At Avidly, I wrote a tribute to my favorite actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and how good he was at talking on the phone in movies.
“But it’s also not wrong to think back on these scenes and to wonder what they reveal of this man’s art, why these moments in particular can represent his work so fully even in their constraint. As we are beginning to reckon with the distance we now feel from an actor who had seemed so intimately communicative with us as viewers of film, we should ask why he was so reliably able to reach us when he was alive.”
“Where I’m Calling From: Philip Seymour Hoffman, 1967-2014″
This week for Dear Television, I reviewed Comedy Central’s new sketchy, sketch comedy series, Broad City:
“Broad City was born in improv theaters and on the internet. It’s got a gritty hand-held feel, an associative style, and it relies less on a set of characters or observations than it does on a kind of madcap, accretive sensibility. In other words, these episodes simply turn Abbi and Ilana loose in the city and see what happens. The bits are staged, of course, but there’s a spontaneity to the whole exercise that is unique on Comedy Central right now.”
This week for Dear Television at The Los Angeles Review of Books, I wrote about the gnarly, haunting, maybe brilliant True Detective and the completely magnetic screen performance at its center:
“So far, the most compelling reading I can figure for this somewhat inscrutable show is that it is only masquerading as a two-hander, gritty buddy cop series. [Matthew] McConaughey’s Rust Cohle is an engine, and everything and everybody this show can find is being scooped up and thrown into the furnace.”
Dear Television is back on the Girls beat for The Los Angeles Review of Books. Here’s my post on the first new episodes of season three.
“One of the possible trajectories of this show — and one still alive to some extent or another — is the slow or catastrophic dissolution of the hermetic core that has so frequently been criticized as too insular, too privileged, too much… In this spirit, it’s been frustrating and fun to watch possible Extinction-Level Events — like Donald Glover’s much-touted black Republican or Kathryn Hahn’s achingly, soulfully harried mother — hurtle toward the series only burn up upon entry into Planet Horvath’s atmosphere.”
“Your Urine-Soaked Life”
This is my debut essay for Slate Book Review on Karina Longworth’s extraordinary critical biography of Meryl Streep and why film acting remains such a mystery to scholars and critics.
“We know that there are processes involved in the creation of a screen performance, but, more often than not, even the process stories we tell about actors are about a kind of prestidigitation—Daniel Day-Lewis becomes possessed by Abraham Lincoln or Charlize Theron disappears within the grotesque visage of a serial killer. We know how acting works, but there is a horizon beyond which the craft remains opaque, even mystical.”
Dear Television ended a fun year by recapping all of our favorite things for the LARB blog. From favorite performances to favorite and least favorite episodes to our year-end GIFstravaganza, it’s all here. I wrote about Kristen Schaal’s performance as Louise on Bob’s Burgers, my favorite episode of Game of Thrones, and why Mad Men was such a compulsively GIFfable series this year. See you in 2014!
DEAR TV YEAR-END COVERAGE!
In what will hopefully become a holiday tradition, the wonderful Jane Hu and I wrote about NBC’s The Sing-Off and our shared love of a cappella music for The Hairpin:
Phil: Yes, Jane! “Keep A Cappella Weird.” Speaking of the future, though, if you and I were looking to put together an a cappella group for next year’s Sing-Off, what would we be called?
Jane: Oh, we couldn’t quite well use Cruel Poptimism, could we?
Phil: Aural Exams, BeatBakhtin, Three Part Harmony in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Vocal Historicism…
“No Future: The Sing-Off and the Art of A Cappella”