BBC Home Entertainment released a video showing a bit about how Tatiana Maslany becomes 7 different characters in Orphan Black.
I just can’t shut up about this series. There’s a lot in it to think about. Social justice, for example.
Orange is the New Black begins each episode with a changing array of mouths and eyes. These are presumably real female prisoners. Here’s what you notice after a while.
Very few of those eyes are blue. Jenji Kohan is showing us this as a fact: very few blue-eyed people end up in prison.
The opening credits aren’t the only place where we must think about racial justice. When blonde and white Piper Chapman, played by Taylor Schilling, arrives at the prison to surrender herself, a guard assumes she’s a visitor, not a future inmate.
When we look at a white person, we don’t see a future jailbird. Put a little color in a person’s skin and suddenly they are a criminal. Have you seen this video?
Jenji Kohan isn’t quite that obvious in Orange is the New Black, but the evidence is there.
In the prison society in Orange is the New Black, the inmates have divided themselves into “tribes.” These tribes are based on race. Yes, there is a tribe of white people. But the women of color far outnumber them.
The prison officials encourage this system of tribes and allow one person from each tribe to be elected to a council of women who are promised some input into how things are run.
Race isn’t the only issue in the hierarchy of inmates. There are class-based hierarchies within the tribes.
There’s a scene between a white guard played by Lauren Lapkus and the main character, Piper. The guard says that she could be where Piper is – she just never got caught for her bad decisions.
When Piper’s mom visits her in prison, she laments the fact that Piper took a plea bargain and didn’t go to trial. Why? Because people who look like Piper are never convicted in a trial.
On Piper’s first day in prison, she meets the prison counselor Jim Healy, wonderfully portrayed by Michael Harney. He suggests to her that there is no logic in how long sentences are. Someone who committed a minor crime might get 4 years, while someone who committed a more serious crime might get 9 months. He doesn’t say this is based on race, but studies that compare sentences based on race point to statistics like this.
Corruption within the prison system itself is portrayed by Pablo Schreiber as Mendez, the guard, and Alysia Reiner as Figueroa. These people are as crooked as the inmates.
Orange is the New Black tells a great story with characters we love. Still, there’s a lot going on under the surface that bears thinking about and talking about. America’s system of justice is under the microscope in this series.
Have you thought about the justice or injustice of what we see about women in prison as you watch this series? Please share your thoughts.
I already posted a general review Orange is the New Black in Orange is the New Black: A Winner from Netflix. In that review I asked the question, Can you give an entire cast an Emmy for best supporting actress?
It’s hard to choose. Every choice is outstanding. I liked Miss Claudette and Sophia and Nicky and Tiffany ‘Pennsatucky’ Doggett and Yoga. And Red – Red is a scene stealer. I liked Kathryn Kates in her tiny but perfect part as Larry’s mother. So many good choices.
But I’m asking you to choose, so choose I must.
I’m going with Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren played by Uzo Aduba.
Crazy Eyes is a multiplicity: bit off the rails, a bit violent, a bit wiser than Solomon, a bit of a poet, and smart, smart smart. Uzo Aduba gives her a certain charm and warmth that I found delightful. She also nailed the requisite crazy looking eyes when needed. Her physicality in this role made Crazy Eyes believable and real.
A favorite episode with her is when Crazy Eyes hears there might be an “acting opportunity” in the prison (a contingent of juvenile delinquents are coming and inmates are asked to talk to them), she marches in and announces, “I want to play a role. Like Desdemona or Ophelia or Claire Huxtable.” She’s smart and funny. When the juvenile delinquents appear, Crazy Eyes does a brilliant reading of some lines from Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Coriolanus.
Who did you like the most? Why?
The Way, Way Back opens on the miserable face of Liam James as 14-year-old Duncan, sitting in the way, way back seat of a vintage woodie Buick station wagon. Driving this aging monster is Trent (Steve Corell), his mom’s boyfriend. His mom is Pam, (Toni Collette) and his possible future step-sister filling the middle seat with all her teen-age horribleness is Steph (Zoe Levin). They are on their way to Trent’s beach house to spend the summer.
Rounding out the star-studded cast we have Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb (remember how wonderful she was in Bridge to Terabithia? She’s even better now.), Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, Rob Corddry, and Amanda Peet. It speaks to the quality of the writing and the story that so many accomplished actors were willing to take part in this production.
The trailer shows them in action.
The story revolves around Duncan. This teen has issues. His parents are recently divorced. His mom’s new boyfriend is an asshole. His dad has a new younger girlfriend and “now isn’t a good time to visit.” He doesn’t know how to talk to people. His mom is bending herself into someone else to fit into the new boyfriend’s life. He has to go everywhere on a pink girl’s bike which is as dated as Trent’s Buick.
When they arrive in the beach town, Duncan is befriended by Owen, the manager of a water park (Sam Rockwell), who teaches him how to laugh, how to assert himself, and how to take chances. As improbable a plot point as it is to imagine a grown man befriending young Duncan for purely selfless reasons, there’s a scene to somewhat explain how they connect. When the Buick pulls into town, with Duncan staring morosely out the back window, they stop in traffic. The car behind them is driven by Owen, who makes eye contact with Duncan and they share a moment while waiting for the traffic to move.
Duncan manages to find his way while all around him the significant adults in his life are drinking themselves silly, smoking pot, and damaging their own children in countless ways. Young River Alexander as Peter pronounces his mom the worst parent, but there are several candidates for that prize in this tale.
With such a stellar cast, even the smallest of characters in this busy relationship drama turn in full-blown performances. There’s a romance of sorts between Sam Rockwell and Maya Rudolph’s characters. There’s cheating going on – I won’t spoil it by telling you who – and there’s a first kiss for Duncan before it’s over.
Duncan’s awakening spurs his mom to gather up her strength, too. The movie closes on a heartwarming note.
Heartwarming is probably the best description of The Way, Way Back. There are real people with real life problems and a hopeful ending. A perfectly heartwarming movie.
Have you see it? Did you enjoy it as much as I did?
This Veronica Mars movie sneak peak was released at the recent San Diego Comic Con (SDCC). In case you aren’t aware of the back story, the money for this movie was raised in a Kickstarter project. The funding goal was raised in almost seconds (just a slight exaggeration). The Kickstarter project raised millions beyond its goal. It is one of the biggest fan-driven fund raising events to date and the start of a new trend in how movies get made.
Fans will get their movie in 2014.
If you missed Veronica Mars when it was a TV series years ago, it’s available via streaming services, and it’s worth watching. She’s a high school girl who helps out in her dad’s detective agency. I know, high school kids – I’m so beyond that – but it’s a good show.
There is some fan insanity going on in San Diego this weekend. Here are some interesting tweets about some of my favorite shows and stars from the event.
From the SyFy show Defiance cast member Jaime Murray. Jaime Murry is also in another favorite show of mine, Warehouse 13.
— Jaime Murray (@MsJaimeMurray) July 19, 2013
Jaime Murray posted lots of pics. Check her Twitter feed for a lot more, like this one referencing Warehouse 13. You may be able to find one similar to this of her giving her co-star Joanne Kelly a smooch, something we have yet to see on Warehouse 13.
— Jaime Murray (@MsJaimeMurray) July 20, 2013
Here’s one from Lost Girl star Ksenia Solo, who puts a lot of photos on Instagram.
From a fan of The Hunger Games.
Here’s what the fans camped out all night to see.
— Catching Fire (@TheHungerGames) July 19, 2013
A lot of happy fans got to stand beside their favorites.
— Jessica Courtemanche (@CourtemancheJ) July 20, 2013
Here’s a video of a session with Orphan Black cast members. Since this video is long, I’ll end with it.
— Orphan Black (@OrphanBlack) July 20, 2013
Do a Twitter search on #SDCC for thousands more tweets like these.
The 2013 Emmy Nominations were announced. The noms I most care about were in the Outstanding Lead Actress category. Here are the nominees.
- Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates in Bates Motel
- Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
- Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in Homeland
- Robin Wright as Claire Underwood in House of Cards
- Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson in Mad Men
- Connie Britton as Rayna James in Nashville
- Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope in Scandal
What a great list. I love all these actresses and all these performances and all these shows.
Well, I can’t stand Mad Men. I lived through the 50s once – I don’t need to suffer all that patriarchy again. But I loved Elizabeth Moss in Top of the Lake so I’m happy she was nominated for that, too.
Claire Danes, Connie Britton, Kerry Washington – I lurve them to bits. And a big Hurrah for Kerry Washington for letting herself be filmed with wet hair in the shower with Tony Goldwin and for being the first African American woman nominated in this category in years. I hope she wins.
But, really TV academy people, Emmy nomination people, where the hell is Tatiana Maslany from Orphan Black? She really should be on that list. She doesn’t have to win, but cripes, she should have been nominated.
She really should.
Like REALLY should.
Are you happy with the Emmy nominations? What’s your particular favorite category of nominees?
If you’d like to see a complete list of all the women nominated in every category, check out Looking at the 2013 Emmy Nominated Women at Women and Hollywood.
I remember the speech Jennifer Beals gave in Break a Leg about how a woman has to be both beautiful and as good as Meryl Streep to make it in the movies. (You can catch the speech at the 8:29 minute mark in this video.) It is generally accepted in American culture that Meryl Streep is the greatest actress since the origin of the human race. We don’t even have to discuss it – we’ve seen her prove it time after time.
So when you see a great performance, it’s easy to compare the actress’s talents with Meryl Streep. For example, I remember watching Toni Collette in The United States of Tara and thinking, Why have I never noticed how amazing Toni Collette is – she could rival Meryl Streep.
I’m telling you right now that if Streep was a verb, Tatiana Maslany streeped the hell out of Orphan Black. Here’s the trailer for season 1 of this BBC America series, which started in 2013.
This is the preview for season 2.
Here’s the preview for season 3.
Tatiana Maslany is a young Canadian actress who had quite a few roles before she got this part in Orphan Black, but her career will never be the same after this performance. She is simply electrifying.
Orphan Black is a clone story. A nature vs. nurture story. Maslany plays all the clones. You sometimes see her on the screen in two or three personas at the same time. She’s so good at making them unique that you don’t even get confused about who is who – you willingly accept them all as different women. The central character in this web of clones is Sarah Manning. She’s the criminal you saw in the trailer who steals the purse of her look-alike, moves into her flat, and attempts to live her life long enough to empty her bank account. This scheme drags out into a hellish impersonation as Sarah attempts to be a cop named Beth Childs. In season 1, Maslany played at least 7 different clones.
As Sarah gets pulled further and further into Beth’s life she discovers more women who look just like her. She doesn’t immediately realize they are clones – does she have a twin, is she a triplet? Nor does Sarah grasp the implications of what it all means. As various clones are killed off – one assumes by the person who created them – it becomes clearer what danger they are all in. They begin to work together to solve the mystery of who they are, why they are, and what they can do to protect themselves.
The clones include the wild-haired Helena, Cosima a brainy scientist who is a lesbian and Alison, a soccer mom. The other clones don’t show up as often. Helena is a wild animal on the prowl, dangerous and unpredictable. Cosima is trying to work out the genetics of the clones and why some of them (including her) are suffering from respiratory ailments. Alison is hilarious as the uptight suburban wife with undiscovered depths. They look different, sound different, move differently, carry themselves differently. There’s no mixing them up.
Jordan Gavaris plays Sarah’s foster brother and her best friend and confidant. His quips provide some of the comic relief. He gets deeply involved in the danger and adventure as the story unfolds.
Maria Doyle Kennedy is the mysterious foster mother, Mrs. S, who raised the two foster children. She is also the guardian of Sarah’s young daughter and has the power to keep Sarah from seeing her child. We are never sure if Mrs. S is good guy or a bad guy.
Dylan Bruce is Beth’s boyfriend, and possibly something else. He realizes after finding Sarah in Beth’s apartment and boinking her on the kitchen counter that she isn’t Beth, but he goes along with the whole thing without letting Sarah know he’s on to her. Assorted ex-boyfriends and bad guys fill out the cast. Inga Cadranel, who is Bo’s mother in Lost Girl, plays one of the cops. A favorite of mine, Matt Frewer – Max Headroom himself – shows up near the end of season 1. I won’t spoil it for you as to what his part in the cloning story is, but he is a key character.
Seasons 1, 2, and 3 were each 10 episodes in length. Season 4 is in the works now. I started recapping the series in season 2 and have continued since.
Have you seen Orphan Black? Have a favorite clone or a comment on where you think it’s going in season 4?
Moneyball (2011) and Trouble with the Curve (2012) are two baseball stories that are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of theme. Yet both are good movies. Since both are out on DVD now, it seemed like a good idea to review them together.
The earlier film Moneyball takes the stance that technology can solve any problem, even the problem of who to draft for a baseball team.
Moneyball stars Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Jonah Hill plays a geek who uses a computer and stats to decide who a team should draft. Brad Pitt trusts him to know who to pick and the film is about how they convince other people in their organization that using this new technological technique to predict baseball greatness will work. Philip Seymour Hoffman is the coach.
Moneyball is based on a true story about the Oakland Athletics in 2002. Since Oakland proved their point with an amazing team, many other baseball organizations have learned to rely on technology to predict the best picks.
You don’t have to like baseball to like Moneyball. It’s a great underdog story and certainly has good actors. It earned 6 Oscar nominations including ones for Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. I particularly love the geeky part of this film, since I’m pretty much the elder geek of the interwebs.
Trouble with the Curve
Trouble with the Curve, on the other hand, is the anti-technology baseball story. It comes at draft picks from an experience-can’t-be-beat point of view. Clint Eastwood represents the experience, of course. He’s a talent scout named Gus who is going blind. He can still pick ’em better than any computer based on his years around baseball.
Amy Adams is Eastwood’s daughter in this film. She brings the theme of father-daughter relationships into the story, which gives both Eastwood and Adams some nice opportunities to dig in and show their chops. Justin Timberlake plays another talent scout.
Amy Adams. Justin Timberlake. You know what happens when boy meets girl. That. Adams and Timberlake are particularly effective at telling this ages-old tale in the condensed form it takes when mixed into the larger story about Gus and his draft picks. Two stories in one, it’s a bargain.
The final important character is John Goodman, who is a lifelong friend of Gus’s and is backing him in his picks against the guys who want to do it with technology. There are a few interesting plot twists along the way, especially involving Amy Adams character, but I’ll let you enjoy them as they are revealed in the movie. I will share one spoiler. Amy Adams sings in this movie – and not very well. For a fabulous singer, she must have really had to work at sounding like a normal person singing.
Have you seen either of these baseball stories? What did you think of them?
Some of the best stories you’ll find anywhere are now playing on your computer on a YouTube channel called WIGS. WIGS offers original series, short films, and documentaries, all starring female leads.
There are numerous offerings on WIGS. Some films are one episode, some 3, some 12, some with more than one season. All feature well-known female leads such as America Ferrera, Virginia Madsen, Maura Tierney, Julia Stiles, Jennifer Beals, Troian Bellasario, Anna Paquin, and more. The many male actors who populate these tales are well-known, too, but the purpose of the films is to feature the women. The documentaries feature women.
I’ll mention my favorite series. I hope you’ll explore them all, because they are all good.
Lauren is a drama about rape in the military. It stars Troian Bellasario as Lauren, the soldier who is raped. Jennifer Beals is Major Stone, the officer to whom Lauren turns for justice.
If you’ve paid attention to the headlines recently, you know justice for crimes of sexual assault does not automatically happen in military culture. Lauren is not an easy series. It’s tense and full of unfairness that makes you want to scream.
Here is episode one.
There were 3 original episodes in Lauren. It was so well-received and so important a topic that 12 more episodes were shot as a second season. The story doesn’t end at the end of season 2. I’m hoping there will be a season 3 to bring closure to the story.
Jennifer Beals and Troian Bellasario are fabulous together in Lauren. There’s great chemistry and tension between the two, as you can see in the first episode.
Blue features Julia Stiles as a single mom who supplements her income as a call girl. There were 12 episodes in season 1. Season 2 had 26 episodes. There is room for a season 3 in the story, which was unresolved at the end of season 2. Blue may end up being a full blown movie. Here is the first episode.
Julia Stiles is remarkable in this role. Blue is so complex and has so much to hide (and so much to lose) that it’s fascinating to watch her life open up a little more to the viewer in each episode.
Julia Stiles wrote and directed a series of her own on WIGS, called Paloma, which features Grace Gummer. Yeah, it’s that kind of woman-power.
Ruth and Erica
Ruth and Erica features Maura Tierney and Lois Smith. Tierney is trying to get her parents out of the family home and into a facility where they can care for her father (Phillip Baker Hall) who has Alzheimer’s disease.
There are 13 episodes. Here is the first.
Ruth and Erica is told and acted and shot with great tenderness and love. The scenes between Lois Smith and Phillip Baker Hall as the loving old couple dealing with Alzheimer’s are beautiful and tender and heartbreaking. The two of them are exquisite together. I’d love Ruth and Erica for this couple alone, but Maura Tierney has her own storyline independent of her parents’ drama that is intriguing as well.
This series was resolved at the end of 13 episodes, so I don’t think another season is in the works for it. It would be wonderful if someone would write another series for Lois Smith and Phillip Baker Hall with a story to tell that was about elders living life fully.
Susanna features Maggie Grace and Anna Paquin. The two play sisters. Anna Paquin is a new mother with postpartum depression. She is scary-wonderful in this role. She had me holding my breath during most of her early scenes. Maggie Grace is the sister who gets called in to help when things get impossible.
Here’s episode 1 of 12.
I’ve been watching Anna Paquin perform marvels on a screen ever since The Piano so I wasn’t that surprised by her wonderful performance. However, I’d never heard of Maggie Grace (I’ve never watched Lost or Californication or Taken – unbelievable, right?). Seeing Maggie Grace was an education. She’s really gifted and does some revelatory things with her part as Susanna.
A second season for this story is a must have. I don’t think one has been announced yet, however. Come on, WIGS, bring it.
Why WIGS is among my favorites
It’s all about the women. The women are the center and the source of all the interestingness.
WIGS has men, too. Unlike shows that are all about the men, where the women are just cardboard cutouts by the man’s side, the men in WIGS are developed characters. This kind of equality makes for a better set of stories. We need millions more stories like these just to catch up with all the stories about complex, real men.
It’s about life. Real life. It isn’t about explosions or saving the world by killing great swaths of people without ever thinking about the consequences. It’s about the way real people live.
Have you watched any of the WIGS web series? What were your favorites?