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Entries in eleanor morrow (45)


In Which This Also Happened On That Other Show

The Angriest Men in the World



creator Graham Yost

No one can be a hard ass all the time. In Deadwood, Timothy Olyphant did a damn good job of trying. In one of the show's most famous episodes, he lost his son and stayed relatively calm. Now he's on a new show and he doesn't even have a son but he still seems pretty angry.

Deadwood was the greatest western done in the television medium, although both Lonesome Dove and Bonanza had their moments. It was usually described as "dark," and while the various indignities the show detailed including sexually transmitted diseases, the death of young children, the murder of several innocents, and the prostitution of almost everyone, it was an optimistic show for the protagonist, Seth Bullock, and his Jewish partner. Bullock didn't just survive on the frontier, he thrived from the first and became the ethical master of all that surrounded him.

The Honolulu-born Olyphant's face is itself a swarming projectile. Pauline Kael would have loved him. Desperate to make Justified slightly different from his last show — set 100 years earlier — he's grown a washed-out goatee and now scrunches his face up over 50 percent more often. Tim's never been much of an actor, but there's something new inside the ludicrously-named Raylan Givens.

what a fascinating criminal! Of course, Deadwood had the magical advantage of an ensemble cast to die for, with the best ever roles of Ian McShane, Keith Carradine, and scores of other thespians. Raylan Givens is not quite as lucky, although Raymond J. Barry, M.C. Gainey and Nick Searcy might be recognizable to insomniacs. They did bring back W. Earl Brown, who played Al Swearengen's brilliant second-in-command but Keith Carradine probably died the same moment his character on Dexter did, and Ian McShane is probably in a home somewhere. The leftovers pop up on Justified from time to time.

The best writers in television wrote Tim's banter then, now it is supplied by the spiritual descendants of Elmore Leonard, whose story "Fire in the Hole" supplied the inspiration for Justified. Leonard is the type of writer who thinks a person whose name doesn't reflect how they look (think a giant named Tiny) is a worthy substitute for actual perceptiveness. Creator Graham Yost is attempting a weekly return to the kind of moments Leonard was fastidious about creating — a woman in the trunk of a car, a man in a women's dressing room, the love of a good hat.

f. gary gray's questionable 'be cool' Leonard tried to make his cops as entertaining as the criminals he clearly loved better, and Justified has Raylan Givens relate better to people who live in a moral vaccuum than his ostensible colleagues. The portrayals of the criminals are invariably sexist, as was always Elmore Leonard's wont, and they take up a lot of the show's time — Raylan's soap-ish personal problems are sacrificed to the ongoing pursuit of justice, usually for himself or someone he's putting his penis inside of. Raylan is not a very good U.S. marshal, but he does have uncanny accuracy with a sidearm and a passion for passive-aggressive widows.

"you've never heard of The Shield?" Despite the show's predilection for convenient criminal intrigue ("the loan shark with the heart of gold! the real estate agent in with the wrong people!"), it has created three great villains, and all Olyphant has to do is play off of them.

The first of these evil charlatans is Raylan's ex-wife Winona. (She is the only person in Kentucky named Winona without a sense of humor, evidently.) When Raylan unwillingly returned to his ancestral home in the show's premiere, he paid a visit to the house of his ex-wife and her new husband, waiting in the dark with a Miller Lite. She told him he was the angriest man she's ever known and refused to apologize for going with a Jew the second time around. (Didn't this also happen in Hung? Is the new Jewish caricature to seduce midwestern housewives?) Fittingly, Hung's Natalie Zea plays Raylan's ex-wife. She looks like a very respectable blowfish.

Raylan's second enemy is the Crowders, father Bo (M.C. Gainey) and son Boyd (Walter Goggins), paragons of white supremacy. It always feels better after you kill someone if you rip open their shirt and see some kind of tribute to Adolf Hitler, or anything from Twilight. No one knows this better than Raylan, who is constantly waiting to spring into violence no matter how placid the surroundings. White supremacy feels topical again for some reason, and the Crowders are a disturbing mix of religious men and demons.

The last of the villains is Raylan's own father Arlo Givens, a career criminal who spent years in business with drug cartels. The show sets up future episodes in a rather routine fashion, and Raylan's father looms large, as the highlight of the first season so far has been the long con his father and stepmother ran on him. Seeing Raylan so vulnerable reminded me of a bear with an ingrown toenail.

The proliferation of dramas on cable has allowed for some different types of storytelling. Justified wants to be darker than dark, but it's afraid of showing the audience dirt poor Kentucky for fear they won't be able to enjoy the finer things, and men. We are told Raylan is very angry, but we can't see that in him yet. It's early, though, and there are things out there in the dark we can't imagine.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. She last wrote in these pages about The United States of Tara.

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In Which Introducing Joey Lauren Adams Into Any Situation Achieves A Good Result

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The World According
to Tara


When I realized that Diablo Cody and John Irving were in fact the same person, I was not totally surprised.

Irving's 1981 epic The Hotel New Hampshire is probably his worst novel. The family dog is named Sorrow, two major characters die for no reason in an airplane crash, and the remaining ham-fisted symbolism is dull at best, insulting at worst. Like in all Irving, bad things are set up to happen and occur with astonishing regularity, especially the laziest of all plot devices: the accidental death. When Irving stops being able to imagine a future for his characters, or if he is bored at how happy they are, he invents another calamity.

Diablo Cody's Showtime series The United States of Tara, which has begun its second season and has already been renewed for a third, takes a similar tact. The worst is going to happen; the best of intentions is bound to end up costing you everything in the end. Although the show's first season was primarily about Tara (the absolutely magical Toni Collette) and the other personalities which inhabit her body, it has now become about her children, which is the introduction to every single fucking John Irving novel.

Two people come together to start a family in The Hotel New Hampshire, and it basically turns into a haunting version of Irving's sickest high school fantasies - with incest to spare! One of the daughters is raped; a black football player saves her. Someone dances around in a bear suit. Like in The United States of Tara, this union results into peripheral accidents, which Irving and Cody say is really the only way life unfolds.

In many ways these two diablos, both legendary for their command of invective, are actually puritanical celebrators of determinism. Everything is fate in Irving, and coincidence takes on the significance of a missive from God. Who can forget Garp's lonely battles with other people's foibles, the petty love of The Cider House Rules, the thinly-veiled super-gross autobiopic A Widow for One Year?

Mere attraction in Irving is accorded the same level of meaning as the deepest love. Sorrow isn't just another name for the family pet, it's the generalization Irving makes about the world.

Cody's show improves upon this by giving her characters some freedom, although we are still wary of the destructive friendships they might foster and the inevitable resulting pain. It is in fact an open debate on how much control anyone has of their own lives in The United States of Tara. Are Tara's disturbing drifts into other personalities not essentially representations of her true self? It is easy to see how Cody finds this appealing.

The show's incredible ensemble has taken what can only be called an important step forward by adding Joey Lauren Adams, in that Chasing Amy is basically what The United States of Tara is going for; bringing a cultural milieu that exists one place into another. This is a lot of drama for Kansas.

Tara's daughter Kate Gregson is played by Brie Larson, one more of the more exciting young talents in acting. (Diablo's advice for her is always, kind of like Ellen Page, but blonder.) This season, she has taken a job with a debt collection agency and every scene she's in is better than Mike Judge's entire career. Kate's job is the finest subplot in American television since George Costanza got engaged, and the best thing Steven Spielberg has ever been involved with.

Tara's son (Keir Gilchrist) is named Marshall, and he's basically the inverted Juno, except he dresses a lot better than she did. Marshall is ostensibly gay or questioning, and after experimenting with unrequited love last season, he's now prepared to explore all the possibilites. Like John Berry in The Hotel New Hampshire, Marshall harbors a strange love of his older sister, which is currently manifested in time spent with a brunette. He used a Ouija board to close, and it worked.

The quirky Kansas presented in The United States of Tara is basically New Hampshire if you think about it hard enough. There is another, saltier America forged from the intersections between its parts. All is exaggerated - the dangers of high school, Rosemarie DeWitt as Tara's sister Charmaine pining for marriage, the weird gay couple next door, Marshall's suave sexual confusion, the way that Tara loathes weakness in herself and others.

In their depictions of gender, Irving and Cody are polar opposites. Women in Cody's imagining are spheres of reciprocity and cultural innovation; they master their men and achieve intellectual superiority through force of mind. Diablo Cody does to what women what Irving, that former wrestler, was so keen to do with boys: make them short, Owen Meany-esque projectiles of enthusiasm, slowed as often as they speed forward into unknowing destruction. Each view of gender is profoundly sexist and aggrandizing, but the broadest of strokes is likely to leave some lasting impression.

Irving's Hollywood career was marked by several missteps; he can also easily be blamed for Tobey Maguire's career as a feckless ciderboy. There has never been a really good adaptation of Irving's books, because they are never-ending repositories of details which by their simple incoherence are expected to assemble together into a whining whole. Characters are neither funny or tragic enough because of the plaintive way they are portrayed.

When Irving wishes to shock or offend, he tries to push a button but never succeeds, like an eight-year old putting forth a dirty joke. Thus he prefers the simplest of dramatic acts over all else: surprise!

Innocence isn't innocence if you take the time to point out how naive it is. Tragedy deserves roughly the same amount of skepticism. The United States of Tara, probably the funniest show to air this season, may not be clear on the difference between the two yet. Tara is not a show about mental illness, it's about how disturbing and painful it is to feel normal, you know, like Diablo and John.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can read her previous work in these pages here.

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In Which Heaven Forbid We Should End The Evening Reflecting On Our Own Mortality

As You Can See, I Just Love Things


An Education

dir. Lone Schorfig

95 minutes

Nick Hornby has spent his years listening to the Beta Band and haunting us all with his elegiac tales of how white people also have feelings. Then he wrote How to Be Good, one of the worst books of the twentieth century. After that he just hung out a lot and read Sasha Frere-Jones and thought about how much he sucked as a music writer in comparison and how he wished he was Hugh Grant or even, sometimes, Colin Firth. Then he adapted Lynn Barber's Granta article about getting boned by Peter Sarsgaard into a movie. Luckily, Peter Sarsgaard was available for this important role because Jeff Bridges was doing his wife.

At first, An Education is about Jenny (Carey Mulligan), a silly young girl who gets A+ marks on her papers but really at her heart just wants a bun in the oven. (When the bun is not available, she wisely opts for a latke.) Of course this is how Nick Hornby believes all young girls think, and when David Goldman (Peter Sarsgaard) pulls up in his sharp automobile and reveals to everyone's surprise than he is both smarter and better-looking than her domineering dad, Jenny's pleased as punch.

The difference in age is glossed over rather quickly, but unlike a similar relationship that Roman Polanski had some time ago, here a banana was only used for the breaking of the hymen. It's totally cool with Jenny's parents that David gives her lavish gifts, and makes up an elaborate story about knowing C.S. Lewis. After all, before 1961, no one in the world was creepy.

The movie then does a 40 minute stretch where Jenny becomes more aware of David's general tendency towards inaccuracies and lies. He also coincidentally reveals that he is a Jew; well, he actually does this within minutes of meeting her. It is truly a wonder that they didn't consider forcing the character to wear a yellow star, but I guess the time frame didn't really allow for that.

I didn't have a major, but my thesis was on Latin American economic policy.Jenny's dowdy teacher is played by Rushmore's Olivia Williams. This is good for a laugh, but ultimately it's a bit disturbing that Olivia once played the hot teacher and now she's playing the one unfamiliar with mascara. Soon enough Jenny is off on trips to Paris and Oxford, which are places a million miles away from where she was before, even though every part of England looks the same except when James Herriot is involved.

David's business partner is Danny (The History Boys' Dominic Cooper, replacing Orlando Bloom). The two steal paintings and money and work for Peter Rachman, the famous Notting Hill slumlord. David is slightly more at ease with this lifestyle than Danny. The filmmakers cast the most gentile partner-in-crime they could think of, and then made him the ethical conscience of this whole storyline.

Danny is in fact the most morally upright thief in history, and he tells David that he doesn't want to see Jenny hurt, and he tells Jenny that she has a future that doesn't include David. It's almost like David's ability to manipulate and distort situations rubbed off on this poor, gentile criminal.

The last movie that so lavishly perpetrated invidious anti-Semitic stereotypes besides the Harry Potter movies was Schindler's List. (The Pianist wasn't so great either.) Avatar was also borderline anti-Semitic, given that the qualified member of the anthropological team was Jewish and he never got to put his blue thing into her blue thing because Sam Worthington was in the way. Also, why were there no chosen people in The Matrix? Think about that.

Of course, the only exciting thing about An Education is the Jewish man. He takes everyone to the nicest places, the finest bars and restaurants. And no one asks any questions about this, until they do, and then they're super-disappointed. If this isn't the most alarmingly anti-Jewish metaphor for the Third Reich I've ever heard, it's up there.

The English turn the Jew into the other because they're too afraid of anything really different, so they prefer the slightly less boring version of their own lives. In Hornby's imagination, the ideas that provincial people have about non-provincial people are generally provincial. In this case, they're bigoted, too - as Jenny's father, Alfred Molina dislikes all the Jews he knows, but he professes that "he's not really like that."

Uh-huh. And the goblins that haunt Gringotts are just for funsies, and the Brothers Grimm had lots of Jewish friends.

I know you're mad now, but can I get your word that this won't become a movie?The most pernicious of the literary Jew haters was maybe Roald Dahl. Matilda is one of the most bracingly anti-Semitic stories of its time, including a mustachioed car salesman who cons his customers by rolling back their odometers and pores over the Torah during evenings. Don't get me started on Charlie on the Chocolate Factory. I really don't know what the English fascination with the Jews is, all I do know is that Peter Sarsgaard is about the most Gentile actor I can think of, I mean he was an altar boy for christ's sake. He's from southern Illinois; the only Jews there are in Obama's field organization.

An Education falls in the end rather flat, but mainly because this is a story that has been told so many times we can barely suffer through it once more. What surrounds that tale is easier to recommend. The visuals and performances are diverting, and the direction is capable, a microcosm of the story itself, where mere excitement isn't enough to carry meaning forward any. As in About a Boy and High Fidelity, An Education dismisses a way of life as inadequate without finding anything worthwhile to replace it. An Education is the perfect Hornby project, because as John Cusack openly wonders at the end of High Fidelity, isn't attraction just liking the same things?

Near the end of the film, after David asks her to marry him, Jenny finds papers in his glove compartment that he left there for her so that he doesn't have to go through with the marriage. They inform her that he is a married person. Instead of thanking him for his openness, she calls him and his friends liars. She instructs him to tell her parents that the whole thing was all his mistake, as if she had nothing to do with it. After getting kicked out of school, she still gets to Oxford, and true to her real-life counterpart, she spends the next seven years working for Penthouse.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York. She last wrote in these pages about Crazy Heart.

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