Saturday, April 25, 2015


I don’t usually say this about movies, but “While We’re Young” would’ve benefited from a lot less plot.  To cite one of Noah Baumbach’s past films, “Frances Ha” didn’t really have much of a story but it was excellent simply because it perfectly nailed the vibe of following a somewhat aimless twentysomething hipster  In WWY, the movie is at its best when it’s following the middle-aged Stiller/Watts couple as they observe and try to emulate the twentysomething Driver/Seyfried hipster couple.  What the film doesn’t need is the weirdly melodramatic and ultimately meaningless subplot about, of all things, the ethics of documentary filmmaking.  I know that point of said subplot is that it isn’t *really* supposed to have a point (Stiller is just overreacting, and we all play along since it’s so easy to believe that any Adam Driver character is a phone douchebag) but still, it’s not interesting.  It takes the movie on a sharp downhill curve after a very promising opening half carried by Stiller and Watts being hilarious.


On the flipside, for the love of god, “Last Man On Earth” needs some plot, any plot, that’s a change from the already ultra-tired trope of Phil being upset and jealous over not being able to sleep with Melissa.  In fairness, I haven’t watched the last couple of episodes…though I’m not going to, since I’m out on the show.  Why should I waste any more time on this program?  Mark’s got too much else to watch, son. 

It’s also not cool how quickly the show sold out its premise, as we only got about 30 minutes of Phil as “the last man on earth” before others started showing up, and now we have a four-person ensemble.  What was so intriguing about the pilot (and even the next two eps) was that it was actually taking a comic but semi-realistic look at how a person actually would last if they were completely alone in the modern world.  Things were difficult for Phil; it took him a hell of a time to fix up some kind of basic water system in the second episode, for instance.  By the fourth ep, however, you already have him rigging up elaborate fireworks displays for Melissa off-screen.  Way to be lazy, show.

I was a big fan of Will Forte on SNL, something my friend Matt couldn’t believe since, to use his words, “every Forte character is just him saying something over and over again in a silly voice.”  While I didn’t think that was true at all on SNL (well, except for the “oh nooooo!’ guy), it’s actually ended up being true on LMOE.  Nothing is less funny to me than when Phil is trying to hide something or manipulate someone and he puts on his disingenuous voice.  When this happens for essentially four straight episodes, I’m out.


“The Americans” had a pretty odd season in that I wasn’t interested in virtually all of the new subplots introduced, yet I was still pretty entertained because a) the show is just that well-made and b) the show cashed in two of its most long-running mysteries.  All year long it seemed like “Americans” was sort of just checking off the boxes on the current events of 1982-83 and giving their take on them through the lens of the Jennings’ work — the new South African KGB recruit and apartheid, the Afghan conflict, Northrop developing stealth technology, etc.  Then you had regular supporting characters given either not much to do, or put into new and fairly uninteresting new circumstances.  For instance, Stan Beeman is a great character but I don’t really care about him moping around in the aftermath of a divorce and going to EST meetings.  It seemed like the show almost ground to a halt in midseason with the whole meandering plot about Phillip being disturbed by having to seduce a 16-year-old.

But all of this didn’t matter, since we finally got to the fireworks factory with Martha figuring out that “Clark” was a fraud and (even bigger) Paige finding out the truth about her parents.  That last one led to the insanely suspenseful last 10 minutes of the finale, with the major cliffhanger of the cat being semi-out of the bag.  I have to give it up to the actor who plays Pastor Tim; we have no reason to believe Tim is anything but a decent man, yet he’s played with *just* enough of a hint of sketchiness to make us want to see Phillip and Elizabeth ruin him.  Personally, I prefer the online theory that Pastor Tim is actually a sleeper agent himself and has been working as part of Directorate S’s second-generation plan to recruit Paige all along…that would be an incredible twist.  I almost think something like that has to happen since it seems way too early in the show for either Pastor Tim to alert the authorities or for the Jenningses to kill him (which would alienate Paige from them forever).

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