Archive | April, 2011

Can Christian Slater Break In to TV Comedy?

22 Apr

Breaking InBreaking In, Fox’s newest comedy (and mid-season replacement) starring 1980s and 1990s bad boy Christian Slater, is actually… funny and amusing. Not that I doubted Slater’s performance abilities. It’s just that I’m hard to please. Thanks to Apple’s iTunes sneak peak and pilot available right now (its free, go on, I dare you to download it – you won’t be sorry and if you are, I’m doubting your ability to have any sense of humor), I became a quick fan. I’m only sorry there are just 6 episodes for this season’s order.

It’s a simple premise, Oz (Christian Slater) “recruits” (ok…blackmails) straight-man computer hacker Cameron Price (Bret Harrison) to become the newest member of his highly-specialized team of um… experts for his business, Contra Security. There Cameron meets his newest workplace buddies including the hot break-in expert Melanie (Odette Annable) and fanboy, stalker of William Shatner and all-around logistics expert Cash (Alphonso McAuley).

The second episode, “Tis Better to Have Loved and Flossed,” guest-stars Alyssa Milano (it really is an 80s reunion of sorts). I didn’t even recognize her! I will say that I was just as entertained with this episode as I was with the pilot, which is increasingly not the case with so many shows. I’m not naming names but between us, Fairly Legal comes to mind.

You can also check out both episodes for free on Fox’s website so go take a look because this show is worth renewing. Hint Hint Fox Executives!

Showtime’s The Borgias: are they the original crime family?

20 Apr

The $45 million nine-episode mini-series The Borgias gives The Sopranos a run for their money. If you are a fan of Showtime original television, then you should enjoy this new series, even if you are not a fan of historical fiction. There is enough sex, intrigue, murder and betrayal to satisfy any edgy viewer’s craving. Be warned, however, that if you are looking for historical fact, you are more likely to be satisfied by a documentary on the History Channel.

This is more a timeless tale of the repercussions of a power-hungry world leader. The subject is Rodrigo Borgia (Jeremy Irons) who connives, manipulates and bribes his way into the papacy to become Pope Alexander VI. Rome in 1492 is far more intriguing than America in the 21st century. Maybe its that Pope Alexander VI had uncooperative members of his enclave assassinated if they didn’t play on his team. He did offer bribes of money and power before resorting to violence. Usually.

What is most fascinating is remembering Pope Alexander VI was originally a Cardinal who rose to power while illicitly having many lovers, openly, one who bore him four children, three of which, Cesare (Francois Arnaud), Juan (David Oakes) and Lucrezia (Holliday Grainger), figure prominently into the storylines of the series. Borgia essentially made the papacy a family business during his rule and there’s nothing like watching a dysfunctional family attempt to rule the world.

The Borgias was created by film director Neil Jordan (The Crying Game).

Desperately Seeking Susan, Part 2

17 Apr

I realized that I didn’t touch on a few ideas that I felt were essential to this cinematic monolith of girl power.  First, economics.  Susan (Madonna) doesn’t worry about money.  She simply steals for a living.  There are no moral qualms.  What’s everyone’s is Susan’s because somehow she’s entitled.  Now, that doesn’t mean she’s always a thief.  She did trade her lovely jacket for some sequined boots, although I have a hard time believing that she wouldn’t have stolen them if that jacket had not served so well as a narrative device for mistaken identity.  And, while Susan doesn’t have a job, she doesn’t seem to need one.  She can manipulate at such a high level that she continually uses everyone to survive.  It’s a skill anyone living in New York City needs to master.

Roberta (Rosanna Arquette) on the other hand, manages to find a job as Susan.  Although it is as a magician’s assistant that only pays $20 a night (how could anyone live on that in NYC even in the mid 1980s?), she is gainfully employed, which says more are her character and personal responsibility than Susan’s.  The only thing that truly bothers me about this film is that while it is telling young girls and women to follow their dreams, it sure doesn’t show them how on earth they’re going to exist in tough economic times.  I know at the end of the film, they receive a reward for the stolen earrings, but really!  How long can that reward money last?  Especially if Susan has no income and Roberta’s still making $20 a night.

This also brings me to the second point I wanted to make, the idea of the ‘couple’ in a comedy.  The  most important ‘couple’ in the film is Susan and Roberta.  The title itself, “Desperately Seeking Susan” is not really about Susan’s boyfriend seeking her, it is about Roberta seeking Susan.  Roberta seeks the “mystery of Susan” and can only begin to satisfy her life when she becomes the other, in this case, Susan.  As Susan, she becomes a whole of herself.  As Roberta, she is only a housewife, which from the beginning of the film, we learn that she feels she is lacking a purpose in her existence.  Roberta as Susan starts to take chances, gets a job, lives in the city and rejects convention.  The only problem is that Roberta doesn’t quite have Susan’s natural gustiness…something that becomes quite apparent as she is chased and attacked.  And, it is, after all, Susan who hits the bad guy and saves the day.  Susan, however, lacks Roberta’s ‘polish’ and strangely, allows a friendship with Roberta that she doesn’t have with anyone else.  Susan uses people, she doesn’t actually like them.  This newer, softer Susan at the end of the film, is the result, it seems, of her new-found partnership/friendship with Susan.
The last shot of the film show that the true couple of the film is Susan and Roberta.   It is this friendship and coupling that allows them to become a power couple.  They are the complimentary halves to each other.  As part of the heterosexual couple, each woman is not ‘special’, yet as part of their ‘dynamic’ friendship, they brought down a murderer and a thief (it takes one, or half the couple, in this case, to know one?).  They share the reward and become heroines.

If these women become heroines by the end of the film, and we are discussing women, after all, I pose the question, what sort of character is Susan throughout the film?  And what about Roberta?  If this were a drama, Susan would unequivocally be a femme fatale, and Roberta might be characterized as a reluctant femme fatale; however, this film is marketed as a comedy about mistaken identity.  So the question is posed:  is Susan a femme fatale? And, can a femme fatale function in a ‘comedy’?  I thought about this as I sipped a lovely glass of Grgich Hills Zinfandel and ate some Roquefort cheese on imported crackers.  I came to a resounding:  I’m not sure!  Femmes fatales don’t really go with the comedic genre.  I might need the entire bottle of wine while I contemplate the answer.

Desperately Seeking Susan or Calling All Madonna Wannabes Part 1

10 Apr

Madonna may not be in the news as much now as she was in 1985, but she still manages to make headlines.  One film in particular that might accurately reflect Madonna’s mating personality/style is the Susan Seidelman classic, Desperately Seeking Susan.  This film is about mistaken identity, a bit of crime (including murder), and Madonna, well, being Madonna.  Ironically, it is far more about Roberta learning how to let go of herself and become a free-spirit but the film ‘feels’ like Madonna appears in it far more than she actually does.

Notice at no point have I used the genre term, comedy in order to describe this film.  This is how Orion marketed the film, and as a young teenage girl, I didn’t give it a second thought.  I, like many other young teenage girls, wanted to go see Madonna in her latest incarnation:  Susan, a fun-loving trollop (if one is going to be honest about her character).   The interesting thing about Susan’s character was that she constantly cheated on her boyfriend, Jim, and he would come back for more, advertising for her in the personals.  One had to wonder…was this the state of relationships to come?  Could any woman abuse men’s trust, admit they have spent the week with another man and still have a boyfriend want to stay?  Maybe not for everyone but it certainly must have made an impression on Madonna!

Watching the film in 2008, I realized this film really wasn’t a comedy.  It is really a film about two women finding a place for themselves in the mid 1980s.  Susan (Madonna) is a ‘free-spirit’.  We watch as she steals money, silverware and a pair of large, gaudy earrings from a man she’s spent the night with (at this point we don’t know how long they’ve been holed up together) in an Atlantic City hotel.  Her act of stealing the earrings (we will soon learn they are stolen ancient Egyptian artifacts) are a direct cause of her friend’s (and I use that term loosely) death.  The theft also causes the mob to look for Susan.

At the time Susan is wrecking havoc in New Jersey and New York, Roberta (Rosanna Arquette), a housewife, is celebrating her birthday at a party that looks like it could take place at a retirement village.  While Roberta has money, she doesn’t actually have a life.  She’s a glorified errand-runner for her husband.  I started getting depressed as I contemplated how dull Roberta’s life must have been.

While I won’t bore you of a blow-by-blow account of this pleasurable quest for identity, I will point out that while you watch and hopefully analyze this film (like any active viewer should), you will see three parallels drawn between Roberta and Susan.  They share Susan’s jacket, her possessions, and even the stolen earring.  They are two halves of a whole.  As soon as Roberta stops being Roberta the housewife and starts being Susan, she attracts a less successful but much nicer mate, Des (Adian Quinn).  And, once Susan discovers who Roberta is, she ‘moves in’ to her house and appropriates her possessions, including her clothes, to make them more Susan-appropriate.  When the two women finally do meet, in one of the final scenes of the film, they are able to conquer the mob together.  This bonding of female friendship and teamwork sets a different tone for their lives.  And, hopefully an inspiration to those watching this little gem.

%d bloggers like this: