Brain Dump: The Birdcage, Imposters, Call the Midwife

A few short thoughts about TV and movies in this issue of a brain dump. Today I’ll take pot shots at The Birdcage, Imposters, and Call the Midwife. Continue reading “Brain Dump: The Birdcage, Imposters, Call the Midwife”

RIP Robin Williams

Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire
Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire

Robin Williams brought much joy and laughter to the world. He touched us all. As we mourn his passing I want to provide a few links to help those dealing with depression and to remind us of what Robin Williams gave to the world with his genius.

The Crazy Ones: How’s SMG Doing?

Calling a show created by David E. Kelley and starring Robin Williams The Crazy Ones is only logical. Robin Williams, as ad exec Simon Roberts, doesn’t have to be anything but his most manic to be hilarious. In this show, he gets to do plenty of that.

David E. Kelley has a string of bizarre hits to his credit including Harry’s Law, Boston Legal, The Practice, Ally McBeal, and, my favorite, Picket Fences.

Together, these two guys are the world’s most outlandish and wacky minds on the planet. Putting them together on a sitcom is, again, only logical.

Then you introduce Sarah Michelle Gellar as Simon’s daughter Sydney to the mix. She’s the other Roberts in the Roberts & Roberts ad agency. I love SMG – Buffy forever! – but let’s face it, she’s not known for her comedy chops. Can she keep up with the world-class comedy awesome Robin Williams brings?

Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar
Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar

Luckily, a considerable part of her job on The Crazy Ones is to be the sane one. She reins in her father with a voice and look that she surely acquired from being a mother. Even though she tries to tone him down, his excesses are always a stroke of pure advertising genius which she should have actually encouraged rather than discouraged. She never will, however, because the premise of the show is that she must act as the tether that ties her father to solid ground.

Even so, it isn’t all perfect sanity from her. She’s been given a chance to stretch her comedy muscles. She’s proven she can do the fast talking and the sight gag stuff with aplomb. She’s got the timing down. We are getting to see Sarah Michelle Gellar stretch and grow on this show and it seems to me that it’s working out very nicely. Working with Robin Williams every day must be like going to the college of comedy with the valedictorian as your personal mentor. I think she’s taking advantage of the education and holding her own with a solid performance.

What’s your opinion? Is SMG keeping up with the master?

Photos by Richard Cartwright – © 2013 CBS BROADCASTING INC. All Rights Reserved.

Note: This post was syndicated in a slightly expanded form on BlogHer.com.

TV Shows for Fall 2013 that Look Good

Here are some upcoming shows for fall that look pretty good. I’m not aware of everything that’s coming up, so if you know of something good I’ve missed, give me a shout in the comments.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

This Joss Whedon show will be on ABC on Tuesdays. Shows based on comic books usually don’t do much for me, but Joss Whedon is always dependable and I’ll be watching. There are not one, but two, important female stars in this one. See, that’s why I trust Joss Whedon with my time.

The Crazy Ones

This CBS comedy stars Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar as a father and daughter team of advertising execs. It looks funny and charming.

Hostages

Monday nights on CBS you can see the incomparable Toni Collette with Dylan McDermott in Hostages.

Crisis

This NBC drama features Gillian Anderson, which is just about the only thing I need to know to be watching. Dermot Mulroney, Lance Gross and Rachel Taylor are also starring. This show doesn’t start until midseason, or as Kyle Nolan, who first mentioned it to me put it – it doesn’t start until after football.

I can usually tell from a trailer if I’m going to like something or not be interested. These shows definitely look interesting to me. What’s on your watch list for fall?

Image of Toni Collette and Dylan McDermott ©CBS

Lee Daniels’ The Butler is Powerful

poster for The Butler

Lee Daniels’ The Butler is one of the most powerful films I’ve seen in a very long time. It’s like watching a newsreel of my own life. It is a newsreel of my own life. It was especially meaningful to watch it on Sunday as the nation remembered the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and the “I have a dream speech” by The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

But as a white woman living through the events in the years that Cecil Gaines served in The White House, a lot of it was “the news” to me. I wasn’t living it in the way the characters lived it. I wasn’t forced to live with two faces, I wasn’t thrown in jail for expecting to be served in a restaurant, I wasn’t sprayed with fire hoses or screamed at by men in white robes. As I write this review I’m very aware of how different life was for African Americans during this part of our history.

butler-silhouette
Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines, a man who hid his true self for most of his working life.

Part of the power of this story is the juxtaposition of what Cecil Gaines was going through as a butler working in the rarefied air of The White House while his oldest son was riding buses across the South as a freedom rider.

freedom riders
A bus full of freedom riders under attack.

Cecil Gaines continued to do his job, a job that looked like a miracle of good fortune when he first was hired, while his oldest son was being arrested and beaten in places like Birmingham and Selma. These two things going on simultaneously spoke volumes about the past and the future, about courage and change.

The story begins with young Cecil watching his father shot in cold blood because he dared speak to a white man after the white man raped Cecil’s mother. I don’t remember the date exactly, but I think it was in the 1920s. The story ends with the election of Barack Obama in 2008. Between those years, Cecil’s career in The White House spanned presidents from Eisenhower to Reagan. I think it was Eisenhower. Robin Williams definitely played Eisenhower. However, they showed actual TV news footage that was supposed to be Eisenhower, but I thought it was Harry Truman, so I am a bit confused about that part of the time sequence.

Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker
Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker as Gloria and Cecil Gaines looking at smoke from nearby race riots.

The cast is exemplary. Every one of the key parts of characters who get a lot of screen time is perfectly cast. Forest Whitaker as Cecil is flawless. Oprah Winfrey as his wife and mother of their two sons, David Oyelowo as the grown up Louis Gaines, Terrance Howard as a family friend, Cuba Gooding Jr. as another White House Butler – all outstanding.

Major actors and actresses took tiny parts, just to be part of this story. I think anyone who read the script must have known what a powerful film this would be and was ready to be part of it. There will be numerous awards for this film, I’m sure of that.

In addition to the civil right themes throughout there are the human dramas involving father and son relationships, family relationships, friendships, fidelity, alcoholism, pride, and respect.

Perhaps you’re too young to have lived through all of the past 60 or 70 years of U.S. history. Perhaps you will miss some of the moments of recognition as to who the various characters in government and in the civil rights movement were from having known about them first hand during those years. Even more reason to watch this movie. You’ll learn something about the U.S – its failures, and its heroes.

You’ll be moved by The Butler. I urge you to see it.