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June 01, 2012

Todd VanDerWerff on what makes the structure of Game of Thrones season 2 so special and unique

Interesting crunchy stuff here about the mechanics of structuring a tv season and how GoT does it differently than everyone else. In restructuring its foundation, Game Of Thrones built a bigger, better second season� | TV | For Our Consideration | The A.V. Club
Briefly, the traditional way to structure an episode of a serialized drama on television involves taking the season’s major goal (Walter White wants to set up a meth-dealing operation), then breaking it down into smaller, component parts (he needs to contact someone who can move his product). Each episode can then be about one of those parts, allowing for a traditional three-act structure with a beginning, middle, and end. When done perfectly, as on The Wire or Breaking Bad, this can feel so organic that viewers don’t even realize the longer story is actually a long series of interlocking smaller stories. There’s also the less-used method of telling a long series of short stories about individual characters that gradually cohere into a central mass by season’s end. Mad Men, The Sopranos, and Lost have all used this strategy, but it’s murderously difficult to pull off, so few shows even attempt it. By virtue of the sheer disparity of characters and locations, Game Of Thrones can’t do that. If it used the method of following only one central character per episode, something like two-thirds of the ensemble likely wouldn’t even appear, and the storyline itself is hard to break into smaller components, thanks to its wartime setting. (Witness how the show has struggled to find things to do with Clarke, often giving her small stories that begin and end within an episode, but feel inconsequential.) The show is essentially locked into its soap-operatic storytelling structure, and while it can use the war to organize that structure somewhat, it can’t use it to make it feel more cohesive or focused. Yet Game Of Thrones has solved the issue other HBO series with its structure have often struggled with. The second season’s episodes have each been organized by a single theme that runs throughout, whether that’s the role of women in a Middle Ages society, how magic appears to people who don’t have access to it, what earns followers’ fealty, or the miseries war visits upon those followers. These themes are all present in Martin’s series, but the TV series has cunningly lined them all up so each episode can almost seem like a debate, in which all the show’s characters express, via dialogue and action, all the sides of a particular issue in the show’s universe. The season’s third episode, “What Is Dead May Never Die,” was particularly masterful at this, dissecting what makes a good and just ruler, and what options are available to people under corrupt or evil men in a monarchy. Through teenage tyrant Joffrey, the show has spent much of the season asking whether anyone—even those related to him—can deal with such a cruel ruler other than having him removed, and it has skillfully woven several smaller themes throughout that larger one. (Anyone confused about what an episode’s theme is can just look to Tyrion. There will inevitably be a scene where he discusses it directly with another character, and Dinklage has played these scenes masterfully.)

May 31, 2012

What it means that all of Tarantino's films exist in the same shared universe

Click through for more. This is just lovely. TWENTY PERCENT COOLER
By now, most Quentin Tarantino fans are aware of the connections interlaced throughout all of his films. John Travolta’s Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction is the brother of Michael Madsen’s Vic Vega in Reservoir Dogs, Harvey Keitel’s Mr. White worked with Alabama from True Romance, the plot basis for Kill Bill is described as the synopsis for a TV series in Pulp Fiction, etc. Now the epiphany that Eli Roth’s character of Donny Donowitz aka “The Bear Jew” in Inglourious Basterds is the father of the movie producer Lee Donowitz in True Romance has inspired a truly mind-blowing theory that the rest of the films (chronologically speaking) in Tarantino’s filmography take place in a world where [Inglorious Basterds spoiler] World War II came to an end when Adolf Hitler was brutally murdered in a movie theater by the Basterds.

Branded is our generation's They Live

After Misha skyrockets to the top of the advertising business, a tragic mishap on the set of one of his productions torpedoes his career and he retreats into self-imposed exile. Ten years later, Misha returns to a radically changed world and finds himself plagued by visions of bizarre and terrifying creatures with the ability to influence people's thoughts, desires and actions. Creatures only he can see. He soon realizes the creatures are part of a clandestine campaign unleashed by a rival advertising agency to make fat the new fabulous and create a new era of uncontrolled consumer appetite. In order to save mankind, Misha uses his own considerable marketing skills to launch an ingenious plan to try to eradicate the plague. But the corporate legions will not go down without a fight.

May 24, 2012

Famous faces in their film debuts (part 3)

Always fun.