We here at Hollywood Prospectus will be weighing in on the wondrously gallant pageantry that was Sunday night's Golden Globes — The dresses! The speeches! The prop teeth! The fake drunkenness! The real drunkenness! — a bit more in depth later in the day. But for now, we're just gonna kick it American style, and only focus on the winners.
And so everyone bow down before Argo, whose depiction of Hollywood as a powerful tool for world-changing, life-saving good was somehow, some way, embraced by a bunch of people in Hollywood; Homeland, which went back-to-back on a sweep of the major TV drama categories despite, ah, you know maybe not being as good this season; Girls, whose wins thoroughly justified Lena Dunham's decision to stop at that Kinko's before the show; Les Misérables, whose big night continued to make a nation of people feel very strongly about Anne Hathaway, one way or the other; and Chad Lowe, who made the wise decision not to use his sudden Twitter fame as an excuse for perpetrating child negligence.
It seems only fitting that as the first year of the Hollywood Prospectus podcast comes to a close, Chris Ryan and I would spend some time discussing our first (and maybe best?) topic: television. For this look back at what was big on the small screen in 2012, Chris and I were happy to welcome our old pal Chuck Klosterman into the studio. Together we discussed the best shows of the year (Mad Men? Game of Thrones?) and the most memorable moments (the great Albuquerque train robbery? Rando Girls dancing to Robyn?). With Chuck around, it was also time to tackle the tough questions, including: Is it possible to think of TV characters like friends? Have debates about plausibility ruined the fun of channel-surfing forever? And is it humanly possible for us to have more to say about Homeland? Skip karate practice if you have to, Chris Brody. This is one worth listening to.
Homeland showrunner Alex Gansa responds to criticism about the show's second season, including the pacemaker, the BlackBerry with Skype, and how Brody ended up in the Vice-President's quarters without being noticed.
We think we have already established, at least beyond the Internet-accepted standard of "a supercut-supported reasonable doubt," that Claire Danes is the finest crier of her generation. But does bestowing such a specific and limiting title give short shrift to her entire body of incredibly expressive face-acting work? Last night's Homeland finale was a master class in owning every close-up by conveying complex emotions with dancing eyes, a quivering brow, and yes, the full chin-to-hairline "cryface" that we all know and love. And so we've collected the six best face-moments from last night; the harrowing facial journey Carrie Mathison traveled is one worth reliving, especially when you consider that her romantic screen partner's own repertoire is limited to the pursing and unpursing of a tiny, tiny mouth. Enjoy. We have a long and miserable wait ahead of us for Season 3.
"The agency is a funny place, very insular. It's like middle-schoolers with clearances."
— A former CIA official, as quoted in the Washington Post, 12/10/12
"What is all this squishy bullshit?!?"
— A formerly living CIA official, as quoted last night on Homeland.
Other than Storage Wars, no current television program has received as much scrutiny for blurring the lines between reality and fiction as Homeland. In its schizoid second season, the reigning Best Drama Series — according to a plurality of Emmy voters and U.S. presidents, at least — has walked a wobbly tightrope in its attempts to balance plausibility and imagination, head and heart. After a breathless return that saw the show binging on plot like Carrie Mathison left alone with a box of Chardonnay, recent episodes have ranged far from the reservation, alienating wavering viewers with an abundance of action and a sudsy indulgence in doomy romanticism. But "The Choice" — last night's deeply satisfying, deeply moving season finale — was a reminder that this fundamental imbalance is Homeland’s greatest achievement.
My favorite thing about my visit to the Homeland writers' office this past week wasn't the character headshots high up on the wall or the tantalizing teases for Season 3 written in dry-erase marker. It was the basket of candy sent by actor Hrach Titizian (Galvez) thanking the staff for keeping him alive — for now.
The events of Sunday's penultimate episode of Homeland (1:45) were too nuts to leave unexamined, so Chris Ryan and I hopped on our Skyping BlackBerrys early to discuss it. Yes, we addressed the myriad ways the show has gone loco and how it seems like there are only two possible outcomes for this weekend's finale, one good and one definitely less so. But mostly we wanted to talk about how society — and the online gaming community of "Kuma Wars" — just won't let Chris Brody live! After we tired ourselves out talking conspiracy theories and spilled milk, we moved to the cineplex, where we had a spirited congressional debate about Lincoln (24:45). We both loved Daniel Day-Lewis, but it seems like I was more Copperhead than Radical Republican.
Jessica Brody has just spent nearly a week trapped in a luxurious CIA penthouse making do with semi-decent wine, making time with her extramarital action figure, seeing her daughter freak out over spilled milk, and watching her husband choke back tears over the death of the man who tortured him for close to a decade. Rather than pique her curiosity, all of this has, in fact, shut it down entirely. "For the longest time, all I wanted was for you to tell me the truth," she tells Brody in the parked car that is their relationship. "I don't have to know anymore. I just don't want to."
It seems both convenient and counterproductive for Jess to take comfort in ignorance, especially to those of us impatiently waiting for next week's finale and its promise of either redemption or ruin for a sophomore season that's flirting with the edge. But if the episode briefly known as "The Motherfucker With a Turban" was about anything — and, let's be clear, at times it was hard to tell if it was — it was about Homeland’s particularly cynical view of truth: that, contra the black and white dogma of the Nazirs and Waldens of the world (RIP x2!) truth is entirely subjective, just another weapon to be used and abused, depending on who's doing the asking. Saul fights off the polygraph for the second time in a year — not because he's a mole, but because he knows the score: No matter his noble intentions, anything he says can and will be used against him by an even more dangerous motherfucker, this one in a slick suit. "The test is a goddamn farce," he barks. Sometimes it's better to keep the answers to yourself or, like Jess, just not know anything at all.
We're headed toward the holidays on the Hollywood Prospectus podcast, putting us in a reflective mood. After reminiscing about the good times we haven't shared over the past few days, seeing sneak screenings of amazing movies, running into Skyler White by a parking machine, and taking in Brad Pitt's (doomed) latest with a bunch of tweakers, Chris and I jumped into the great Homeland (12:45) debate of early December like an innocent pedestrian leaping into the path of Finn Walden's car. This week's episode was unquestionably problematic, but does that mean the show is no longer worth watching? And what to make of some of the crackpot theories floating around the Internet that might explain some of Carrie and Brody's recent, catastrophic decisions? At least we'll always have The Walking Dead (37:45) to ground us with the reliable stability of a sword through the back of the head. (What's that you say? It's gone till February? I guess we'll just have to stare at our collection of floating zombie skulls for the next three months.)
A month or so back I paid a visit to the Homeland set in Charlotte, North Carolina. I'll be writing more about my time there later this week, but I thought it was worth mentioning now since the scenes I watched being filmed all aired last night. Due to the choppy nature of TV shooting schedules, I had no idea just where the puzzle pieces I observed fit — I watched Claire Danes talk on her cell phone and get in her pre-crashed car over and over again for about an hour, leading me to assume the dramatic kidnapping was the episode's cliffhanger, not the inciting incident. I spent time with a mopey Dana and Finn on the roof and a frantic Saul and Virgil on the street, yet had absolutely no sense of what the hour was about or where it was heading.
The hometown nostalgia survived longer than the turkey hangover on the Hollywood Prospectus podcast. To kick off the holiday movie season, Chris Ryan and I invited fellow Philadelphian (and Grantland's resident Cinemetrician) Zach Baron to talk about one of the best films of the year, Silver Linings Playbook (2:50). We three former Friends School League rivals dug deep into why SLP is a sports movie for non-sports fans, why its optimism matters (particularly for Eagles supporters), and why we loved it for reasons beyond its inclusion of the Llanerch Diner (try the snapper soup!) and Jennifer Lawrence in spandex. Lest the gushing cause the Schuykill River to flood, we also talked a bit about the rest of the big releases coming in December, including Killing Them Softly, The Hobbit, Zero Dark Thirty, and the inevitable juggernaut that is Les Misérables.
Right up there with buzzkill spouses and eager-to-cuckold best friends, the overstuffed tack board has become one of the premier television clichés of our time. From the steady nobility of Lester Freamon to the neon inanity of Beauty & the Beast, committed characters on all ends of the dial use pushpins, twine, and intuition to puzzle out their show's greatest mysteries. (Just last week on Twitter The New Yorker's Emily Nussbaum suggested a show wholly devoted to the Pinterests of just such a manic protagonist.) The reigning queen of both mania and office supplies is Carrie Mathison, whose color-coded meltdown last season made for great television and a spike in Magic Marker sales.
There's a tack board in the CIA's special off-site surveillance dungeon this year, too. It's a staid and forlorn affair, unencumbered by bipolar rainbows or much of anything, really. For awhile there were photos of the immigrant cab drivers and car-wash attendants unlucky enough to cross Brody's path, but they were taken down soon enough. As we head into the final quarter of Homeland's rollicking second season, I'd wager the only things remaining on the board are photos of Abu Nazir, Roya Hamad, and perhaps one of Carrie's "Buy 9, Get 3 Free" coupons from the local Wine Depot.
This week on the Hollywood Prospectus Podcast, we're going east, young men and women. Andy and I, both having seen Silver Linings Playbook (don't worry, we don't talk about it) (but go see it!) have some brotherly love pumping in our hearts (3:30). The film is set in Philadelphia, in the weeks between Halloween and Christmas, and Andy I were nostalgic for our Thanksgiving breaks back in our hometown. So we decided to make a Spotify playlist celebrating the mid-'00s hip-hop that soundtracked so many of those trips home. We talked a little about why this was such a special time for rap music, salute the glory that is hip-hop one-hit wonders, and talk a little about the Philly premier of the dystopian Brad Pitt flick Twelve Monkeys. Nostalgia is in the house.
We get back to regularly scheduled programming with a whip-around through Sunday-night TV. I am kind of out on Homeland (19:35), and when it comes to The Walking Dead (29:45), Andy is wandering around in the forest covered in zombie entrails.