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Entries in dick cheney (164)

Tuesday
Jun202017

In Which They Ruined William Shakespeare For Us All

Beautiful Tyrant

by DICK CHENEY

Still Star-Crossed
creator Heather Mitchell
ABC

It was my genuine mistake that I thought this show was going to be about if Romeo and Juliet lived and entered into a completely unhappy marriage, with Juliet still upset about the residual effects on her concentration from imbibing the poison. When Romeo and Juliet died in Still Star-Crossed, I was in shock, because I figured this would finally be the interracial romance that would work out well for everyone involved, unlike every single time Kerry Washington falls in love with a white man.

Replacing Romeo and Juliet as the stars of Still Star-Crossed are Rosaline Capulet (Lashana Lynch) and Benvolio Montague (Wade Briggs). They are roughly the same size, and they wear very similar outfits. The plot of Still Star-Crossed is somewhat confusing – a member of each family died because everyone could not accept their love. Yet in this show the Montagues and Capulets decide to force their families to intermarry, even though the couple in question is not in love at all. Nor do they hate each other, they are just kind of neutral when it comes to all this.

Still Star-Crossed is the brainchild of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee writer Melinda Taub, who wrote the YA novel from which this is all abstracted. Sadly, even Ms. Taub appears to absolutely loathe this adaptation of her work. She never talks about the show on her twitter, just tells people nervously to buy her book. This is a sad deal, since Shakespeare can really be improved on, as you have recently seen with the Democrats who regularly have Donald Trump stabbed to death by a bunch of minorities. Considering pretty much everyone in the New York theater industry is a liberal, I expected more subtle commentary on current events, like maybe Twelfth Night with Trump as Duke Orsino.

Still Star-Crossed probably would have been a semi-decent TV movie, but it is hard going to sit down for the entire forty minutes of this show. At some predictable point in every episode, the writers get tired of the fake Shakespearan lilt to all the dialogue and one of the women is just like, "Wanna get something to eat?" The show is also fond of stealing lines from Shakespeare's other plays to spice things up. There is even this one part where someone must have wholesale copied an anti-Semitic monologue from The Merchant of Venice.

Shakespeare was never my absolute favorite or anything, and it seems like he is finally fading out of most curriculums. The reason is that he is not super great at writing for women and some of his racial attitudes were a wee bit retrograde. Or maybe The Tempest is proto-Amiri Baraka: I didn't major in semiotics, people. I had this one teacher who was just crazy about Falstaff, I have no idea why. Even Orson Welles made this guy look like a bumbling fool. I have learned to detest writers who turn tragic circumstances into comedy, and the reverse as well, but that was until I saw Still Star-Crossed. I mean, this was destined to be a comedy – Melinda Taub is a graduate of the Upright Citizens Brigade theater.

There are some jokes in Still Star-Crossed. At one point Benvolio tosses this crazy guy who killed a bunch of people off a building – the man's body is dashed on the parapets below. Rosaline is looking down on the corpse with something like regret, and Benvolio deadpans, "Did you forget he tried to rape you?" I'm sure she didn't want to be reminded of that, but as rape jokes on network television go, I guess it was fine.

In another subplot, Juliet's father (Anthony Stewart Head) keeps seeing her as a ghost. When he finally tracks the girl down, she says, "Beware." Instead of asking what he should beware, he just stands there with a goofy look on his face. What a weird show.

The costumes and environments remain weirdly inconsistent throughout Still Star-Crossed. Even though everyone involved in this story should ostensibly be of the nobility, Benvolio usually looks like he is wearing rags he picked up off the floor, and it is impossible to tell which Capulet is the servant and which is the master from their mode of dress. At one point I was pretty sure a man was romancing a princess of some sorts, since she was wearing a frock from the Jasmine collection. When he tried to kiss her, however, she told him that even though she was a servant, she was still a lady. Perhaps she meant that literally.

I really try to give Shonda Rimes the benefit of the doubt, even though it's obvious that her major influence on this project is to make the cast pleasantly multiracial, except no Asians. With that said, no one ever brings up race at all in Still Star-Crossed. At first this seems fine because who cares if we're not going for a historical look at this period, but in practicality it means that ethnic differences, even national differences, cannot be acknowledged as part of the plot. Even though from all appearances this is a show about a race war, the core conflict can never be described in those terms.

I think what is really hurting Shakespeare is that he does not have that one solid IP to hang his hat on. Hamlet is very pretty to listen to, but it is depressing and somewhat of an Oedipus Rex ripoff if I'm honest. Richard III is shit. Falstaff was a mistake. The comedies are about as humorous as T.J. Miller's stand-up. Macbeth is kind of fun for an act or so but it all gets a bit predictable, doesn't it? Julius Caesar is wretched and hackneyed. King Lear was probably his best play, but it makes no sense now and is incredibly sexist. Othello is decent, but no one has ever been like, oh my god, I am so psyched for Othello tonight. I think he probably should have written some more uplifting work.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.


Thursday
Jun012017

In Which We Find Faith In Candace Cameron

Your Local Library

by DICK CHENEY

A Bundle of Trouble: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery
dir. Kevin Fair
Hallmark Channel

Candace Cameron Bure, 41, is a somewhat puzzling choice for a female sleuth. Because of her inner religious convictions (someone, perhaps an angel, told her she and she alone came out of God's love if I'm not mistaken), she does not do any onscreen nudity. "No problem," I thought as I curled up with my wife Lynne on what I believe is referred to as a settee. "Was I really expecting her to go topless like Alison Brie on basic cable? This isn't every single Anna Kendrick movie." I began to enter full-blown panic mode roughly the same time I realized that not only does Bure not become startlingly nude in A Bundle of Trouble, she never moves the romance beyond a chaste kiss on the lips.

When the boyfriend (Yannick Bison) of Aurora Teagarden (Candace Cameron Bure) stays over for the night, A Bundle of Trouble makes one thing very clear: this is a man who sleeps in the guest room. I had to close my eyes and pretend that in the middle of the night, Aurora tiptoes down to the tiny bed her man sleeps in and envelopes her guy, who is a former federal agent named Martin, in a foul embrace.

Aurora's previous boyfriend was a writer of murder mysteries. This seemed to suit her better, but he sort of subtly implied that no sex before marriage was a Puritan impulse and left the small Georgia town where Aurora makes her home. Aurora is the founder of the Real Murders Club, where each week one of the members presents the case of a famous killer. Even though this true crime group seems like a lot of fun to me, Aurora's mother (Marilu Henner) finds her daughter's impulse rather macabre.

Aurora often is at odds with the local police chief Lynn (Miranda Frigon) who feels that she meddles into the particular details of homicide investigations where it is inappropriate for a civilian to be involved. Aurora's best friend, a reporter named Sally (Lexa Doig), is also single and appears to be harboring a deep crush on her friend, but it never comes up, reportedly because Candace vetoed this storyline.

In A Bundle of Trouble, Aurora once again finds a body at her house. This time it is the husband of Martin's dear, sweet niece. Instead of feeling upset or concerned, Aurora has an emotional reaction that could charitably be described as the quiet ripples on a placid, sociopathic lake. When she is not amateur sleuthing, Aurora works at the local library, where she has a combative and eerily flirtatious relationship with the head librarian, a reserved woman named Lillian (Ellie Harvie). At first I was rather sad that none of these unconventional relationships could be consummated becaus of the lead actress' religious fervor, but then I realized it was at least opening the door for a shitload of fan fiction.

I fell in love with Nancy Drew because of the meaningful relationships she had with men. They supported her, especially that Ned fellow. She went all the way with Ned several times, but he never intruded on her well-deserved spotlight. After all, she was the daughter of a very rich man. Hold on for one second while I confirm that's all true. Aurora Teagarden prefers to hold her suitors at arm's length, making for a very frosty five TV-movie series.

Aurora finds herself investigating a private adoption/baby sale gone wrong. The amount of money involved to secure the child appears to be around $10,000, which results in this humorous, thoughtful image of the protagonist:

Aurora has to take care of the baby through much of A Bundle of Trouble, which has an important double meaning which reflects both the hard cash and the presence of the human child. She does not really like children and often forces the people around her to change the baby's diaper. Among Lynne's friends, this is the main characteristic of a mother.

This entire adoption storyline seems to set up a way that Candace Cameron Bure can reproduce without actually having sex, since her boyfriend sleeps in the guest room. Having a child will probably take away substantially from her crime-fighting, but then again a part-time librarian typically has a lot of hours in a day. I would not recommend the Aurora Teagarden series to anyone, since there is almost never a person of color involved, even in subplots, and Candace Cameron Bure's outfits look like they were purchased at the K-Mart in Sacramento.

Hallmark has other series which have white women detectives in a similar vein. One has Courtney Thorne-Smith playing an archaeologist, another has fellow Full House-alum Lori Loughlin as an amateur sleuth. It is apparently against Hallmark Channel directives to make any show about an actual police officer, since women can only solve crimes in their spare time. I resent this. ITV recently released Prime Suspect 1973, a period drama about Helen Mirren's hot youth. She got it on with almost everyone at the station, and when her sexist bosses asked her to make the coffee, she did it, but she did not like it. At least she was able to solve crimes as part of her actual job. You know things are rough when you find yourself agreeing with Jessica Chastain.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.


Tuesday
May232017

In Which We Have Chosen Another Dog

Pet Abuser

by DICK CHENEY

Downward Dog
creator Samm Hodges & Michael Killen
ABC

Every person has a certain frustration about the way the world operates. The tragedy is that each person can never be convinced that their special objection to these goings on is anything less than a predictable malady, akin to the common cold. Convinced her struggles are her own, Nan (Alison Lohman) decides to share her awful life with a dog, a mutt named Martin she rescued. (Martin is voiced by Downward Dog creator Samm Hodges.)

Amy Schumer once had a great sketch about people who constantly mentioned the dogs they rescue. Well, it wasn't so much a great sketch as a painfully obvious joke repeated several times, but it certainly was reflective of something in the culture. Downward Dog has missed out on that, whatever it was, and completely unironically presents the story of a woman who abuses her dog as if she is the hero.

Nan (is she named after bread?) never takes her dog on walks. She allows him to go on all her furniture, and she frequently punishes him by confined him to a small space and telling him that he is bad, even though he is just enacting behavior she has permitted. She allows him to sleep in her bed, which is completely disgusting. You see, dogs often roll around on the ground, where bacteria collects, and to drag those molecules into your sleeping quarters is just asking for various infections.

Obviously she never even read the internet to find out the first thing about what is involved in taking care of a dog. She leaves Martin in alone in the house, with no way of going to the bathroom, for upwards of ten to fifteen hours. This is completely unkind and also terribly unhealthy for the dog's long term health. Martin's on Downward Dog is not even marginally better than when he was at the animal shelter.

Things are even worse when it comes to the rest of Nan's life. In one scene in Downward Dog, she wears a Metallica t-shirt. I was unsure if this was ironically or not, but it came across as completely sincere. She never actually listens to any rock music. Maybe she did before she discovered she did not enjoy it, or before she met her boyfriend (Lucas Neff) who suspect that this woman is a total fake and leaves without saying anything. When he is around, at least he interacts with her dog, the only temporary reprieve of enjoyment or play Martin ever experiences.

Nan works in the marketing department of a clothing company called Crate + Bow, where she articulates her aim as wanting to "change the world." She never gets involved in politics, even though the actual real-life wife of Samm Hodges, much like every woman I know, spends every waking hour posting and e-mailing anti-Trump material. But to actually articulate the passion of real women in Downward Dog would be angering too much of ABC's prospective audience, so they don't do it. Artists should never be such complete cowards.

The Pittsburgh-set Downward Dog is quite an extensive guide for how to be an awful human being. Nan's boss at work is a guy named Kevin (Barry Rothbart). He is openly sexist, and Nan's friend Jenn (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) even references that she has complained about his behavior to HR. I guess nothing came from that. In one scene, the two invade their boss's private office, which is completely inappropriate, and find a white-board with his ideas. From this list Nan derives a diorama which does seem to feature a dress or maybe just a mannequin:

As bad as the diorama is, it is the only thing of any interest this awful person creates. After Martin tears up the diorama, Nan goes with her original idea. Her plan to advertise the various wares of the clothing company she works for is to put a big mirror in front of all their stores that reflects what the customers are currently wearing. The text on the mirror will say, "Look how beautiful you are." Her boss is furious at this, but some corporate overlord witnesses the presentation and is like, "This could work. It's just inauthentic enough to make absolutely no sense." Even that crazy woman who ran J. Crew would have told Nan she was straight garbage.

At first Nan thinks she is fired. Nan is so full of hate after her boss' reaction that she decides to take her considerable anger out on her pet. I loathe people who take their feelings out on others. She does this to Martin:

You know who can't handle their own feelings? Children, but their have an excuse for this behavior. Children want to seem cool by wearing a particular piece of clothing. Children think that a mirror is a good way to advertise a product. Children think every single person is beautiful because they simply haven't seen enough people to know what being beautiful actually means, or that it has meaning at all. A child, a cruel, evil child, might treat a dog this way. A human being never could.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.