Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “A Connection Is Made”: Stronger at the Broken Places

Halt and Catch Fire is an interesting way to take the temperature of our current television climate. It is a very, very good show, with all of the hallmarks of a prestige cable drama, and yet it’s nobody’s favorite. Still, we’ve been covering Halt and Catch Fire since the first season, and Marisa has always found something about it that spoke to her personally, so she decided to write about the individual episodes as it heads into its final stretch. Read her reaction to the previous episode, “Nowhere Man,” here

For most of us, our lives orbit around two loci: The place where we show our public selves, and the place where we get to be who we really are . Most often, those two places are work and home—but that’s not always the case, especially on Halt and Catch Fire. Cameron is unable to separate her work from who she is, for example, so her code follows her wherever she goes. Her public place is in Joe’s apartment, where she’s performing the part of Good Girlfriend; her Airstream is where, mostly alone, she gets to be the real Cameron and admit to herself that she’s not really as “sick of tech” as she claims.

Continue reading Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “A Connection Is Made”: Stronger at the Broken Places

David Gordon Green quietly made another very good movie: STRONGER

A Jake Gyllenhaal movie about the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing is coming out this weekend, and it’s currently within a few percentage points of a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s both wrenching and uplifting as it grapples with the idea of heroism and the expectations that come along with it. It debuted on the prestigious fall festival circuit. And hardly anyone seems to be talking about it. Welcome to the serial underestimation of director David Gordon Green, where even an accessible and critically acclaimed drama can fly under the radar.

Part of Stronger’s high marks is just that old Tomatometer math where if enough critics give a movie a pass, it has a “higher” score than something more divisive. Hardly any critics I’ve read on Stronger seem to prefer it to, say, the less universally beloved mother! Indeed, I don’t prefer it to mother! either. But given my lack of excitement when I heard that Green was prepping a movie about the Boston bombing – concurrently with Mark Wahlberg booster Peter Berg, no less, whose Patriots Day came out last Christmas – and the lack of buzz around the finished product, I was taken aback when I saw Stronger by just how damn good it is. It tells the story of Jeff Bauman, a genial Beantown fuckup who attended the marathon in an uncharacteristic show of dedication to his on-and-off girlfriend Erin (Tatiana Maslaney), hoping to cheer her on. The bomb went off next to him, and he lost both his legs, attaining an unsettling kind of celebrity in the process.
Continue reading David Gordon Green quietly made another very good movie: STRONGER

SportsAlcohol.com Founder in the Wild: Sharatoga Tech Talks

By now, you are well aware of the fact that we have a podcast. (If not, we’re doing a bad job—but, hey! We have a podcast. You should totally check it out.) But have you ever thought to yourself, “Hey, how does one create a podcast?” Or “What even is a podcast?” then SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Rob has an event for you. He’s giving a talk on the ins, the outs, and the what-have-yous of podcasting as part of Sharatoga Tech Talks in Saratoga Springs, NY.

Rob’s talk is entitled, “I Made a Podcast so It Can’t Be That Hard: Someone Who Knows Slightly More About Podcasting Than You Explains the Journey from Recording to Distribution.” I think that tells you all you really need to know about it. He’ll be sharing a bill with techies talking about Jira API, Kotlin, craft beer design in upstate New York, and Go (“A Modern Language with Classic Roots”). And if the sound of the word “Jira” is enough to make a little shudder of revulsion go down your spine, rest assured that it all goes down in a venue with some classic video games (Rampage!), so you can always retreat into that.

RSVP HERE

The nitty-gritty:
Sharatoga Tech Talks featuring Rob
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Sinclair Saratoga Springs
17 Maple Ave, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
Hors d’oeuvres and video games start at 5:30 PM,
presentations start at 6 PM sharp on the second floor

If you do this and become a world-famous podcaster, remember the little podcast that started you off.

Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “Nowhere Man”: It’s Friday

Halt and Catch Fire is an interesting way to take the temperature of our current television climate. It is a very, very good show, with all of the hallmarks of a prestige cable drama, and yet it’s nobody’s favorite. Still, we’ve been covering Halt and Catch Fire since the first season, and Marisa has always found something about it that spoke to her personally, so she decided to write about the individual episodes as it heads into its final stretch. Read her reaction to the previous episode, “Tonya and Nancy,” here

I really wish I were doing another Gordon-focused reaction. I could easily live inside his little slice of the episode, in a world where he went out and saw Sneakers four times in the theater—because of course he did—and is still down for another viewing at home. I’m sure having a neurological illness makes it easier to justify doing what makes you happy, but he doesn’t: He just likes what he likes. I’d love to spend time discussing how, to Gordon, swing dancing and roller derby are the same thing, because they basically are; they both turn out to be fads with no longevity, and Gordon doesn’t buy in to fads because he’s committed to staying uncool.

But instead of living the normcore life with Gordon, I think I have to talk about Donna.

Continue reading Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “Nowhere Man”: It’s Friday

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Indie Movies of Summer 2017

As another summer winds down, you may think to yourself: Did I see every movie I wanted to see? Even if these questions don’t haunt you, the film core of SportsAlcohol.com is here to tell you they should, because there were a ton of good indie movies out this summer. Just as we did in 2015 and 2016, Nathaniel, Sara, Marisa, and Jesse got together — returning to our lo-fi outdoor-recording roots from 2015 — to chat about as many movies as we could stand. If you’re looking for something to catch while it’s still lingering at the arthouse, Netflix ideas to get you through the fall, and/or a few spoilers about movies you already saw and want to talk about, this episode is for you. We cover well over a dozen movies, including The Big Sick, The Beguiled, Detroit, Ingrid Goes West, Good Time, Atomic Blonde, It Comes At Night, and so many more! What was good? What was bad? What was problematic? Is that a motorcycle you hear in the distance? The answer to all of these questions is YES and also LISTEN TO US.

How To Listen

We are now up to SIX (6) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “Tonya and Nancy”: Folk Death

Halt and Catch Fire is an interesting way to take the temperature of our current television climate. It is a very, very good show, with all of the hallmarks of a prestige cable drama, and yet it’s nobody’s favorite. Still, we’ve been covering Halt and Catch Fire since the first season, and Marisa has always found something about it that spoke to her personally, so she decided to write about the individual episodes as it heads into its final stretch. Read her reaction to the first three episodes here

Last time, I talked about how impressed I was with Halt and Catch Fire‘s ability to play with your expectations, setting up a Big Conflict, then pushing it off to the side in favor of something else. The title of this episode, “Tonya and Nancy,” promises much. Yet the big event that’s referenced barely makes a blip on the characters’ lives: Joanie actively tries to not watch the Olympics, while Joe and Gordon plan to view it at a small party that gets eclipsed by Cameron’s dramatic re-entrance into civilized society. (Hopefully Gordon and Anna Chlumsky’s Katie continue to watch, because I am HERE for that relationship, especially now that we know how bad at pool Gordon is. Although the series currently takes place the year of My Girl 2, which gives me weird, meta-concerns where I wonder if Katie knows about the My Girl movies. ) Tanya (Sasha Morfaw), Donna’s recently promoted employee, laments over a sushi lunch that her name will forever be entwined someone named Gillooly.

Continue reading Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “Tonya and Nancy”: Folk Death

Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “So It Goes,” “Signal to Noise,” and “Miscellaneous”: Live Through This

Halt and Catch Fire is an interesting way to take the temperature of our current television climate. It is a very, very good show, with all of the hallmarks of a prestige cable drama, and yet it’s nobody’s favorite. Still, we’ve been covering Halt and Catch Fire since the first season, and Marisa has always found something about it that spoke to her personally, so she decided (a little late) to write about the individual episodes as it heads into its final stretch, starting with a quick catch-up of the season so far.

So, how did we get here? The conventional wisdom is that the show got better once it stopped being a Mad Men ripoff and found its own footing. That opinion says more about the watcher than the show itself. To me, it never really bore more than a surface-level resemblance to Mad Men. Sure, it was a period drama in a business setting, and maybe Joe got a slice of the backstory pie that was out of proportion to how much his character warrants. (Joe is the way he is because of…daddy issues? Snooze.) But Joe was never really a Don Draper, because Don Draper is widely recognized as a remarkable talent in the advertising world at the start of Mad Men, and Joe can rarely catch a break. He’s not an anti-hero in the he can’t accomplish anything major, good or bad.

Neither can the rest of them, even though all of the ingredients are there for them to achieve greatness. Together, they have the vision (Joe), programming talent (Cameron), engineering and hardware know-how (Gordon), and business sense/capital (Donna) to really launch a successful tech company—and they often have the right, world-changing idea at the right time. The show keeps bringing them to the precipice of runaway success. And yet, while they’ve managed in three seasons to amass some individual accomplishments, their volatile interpersonal dynamic keeps them from getting to that next level, because they need to work together to get there. And they can’t. But they know that, if they were able to somehow work on a project together and pull it off, the benefits would be immeasurable. But, again, they can’t. But they’re still drawn to each other, until they blow each other up again, retreat to their separate corners, and start the cycle anew. That push/pull dynamic, which has been there since the first season, is the whole reason for Halt and Catch Fire’s existence, and separates it from Mad Men, where Don was affected by the other characters, but not entirely dependent on them.

Continue reading Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “So It Goes,” “Signal to Noise,” and “Miscellaneous”: Live Through This

In The End, Twin Peaks Denied Us More Good Times Together

It took Dale Cooper 25 years, 15 episodes and one extended detour in Las Vegas to return to Twin Peaks, and he didn’t stay long.

[Spoilers follow!]

In Sunday’s twisty final installments of David Lynch’s magnum opus (stop kidding yourself if you’re holding out hopes for a fourth season), a revived Cooper rushes to the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department just in time for a boss battle against a floating orb of evil right out of an NES game. You’d have thought he’d stick around to at least give Hawk a firm hand shake, maybe put an affectionate hand on Albert’s shoulder or learn all about Wally. Instead, he didn’t even stop for a slice of cherry pie (apparently nobody told him about RR2Go). Fresh from his hard-earned escape from the spirit world, Cooper… rushed right back to the spirit world.

There are already good theories pinging across the internet that explain the gist of the finale, or at least take a little bit of the initial sting out of its irresolution. It seems Lynch was trying to tell an even bigger, much more ambitious story than those first 14 episodes let on. Yet for all the big themes that consumed the series — the fluid nature of evil, the inadequacy of good intentions, repetition compulsion — what people will ultimately remember the most about Twin Peaks: The Return is its audacity to deny fans what they wanted. Here’s a sprawling, Berlin Alexanderplatz-sized work that made time for a minutes-long shot of a bartender sweeping but that still refused us many of the reunions we’d spent decades longing for. One of the initial fan complaints about the feature film revival Fire Walk With Me was it hardly had any Cooper in it, due to Kyle MacLachlan’s limited availability. The Return, ironically, offered magnitudes of Kyle MacLachlan, yet somehow the old Coop we remember — not Dougie, not Richard — still hardly got any screen time.

Of all the extended reunions we never got to enjoy — Cooper and Audrey, Cooper and the Bookhouse Boys, Cooper and the Double R — one’s absence felt especially conspicuous. For most of the revival, FBI Director Gordon Cole, played by Lynch himself, served as a stand-in for Cooper, an avatar of decency and determination who’s oblivious to his own eccentricities. The camaraderie between the FBI agents was always a highlight of the franchise, and given how so much of the new series tracked Gordon’s search for Cooper, all signs pointed to the old friends sharing at least a little one-on-one time as a narrative reward. But though they’re both present for the series’ climatic smackdown, Cooper never paused to catch up. We never got to see them share that curtain call Cooper alluded to.

Instead, we’re left with the bastardized “reunion” between the two in the season’s fourth episode, when a confounded Gordon meets Cooper’s doppelgänger for the first time through prison glass. For my money, it’s the most moving scene of a season that offered so many. So much of the coverage of The Return focused on Kyle MacLachlan’s bravado performances, and rightly so, but here Lynch carries the scene. Who knew he could act like this? Gordon fights to maintain a neutral face while making sense of the monster in front of him: his beady eyes, his halted speech, his robotic conversation. “Gordon, I really, really missed spending time with you,” the dark Cooper intones, with all the emotion of an answering machine. Gordon plays along, though his voice can’t disguise a tinge of a tremor: “Yes, Coop. I too have missed our good times together.”

There’s terror on Cole’s face — how could there not be, given what he’s witnessing — but there’s something else, too: grief. His eyelids are red and heavy as he processes the disappointment that his long-missing friend is still gone. When the fake Cooper flashes him the old thumbs up, Gordon reciprocates to maintain the ruse, but he seems sickened by the act. It’s as if he’s betraying part of himself.

Gordon was always an impressive comic creation, but for a few scenes he becomes not only the show’s most sympathetic character, but an audience surrogate. Like Gordon, we waited 25 years to see our old friend again. Instead, we were greeted by something else — something terrifying, fascinating and confusing. The season was filled with scenes like this, moments that awed us with their creativity and gave us the titillation of seeing something truly new, but that leave behind a sense of loss over what we weren’t seeing. And while it’s tempting for fans frustrated by the finale to write off Lynch’s oblique storytelling as a kind of callousness, that’s never been the case. Lynch was right there on screen. He doesn’t just understand what we wanted to see; he grieves with us that we never got to see it.

Every Steven Soderbergh Movie Ranked

As you might recall if you listen to our exhaustive recent podcast episode on Steven Soderbergh, we here at SportsAlcohol.com are, by and large, pretty big fans of his work. On the occasion of that podcast and the release of Logan Lucky, his first new feature in four years, here are Soderbergh’s 25 fiction films ranked from worst all the way up to best. The rankings were determined only by me, Jesse, but I enlisted some help in talking about certain entries. Cue the David Holmes music:
Continue reading Every Steven Soderbergh Movie Ranked