Justified – A TV Series Review – Part 2 – Season 1

Justified – A TV Series Review – Part 1

I just finished watching the last two episodes of Season 1.  This is some kind of crazy show.

I guess I better preface my opinions by saying I haven’t been a member of the audience during the much touted “golden age of cable television” that’s been going on for the last decade or so.  I never cared about “The Sopranos” and I didn’t care about “Madmen” although I watched a few episodes a while back.  Likewise, I started watching the “Breaking Bad” episode where he is burning his money on the barbecue and then throws it into the swimming pool.  All I saw was Hal from “Malcom in the Middle” in his underwear making funny noises that weren’t particularly funny.

So maybe I’m not up on what’s current in TV Land.  Take that as given.

This is some kind of crazy show.  Apparently, Kentucky is located in the Twilight Zone where endless criminal activity and gun play is completely routine.  Timothy Olyphant’s character (Raylan Givens) is literally submerged in family, friends and strangers who all seem to be at each other’s throats twenty-four, seven.  Over the course of those two episodes at least sixteen people were shot dead.  And this is ignoring beatdowns, kidnappings, arson, non-lethal shootings, and even shoulder mounted rocket attacks.  And the cast of characters are almost exclusively highly conflicted and dangerous individuals.  Perhaps the only exception (and it’s a little early for me to be sure of this) is Ray’s boss, Art Mullen, the Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal (played by Nick Searcy).  He is, of course, surrounded by the insane happenings but so far seems to be operating as a sane law enforcement agent trying to manage his team and stay within the law.  But I’m sure in the course of the show’s six-year run he must crack.

Season One documents Ray’s return to Kentucky.  And the circumstances highlight Ray’s already unorthodox perspective on law enforcement.  He has a code of behavior that allows him to supersede normal legal protocol when he determines that someone isn’t just a normal criminal.  In other words, if someone has figured out how to game the system to commit acts that Ray cannot allow to occur he is determined to use extra-legal activities to curtail them.  He takes the law into his own hands.  That’s the premise of the show.  In his mind, he’s justified.  I guess we’ll find out if the world confirms this or changes his mind.

So as of the end of season 1 I am enthusiastically a fan of the show.  As I said the character are conflicted and most of them are not good people by any definition of the word.  But several of them have been shown to be interesting.  Of special importance seems to be Boyd Crowder, played by Walton Goggins.  Boyd’s criminal family is the focus of much of season one’s action.  Boyd is both a career criminal and Ray’s boyhood friend.  They worked together in the Kentucky coal mines.  And it seems apparent they are meant to be two sides of a coin throw.

The show maintains a very active pace with rarely a dull moment.  Ray’s romantic life is, so far, the least interesting part of the show but perhaps with additional insight into the motivations and back story of the main women in his life we’ll get a better understanding of why we should care which of them is his leading lady.  Of course, that is assuming any of them lives long enough to develop a domestic back story.

And as a point of information on the female reaction to Justified, Camera Girl (or more formally, Mrs. Photog) is also enthusiastically a fan of the show.  But she is more blood thirsty than I and less philosophical.  So that makes it less surprising to me.  Stay tuned and I will update this as I view the succeeding seasons in the coming weeks.

Justified – A TV Series Review – Part 1

There’s not much left on TV for me to watch anymore.  I remembered hearing over the last few years from several reviewers who were not progressives that “Justified” was pretty good.  Well, last week my Netflix queue was completely empty so I added season one of Justified to my queue. With some trepidation, photog and camera-girl settled in this week and watched the first two disks.  And eight or nine episodes into the season we still haven’t seen a bad show.  It’s actually very good.  Timothy Olyphant is the protagonist playing a US Marshall named Raylan Givens.  He’s been sent back to his home state of Kentucky after shooting a drug lord in Miami under questionable circumstances.  This puts him in contact with his family, friends, associates and enemies.  And the amount of overlap between all of these categories in the episodes I’ve seen is quite remarkable.  And here we run into the expected stereotyping of the Appalachians.  For instance, Ray’s father is married to Aunt Helen.  I’m not far enough into the story yet but it appears she was Aunt Helen before she was married to Ray’s father Arlo.  So, the incest and inbreeding jokes can’t be far off.  Also, one of Ray’s old friends from his time as a coal miner is now a bank robber who dabbles in white supremacy and shoulder launched rockets.

Needless to say, Ray’s personal and professional lives become extremely entangled and pretty early on he finds himself sleeping with a woman he shouldn’t be.  He had been investigating her for shooting and killing her husband.  Subsequently she is his witness in his shooting of her brother in law.  Add into the mix that the brother in law is also that coal miner / bank robber friend of Ray’s and it starts getting extremely complicated and confusing.  Also, Ray’s father is a criminal.  Ray’s ex-wife is married to a man in hock to mobsters and Ray’s boss is starting to think he’s unstable.  Oh, and the investigation into that drug lord he shot is getting complicated by all the other guys Ray’s been shooting since he got to Kentucky.  And finally, the drug lord’s friends really, really want Ray dead.  It’s a really fun show.

I’m only about half way through season one and so it’s hard to say where this will all be by season six but so far this is a crime drama that’s well written, filled with action and includes characters that while far from unconflicted are quite sympathetic for the audience.  Timothy Olyphant is the obvious star but the supporting cast is quite strong and fun to watch and listen to.  I especially enjoy Nick Searcy as Ray’s boss, Art Mullen.  He brings a dry wit and long suffering attitude to the job of overseeing Ray’s overcomplicated work-life balance.

So, that’s my first installment.  I will be watching a bunch more of these in the next few weeks and will give an update on my recommendation.  But so far, I’d have to say watching Justified is definitely justified.

My Favorite Iowahawk Posts

Iowahawk is one of the funniest conservatives on the planet.  During the Iraq War his mockery of Al Qaeda psychopath Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi (or as featured in Iowahawk the Zarkman) provided a little bit of dark humor during some of the darkest days of that war.

http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2006/04/i_hate_email.html

When Zarqawi was finally dispatched with a 500 lb laser guided bomb Iowahawk provided this gem:

http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2006/06/paradise_blows.html

During the 2008 election William F Buckley’s son Christopher joined the other Rockefeller Republicans in signing up for the Obama Historic Disaster.  They couldn’t countenance Sarah Palin as part of the ticket.  Iowahawk brilliantly lampoons the Buckley upper-crust horror at Palin and the swooning descriptions of Obama.

http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2008/10/as-a-conservative-i-must-say-i-do-quite-like-the-cut-of-this-obama-fellows-jib.html

During the Obama campaign Iowahawk provides this epic tale of the great Obamacles.

http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2009/01/the-idiossey.html

And finally after the election Iowahawk parodied the countless descriptions of the amazing and historic victory of America’s first black president.

http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2008/11/election-analysis-america-can-take-pride-in-this-historic-inspirational-disaster.html

Unfortunately in 2014 Iowahawk ceased writing posts to his website and seemed to restrict himself to Twitter (which I’ve never followed).  So, I never had a chance to follow his thoughts during the Trumpocalypse.  Well, all good things must end sometime.  But I figured I’d share this bit of right-wing internet history for any who missed it or were too young.

A Short Review of Rod Dreher’s Book, “The Benedict Option” – Part 1

Two weeks ago I was watching Andrew Klavan’s podcast on the Daily Wire ( http://www.dailywire.com/podcasts/16856/ep-320-death-stupid-andrew-klavan ) and he had an interview with Rod Dreher who has a book called “The Benedict Option.”  I had heard the title before but thought it had something to do with Pope Benedict abdicating. But the Benedict of the title is Saint Benedict who founded the Benedictine Monastic Order.  The sub-title of the book is “A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation.”  The thesis, as he explained it, is that America is no longer a Christian nation and in fact is now a place inimical to Christians trying to live their faith and raise their children in it.  He drew the analogy of Benedict coming from an Italian town to the city of Rome about twenty five years after the last emperor was deposed by a Germanic King.  Benedict found it a hollowed out and corrupt place.  He decided that the only way to live a Christian life was to separate from the dominant culture and set up a separate society.  According to Dreher this was the basis of the survival of Christianity and the remnants of roman culture in the Middle Ages.

Needless to say, I ordered the book.  I’ve only started it but the introduction basically states that the majority of Americans are not Christians and do not support the traditional concepts as illuminated in the Bible.  He believes that there is no chance that the culture will return to where it was even twenty five years ago but will instead continue down the progressive slope to Gomorrah.  And in fact traditionalist beliefs will be criminalized.

Sounds pretty depressing.  But instead, he says it’s an opportunity.  He thinks this will be the start of a revival.  And we should, like Benedict, gather the faithful and build a New Jerusalem.

When I finish the book, I’ll give you my opinion on his idea.  For now, let’s just say I’m intrigued and I think this idea has relevance for even those who are not Christians but feel that all traditional values are disappearing from the Western world.  After all it’s not that hard finding analogies between the present era and the Late Roman Empire.  Perhaps this time instead of Attila the Hun being the Scourge of God it will be Lady Gaga.

Plug for An Article on the Z-Blog – On Atheism

The Z-Man has a very interesting article on faith, skepticism and atheism.

On Atheism

That he is a skeptic but sees the hollowness of the militant atheists is I think quite perceptive.   His final statement,  “I do know I’d never want to live in a world ruled by atheists“  resonates for me.  I imagine that almost all reflective religious people wrestle with questions about how to reconcile an omnipotent, benevolent God with the world such as it is.  But the world view of people who feel their highest calling is to mock Christians speaks of individuals nursing an enormous inferiority complex whose egos need to be constantly revalidated.

OCF Classic Movie Reviews – The Sting

Can a movie made in 1973 be a classic?  Hell yeah!  The Sting, to my mind, is one of the last identifiable big studio system type movies.  Everything about it exudes quality.  The cinematography, music, actors, sets, sound and script show attention to detail and professionalism.  The only thing that sets it apart from earlier productions is a little profanity that wouldn’t have gotten past the Hayes Code censors of twenty years earlier.

The plot is grifters versus mobsters in 1930s Chicago.  Revenge for a murdered grifter has the two stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford partnering to orchestrate a “big con” against a vicious mobster played by Robert Shaw.  Supporting cast includes Charles Durning, Ray Walston, Eileen Brennan and a host of familiar faces.  George Roy Hill directed it and the ragtime music of Scott Joplin suffuses it from beginning to end and reinforces the feeling that you are immersed in an earlier era.  I cannot think of a false note in the whole movie.  Newman is at his best.  Redford is very good and Shaw chews up the scenery with his best Irish gangster characterization.  His mannerisms are fantastic.  One of his best bits has one of his henchmen asking if it’s worthwhile hunting down the grifters who stole such a small amount of his money.  Shaw’s on a golf course and he points to another golfer and says to the hitman, “Ya see that fella?  He and I went to fifth grade together.  If he finds out that a two-bit grifter got away with stealing from me I’m gonna have to have you kill him and every other small timer from here to Atlantic City.  Yafalla (which means do you follow)?

The plot is intricate involving Newman’s crew of con-men, Shaw’s gang, hired hitmen from out of town, local police and even FBI agents after Newman.  There are twists, turns and surprises.  The movie combines comedy, action and some drama in a fast-paced and highly entertaining way.  It’s an homage to the gangster movies of the 1930s that feels like it could have been written by O’Henry or Ring Lardner.  But there’s a modern feel to the pessimistic tone of the ending.  When Newman asks Redford what he’ll do with his cut, he says he doesn’t want it.  “I’d only lose it anyway.”

Give it a try if you’ve never seen it.  Highly recommended.

OCF Classic Movie Reviews – Capra Corn – The Films of Frank Capra – Part 1 – It Happened One Night

Anyone who has watched TV around Christmas has probably seen a Frank Capra movie because every year they play “It’s a Wonderful Life” non-stop for a week straight.  And that’s a really good Capra film.  But Capra made a bunch of good films in his day and some of them are among my favorites.  And my all-time favorite is “It Happened One Night.”  Filmed in 1934, it stars Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in a screwball comedy that wants us to believe that an heiress on the run from her father would meet up accidentally on a bus with a reporter who needs her runaway story to salvage his newspaper career.  Their trek from Florida to New York begins with each despising the other and ends up, of course, with them falling in love.  But of course, the course of true love is never smooth and never was that truer than with this goofy tale.  The key to the success of this movie, for me, is the chemistry between Gable and Colbert.  He is the seemingly self-confident man of the world.  He knows it all and claims to be able to write a book about every skill from how to correctly dunk a doughnut, to how to thumb a ride on the highway.  She starts out as the arrogant little rich girl.  Pretending to need no one’s help and always in charge.  Once they broker a deal to travel together to their mutual interests, they proceed to heckle each other and bicker until they pretty convincingly fall in love.  My wife and I have always thought of this as a pretty much perfect date movie.  It has a little something for both sexes.  Gable gets to strut and brag in his king of the jungle act and Colbert is the sarcastic little woman.  In one of my favorite scenes Gable is demonstrating his various “foolproof” methods of thumbing a ride.  After a string of failures, he dejectedly admits maybe he shouldn’t write that book after all.  Colbert says she’ll get a ride and won’t even have to use her thumb at all.  Of course, she walks over to the rod, lifts her skirt above her knee and the first passing car slams on the brakes and the emergency brake too.  An amused Colbert says to the glum Gable that she had just answered an age-old riddle.  He asks what and she replies “that the limb is mightier than the thumb.”  And he viciously replies “well why didn’t you just take off all your clothes and you could have gotten a hundred rides?” to which she serenely replies “when we need a hundred rides I will.”

As I mentioned earlier, the couple don’t smoothly move from reluctant partners to sweethearts without obstacles and by the last reel misunderstanding and anger almost conspire to destroy this match made on a Greyhound Bus.  But of course, happily ever after is bound to be in a Capra film so the fear of tragedy is never serious.

The movie is full of little details of life in depression era America and the vignettes with the denizens of the bus and other locales add charm to the story.  Capra filled his depression era movies with scenes of the common people displaying compassion and camaraderie in the face of adversity.  The scene where the bus riders amuse themselves with a relatively untalented singing performance is amusing and appealing if a little contrived.

If you’ve never seen the movie, I unreservedly recommend it.  If you don’t like it then I recommend you do not read any more of my reviews.  Our points of view on film would be just too far out of synch to allow any value to you.  And may God have mercy on your poor shriveled soul.

OCF Classic Movie Reviews: W. C. Fields Double Feature

A long time ago I had a friend who was a prison guard at Riker’s Island and he was a movie buff.  And he introduced me to the films of W. C. Fields.  Most people my age recognize Fields’ trademark nasal tone, whiskey flask, bulbous nose and endless wisecracks.  But I guess not many have seen many of his films.  I never had before that time and I was immediately hooked on the absurdity of this comic everyman battling the endless affronts he suffers at the hands of wives, children, neighbors, bosses, policemen and any other authority figure who darkened his path.  Deep down he just wants to live life his own way.  And you can see that he still retains a child-like hope that he will somehow triumph.  By the final reel of these films, a catastrophe has engulfed him and he appears to hit rock bottom.  But then the magical reversal at the finale creates a deus ex machina that rights all wrongs and he lives happily ever afterward.

The two movies my friend introduced me to were early and both had Fields as a long suffering husband.  And in both movies his wife was played to perfection by an actress named Kathleen Howard who was a large overbearing woman with a shrewish temperament, an acid tongue and the lungs of a Wagnerian opera singer who continually browbeat him over every imaginable fault she could summon.  She is his perfect foil.

These early movies are a sort of halfway point between a string of vaudeville skits and an actual scripted movie.  Some of the routines involve sight gags that often are carried too far.  And the plot is usually ridiculously thin.  Some folks who enjoy Fields’ movies prefer the more polished movies like the “The Bank Dick” and “Never Give a Sucker an Even Break.”  But for me in these earlier movies the comic delivery is hilarious and the happily ever after endings absurdly wonderful.

So, the plot of “It’s a Gift” (1934) has Harold Bissonette as the owner of a grocery store in New Jersey who dreams of being an orange farmer in California.  Naturally he throws away his whole settled existence and drags his family across depression era America to follow his dream.  And naturally the result is disaster.

In “The Man on the Flying Trapeze,” (1935) Ambrose Woolfinger is a memory expert working for the Malloy Textile firm.  But what he’d like to be is a professional wrestler.  So, when he takes the afternoon off to go watch the wrestling match under the pretext of his mother-in-law’s funeral all hell breaks loose.

As I said the plots are ludicrously thin, the acting is pure ham and the sight gags painfully long.  My family runs for the exits whenever I pop one of these in the DVD player.  But I believe that any married man whose heart doesn’t sing with joy when Harold Bisonette or Ambrose Woolfinger finally gets the upper hand is a lost soul who cannot be redeemed and deserves to be fed feet first into the matriarchy.

As you can tell from my description, these movies are not for everyone.  If they sound intriguing maybe you’ll give them a try.

Plug for Roger Kimball’s article “The Delusional Press for Power of the Anti-Trump Crowd.”

Just a quick recommendation and a link on an article on the website American Greatness. Roger Kimball wrote a piece called “The Delusional Press for Power of the Anti-Trump Crowd.”  I think it’s pretty great.  I’ll start out by saying that I laughed when I saw the picture at the top of the story was the peasants with pitchforks scene from the original Frankenstein movie.  That was priceless.  He analyzes what the media is doing and why.  I won’t paraphrase or belabor it.  I’ll just highly recommend it.

Ray Bradbury – An American Original – Part 1 – Dandelion Wine

 

When I was a kid back in the third quarter of the twentieth century I came upon science fiction in the children’s section of the Brooklyn Public Library.  And so I read Heinlein’s and Asimov’s juvenile sf stories.  As I got a little older I was able to borrow from the adult collection and soon discovered all the golden age authors and some of the newer, edgier writers.  But at a certain point I discovered Ray Bradbury.  I remember he had two collections called R is for Rocket, S is for Space.  But when I read them I found out he wasn’t writing space opera.  In fact, some of his stories didn’t seem to be science fiction at all.  At the time, I didn’t know what fantasy was.  They just seemed to be strange stories.  Later on, I found some of his stories showing up on “The Twilight Zone” TV series and this helped me categorize them as something weird and fun.  But whatever I called him Bradbury was different from the other writers I knew.  Each of his stories had to be evaluated on the merits.  Some of his stories lacked fantasy plot elements and at the time these stories seemed lacking in interest.  Others were almost horror stories and these kept my attention best.  Even his most externally identifiable science fiction stories, “The Martian Chronicles,” didn’t feel like other science fiction stories.  Even if there were ray guns and aliens and space ships it didn’t seem as if these were the point of the story.  They were more like parables or morality tales.  And to a kid this was perplexing.  But I always considered Bradbury as something worth reading.  He was high value.

Fast forward twenty years.  It was the late nineteen eighties.  I was in an old used bookstore in Boston during my lunch hour from a design engineering job I had.  I hadn’t read any science fiction in a while.  I was browsing through a pile of books that had been displayed earlier in the year as summer reading.  There was a used hard cover book with a mylar library-type jacket cover on and a cover painting of a little blond haired boy virtually covering the pavement with his chalk drawings of lines and shapes.  The book was called “Dandelion Wine” and the author was Ray Bradbury.  It was a novel length book and it surprised me because I didn’t remember Bradbury writing many novels.  At the time “Fahrenheit 451” was the only one I could think of.

On a lark, I bought it.  I put it on my bookshelf and figured I’d get to it when the project I was on slowed down.  Well I forgot all about that book and before that project slowed down I had changed jobs and was too busy for reading.  It was about nine months later in July, when I picked it up again.  I was going on vacation with my wife and kids to Old Orchard Beach, Maine for a week.  It’s a very working class old beach resort where middle class people go to sit by the ocean and let their kids dig sand castles and swim.  And later on, you can go down to the pier and buy bad pizza and ice cream for your kids and let them get fake tattoos or go down to the amusement park and watch them be centrifuged in the dozen or so kinetic devices that are used to extract dollars from parents and regurgitated food from kids’ stomachs.  The several years I brought my young family there are among the happiest memories I have.

Anyway, when the family settled in the beach house at night and the kids settled down to reading or watching the TV I picked up Dandelion Wine.  And I was surprised to find I had already read it.  But wait, not really, I’d read parts of it.  What Bradbury had done was patch together a number of his older stories along with transition scenes that tied them together, and make a narrative about a summer for a boy and his family and neighbors in Green Town, USA circa 1928.  What it really was, was an ode to the boyhood Ray Bradbury had lived and imagined in Waukegan, Illinois.  He used the memories of his childhood home and passed them through the story writing algorithm in his head and invented a world that struck me as remarkable.  Here were the mundane short stories that as a kid didn’t click with me because there were no monsters or space ships.  Now they were knitted together to talk about what was magical about being a twelve-year-old boy in a small mid-western town in the early twentieth century with three months of summer vacation ahead of you.  They are stories about family and friends and growing up and living and getting old and even dying.  And they are mostly about being a kid.

Since that summer I’ve re-read that book a dozen times in whole or part.  I mostly read it when I have some vacation time in summer.  This year I’ll be sixty.  When I read that book I’m not even sixteen, I’m twelve.  It’s remarkable.  I didn’t grow up in a small town.  I grew up on the relatively mean streets of Brooklyn, NY.  And I was born forty years after him.  But I can understand what he’s saying and feeling in his alter ego character.  He’s captured the essence of boyhood in its quintessential form, summer freedom.  And the setting is a simpler time and place.  It’s idyllic.  Not realistic but almost archetypal.

I imagine there are many for whom this type of story has no appeal.  It’s not high adventure or technical fun.  But if any of this strikes a chord try the book out.