This Week in Geek (7-13/07/14)


Literature nerds understand each other. I got beautiful friend Nath book shelves for her new apartment, and she got me the oldest book I now own, a 19th-century Book of Familiar Quotations. Not a rare antique, but an antique nonetheless. I'll treasure it! Meanwhile, my interest in grifter stories escalated and I got the Leverage RPG in pdf format (I'm very intrigued to see how they suggest such stories can be built), and on DVD, related material, specifically Catch Me If You Can and White Collar Season 1. Also on DVD, The Raid 2, Crusade and Legend of the Rangers for my new Babylon 5 dailies, and because I apparently can't resist an Amazon bargain, Deadwood Season 1 and both seasons of Rome.


DVDs: With Season 4, Leverage continues exciting and clever con stories, and focuses a lot more on the love that has grown between the characters. A couple of romances, sure, but these are atypical of television's clichéed will they-won't they schemes, truer to life if less viscerally exciting to watch. Platonic love is also an important element, whether this is between equal friends or mentor and student. This show succeeds because of its characters, and with a stronger and at once more subdued seasonal arc that eventually puts a lot of old friends and foes to work, it comes out ahead of Season 3. And of course it toys with its own formula now and again, like splitting the boys and girls into seperate but interconnected stories, for example, or pulling off an amusing The Office pastiche. Fewer extras than normal, though the fun and boisterous commentary tracks on each episode are a good value. We get a few deleted scenes, some behind the scenes footage of the episode shot on a windswept mountain, a gag reel, and a couple of comedy bits mocking the Office style and the story-pitching process.

Something someone said interested me in Hal Hartley's films - an indie director who sounds right up my alley, but whom I didn't know at all - so I watched the film mentioned, Flirt. When people talk about experimental films, they often refer to an art house sensibility, weird for weird's sake, and other obstacles to coherence and/or entertainment. Flirt has some of that, but I can use the word "experimental"'s actual meaning. Succeed or fail, it is an experiment and as such, worth trying. Specifically, what happens if you shoot the same basic script three times with different actors in different cities around the world? Now, I've seen it argued that the 25-30 minute base script (about a love-tossed person caught in various romantic triangles) isn't all that interesting, so seeing it repeated becomes tedious. Might be a matter of taste. While I didn't find the first, New York sequence all that interesting on a plot level, I found it more and more relatable through Berlin and Tokyo, to the point where I wanted to revisit New York and keep the repetition going. The films are not entirely repetitive - each section has an entirely different "chorus" and changes in gender, sexual orientation and culture make things play out differently, not to mention how the climactic act of violence changes in intent each time - and I think it's a misreading of the film to say it's about how some feelings and situations are universal etc. etc. I don't think the film has a definite point like that. Rather, it's about seeing what happens to the script when transposed into a different milieu. How will the director change it, resequence it, re-edit it, cut lines or add them, according to the demands of the actors, locations and the feeling of the moment. Another way to do this would be to hand the script to three different directors. That Hartley manages to create three distinct pieces that respect each city's artistic vibe is a testament to his abilities. Now, his fans seem to think this is one of his lesser works, so it's encouraging that I found it, if not incredibly entertaining (though I do have a lot of affection for the Tokyo segment), then at least quite interesting. The DVD also includes a short called NYC3/94, with some of the same actors running around a war-torn New York for 10 minutes. It's a bit obvious, frankly.

Speaking of being remade several times, the Quebec film Starbuck, about a lovable loser who discovers the sperm donations made in his youth spawned over 500 children, 142 of which have filed a lawsuit to learn the identity of their mysterious father, "Starbuck". A surprise hit, Starbuck was remade in other markets to little acclaim - as Vicky Donor in Bollywood, as Fonzy in France (what?! guys, it was already in French!), and as Delivery Man in the U.S. (with Vince Vaughn, with the same director Ken Scott). Accept no substitutes, only the original Starbuck is likely to be worth it. And that's because he's played by Patrick Huard who manages to fuel our sympathies despite being a man who makes all the wrong decisions, and effortlessly generates both comedy and pathos. Huard wears his heart on his sleeve, and this is a role that requires immense heart as "Starbuck" seeks out dozens of his children and tries to become a sort of guardian angel to them, even as he deals with his estranged girlfriend's pregnancy, his first legitimate bid at fatherhood. It's about family, from top to bottom, and his relationship to his father and brothers is touching, funny and true to life as well. Well worthy of its success. Leave your cynism at the door.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
V.i. Ophelia's Funeral - Branagh '96



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