Friday, February 14, 2014

Big Love

I finished Big Love, the 5 season series about contemporary polygamists living in Utah.

I very much enjoyed this show, and there are things about it that were extraordinary -- the exploration of faith and doctrine and family was done seriously and is quite unique in American entertainment culture; the acting was phenomenal: Chloe Sevigny was just amazing; her character kept growing more depth and nuance. Plus she had the best (and often funniest) lines. Jeanne Tripplehorn was wonderful, very poignant. Ginnifer Goodwin was largely annoying, but her character evolved and I began to warm to her. I also began to see how fundamental her personality and her storyline were to the ongoing drama. I loved Mary Kay Place, Harry Dean Stanton, and Bruce Dern. I also liked a number of the teens on the show. The actress who played the daughter Sarah had me moved to tears. And I really liked Daveigh Chase as Rhonda Volmer. This actress sings in a number of episodes and I thought that element really added dimension.

The dramatic tension of Big Love is centered on the family being alienated from the fringe polygamist compound where some of them are from, at the same time that they are alienated from mainstream Mormon LDS society. There are dizzying plot twists and turns, a number of bad guys, and lots and lots of melodrama. In fact, I think I would have found Big Love more interesting if it was less interesting. That is, if a little less happened in each episode and the pacing wasn't cramming so much in.

Some drawbacks: I did not find the lead, Bill Paxton, dynamic enough to really make the series great. His steadfast self-righteousness lacked dimension and he didn't seem to have enough charisma to merit all that he had in his life. A number of story lines got dropped or remained undeveloped. After the first season all the young children became after-thoughts, brought in for a scene or two here and there. One child was even sent away because the writers clearly had no idea what to do with her.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Late Quartet

I just streamed A Late Quartet on Netflix. My first Philip Seymour Hoffman movie since the terrible news of his death last week.

What an amazing actor! He brought so much to his roles, so much depth and sensitivity and humanity. And he chose projects that were so interesting and complex. I was deeply saddened by his death and am going to watch and rewatch a number of his movies.

Anyway, A Late Quartet is a drama about a classical music quartet that has been together for 25 years. The movie starts with the news that the oldest member has been diagnosed with Parkinson's, and in the aftermath of this news various relationships between the members start to unravel.

Catherine Keener is wonderful as PSH's wife and the quartet's viola player. Christopher Walken and the other performers are great too. It's sad and quiet and very focused. In some ways the dramatic elements were a little predictable, but the wonderful acting made up for that.

Friday, February 7, 2014


her is a quietly beautiful and melancholy movie about loneliness and intimacy. It stars Joaquin Phoenix as a man struggling with the loss of a relationship -- he has been separated from his wife for a year and is in the process of formally divorcing. He downloads a new individualized operating system and falls in love with it. (her takes place at some point in the near future). "Samantha" is sexy, funny, engaging and supportive, and it is completely clear how he lets himself be seduced by the software. Interestingly, as Samantha's sophisticated coding develops she begins to have "feelings" too, and the texture of their relationship becomes more complex and similar to those in "real life".

I very much enjoyed this.