It’s been awhile since my wife, Palmer, and I debated and discussed “important issues of the day” on the blog. It’s allowed lots of tension and opinions to bubble up, lots of movies and television to be viewed, and lots of opportunity for us to bring you our latest edition of “He Said, She Said”! Check out our latest edition, where we discuss, debate, and review: Argo, fantasy football, Looper, the “Nashville” series premiere, and the latest seasons of Homeland, Modern Family, and Parenthood!
Palmer: I was a little bit apprehensive about going to see Argo having just survived another intense episode of Homeland last night (see below). But having bailed on Joseph for Looper (also see below), I felt obligated. I was actually pleasantly surprised. I appreciated that the movie took on a historical event that could have been epic in scope. However, it wisely chose to narrow its focus to a small story within a story. This allowed for us to appreciate the story and understand the detail of it, without being bogged down and left exhausted by the magnitude and severity of the entire Iran hostage situation. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a movie with Ben Affleck in it. Possibly Armageddon, but even that’s a stretch because I cried my way through that one back in the 6th grade. So I was excited to see him once again star in a great film. (Clarification: Not that I’m equating Armageddon to a great film!)
Joseph: Oscar movie season is upon us! It comes with the holiday season… thus making this the truly most wonderful time of the year. Hollywood is spreading out the Best Picture favorites this year, releasing them beginning in September. So far, we’ve had wide releases for The Master (I still need to see it and know has no desire to see it) and now Argo. I had high expectations for Argo based on critical acclaim, word of mouth from friends, and film festival buzz. I knew it was Ben Affleck’s latest film after two fairly successful directorial outings. I knew it was based on a true story about a film-within-a-film and a smaller piece of the Iran Hostage Crisis. But other than that, it was all new. Who knew it would also give us the blonde from the Scrubs spinoff, the cocky doctor from Mindy Kaling’s new show, Walter White, and Coach Eric Taylor too? Stellar supporting cast… but what makes this film a Best Picture nominee (and a contender because who doesn’t love a modern-day period piece about how patriotic Hollywood can be to stealthily save lives?!?) is the understated way the story is crafted, acted, and directed. As my wife astutely points out, this film is great because it phenomenally tells a sliver of the tale of that year-plus ordeal as the 1970s turned into the 1980s. Cold War implications. U.S. foreign policy gone wrong. A failed presidency. A crisis that many of my generation only learned about in high school, which made the eerie opening sequence of the fall of the American embassy seem like something from 100 years ago and something that we saw on television last week (because we’ve seen some attacks on American embassies in the last week.) What follows is a tale so crazy it could only happen in the movies… and in classified CIA missions. It’s a real-life spy story against all odds with strange bedfellows and leaving me thinking much more fondly of Canada. Go see this one. See it in theaters. Tell your friends and family about it. God Bless America and (I can’t believe I’m saying it), God Bless Ben Affleck!
Palmer: So this is my first season playing fantasy football and I am certain it will be my last. Joseph decided to rally our families this year to start the “Family of Freedom” League. He says he wanted all of us to join in on the fun that is fantasy football, but really I think he wanted me to join, in hopes that if I too became obsessed with the game it would excuse the hours he spends each week trading and rearranging his team. His plan has not worked. I must admit that the initial auction-style draft complete with familial trash talking and spiteful bids was exhilarating and amped me up for a great season. Although I had no idea who any of the players on my team were or who they played for, my pre-season team was praised by many within the league as one of the strongest, and I prepared myself for total domination. This has all proved to be nothing more than a “fantasy”
(I just love a good pun ). After 6 weeks I find myself near the bottom of the league, having already attempted to quit the league three or four times, much to the chagrin of my husband. I appreciate that for avid NFL fans this whole fantasy thing may make Sunday afternoons more engaging. However, for those of us who have grown up rooting for one team and/or who find the idea of the NFL RedZone Channel overwhelming and unsatisfying- Fantasy Football is not all its cracked up to be. I prefer to play games where my own skill is tested, not one 50% dependent on the success or failures of others and 50% on pure luck. Nice try though, Joseph. (Disclaimer: Should by some miracle I should make a world-record comeback to win the Family of Freedom league, this post is no longer applicable)
Joseph: I too was once a Fantasy Football cynic. Before I did as much research, had as much time to watch NFL games (even if it was while grading papers or lesson planning), won a couple Fantasy championships, and competed in more serious Fantasy leagues, I got hooked. Now, I’m all-in. Look, I’ve long argued against many of my friends that Fantasy Football is much more luck than we like to think it is. I think it’s even more dependent on luck than no-limit Texas Hold’em poker. BUT, the skills involved make NFL viewing more exciting, provide an easy way to follow along with the statistics and standings of America’s most popular sport, and provide an easy way for those of us becoming adults to be uber-competitive from our offices and classrooms with our friends and family. I’m still rooting for my wife’s team each week so it’ll similarly hook her. I think it’s a game my wife could like. Her team is one of the best… but she’s had some bad luck so far this season. But, like the NFL in general, parity is the name of the game this season. She still has a chance, as does my struggling team. Who knows what could happen? That’s why it’s so much fun.
Palmer: Honestly, babe. I stopped paying attention once you mentioned “more serious Fantasy leagues”….
Homeland Season 2 (Episodes 1 through 3)
Palmer: So far, this season is even better than the first. It is incredible how the writers and actors have continued to fill each frame with the same tension and suspense as last year. Even in the most mundane of scenes they manage to keep us on the edge of our seats. If I manage to get through the season without stroking out, it will be a minor miracle. I spend half of each episode humming to myself and watching the screen through my fingers as I am expecting Brody or a terrorist to jump out and blow something up at any minute. Even if you are not an action/political/terrorist thriller kind of a person (as I am definitely not), I highly recommend watching Homeland immediately.
Joseph: After the second episode this season, I’m ready to say it. I say it in response to the TV elitists out there and to the TV elitist part of myself… Homeland is the best show on TV right now. Perhaps it is unfair (it is) to pit the second season of a political thriller against the 5th seasons of Mad Men and Breaking Bad, which are towards the end of their runs and not as much of a roller coaster-ride thriller. But it has never been done as well as it is on Homeland. We’re 15 episodes into the series, and it has been consistently strong throughout all 15 episodes, with many of them being in my Top 10 Favorite TV episodes of the last two years. Yes, the writing is brilliant. The filming is engrossing. The pacing is heart-stopping. But what separates Homeland from other serial television is the combination of the 24-esque roller coaster ride with the top-tier of television-caliber characters. On 24, Jack Bauer was a complex character, but everyone else for the most part was a caricature. On Homeland, Claire Danes is queen, acting on a level that should be able to rival Bryan Cranston’s Emmys winning percentage. But Mandy Patankin, Morena Baccarin, and especially Damien Lewis also put in such solidly consistent performances that viewing this show weekly is like a helluva cardiovascular workout.
Palmer: This season is slightly (and I mean slightly) less annoying than last season. Phil, Gloria, and Cam save the show. Phil’s Book of Phil-osophys last week made the entire season worth it for me so far. (“You only get one chance to make a good impression. I suggest Julia Childs because she is easy to do”)
Claire and Mitchell remain as annoying as always. Unless the show makes a drastic improvement, I still plan to only watch the new episodes when I have exhausted all my other options on our DVR.
Joseph: I was skeptical about Modern Family this season because, like my wife, I thought last season was more often stale than it was fresh. However, I’m going to have to disagree with my wife about the first three episodes of this season. I’ve enjoyed them a lot. I think the show has gone back to what worked so often during the splendid first season. Claire isn’t as harsh. Mitchell hasn’t gotten as much screen time and hasn’t been as much of a one-dimensional OCD gay man. Phil, Gloria, Cam, and Ed O’Neill’s patriarch are still the highlights of the show by far. But the storylines written so far this season are much fresher, the jokes are much less cliché, and the balance between jokes and heartfelt has struck more of a Season 1 balance thus far, as opposed to the occasional heavy-handedness of last season.
Palmer: I am not a fan of time-traveling movies. I prefer things that are either purely fantasy or purely reality. I have not yet bought into the allure of the whole bending of the space-time continuum thing. I do, however, appreciate the sheer joy the idea of time travel brings to my husband. Thus, I pawned him off to the nearest taker to see Looper, and I reaped the benefits of him coming home in a good mood. (Joseph’s Quote upon coming home from Looper: “Dear Wife, I have just seen an extraordinary film”- confirming my belief that my husband is actually a time-traveler himself straight out of a 1950’s Jimmy Stewart Movie)
Joseph: One day, my wife will stay awake during Back to the Future or Looper… and she’ll realize these movies are actually amazing. Until that day comes, I will show by my inner joy and my obsession that these movies are really good. I finally saw Looper last week. And despite it being one of the 2012 films I’ve been most looking forward to for months, it surpassed my expectations. Without providing any spoilers (I may be writing a Post-Viewing Guide to Looper blog post soon), I’ll say I loved it because: the time-travel element was done in a unique way with a unique position to drive the characters and story instead of the all-too-often time travel concept dominating and characters being an afterthought; how little was known about vital parts of the plot and vital characters before viewing it (it’s so rare in Hollywood these days to be surprised in this way… and it was wonderfully done here); how, despite the bloody parts and general suspense, the film was much less action-oriented and much less concerned with beating us over the heads with “Look at our futuristic world we’ve built!”; and how the film struck the wonderful balance with leaving questions left to be debated while also providing a clear-cut conclusion to both the characters and our story.
Joseph: I have a confession. For the longest time, I refused to watch Parenthood. While my wife (who was my girlfriend at the time) watched Season 1 and told me she cried at least once per episode, I laughed at how easily it emotionally manipulated her. Sure, the cast was awesome. Veronica Mars’ real-life boyfriend who used to be on Punk’d was on it. Coach was on it. Peter Krause from Six Feet Under and Sports Night was on it. Lauren Graham who has always been lovely was on it. The crazy girl from Swimfan. The list went on and on… the cast was intriguing. The premise seemed nice. Critics seemed to love it. AND JASON KATIMS, showrunner and head writer from Friday Night Lights, was in charge of the show. It had a lot of things in it that I might like. But I refused to watch. It was a “girly” version of Friday Night Lights. A show my wife and mother loved. Not for me. Then, that thing that happens sometimes to married men happened. You’re now living with a woman, sharing a DVR with her. You find yourself in the same room when they watch some of their shows. You find yourself asking questions about the characters. You find yourself looking up from your work or computer screen for large parts of the episode. In this case, I found a lot of familiarity on this show with what I loved about Friday Night Lights. The scenes had a gritty realism. Life was portrayed in a way that was very familiar to me. The show made you feel good, but you never felt at any point it was cheesy or conventional. The show had real characters and the families had real problems, just like ones I’d dealt with and with emotions much like the ones I’ve felt. I laughed. I had moisture in the tear ducts. It’s now one of the shows I look forward to most often. Like Friday Night Lights, it is beloved by critics and has a cult following, but hasn’t yet reached popular status. But I will say this to all you FNL Lovers out there… try out Parenthood and give it a chance. It’s streaming on Netflix. And, if you give it a few episodes, you might just find yourself hooked.
Palmer: Told you so. I picked up a box of Kleenex just for you at Target today. Yup.
ABC’s Nashville (Pilot episode)
Joseph: First things first for those dear readers not in Nashville… those of us who are Nashvillians feel it’s our duty as a citizen of this wonderful city to watch this show, talk about this show, and tell those of you not in Nashville about this show. So here’s my brief review of the pilot.
1) LOVE: Connie Britton (always have, always will), Powers Boothe (he plays the same character in everything he is in and he gets better at every show he’s in), and how the city and culture of Nashville is being portrayed (they’ve captured the mood, the feel, and the look. It helps that they’ve filmed most in Nashville and have taken pain-staking efforts to exactly replicate other parts.)
2) Needs some work: Hayden Panettiere and several of the other actors who seem to be a little too far on the daytime soap side of the spectrum and need to graduate to primetime soap level. They might be able to do it. I’m not hopeful. But with Connie Britton, miracles can happen.
3) Overall, I think it’s going to be a really fun show to watch every week for any viewer. For those of us in Nashville, we’ll get a lot of bonuses, both economically and in viewing payoffs.
4) My biggest hope: The series finale of Nashville ends with Rayna James blacking out, the screen going black, a light turning on, and Connie Britton waking up in bed with Coach Eric Taylor, saying, “Honey… I just had the weirdest dream. I was a Nashville music star.” Then Coach Taylor grunts, says, “Uh huh, darlin. Love you. Let’s go back to sleep.” And we all live happily ever after. Just like another great TV finale.
Palmer: I’m really excited about Nashville, and not just because it showcases our fun city. But also because I thought the storyline and characters were actually compelling. I’m excited to see the behind-the-scenes look at Music City play out on the small screen. My only concern is pitting Connie Britton against Hayden Panettiere feels a bit uneven. Connie Britton is a legitimate dramatic actress, whereas Hayden Panettiere gives off more of a campy feel more akin to Desperate Housewives than a Parenthood or Friday Night Lights. At times in the pilot, it seemed the camera styles used for each actress were even different. The ones with Connie Britton seemed grittier and more realistic. The ones with Hayden seemed more contrived. However, if Hayden can make her character more lovable and less annoying, perhaps the show has the potential to truly get to the next level. Regardless, if nothing else, I know we’re going to get some great music out of the show. The final song of the pilot sung at Bluebird Cafe was stellar.