Sunday, August 21, 2016
TV TROPES AND MICHAEL DAWSON
While reading the TV TROPES site on Heroic BSOD for Live Action television series, I read this passage about the Michael Dawson character from "LOST":
"Let's face it, Michael's death was the best thing that happened, because, well, his character wasn't all that useful, other than being an in-universe joke on why some people really shouldn't be parents.".
The article earlier made this comment about the fans' reaction to Michael:
"While we're on the subject of Lost, let's mention Michael who might be the show's punching bag as he goes through the entire series stuck this way because of his son Walt... after all, he spends half an episode calling "Walt!" in several different screams and shouts."
Apparently, the author of this particular website (or page) had decided to make Michael a punching bag, as well. Not only did the author declared Michael as "useless" because he "shouldn't be a parent">, that person also continued that asnine and never ending joke about Michael calling out the name of his kidnapped son, Walt Lloyd. Yet, TV TROPES also claimed that Kate Austen had "adopted" Claire Littleton's son Aaron. Adopted . . . instead of . . . say, KIDNAPPED, which is what really happened. Kate had kidnapped Aaron, by claiming to be his natural mother and deliberately kept him from his blood grandmother for nearly three years. Why? Because she selfishly wanted to use Aaron as comforting blanket for the trauma she had suffered during the Oceanic Six's departure from the island.
But TV TROPES never revealed this about Kate. Yet, at the same time, condemned Michael as someone who should not be a parent, because Walt ended up kidnapped (at gunpoint) by the Others. Or was he condemned as "useless", because he spent several episodes calling out Walt's name - something that the average parent would do if his or her child had been kidnapped in that fashion.
I cannot help but wonder . . . if Michael had been portrayed by a white actor, would he have been labeled as the series' punching bag and running joke by the fans? Or would they have brushed aside or make excuses for his flaws and mistakes, as they tend to do for fanboy favorite, James "Sawyer" Ford? Does this mean that the site authors for TV TROPES are racists or simply hypocrites?
Friday, August 19, 2016
Below are images from "THE SHADOW RIDERS", the 1982 adaptation of Louis L'Amour's novel. Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, the movie starred Tom Selleck, Sam Elliot, Katherine Ross and Jeff Osterhage:
"THE SHADOW RIDERS" (1982) Image Gallery
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
"LINCOLN" (1974-76) Review
During the first half of the Twentieth Century, poet and historian Carl Sandburg wrote a six-volume biography on the life of the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Years passed before David Wolper ("ROOTS", "THE THORN BIRDS", and the"NORTH AND SOUTH" TRILOGY) produced a six-part miniseries on Lincoln's life and career, based upon Sandburg's work.
"LINCOLN" is not what I would your usual biography with a straight narrative. With the exception of one episode that centered on Lincoln acting as a defense attorney in the 1830s and another that focused on the period between his first election and inauguration, the majority of the episodes centered on his administration during the U.S. Civil War. And not in any particular order. Below is a list for those who prefer to watch the entire miniseries in chronological order:
(1.03) "Prairie Lawyer" - Lincoln goes against future political adversary Stephen A. Douglas when he defends physician Dr. Henry B. Truett against murder charges in 1838.
(2.02) "Crossing Fox River" - This episode covers Lincoln's life between winning his first presidential election in November 1860 and attending his first inauguration in March 1861.
(1.01) "Mrs. Lincoln's Husband" - In the wake of the death of the Lincolns' second son William "Willie", First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln's erratic behavior embarrasses and endangers her husband politically when a cabal of Republican senators question her loyalty to the Union.
(1.02) "Sad Figure, Laughing" - Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase and his daughter Kate attempt to undermine President Lincoln's bid for re-election during the 1864 presidential campaign, when they become aware of how Lincoln's jokes and stories seem to erode their fellow Republicans' confidence in him.
(2.01) "The Unwilling Warrior" - Lincoln finds himself forced to learn the art of war, as he searches for the right general to lead the Union Army to victory between 1861 and 1865.
(2.03) "The Last Days" - Following the Army of Northern Virginia's surrender at the Appomattox Court House, President Lincoln plans Reconstruction with his cabinet and discusses a post-presidential future with the First Lady.
"LINCOLN" managed to garner a great deal of critical acclaim back in the mid-1970s. Did it deserve it? Perhaps. I found myself somewhat impressed by the production. The miniseries, from a visual point-of-view, has managed to hold up rather well in the past forty years. Aside from the exterior shots, the photography struck me as somewhat sharp and colorful, thanks to cinematographer Howard Schwartz . More importantly, director George Schaefer managed to avoid that "filmed play" aspect that had tainted many British television productions and a few American productions. Somewhat. There were a few scenes that seemed to stretch a tad too long in"LINCOLN", but not fortunately long enough to stretch my patience too thin.
A part of me wishes that "LINCOLN" had included more scenes of Lincoln's life before the Civil War. The 1974-76 miniseries must be the first of three productions titled "LINCOLN" - the other two being the 1988 miniseries and the 2012 Steven Spielberg movie - that seemed to be about Lincoln's years in the White House. Another aspect of this miniseries that I found a bit odd is that it did not feature any African-American characters, other than the occasional extra portraying a White House servant. I think. There is a chance that my memory might be playing tricks with me. I simply find it odd that a production about a U.S. president who had such a strong impact on the history of African-Americans . . . did not feature any black supporting characters. No Elizabeth Keckley, the Washington D.C. seamstress who became Mrs. Lincoln's personal modiste and close companion, or Frederick Douglass, who had met Lincoln in 1863. Considering Lincoln's overly cautious approach on the subjects of abolition and civil rights, there is a chance that producer David Wolper feared that Lincoln's reputation as an emancipator would have slightly eroded. It was okay to discuss slavery, which the production did . . . but not with any real depth.
The miniseries certainly did not hesitate to display Lincoln's ruthlessness and talent for political manipulation. Even when those traits were occasionally clouded by compassion, humor and verbosity, it was on display. This was especially apparent in two episodes - namely "Sad Figure, Laughing", in which Lincoln had to deal with the political machinations of Salmon Chase for the Republican nomination for President in 1864; and in "The Unwilling Warrior", in which he dealt with one general after another in his search for the one military leader who could deal with the Army of Northern Virginia and Robert E. Lee.
The best aspect of "LINCOLN" were the performances. Well . . . some of the performances. I hate to say this, but some of the minor performances struck me as a bit theatrical or amateurish. There were some performances that struck me as solid - including Norman Burton as General Ulysses S. Grant, Robert Foxworth as John T. Stuart, Lloyd Nolan as Secretary of State William H. Seward, Ed Flanders as General George B. McClellan, and Catherine Burns as Mary Owens. But there were those performances that I found impressive. This especially seemed to be the case for Roy Poole as Secretary of Treasury Salmon P. Chase, Elizabeth Ashley as the latter's older daughter Kate Chase Sprague, Beulah Bondi as Lincoln's stepmother Sarah Bush Lincoln, John Randolph as the firstSecretary of War Simon Cameron and James Carroll Jordan as the Lincolns' oldest son Robert Todd Lincoln.
But the two performances that outshone the others came from Hal Holbrook and Sada Thompson as the presidential couple, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. This is not really surprising. Of the three productions I have seen about Lincoln, the actors and actresses who have portrayed this couple have all given superb performances. This was the case for both Holbrook and Thompson. Holbrook seemed to have some special connection to the 16th president. The 1974-76 miniseries marked the first time he portrayed the role. He also portrayed Lincoln in the 1985 miniseries, "NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II" and he appeared in the 2012 Steven Spielberg movie as an old political crony of the President's, Francis P. Blair. Holbrook's portrayal of Lincoln could have easily strayed into the realm of folksy idealism. The actor did not completely reveal the more negative aspects of Lincoln's character, but he did a superb job in conveying not only the President's style of humor, but also his political savvy and a temper that can be fearsome. In an odd way, Sada Thompson had the easier job portraying First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. Hollywood productions are more inclined to explore the more negative aspects of her personality than Lincoln's. What I enjoyed about Thompson's performance is that she still managed to make Mrs. Lincoln a likable person, despite the character flaws. It is not surprising that Holbrook won an Emmy for his performance and Thompson earned a nomination. Both of them deserved the accolades.
There are aspects of "LINCOLN" that I found questionable. Well . . . my main problem is that the production did not focus enough on the question of slavery, which I found rather odd, considering the subject matter. I also wish that the miniseries had included more scenes of Abraham Lincoln's life before the Civil War. Now some television viewers might find the scattered narrative somewhat disconcerting. I simply figured out the chronological order of the episodes and watched them in that manner. But overall, "LINCOLN" is a first-rate miniseries about the 16th President that holds up rather well, thanks to George Schaefer's direction and a skillful cast led by the talented Hal Holbrook and Sada Thompson.
Saturday, August 13, 2016
Below is a list of my five favorite episodes from ABC's "AGENT CARTER". Created by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the series starred Hayley Atwell as Agent Margaret "Peggy" Carter:
FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF "AGENT CARTER" SEASON TWO (2016)
1. (2.02) "A View in the Dark" - SSR Agent Peggy Carter's investigation into the death of an Isodyne Energy employee in Los Angeles ends up with huge ramifications; when the wife of Isodyne's owner, Hollywood actress Whitney Frost and another employee from the company, Dr. Jason Wilkes (who has volunteered to help Peggy), are exposed to the Zero Matter from the company's particle accelerator.
2. (2.07) "Monsters" - While Peggy plans a rescue mission for former Leviathan agent Dottie Underwood, who had been captured in the previous episode, Whitney Frost covers up her murder of husband Calvin Chadwick and some members of the Council of Nine, a secret organization of U.S. industrialists. Whitney tortures Dottie into revealing why Peggy is interested in the Zero Matter and sets a trap that involves Jason Wilkes, along with Edwin and Anna Jarvis.
3. (2.05) "The Atomic Job" - Peggy and her colleagues must find a way to prevent Whitney Frost and Calvin Chadwick from stealing and using an atomic blast to test the Zero Matter.
4. (2.03) "Better Angels" - Whitney Frost convinces hubby Calvin Chadwick to frame Jason Wilkes as a Communist spy, while Peggy's investigation of Isodyne and the Zero Matter puts her in conflict with SSR Director Jack Thompson and War Department official Vernon Masters, who is also a member of the Council of Nine.
5. (2.06) "Life of the Party" - When Peggy realizes she cannot save Jason Wilkes on her own, she turns to former adversary Dottie Underwood for help, while Whitney Frost makes a move to control the deadly Zero Matter.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Below are images from "INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE", the sequel to the 1996 blockbuster, "INDEPENDENCE DAY". Directed by Roland Emmerich, the movie stars Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Jessie T. Usher and Bill Pullman:
"INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE" (2016) Photo Gallery