This is harrowingly truthful.
I’ll be honest: I gave up on Dexter last season. I was one of those fans who desperately hoped that the teased “I did it. It was me.” line from the opening episode of Season 5 would herald the Beginning of the End of Dexter (and therefore Dexter as well.) And while Season 5 turned out to be not-entirely-awful (hi, Julia Stiles!), it exposed the flaws that would only become magnified by the truly miserable Season 6: a mishandled Big Bad and meandering, pointless storylines for most of the Miami Metro PD. Coupled with an icky (though not entirely unwarranted or uninteresting) detour into half-sibling attraction in the final episodes, Dexter’s sixth season was a mess with one hell of a final moment: Deb walks in on Dex plunging the knife into Travis Marshall, draws in a sharp breath, and alerts Dex to her presence.
Between that moment and the truly stupid in media res opening sequence of this episode (which I’ll address in a bit), viewers learned that Dexter has two seasons in which to wrap up the titular anti-hero’s story. And while that’s still one too many for my liking, this episode’s storytelling and pacing was just ballsy enough to get me back on the bandwagon for a while. I was afraid that Deb was going to buy Dexter’s obvious lies in the church, but thankfully, Deb was the Deb we’ve always known and let her tenacious mind attack Dexter’s logic and her memories of the previous time she dealt with the possibility that her brother was a murderer. Oh yeah, that time she was almost murdered by the Ice Truck Killer. Same plastic wrap, same methods. And we got a doozy of a final scene, in which Deb breaks into Dex’s apartment, lays out all the evidence, and asks Dexter if he’s a serial killer. When he said yes, I may have shouted YES along with him. Because that moment has been a long time coming.
But the rest of the episode proves why the show doesn’t know how to do anything besides its central sibling relationship well. I still don’t understand why the show attempted to do an in media res opening, because it worked about as well as trying to convince us that Edward James Olmos was real did last season. Worse, it completely abandoned logic just to allow us to see Dexter kill, and to conveniently give Deb a way to figure out Dex’s M.O. A kill in an airport? Really? (And a bludgeoning with a fire extinguisher, no less.) While Dex evidently makes a clean getaway (we know because we aren’t shown security cameras or slow-mo shots of evidence left behind), the only person allowed to discover evidence against Dex is LaGuerta (UGH), who magically finds Dex’s abandoned Travis Marshall blood slide beneath a grate in the church. This is where the show really loses me; I know it has never been particularly based in reality, but in the early seasons there was usually either a karmic balance or some semblance of internal logic about Dexter’s kills. As the kills have become more garish and brazen in recent seasons, that logic has kinda been abandoned, and the show is much worse for it.
There are subplots introduced in this episode that I am not at all sure of, including a Ukrainian prostitution ring and some bullshit about Quinn and Batista’s partnership woes. And yet another subplot has yet to be introduced, as Yvonne Strahovski (from Chuck, may it rest in peace) makes an appearance in the trailer for the rest of the season and appears to romance Dex with flowers. (All together now: UGH.) If the show had proven itself capable of weaving together multiple storylines in the last two seasons, I would be willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. But it hasn’t, so the only thing I’m interested in is Deb and Dex’s relationship.
Fortunately, storytelling in that arena is still interesting, so I’ll be watching for that, if nothing else.
New on ABC this fall from Shawn Ryan (The Shield, Chicago Code), Last Resort is easily the class of the new fall pilots that have been released early online. Yes, the premise is pretty much insane, but I think the show grounds it by involving us with the lives of characters from every part of the story, and surprising us in just enough places to make it worth sticking with.
It’s a helluva lot more confident and all-around better than Revolution over at NBC.
This is every day of my life.
In no particular order (except where there is a particular order), here are things I spent time doing on the internet today. Please keep in mind that it was boiling hot here in Boston again today, and my room was again a sauna, so this activity might be the result of a fever dream. That’s my story, anyway, and I’m sticking to it.
Onward with this sad story:
- Found out there’s a new Fire Emblem game scheduled to be released Q1 2013.
- Obsessively Googled Fire Emblem Awakening to figure out if I’m still obsessed with this series of games. Turns out I am totally obsessed and may need to kidnap the DS over Christmas break and purchase this game and waste All The Time playing it.
- Googled “play fire emblem online”. Lo and behold, NES Fire Emblem, in all its poorly translated glory, is playable online—in very laggy form.
- Went to YouTube to find video evidence of Fire Emblem Awakening, stumbled upon make-your-own-sprite tutorials.
- Fell down a rabbit hole of Fire Emblem hacks and mods. A couple hours later, shut my laptop in awe of the cyborg fanfiction-ness of it all.
- Open my laptop again. Check tumblr. A friend reblogged thatsmoderatelyraven, which is an amusing name. I click.
- I’m not sure how many hours I lost down a rabbit hole of Tumblrs with ironically re-imagined names, but it was a serious amount of time.
- Decide to watch RuPaul interviews. Ru’s spiritual views might strike me as slightly crazy, but he has the most fabulous perspective on life and identity.
- Somehow find myself watching Hedda Lettuce providing metacommentary on the RPDR S4 finale. Which, while warranted, is sort of mean-spirited mostly.
- This reminds me that Hedda Lettuce was one of the drag queens who were on that one episode of Project Runway where they made clothes for drag queens. So naturally, I tried to find that episode on YouTube, but I only found the first five minutes.
- YOU GUYS, SHARON NEEDLES WAS IN THAT EPISODE. LOOKING…I don’t know. I don’t want to say, because I love Sharon so much. But…just watch.
- Tumblr Storyboard has been doing a feature on One Direction. Naturally, I read every piece of it.
- There is a link to all the Tumblr posts marked “one direction fan fiction” embedded in one of the stories. Obviously I clicked it.
- I’m uncomfortable with the amount of “Larry” (Louis x Harry) fics included, and generally how often Harry is the subject of 1D x OC fics. I thought we all agreed that Zayn and Louis (anyone want to nominate Niall?) were competing for most attractive 1D member? Does this make me a Directionator instead of a Directioner? How epic a #firstworldproblem is this, anyway?
- Link friends (and, inadvertently, my tween cousin—damn you, Twitter!) to 1D fanfic archive, because misery loves company.
- Break for dinner and ice cream (Happy National Ice Cream Day, y’all!) from Picco in the South End. Malt Chip is fantastic, but not as mind-blowingly amazing as Ginger, Cinnamon, or the Dark Chocolate sorbet.
- Lana Del Rey Dancing came back into my life. Lana Del Rey dancing with Jaquen H’gar! Giggle fit ensued.
- Decided to play “American Idol Alumni Retrospective” and YouTube Jordin Sparks. I don’t make it any further in the retrospective, because Jordin is great and the injustice of her lack of massive stardom is hurtful. “Battlefield” is great!
- Watch Eva Simons’ new video. Meh.
- Listen to new Wynter Gordon single.
- Download Wynter Gordon’s ‘Doleo’ EP immediately.
- Listen to Wynter Gordon’s ‘Doleo’ EP in awe of its awesomeness. “Bad Thing” slays me.
- Navigate to the delightful Tumblr of Richard Lawson, writer of some of my favorite Atlantic Wire pieces (gossip roundups written with verve, witty movie reviews). Follow him on Twitter @rilaws and prepare to guffaw.
- Cackle along with #RHONJ tweets I don’t understand because I don’t have cable this summer and it’s ruining my life.
- Follow @TheFauxMilaniaG, which I think means I win Sunday?
- Pages and pages into Mr. Lawson’s Tumblr, I stumble upon ‘The Avenue’, an apparently very real YouTube reality show a la The Hills, except set in Toronto and starring possibly the best lead character ever. And by best I mean probably the worst, obviously. I don’t know. I’ll just let you soak all of that in.
- Open Tumblr again to write this diary, because today was too ridiculous not to share.
So there you have it. Please don’t judge me too harshly.
Do I go see this:
…Or do I finish reading this:
This is a serious question. Mitigating factors include the fact that the movie theater is air-conditioned (but coffee shops are too!), but movie tickets, and at least one necessary snack item, are expensive.
In no particular order…
1. Matthew McConaughey commits awesomely to his role as Dallas, Club Xquisite’s owner and emcee. Not only is he sending up his star image (bongos make an appearance), but he adds a nervous edge and dark shading to a character whose exuberance could otherwise read too broad.
2. If you’ve seen Step Up, you know that Channing Tatum can dance. He proves it again in some truly mesmerizing dance sequences. (They’re among the only times you really feel like the camera is appreciating what it’s depicting, which is a deliberate and fascinating choice by director Steven Soderbergh, and it deserves its own number and discussion later.)
3. Soderbergh, who lensed, directed and edited this movie himself, serves up Tampa realness with his camera, using Florida-orange filters outdoors and tinges of green indoors to create a subtly uneasy feeling. There are traces of the tactician who lensed ‘Contagion’ here, including a lot of deep focus and minimal set decoration, but combined with the warm, witty touches of the ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ and ‘Out of Sight’ director who gained a lot of goodwill.
4. Alex Pettyfer—as Adam, a perpetual fuckup who Tatum’s Mike cajoles into stripping at Xquisite—is much improved from his turn in I Am Number Four. He has a tough job, making a character whose staggering self-centeredness makes him oblivious to most of what’s happening around him seem almost endearing in the early going. He falters at times, including scenes with his sister Brooke, played by Cody Horn. (Horn says she and Pettyfer worked on a backstory for their characters, but it doesn’t really show through in their early scenes together.) However, he redeems himself in the final scenes of the film, despite some shaky plot developments for his character.
5. Speaking of Cody Horn! I think it’s worth seeing the film just to decide how you feel about her performance. Some people have loathed it, and others, like me, think it’s endearingly straightforward and in keeping with Tatum’s breezily casual delivery. In particular…
6. The sequence in Club Xquisite in which the camera watches her watch her brother and Mike’s stripping routines, occasionally showing us what she sees (i.e. from the back of the club, detached and distant) is wonderfully constructed, and Horn’s poker face during the scene is great. Even better, it leads to…
7. Possibly my favorite shot in the entire film takes place at a sandbar party, when Mike comes up to Brooke and walks around the sandbar with her, talking about what she saw at the club. In my memory, this is one unbroken shot, but I could be wrong. (Although Horn also says she and Tatum improvised their dialogue for the scene and that Soderbergh used the first take, so it might very well be one extended shot.) In any case, Brooke and Mike walk around the sandbar while having this aforementioned conversation, and as they round a corner, the sunlight refracted off the water behind them dapples the lens. In that instant, whether by design or alchemy, the chemistry between them clicks and works in perfect harmony with the shot.
8. I don’t know if there’s a director better than Soderbergh at conveying booze-and-drug-addled mental states with just his camera. There are multiple technical mini-masterpieces in this film.
9. I’m not sure Channing Tatum’s Mike looks better or more charming than he does in a suit and glasses at the bank, about midway through the film. It’s Charm Offensive City in that banker’s office.
10. Olivia Munn proves that she is indeed an actress worth paying attention to for more than just her looks, even in her limited screen time as Joanna, a psychology grad student who likes having threesomes with Mike and waits an egregious amount of time before putting her shirt on while getting dressed. (You’re welcome, Avowedly Heterosexual Men of America.) Munn conveys Joanna’s shrewd people-reading abilities in a way that allows the camera to see her gears spinning. It’s a really lovely bit. The part she plays in the end is either a bridge too far or just about right, depending on how you feel about one of plotlines suddenly pushed toward denouement in the film’s final third.
11. The strippers’ routines are highly choreographed spectacles, and are often hilariously on-the-nose. For example, Ken (played by gay, partnered father of two Matt Bomer) does a routine in which he awkwardly dances out of a cellophane-wrapped package, as though he’s a Ken doll come to life. And that is probably the less ridiculous of Ken’s routines in the film.
12. A sight gag involving a slightly out-of-focus penis and penis pump (probably the only way this film avoided an NC-17) is admirably underplayed by Alex Pettyfer, and admirably hammed up by Joe Manganiello. (The penis is also not in focus because using the pump is just a part of Richie’s job, and it’s a doozy of an introduction to the job for Adam.)
13. Speaking of Joe’s Big Dick Richie, the subversive greatness of introducing Richie as he sews a gold thong back into working order informs the entire film.
14. Because here’s the thing about Magic Mike—it’s about work. Sorry, horny folks, but there are long stretches of this film that are devoted to depicting the life of lower-middle class Florida residents in a depressed economy. Mike holds down three jobs and desperately wants to invest his dream of owning a custom furniture business, but poor credit and the stigma associated with his stripping job—where most of his money evidently comes from—prevent him from doing this. So he aims to dance in Dallas’ club for equity in the club’s relocation to Miami, only to have that complicated in the third act of the film. It’s also about the work of stripping; I felt like the time at Club Xquisite was equally divided between the dance numbers and the behind-the-scenes of the club, which were not at all glamorous—substance abuse, counting money, hitting on women at other clubs to strategically bring them to Xquisite.
15. It’s in focusing on the work of stripping that Soderbergh breaks down the relationship between the camera and the sexualized gaze, because his camera is far more interested in labor than pleasure, and it shows. As a result, I think some people might be disappointed by the lack of real titillation in the film. Viewers are invited to gawk at the bodies on display, but we also have a scene to remind ourselves that there are rehearsals, gym sessions, choreography to nail down, guests to bring in, etc. We’re forced to relate the work that makes up the body to the body itself. That doesn’t make the film unsexy, but it does make it much more powerful than any shallow celebration of essentially naked male bodies. If you read nothing else in this paragraph, remember this: Channing Tatum’s abs + Soderbergh’s camera = anti-capitalist critique of the economy.
16. This is a remarkably sex-positive, drug-negative film. It’s rare to find that combination in Hollywood these days, and rarer style to be sex-positive without necessarily being super sexual.
17. This might be one of Soderbergh’s best films since sex, lies and videotape. There, I said it.