Music Video of the Day: Try by Michael Penn (1997, dir by Paul Thomas Anderson)


I was going to do one of the videos that Paul Thomas Anderson directed for Haim today but I changed my mind at the last minute.  That’s nothing against Haim or the video.  Haim’s great and their videos — particularly the ones directed by Anderson — are frequently brilliant.  It’s just, for whatever reason, I knew that today was not the day to write about their video for The Steps.  That day will come soon.

Instead, I wrote about the video for Michael Penn’s Try.

Try was the very first music video to be directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.  He directed it while he was editing Boogie Nights.  Michael Penn, of course, did the score for both Boogie Nights and Anderson’s earlier Hard Eight.  He can also be spotted in Boogie Nights, playing Nick in the recording studio and incredulously reacting to the efforts of Dirk Diggler and Reed Rothschild to record their own album.

When watching this video, pay attention to the blonde gentleman wearing the Planet of the Apes t-shirt.  He shows up twice and, at one point, holds the microphone into which Penn is singing.  If he looks familiar, that’s because he’s actor Philip Seymour Hoffman!  When I first saw the video, I honestly didn’t recognize him.  I just thought he was some random crew person who got the job because he could run fast enough to keep up with Penn.  Of course, once I learned that Hoffman was in the video and I rewatched it, I immediately spotted him.  I think it says something about what a good actor Hoffman was that, even in something like this, he could be so convincing that, despite being one of the most recognizable actors in the world, he still became somewhat anonymous.  He disappeared into the role.

Thomas Jane and Melora Waters (who played Todd and Jessie St. Vincent in Boogie Nights) are also in this video, standing at the end of a a long line of exhausted dancers.  (This was meant to be a reference to the film, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?)  There’s one other Boogie Nights reference, which is kind of interesting considering the fact that he and Anderson supposedly didn’t get along during filming.  Keep an eye out for door with a purple 9 on it.  That’s a reference to Burt Reynolds, who wore the number 9 when he played college football.

Enjoy!

Review: The Walking Dead S5E16 “Conquer”


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“Simply put, there is a vast ocean of shit that you people don’t know shit about.” — Sgt. Abraham Ford

[spoilers within]

The Walking Dead has been derided as badly-written (early seasons definitely had it’s story issues) with recycled themes and subplots with characters that barely rise above one-dimensional. Only the most ardent fan would take those criticisms of the show and dismiss them outright. The series has had it’s many flaws and the three mentioned have been ones earned through the show’s first three seasons of revolving door showrunners.

There was the show’s original creator, Frank Darabont, who injected a cinematic quality to a tv show that could easily have gone campy (Z Nation), but whose need to control every aspect of the show made him lose the support of the very studio that helped him get the show up and running. It didn’t help that his first half of season 2 where the group searched endlessly for Sophia almost sunk the show.

With Darabont given his walking papers the show turned to series writer and producer Glen Mazzara to right the ship after a listless first half of season 2. Things definitely turned for the better with Mazzara in charge and for the first half of season 3 it looked like Mazzara might have finally figured out what sort of show The Walking Dead should be. In the end, he too ran out of steam as season 3 limped into an underwhelming season finale.

Scott M. Gimple took the reins and things for the show has been improving at a steady rate since season 4 and finally culminates in a season 5 finale that was both full of suspense, action and melodrama in equal amounts that has been the mark of his current tenure as series showrunner. If the show has an award for series MVP it should be handed gladly over to Scott M. Gimple.

“Conquer” starts with a cold opening that already signals that great things are afoot for the rest of the season finale’s extended 90-minutes. We find Morgan asleep (quite peacefully) inside a derelict car in the middle of the woods. We see him wake up and go about what’s probably a daily ritual for him when his breakfast gets interrupted by a stranger who happens to be sporting a “W” mark on his forehead (with dirt instead of carved into). He’s the first person we meet who seems to be affiliated with the very Wolves this second half of the season has been working up as the next Big Bad to threaten Rick and his people. It’s a sequence that gives us a clue as to the sort of bad guys these “Wolves” are going to be for Rick and Company. With some fancy staff fighting and a zen quality to his actions, Morgan more than holds off the two “Wolves” looking to steal his gear and add them to their collection of “W” marked zombies.

The rest of the episode takes on three different storylines involving Rick, Father Gabriel and Glenn.

With Glenn we see him follow Nicholas seen climbing over the walls of Alexandria. While not the most smart thing he has done of late, Glenn has a right to be suspicious of Nicholas who has done nothing but get people (both his own and Rick’s) killed while pumping himself out to be a strong protector when Glenn and the audience know that he’s far from it. It’s a sort of chase sequence as Glenn and Nicholas end up going at it mano-y-mano with Nicholas starting it off with a failed ambush that only wounds Glenn, but does hurt him enough that at times during the episode there was a great chance it was going to be him that would be the significant death to mark the season finale.

The writers (Scott M. Gimple and Seth Hoffman) don’t do the obvious and kill Glenn off, but does make him teeter on the brink of doing what many in the audience hope would happen and that was kill Nicholas once he finally had him beaten down. Instead, Glenn shows that despite his extended time out in the savage wilds outside the walls of Alexandria, he still has some compassion (misguided it might well turn out to be) and the need to see justice done. While Glenn might not have died in this finale his growing role as the voice of reason and compassion in a group that’s become fractured emotionally and mentally means his days on the series could very well be numbered.

Father Gabriel was the more frustrating segment of tonight’s finale. His time with the group has found him to be both naively stupid of the new world around him and mentally unstable because of what he had to do to survive. Yet, we find him talking a walk outside the walls in a bright, clean white shirt like he has cleansed himself prior to make sure he dies with a clean conscience. Instead, the instance a zombie was about to do what he seems to want he finally decides to want to live. But then does another 180 degrees and decides to leave the compound’s gate unsecured knowing it means zombies will definitely wander in.

The writers don’t seem to know what to do with Father Gabriel. From the moment he was introduced they seem to be flailing in the dark with so many ideas on how to treat an unstable man whose faith has been shattered by this new world where the dead don’t remain dead and those who survive must turn to their darker instincts (him included). One moment he’s trying to poison the minds of Deanna about Rick and his people while not confessing to the dark deeds he has done. Next he’s trying to atone for those very sins only to turn around and do something that would add more sins to his ledger.

It’s a shame that Father Gabriel has become such an albatross this season for the show since Seth Gilliam is such a great actor (as his time on HBO’s The Wire has shown). There’s still a glimmer of hope for the fallen priest as we saw when Maggie arrives just in time to keep Sasha from killing Father Gabriel. Will Maggie’s own Hershel-like act of mercy be enough to finally turn Father Gabriel towards something more concrete (whether as a good guy or a bad guy) would have to wait for season 6 this coming October.

We finally come to Rick who is in a sort of timeout after his total breakdown in the previous episode. He finally understands that he might have gone a bit Shane-like and overboard with his behavior, but he also still believes that Alexandria’s best chance of surviving beyond the luck they’ve had before their arrival was for them to stay and takeover. Whether they take over by the examples of their words and deeds or through force if the Alexandrians try to kick them out would depend on the very people who don’t seem to understand what’s truly at stake.

Rick gets a sort of visit from all the differing voices within his group. There’s Glenn and Michonne who wonder if Rick never wanted for their stay in Alexandria to work. Then there’s Carol and, to a certain extent Abraham, who has seen enough of how Alexandria operates to know that these people are like children who have had the luxury of never having been confronted with a no-win situation to wake them up from their fantasy of trying to rebuild civilization. It’s the sort of angel and devil on the shoulder bit that could’ve gone terribly cheesy, but ended up being natural and poignant to the episode’s narrative. A narrative that showed how both Rick and Deanna have been both wrong and right in their stances of how Alexandria should be led.

It would take a death to someone Deanna holds dear for her to finally understand what Rick and his people have bee trying to tell her and the rest of the Alexandrians. Abraham (who has become the show’s go-to-guy for memorable one-liners) said it best himself during the night meeting to decide Rick’s fate. In the only way Abraham knows how he says, “Simply put, there is a vast ocean of shit that you people don’t know shit about.”

In the end, Abraham was correct in that the Alexandrians just do not understand the world they’re living in. They might have the strong walls (not so strong that people can’t climb over them) to keep the zombies out. They have power and running water and some luxuries of the life long past dead. Yet, they’re naive and delusional to think that they won’t have to get their hands dirty to keep their way of life going. These people need people like Rick Grimes and his band of survivors. They might not be the best examples of how society and civilization was before the zombie apocalypse fell on everyone, but they were the ones who best adapted to it and still kept a semblance of their humanity in some way.

So, season 5 ended with not just Rick using a brand of reasoning and a recent example of how things could easily go from good to bad to make his point, but with Daryl and Aaron bringing Morgan back to Alexandria for a reunion between the first two characters we met on this show. Last time we saw Rick and Morgan together was in season 3’s “Clear” and Morgan was definitely not in his right mind while Rick was still holding onto his pre-apocalypse principles. with their latest reunion it looks like things have reversed with Rick looking more and more like the Morgan of “Clear” while Morgan has recovered from his crisis of conscience to come out the other side clear of mind.

We already know that there will be a season 6 and a season after that (AMC knows a goldmine when they see it and this show is literally printing them cash). The questions left unanswered by tonight’s finale looks to be the driving force for the next season. The Wolves now have an idea that Alexandria exists (from the knapsack full of pictures Aaron dropped at the canned food warehouse depot) and will probably try to visit them soon. Then there’s the question of how will Glenn finally expose Nicholas’ cowardice and duplicity to the Alexandrians and whether Nicholas will remain a problem for Glenn moving forward. The biggest question remains on whether these Wolves will involve Negan of the comics in some capacity or just the tip of a bigger danger.

The season closes with a very appropriate scene before fading to black. A car in the canned food depot marked in stark white spray paint with the words: “Wolves Not Far.”

Notes

  • Tonight’s season finale was directed by series exec. producer Greg Nicotero and written by showrunner Scott M. Gimple and series writer Seth Hoffman.
  • The Wolves seem to be a new group made just for the show. They don’t seem to correspond to any past group that the comic book has had Rick encounter and/or fight against.
  • The trailers trap full of zombies with the “W” marks on their foreheads was reminiscent of a similar scene and trap from Resident Evil: Extinction.
  • Aaron had his own moment during the escape out of the car that was straight out of the original Dawn of the Dead. machetezombie
  • Kill of the season has to be when Daryl took the chain, whipped it around his head to take the top of the heads of three zombies with precision. that’s kill of the week stuff that even Zombieland would be proud of.
  • When Father Gabriel fails to secure the main gate and then his subsequent behavior and confession to Maggie at the chapel was also reminiscent of a character from a George A. Romero zombie film: Day of The Dead. When Pvt. Salazar decides to commit suicide by letting in zombies into the secured compound.
  • Lennie James was trained to use a walking/fighting stick by the original Donatello from the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
  • The scene at the meeting where Pete accidentally kills Reg and the aftermath was straight out of the comic book frame for frame.
  • Talking Dead guests tonight are Morgan, Carol and Daryl (Lennie James, Melissa McBride and Norman Reedus) from The Walking Dead.

Season 5

Review: The Walking Dead S5E15 “Try”


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“It’s their world, we’re just living in it.” — Enid

[spoilers within]

Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead marks the penultimate one for the show’s fifth season. It has been a season that’s seen the series remain on a consistent high. It still had some episodes which fell a bit flat, but overall season 5 has been the show’s best and delivered on showrunner Scott M. Gimple’s promise to keep the story moving forward.

The episode begins with a cold opening that shows the aftermath of the deadly supply run to the solar factory warehouse in the previous episode. We have to stories being told. There’s Glenn still haunted by having to witness Noah’s death by zombies very up close and personal. We see him tell Rick about how he and the others made a mistake and how it led to the deaths of Aidan and Noah. He feels responsible and hopes that it doesn’t ruin their chance in making the Alexandria experiment work. He still believes in the concept that is the ASZ (Alexandria Safe-Zone) and even Noah’s death doesn’t budge him from that belief. Rick, on the other hand, only sees danger and trouble when it comes to the ineptitude of the Alexandrians. His fears and doubts about whether the Alexandrians can pull their weight when it comes to keeping everyone safe has been confirmed.

Deanna, on the other hand, hears a different tale from Nicholas. It’s a tale of how it was he who tried to save Aidan and not leave him behind. It was Glenn who distracted and caused the death of Aidan and whose bloodthirsty attitude got Noah killed. Nicholas spoke about how he would never leave Aidan, his friend, behind and even included newcomer Tara as someone he tried to save. There’s some hints that Deanna has a sense that Nicholas wasn’t telling her the truth of what happened, but we don’t get to hear her voice out these doubts.

“Try” is a very appropriate title for tonight’s episode. We see several characters attempt to try and find a way to make the combination of Rick’s people and the Alexandrians co-exists together peacefully. Glenn, despite what some of these Alexandrians have done, still believes that they need to make Alexandria work. It’s their last chance to go beyond just existing and surviving but actually living life. He’s become the show’s moral compass (hopefully not a death sentence) now that Hershel and Tyreese are gone. Yet, unlike the previous moral compasses in the show, Glenn does understand that sometimes pragmatism must rule the day above all else. He just believes that Alexandria needs a chance to survive the growing pains of their group’s arrival.

Another of Rick’s people trying to make it work is Michonne. She’s had her time in exile in the wilds of this new and dangerous world. Her survival to this point has been in part due to those solitary months on her own with only herself to keep safe. Yet, she has also found out that being alone was a detriment to her psyche’s well-being and finding Rick and his people was what ultimately saved her not just from the zombies but from her own self-destructive ways.

She sees what’s happening with Sasha. A friend and fellow survivor deep in the midst of PTSD who has lost so much in such a short period of time that she hasn’t had the chance to take in and accept those losses let alone mourn them. Michonne understands what Sasha is going through but also realizes that they need her for what’s to come. Michonne wants to make Alexandria work and instability brought on by Sasha’s death wish and Rick’s inability to trust the Alexandrians will only make that prospect harder to achieve.

It is no surprise that the episode ends with Michonne taking control of a situation brought on by Rick’s blunt force behavior in trying to convince the Alexandrians that the way they were doing things were not going to work going forward. Michonne’s belief in the Alexandrians’ survival skills might mirror Rick’s own thoughts on the matter, but where Rick wants a confrontation to be the catalyst of change she seems more than willing to lead by example.

On the other side of things are Rick and Deanna looking to be at loggerheads about what’s truly best of Alexandria. It’s easy to take Rick’s side that the way Deanna and the rest of the Alexandrians have been doing things were just not going to cut it in this new world. It’s a world that Rick and his people have experienced first-hand and lost people along the way, but in the end have survived all it has thrown at them. Deanna, on the other hand, still believes in the rule of law and order, civilization over anarchy. She doesn’t believe in killing those who could be a danger to the ASZ (like Peter who also happens to be the lone physician and surgeon), but instead would rather exile them out into the wilds.

It’s a way of doing things that Rick sees as another way of putting the ASZ in danger. Deanna doesn’t think so and this clashing of philosophies on how things should be done looks to be one that’s heading into a confrontation that puts everyone in danger. Neither side seem willing to try and compromise and find a way to make the two groups con-exist. No attempt to allow the Alexandrians to learn from what Rick and his people could teach them to be better survivors. No attempt from Rick and those who believe him to adjust to this new life. A life that they see as a danger in itself. They see Alexandria’s walls as something that could make them soft and distract them from surviving.

So, we have the extended season finale next week and the question of whether Rick is too far gone to stay in Alexandria will be one of the questions that need answering. Will the group have to suffer through another loss of one of their own for the Alexandrians to finally realize that their survival before Rick and his people arrived have been through blind luck not through the civilizing rule of Deanna? Will Rick and the others just leave Alexandria or will the group finally splinter-off from those wanting to try and make it work and those unable to?

Then there are those zombies with the “W” cut into their foreheads looking to crash the party.

Notes

  • Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Try”, was directed by Michael E. Satrazemis and written by series veteran Angela Kang.
  • “Keep walking” has become Rick’s version of Carol’s “look at the flowers”. Pete should’ve been sprinting away the moment Rick uttered those wordsa at him with those Rick dead-eyes.
  • Nine Inch Nails’ “Somewhat Damaged” plays during the episodes cold opening and was a nice reminder that both groupsm Rick’s and the Alexandrians, have been damaged in some fashion since the start of the zombie apocalypse.
  • Still wondering how Nicholas knew about the Glock Rick hid in the blender out in the woods (Nicholas was in the ASZ when Rick and the group arrived). Is there someone outside the walls that told Nicholas of the hidden pistol?
  • Talking Dead guests tonight are Yvette Nicole Brown (Community), series executive producer Gale Anne Hurd and Chandler Riggs (Carl Grimes of The Walking Dead)

Season 5