DVDs: Takashi Miike's Audition is less a horror film than it is a romance thriller, and it surprised me by staying in the mode for a good hour. A man in the movie business uses the audition process to meet a marriable girl, they hit it off, etc., but he gets a lot more than he bargained for. Or does he? While the film can be appreciated as straight-up horror - the girl turns out to be a demented torturer - the second hour's sheer phantasmagoria makes the story ambiguous no matter how straight-forward the filmmakers seem to think the story is. Is it all in the protagonist's mind? There's a case to be made, and the "nightmare" could be attributed to his own feelings of shame (meeting someone under false pretenses, her being so much younger, what his wife would have thought) and fear (he doesn't really know who this girl is, and any new relationship has its anxieties). But while a lot of imagery IS expressionistic, there are also some irreconcilable "objective" moments. Due to the symbolic nature of the man's anxieties, I'm going to go with no solution at all, but rather proclaim that both realities are true, simultaneously, à la Mulholland Dr. A very interesting film, complex and surprising. Heck, to me, the horror scenes were actually the least interesting thing about the movie. The DVD includes a director and writer commentary track (with subtitles for the Japanese-impaired), and we get to hear from the actors through fairly long interviews. In both cases, Audition is only one of many topics discussed, so these are useful for fans if Japanese cinema in general.
Parks and Recreation's sixth season finale could have been its last, seeing as it projected the characters three years into the future, the way finales can to give the audience closure. Season 7 uses that near-future time frame to good effect, shaking up the status quo, making jokes about what pop culture might be three years from now, AND opening the door to more future time frames. The characters have new challenges, whether it's Leslie's crusade to get land donated for a national park (a seasonal arc that arks back to the filling of the pit), April and Andy's fear of settling down and selling out, or Tom's romance'n'business woes. But despite the changes, this is still the Parks and Recs you love, and that I love, a show that gets to me just by praising civic responsibility, and I'm getting a little teary just thinking about the finale. I lie, not just a little. Makes me want to watch the whole thing again. The DVD's blooper reel includes some of the best bits of the previous six, with some of the webisode-type featurettes do track some relationships through the show's history, so that's primed me to marathon the show. You'll also find plenty of deleted material, producer's cuts of certain episodes, and all the commercials and whatnot seen on the show's TVs, free from their moorings.
The Newsroom Season 1 - no, not THAT Newsroom, the Canadian original that feels a lot like The Office, only in a CBC-Toronto newsroom - mostly plays the "horrible boss" card to create its comedy of discomfort, but only really apotheosis in the three-part near finale "Meltdown" which expands on what was previously in the background, the satirical elements relating to the packaging of news. Meltdown ends in a veritable and surprising meltdown, and then we find ourselves in a season finale (final for a number of years, in fact, as creator and star Ken Finkleman got interested in other projects) that recasts the characters as a political campaign. Those last 4 episodes really moves the show to where it ought to always have been - as devastating satire - but it's all very weird. Normal shows don't change gears that quickly or suddenly. Non-Canadians shouldn't be intimidated because they won't recognize Canadian celebs playing themselves (there's a Larry Sanders Show vibe to it certainly) because I didn't recognize most of them either. The 90s seem like another country to me already. The DVD includes commentary tracks for the first and last episodes, and a making of that goes out of its way to paint Finkleman as a villain.
Those wondering what I thought of Millennium's first season should just browse through the last three weeks of daily reviews. In short, the show was a real discovery for me, deep and literate, a show that probably gets stronger the more times you watch it, as the apocalyptic symbolism piles up. It has its misfires, usually when it abandons the family half of its cast, but it still feels very modern today. The DVD includes a commentary track on the pilot. Unlike those he did for the X-Files, Chris Carter doesn't spoil his meta-arc. There's also a strong making of documentary that covers the season, with interviews conducted years later, and a featurette about the inspiration for the Millennium Group, the Academy Group, retired law enforcement people who indeed do help with profiling, etc. in the private and public sectors.
Books: So I was following Tom Cox on Twitter, or really, his @MYSADCAT account, which is heartbreakingly charming, and he started talking about his new book, The Good, the Bad, and the Furry. I checked out some of his prose on his blog and decided to spring for it. These are short biographical pieces about a man and his many cats, each one's personality precisely defined, and the cast of humans that interact with them, including the author's hilarious loud-talking dad. Cox is mostly a humorist, but tragedy does happen, and as the owner of an older cat, he did get me to break down in the first chapter. Cat enthusiasts will find a lot to love, and the prose is light and amusing, but honest, and poignant when it needs to be. The chapters are separated by more overtly humorous pieces, usually with pictures, including a selection of MYSADCAT tweets. These aren't as strong as the main material, generally, probably because the Internet is full of stuff like this and they feel less personal, but they're still a fun read.