dragojustine: (Metaillicar)
The Guardian's books section has an absolutely wonderful little article on characterization. I don't agree with it all, of course, or even most of it, and it heavily privileges "great literature." But I am moved by the slightly floundering attempt of one man to ask "what makes a fictional character?" and to identify what exactly fascinates him about certain characters.

So I guess I may be moving to Texas? )

So, all in all, that's very exciting.

I finally got my hands on that 2005 canceled TV show, Eyes. )
dragojustine: (Rome)
Rome, TV

First season, covering the Death of Julia to the Ides of March. I have my objections, of course- how could I not? This is near and dear material that has never been done EXACTLY right- but this is pretty much the best screen version (Coleen McCullough being the best text one). My objections- the bizarre casting of Caesar- it's near-Brian-Blessed level miscasting (remember I, Caesar?). Some of the female characters from the period are combined. Mostly, though, some terribly interesting characters get the shaft- Cicero, Cato, the boni in general are far more interesting than seen here. The show could drastically benefit from taking three seasons to get where it goes, reducing the time-compression.

All that said, though- how do I love thee? Let me count the ways!

Atia- fantastic character. The sheer level of her manipulativeness, the sheer impudence of it, the way she seems so utterly convinced of her own innocence, and, in the end- her sheer ineptitude (and she is NOT a Livia clone. She's far too idiotic for that!). She steals every scene.

The actor cast as Octavian- at 15, a better actor than many I've seen. Chillingly cold and quite believable as Octavian. Looks perfect for it too.

Brutus- a desperately complex character, wrestling with loyalty and ideology, shame and manipulation and trust and... could have been so shallow, isn't.

The treatment of religion- ever present yet unremarkable, drastically different yet never ridiculous in the slightest, deeply and genuinely felt- best treatment of pre-Christian religion on TV, you know, ever.

The sets- the feel of the city itself, the graffiti and lived-in-ness.

But let's stop beating around the bush, shall we? We all know the real point- Titus and Lucius. The central conceit of the show is the "small men" entangled in these great affairs, the period through the eyes of ordinary soldiers, yadda yadda. It could have been so bad, and instead is so good, mainly because they avoid the one central historical fiction flaw. These are not 20th century men in Roman bodies. They are Romans, through and through- in their religious beliefs, political leanings, ideas about slavery, women, government- that's what allows it to work. After that, of course, they become both massively sexy and incredibly complex, believable, sympathetic characters. I could go on at great length about the huge writing and acting successes with both of these characters.
dragojustine: (Victory is mine)
Sports Night (whole series) TV

Sorkin definitely does some very specific things well. The inevitable pair of Heterosexual Life Partners- check. That vaguely gay pair having really improbable female issues- check. Daddy issues- check. A fast paced workplace full of brilliant and passionate people- check. These workplaces becoming pseudo-families (much like Whedon in his obsession with found family)- check. Unbelievably cute straight couple- check. Hilarious, viscous fights- check. A staff's fanatical devotion to a grand-father figure leader- check (oddly enough, this is the one Studio 60 is missing so far. Other than that, they've all applied to all three).

All these things he does well. There is a definite feel- much repetition, talking too fast, humor coming from repetition, humor from people saying exactly what they mean, humor from bizarre side-moments that are carried on for exactly three-double takes and come up in improbable places in the dialogue. The pede-conferencing and continuous sets add to that whole same feel. It's a funny and sweet and comfortable feel overall, and I enjoy living there awhile. Sports Night is sitcom, not drama, and so it's even rather more comfortable, less stressful, and greatly helps to reduce Sorkin's tendencies toward preachiness.

The characters are wonderful. Isaac works beautifully as crotchety-sweet grandfather figure and subject of everlasting devotion. Dana walks that line he loves between blazing competence on one side and terrified, stunted personal relationships on the other (Hi CJ!). The giddy schoolgirl-ishness is appealing and strangely vulnerable. Natalie, with her determination to be seen as professional, to make a career for herself, is touching. Neither Dan nor Casey are as well drawn as his later Heterosexual Life Partners (Dan's daddy issues seem quite contrived until the first time we actually meet dad, and they always seem a bit tacked on, and Casey is just enigmatic to me) but the buddy dynamic and wisecracking is comfortable.

But Jeremy- really, Jeremy is the heart and soul of this show- it's not supported in the text, but I desperately want to read the whole two seasons as a narrative of his personal growth or lack thereof. He is heartbreaking, the way every character is when you see too much of yourself in them. He is brilliant and passionate and utterly used to living his whole life in a bubble, to watching the adopted family of his co-workers without it ever occurring to him that he might somehow be one of them. He has crawled back in that shell, learned to mock and deride and avoid "not my types" to avoid the inevitable feeling of being an outsider. His dawning realization that he has finally found a place, a family, a home, is beautiful to watch. And in the end, we see Natalie call him on the way he pushes away anyone who might possibly be different from him- calls him on an unattractive self-defense mechanism- and we see him really re-evaluate himself, in the heartbreak and despair of being shunted to outcast status again after tasting the joy of a group only so briefly, see him take a good hard look at how he has shut himself away in a little safe corner and look at the possibility that he may be able to do more, be more.... and then it ends, and we never know if he can pull himself out of the terrible place Natalie left him and grow, change, learn... or not.

It's terrifying and heartbreaking and I am convinced that Jeremy, with his brilliance and wit and passion and self-defensive introversion, is the soul of that show.

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November 2014

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