Weekly Roundup is a feature posted each weekend on I Wonder if You Wonder. It gives me a chance to react to the week’s industry news and to provide some quick thoughts about the films and TV shows I’ve been watching. (Plus it’ll give you some idea of the sheer amount of stuff I watch!) Let’s dive right in.
In this week’s article: Some major movie news from overseas, a couple of TV cast shake-ups, and another batch of season finale reactions. Plus, I get to use the phrases “Palme d’Or” and “Tall Slut No Panties” in the same article. Now isn’t that something worth reading?
This week’s song: “You Really Got Me” by The Kinks, from tonight’s totally cray-cray episode of Mad Men. (The show was so crazy that I was actually rooting for Christina Hendricks to keep her clothes ON.)
Cannes: The big news of the week comes from the south of France, where the 65th annual Cannes Film Festival wrapped up on Sunday. The Palme d’Or – the festival’s top prize – was won by Michael Haneke’s Amour, with the victory coming only three years after Haneke won his first Palme for 2009’s The White Ribbon. Winning two palms in three years (four festivals) is something that just doesn’t happen at Cannes, and it represents as strong an endorsement of Haneke as could possibly be made, essentially guaranteeing his inclusion in the pantheon of all-time great auteurs for generations to come.
To place Haneke’s accomplishment in its proper historical context, the three years between Palme victories is the shortest period of time between wins on record, and Haneke becomes only the seventh director (or directorial team) to have won more than one Palme d’Or, with the list of other two-time honorees including Sweden’s Alf Sjöberg (1946 and 1951), the United States’ Francis Ford Coppola (1974 and 1979), Denmark’s Bille August (1988 and 1992), Serbia’s Emir Kusturica (1985 and 1995), Japan’s Shohei Imamura (1983 and 1997), and Belgium’s Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne (1999 and 2005).
For a festival that is eager to spread the honors around (it even stipulates that winners of the festival’s top three awards are ineligible for any of the lesser prizes), Amour was apparently the rare case of a film that was so great that it couldn’t possibly be denied. It immediately becomes the favorite for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, which would be Haneke’s first such honor, and joins films like Caché, The Piano Teacher and the aforementioned The White Ribbon as essential parts of the Haneke film canon.
For a complete list of winners from Cannes, including the second place Grand Prix award, check out this article at IndieWire.
90210 Cast Shake-Up: From the Cannes Film Festival to 90210, a transition you will only find on this blog. It was announced this week that Gillian Zinser, who has played Ivy on 90210 for the last three seasons, will not be returning to the show in the fall. This news comes as little surprise, as the character’s storylines were neatly wrapped up in the show’s season finale last week, 90210 already suffers from having too many characters to service, and Zinser actually has something of a budding movie career on her hands, with small roles in the upcoming films Savages (directed by Oliver Stone) and The Manson Girls (based on the true story of Charles Manson’s group of female followers).
Smash Cast Shake-Up: Another cast change to report, as several series regulars won’t be returning to NBC’s Smash for its second season. The list of departing cast members includes Jamie Cepero (who portrayed the show’s polarizing personal assistant/wannabe producer Ellis), Raza Jaffrey (who played Katharine McPhee’s character’s boyfriend, Dev), and Brian D’Arcy James (who played Debra Messing’s character’s husband). In addition, recurring star Will Chase (who played Debra Messing’s character’s extra-marital flame) is also being written off the show … which is a shame, really, as Chase is absurdly talented. Overall, these cast changes show a desire on the part of new Smash showrunner Josh Safran to significantly dial back the show’s emphasis on the personal lives of its characters. As a Smash fan, I’d be slightly wary of any major changes made to the show, but these subtractions aren’t likely to take anything away from Smash’s strongest element: the ongoing battle between Karen (McPhee) and Ivy (Megan Hilty) for theatrical supremacy.
Viewings & Reactions (Finale Edition):
(Warning: Spoilers ahead.)
House Finale: I’ve literally never seen a single episode of House, but the fact that the show signed off this week after eight seasons on FOX is certainly worth mentioning.
Glee Finale: While I’ve had my problems with Glee over the past couple of seasons, I’m somewhat optimistic after the show’s season finale. What the show clearly needs is a major shake-up, and the fact that many of the show’s characters were scheduled to graduate from High School provides a convenient excuse to do just that. It remains unclear exactly what next season will look like, but some kind of time split between the characters in New York and those still at McKinley High seems clear. It also seemly likely that several of the show’s cast members will either leave the show entirely or see their screen time dialed back significantly, and while on some level it would be unfortunate if this past week’s finale was indeed the swan song for characters like Mercedes (Amber Riley) and Quinn (Dianna Agron), the show’s cast of regular and recurring characters has simply gotten too large and unwieldy. If I were running Glee, I’d keep it simple: center the New York-based portion of the show on the budding career of Rachel (Lea Michele, who has always been the heart of the show), with Finn (Cory Monteith), Kurt (Chris Colfer), and Santana (Naya Rivera) rounding out the Manhattan-bound quartet, while Blaine (Darren Criss) steps into Rachel’s shoes as the star of the McKinley-based storylines, supported by teachers Mr. Schuester (Matthew Morrison), Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch), and the eclectic group of remaining students. This sort of configuration would allow the show’s two most valuable assets – Lea Michele and Darren Criss – to seize the spotlight, while the ongoing relationships between Kurt and Blaine and Santana and Brittany (Heather Morris) would provide much-needed links between the two sets of storylines. (Feel free to call me for more ideas, Ryan Murphy.)
American Idol Finale: Ho hum … another season of Idol, another white guy singer/songwriter winning it all. (The unfortunately-named Phillip Phillips, in this case.) More interesting than the actual competition, however, is Idol’s precipitous decline in the ratings this season. For the first time in nearly a decade, the show was unseated as the most-watched show on TV (that honor went to NBC’s Sunday Night Football), and the ratings for the show’s finale this week were down roughly one-third from the finale a year ago. I’ve long held the theory that the show’s gradually diminishing viewership is what has led to many of the show’s most shocking and indefensible eliminations in recent years, including Adam Lambert’s loss in the finals several seasons ago and über-talented Joshua Ledet’s elimination in third place this year; as the show’s audience shrinks, smaller and smaller groups of voters are able to dictate the show’s outcome, meaning that certain interest groups (like teenage female voters, or voters from a certain state) have a much easier time keeping their favorites in the competition even if they aren’t necessarily the most talented. So the question remains: Has Idol finally jumped the shark? We can only hope.
Modern Family Finale: Another solid season for Modern Family comes to an end. In a lot of ways, the show reminds me of Frasier: consistently excellent and extraordinarily well-acted but generally content to stick to its established formula. (Perhaps not coincidentally, Modern Family co-creators Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan both worked extensively as writer/producers on Frasier.) I love groundbreaking TV as much as the next media studies student/critic, but a more conservative outlook isn’t necessarily bad; if every reset-button sitcom on television were like Modern Family, I’d be a completely happy camper.
Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 Finale: This past week’s episode of Don’t Trust the B—- was its nominal season finale, but that was largely on a technicality; the final six episodes of its first-season order are being held back to air as part of the show’s second season in the fall. As much as I’ve loved the show so far, I’m beginning to wonder if it’s going to be able to continue with its characteristically brash style without some kind of media blow-back; its most recent episode threw around the word “slut” like it was “and” or “the.” That being said, I applaud a show that takes risks (especially funny risks), and the fact that the show was created by and largely stars women should fend off most accusations of sexism. I doubt the same would be true if the show had been created by a man, however.
Revenge Finale: The other day, I stumbled upon a great article online that was meant to help people navigate the tricky world of TV. (I wish I could provide a link to it and give credit where credit is due, but I can’t for the life of me track it down at the moment.) The article provided helpful hints like which new shows are worth checking out, which shows one should drop from their viewing schedule (“Paging AMC’s The Killing … The Killing to the chopping block, please”), and which network TV shows are actually worth watching. And what do you know? Right there alongside critical darlings like FOX’s New Girl and CBS’ The Good Wife was ABC’s soap-thriller Revenge. I’ve made my love of Revenge well-known on this blog before, but this vote of confidence took even a devoted fan like me slightly by surprise. Does Revenge really deserve a place on people’s viewing schedules next to shows like Mad Men, Downton Abbey, and Parks and Recreation?
I mulled it over for a bit, and I came to the conclusion that the answer is a resounding YES. We all need a little cheese in our lives, and for pure, unadulterated trash (a word I use with great love and respect), Revenge is the best thing going. This week’s season finale had it all: a vast conspiracy, a couple of shocking plot twists, the apparent (but easily reversible) death of a major character, and, yes, some good old fashioned vengeance. The quality of a show like this will always pogo wildly up and down depending on the success or failure of the plot twists that the show’s writers come up with, but in the case of Revenge, the good far outweighs the bad. So do yourself a favor: swallow your pride, check your appreciation for subtlety at the door, and marathon-watch Revenge at your earliest opportunity. Your brain deserves the break.
Previewing features and articles I’m working on for I Wonder if You Wonder, some of which will be posted this week, some in weeks ahead, and others that’ll be abandoned due to laziness or frustration. (Hey, at least I’m up front about it.)
- My article on Dan Harmon and TV auteurism, which is going to be a long one.
- The continuation of “30 Days of Alien,” just in time for Prometheus to debut in theaters. (Hey, cut me some slack … there will still be 30 Days, they’ll just be non-consecutive.)