Television Show Review: The Keepers

The Keepers

The Keepers created by Ryan White (Netflix, Film 45, Tripod Media) Starring Gemma Hoskins, Abbie Schaub, Jean Hargadon Wehner, and Teresa Lancaster. Obedience The experiments of Stanley Milgram will go down in history. The mid-century social scientist struck a nerve in society with his groundbreaking study titled, “Obedience.” The study placed its subjects in a stressful situation. The subject received instruction stating he would act as a “teacher.” Milgram walked a “student” to a separate room where the “student” gets hooked to a shock generator. Unbeknownst to the “teacher,” the “student” is an actor and won’t be getting shocked. As the “teacher” returns to the original room, Milgram places the him at an impressive looking instrument that looks like a… Read More →

Book Review: American Appetites

American Appetites by Joyce Carol Oates

American Appetites: A Novel by Joyce Carol Oates (New York: Dutton, 1989. 340 pp) Born in Lockport, New York, Joyce Carol Oates earned her B.A. from Syracuse University and her M.A. from the University of Wisconsin. An author of over 40 novels, Oates has received numerous awards, including the O. Henry Award, the National Book Award, the National Humanities Medal, and the Stone Award for Lifetime Literary Achievement. See You in Court The courtroom drama only has a minuscule amount of end games. Between guilty, not guilty, and possibly a hung jury, a story has little room to shock or surprise. And yet, legal theater draws much interest. Why? I’m no psychologist but if I had to hazard a guess,… Read More →

Film Review: Casting JonBenét

Casting JonBenet

Casting JonBenét written and directed by Kitty Green (Netflix, Forensic Films, Symbolic Exchange, Meridian Entertainment) Starring lots of people. Life in the Shoes of Someone Else Empathy, I would argue, represents a key characteristic of the human condition. Outside of the rare sociopath in the bunch—stop being sociopaths people—we seek to understand the people around us. Granted, some have more empathy than others. But overall, I contend it isn’t too difficult to consider what life might be like in someone else’s shoes. In fact, this consideration represents a core element of acting. What is acting but the full embodiment of another human being? In Casting JonBenét, Kitty Green sets aside the normal narrative beats of a docudrama for something completely… Read More →

Television Show Review: The Night Of

The Night Of

The Night Of created by Richard Price and Steven Zallian (BBC Worldwide Productions, HBO, Film Rites) Starring Riz Ahmed, Peyman Moaadi, Poorna Jagannathan, John Turturro, Jeannie Berlin, Paul Sparks, Amara Karan, Bill Camp, and Michael Kenneth Williams. Put the Kettle On Surprise! The systems around which you operate influence you. Example: I work with a British expatriate. My lexicon now skews toward sayings like “Put the kettle on” instead of “Boil water” and “Two weeks’ time” instead of “Two weeks from now.” It’s a small example but it goes to show how external influences alter who we are, how we act, and what we believe. When it comes to murder mysteries, most narrative arcs focus on the “whodunnit” aspect of… Read More →

Film Review: O.J.: Made in America

OJ Made in America

O.J.: Made in America directed by Ezra Edelman (ESPN Films, Laylow Films, 464 minutes) Starring O.J. Simpson, A.C. Cowlings, Ron Shipp, Marcia Clarke, Gil Garcetti, F. Lee Bailey, Carl E. Douglas, Barry Scheck, Mark Fuhrman, and Tom Lange. Back to the 90s 2016 is the O.J. renaissance. Stylistically, our fashion trends begin to mimic those of our counterparts two decades ago. Our music pushes toward that synthetic sheen or the grunge discord depending on your tastes. Trends aside, the 1990s represent the last moments before computer and internet ubiquity. Consider the large monitor sitting on Judge Ito’s desk during the trial. Today, the computer would be in the judge’s pocket. Even more, today’s omnipresent cell phone society manufactures clearer cases… Read More →

Television Show Review: Fortitude: Season 1

Fortitude Season 1

Fortitude: Season 1 created by Simon Donald (Fifty Fathoms Productions, Sky Atlantic, Tiger Aspect Productions) Starring Sofie Gråbøl, Mia Jexen, Luke Treadaway, Richard Dormer, Verónica Echegui, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, Nicholas Pinnock, Elizabeth Dormer-Philips, Darren Boyd, Sienna Guillory, Johnny Harris, Jessica Raine, Michael Gambon, Jessica Gunning, Stanley Tucci, and Darwin Brokenrbo. In Search of Isolation I’m often caught in two minds. One side of me wants to live at the heart of it all. City life means an unending conveyor belt of restaurants, concerts, and can’t-miss events. Every block offers a new city park and the concentration of human habitat allows for many friendships and communities to prosper. But, on the other hand, there’s a draw toward solitude. The bustle of… Read More →

Television Show Review: Making a Murderer

Making a Murderer

Making a Murderer created by Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos (Synthesis Films, Netflix) Starring Steven Avery. Behind Bars I haven’t spent much of my waking tine daydreaming about what it would be like to live my life behind bars. Prison remains an ethereal concept. I know “bad” people are there; I realize a disproportionate number of inmates emerge from low socio-economic status. In truth, I don’t proceed on a daily basis with any level of fear about breaking the law and the corresponding need to do time. Aside from a riveting story of true crime, Making a Murderer renders me apart because of the way it portrays systemic issues in the judicial system that can lead to broken outcomes seeped… Read More →

Television Show Review: Fargo: Season 2

Fargo Season 2

Fargo: Season 2 created by Noah Hawley (MGM Productions, FX Productions) Starring Kirsten Dunst, Patrick Wilson, Jesse Plemons, Jean Smart, Ted Danson, Jeffrey Donovan, Rachel Keller, Nick Offerman, Brad Garrett, Kieran Culkin, Bokeem Woodbine, Angus Sampson, Cristin Milioti, and Zahn McClarnon. Layers and Layers The best stories blend a gripping narrative with intriguing themes that ride underneath the surface. While the plot piques your interest and encourages you to tune in next week, the themes in the undercurrent provide a rich tapestry of human experience. I recently read an article on Kendrick Lamar that explores this very concept. In his tune, “King Kunta,” Lamar frequently references a yam. On the surface, the yam flows with the rest of the lyrics… Read More →

Television Show Review: True Detective: Season 2

True Detective Season 2

True Detective: Season 2 created by Nic Pizzolatto (Home Box Office, Anonymous Content) Starring Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch, and Vince Vaughn. Do You Really Need to Clean Your Room? I’m watching a lot of children’s television these days. It’s awful and paradoxically not that bad. Children’s programming follows a clear set of rules. We need to teach the kids important lessons, lest television rots the brains of our most impressionable. In one episode, the protagonist preferred not to clean up after playtime. Picking up toys is a chore. We all want to play as much as we can. Am I right? Thus comes a social experiment. What if we didn’t tidy up? Unfortunately, our young hero lost everything… Read More →

Television Show Review: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst directed by Andrew Jarecki (Home Box Office, Blumhouse Productions) Starring Robert Durst. Must-See TV In the age of ubiquitous Internet, there’s nothing much left that constitutes must-see television. The bigwigs of scripted television measure more than just standard Nielsen ratings. People, you see, have altered their viewing habits. Many have cut cords, focusing on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, et al. Others keep cable but stash shows on DVR so they can live their lives well. The only thing left that demands live viewing seems to be sports. Sure, you can DVR a game as well, but it seems as if sport has developed the tyranny of the now. Fans watch to… Read More →