Pew Pew; Pew Pew Pew

6 10 2011

Star Wars, Star Wars; Cool Cool Cool

Okay, so that dude from The Wire is awesome. His character in Community, Professor Kane, is invested with all the candor of a Pierce Hawthorne, but none of the co-dependence. Decidedly out-of-group, Kane is instead detached observer. His status as an outsider vis-à-vis the human race reinforces the fierce exclusivity of the study group, while his status as a professor gives his observations authority. All of this, combined with the pratfall-free gravitas of the character as written, lends Kane’s dialogue a very reliable truth value. Legos “used to be simple”. People are “laughing at” Magnitude. The study group is the “mean clique”. Walks like a duck. Talks like a duck. And so on.

Hot & Brown  Coffee Shop Closet Squatter

On the Chang front, it was partly saxamaphone with scattered facial twitching and a chance of Larry Bird. That Head of Security guy resigned (strangely, his Chicago accent morphed into a Hispanic accent during his resignation speech), so Dean Pelton promoted Chang to Head of Security. But even more noteworthy was the pair’s rambling, internal monologue voice-overs, which were rendered unintelligible by their concurrence. This strategy of mutually-assured deconstruction is Community‘s best slam yet to the voice-over, which the show has always satirized as a tired and lazy device.


No One’s Cutting Away

29 09 2011

If Awesomeness Were Bountiful Zinc Deposits, Community Would Be Zambia

Britta has a backpack now. For a hot minute she was even feeling her see-through yellow pen—until an errant, cause-related flyer sent her into one of those episode-long fits of unfocused rebellion. And this one was a doozy. At first it just seemed like “regular side of the bed” Britta, as Troy put it. Britta’s character got a rant which, while not nearly as hilarious as her “civil liberties” speech from the bottle episode, did involve a four-letter word (Ikea), and did  include the line “maybe my path is a warpath that leads to the Terrordome”. But it wasn’t the rant that blew my mind. It was the unprecedented degree of physical comedy assigned to Britta’s character. At one point she was in a dog crate pouring red paint on a globe, and right before getting tased by Chang she stormed into the caf wearing a black bodysuit covered with mutilated Barbie dolls. For real, Britta was straight-up feral in this one. So cherry.

Mind the can, student.

There were other highlights. In an interesting variation, Pierce appropriated Leonard’s raspberries. The Model UN Battle Royale showcased Garrett and utilized a deliberately-ridiculous disembodied head storytelling device (think “dental plan”/”Lisa needs braces”/”Flintstones chewable morphine”). Oh, and yeah! You know how I love doubles? Well, tonight Community added Annie Kim (a.k.a. “Asian Annie”, a.k.a. “Annie Lite”) to their already lengthy list of character doubles. I was totally psyched. Annie Kim gets her comeuppance by the end of the episode, but here’s hoping she gets Springfielded into a subsequent storyline. I mean, she’s a guest star, not an extra, but they got Anthony Michael Hall to come back for the paintball redux, right?

Clockwise, from top left: see-through yellow pens; “Hello”, by Lionel Richie; Hadron Collider; the arm.

My favorite bit, though, was when they were all squeezed into a cafeteria booth like they always are, and Annie is freaking out about her evil twin, and she’s in one of those Adderallesque states, all agitated, all nervous energy, and she’s squeaking her straw up and down in her cup’s plastic lid while delivering a long section of dialogue, and all of a sudden you see Troy’s hand slowly and purposefully enter the frame, and Troy’s hand takes the cup, and just as purposefully leaves the frame, and Annie’s still going on, and then Troy’s hand re-enters the frame, and returns the cup sans lid, and I thought to myself “well that was one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever seen”.

Because it was.

This wrinkled my brain. 

Goodness Spacious

22 09 2011

Season Premiere of Community Proves Enlightful

Glee mockery has been a running theme, but I was still disconcerted when the promos for Season Three of Community strongly suggested a Greendale musical number. Imagine my relief, then, when this number turned out to be little more than an intro daydream—thereby leaving the show’s fiercely-protected fourth wall largely unmolested. This, by the way, was the first of the episode’s many misleads (my favorite was Dean Pelton’s goatee), which provided extra tension as the table was set for the study group’s junior year.

After a hilarious set-up and pay-off involving the study group’s bias-driven misinterpretations of Troy and Abed’s homosociality, the collective, it’s-the-beginning-of-a-new-semester resolve suggested by the musical fake-out and early dialogue quickly degenerates into a delicious laugh pie of snark, sight gags, and  melancholic authenticity well before the end of the first act. Also, Britta bought the wrong textbook.

Britta’s doing it wrong.

And then the fanboys did saith, “Let there be continuity,” and so the best bits of throwaway dialogue and ad lib from Seasons 1 and 2 did get tweaked and whole notha leveled. Jeff got to plug a line into the “shut up, Leonard” formula. Troy got to follow up—but not top—his description of Britta as “the AT&T of people” (itself an offshoot of the shared “you’re the worst” construct). Pierce got to rezone his soul at the Laser Lotus Celebrity Center. There were no novel manifestations of the Springfield effect among the faculty, staff or student body, but this was unsurprising given the need to introduce the recurring characters of the show’s prominent new guest stars.


The saturnalian anchor of the episode’s plot was the role reversal of Jeff and Pierce. Jeff’s narcissism cellphone gets him kicked out of his biology class on the first day which, by his own decree, makes him ineligible for participation in the study group. Pierce, who was on the waiting list for the class, also gets Jeff’s spot in the group. This, of course, makes Jeff go mental, which culminates in a monkey gas-induced 2001 homage. By episode’s end, Pierce has told the study group a convincing lie to restore the natural order. Jeff sees through this lie, and confronts Pierce about it; the shared secret, coupled with what small semblance of gratitude Jeff can muster, affords the two men one of those those touchingly brief windows of intimacy in which Pierce gets to be a father. Wrap the episode up by having one character mess with another character’s name (“Starface”), and Dan Harmon can tie yet another Community episode with a big bow of that-was-awesome.

So yeah. Naysayers take note. This shit is still going strong like Donkey Kong, and the integrity of the Greendale universe was maintained despite a few isolated incidents of envelope-pushing. Rubicon uncrossed.

Money, It’s Gotta Be the Hats

5 03 2011

Heavenly Host Depicted As A Limited Liminality Company

I just saw The Adjustment Bureau, which is categorized by people who market movies as a “romantic thriller” because it appeals to nerds but also has something for the imaginary girlfriends who love them. Matt Damon’s character is stuck in one particular place emotionally, and takes the same bus every day for three years in the hopes of encountering his own private one that got away. It’s also suggested (point blank, actually) that an intense, real-deal relationship can be enough to fulfill a human being—indeed, that such comprehensive intimacy may even be more fulfilling than any lucrative and fame-inducing career it might thwart.

Yeah, I did like it.

So the Adjusters are all dudes, which should give ancient poststructuralists, if there are any left, something to be dismissive about as they turn to dust. Slick-looking, fedora-wearing dudes. And let’s just go ahead and agree to agree that they’re angels. You don’t accidentally rename your mortal PKD protagonist “David”, which is about as Biblical as it gets (while remaining as banal as the original “Ed”). Plus the idea that angels have difference engines where their feelgooderies should be is just awesome.

Kneel before Stamp.

The award for Most Banging goes either to Harry (Anthony Mackie), a lowly Proctor in the hierarchy of the Adjustment Bureau who may or may not be a manifestation of the “magical negro” trope (I say it’s a stretch), or McCrady (Anthony Ruivivar), who’s higher up than Harry but less sleepy.

AB is also quite good on the technical front. The location shooting was seemingly very disciplined–the geography of Manhattan is depicted with remarkable accuracy. And you might justifiably expect an overabundance of bells and whistles in a PKD adaptation, but there’s not all that much CGI happening here. Refreshing. In the few places where it is used, you don’t even mind it, because it’s very muted and not at all gratuitous. Forgoing the exploding buildings and flying protoplasmic blobs, this movie relies instead on an aesthetic mess of notebooks, doors and hats—which effectively renders the weirdness compelling.