Huffington Post just put out an article that makes the claim that many of the revisions made to cars on the MTV reality show Pimp My Ride were made just for the TV cameras. It’s long been known that reality TV is not very real. I have no personal interest in that show or almost any reality show. I do think that they are a drain on our culture as they blur the line between fact and fiction, they create meaningless public figures, champion consumerist values, and they entertain with the lowest common denominator.
This is an interview with the director and writer of Going Clear, the new HBO documentary coming out about Scientology. There are also some clips from the film. It’s a brief interview, but I think an interesting one. What interests me about this film, aside from the fact that something as strange as Scientology is interesting in and of itself, is that from what I’ve read, and from what they say in this interview, this film provides a window in belief and religion at large. Why do otherwise intelligent people believe in things which are just not credible?
The above article is review of the Netflix show Peaky Blinders that I think is pretty much right on the money. The article acknowledges that although there is really nothing new at the core of the show, the execution of everything, from the acting to the sets, succeed in making it worth watching. There are some minor quibbles I have with the soundtrack at certain points, as stylized shots with modern songs playing glamorize the violence sometimes in ways that aren’t needed. (It would be far better if the violence was always portrayed as horrific and brutal as it would fit the themes of the show better. Most of the violence on this show is portrayed in a barbarous way, but occasionally it does dip into Guy Ritchie territory, which seems out of place.) There are also moments of coincidence that can briefly take you out of the action as they expose the seems of the writing. The article above compares the show to Deadwood, and I think that is a fair comparison thematically, although this show doesn’t even come close to matching the writing of Deadwood. (Deadwood is the best show of modern times, with writing on par with the best of literature.)
However, these things aside, I do like Peaky Blinders. It is an extremely entertaining show. I do think the acting, the set design, the costumes, and the cinematography are top notch. I do think, especially in the first season, that it has themes and ideas that takes it beyond mere entertainment. The way that society perpetuates violence is interestingly addressed. The violence that these working class men carry out is partially the result of the violence that they were forced carry out during the war. The show seems to be saying that violence, once introduced to society, is a cancer that we are stuck with, long after the fighting of war is over. The ruling class sends these men to do horrible things in the trenches, only to condemn them when they bring their new “skill set” home.
Anyway, I more than commenting on it myself I wanted to point you in the direction of the above article, because I do think the writer, despite a few minor quibbles, does a good job of conveying the merits of this show. (I think Tom Hardy’s performance in Season 2 is one of hat season’s highlights.) I myself will look forward to watching Season 3 whenever that comes out.
Addition: I don’t exactly mean to criticize something by comparing it to Guy Ritchie. Although there is no doubt that some of the things he has done are shite (Sherlock Holmes movies!), some of his early films are at least fun entertainment, that have their own style and energy. I don’t mind things being just entertainment. My point is that in this show, the more choreographed moments of violence do not fit the overall mood, and it takes me outside the world of the show, a world of which I find myself fully immersed in for the most part.
John Oliver takes on big tobacco. Oliver is someone that enlightens while he entertains, a hilarious teacher. I wish the real news communicated as much as he does and that it was even 5% as entertaining to watch. I’m glad that he out there amongst us.
Bill Maher with the best and, in my opinion, last word on the Brian Williams scandal. He knocks this one out of park. Maher makes a convincing case why the real news scandal has nothing to do with Brian Williams lie.
The above article about Brian Williams is extremely interesting. It is in Rolling Stone and it is an alternative viewpoint to the scandal surrounding Williams. I don’t personally know enough to come down one way or the other. I think that the scandal fits a narrative that many of us hold about the mainstream media, that it is basically entertainment in the guise of news, and that many of the people that give us our news aren’t very credible. That being said, it is also true that we often rush to judgment in our society before we have all of the facts. We should always retain a bit of skepticism when judging someone, especially when something already falls neatly into our own personal bias of how we view the world.
I only just found out about Jon Stewart’s decisions to retire from The Daily Show tonight. I realize many of you have probably already heard about this. I don’t need to be the one to tell most of you that we have been lucky to have him on television since 1999. The Daily Show has been a place we could go to laugh and remain sane in these years of insanity. Not only is his own contribution tremendous, but without him we would have never had The Colbert Report. I have only seen one episode of The Nightly Show, but hopefully that and whoever takes Stewart’s spot will keep this kind of truth telling comedy going.
I think the most important thing Stewart is done is helped people decode the bullshit that is cable news. It’s true that many people before Stewart knew that something in our media wasn’t right, but sometimes it helps to have someone that can adequately verbalize what you feel. Night after night he was not only able punch through the mask of talking head absurdity, but provide people with the tools to do it themselves.
Why is it that, so often in our society, comedians are the only ones that can get at the truth? If we had a mainstream news media that was actually doing its job, Stewart wouldn’t have been needed. However, many of us unfortunately know that he, or someone like him, was needed. Because he could do what he did through humor, he was able to get away with things that others could not. One of my favorite quotes, that I have probably used too frequently here is Oscar Wilde’s quote, “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.”
Hopefully there will come a time when someone like Stewart isn’t needed, when we can actually trust television media to give us an accurate picture of what is going on in the world. I don’t think that time will be soon though. In the meantime, lets be glad that he was able to slip unnoticed through the gates, in this kingdom of madness.
Above is Jon Stewart’s famous Crossfire appearance. Crossfire was a show on CNN. It was a typical cable news program where you would have one rightwing pundit and one leftwing pundit debating the issues, without any kind of real insight give. There also was no weight given to either argument, letting the viewer know if one or both were at all rooted in fact. Jon Stewart went on and at the time did the unthinkable: He told the truth about why this kind of show was so meaningless. Crossfire didn’t last much longer.