Category Archives: New Favorite

New Favorite: Party Down

I’ve been recommending this small TV show (a Starz original) to everyone recently, and now I am recommending it to you.  I’d been hearing about it a lot, so when it suddenly came up on Netflix Instant Watch I instantly checked it out.  And just like that I was converted.  Not that I was against it in the first place or anything.  I was convinced.  Enchanted.  Whatever, people, follow me blindly!

For those who haven’t heard of that of which I write, Party Down is a show following a catering company and it’s small band of heroes, all of whom are, of course, really trying to be actors, writers, and otherwise employed in the entertainment industry.  That is, except for their fearless team leader, who just wants to be the best team leader out there…and to get through a night without puking, getting caught with his pants down, or offending the client.  And to open a Soup N’ Crackers.  What can I say, it’s a dream.  Each episode follows one self-contained and clumsily-catered party, and the roster of special guests is pretty awesome, on top of the already awesome cast.  Oh, and 5 or so episodes are directed by Fred Savage.  Yes, this is what he’s been doing since Daddy Day Camp.

Besides the fact that that paragraph alone should have you reaching for your computer and Netflix account, here are…

10 Reasons You Should Totally Check Out Party Down!

1. It’s Bill!!!!!

That is to say, it’s Martin Starr, also known as Bill from Freaks and Geeks.  I am sad to report that it took me something like two and a half episodes to realize why I knew this guy, but when I did, I shrieked with joy!  It took my friend Carrie about two and half seconds.  Shut up.

Anyway Martin Starr is always amazing and hilarious, plus his character is the cater waiter struggling to be a screenwriter, so maybe I’m just excited because I got all of his jokes.

2. Jane Lynch is amazing and…wait for it…different!!!

Jane Lynch is always pretty amazing, but I feel that she often gets pigeonholed into the same type of roles – the lesbian dog-training, Cheerio-coaching, slightly agressive and psycho roles – for which she has become known and loved.  But I know she’s more than that and she proves it in Party Down.  She’s not only really funny, but refreshing.  And not just “Jane Lynch,” but her character.

3. The rest of the cast is amazing as well!

That may not sound like the most exciting section heading, but it’s true.  With such a strong core group, they can throw them into truly crazy situations, and all of them are really talented comedic actors.  And the cast includes that girl from Mean Girls (all growed up and pretty) and that guy from Wet Hot American Summer (it also took me a few episodes to realize why I knew Ken Marino). 

4. Amazing guest stars too!

Over-usage of the word “amazing?”  You decide.  And yes, that so totally was the brother from Wings playing a Russian mafia soldier recently released from a murder sentence…with a lazy eye. 

5.  Tight episode structure.  Tight writing.  Tight…um…shirts (sometimes).

6. They go there.

It’s Starz, so there’s leeway for some swearing, indecent references, drugs, a porn star awards show party, and way too much puking.  But I swear it’s all well done, including just the right amount to be fun.  Well, maybe there’s a little too much puking.  Mostly done by Ken Marino.  Poor Ken Marino.

7.  If somehow you are not gathering this from what I am writing, let me say it again – It’s funny!

8. It made me think of all the things that are good about The Office.

It’s filmed along the same vein, but not as a mockumentary.  Which is not to say I don’t like a good mockumentary, just that it’s not exactly the same.  No cameras following them, but it is reminiscent of the style of The Office.  Plus, now that I’m thinking about it, it does have a cute girl and guy couple (whom you want to get together) being the voice of reason, while surrounded by a bunch of crazies.  So there’s that too.

9. Did I mention Fred Savage directed this?

10.  Short and sweet.

I was in the process of writing something here about how one good clean season is better than a long stretched-out storyline or a sophomore slump, when I discovered that our raggle taggle crew is going to be back for more!  So, instead, my point will be that when you finish the show in love and wanting more, as I know you will be, there will be more episodes coming soon.  Bring on Season 2!

(also, may I point out that I just used “raggle taggle” in a sentence?  Word!)

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Filed under New Favorite, TV

New Favorite: Conversations with Other Women

So I’m adding a new “section,” as it were.  New discoveries that are so amazing that they are immediate favorites, automatically best friends forever.  And to start us off on this exciting venture into the unknown is a wonderful wonderful movie that I watched…hmmm…sometime in the last month.  I mean, you know I haven’t been the greatest about updating this here virtual whatnot.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I strongly encourage you to watch: Conversations with Other Women, starring Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart, and here are 10 Reasons Why:

#1, 2 & 3 – The Cinematography/Split Screen

This movie is shot beautifully.  The film follows two people, who obviously have a past of some sort, as they see each other for the first time in a long time at a wedding, and the entire thing is presented in a split screen.  So many things to love.  For much of the movie, this means that each side is focused on the point of view of one of the two characters,  so you really see each one’s reactions to everything.  Not just one viewpoint.  You can tell that there were 2 cameras on them at the same time for a lot of filming because you can see reactions and little tiny mannerisms, as well as background stuff, happen at exactly the same moment in both frames.  Things that in my opinion you couldn’t recreate and do exactly the same twice separately from different angles.  This seemingly more singlular filming actually makes it feel more like a play to me.  It’s full of longer shots that let them just be in the moment together and react to each other and not have to worry about what I think is called “coverage”.  Maybe I’m wrong about the word I mean, but the technique lets the characters breathe.  And that’s another thing that makes it like a play – the huge emphasis and exploration of character and one very specific, intimate relationship.  That’s all it is, a one-night examination of the relationship between these two people.  And it takes the whole movie for you to understand it fully.  Okay, maybe #1 should be that the movie is like a play, but it does obviously utilize movie-only techniques to huge advantage – you couldn’t tell this story this way without the split screen and it’s many uses…

And it is just used so brilliantly!

a. It’s really fun as an audience member (or “viewer,” if you will, but I’d rather go with the collective here) to spot things move from one frame into the other (i.e. extras walking past).

b. And you know it’s going to be so extra important when one of them passes from their own frame into the other’s.  And you’re just waiting for it…and it’s so satisfying.

c. The split screen also shows backstory, moments or memories from the characters pasts, either as they talk about them or to add to what we’re seeing in the present.

d.  It even begin to break the rules and let time split a little and show alternate endings to a moment, alternate reactions, in the split side.  Whether it’s just something a character is wishing had happened or a true alternate reality they never fully explain.  It’s just really fucking cool.  Kind of a double take moment.

And all of these other uses begin coming in right when you think that a split screen might become boring if each side is just focused on following one of the two main characters around.  That’s not it at all, and just when it might get old, it begins to be utilized in all of these other unique ways to help illustrate these 2 people.

It also facilitates…

#4. The Coolest Sex Scene I Have Ever Seen

Think about it…SPLIT SCREEN

One word to fuel your musings – kaleidoscope. 🙂

#5, 6, & 7 – Helena Bonham Carter

As if I needed more reasons to love this woman (ummm Harry Potter, anyone?) she is just…well, every word I can think of right now sounds like a smarmy critic word that would be reprinted on a poster and that I would never believe they really could have meant.  “Luminous.”  “Virtuostic.”  “Brilliant.”  C’mon, really?

YES.  All I know is I couldn’t take my eyes off her.  Aaron Eckhart deserves major props and he held up his end very well; I wouldn’t love the movie if I only loved half of it.  But she’s the one I couldn’t stop thinking about afterwards.  Fuckin’ awesome.

#8 – The writing

Oh the words, glorious words!  With it’s unique filming style to help examine these characters, the writing holds up its end in creating them and letting them play out.  It just does such a lovely job of letting these characters show us who they are and what they mean to each other…at their own pace…nothing forced.  Revelations are a joy, not too obvious, a sweet surprise, and they come so naturally and sort of slowly. 

I have discovered that I really like to use the word “heavy-handed” in reviewing things, in trying to describe what I didn’t like about them, and you’ll see it all over the Hate portion of this blog.  This was how to NOT be heavy-handed.  Just lovely.  Quiet and creeping up on you and lovely.  And fucking cool to watch too.

#9 – No Easy Outs

The story stays true to the examination and the fact that these are real people with real problems that won’t necessarily work out perfectly for them or the way that you want them to.  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such loving discord.  Such a loving not-happy ending.  You’ll see.

#10 – And all these things added up just makes me say “mmmmm.”  That = SATISFYING

Worthy of the “New Favorite” mantle, no?  I leave it up to you as to whether you’re adding it to your Netflix Queue (how the hell do you spell that word?) right now as you read this – side note: it is an option in Netflix Watch Instantly if after this glowing review you just can’t wait.  I know I’m not saying much about the plot, but I don’t want to take any of the enjoyment away from you.  All I know is I’m in love.

 

I hadn’t noticed before, but even the poster is split, if you look closely!

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Filed under Movies, New Favorite, Theatre