When They See Us, the Netflix limited series directed and co-written by Ava DuVernay, is about the Central Park Five, the five kids, African American and Latino, who in 1989 were accused of assault and rape and sentenced to maximum terms based on nothing more than coerced false confessions, when they hadn’t been anywhere near the scene of crime. The series is about racism and about a legal system designed not to find the guilty but to fabricate them. It is about how a deeply broken system failed the five accused. In telling a story about the late ’80s and early ’90s, it is also very much about present-day America and about how the system is still just as corrupt in many ways. The law may be many things, but if you’re black, don’t expect it to be just.Continue reading
This month Mege and Matt are visiting with the Cranes at Hill House. Will we make it out alive or will we be stuck forever with the shades and phantoms wandering its forlorn corridors? We also stop by Colombia, fashionably late, to talk about Narcos and its take on Pablo Escobar, and we catch a glimpse of the American criminal justice system as illustrated by Cleveland, Ohio, guided by Sarah Koenig & Co., in the third season of Serial.
In this month’s episode Mege and Matt discuss Erik Poppe’s U – July 22, a cineastic attempt to come to terms with the massacre of 69 young people on the island of Utøya, Norway, by a right-wing terrorist. Does the film do justice to its subject? What are the responsibilities of filmmakers depicting recent real-life atrocities? Also, Mege talks about the new Netflix series Maniac, starring Jonah Hill, Emma Stone and Justin Theroux, and Matt speaks of the joys of web-swinging through New York in the recently released game Spider-Man.
Some films are so atmospheric, you can almost feel the temperature. Apocalypse Now evokes this hot humidity, Lawrence of Arabia and its burning desert heat make you want to open the three top buttons of your shirt and get another cold drink from the fridge. Hold the Dark goes the other way: there are few films that make you feel the need to huddle under a warm cover with a mug of hot chocolate like this one. The Alaskan tourism board may be pleased with how beautiful the state’s wilderness looks in Jeremy Saulnier’s latest film, but it is a forbidding beauty that makes you wonder whether it is worth the freezing temperatures and the apparent likelihood of being killed by a wolf. Doubly so if that wolf wears the skin of a human being.
Tune in for episode 4 of A Damn Fine Cup of Culture podcast, but beware of the owls: Mege and Matt reminisce about Twin Peaks, the original series. Warning: if you don’t know who killed Laura Palmer, watch the series first! (Hint: It wasn’t the Log Lady.) Also, Mege takes a trip to the sci-fi-tinged Middle Ages through the eyes of Aleksei German and the Brothers Strugatsky, and Matt doesn’t hold back on the meagre charms of Danny Rand.
Well, that’s a lie. Obviously I can comment and I will. So there.
I’ve been watching the American remake? reimagining? resomething of House of Cards. On paper it seems a perfect proposal, updating the series and adapting it to the US context while giving David Fincher and Kevin Spacey something to get their teeth into. Critics largely agreed, on both sides of the pond. We’re now about half a dozen episodes into the first series, and I have to admit I’m not quite feeling it yet. I can’t even say it’s the series: my main problem at this point is that my memories of the BBC original (primarily the first series – the second and third got progressively worse in terms of writing and plot) keep getting in the way. I don’t have any issues with remakes on principle, but I keep thinking that BBC – no, scratch that, that Ian Richardson did it better. In fact, I think that’s my main problem so far: Spacey’s performance up to this point, or possibly the way his character is written, strikes me as somewhat lazy. He’s got the Spaceyisms down pat, but there’s no urgency behind it, no purpose. We’re told what this Frank Underwood wants to achieve, giving his machinations and manipulations a theoretical goal, but so far I don’t feel it. Manipulating people seems to be an end in itself to Underwood, whereas Richardson’s Francis Urqhart was a driven man, something his aloof, calculating irony sometimes covered but that was constantly seething under the surface.
I’m hoping I’ll learn to appreciate the Netflix House of Cards for what it is, rather than for what it isn’t and perhaps shouldn’t be. In the meantime, though, here’s a shoutout to Ian Richardson’s defining role, which he played to perfection even in the inferior second and third series. Is he the best neo-Richard III of all times?
P.S.: There’s a longer clip in an earlier post of mine, showing the plummy glee with which Richardson’s FU addresses the audience. Well worth checking out.