THE MORNING AFTER
The Vienna episode marked a temporary return to what many believe I do best:
Getting stupid-ass drunk, shoveling heavy food into my gob, making embittered dick jokes and generally careening around an unfamiliar city. A journey of discovery so to speak. I don’t know. I know I had I had an unexpectedly good time making the show, that Vienna was a pleasant surprise—and that it was particular delight working again with veteran producer and good friend, Tracy Gudwin.
But that’s not what I’m going to write about today. I twatted along with the show last night, so whatever backstory or points of interest might not have made it into the commentary, I got to then. .
I thought I’d talk about what I’ve been watching lately, or anticipating watching, given that it’s very difficult for me to watch anything regularly. Most films, I don’t get to see until they’re on the plane—or I can Netflix them on my iPad. TV shows I care about I follow as long as I can, catching up on the episodes I’ve missed on On Demand. If I’ve missed too many of them and fall behind too much, chances are I lose the thread entirely. Which is why I’m at least a season behind the brilliant BREAKING BAD and am unlikely to catch up soon. It’s just too strong, too engaging—even exhausting—to watch too many in a row. You need time to breath between episodes. But I miss it. I look forward to a time when I can catch up at my leisure.
CALIFORNICATION has an unholy grip on me. Of course, I love it. It’s about a writer, after all. The father of a little girl. A guy whose dark side resembles , at times, some brief, darker episodes of my former life…so I relate. It’s a show that’s basically about a scumbag. A funny scumbag, but a scumbag just the same. And I enjoy how unsparing it is of its protagonist, how there are consequences (awful ones) for his behavior. The writing is ridiculously sharp—and I love it for making the unlovable lovable on a regular basis—without apologizing or mitigating the general atmosphere of amorality, cynicism and loathsomeness. Which is to say, it’s a love story. Never thought I’d be a Duchovny fan, but there it is.
JUSTIFIED is another pleasure. When did writing for television become so good?
The Elmore Leonard produced series has some of the best dialogue going—and between, this series, MAD MEN, CALIFORNICATION and EPISODES, provides further evidence that television—of all things—has far outpaced the film industry in providing well written, thoughtful, difficult, morally complex and clever material.
You see what passes for writing in a major studio release like MORNING GLORY (a film in which , to my shame, I am name-checked), and you wonder how some screenwriters look at themselves in the bathroom mirror every morning. WHO, in even an alternate universe, talks like these freakish cartoons? Actually, that’s an insult to cartoons—because the best writing coming out of Hollywood these days is often animated.
I DID like TRUE GRIT, largely because it was not the previous version—and because nearly every line came directly from the awesome original work by Charles Portis. Let me urge you to read the book. There’s a reason the Coen brothers were so reverential in their treatment of the material—and why they made the film again in the first place. Because it’s a masterpiece. The “voice” of TRUE GRIT’S heroine and narrator is unforgettable and for every second, totally believable. One of the great characters of modern literature.
Of course, I love TREME, not just because I’m having the most fun of my writing career writing a little for it, but because it’s the most fully fleshed, most ambitious, most uncompromisingly paced thing on television—and because the performances are just as amazing as the stories and dialogue. Having anything to do with this project is the greatest honor of my professional life.
I am fascinated by REAL HOUSEWIVES of NEW JERSEY, but can only watch a few minutes at a time. It’s too ugly. Like donkey porn, or Brit Porn. You can only watch a few seconds before needing to take your brain out and boil it. Just the same, I keep checking in, mostly to look at Teresa’s hairline—and at the sweaty little Ooompa Loompa she lives with (is that her husband?)
TOP CHEF? Well, I know who won now…so the thrill is kind of gone…
Late at night, up early with jet lag In Asian hotel rooms, there seems to be an entire television channel dedicated to the lesser works of Steven Seagal. I’m fascinated by all of them—every direct to DVD title unseen by Western eyes. Particularly fascinating to me is discerning what strategies of lighting or camera angle or blocking the various Thai, Uzbek, Romanian and Serbian directors utilize to conceal the fact that their “action star” is big as house, multi-chinned, and can seemingly barely waddle across the room. His bizarre Dynell mullet is mesmerizing to me—as are his wardrobe choices, long flowy leather and cowhide custom made jackets and overcoats—which he insists on wearing buttoned up even inside in warm climates. Presumably he thinks that’s a “slimming” look. It’s not. He looks like a soon-to-rupture-any minute sausage. That said, it was Seagal who inspired me to lose 18 pounds recently. Un-tucking doesn’t help him. It wasn’t helping me.
Another anomaly of Asian television is you see small indie films you might never have heard of—as well as repeats of not-quite classics you might feel sentimental about: In the latter case, saw the much better than remembered original SHAFT, the original ITALIAN JOB with Michael Caine, THE CAINE MUTINY, ANZIO, the insipid LOGAN’S RUN. In the former category, a quirky lovable Woody Harrelson flic I’d never heard of called DefendOr, about a simple minded guy who moonlights as a super hero.
All in all, not bad viewing for 4 AM, looking to nod off.
Next week– Ozarks