September 2020 Viewing Diary

September was the longest month of my life. I started out putting my cat to sleep. I was in Rhode Island and had been so for a month. I came home, and everything had changed. And everything will keep changing. By this time next year I will not be where I am at, pandemic or no. The beginning of September feels like it was two years ago. And September only has 30 days, not 31. Something happened to time itself. It stretched out. Here’s what I watched in September.

Everybody Wants Some!! (2016; d. Richard Linklater)
God, I love this movie. I pop it in all the time. I reviewed for Ebert.

Suzi Q (2020; d. Liam Firmager)
This already feels so damn long ago but I sat out on the porch in Rhode Island with Mitchell, and we drank whiskey, ordered pizza and watched this movie. I had reviewed it for Ebert and I thought he would find it fascinating. He did.

The Argument (2020; d. Robert Schwartzman)
This one didn’t really work for me. I reviewed for Ebert.

The Leftovers, Season 1
I watched the pilot a couple of years ago and it was right up my alley. The aftermath of some global catastrophe … plus a chain-smoking CULT on the edge of town? But then I just didn’t continue for whatever reason. Been doing a lot of binge-watching during this extended period of mostly-lockdown. This time, it stuck. I knew it would be right up my alley. The cast is superb. Carrie Coon, especially. One of the things I love about Nora – and Coon’s performance – is how … aggressive Nora is, how unpleasant, really … and yet with all this vulnerability and trauma. This is actually true of all of the characters – everyone is sitting on top of a mountain of grief, and everyone deals with it in different ways. I got so sucked into the show. It’s a very strange show. But not strange for the sake of strange. It’s … sci-fi I guess you’d call it … but just as Supernatural may be in the “horror” genre (well, not anymore, but that’s another story) – the show is REALLY about family … The Leftovers shows a post-apocalyptic world, what it’s REALLY about is grief. It understands how difficult – how impossible, really – letting go is. It’s facile to say to someone suffering “You have to let it go.” I am in love with the show.

Ted Lasso, Season 1, e or 4 episodes
Allison had been dying to show me this. I have been missing our weekends holed up with one another so we made a plan. I went into New York City for the very first time since March – was too scared to use public transportation – so I drove in. The place is eerie now, a slightly sad and mostly empty ghost town. Allison and I crawled into bed and watched television. I stayed there a couple days. She works from home now, so she worked, and I sat in her bed writing. She made me watch the pilot of Ted Lasso. I love Jason Sudeikis and this whole project (if I’m not mistaken) was initiated by him. Allison loves it for its silliness, its light-heartedness, and the funny performances – a perfect escape for our dark times. (People who keep wanting art to reflect Right Now seem to forget that the biggest box office hits during the Depression were Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies.) I absolutely loved it and Hannah Waddingham, who plays the owner of the football club is – quite literally – brilliant. Some of her moments made me gasp. These British actors, man … they know how to do it. The character is so perfectly coiffed, so imperious but as you get to know her (we watched a couple of episodes), you see her misery, the bright frigid smile popped on top of a howling crevasse of pain. Anyway, I’m very intrigued and Allison and I will eventually watch the rest of it.

The Vow (2020; d. Jehane Noujaim, Karim Amer)
I had been waiting for this. I plowed through most of the episodes last month (I got a screener, as a critic) and finished it off this month. He disgusts me so much it’s hard for me to even LOOK at him. And it’s hard to fathom why people would look at him and think he was wise, or enlightened. This is the fascination: the people who got involved in this thing were smart, educated, driven. Studies have shown that people who join cults have, on average, higher IQs than the general population. So … this eradicates the idea that only gullible dumb follower-types join cults. He offered something, he presented something in such a way that people fell for it. Here’s the thing that is so interesting about The Vow and how it’s structured: The documentary holds off on “unmasking” the leader until way WAY into the proceedings. I mean, it’s obvious this was a cult and a very destructive “organization” but they don’t start off with “This guy is a con-man grifter.” They sort of insinuate themselves into the stories of the survivors, and through that … you see why these smart people succumbed. In a way, the documentary forces you to join the cult, just to get an idea of why these people stayed. And … Allison and I discussed it – we both could see the appeal. Nobody joins a cult. They join an organization that they think will help them and help them be better people, more useful citizens. It’s way too easy to look at the pudgy gross face of that leader and think “The people who followed him must have been out of their minds.” Well, no. They weren’t. And he ruined their lives. I also never thought I would say the following words in the course of my life: “Catherine Oxenberg is a fucking hero.” But I have. This story is very very disturbing and extremely trigger-happy. Be warned going in. But it’s extremely well done. Very impressed. I had been following this story since it first broke. I listened to the podcast. But there’s so much here I didn’t know. Excellent doc.

Witness to Murder (1954; d. Roy Rowland)
The shadows are black as pitch in this noir. Figures emerge from the liquidy black. The shadows of people are practically disembodied spirits the lighting is so dramatic. Barbara Stanwyck sees something in the apartment across the way, she sees a man murder a woman. She reports it. She is not believed. The murderer (George Sanders) begins a campaign of both intimidation and coercion to get her to retract or … to shut her up for good.

To Be or Not to Be (1942; d. Ernst Lubitsch)
It’s hard to believe this film even exists. It’s even harder to believe when you consider the year it came out. It’s a black BLACK comedy, barging into the catastrophe of the day – Germany’s overrunning all of Europe – and making fun of it – making fun of the Nazis – but also mourning what is happening. There’s one sequence in a movie theatre which Tarantino leaned on heavily for a similar sequence in Inglorious Basterds. Honestly, To Be or Not to Be is a sui genesis masterpiece. Most of the films coming out after American entered the war were anti-Nazi. So is this. But this? This has the melancholy touch of a European refugee. It’s different.

This Gun for Hire (1942; d. Frank Tuttle)
One of my favorite movies. I pop it in all the time. Alan Ladd, making his extraordinary debut. This character has been imitated over and over and over again. He basically started a cottage industry. The French New Wave sure loved him (Jean Pierre Melville’s Le Samurai is an unofficial yet totally obvious remake of This Gun for Hire). And Veronica Lake is adorable, earthy, real. With the best hair in show business. Still. Her magic act is a wonder, and the slow way she gets under this hired-gun’s skin is beautiful to behold. Tenderness. I wrote this on Instagram: “When Alan Ladd’s contract killer character screams, ‘THAT GIRL’S MY FRIEND!’, it surprises me every single time, even though its one of my longtime faves and I’ve watched IT so many times. No matter how many times though, I am not ready for that moment, for what it feels like to hear this taciturn damaged chilly man say the words “my friend.” AND his back is to the camera when he says it! (Back-ting!) The sound of his voice when he yells those words gets the job done.”

Big City Blues (1932; d. Mervyn LeRoy)
Poor innocent (annoying) country bumpkin (Eric Linden) comes to New York with stars in his eyes. Over a long night, during which his cousin (Walter Catlett) throws him a debauched party, bumpkin’s innocence is lost. And Jesus, it’s about time, you’re an adult, pallie. Joan Blondell plays a showgirl and – basically – a professional escort, who takes said bumpkin under her wing, all as the party wheels totally out of control. I love Pre-Codes. They’re so frank.

Infidel (2020; d. Cyrus Nowrasteh)
I reviewed for Ebert. It’s a bifurcated movie, one half having nothing to do with the second half, but I did enjoy a lot of it.

The Swerve (2020; d. Dean Kapsalis)
What an upsetting experience. What an incredible performance from Azura Skye. Jesus, this actress “goes there.” Watching The Swerve, it is impossible to stay neutral or distant. It is impossible to not feel for this woman, even if it’s just watching in horror as she goes off the rails. If you’ve ever been mentally sick, like REALLY sick, you might see yourself in her. You also might not want to watch, it hits so close to home. Amazing performance. I reviewed for Ebert. I highly recommend it.

Misbehaviour (2020; d. Philippa Lowthorpe)
A new movie about the women’s movement’s attempts to disrupt and take down the 1970 Miss World pageant in London. I reviewed for Ebert.

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013; d. Jim Jarmusch)
What a movie. I hadn’t seen it since it came out. I wrote about it here. The movie weaves a spell. It’s about vampires, of course, but it’s mostly about the central relationship, their devotion to one another, their need to be together but also apart … Watching Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as a couple, you get the sense – you really do – that they have been together for centuries. Their devotion to one another is so moving. I love this movie so much. Also, KILLER Wanda Jackson needle-drop. And it made me sad to see Anton Yelchin.

Possessor (2020; d. Brandon Cronenberg)
Reviewed for Ebert. Not really a fan, unfortunately. Some may love it! But as I always say: it’s not my job to tell you what YOU think, OR to align myself with the consensus. All I can do is tell you what Me-Myself-I think.

A Call to Spy (2020; d. Lydia Dean Pilcher)
I thought this was very good and feel fortunate it was one of my assignments for Ebert. It’s a fascinating and well-told history lesson, a slice of history never before told. I really dug it.

Vox Lux (2020; d. Brady Corbet)
I reviewed for Ebert. Should have given it 4 stars. Inspired by posting my brother’s essays about Scott Walker. This movie is so so good. Brady Corbet … I am so excited to see what he does next. From Childhood of a Leader to THIS? Both so excellent? I love a movie that makes bold choices, big big choices, choices that many people might not like, or “get”. At a certain point, all good artists have to say “fuck ’em if they don’t get it. This is for the people who DO.” Fantastic film.

The Leftovers, Season 2
I am curious to hear from fans of the series. Season 1 haunted me and gripped me. Season 2 was also really good, but it didn’t grip me like the first season. There were sequences that blew me away: the whole episode in a hotel was unbelievable. Matt Jamison’s whole journey. Regina King is already on my list of Great Actresses – ever since Jerry Maguire – and it is so so good to see her here, in such an interesting and complex role. I love Margaret Qualley in general (she was excellent as the Manson girl who drags Brad Pitt back to Spahn Ranch in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood). Good to see Steven Williams, too, as Virgil, the pedophile in the trailer, who gives Justin Theroux poison, because that makes sense. Williams, of course, plays Rufus on Supernatural, a handful of guest spots which cast a long LONG shadow. He’s a great actor. Rufus and Virgil have some things in common. In fact, and this will only be understandable to Supernatural fans, a LOT of Season 2 reminded me of certain arcs in Supernatural, particularly the dying and then rising again. Also Sam’s arc of walking around with Lucifer, unseen by everyone except him, is present in the whole Kevin-is-haunted-by-Patti, who follows him around, a devil on his shoulder. Is Kevin crazy or is Patti really there? This is Supernatural playbook. The whole environment of “Miracle” – with that crazy tent city outside of town – the bridge to get in – all of this feels extremely REAL, even though the series is extremely surreal. I just feel like … in the aftermath of some huge humanity-shifting event – this would be very very plausible. I just finished up Season 3, which turned me into a puddle on the floor. The whole series is extraordinary. I love the fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants energy to the whole thing – I know it drove some people crazy. I loved that aspect of it. I was always on the edge of my seat. Would love to hear from other fans.

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20 Responses to September 2020 Viewing Diary

  1. Sarah says:

    The Leftovers is one of my favorite series ever. All I could think when I watched the first season was, “This is exactly how it would be IF this many people just up and vanished one day,” and you know it’s true. The theories people would construct about the WHY! They’re all over the place, but they ring true to me. Love Christopher Eccleston’s performance as Matt, and Carrie Coon is a GEM. Liv Tyler also shined! I kept thinking of how her dad, Steven of Aerosmith, would be so proud of her.

    I’m deep into The Vow and can’t wait for each new episode. Ted Lasso is a genuine DELIGHT, and I too adore Hannah Worthington. I’ll be sad to watch the finale.

    • sheila says:

      Sarah – I totally should have mentioned Liv Tyler. !!!! Never really thought of her as a good actress – I mean, she’s been fine so far – but THIS let me see how good she can really be. She was truly chilling in her certainty. Like one of the Manson girls. And she never raised her voice. She was EXCELLENT.

      So glad to hear you’re into Ted Lasso too – it’s so funny and engaging!

    • sheila says:

      and I totally agree in re: the first season (in particular) in The Leftovers: it’s exactly how it would go down. Everyone dealing a different way, grasping to different certainties … It was very interesting to watch this during 2020 – an unprecedented year, with a world-shaking event. We’re seeing much of this play out now – people all responding to the unforeseen and upsetting in different ways.

    • sheila says:

      // Carrie Coon is a GEM //

      She blows me away. I love that character.

  2. Jessie says:

    ha ha, Vox Lux was our Sunday afternoon movie! Just as funny and mysterious and bold as I remembered. I’d forgotten how effective those voiceovers were over the slow motion. Jennifer Ehle’s costume change is hysterical, Jude Law is one of our greats, and the three central women are immaculate. I really enjoyed this interview with Corbet, he is so rigorous and interested in form and articulate about his choices.

    Adolf Hitler? In Warsaw?! By himself?! Is he perhaps interested in this delicatessen? No — impossible — he’s a VEGETARIAN!

    • sheila says:

      Jessie – you just watched Vox Lux too? HA. We must have watched it on like the same day.

      The voiceovers, yes! Hard to picture the film without them – it gives it this gravitas and perspective it might not otherwise have. It’s a history lesson. And then when the title comes during the end credits, it says underneath: “A Twenty-First Century Portrait.” So it has this … detached quality … even though it’s a very specific story about a specific girl.

      I love that detachment.

      Jennifer Ehle’s costumes – yes! That tight vertical striped skirt she’s wearing – I think when she’s getting Portman ready for the press conference … and scruffy sexy Jude Law – I love how he’s so taken aback when she asks him not to swear. He’s like a little kid. “Oh. Okay. Sorry.”

    • sheila says:

      Oh and thank you so much for that link – I haven’t listened yet but I’m excited to.

  3. Kristen Westergaard says:

    I first saw This Gun for Hire in Málaga, Spain at a film festival in the late 80s . I was a teenage exchange student. Anyhow, the film and its unexpected moments of tenderness in the midst of its plot excesses really imprinted on me. I appreciate your shout out to Veronica Lake especially. She may not have had a ton of range- but I think she brings humor and a cool and sensitive vulnerability to her best roles- like TGFH and Sullivan’s Travels, but doesn’t seem to get much credit…

    • sheila says:

      // the film and its unexpected moments of tenderness in the midst of its plot excesses really imprinted on me. //

      Yes, me too! When she kisses his cheek – he’s so taken aback. Plus his relationship with cats, his gentleness towards them … I love that character so much.

      // She may not have had a ton of range- but I think she brings humor and a cool and sensitive vulnerability to her best roles- like TGFH and Sullivan’s Travels, //

      She’s so good. She looks so otherworldly, SO glamorous, in still photos, but then you see her in films and she’s quite down to earth, that low voice, that stillness within, her calm cool assessment of what’s going on around her. I love her. I remember when LA Confidential came out – with Kim Basinger playing a Veronica Lake look-alike – and there were a couple of pieces published that went into Veronica Lake as an actress, and I really appreciated it.

  4. Todd A Restler says:

    Sheila, I am so happy that you finally got back to The Leftovers!

    It’s one of my all-time favorite shows. It’s taken me a while to get some thoughts together to reply.

    First off I love the AMBITION of the show. So many movies and TV shows “dumb it down”. And I get it, you’re trying to appeal to the most people possible to make the most $ possible. It’s a business. But it leads to a homogenization, a predictability, a vague sense that you’ve already seen “This”, whatever this is, because you probably have.

    But every once in a while, a creative team is allowed to just “Go For It”. That doesn’t automatically mean success. I just finished “Lovecraft Country”, which had some similarities to The Leftovers and was a good show, but not entirely successful.

    But when something like this “works”, the art has a chance to be transcendent. I think of the very best of Kubrik or Malick, say 2001: A Space Odyssey or Tree of Life.

    I think The Leftovers achieves this. It’s the biggest praise I can give. It makes even great shows feel like they’re pulling their punches, and makes the rest feel childish and lame.

    Season One tracked pretty closely to the book from my understanding. (I didn’t read it, and I’m glad so I could experience this fresh). The structure was fascinating to me. It did a very “Sopranos” thing by often focusing on just one character, while putting the “leads” (The Garveys) into the background. I’m thinking of Matt (Chris Eccelston’s) magical journey to the Casino (and the ironic end to that episode – he won but wound up in a coma and missed his deadline to save his Church!), or Nora’s trip to New York. Telling the story this way is so intriguing, like peeling an onion.

    And the second to last episode of Season One was a flashback to the time just before and during the Departure, which was brilliant. ANY other show would have made this the Pilot. Why did this work? I have no idea. But it did. Wonderfully. Created this amazing melancholy feeling of what WAS, right BEFORE.

    Season Two was my favorite. It managed to retain all the depth and mystery of Season One while adding a crucial element of humor. Changing the opening theme song from that Operatic Dirge to Iris Dement’s “Let The Mystery Be” captured the spirit.

    Opening in prehistoric times? Are you KIDDING! Set the tone that the Season was about “places” causing the departure, not people. And the commercialization of the Departure! Because of course! Nora was able to sell her house for millions since her whole family departed, which enabled her to buy a home in Jarden, where houses were going for $4 million since it was a “blessed” place.

    Regina King and Kevin Carroll were amazing in this season. Carroll’s crooked smile! A great episode called “Lens”, where a scientist visits Nora and explains she may be a “Lens”. I loved the way the show hinted at all these various factions – science, religion, business – trying to deal with The Departure. Just hints, while the show focused on the family dynamic. This led to probably my single favorite episode of TV ever, “International Assassin”, which was the dream-like episode of Justin Thoreau in the “Hotel”, having to deal with the undead Patti, or something.

    How this worked is again an enigma to me. It’s too weird. Too confusing. Too outside the box. And YET, the show had so amazingly spun it’s web that by the time I saw this episode I was in heaven. Just amazing.

    And then again using the second to last episode of the Season for what could have been the first episode of the Season, the show revealed Meg (Liv Tyler) to be the “Big Bad” of the Season, with an amazing flashback to her doing coke in a restaurant bathroom while her Mom departed. The writers of this show deserve medals.

    Left with the impossible task in Season 3 of somehow explaining all this and winding it up in a satisfying way, the show hit a home run. How often does “aging” make-up work. Ever? It worked here.

    This show was SOOO DEEEP!!! It was a study of PTSD, and as a New Yorker, the parallels with how people “dealt” (deal?) with 9/11 were always on my mind. But it was also obviously about religion, and took a pretty hard look at false Prophets and the whole idea of “faith” as a construct. It was also a study of family. Loss. Longing. Forgiveness. I could go on and on, and I have!

    I have studied screenwriting a bit, and my “way in” to most material is in how the story is being told. And as I mentioned I love the structure of this show, the shifting viewpoints, the use of flashbacks, the willingness to go ANYWHERE and do ANYTHING.

    But I don’t know much about acting other then I know what I like. I have never studied it, and can’t really “see” what actors are doing the way you can Sheila. All the acting on the show was amazing to me, and Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, Margaret Qualley (love her!), Ann Dowd, Liv Tyler, and Chris Eccelston all stood out to me.

    But you mentioned Carrie Coon. Kudos to the showrunners for understanding what they had here after Season One, and expanding her character. What she did, to me anyway, was incredible. It was like watching a pitcher throw a perfect game, 27 up and 27 down, all 3 pitch strikeouts. To me her “Nora” is on the all-time great characters list, up there with Don Draper and Tony Soprano.

    You mention the Hanna Compton story from Under the Dome often. That was Carrie Coon in this role. “Feelin’ It.”

    • sheila says:

      Okay Todd I’m finally catching up. The last couple of weeks have been interesting to say the least.

      // But when something like this “works”, the art has a chance to be transcendent. I think of the very best of Kubrik or Malick, say 2001: A Space Odyssey or Tree of Life. I think The Leftovers achieves this. //

      I so agree with this! There were times when my jaw literally dropped at what they were attempting – even if some of it I felt didn’t succeed or whatever – I’m not as interested in that. I’m interested in the attempt. Because so few people even attempt it. And so they were way out on the edge of this thing … digging into it in a way other series just never would … willing to be strange, opaque, mysterious … and willing to NOT tie it all up with a bow, or have some scientist or theologian come on in the final episode and explain what happened. They just … let the mystery be mysterious … and it gives SUCH a space for us out here to think about it. I appreciate that SO much.

      // And the second to last episode of Season One was a flashback to the time just before and during the Departure, which was brilliant. ANY other show would have made this the Pilot. Why did this work? I have no idea. But it did. Wonderfully. Created this amazing melancholy feeling of what WAS, right BEFORE. //

      Yes – I really really loved that they held that back, that they didn’t start with this – or give it to us early. We were really just thrust into the aftermath – we had to piece it together. They didn’t wait for us to catch up – I think that might be the thing I appreciate the most. I love it when films (or series) don’t wait to catch me up. Let me adjust to your speed, let me adjust to where you want me to go – don’t YOU adjust to ME.

      THAT’S confidence and it’s really rare and it’s one of the main things I appreciated and admired about the series.

      Interesting what you say about Season 2 – I’ve thought a lot about this. It’s weird to have binged this – did you watch it as it unfolded in real time? I have been thinking about how binging it may have given me a different experience. I liked Season 2 – but it didn’t have the ka-POW of season 1 for me. But now that I’ve sat with it a while – I have changed my tune. (similar to how they changed the theme song – as you say: so effective). I am not sure what I was expecting but I think it was my expectations getting in the way of where they wanted ME to go.

      // I loved the way the show hinted at all these various factions – science, religion, business – trying to deal with The Departure. Just hints, while the show focused on the family dynamic. //

      Yes! This was so interesting and I appreciated it because of course IF something like this were to happen, that is exactly how it would go – it would affect every aspect of our world, every discipline, every profession.

      “International Assassin” was pure brilliance. It actually reminded me of the three episodes in the final season of Sopranos (I think it was three?) – where Tony was in a coma and he went into this whole other reality where he wasn’t who he was in real life. It was such a commitment to the strange – to the almost religious and moral/ethical implications of the story – I know it drove some hard-core Sopranos fans crazy – but I was like “Can this go on forever, please? This is FASCINATING.”

      Liv Tyler has literally never been better. I mean, she’s always been fine – never a heavy-hitter though … but it took The Leftovers to show how damn effective she was – as a True Believer. She was terrifying. I thought she played it perfectly. I totally believed it.

      // To me her “Nora” is on the all-time great characters list, up there with Don Draper and Tony Soprano. //

      I totally agree.

      What was “general” – i.e. a grieving wife/mother – became something entirely OTHER the second she had that sex worker shoot her. It was then that I fell in LOVE with this character AND her performance. I never ever forgot that scene. I never ever let myself think that I knew who this woman was, or how she would react to things. She was 100% unpredictable – and yet her unpredictability made sense because … in that fictional world, the literal unbelievable had happened – how ELSE are you gonna respond? All bets are off.

      I am so impressed – I need to re-watch now, and go slower. I binged it … so I think it was hard to absorb in such a concentrated setting.

      • sheila says:

        and thank you for your in-depth comments – always love to hear your responses to things!

      • Todd Restler says:

        Hi, thanks for getting back! This is such a fun show to analyze but unfortunately I don’t know that many people who saw it! Too bad, Variety called it the #1 show of the decade. Hopefully people find it, as they are apt to do eventually when something is this good.

        Yes I did watch it in real time, which certainly changes the experience. Season One followed the book and ended where the book did, so there was a LOT of speculation online about where the writers would go in Season 2. That’s why, free from the constraints of the book to go anywhere, I was so amazed they started Season 2 in prehistoric times. Who the fuck does that? The whole season cast an amazing spell over me and was my favorite probably thanks to International Assassin alone, but it is tough to try to “rank” the seasons and isn’t even really fair.

        I read an interview with Damon Lindelof where he was asked about that decision to start Season 2 that way, and he said that he normally answers “from the writers room” to those types of questions out of respect for all the writers who worked hard on the show. In this case he felt compelled to name the person who came up with this idea since it was so good. (I can’t find the article but I remember it was a female writer, for what it’s worth).

        Like I said it’s that ambition and imagination that floored me. Writing is really hard. It always seems organic when you’re watching it, but every single plot point and line of dialogue is painstakingly thought through. Sweet Smell of Success apparently had 17 different endings they were arguing over.

        It’s rare when a group of artists just say “Fuck it”, we’re going for it. And for this to work, the actors have to totally commit. No actor wants to look stupid or take a huge risk only to fail spectacularly.

        I remember an interview with Jason Batemen talking about “Dodgeball: The Movie”. About as far from Leftovers as you can get! But he made a great point. He played an announcer (Pepper Brooks lol), and he wasn’t required on set until late in the shoot. When he showed up, he was being pushed in a direction that seemed so silly to him, but he had to put his trust in the director, who was telling him, (paraphrasing) “No, be even stupider. Trust me were making the dumbest movie ever. You can’t act too stupid.” (Bold strategy Cotton!)

        These actors in The Leftovers trusted the process, took a huge risk, and made magic.

        Great acting meeting great writing. They had to WRITE that Nora would pay someone to shoot her in the bullet proof vest. I mean, someone THOUGHT of that. And then Carrie Coon was like Fuck YEAH!

        I was actually in awe of the creative talent WHILE watching the show and I don’t think that’s ever happened to me before.

        • sheila says:

          Todd – that Jason Bateman comment is SO GREAT. He is hilarious in that movie. // “No, be even stupider. Trust me were making the dumbest movie ever. You can’t act too stupid.” // Ha!!!

          // I was so amazed they started Season 2 in prehistoric times. Who the fuck does that? //

          That was incredible.

          // (I can’t find the article but I remember it was a female writer, for what it’s worth). //

          I’m not surprised.

          // I was actually in awe of the creative talent WHILE watching the show and I don’t think that’s ever happened to me before. //

          I had the same experience. They were really out on thin ice – or maybe a better analogy is a high wire act without a net.

          Like I said – or I think I said – I need to watch it again, and go slower. Bingeing I don’t think is really the best experience for something like Leftovers – and I wish I had been watching the episodes unfold week by week. It must have been even more of a mind-blowing experience to see it that way!

          • Todd Restler says:

            It’s been really interesting to consider how viewing the episodes and seasons in real time was a completely different experience than a binge must have been.

            The show was so deep and interesting that reading real time reviews and blog chatter and comments was a fascinating, enriching experience in its own right that certainly enhanced my appreciation of the show.

            I get that the desire to solve the mystery drives the binge, but sometimes, as on the current and amazing The Undoing, (Kidman and Grant are simply incredible in this) having time to let the mystery marinate can deepen the experience.

            Like I said it’s interesting to think about

          • sheila says:

            // reading real time reviews and blog chatter and comments was a fascinating, enriching experience in its own right that certainly enhanced my appreciation of the show. //

            I love it when that happens. I loved reading my friend Keith Uhlich’s gorgeous re-caps – which weren’t even really re-caps – just meditative observations – of the Twin Peaks: Return. also his writing on the X-Files mini-series. It was so fun to go see what he pulled out, what he thought, what he saw.

            What else are you watching these days? Anything to recommend?

  5. Todd Restler says:

    Hi, just wanted to make sure you saw my Leftovers comments since you mentioned the show again today!

    • sheila says:

      Todd – thank you! I must have somehow missed it – October was taken up with family stuff and I lost track of what was going on here.

      I’ll read your comment and come back with responses – especially now since I’ve finished the series.

      I was just FLOORED by that final episode. Literally from moment to moment I had no idea what was going to happen next … but it all made this kind of beautiful messy sense – the series was true to its original goals and objectives. It was an emotional thru-line rather than a “here is how the physics of it worked” quest. I appreciated that.

      Blown away. I need to watch it again now – binging means you sometimes miss things!

  6. Todd Restler says:

    Hi Sheila,

    I mentioned I’m currently watching The Undoing on HBO, which is awesome, I’m finding Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman to be riveting. And NOT being able to binge, but rather having time to puzzle over the clues and hints, is making it better, just like I felt The Leftovers was better in small doses over time.

    Ozark was my favorite show of the past few years. Jason Bateman is epic. It’s a show that seems to be MEANT to be binged, as there aren’t even really discrete episodes that come to mind, it was more like a flowing, thundering river.

    I wonder if creative teams are actually aware of whether their shows will be binged or not depending upon the platform, and calibrate the suspense accordingly. Seems so. Fascinating. Sopranos you could pick any one episode at random and find a self contained story within the bigger whole. Not so for the “bingies”.

    Schitt’s Creek’s whole run was like a warm cup of cocoa. ACTUALLY a feel good show that earned every bit of it.

    Lovecraft Country was interesting but confusing, it’s what would have happened to The Leftovers in lesser hands. I admired it’s effort.

    Succession and Billions are both amazing, I completed Succession and am done with Season One of Billions. Very different considering they are both about billionaires, Succession is Shakespeare and Billions is Sorkinesque. Kieran Culkin’s Roman Roy on Succession is one of my current favorite characters.

    And I meant to comment on your The Way Back review, which I just saw recently. I’ve always loved Affleck, but was blown away by how good he was in this. I think by far his best acting work so far. And I played high school basketball (not very well), and boy did I feel Deja Vu! I could SMELL those gyms. And the Safety from the football team who played basketball? Every team had that guy, and you wouldn’t go near him or he’d put his elbow through your ribs. That felt like a documentary. I loved it.

    • Todd Restler says:

      Okay, did you see the end of The Undoing? My goodness. Amazing show.

      Also saw First Reformed. Holy Fuck. If you squint it was like a Leftovers episode. Best Ethan Hawke ever. I can’t get it out of my head.

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