Deadwood


photo-14The statue (above) that The Goat Man brings Daniel to see in last week’s Rectify.

In the info line of S1, E5 of the new Sundance original series Rectify, there is a short description that reads “Daniel loses his grip on reality.”  Fitting that the show opens in a sort of dream like sequence, in which Daniel arises at 3:14 AM, leaves his house, and ends up at the home of the victim’s family–that victim–peeping into their window, as the victim’s mom, who has railed about the injustice of Daniel’s release on the local news, appears to be sleepwalking.  Okay, so we are terrified right here, about 2 minutes in, because obviously if Daniel is caught there, it is going to be almost impossible to convince anyone that he is not some criminally bent perv.

Then Daniel gets into this car with our old friend W. Earl Brown (Swearingen’s right hand man Dan Dority from Deadwood), as Daniel is apparently hitchhiking and, W. Earl Brown is apparently looking for a rider.  The first thing Brown says to Daniel of consequence is, after Daniel says to the driver he’s lost, is “Not all wanderers are lost.”  Okay, weird enough, but then Daniel falls asleep in the front seat and dreams of prison, of some fight in which 2 or 3 death row inmates are restrained or taken away, their blood flowing.  Perhaps we should also mention the image which initially woke Daniel, which initiated this odd excursion.  Daniel is in his cell and looks across to another where this other inmate is beating his head repeatedly against the glass, each time with the thud of a smashed pumpkin.  Daniel had alluded to the way his senses had more or less shut down in jail, how he’d forgotten about rain and such, with no windows, because he was totally shut off to it.  So that other inmate, we get that he is inducing pain so that he might feel something, the way a cutter would.  We also understood it as the first important imagery for that episode.  Now if there are those who are out there thinking the pace of this show has been unreasonably slow, we don’t see how they could have held that same opinion during this episode’s first 5 minutes.

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Now back to Brown, who Daniel referred to as “The Goat Man.”  There is heavy symbolism with goats and the devil obviously.  For us, an interested student of belief systems, we have always been rankled by the connection that Christianity and Judaism have made between Satan’s appearance and that of a goat, the horns and hoofs and all, as the goat was formerly tied up in the imagery connected to polytheism and a supreme god, god of gods, whatever, who was a female who embodied the earth and nature, and was thus represented by an animal.  But of course the Judeo-Christians were eager to bust that up and switch the focus of religion and society from a matriarchal structure to a patriarchal one, and so the feminine, goat-like supreme god was replaced by a vengeful, do not take my name in vain, masculine monotheistic god, and what better way to destroy the positive connotations to the goat imagery then by attaching to it devil imagery?    In fact, legendary novelist Tom Robbins embarks on quite a tangent on this very subject in “Skinny Legs and All.”  (Shout out to “Turn Around Norman”!)   Then there’s that bit in the bible about the devil being accompanied by a herald, who appeared in the form of a goat.

The Goat Man takes Daniel to a desolate barn and begins to herd the goats into his red trailer, and when Daniel asks if he wants him to ride in the back with the goats, The Goat Man tells him no, that he’s the one who needs company.  Hold that thought.  Daniel, again asleep in the car, is awakened by The Goat Man, at what seems like dawn, and asks him if he wants to see something.  At that point, they go out into a field where the statue of the woman, with the goat girl on her left and the little goat on her right is.  As they look upon the statue, Brown tells Daniel, “it’s the beauty that hurts you most son, not the ugly.”  It strikes us that Daniel is disturbed by the statue, and that The Goat Man seemed to us to read his mind, that he was hurt by it, moreso even than the ugly dreams he was having, which we felt The Goat Man knew about. (When Daniel gets in the car, The Goat Man tells him he knows him, which we think there is great subcontext in, and later, as Daniel sleeps, The Goat Man says, “where’d you go off to, boy?”, as we got the feeling that they were both privy to the dream.)

Then the two men wrestle which was very odd, and what may have represented to some something homoerotic.  The Goat Man has Daniel pinned and then let’s him up and they walk off together, and soon, they are by Daniel’s deceased father’s tire shop, now run by his stepfather and evil stepbrother, Ted Jr.  So The Goat Man’s trailer is red and then there’s the giant red man, “the dancing man”, whatever, which is a Sky Dancer, which Daniel explains, sort of, to Tawny later at the re-baptism, as having led him back to the “father and the son.”  Before Daniel goes to sit with Ted Sr., The Goat Man hands Daniel a wad of money, rubber banded, and more or less insists he takes it. At the store, Daniel tells Ted Sr. he does not intend to work there, clothes shabby and clay stained and with a fresh welt on his head, over coffee, and that prompts Ted Sr. to ask Daniel if “has somebody been talking to you?”  At that point, Daniel could obviously sell out Ted Jr., who so crassly took Daniel to golf and explained to him the economic politics of the tire and rim business and why Daniel would be bad for it and how it would affect the family.  Instead, Daniel moves on, taking with him the figurine (seen below) on the counter, which was his father’s, something that would incense Ted Jr. unnaturally when we he learns of it later, when Ted Jr. comes in to the shop after a particularly unsettling conversation about Daniel that he has with his wife. photo-15At the same time, Ted Jr. gets home from a trip on which he and some other low life were carousing, hears from his wife that a miracle has happened in Paulie, and then throws a conniption when he finds out the miracle of which Tawny speaks is that Daniel is ready to accept the lord.  When Ted Jr. asks her why she cares about him so much, she tells him, “because he’s one of god’s children.  Why do you hate him so much?”  Then Ted claims he doesn’t hate him, that he doesn’t know him, and it is a lie.  Ted then heads over to Daniel’s mom’s and tells her and Amantha that Daniel will be baptized that evening, which they are not aware of, and which is obviously strange news, and bravo to Amantha for calling him out on being the punk he is.  But then Daniel comes home, breezes straight past them and into his room, where he begins the pacing we liked so much in the Sundance montage.  Ted leaves, because he is a total punk and has come to start trouble only, which, if he was truly concerned about Daniel, he might have tried to talk to him there with Amantha and their mom, in a safe setting.  You know, if it’s me, I might have wanted to talk rationally to Daniel about how my wife is a tad naive and maybe he should rethink the whole ceremony thing, as it seems rash, the way the women were about to do.  Thing is though, Ted Jr. is not exactly wrong, in his position, which would be born out after the ceremony, when Daniel asks Tawney if he can kiss her.

Amantha and mom then go to Daniel’s room to speak to him, ask to speak to him, and say, “We’re worried about you.”

Daniel replies, “Why?”

“Well, because we love you.”

Daniel: “Love is patient and kind.  Love is not jealous or boastful or proud.”  Here is where Daniel begins to seem to really unravel, mumbling, “could happen at any time.”  When they ask him what could happen at any time, Daniel says “Anything.  Anything could happen at any time.”  He’s not wrong.  When they see the money, they comment that it seemed like a large sum.  Daniel says, “you think it was ill gotten?”  His mom says, “I don’t know.”  Then they have a confrontation about the re-baptism and Daniel, in a striking moment for the show, says angrily to Amantha, “I never asked you to live your life for me.”  That had to be a very difficult moment for Amantha, who has essentially made her life around Daniel’s incarceration and the fight for justice, which is obvious, and moreso in light of the story she tells to the lawyer about the best friend she stopped speaking to after she had told her about a frightening prank all the kids were playing that involved Daniel down by the lake.

Later, at Daniel’s ceremony, Amantha shows up to support him, as her love is indeed patient and kind, but there she is confronted with Daniel’s seeming infatuation with Tawney, as well as the fact that Ted Jr. isn’t wrong about Daniel’s possible reasons for finding Christ.

Though Daniel did not tell his mother and sister about the ceremony, he isn’t secretive.  We feel like that particular confrontation was inevitable and was the only reason he didn’t tell them.  But Daniel is a very honest person.  He could’ve hidden the money from his family but he doesn’t.  And in the end, he could’ve pretended to Ted Jr., when he returns to the tire shop, that Christianity had really taken him, but instead, he tells the truth.

Things are too complicated for Daniel to just accept some savior and feel saved.  Ted Jr., showing some of the same naivete as Tawney, spouts at him that ‘it is that simple.  You’re sins are either forgiven or they’re not.’  What was really malicious on his part and lacking better judgment was when he goaded Daniel about being raped.  As the episode fades out, Daniel has pounced on Ted Jr. from behind and has him in air tight sleeper hold.  Here, we see that all of the violence of the first few moments, the bloody flashbacks and dreams, and the wrestling, has foreshadowed a violent end.

As for The Goat Man?  He’s not real for us, but we’re pretty sure he is very real to Daniel and will be back.  But Daniel had been somewhere, he had that welt on his head and the muddy clothes, and he had ended up at the tire shop where he sat with Ted Sr.  Perhaps the most interesting question the show raised for us, when considering that The Goat Man is not real, is where Daniel got the money from.  We immediately thought back on that particular conversation with Ted Jr. about rape, and could not help but wonder whether Daniel was perhaps earning the money at a rest stop as a prostitute (“it’s me who needs company” — The Goat Man), and if the in and out of dreams, was some subconscious way of not being in the moment.

An interesting question to ponder, just one of many, as the show debuts its season finale tomorrow at 10 PM EST on Sundance.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

1363363851-rectifyAden Young (above) as Daniel Holden, a Paulie, Georgia man released from death row after nearly 20 years incarcerated.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/rectify-gets-second-season-order-450176

After 4 episodes of The Sundance Channel’s Rectify, we feel like we know enough about the show to know this much: after the finale of S1, which will air on May 20th, we will be pining for the new original drama’s 10 episode return in the Spring of 2014, and its subsequent renewals, we hope, into 2015 and beyond.  As long as series creator Ray McKinnon (the creepy reverend from Deadwood & the very odd lawman from S4 of Sons of Anarchy, Lincoln Potter), and Breaking Bad EP’s, Melissa Bernstein and Mark Johnson are at it with this show, there will be no rectifying what ails Paulie, Georgia, where this show is set, and its pervasive, institutional ignorance.  Paulie is a dry town, for that matter, where the attitude prevails, even in Daniel Holden’s “family”, that if a jury convicted him, he must be guilty.

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And that a judge has set aside his conviction due to new DNA evidence does not quite seem to matter all that much.  Not when prosecutors, politicians, and even kin are loaded with ulterior motives that range from the obvious Machiavellian ones like Senator/former DA Foulkes (Michael O’Neill), whose career has been riding on this case for years, and who now does not particularly care “where the jizz landed.”  What he does care a whole hell of a lot about though is extra biscuits, as does the new prosecutor, who, when meeting with Daniel’s lawyer about a retrial, has her secretary interrupt the meeting to bring her biscuits with her dinner, which she claims, is the only interruption she permits.  Now we know how an AMC style drama works, which Rectify most certainly is, as AMC is the parent network for Sundance, and we must say, we are very pleased at how AMC dramas play out, with the patience that most of their dramas have been allowed to exercise in developing plot.  Only Rubicon has met an early end (which was probably a good decision), and much to our surprise and happiness, even The Killing and Hell on Wheels, which are not exactly run away hits, are coming back for 3rd seasons.  We anxiously await The Killing’s premiere in early in June.

Now if you spoke to us early last June, you’d have caught us positively incensed at the slow pace of The Killing, and all of the plot misdirection, which had many in the audience miffed at how the murder of Rosie Larsen was being dragged out.  And sure, in real time, the investigation probably did not take that long, but it is indeed frustrating when every single character, basically, except Linden, was a suspect at one time or another, as it is, in a sense, dishonest production, especially when we all know that the Danish version of the show and the Larsen murder wrapped up in one season.  But given time, we have come to really love Linden and Holder, and we understand that more than the case, it is they who make the show.  So forget the other characters here for a moment, and what you might consider trite or predictable dialogue (like Hal Holbrook’s soliloquy to Daniel’s new/competent lawyer Jon Stern, played by Luke Kirby).  Daniel Holden’s character makes this series go and we see it going far because of him, and the strong ensemble cast around him and quality production team.  Do we feel the show is a bit rough and clipped in its intros and breaks and whatnot?  We do.

We also feel that they have already set up some really interesting plot points, as a story like this one requires constant setup, and that Johnson and Bernstein, if they have learned one thing from Vince Gilligan, and they have obviously learned more than that, it is the use of Deus Ex Machina, which we don’t necessarily consider to be such a contrived and ill fitting device that lazy writers use for the sake of convenience, unless they are indeed lazy writers who are using the device for the mere sake of convenience.  While the Holbrook soliloquy was just so cliche that it had us shuddering, it is no doubt the way of the world in Paulie, Georgia, which, as Daniel’s mother suggests at Daniel’s homecoming barbecue, is caught in a most onerous time warp, sadly, like a lot of places in this country, where the progression of people is markedly less evolved than even those in Maycomb, Alabama in 1930’s “To Kill A Mockingbird.”  Atticus Finch knew he had to fight for Tom Robinson.  In Rectify, Rutherford Gaines (Hal Holbrook) was hoping to get Daniel Holden life in prison.

Life imitates art, and art imitates life, and in real life, let us not act as though there is no foreshadowing as to what is to come.  Obviously there has been some overt foreshadowing here, like with Amantha (Abigail Spencer, Suits) and Jon seeing the creepy brother of the murder victim in that bar a town or two over, and abruptly hightailing it out of there.  Of course we see where this is probably going, that the creep has a twisted crush on the way hot younger sister of Daniel, and could mean her harm in a revenge sort of way for what he perceives her older brother did to his younger sister.  And then there’s Senator Foulkes and his careless affair with the trollop from the diner, which will probably get him at least emotionally extorted at some point by Daniel’s lawyer, who will most definitely need to pull out every last bit of artillery he has in order to keep Daniel on the outside.

What drew us to the show before we even knew of it was not McKinnon or the “other” producers of BrBa, but a quick preview flashed in a Sundance montage for their network, in which Daniel is pacing in his prison cell, some tiny concrete box, juxtaposed with him pacing a tiny rectangular avenue on the carpet of his bedroom, that he has returned to, and that still has the feel and decor of a kid’s room, one who went off to college and returned to it as an adult.  Daniel has certainly gotten an education, you could say, as he reveals to callous moron step brother Ted Jr (Clayne Crawford), on the golf course, telling him of the regularity with which he was sexually abused when he first got to prison.  While Daniel was somewhat at ease with the revelation, we wouldn’t call him casual.  Daniel’s reacclimation–the subject of the snippet we saw–may never happen, which makes Ted’s petty concerns about Daniel wanting his shit job at the tire shop, or even his wife, so inconsequential that you want to reach into the television and slap the motherfucker and say “grow the fuck up!”  Especially since, when Ted’s wife Tawney (Adelaide Clemens) hugs Daniel, he gets a hard on which scares the fuck out of her, considering that he was on death row for rape/murder going on 20 years and they were, at that moment, alone together in a field by some remote woods.  And Tawney is this ultra naive, chaste, bible banging moron, who basically describes how the lord fills her up, causing us to recall Eric Cartman describing how he couldn’t get enough of Jesus’s juices all over his face.

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Newsflash to Ted: Daniel is inheriting the tire shop one way or another, and will probably bag the Jesus freak as well, probably right before he gets sent back to death row, as fate will likely have it.  In a certain way, this show reminds us very much of Enlightened (unfortunately cancelled by HBO), in that nothing is easy, few things work out, and the only real constant is hardship.  At the end of the day, Daniel has some very caring and upstanding blood relatives, and a whole hell of a lot of problems, and may be safer on the inside, with his one friend, a fellow death row inmate convicted of killing and raping a young girl, than on the outside.  As Daniel explained it, he made peace with death.  We count on him, however, having more trouble making peace with life.

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Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

The new girls of HBO, Jermima Kirke (L.), Lena Horvath, Zosia Mamet, and Allison Williams (R.).

Don’t mind us lately.  Obviously we had the tennis dead wrong last weekend, with Kvitova losing to Sharapova, and then with Sharapova beating Azarenka.  Oops.  You know what?  We’d pick it like that again.  We love Kvitova, and we love her on clay.  We love Azarenka just a little bit less than that on clay, and we don’t like Sharapova at all.  But we’ll say this: Sharapova’s serve was popping last week, and probably hasn’t looked as good in a few years.  The girls and their weak moments coupled with our weak prognosticating moments have made calling the outset of the European clay season tough.

But we are here to talk about some different girls right now.  HBO’s new series, “Girls”, written, produced, directed, and starring Lena Dunham, as extremely stupid Brooklyn woman Hannah Horvath, is perhaps the funniest, raunchiest, and real show on television right now.  The show, which captures the misadventures of Hannah and her circle of girlfriends, as they navigate their young careers and sex lives, is hysterical, giving HBO what seems like a much needed hit for their Sunday lineup.

Then again, we could be wrong.  We were wrong, or “obvi wrong” about “Luck”, as Shoshanna would say, which stopped production and was cancelled recently.  While there was apparently some issues with PETA over the treatment of the horses, we don’t believe that the show was abruptly cancelled because of dead or injured animals.  The fact was that Luck was the most expensive show ever made, and that it was losing money hand over fist.  Creator David Milch, who also discontinued Deadwood, has a reputation for leaving expensive shows for cheap ones.  With his next few HBO kiche cop shows assured, Milch abandoned Luck in the face of a little adversity, thereby scuttling a very good show with a slow building plotline, which never even got close to a boil.

And so Ace Bernstein, who we had anointed the next great HBO character, is no longer.  So let’s anoint another, the hilarious Hannah Horvath from the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, who in a few short weeks has been cut off from her parents, has been sexually degraded repeatedly by the guy she is hooking up with, has learned she has a sexually transmitted disease, has learned her college boyfriend was gay, and who lost out on a precious opportunity for employment when she joked with her prospective new boss that he was an accomplished date rapist.

When the second episode begins, Hannah is in bed with Adam, who begins telling her how scared she was when he found her on the street.  When she was 11.  Walking alone with her Cabbage Patch lunch box.  Hannah goes with the flow, which eventually um, ends up on her arm, since Adam asks her where she wants him to come, then states “I’m gonna make the continent of Africa on your fucking arm.”  The next morning, Hannah tells Adam, when asked where she’s going, that she is meeting her friends at her friend’s abortion, after a job interview.

When she gets to the job interview, she establishes immediate rapport with her interviewer, and has the job in the bag.  But then, out of the blue, she declares, that Syracuse University, this man’s alma mater, ironically had the highest incidence of date rape of any college, which coincidentally dropped the year he graduated.  With the dude stammering over the inappropriateness, Hannah further explains that date rape had gone down when he left, “because they figured out who was doing it and it was you.”

Hannah is also obsessed with STD’s, as one can conclude by her Google searches.  Like “diseases you can get from not wearing a condom for one second” and “stuff that gets up around the side of condoms”.  It’s true that Adam (Adam Driver) has given her a scare by telling her he doesn’t regularly use condoms and that he doesn’t remember if they use condoms, but then she schedules an HIV test to coincide with Jessa’s (Jermima Kirke) abortion, at which she discusses her fear of AIDS with the doctor.  When the doctor asks her if she ever knew someone with AIDS, Hannah tells her it’s more of a “Forest Gump based fear” because that was what Robin Wright Penn’s character died of.

In the waiting room, Shoshanna and Marnie get to discussing things, and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet, Mad Men) reveals to her sex obsessed friend that she is a virgin, though a minute earlier, when Hannah tells them her theory on the spread of STD’s, saying that she has been diagramming in her head all day the “mayhem” when men lose their erections after sex and leave their penises inside women, as “they are want to do”, Shoshanna quickly echoes that sentiment, that men are “want” to do that with her, she has found.

In episode 3, Shoshanna reveals that her littlest baggage, playing the Jerry Springer game, is that she has “IBS” and that her biggest baggage is that she is still a virgin.  In episode 3, Hannah meets her ex because Shoshanna convinces her that it’s the courteous thing to do in the “STD world.”  When he gets to the bar, Hannah sees that he is flaming.  She asks him if he thought about men when they were together, and if he also thought about men while they were together.

“Yes and yes.” he says.

When she asks him how he was able to sleep with her if he was attracted to men, the guy goes, “well, you have a certain handsomeness…”

Damn.  And it’s true.  Hannah is fuck bucking ugly.  And to add insult, he also suggests that Hannah has dated a lot of gay dudes, that she is ignorant to reality, and that her father is gay.  He mentions her dad’s earring which he got, as Hannah describes, while “on vacation with his male friends.”

The guy then goes, “are we hearing ourselves?  I don’t think we’re hearing ourselves.”

So we love this show, and unfortunately for us, we missed the pilot, but we are very excited to be able to watch it on HBO GO, which we will do in a bit.  HBO, which had done nothing for us lately with the cancellation of Luck and our favorite Brooklyn based pot head show, “Bored to Death”, has redeemed itself somewhat in our eyes, giving us another Brooklyn based show, though with less pot heads (Jessa holler!).  They have given us a modern, funnier and more perverse SATC, for a younger generation, with no menopausal bitches or perfect endings.  They just stick to what’s funny, and not what’s sappy or stylish, and so we applaud them.

So that’s us clapping for Girls and for you.  Once again we thank you all for your patronage in hitting our page well over 100,000 times in two days.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

The grounds of beautiful Santa Anita Park (above), which has given HBO’s new series “Luck” unprecedented access.

We can imagine some of the criticisms of what we feel is a budding hit series, HBO’s new drama “Luck”.  The first few episodes seemed incredibly veiled, cloaked in terseness, as though the show was afraid to give away too much, too soon.  On top of that, anyone not acquainted with race track vernacular and etiquette, as I am not, had another layer of code to wade through.  But from early in episode one when the four amigos put together a complex pick six parlay, led by Jerry, a degenerate gambler genius, who reasoned out the long shot selection of Mon Gateau, a horse they now own, a person like me who fancies a good gamble–especially a good parlay, which is where the real money is–could feel that Luck was cultivating a certain electricity and excitement at Santa Anita.  And when Mon Gateau went out and won its race,  which was captured brilliantly in it’s full glory, as one would expect from a David Milch production, and the four amigos had won the 2.6M pick six, we felt that gambler’s high that only comes when a good wager goes green.

Jerry (Jason Gedrick), who tempts fate by playing in high stakes poker games he usually loses, has already lost a good portion of those massive pick 6 winnings, but the flawed nature of this character has hit home, making his storyline all the more interesting to us.  The four amigos made him the point man for the acquisition of Mon Gateau, and his street smarts both sealed the acquisition and secured that ace trainer Escalante (John Ortiz) would continue working with the horse, who, it seems very few people have the patience or nature to get along with.

While Jerry, to us, has stolen a portion of the show, there can be no doubt that this endeavor belongs to the legendary Dustin Hoffman, whose Ace Bernstein character has just been paroled from prison, taking a Cocaine possession charge for his grandson, that landed him 3 years in the fed.  While the first few episodes were exceedingly murky especially in regard to the Bernstein character, the plot has done enough to direct us toward a Bernstein revenge plan against those who have wronged him and his family.

In our minds, Bernstein is the next great HBO character, and will fall in line with the likes of Al Swearengen and Tony Soprano.  And to see Hoffman on HBO in his first ever television gig has been an immense gift for acting buffs and an all time coup for the network, with the credit going to Hoffman and David Milch.  To see Hoffman in scenes with his driver/confidante/right hand man, Dennis Farina (who could forget Farina as crime boss Jimmy Serrano in the all time DeNiro classic “Midnight Run”?) has been a real treat, and they are brilliant together.  And what about Hoffman’s first scene with our guy, Michael Gambon, who played Eddie Temple in Layer Cake, and who delivered on one of our all time favorite film monologues that ended with him telling Daniel Craig, “Welcome to the layer cake, son.”?  Gambon, most well known to youngsters for his work in the Harry Potter films, plays an ex and again business associate of Bernstein’s named Mike, dubious of character at best, and who was probably behind Ace’s set up and 3 year jail term.

Mike:  ‘How’s your grandson, Ace?’

Ace:  ‘He’s good.  Don’t talk about my grandson again.’

Mike:  ‘He’s very lucky to have someone do what you did for him.  Really, he’s good?’

Ace:  ‘You better fucking pray to fucking God every day he stays that way.’

There could be no doubting that Hoffman would bring his trademark electricity to the role, also establishing instant rapport with Patrick Adams (Mike Ross, Suits), who Ace has chosen to be his go between with the villainous Mike.  When Adams, playing young lawyer Nathan Israel, is first enlisted by Bernstein, the uptight young man is mock chided for “answering a question with a question.” When Israel is a bit more comfortable with Bernstein, in a subsequent meeting, he asks, “so what will I be doing to earn my keep?” Bernstein replies, “so what do you think you’d be good at?” Israel retorts, “answers a question with a question.” After Israel reports back to Ace the details of his first meeting with Mike, he tells him he’s not sure he can continue because of his conscience.  Bernstein replies, “that’s because you’re an honest man.  So far.”

With all of the obvious big money on the line, and with Bernstein already spending a fortune to buy a 5.1% stake in the race track, while leading others to believe he will bring lucrative casino and parlor gaming to Santa Anita, the stage seems set for the sting, and we expect it will bring out the duplicitous nature of some.  In the first episode, Ace tells Gus that he doesn’t trust anyone, but that in Gus’s case, he gets a pass.

In light of the congratulatory cake that Gus and Ace received in episode 6, a message to Gus emblazoned upon it that read not “Way to go Greek” but rather “Wait To Go Greek”, which was presumed as having something to do with Gus’s horse winning a race, from Mike and his crew, until Gus says out of earshot of Ace, “No icing error, this.”

Gus is obviously receiving a signal from the other side, but is he really one of them?  Or are they possibly threatening him?  All still part of the unrevealed plot.

While Ace has shown a forthright business nature in meetings with his board of directors, with the head of the casino, and with Escalante, whom he confronts over the training of the horse Ace secretly owns, Pint of Plain, he has also shown a tremendous soft side for the animal, spending one night in a chair in the barn outside the horse’s stall to see him through the night, and beaming in conversations about the animal.  Bernstein is truly at peace when the horse is at peace, and is livid when he feels Escalante is misusing the horse as a means of manipulating the odds.  Escalante, a major player in Luck, is a gruff trainer and a difficult guy, and Bernstein calls him to the carpet right away, because he wants to know if Escalante is a trainer or a gambler.  Escalante replies, ‘who says if you’re one it means you can’t also be the other?’

To his credit, the hardened Escalante does obviously love the animals he trains, and seems to respect both Jerry and Ace for their smarts, and for the way in which they care for their animals.    Also, Escalante doesn’t seem to know that it was Bernstein who got Escalante his break in the business, by suggesting that the stables hire him when he was only a kid who seemed to always be hanging around the horses.  We feel this is a resting plot line right now that will be revealing itself in good time, which Luck most certainly is, a veritable cornucopia for TV fans, replete with two forms of lightning in a bottle.  They have captured the tension, intensity, and magic of the races themselves, a tall order when filming with the animals, and also, the magical chemistry between fantastic castmates performing edgy, well written scenes.

We even get to see more of Kerry Condon practically naked (Octavia from Rome), who jockeys Walter Smith’s (Nick Nolte) star horse, Gettn’up Morning.

We like everything about Luck, including the song.  If you’re behind on your Luck, you have some great television to look forward to, and for those caught up, while only 3 episodes remain, Luck has already been renewed by HBO for a ten episode run beginning next January.

Lucky for us.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

While we were glad to see a sorely missed Entourage return to the Sunday night HBO airwaves and re-enter the fray of stiff programming competition that always seems to make Sunday nights so strong, we’ve been vastly underwhelmed with the storylines so far, and the curious jumping in point for this season–Vince’s return from rehab.  In fact, all of the characters except Drama (Kevin Dillon) and Ari (Jeremy Piven) have come in at weird places when considering what could have been. 

We are very displeased at how Doug Elin and company have glommed over Vince’s (Adrian Grenier) arrest, Eric’s (Kevin Connolly) breakup with Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui), and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara…Brooklyn holler!) and his adventures in his new Tequila venture.  As far as Turtle goes, in the past two seasons he was finally given more to work with than his loyal but stagnant pot smoking lackey, and in an end eerily familiar to season six’s, the writers have chosen to make him all about some annoying Mexican chick who won’t call him back.  So far.  But we think, with Mark Cuban and his business manager, played by one of our favorites, Bob Odenkirk, getting involved as investors in Avion that Turtle could be doing much more right now than waiting by the phone for Alex to call. 

As far as E goes, he had come to a very compelling time in his relationship with the ultra hot Sloan, refusing to sign a pre-nup as we knew the stubborn E would.  But for the show to just pick up 3 months later with him and Sloane separated and little to no information given aside from the unsigned pre-nup that we know about it, strikes us as lazy writing.  Are they attempting to tell us their story with some out of sequence method?  If so, we would think that to be untrue to Entourage’s established style of story telling which has evolved in the last four seasons to make it one of the premiere shows on television.

The show, in our minds, had gotten out of the box originally as a sluggish male themed rip of Sex and the City, with a Hollywood, celebrity cameo laiden twist.  And then, when Vince began to go through some of the downs of the Hollywood movie star life, and the lives of Drama, E, and Ari were featured more prominently, the show became a much more interesting, layered, and gritty product.  In truth, we had totally given up on Entourage but felt we had to give it another shot because of the dearth of quality television in general and on HBO in specific at that time.  We were glad that we did give it another shot because Entourage had found a nice rhythm which it carried on, especially in depicting the rockier moments in Vincent Chase’s life.  Until now. 

To go from depicting Ari’s marital catastrophes to the hollow Mrs. Ari/Bobby Flay nonsense, to skip out on Vince’s troubles with the law and make his rehab seem like a vacation, and to gloss over formative moments for Turtle and E for what feels like the same old Sloan and Meadow Soprano nonsense are all bad shortcuts.  Do they feel that because they have shown enough of Ari’s agency in its various stages of growth and development, that they were doing us a favor by not showing how Scott Lavin (Scott Caan) can walk up to E and tell him that he was taking down Murray, their boss and Sloan’s god father, and E telling Scott he was in, to 3 months later and the takeover mysteriously completed without nary a word as to how?

And we love Scott Caan on Entourage and feel that the takeover could have been well interwined with Eric’s personal life, where they have also left us in the dark.  Back to Vince’s rehab for a second.  Would it be wrong for us to assume Vince will slip up and relapse like just about every other person who has ever been to rehab?  Because if that’s the case, then doing more than showing Vince giving his goodbye to crackheads speech would have been appropriate, and if it’s not the case, then showing some of the travails his brush with the law and addiction had taught him would go far in making a permanently clean Vince more believable.

It’s always hard to see a favorite show come up short.  We were extremely disappointed to learn that Entourage was not returning on the same night as Curb Your Enthusiasm, and even more upset to learn that Entourage was only back for a slate of eight episodes in its final HBO season.  But then, with the news that Scott Caan and Rhys Coiro (Billy Walsh) would be regulars and that another of our favorites, Andrew Dice Clay, had joined the cast as himself, we pencilled Entourage in to go out with a bang.

But the fact is, Sunday night, led by Breaking Bad, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Celebrity Rehab, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, are all already pencilled in as better shows right now.  Entourage’s lack of oomph has dulled our limited faith in humanity, making us think that the big screen version, already being touted by Elin will be nothing but a stale money grab which won’t even measure up to Sex and the City 2

Our criticism of Entourage can be extended out to HBO’s original programming in general.  Their 2 best newer comedies which were ready for both of the last 2 summers, Hung and Bored to Death are not ready for action.  True Blood is awful and has been for 2 years.  No word on season 3 of The Life and Times of Tim, or season 4 of In Treatment.  If not for Curb, which took its sweet time coming back, Treme, Boardwalk Empire, and Game of Thrones, we’d have nothing good to say about HBO compared to its glory days, which now see well removed.  And the latter three dramas, while all good, are nowhere near the level of The Sopranos, The Wire, and Deadwood.

And to pass on Mad Men and Breaking Bad?  With decisions like that, and weak reprisals like the current season of Entourage, people might soon be passing on HBO.  I mean, we can only stare at Islanders t-shirts and screen savers as long as the show is good.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2011/07/21/breaking-bad-breaks-back-getting-back-to-work-aaron-pauls-howard101-interview-great-stuff/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2011/07/02/breaking-bad-season-4-ice-station-zebra-associates-returns-july-17th/

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, www.crackbillionair.com)

Convicted pedophile Jeffrey Jones (above).

Buffalo native and actor Jeffrey Jones, whose best claims to fame have been his big screen portrayal of principal Ed Rooney in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and his small screen portrayal of A.W. Merrick, Deadwood’s resident newspaper publisher, pled guilty on Tuesday in a Los Angeles court room for failing to update his residential status, which is required by law for sex offenders.

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Actor Jeffrey Jones, best known for playing the hapless principal in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, was ordered to perform 250 hours community service after pleading guilty on Tuesday to failing to update his registration as a sex offender.

Jones, 64, was also given three years probation by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, the Los Angles District Attorney’s office said.

The actor had pleaded no contest in 2003 to a charge of employing a teenage boy to pose for sexually explicit photos. Part of his sentence required him to register as a sex offender and update his information every year.

http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory?id=11749752

What could be more disturbing is that star creative mind and Deadwood, John From Cincinnati, and NYPD Blue creator and/or executive producer David Milch hired Jones to play in Deadwood’s ensemble cast in 2004, 2 years after Jones was popped for possessing child pornography and for hiring a 14 year old boy to pose for him in X-rated photos.

In November 2002, after having been accused of hiring a 14-year-old boy to pose for sexually explicit photographs, Jones was charged with one felony count of employing a minor for purposes of taking sexually explicit photos and a misdemeanour count of possessing child pornography and released on $20,000 bail. In July 2003, after pleading no contest to the felony charge, he was placed on a sex offender register, given five years probation and ordered to undergo counselling. The misdemeanour charge of possession or control of child pornography was dropped.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000470/bio

Is Milch that desperate for actors?  Is the court of Los Angeles really that lenient on pedophiles?  What kind of judge is stupid enough to sentence a pedophile to counselling?  An LA judge I guess.  Outrageous.  Lala Land indeed.

A grieving Toni Bernette (Melissa Leo) above.

My brother’s gone.  Lotta people gone.  The people left have to worry about the day to day.

                                                                                                                                                                     –LaDonna

In Treme’s s1 e9, entitled “I Wish Someone Would Care”, David Simon did the unthinkable, killing off Creighton Bernette, played by John Goodman, who, if he wasn’t the show’s biggest star, then certainly a strong case could be made for him as its most pivotal character and most ardent advocate for the beleaguered city.  Bernette, disgusted by events in New Orleans post Katrina, jumped off of a New Orleans’ ferry boat in “I Wish Someone Would Care” in a defining moment for the young Treme, David Simon’s and Eric Overmanyer’s latest masterpiece in television realism, which comes on the heels of HBO’s Generation Kill and the cult classic and our favorite television show ever, The Wire.

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https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/05/19/treme-under-the-wire/

We have lampooned Treme a bit early on for being too dependent on obscure jazz terminology, and New Orleans, for as a city as dire as it is post Katrina, would still make Simon’s and Burn’s depiction of Baltimore look like the demolished city and the crescent one look like a washed out cradle of culture populated by a few displaced musicians.  But Treme distinguished itself as master reality television in its own right with a tremendous first season, who by the weight of characters and action, now have us hanging on the fate of new Orleans’ great displaced community.  Treme  built to the Bernette suicide with deft foreshadowing, and went back to it’s most pressing storyline as it opened s1 e10, “I’ll Fly Away” with detectives talking to Toni Bernette (Melissa Leo), Creighton’s wife, and relaying to her the story of the ferry operator, who a fellow rider told shared a smoke with Creighton Bernette, saw the “big guy” walk over to the edge, looked back a minute later, and that man was gone.

Toni Bernette, a pit bull of an attorney and perhaps the only character besides the musicians who has gotten anything done professionally in Simon’s post Katrina Treme, tells the officers that the man could have easily gone inside the boat and may have been taking a ferry “joy ride” when they tell her the big guy did not get off the boat in Algiers, and proceed to ask her if Bernette was under any pressure or whether he was on any medications.  The next time we see Toni Bernette, she is crying hysterically on her couch when her daughter, Sophia (India Ennenga) comes home looking for word of her father.  Toni just shakes her head in the negative, and the two embrace each other on the couch.

The news is read in the local paper by Davis McAlary (Steve Zahn) and Janette Desautel (Kim Dickens, Deadwood), together at a breakfast cafe, and both recognize that they know the man from the ferry–McAlary teaches piano to his daughter and Bernette’s wife is McAlary’s attorney, and Desautel recognizes him too, from her closed up restaurant, and says “that’s Cray.”

Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters), the chief, readies his band of Indians to march, as they are hunkered down in the throes of the final preparations on their magnificent costumes when he is paid a visit by a police commander, who tells him he is worried that he will not be able to keep the peace between his forces and the tribe during the march.  The chief has developed a high profile politically by publicly squatting at a housing complex, shut since Katrina, which is one of many that still have power and are inhabitable, yet the federal government has kept shuttered, because they do not want the residents of such low income housing developments returning to their homes, in what was the poorest city in the nation per capita before Katrina hit.  The chief exacerbated his problems with the police by forcefully resisting arrest when the police came to remove him from the complex.

Toni Bernette refuses to stop and mourn for her husband, and arranges for his body to be cremated, over suggestions that she might want to give him a proper New Orleans funeral, with a band, that it might be best for her daughter.  Bernette bristles at the notion, and says that everyone else was doing their best every day, and that her husband just gave up.  Instead, she will be there for LaDonna’s (Khandi Alexander) family, as David Brooks, LaDonna’s brother, lost in the system since being arrested on the night of the flood, is finally being laid to rest.

Davis, granted a day by Janette to convince her of the virtues of New Orleans in attempt to stop her from moving to New York, having failed in the New Orleans restaurant business, gives it his best shot, starting early at her door, a singer in toe who serenades her when she greets them, and then takes Janette on a day of New Orleans filled activities.  That night they find themselves in front of a live band, of course, that Antoine Battiste (Wendell Pierce, The Wire) is playing with in a bar, where they dance to Drink a Little Poison Before You Die, before one last romantic interlude with Janette leaving town the next morning.

The talented violinst Annie (Lucia Miccarelli), who had left Sonny (Michiel Huisman), her piano playing street performing boyfriend hooked on heroin, finds the transient lifestyle very difficult, and returns to Sonny’s place, to find another woman there, and then quickly flees again.  It sends Sonny out to a bar to score heroin, which he snorts off a dirty sink in the bar’s bathroom (below) and leaves Annie, the sweet character clearly at a crossroads, who came to New Orleans with Sonny, firmly entrenched in doubt about her future.

The chief’s tribe, late in its march, runs into a another tribe, whose rival chief, adorned in yellow feathers, seems to have Albert beaten, costume wise.  The two men come to loggerheads, then shake hands.  Delmond (Rob Brown), Albert’s son, explains to a younger tribesman that the two chiefs embraced out of respect, and that it was “respect for respect.” 

When police cars screech out to the scene of their march, lights blazing, we see more “respect for respect”, when a senior officer commands some angry cops who are mad at Albert for swinging on a cop during his public stand on housing to get back in their cars.  “Get back in your damn car.  Now God damn it!” 

The next morning, we see Delmond, who also happens to be a successful New York jazz musician, at the airport, waiting for a flight in a seat near Janette, also on her way to New York.  We see Annie on Davis’s stoop holding his party invite as he returns home from his last day with Janette, a fitting end of the season for 2 characters who seemed to bond well, impromptu, during the Fat Tuesday celebration.  Also, a deserving end for Annie, who has all along deserved better circumstances.

Then, artfully done, the season ends with the funeral of David Brooks, juxtaposed with the night of the storm, showing vignettes of all the main characters and where they were right before and during the storm–all seemingly pretty happy before and some during–notably, Creighton alive and well with his family, Annie and Sonny dancing and kissing in the streets, and giving a face to David Brooks, who had until then, been just a name who LaDonna and her mother pined for, and who Toni Bernette tried so hard to see justice for.  It was an excellent way to show the contrast between pre and post Katrina Treme, before showing us something that would have been an injustice had we gone the year without seeing: a proper New Orleans funeral march.

And the recently widowed Toni Bernette marched, and smiled as LaDonna danced.

–Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

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