I said quite a bit about Laverne Cox in Why Representation on TV Matters back in February – go read it. Today I just want to offer my congratulations to her for being on the cover of TIME, and to TIME for putting her on the cover.
Laverne Cox is using the opportunity to talk, not about herself, but about the violence and threats to transgender people and particularly transgender women of color. She has a powerful message that I hope everyone will listen to with an open heart.
This is Where I Leave You boasts an incredible cast. It looks hilarious. It’s based on a novel by Jonathan Tropper, who also wrote the screenplay for the film. It’s scheduled for a September release.
Look at this cast: Rose Byrne, Abigail Spencer, Adam Driver, Timothy Olyphant, Connie Britton, Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Dax Shepard, Corey Stoll, Ben Schwartz, Aaron Lazar, and Debra Monk.
Really, Tina Fey alone would have been enough for me, but all those fabulous actors – oh, my, yes.
Here’s how Warner Bros. describes the film.
When their father passes away, four grown siblings, bruised and banged up by their respective adult lives, are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother and an assortment of spouses, exes and might-have-beens. Confronting their history and the frayed states of their relationships among the people who know and love them best, they ultimately reconnect in hysterical and emotionally affecting ways amid the chaos, humor, heartache and redemption that only families can provide-driving us insane even as they remind us of our truest, and often best, selves.
When Clouds of Sils Maria showed at the Cannes Film Festival, the Hollywood Reporter dismissed the film with,
Given its narrow range of concerns, Clouds of Sils Maria will be mostly of interest to aficionados of theater, acting and the notion of how real and fictional lives can blur to those involved.
Based on what I’m seeing in descriptions of the film and the fact that Kristen Stewart is huge, I’m thinking it may draw in more viewers than that. The film stars Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart and Chloe Grace Moretz. I suppose it’s easy for some to dismiss a film with three female names at the top of the cast, but this attracts me.
The themes in the film deal with acting and how real life and fictional life intersect, but they also deal with aging, with relationships, with hubris, and with power.
The basic plot: a 40ish actress played by Juliette Binoche is offered a part in a play that made her famous 20 years ago. Only this time, she will play the older woman in the story, with her former part going to a tabloid-feeding ingenue played by Chloe Grace Moretz. Kristen Stewart is Binoche’s assistant. Binoche and Stewart go to a remote location in Switzerland called Sils-Maria during the process of deciding whether or not to take the part.
As I mentioned, part of the dilemma the Binoche character faces is accepting her age, but there is also a strong parallel between the plot of the play wherein “an older woman falls in love with a scheming girl who has her wrapped around her little finger” and the relationship between Binoche and her assistant.
Any story about the relationships among women should be given a look, in my opinion. Here’s a preview.
If you’ve seen it already, or go see it, please share your reactions.
I rewatched all of season 3 of Lost Girl on Netflix. I was surprised to see many clues to what happened in season 4 that I’d forgotten about in the months between the two seasons. Now I’m rewatching Lost Girl season 4 and having an epiphany about binge watching.
When I watched season 4 on a weekly basis, I spent a good part of the time bitchy and irritated because the answers weren’t coming fast enough. When I look back over my recaps of season 4, the annoyance shows through. I cared about the characters and I wanted to know what was going to happen to them – and, by damn, I wanted to know right now!
Binge watching season 4 is much less aggravating. Well, true, I know what happened. But also true, I can rewatch episodes of Lost Girl with as much enjoyment as I felt the first time through. I experience it all again. Knowing that I can play the next episode immediately, where more will be revealed about Rainer or The Wanderer or the time on the train or Bo’s strange behavior makes a huge difference. It changes how I feel about the slow reveal of the clues, the seeming detours into things like bird-women who sing opera that don’t turn out to be detours after all.
When I have to wait a week to see the next piece of a show I love, the wait seems insurmountable. Having to wait for season 2 of Last Tango in Halifax to reach PBS sent me into an absolute tizzy. Especially when it was available on the BBC, on YouTube, on every freakin’ place but legal American TV. Geographic restrictions are another horrible annoyance.
I distinctly recall the feeling I had when I reached the last episode of Orange is the New Black. I wanted 1000 more episodes and I wanted them right now! But I’d just spent 13 hours with Orange is the New Black in a big gulp. Even though I wanted more, I could wait. The binge filled me up in a way that a weekly dose of something doesn’t.
I have a friend with no TV. She comes to town for a meeting every couple of months and stays at my place. We watched Orange is the New Black during each visit, a couple of episodes at a time spread out over several months. I started noticing flaws. Flaws! It wasn’t as wonderful when there was a gap in my viewing. The binge has power.
I didn’t watch Fringe until it was off the air. When I’d tried watching it weekly, I lost interest. When I could binge watch, I was fascinated. When I look back at the things I binge watched the past year: Orange is the New Black, The Fall,House of Cards, Bomb Girls, Call the Midwife – I realize that those shows are some of my favorites. Is it because they are truly great shows, or is it because I could watch them in big chunks? “Do I love you because you’re beautiful, or are you beautiful because I love you?”
I still love Lost Girl and The Good Wife and Scandal, Orphan Black and Covert Affairs and other shows I only get to see once a week or in dribs and drabs throughout the year. This is the way TV has always been and I’m willing to go with it. But if I could get a full season of these shows all at once, I would leap at it like a coyote on a cottontail.
Binge watching is so inherently satisfying. It’s instant gratification taken to its highest level. My conclusion is that more and more shows are going to release ready to binge watch. Television is going to change because of that. Electronic storytelling, streaming storytelling, is going to change.
I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but I know it’s going to happen.
The “To Hound Nature in Her Wanderings” episode of Orphan Black brings Sarah some answers, but everyone is still suspect and no one can be trusted.
Sarah and Helena (Tatiana Maslany squared) are in a pickup on their way to Cold River. Helena refuses to tell Sarah where it is, because she knows Sarah won’t need her if she does. The scenes between Sarah and Helena grow more and more charming as Helena is revealed in greater depth. They spend the night in a tent and Helena asks Sarah about Kira – she wonders if she could have children, too. She says, “I am very good with children.”
Sarah wants to know what the Prolethians took from Helena, but Helena claims she doesn’t know. When they turn out the lantern for the night, we see Paul (Dylan Bruce) lurking in the dark outside their camp.
There’s a hilarious scene of Sarah and Helena driving. “Sugar Sugar” comes on the radio. Helena sings along with enthusiasm. Sugar is her thing, indeed.
What Tatiana Maslany does with Helena in this episode is masterful. Her uninhibited off key singing, her playfulness in the tent, her vulnerability when she asks about babies, her growl of a laugh later in a bar scene, her unbridled sexuality when she’s attracted to a man, her brutality when threatened – Tatiana’s bringing Helena into personhood with so much affection and skill. That Tatiana Maslany can do that with Sarah, Allison and Cosima still floating in her head is just amazing.
Allison is still in rehab. She’s reluctant to participate in group. The door opens and into group walks Victor (Michael Mando). You remember Victor: Sarah’s former boyfriend who got his finger chopped off for a drug debt and who Allison maced in a parking lot. Yeah, that Victor. He’s all Zen now, full of the wisdom of recovery. When Allison threatens Donnie’s (Kristian Bruun) privates because he failed to bring the kids to visit her, Victor steps in to defuse the argument. Later we learn that Victor is actually in cahoots with Detective DeAngelis (Inga Cadranel). She promised he won’t go to jail for his crimes if he rats on Allison.
Cosima gets injections from Delphine (Evelyne Brochu). The injections may or may not be helping her. Delphine hired Scott (Josh Vokey) to come to Dyad to do gene sequencing. I haven’t previously mentioned Josh Vokey, who is fabulous as a naive geek, because the character wasn’t central, but he takes a central role in this episode. He reveals that he knows the samples he’s been given are clones, but he doesn’t realize that Cosima is a clone. He figures out that the stem cell injections Cosima is getting came not from a clone but a female relative. Perhaps a daughter. Is that daughter spelled K-I-R-A? We don’t know. Dephine makes Scott swear not to tell Cosima this news.
Sarah and Helena arrive in front of a church. It’s the church in the photo of Ethan Duncan, the Swan Man. Sarah instructs Helena to wait in the truck while she goes inside to investigate. Sarah finds photos of a building. The church deacon (Jane Spidell) tells her it was the Cold River Institute. Cold River is closed and all the records are in the church basement. The deacon also identifies the photo of Ethan Duncan as “Mr. Peckham” and mentions that Maggie Chen was also digging about in the old records. Sarah finds lots of info about the clones, but nothing about Andrew Peckham in the records.
Art Bell (Kevin Hanchard) emptied Helena’s locker and took all the contents to Felix’s (Jordan Gavaris) apartment for help digging through it. A phone call from Sarah gets them looking for someone named Peckham, and they give Sarah an address.
Helena, of course, did not wait obediently in the truck while Sarah was doing this. She goes into a bar, starts drinking, almost breaks the finger of an asshole who thinks he can have her just because he wants her, and takes a liking to Jesse (Patrick J. Adams) who is nice to her. Both Paul and the Prolethian errand boy Mark (Ari Millen) watch her every move in the bar.
When Helena and Jesse start kissing, asshole breaks in and wants a turn. Helena beans Mr. Asshole with a pool ball, tosses him on the pool table and climbs on with the intention of poking out his eyes. Helena gets arrested for smashing heads in the bar. In the police station she asks for her boyfriend. She’s told she’s been released and can leave with her sister.
When Helena looks up to see her sister, it’s Gracie (Zoé De Grand Maison), hiding her inflamed suture marks from the police with a hand over her mouth. Gracie and Mark tell Helena they have her babies and she agrees to go with them. Mark gives her Jesse’s baseball cap. I think he gives it to her to try to gain her trust, but it has the name of Jesse’s business on it, which may come in handy later.
Sarah leaves Helena to the cops and goes to Peckham’s house. Who opens the door but Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy). Good heavens, is there anything Mrs. S doesn’t know? She’s wearing a Pussy Riot shirt. Someone who wants to hurt Sarah wouldn’t wear a Pussy Riot shirt, would she?
Mrs. S is trying to get Andrew Peckham (Andrew Gillies) out of his hoarder’s horror of a house, off to somewhere to do her mysterious bidding. When Peckham sees Sarah he looks her over with great interest, decides she isn’t Rachel, and asks to be taken to Rachel.
He cannot be taken to Rachel, however. He’s been hiding from Dyad for 20 years because Aldous Leekie killed his wife Susan and took over the LEDA project for Dyad.
Sarah wants to know what Project LEDA was all about. Peckham/Duncan tells her it was a proof of concept experiment to see if they could actually clone a human and because they “wanted girl babies.”
While Sarah and Peckham/Duncan are talking, Siobhan goes outside and confronts Paul. Yes, she knows who Paul is. Everything Mrs. S does in this episode is so momentous, we have to go to commercial immediately after. Her every line of dialog is a bomb dropping. She tells Paul that the hoarder inside in his filthy kitchen talking to Sarah is the only hope that any of the clones have and that Paul better back off and let them go.
Kudos to Kathryn Alexandre and the Faces We Never See
Kathryn Alexandre is Tatiana Maslany’s acting double. She plays whatever clone is opposite Tatiana in a scene. When we see Helena and Sarah in a scene together in a truck or a tent, we have to remember that it was filmed twice. When we see Sarah in the driver’s seat of the truck, the actor beside her doing Helena is Kathryn Alexandre. They film it again with Tatiana in the passenger seat doing Helena while Kathryn Alexandre sits in the driver’s seat and plays Sarah. In the finished version, we never see Kathryn’s face.
It’s time to acknowledge how important Kathryn Alexandre is to Orphan Black. When we see chemistry, warmth, and closeness between Helena and Sarah, it’s actually something happening with Tatiana and Kathryn. Not just the warm fuzzy scenes, but the fight scenes, the dangerous scenes, the funny scenes. If they have to film it 2 times, 3 times, 4 times, to get all the clones in a scene together, Kathryn is there giving Tatiana a partner to act with and react to.
Much of what we see in Orphan Black is illusion, built from brilliant editing, brilliant makeup and brilliant acting. When we see it as a finished piece it is so perfectly executed it’s hard to remember how it was created. Let’s step back from the illusion and look behind the curtain to praise the hidden people who build the show. Here’s to Kathryn Alexandre and everyone else we don’t see in Orphan Black. You are all awesome!
The quote from Francis Bacon for this episode comes from the 1623 De Augmentis Scientiarum:
For you have but to hound nature in her wanderings, and you will be able when you like to lead and drive her afterwards to the same place again.
The Hundred Foot Journey will be released in theaters in August. The film stars Helen Mirren, Manish Dayal, Om Puri, and Charlotte Le Bon.
The plot centers around Le Saule Pleureur, a Michelin starred, classical French restaurant run by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren). Across the street from this magnificent place an Indian family headed by the father (Om Puri) opens the Maison Mumbai. Young Hassan (Manish Dayal) has the magic touch with food. Maison Mumbai attracts attention and hungry diners. You can imagine the reaction from the icy Madame Mallory. Add a love story, and you’ve got the perfect combination for a great tale.
Here’s the first official trailer.
The Hundred-Foot Journey is based on a novel written by Richard C. Morais. Steven Spielberg will produce the film with Oprah Winfrey and Juliet Blake. Lasse Hallström is the director.
Anything with Helen Mirren involved captures my attention, even goofy films where she’s jumping over cars and shooting machine guns. But this film promises to be warmer and more human, a tale about opening the heart and senses to embrace the unknown.
I’m definitely looking forward to it. What about you? Think it looks good?
Unfinished Sky is an Australian film from 2008. It absolutely swept the Australian film awards with best actor, best actress, best cinematography, best director, best screenplay and more. It’s about two gentle people struggling to cope with the harshness of life.
Lonely sheep farmer John Woldring (William McInnes) awakens one morning to the barking of his dog and sees a battered woman staggering down the road toward his isolated outback farm.
The woman (Monic Hendrickx) speaks no English. She’s bruised and frightened. Slowly it’s revealed that she’s an Afghan with a child she wants to recover. She’s a sex slave, held captive and abused by local men John knows. As time passes, the two learn to trust each other and communicate. John keeps Tahmeena safe and hidden. Eventually violence erupts as her former captors try to take her back.
From the moment you see Tahmeena stumbling her way toward John, you know that this will be a love story, but the underlying themes of forced labor, kidnapping, danger, and violence make it a bit of a thriller as well.
I found the film on Netflix, it’s probably available from other streaming services as well.
Interesting trivia about the film is that it’s an adaptation of the 1998 Dutch film De Poolse bruid. Monic Hendrickx, a Dutch actress, played the Polish character in the original Dutch film and played the same part again as an Afghani in Australia.
I keep discovering more upcoming TV series with women in leading roles. Just when I think I’ve brought them all to your attention, I find more. This is a great problem to have!
With the Madam Secretary series going into the schedule on Sunday as a lead up to The Good Wife and Shonda Rhimes new drama How to Get Away with Murder set on the Thursday (which I shall henceforth refer to as Rhimesday) night schedule, I think we can safely predict what the two biggest female-led hits will be. Don’t overlook some of the less blessed-by-scheduling offerings I’ve mentioned lately, though, because some of them look very good.
The first trailer is Madam Secretary. It looks fabulous. If it is supposed to be some kind of play off Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, that’s just fine by me, but I don’t see a lot of Hillary in the way this is played in the previews.
Téa Leoni stars as Elizabeth McCord, a former CIA analyst turned college professor who gets recruited to fill a vacant Secretary of State job. Her husband is played by Tim Daly. Bebe Neuwirth is in the cast.
Madam Secretary was created by Barbara Hall, who has written for Homeland and Judging Amy. Morgan Freeman is one of the producers. It starts in the fall on Sundays right before The Good Wife, a piece of prime TV real estate if there ever was one.
Extant stars Halle Berry as an astronaut who returns to Earth after 13 months alone in space, inexplicably pregnant. Her husband John is played by Goran Visnjic. John is a scientist who created their robotic son. The son is played by Pierce Gagnon, who despite his young age, has had a lot of roles to his credit. Camryn Manheim, Sergio Harford, and Grace Gummer also appear. Steven Spielberg is producing.
Extant begins in July. According to one account I saw of the plot, the astronaut’s “experiences in space and home lead to events that ultimately will change the course of human history.”
Extant looks very mysterious. Do you like the mysterious ones?
The Orphan Black episode “Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est” begins in Rachel’s bloody apartment. Daniel’s body litters the floor, Helena’s signature art drawn in blood decorates the walls. Dr. Leakie (Matt Frewer) thinks Rachel (Tatiana Maslany) should take a kinder, gentler approach to the situation. She thinks not.
Paul (Dylan Bruce) will replace Daniel as Rachel’s monitor. Paul is the universal monitor: he’s monitored Beth, Sarah, and now Rachel.
Sarah takes her super-hugger of a twin sister to Felix’s (Jordan Gavaris) place. Helena needs to get out of her bloody wedding dress and clean up. Sarah tells Helena to behave and calls her Meathead. Helena objects with, “Don’t call me this,” but the nickname seems to symbolize the developing bond and affection between them.
Felix wants nothing to do with babysitting Helena – he has a hot date with the morgue boy – and delivers Helena to Detective Bell (Kevin Hanchard) for safekeeping.
Delphine (Evelyne Brochu) learns there is a new stem cell line, compatible with Cosima, that could help her. They go to Dr. Leekie’s office in search of it and he finds them there. Turns out that Leekie is willing to defy Rachel’s directive to shut down the help for Cosima by giving her an injection of the stem cells. He also tells Cosima that the clone’s original genome was destroyed in a fire 20 years ago. We heard about this fire before in relation to Project LEDA.
Paul’s first job as Rachel’s new monitor is to take the gun that Daniel used to kill the cop at Cal’s house and put Felix’s fingerprints all over it. He manages to do that by interrupting Felix’s love fest. Paul calls Sarah and says Rachel wants them all – Sarah, Helena, and Kira – or Felix goes down for murder. Rachel isn’t asking for Felix, which shoots down my budding theory that he might be a clone, too.
At Art Bell’s apartment, Helena is silent. She watches fish while Art asks questions about Maggie Chen and the Prolethians. Finally he feeds her, which loosens her up and she begins to talk. Interestingly, she asks as many questions as she answers, and her questions are intelligent ones. Also, she does love the powdered donuts.
Helena mimes poking the eyes out of one of her early tormentors. From art works we’ve seen of Helena’s where the eyes were X-ed out of a nun, I’m guessing her tormentor was a nun. She mentions a locker and the Swan Man who played God. Then she uses the lid off a sardine can to open her handcuffs and leaves Art cuffed to the wall. She goes to a storage unit (locker) where she has a motorcycle.
Cal (Michiel Huisman) and Kira (Skyler Wexler) are still playing house in the camper. Cal is being a great dad, Kira is being quick-witted and showing signs of ESP. Cal’s hiding a gun and carrying a fake ID. He assures Sarah when she calls that they are close enough to come get her whenever she’s ready.
At the Prolethian compound, Gracie’s (Zoé De Grand Maison) mouth was sutured shut as punishment for Helena’s escape. Henrik (Peter Outerbridge) and her mother Bonnie (Kristin Booth) tell her that, “She can rot,” if she refuses to talk about what happened. If they don’t find Helena, Gracie will carry the egg currently reproducing itself in a Petri dish.
Sarah and Art are in pursuit of Helena. Helena helped out by leaving some GPS coordinates at Art Bell’s. They find the locker and learn that Ethan Duncan is still alive. On the back of a recent photo of him is says “Swan Man.” Helena has taken off with a sniper rifle.
Guess what Paul’s second job as Rachel’s new monitor is? Sex slave.
Helena sets up the rifle in a apartment across from Rachel’s. As she takes aim and prepares to eliminate the problem that is Rachel, we see Rachel and Paul have sex. It’s weird sex. Rachel demands complete control. She orchestrates Paul’s every move and slaps him when he thinks for himself. Rachel demonstrates a kind of ruthless eagerness that is creepy and disturbing. She’s extremely turned on, but it’s the power and control that excite her, not the actual sex.
Helena, watching, says, “Pretty, dirty, sexy Rachel – like my mother.” Is there some woman somewhere that Helena once called mother?
Art and Sarah arrive and want Helena to put the gun down.
Helena wants Sarah to look at what Rachel is doing, at the “unfaithful” Paul. Sarah begs her not to shoot. She explains that Felix will be in trouble if Rachel dies. Sarah walks in front of the rifle and says she doesn’t care about Paul.
Sarah uses tears and some clever talk to convince Helena that they are family now, that they need to care for each other, and that Felix is part of that family. Finally Helena puts down the gun.
Helena and Sarah join hands. They walk out of the room with arms around each other. Sarah calls Helena Meathead again, and Helena responds, “Don’t call me this.” In the car, Helena tells Sarah that they need to go to Cold River, the place of screams.
Sarah meets Dr. Leekie in a bar. She demands Felix in return for Ethan Duncan, who is still alive. Leekie mentions that Cosima is sick – news to Sarah. When Sarah leaves, we realize Paul followed Leekie there. It’s really hard to tell where the real loyalties are with Paul and Leekie. They are ciphers, willing to double-cross anyone, but we aren’t sure why.
This episode was written by Tony Elliott, who is responsible for much of the writing in season 2. It was directed by Helen Shaver. She shared quite a bit about the experience on her Twitter account. Tatiana seemed to enjoy having her as a director.