A Treme View

July 10, 2010

“No TV reviews!” our fearless leader shouted as he headed off for the weekend.

“This is a political blog!” he continued yelling on his way down the stairs. “There’s no place for pop culture on a political blog!” His belief is you can’t do both and do both well. “Just read NOW magazine if you don’t believe me.” (Not an opinion shared by everyone around the office.)

But now he’s gone and left me in charge. It’s kind of like tossing your kid the keys to the liquor cabinet as you leave town for the weekend with the warning, And no drinking. (As if your parents never did that.) I know I shouldn’t but it’s almost like a dare. Besides he can’t ground me although there have been times he’s tried.

While away recently up in the wilderness, I seized the opportunity to watch the entire first season of David Simon’s Treme on my hosts’ extremely large HD TV. I was a huge fan of his earlier masterpiece, The Wire, and probably overstayed my welcome in my drive to watch all 10 episode of his latest effort. But it was worth the risk of not ever getting invited back again. Otherwise I was going to have to wait until the show came out on DVD and would have to impose on someone else who owned a DVD player.

Set in post-Katrina New Orleans, Treme follows a diverse cast of characters (a Simon show trademark), from the upper crust who view the disaster as an opportunity to “reshape” the city down through those who have lost everything but their lives. It is a city at the proverbial crossroads, much of its past washed away — some of it storied, some of it checkered — when the levees broke and facing an uncertain future, caught in a stranglehold of competing visions. The old New Orleans versus the new New Orleans.

I bring this up not to show off my skills as a reviewer, for none do I possess outside of I like it, I like it, I don’t like it (and isn’t one Rob Salem enough, frankly?) It is the politics at work in Treme that I think is interesting and more than a little relevant. Not that I’m in any way trying to equate Toronto’s recent troubles with Hurricane Katrina but there are some interesting parallels.

An outside force beyond the city’s control blows into town and inflicts great damage, both physically and psychologically. In its aftermath, there is a scramble to be the first and loudest to deny responsibility. Victims are criminally mistreated. Those charged to protect and defend, do neither. Once a sense of normalcy returns, there’s the slow realization that nothing’s going to be the same again.

There is a feeling that for those who live in a city, whether its New Orleans or Toronto, events happen in which they have no say. Key decisions that will affect their lives are made without any input asked from them. Cities deal with the consequences and results of actions taken at a distance.

That’s the reality of politics at the municipal level regardless, it seems, where that municipality is. We elect clowns, do-gooders, politicians of the noblest intentions as our local representatives and ultimately it doesn’t matter. They have no role beyond carrying out the marching orders from those who have seized the true levers of power through a historical process that has remained frozen in amber, impervious to the imperatives of change and adaptation.

You’re doin’ a heckava job, Brownie.

A statement of obliviousness and indifference that resonates far beyond the boundaries of Orleans parish.

reviewedly submitted by Urban Sophisticat


Scenes From An All Fired Up In The Big Smoke’s Oscar Evening

March 8, 2010

The doorbell rings, interrupting our weekly All Fired Up in the Big Smoke’s Sunday story meeting over roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. (The meat, it’s slightly overdone. The Yorkipud? Perfection.)

At the door stands an all decked out and bee-jouxed Nancy, ready for Oscar Party 2K10©®™. Our surprise at it being Oscar night is matched by her surprise at our surprise. “How could all 3 of you not remember?” Nancy asked. “What the hell have you been doing?” Cityslikr remains unconvinced, absolutely positive that the Oscars happen in April and on Monday nights. “Yeah well, it ain’t the 20th-century anymore, grandpa,” Nancy points out. “Johnny Carson and Bob Hope are dead. Time’s have changed.”

A flurry of activity gets us in front of the TV, ballots filled out with time to spare to even catch the last of the red carpet ceremonies. There is much talk of dresses and hairdos. Cityslikr is already livid at the sheer vapidity on parade. This happens every year but it seems much earlier than usual.

Before the actual show starts, Nancy explains to us that the Oscars are looking to draw in a younger viewing crowd who have long since tuned out, not really seeing it as a Must See event. So it’s all going to be very fast paced and hip with no big dud musical numbers and briefcase toting accountants from Price Waterhouse. “It’s all about the zazz factor tonight, boys!” Nancy promises. We have no idea what that means but don’t really care enough to ask for clarification.

For most of us in the room, the only movie we’ve seen all year is Avatar. Some of us have seen it many, many times. “How many times is too many?” I ask Nancy who seems almost antagonistic to my devotion to the film. She provides no satisfactory answer.

Urban Sophisticat claims to have also taken in many foreign language films including 4 or the 5 Oscar nominated films. “It’s a travesty Broken Embraces was overlooked,” he opines but his authority is seriously undermined after a lengthy explanation about why the Israeli film, Ajami, will win the foreign language category only to see El Secreto de Sus Ojos from Argentina scoop up the award. Apparently it’s the one foreign language film he didn’t see. I guessed it correctly with a simple eenie-meenie-minie-moe choice.

While we find the opening of the show fairly amusing, Cityslikr wonders how co-host Steve Martin brings in the youngsters. Martin seems to concur, joking how the young presenters don’t even know who he is. “Not only is he old,” Cityslikr figures, “but the guy hasn’t made a decent movie since…” No one can figure out the last Steve Martin film they saw which seems to prove Cityslikr’s point.

“They want the young kids, Dane Cook should be hosting this crap.” After explaining to everyone who Dane Cook was (“A hugely unfunny standup comic who mystifyingly fills up Madison Square Gardens for HBO specials.”), Cityslikr thinks that it would be a train wreck he would gleefully sit through.

Urban Sophisticat notices that the shaded Jack Nicholson is not in his usual place front row centre. “Maybe they gave his seat to Robert Pattinson.” Nancy suggests. She then has to explain to everyone present who Robert Pattinson is and all about the Twilight phenomenon.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

Half of the room is now asleep. Nancy is desperately texting to find out if there’s another Oscar party in the vicinity. I am sensing an Avatar backlash amidst a groundswell for The Hurt Locker. This is why everyone hates the Academy Awards. They punish success.

Eyes are opened and interest rises when Jeff Bridges wins for Best Actor. It’s pointed out that while he acts like his character in the Big Lebowski, he is looking more and more like Sam Elliott’s The Stranger in the movie. There’s a letdown in the room when he doesn’t end his acceptance speech with “The Dude abides.” Everyone in the room except Cityslikr agrees that the Coen Brothers haven’t made another truly great film since The Big Lebowski. He loves No Country For Old Men. I don’t see it, frankly.

Urban Sophisticat goes on a long, Courvoisier fueled rant about the problems with the Oscars these days. “We already know too much about the movie stars. They’re ubiquitous with all the infotainment shows and channels on TV, supermarket check out aisle magazines. Back in the day,” he (actually) says, “the Oscars were one of the few times we got to see these legends of the silver screen with the guards down, out of their roles. There’s no magic or mystery in the pictures anymore. It all started to go down hill when People magazine came into existence.” No one’s really listening at this point.

Sandra Bullock’s acceptance speech for Best Actress elicits much chatter about plastic surgery and growing old in Hollywood. “She’s 45!” screams Cityslikr. “When did that become old?” Nancy shakes her head, amazed at his ignorance about the real world.

Show concludes. The Hurt Locker is the big winner. I guess I’ll have to see it when it comes out on DVD. “It’s already out on DVD,” Nancy informs me as I walk her to the door. Cityslikr and Urban Sophisticat are curled up together on the couch. We pause for a moment, enjoying the silence. Sensing her general disappointment in the evening, I suggest that Nancy find some other, more movie friendly types to watch the show with next year. She shrugs. “There’s no surprises anymore,” she tells me. “Everybody won who was predicted to win. That’s just the way it goes these days. It’s stage managed to death.”

With that, Nancy wanders off into the night. Once more Hollywood has disappointed her. But how couldn’t it? She didn’t even like Avatar. In this reporter’s humble opinion, if you didn’t like Avatar, you don’t like movies. The childlike magic has gone inside you. As Ally Sheedy’s Allison Reynolds said in John Hughes’s The Breakfast Club: When you grow up, your heart dies.

wistfully submitted by Acaphlegmic