anything.  The uncle who finally succeeds in uttering an indisputable fact falls dead from the effort.  Sex and family power relations render the atmosphere between the characters as thick as molasses:  their words send out shock waves with a physical impact.

Here’s a clip of the scene shown in the header image, a point in the play when everything begins to turn around the central axis of power, sex, and the fear/loathing of women.  Vivian Merchant plays a very different kind of femme fatale, but she herself was destroyed utterly by the breakup of her marriage to Pinter.