Friday, September 23, 2011

I'm good at blog.

I'm sure the only thing better than my infrequent blogging would be a completely unorganized account of new television shows, halfway through the premiere block, and while I'm not fully caught up!  But whatever.  I don't have TV anymore (resolving this soon) so I've only been able to catch whatever's on Hulu, or whatever I see at my parents' house on the weekends.  Deal with it!  If a show doesn't appear on the list below, either I don't care enough to bother with it (Pan Am, Charlie's Angels, The Playboy Club), it's finished its summer run (The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Switched at Birth, True Blood), or it won't be back (or premiering) for a few months or longer (30 Rock, Apartment 23, Mad Men).

The Amazing Race (8pm on CBS, premieres 9/25)
          Year after year, I remain super pumped about this show.  It is always fun to watch with my family, and it's such an amazingly produced reality competition.  Hoping to audition for it eventually! 
Once Upon a Time (8pm on ABC, premieres 10/23)
           I saw the pilot for this a few months ago, and it was a little weird, but seemed promising if you're into darker network dramas.  I'll probably watch a couple of episodes but it's not really my style. 
Boardwalk Empire (9pm on HBO, premieres 9/25)
          The first season took ages to finally get exciting, but it ended up being wonderful.  It's not my favorite "high art" show but I'm excited to watch it during the desert between Breaking Bad and Mad Men. 
Dexter (9pm on Showtime, premieres 10/2)
          This show goes up and down in quality, but it's still mega awesome and better than a lot of other stuff I watch.  I think Colin Hanks will actually be a really creepy baddie so I'm looking forward to this season. 
The Walking Dead (9pm on AMC, premieres 10/16)
          I thought the first season was super boring, but it's a high production value show about zombies, so. 
Breaking Bad (10pm on AMC)
          There are only three episodes left in what has been an incredible season of what is currently the best show on TV.  How Vince Gilligan and the actors manage to manipulate the audience so thoroughly is just incredible.  I am obsessed with this show and will post more in-depth thoughts when the season's done. 

How I Met Your Mother (8pm on CBS)
          One of the most affecting shows about twenty-somethings dating and dealing with relationships and growing up is reaching its breaking point.  I'm hoping that this is the second-to-last season and that we can start letting it wind down.  This week's reveal of Victoria was exciting because I really liked her with Ted, but I know she won't be the 'mom.'  Also, I am personally more interested in Marshall and Lily's journey at this point than Barney or Robin's, and I hope they work on leveling that out.
2 Broke Girls (8:30pm on CBS)
          The pilot had funnier jokes than I expected, so I will give this one at least a few more episodes to really win me over.  I didn't find Kat Dennings to be particularly funny, though her character is meant to be pretty just felt like she had taken a crash course in comedic timing and was acting a bit too robotically. 

Glee (8pm on Fox)
          Fox is annoyingly making us wait eight days before watching its content on hulu, so I haven't watched the season premiere yet.  Luckily, I remember how awful the show became last season, so I'm happy to wait.
New Girl (9pm on Fox)
          It's been a little while since I watched this pilot, which I found to be instantly grating.  However I love Deputy Leo from Veronica Mars, and I'd be betraying my fellow twee hipsters if I didn't love Death Cab for Cutie's first lady, so you know I'll keep watching.
Raising Hope (9:30pm on Fox)
          I'm also waiting until next week for this to go up on hulu, but I was charmed by this show's first season and look forward to having it back.
Sons of Anarchy (10pm on FX)
          Ugh I haven't seen any of this season's first three episodes!  I freaking love this show but they don't stream or put the episodes on demand so I'm at a standstill for now.
Awkward (11pm on MTV)
          One of my favorite new shows.  I was initially drawn to it because creator and showrunner Lauren Iungerich is an alumna of my college, but it's really wonderful.  It's a bit of a hybrid between My So-Called Life, Daria, and Juno, so I don't see why it wouldn't be awesome.  Also, the lady who plays the protagonist's mom used to date JC Chasez. #funfact

Up All Night (8pm on NBC)
          I didn't find the pilot to be that great, but the second episode was a bit funnier.  I think the actors have good chemistry, I'm just not convinced that the premise has anything to offer.  I'm sure you could say the same thing about NBC's Thursday night comedy block though, so prove me wrong, show!
Free Agents (8:30pm on NBC) 
          This show is going to get canceled really soon. Let's face it.  It's funny and charming though, and I love seeing Kathryn Hahn given some breathing room.  She's got a bit of the Judy Greer thing going - always the friend, never the star - and that's got to change soon.
Modern Family (9pm on ABC)
          Everyone loves this show and so do I, but I thought the Wyoming-set season premiere was chock full of offensive sexist and homophobic "jokes."  The show has tilted at this in the past but really let loose in the premiere.  Let's hope it's not a trend.  I am not as mad about new Lily as others are, but I do miss those babies!
Happy Endings (9:30pm on ABC, premieres 9/28)
          This show rules and I'm worried that mistreatment by the network will result in a premature cancellation.  I can't wait for it to come back!

Community (8pm on NBC)
          I am going to watch this tonight!  I'm not the biggest fangirl of this show, but it is always clever and very funny, so I'm glad it's back, especially since we'll have to wait a while on 30 Rock.
Parks and Recreation (8:30pm on NBC)
          The best show on NBC is back!  So far I feel like they'll allow us to miss the Ben and Leslie relationship without hating the change too much.  I hope so, because I love Adam Scott and his character.
Whitney (9:30pm on NBC)
          I haven't seen this one yet but it looks so awful.  Absolutely nothing about it appeals to me.
The Office (9pm on NBC)
          Last night's season premiere was so bad that during the cold open, I thought they were joking.  I've long felt that this show is a husk of its former self, so hard not to feel when one remembers how wonderful its brief predecessor was.  That said, I think there's been a steep drop-off in quality this season, not entirely thanks to Steve Carell's departure.  I just don't think the writers know what they're supposed to be doing at this point. 
Grey's Anatomy (9pm on ABC)
          My unhealthy relationship with this show continues.  I'll be catching up on this one tonight, but I mean, it'll be the same soap it's been.  No big deal.
Jersey Shore (10pm on MTV)
          I'll never stop watching; this show rules.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (10pm on FX)
          I'm a week behind but thought the season premiere was a little weak.  I think they could have played more with physical comedy, but whatever, it's still one of the most shockingly funny things out there, so I'm happy it's back.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sweet 25...

It's Back to School week over at A Bright Wall in a Dark Room!  Click over there to read my essay about Never Been Kissed...

School Week: Never Been Kissed (1999)


by Katherine Spada


I don't like to go too in-depth when reviewing movies released by my own studio, but I do want to just share a couple of thoughts on Moneyball which I saw last night.  We all know I love inspirational sports movies about sports that I don't like, and Moneyball isn't really an inspirational sports movie, but damn if it isn't about baseball.  Here's how little I know about baseball.  Freshman year of college I bought a cute green shirt at a thrift store that said "Athletics" and had a baseball on it.  I was rather emo at the time and had a penchant for ironic t-shirts from the boys' section of the Goodwill.  When people kept asking me if I was from Oakland, I couldn't understand why (I thought it was just like an elementary school's P.E. department shirt).  While Moneyball is largely about how statistics factor in to major league baseball, which I didn't quite follow, I still really enjoyed watching the movie.  Brad Pitt was excellent in it, the writing was very impressive, and I can't wait to see more and more of Chris Pratt.  I'll admit that a movie about baseball being over two hours long doesn't help you forget that baseball is super boring, but even what seemed like superfluous scenes were great.

Now onto something superficial: Philip Seymour Hoffman is four years younger than Brad Pitt but looks about twenty years older. I continue to love him more than Pitt, but man were their scenes together jarring.

Come learn from my vast wisdom!

Attention Los Angeles area readers: Tonight I will be speaking at an event in West L.A. called "Moving On Up! The Young Alum Panel on Getting Hired in Hollywood."  This is a 21+ event hosted by the Claremont Entertainment Mafia, an alumni resource for graduates of the Claremont Colleges working in the entertainment industry.  Claremont students who are 18+ are welcome, just let the CEM members at the door know you're a student.

So Claremont alumni, and interested friends, join me tonight at 7pm at The Joint for this panel and some mingling.

The Joint
8771 W. Pico Blvd. at Robertson

Event description:
A successful career in Hollywood is exciting and lucrative, but how exactly does one begin?

Claremont Entertainment Mafia has assembled a panel of three of our most promising young alums - future movers and shakers - to discuss their own experiences on getting hired and getting promoted in the industry.

Join us for an evening where we will share anecdotes, advice, and take your questions regarding all aspects of the Hollywood ...hiring and promotion process, as well as the day-to-day grind.

DEVIN RAPSON (PO '09) got his first taste of the industry as a PA on Scooby Doo 4, in addition to interning with Oscar-winning Pomona alum Jim Taylor. He ran the feature department as coordinator at Landscape Entertainment with Bob Cooper, and recently has been hired to the prestigious Paradigm Talent Agency.

KATHERINE SPADA (CMC '08) began her career as assistant to Universal EVP Peter Cramer. After traveling the world, she currently works at Columbia as assistant to EVP of production Elizabeth Cantillon, working on such projects as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the next film in the James Bond franchise.

JAVAN TAHERKHANI (CMC '08) moved up the cutthroat CAA ladder, from mailroom to floater to assistant, where he worked with powerhouse packaging agent Rob Kenneally. Now at Media Rights Capital, he works closely with the leadership of the television division to identify, develop, produce and sell premium content.

The panel will be moderated by Justin Huang, PO '09.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

This... Is... Sparta!

This weekend I went with a couple of my martial arts teammates to a late-night showing of Gavin O'Connor's sports drama Warrior.  I've long held that inspirational sports movies are the highest art of storytelling, even when they are about sports I don't like or care about (inspirational movies and TV shows about football probably offer the highest ratio of satisfaction to level of disinterest about the sport).  Given that I train six days a week in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and regularly head to my neighborhood bar for UFC matches, I was excited to finally have one of these movies about mixed martial arts, a sport I actually care about.  O'Connor directed the well-loved Miracle, about the U.S. Olympic hockey victory against the Soviet Union in 1980.  I found Miracle to be boring, but hoped that wouldn't be the case with Warrior.  Luckily, it wasn't.

In Pittsburgh, former trainer and recovering alcoholic Paddy Conlon (Nick Nolte) returns home from church to find his younger son Tommy (Tom Hardy), drunk and self-medicated, sitting on his front stoop.  It's been over a decade since escaping his abusive father, and Tommy's lost years remain a mystery he does not wish to discuss.  Whatever his sorrows are, it's off to the gym for former Marine and wrestling champ Tommy to work out his anger.  Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Paddy's older son, ex-UFC fighter Brendan (Joel Edgerton) is a family man, teaching high school physics and struggling to pay the bills after his daughter had suffered from a heart problem.  It's back to prize fighting for him, beating up hillbillies in parking lots to earn some extra cash, but he can't bring himself to tell his wife (Jennifer Morrison).

Both brothers are in need of money fast, so they independently find themselves training for Sparta, a single-elimination MMA competition with a five million dollar purse.  It isn't until the final third of the movie that the leads even have a scene together, and this is part of what I liked so much about it.  The audience is given just enough backstory about Tommy and Brendan's lives to know that they have been estranged since adolescence.  We aren't spoon fed erroneous details about what happened after one brother left and one stayed behind, nor asked to care, really.  What matters is the present, two brothers fighting for the money they need to start over, and approaching catharsis in the process.  After watching two separate stories unfold, one about Brendan and his wife, and one about Tommy and his father, when they finally collide, all of the pent-up emotion has been saved for the octagon.

The fight scenes were excellently choreographed and shot.  Edgerton and Hardy clearly got into shape by training with real fighters, and whenever they were in combat I winced at each round kick and submission as if I were watching a live match.  [RIP Tom Hardy's neck, you will be missed.]  This is not to say that the movie didn't have flaws, particularly with its performances.  For a large chunk of the movie, Edgerton just speaks in a full-on Australian accent, and Hardy's take on emoting seems to consist primarily of pouting while growling, but I don't actually think the role required much more from him on that count.  There are a few glaring logic problems, but they're worth overlooking.  However, the emotional payoff in the final scenes of the movie is, well, cheesy.  Even cheesier than I would usually expect or tolerate from a sports movie like this one, and I wasn't the only one in the theater laughing.

If you're a fan of martial arts, I assure you that Warrior leans more toward The Fighter than toward Never Back Down.  It's not all the way at The Fighter's end of the spectrum, but it's still a very good movie.  I'd definitely classify it as more of a family drama with sports than the reverse.  Now, if you're not interested in martial arts, I think it's still a movie worth watching, which I say as someone who was obsessed with Friday Night Lights but would find watching football to be like having teeth pulled.  But, for those made squeamish by fight sports, those scenes are definitely brutal.  Finally, and most importantly, the movie is full of juicehead gorillas with their shirts off, so if that tickles your fancy, you're good to go.

Don't Think About It

Over at A Bright Wall in a Dark Room, you can find a very personal essay I've contributed on the subject of Drake Doremus' Like Crazy.  Click through to visit the site; full text reposted below.


by Katherine Spada
I was twenty, and had just graduated from college a few months prior. My internship had yielded an unbelievable job offer that everyone told me was foolish to pass up. However, I’d already planned a gap year to travel, and that was not something I wanted to turn down. So off I went to Australia for six months, and that’s where I met him.

In Drake Doremus’ festival favorite Like Crazy, Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones meet cute as college students in Los Angeles, and struggle to figure out what they should do after graduation when it’s time for her to move back to England. Before she’s due to leave, they have a romantic mini-getaway until, foregoing reason, she decides to outstay her visa. This decision changes the course of their love and their lives for the coming years.

He was sitting across my tiny table, having cooked us a pumpkin and roasted garlic risotto. We drank wine, there was a candle lit, and the air was cool outside my high-rise apartment. We spoke of traveling, and how we viewed the world. I felt a catch in my throat and excused myself to the bathroom. You’re in trouble, I told my reflection. Weeks later he was using my laptop and I worried he’d see in my search history, “how to make long distance relationships work.”

Yelchin’s Jacob knows it’s a bad idea for Jones’ Anna to stay in Los Angeles the summer after graduating. Perhaps neither truly realizes how serious the blowback will be from her decision to stay through the summer. More likely, they both realize there could be consequences too scary to face, but given the option to continue wallowing in each other for just a few more months, they are powerless to turn it down.

Anna and Jacob make plans for him to visit her, but they have ongoing lives that can’t be put on hold in between visits. Jacob is a carpenter with a growing furniture business; early in their relationship he gives Anna a lovingly made desk chair where she can write comfortably, the film’s title etched into the wood. In England, Anna pursues a job writing for a publication where she’ll have to plug away for a few years before she gets to where she wants to be. Phone calls never occur quite at convenient times for either of them, and they’re incurably out of sync with each other’s schedules.

One of us waits at the airport with flowers in hand, dressed up and well-groomed, eagerly scanning the faces of each haggard traveler coming off a long international flight. The other spends over an hour deplaning, lugging bags through customs and immigration, and then hastily trying to wash off the stench of travel in an airport bathroom before coming through the arrivals gate. In the span of a couple of weeks (all the time we could manage to get off work), we’d pack in visits with friends and family, sightseeing, fancy white tablecloth dinners, romantic mini-getaways, and lots and lots of serious talks about the future. More tears spilled in airports and on airplanes, and in cars driving away from them, than seems physically possible.

Anna’s parents can see how happy Jacob makes their daughter and are very supportive of their relationship, in whatever way they choose to pursue it. Of course, the suggestion of marriage comes up very early. Just like staying through the summer instead of leaving right after graduation, getting married seems like a very good idea.

“So, are you planning on moving to Australia?” “What would he do if he moved here?” “Wouldn’t it be easier if you just got married?” I can’t, I’m too young. I don’t want to get married for convenience. What about money; how would we make it work?

Jacob and Anna carry on with their lives. It’s so hard to miss each other, but they try their best to share in each other’s personal triumphs. Promotions, settling in to the fun activities of hanging out with their cultivated groups of friends, generally growing up. They begin to move on to new relationships, but they stay in each other’s thoughts, Anna’s chair and bracelet (engraved fittingly with “Patience”) remaining tokens of Jacob’s love that she can’t leave behind.

I remember being bitterly jealous of couples I saw holding hands at farmer’s markets or watching TV shows together over delivered pizza. We are so much better than they are, why don’t we get to be together, but they do? Maybe marriage is the answer… There is always value in thinking reasonably and thoroughly about major decisions like that.

“Don’t think about it,” Anna tells Jacob when he voices concern about their future.

My long-distance relationship didn’t follow the same trajectory that Anna and Jacob’s did. The film peeks in on their lives, leaving them abruptly and ambiguously, but it’s easy for a romantic to infer that the struggles in the film paved the way for a happy future. I imagine that Like Crazy is to a long-distance relationship what Blue Valentine is to divorce - realistic to the point of being difficult to watch if you’ve lived through it. There are so many major threads that weave together a long-distance love: devotion, trust, emptiness, wist, heightened romanticism. Like Crazy captures all of these so well, but it especially reminded me of the willful ignorance of it all. The struggle to pretend that very real hurdles don’t exist because it’s just not fair for them to hold us back. The naive desire to believe that, should those hurdles be overcome, everything will carry on harmoniously.

I was twenty-three, riding in the passenger seat of his car on the way to the airport, heading back home after my last visit to Australia. I broke the silence with verbalized fantasies of all the things I couldn’t wait for us to do together when we were finally living together in the same city. At the airport I cried, as usual. Two years prior I’d made the same trip from Sydney, then only on the starting line of this long-distance marathon. That time, I’d sat against the window, embarrassed to be seen by flight attendants as I wept into the sleeve of my sweatshirt. Mercifully, a girl finally rushed down the aisle to be seated next to me. Her face was splotchy and she carried a bouquet of flowers as she left her Australian boyfriend behind to return home to South America. We cried together. I shared with her some of the Chupa Chups I’d packed for the flight. This time, I traveled alone.

Katherine Spada is a Hollywood assistant and sometimes writer. When she’s not working, she trains in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. When the mood strikes, she contributes to MediaBlvd Magazine, and blogs at Kat Ex Machina.