What’s Good? (Best of Winter TV 2017… & Iron Fist)

I haven’t done one of these in a while.

I guess it’s hard to make lists of what’s good in the world of entertainment when the real world is going to hell in a hand-basket… a hand-basket made of shit.

Once again, Legion, you’ve summed up my feelings precisely.

I know we can’t read tone and inflection on the internet. And sometimes the actual meaning of what we want to say is lost in its misinterpretation. So I’m gonna need for all of you reading this to picture the next sentence with ALL the sarcasm. (ALL OF IT!!!)

“The United States is in a really good place right now.”

“Is that supposed to be some kind of a joke?” “Hey. Hey. Hey. He didn’t mean it like that.”

So instead of spending all day in fear, I have chosen to escape to the land of nod. You know what I mean. While we wait for the next embarrassment, the next offense or the next outrage, I’ll be looking for the next distraction until the revolution starts. (which will not be on TV by the way).

Personally I blame the internet for all of this, but that’s a story for another time.

“Does that mean we WON’T be needing the goat?”

The goat stays.

What follows is a list of TV shows that are freaking unbelievably good and entertaining and well-written and sexy and escapist and brilliant and words fail me. And while it is true that I have talked about most of these in the past… THEY’RE STILL AMAZING.

I think Winter is my favorite TV season.

Let me explain…

“Get on with it, Melvin.”

The Americans is back and better than ever. That show has been consistently good from day one and will go down as one of the best in history.  Bates Motel is having their best season as well. Vera Farmiga has actually turned it up a notch (give the woman an Emmy already). Girls on HBO, just a couple of weeks ago, aired the best episode in its entire series run. A brilliant stand-alone story, that featured Matthew Rhys from The Americans by coincidence, which was just a conversation between a young writer and her creepy literary idol. (Rarely do I watch a show and then watch it again right after. I’ve already watched the episode three times. I wish it were a movie). The Superheroes on the CW are kicking ass on a weekly basis (even DC Legends has gotten better now that it’s embraced its fundamental silliness and monumental nerdy-ness).

Jane the Virgin lost its virginity but did not lose its creativity or its charm. And there are lots of new bisexual characters on my favorite shows. (That list is coming soon… it’s mostly women this time. Not my fault. There’s a shortage of bi men and an abundance of bi women recently. I’m not complaining. Well, I’m kind of complaining. I’m both complaining and not complaining. It’s confusing… that’s a joke). Star Wars Rebels has been amaze-balls this season. Running almost parallel with the events of Rogue One and setting up A New Hope (I almost want to spoil it but I can’t). BEN!!! (I couldn’t help it). Black SailsHomeland the list goes on.

But I’m not talking about any of those shows here today.

“Am I wrong or did he not just talk about them?” “Here comes the part we’ve been waiting for, sire.” “Well don’t just stand there. Keep cranking that monkey.”

What follows is a list of ten absolutely fantastic (relatively new) TV shows (with one notable exception…One of these shows is actually complete and utter garbage. But we’ll get to that one later… okay it’s Iron Fist… I can’t keep a secret).

So ask me the question already…

Go ahead.

Ask me.

Not THAT question, you idiot.

WHAT’S GOOD?

I’m glad you asked.

The Expanse (SyFy)

Developed by Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby

Based on The Expanse series of novels by James S. A. Corey

Starring Thomas JaneSteven StraitCas AnvarDominique TipperWes ChathamPaulo CostanzoFlorence FaivreShawn DoyleShohreh Aghdashloo & Frankie Adams

“It’s been too long since we’ve had a really kick-ass space opera.”  – George R.R. Martin

We’re in season two now, so if you don’t know The Expanse, you’re a little late to the party but there’s still time for you to catch up. There are three main factions in the 23rd century: Earth (Earthers, Inners, Tumang), all the power, all the resources, United Nations controlled, corrupt bureaucrats and corporations;

“Is that a gun in my pocket or am I just happy to see you?” “It better be a gun.”

Mars Colony (Martians, Inners, Pomang), lacking in resources but making up for it in military might, they put all their effort into building a strong military because they were tired of being Earth’s red-headed step-child;

“Unte kowlting gut, to pochuye ke?”

and The Belt (Belters, Outer Planets, Beltalowda), the workers, born in space, mining asteroids and the moons of Jupiter for water and other resources, no resources of their own, no military, but without them Mars would have no way to get water. Without them Earth corporations would have no leverage over Mars.

Kewe to pensa ere The Expanse, beratna?

There’s a war coming between Earth and Mars. I don’t know for sure because I haven’t read the books but it’s like winter in Game of Thrones; that shit is right around the corner. And yes I just compared it to Game of Thrones. The Expanse is THAT good. Great performances, great story, great direction, fantastic special effects. The Expanse is quite possibly the best thing on TV right now with a language all its own.

But while The Expanse might be the best thing on TV right now, it is not my favorite thing on TV right now. My favorite thing is…

The Magicians (SyFy)

Created by Sera Gamble & John McNamara

Based on The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Starring Jason RalphStella MaeveOlivia Taylor DudleyHale Appleman, Arjun Gupta, Summer BishilRick Worthy & Jade Tailor

“Did you bring me little cakes?” – Umber (Horned Golden Ram God of Fillory)

The Magicians is like if Harry Potter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a baby and that baby grew up to be as hot as Emma Watson is right now. Oh my god, I love this show so much. Seriously.

Queen Margo and King Eliot

The Magicians is also in its second season and if you’re not watching it… I don’t know, I question your judgement. This show is sensational. And I know I’ve said this a bunch of times but I’m just going to keep right on saying it. I love everything about this show. I love the cast. I love the writing. I love the world. I love the story. And I love that it is the most bi-friendly TV show since True Blood (and you know how I love to see healthy bisexual representation on my TV).

“Is he talking about bisexuality again?” “We get it. You like guys and girls. We’re over it.”

This show has it all. Magic. Mystery. Adventure. Comedy. Time travel. Six-fingered bad guys singing show tunes. Large magical creatures wearing diapers. Hot teachers. Hot librarians. Hot students. Hot teachers and hot librarians hooking up with hot students. Little cakes. Did I mention the little cakes?

The Royal Family

Just watch the show.

Next… more magic.

Emerald City (NBC)

Directed by Tarsem Singh

Based on the Oz book series by L. Frank Baum

Starring Adria ArjonaOliver Jackson-CohenAna UlaruMido HamadaGerran Howell, Jordan Loughran, Joely Richardson & Vincent D’Onofrio

“Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.” – Dorothy Gale

Okay Emerald City just ended its first season and I see a lot of people putting it down but I, for one, enjoyed it. You know me. I’m all in for a good re-imagining of the classics. And with Emerald City, Tarsem Singh created my favorite version of the Land of Oz. A steam punk meets Song of Ice and Fire meets Cirque du Soleil, Land of Oz with giants and warring factions and flying monkey drones and outlawed magic and witches… and guns. And witches with guns. I really liked this show.

‘I am the Wizard of Oz.” “I thought you were the Kingpin.” “Can’t a man be both?”

In fact, I loved it. And I sincerely hope it comes back for another season and I hope Tarsem directs every episode again. Because it’s so gorgeous that I wanted to watch each one again… and I probably will. If I ever find the time. There’s so much good TV.

Next… I don’t even know what to call this one. It’s not a superhero show.

Legion (FX)

Created by Noah Hawley

Based on Legion by Chris Claremont & Bill Sienkiewicz

Starring Dan StevensRachel KellerAubrey PlazaBill IrwinJeremie HarrisAmber MidthunderKatie Aselton & Jean Smart

“What is your name?”  – Jesus (from the bible)

“My name is Legion. For we are many.”  – Legion (also from the bible)

Okay. Okay. I watched the first episode of Legion, the new comic book based show from the creator of Fargo, and I was like, wow that was pretty bland. Then after the second episode I felt like I knew more what they were trying to get at and felt it was worth my time. After episode three I was seriously hooked. I loved the characters. I loved the sixties fashion. The tongue-in-cheek attitude. It’s amazingly original and fun and I was completely wrong about it. Well anyway, we’re six episodes in and it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen in my fucking life… IN MY LIFE!!! It is frightening how good this show is. Frightening. (I think I’m gonna cry… seriously)

“So tell me are we inside your mind or outside your mind right now?” “I don’t know.” “Well that’s kind of scary don’t you think?” “Scary is not the word for it.”

Legion is about a powerful mutant. The back-story is that he’s Professor X’s kid (they may or may not keep this for the show but it doesn’t matter) and he’s got reality warping powers. Basically he’s the most powerful mutant on the planet (possibly in the universe) with awesome god-like powers. Now, that would be boring for a story because basically he can do anything he wants at any time but… you see… he’s not entirely sane in his mind. Also he’s not entirely alone in there either. So most of the comic book takes place in his mind. His main bad guy is inside him. And if you’re thinking, well how the hell are they going to bring that to TV and make it enjoyable. They did it. They fucking did it. And I think I’m going to cry. It’s so good.

“What’s for dinner? Is it chaos again? Are we having utter chaos again?”

Legion is really good and done very well. Noah Hawley has done an excellent job. Fargo is one of the coolest shows on TV and Legion is right up there with it. But it still kind of frightens me because it could go so wrong so fast. I really hope it stays grounded.

And I also like seeing heroes coping with mental disorders in my fiction (almost as much as I like seeing bisexual heroes) It’s refreshing and it’s identifiable.

Oh shit.

To the list!!!

Top Ten Fictional Heroes with Mental Disorders:

10. StormX-Men – Severe Claustrophobia

9. Martin RiggsLethal Weapon – Suicidal, Manic Depressive

8. Tony Stark/Iron Man – Extreme Narcissist (comics), PTSD (movies)

7. Carrie MathesonHomeland – Manic Depressive – Borderline

6. Jason BourneThe Bourne Identity – Amnesic, Dissociate

5. Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk –  Multiple Identity Disorder, (Split Personality)

4. David Haller/Legion – Schizophrenic, (see also Demonic Possession)

“That’s me. Everybody dance.”

3. Bruce Wayne/Batman – Obsessive, Compulsive, Social Phobic

2. Sherlock Holmes – Obsessive, Compulsive, Narcissistic, Sociopath

1. James Bond – Dissociate, Extreme Sociopath (Bordering on Psycho)

It was a quickly thrown together list with very likely mislabeled or misdiagnosed disorders but it was fun to compile.

But anyway. I love Legion on FX. I love the casting. I love the story. I love that it’s funny and absurd and romantic. I love that they respect the source material, making it the most original and creative television show in history. Legion is almost too good. Nope. It is literally too good. Because shows that are this good do not last for long (And just thinking about it going away makes me want to cry).

Next… Aliens

Colony (USA)

Created by Carlton Cuse

Starring Josh HollowaySarah Wayne CalliesPeter JacobsonAmanda RighettiTory KittlesAlex Neustaedter & Isabella Crovetti-Cramp

“I’m sorry if I still have a little crush on Sawyer and Carl’s mom.”  – Mel 

Colony is finishing up its second season and it was better than the first. Colony is the story of Earth after alien invasion. Humans are separated into colonies by force and into two factions; Collaborators and Resistance, by necessity.

“Sawyer?” “Yeah, Carl’s mom?” “Do you think Mel will be able to imagine us as anything other than those two characters?” “With our clothes on or off?” “Good point.”

The two lead actors are both very hot, which adds to my enjoyment of the show (sue me. I’d like to have sex with both of these people Is that so wrong? Should I keep that to myself?). Josh Holloway and Sarah Wayne Callies play Will and Katie Bowman. One works for the authority and the other runs with the resistance. But it’s not like they’re on opposite sides. They are on each other’s side. It makes for a great story. And the writing is what I like best. Colony has a good premise. And a good mystery. And Carlton Cuse doesn’t slowly drip out the answers like he’s done in the past. We start learning about the aliens early on. But there is still a lot more to learn.

“Just as long as nobody moves and nobody mentions Prison Break we’ll be fine.”

The stories are gritty and cool and suspenseful. And the action and the political drama make Colony one of the best shows on TV right now. And season two cranks up the suspense and brings the rest of the family into the story. So they’re turning into a family of bad-asses and I love that shit.

Let’s move over to Netflix

Love (Netflix)

Created by Judd Apatow, Lesley Arfin & Paul Rust

Starring Gillian Jacobs, Paul Rust & Claudia O’Doherty

“I once had sex w/ a guy whose dick was so small I thought it was a clitoris.” – Bertie Bauer

Love is the story of two broken people trying to make a relationship work. It is quirky and funny and absurd (but in a yeah that could totally happen sort of way). It stars Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust, one of the shows creators, who is not the best actor but embodies the character to a Woody Allen type level. But Gillian is the stand out here for me. She plays this fragile warrior sex addict to perfection and I just want to scoop her up and plop her on my couch. Him, not so much.

“Him not so much? What does that even mean?” “Well at least he doesn’t want to plop you on his couch. Plop me? Is that a euphemism? Is that a sex act?”

I find him more annoying than likable but it’s not a deal-breaker because it’s a very well-written show. And he is a three-dimensional character. I just sometimes wish he had cast another actor to play his part. But look at me, I’m finding fault in something I love. Blowing a little problem out of proportion. Like some kind of self-sabotage. Ignore me.

Do people still smoke? Is that like still a thing? I don’t get out much.

Love is very funny with a lot of great minor characters. The two main characters both work in entertainment, her in radio, him in TV. And the show spends a lot of time on their separate lives. On their work and on their friends. So when they come together, it’s almost like two separate shows connecting through them. It’s a brilliant structure.

“I’m not Woody Allen. I’m not even Jewish. I’m Catholic. And this… this is not Annie Hall.”

And I’m sorry I insulted it before. It’s always only been about them. I mean I like Catastrophe too. Catastrophe is a great relationship show on Amazon. But the characters aren’t as likable. Don’t get me wrong, I think Catastrophe is very funny. And it’s not like I like Amazon more than Netflix. And it’s not like me and Netflix were exclusive or anything. But look at me, talking about another show and another network in my review. I really suck at this.

“This oughta shut you up.” “You said that into my mouth.”

Let me explain. You see, I’m sort of TV addicted and it’s hard for me to commit to just one show or just one network. But I think I’m ready. Can we start over?

Travelers (Netflix)

Created by Brad Wright

Starring Eric McCormackMacKenzie Porter, Nesta Cooper, Jared Abrahamson, Reilly Dolman & Patrick Gilmore

“I distracted myself from the fear and terrorism by thinking about things like how the universe began and whether time travel is possible.”  – Malala Yousafzai

Here’s a show I just discovered on Netflix and was completely blown away. Travelers is a time travel drama like Continuum meets Quantum Leap meets 12 Monkeys. It is some of the tightest time travel writing around. This show is extremely well-written and intelligent and deals with Time Travel paradox in a smart and original way.

Protocol 4 – Don’t Reproduce

But, by far, the best thing about Travelers is the characters. Each of the “travelers” from the future assume the identity and take over the body of a person from our time who is about to die. Seconds before they die. So, first they have to save their own life and then they become that person. And from that moment on they have to pretend to be that person who should actually be dead, all the while knowing only what they learned about them from social media and computer databases in the future. Not the most accurate.

Protocol 1 – The Mission Comes First

The travelers have a precise list of protocols that govern their actions. This is another fantastic part of the show. Like mini prime directives (from Star Trek) that control their behavior so that they don’t do too much damage to the time-line. But if you know time-travel shows then you know that’s laughable.

Protocol 3 – Don’t Take a Life. Don’t Save a Life.

Travelers is an action and adventure show that’s good just from that perspective but it’s the drama in assuming and continuing the life of some one who would have died, that makes Travelers truly outstanding. This is some brilliant writing. With good performances. And a great cast.

Protocol 5 – In The Absence of Direction, Maintain Your Host’s Life

Travelers is fantastic and it has been renewed for a second season… THANK THE DIRECTOR. (that’s a Travelers joke. It’s very funny. Just watch the show)

Next… from Brazil…

3% (Netflix)

Created by Pedro Aguilera

Starring Bianca ComparatoJoão Miguel, Michel Gomes & Rodolfo Valente

“People who would go to an art house cinema and watch a (foreign) movie and read subtitles… it’s a small percentage.” – Steven Zaillian

The 3% is a science fiction drama from Brazil. Watch it with the subtitles people. I know that means you have to actually pay attention and you can’t look away for a few seconds to check your phones but it’s worth it for the original performances and not just the English dub. But if you need to watch it dubbed then watch it dubbed. I’ll just sit in quiet judgement. It really doesn’t matter. The story is awesome either way.

Michel Gomes as Fernando Carvalho

3% is an intriguing story about an overpopulated city in the future and a “process” they use to decide who gets to live in a Utopia just offshore. Only 3% get selected, young people, and they only get one chance to make it through the trials… the process.

Bianca Comparato as Michele Santana

Of course there are other things going on. There are machinations behind the scenes and politics and a rebellion against the process. And then of course there is a love story. And a story of survival. And redemption. And… the show is awesome. I kid you not.

3% has Tough Guys with pipes

But the main story follows several “candidates” as they go through the trials. It’s like The 100 meets The Hunger Games meets Logan’s Run. It’s very good. There are eight fantastically suspenseful episodes of the first season. But I honestly don’t know if it’s as good dubbed as it is with subtitles. I watched it with the subtitles on because I’m all like sophisticated and shit. But you can always switch back and forth, if you’re easily distracted. (I’m just kidding. I kept forgetting that there were subtitles. And I would look down to check my phone. And then realize that I didn’t actually understand what they were saying when I wasn’t looking. It was awful… the internet has destroyed us).

3% has Heartbreaking Romance

3% is a really cool Brazilian Netflix series that has been confirmed for a second season.

And then there’s…

Iron Fist (Netflix)

Iron Fist Poster Not Found. #IronFisted

Created by Scott Buck

Based on Iron Fist by Roy Thomas & Gil Kane

Starring Finn JonesJessica HenwickTom PelphreyJessica StroupRamón RodríguezSacha DhawanRosario Dawson & David Wenham

“His fist glows, he’s got a beard, he has enemies. Boom. Now let’s do the team-up thing.”  – Marvel Television

I know. I know. Let’s slam on the brakes for a second. Iron Fist is horrible. It is awful. It’s like instead of a script they had an eleven year-old kid flailing his arms and making kung-fu noises. “And then Iron Fist goes BAM. And then the bad guy is like POW. But Iron Fist’s got him in a headlock and WOOSH and then a kick and then a punch… got it? Okay? ACTION!!!” and yes the kid was also the director.

He actually farts and was trying to play it off by beating one of her students and that makes more sense than what happens on the screen in Marvel’s Netflix’s Iron Fist.

No honestly, it’s the worse show. But look at it this way. The Defenders can only be better. There’s no way it could be any worse. Iron Fist is total garbage. Netflix had painted themselves into a corner. Daredevil was amazing. And then Jessica Jones was even better than that. So then season two of Daredevil was only pretty good and we’re like maybe they leveled off but then… Luke Cage was fucking great too. It was too much good. And they had already committed to release The Defenders. So all they had to do was put out an Iron Fist series. And you get to a point where there is just too much good. And all that’s left on the creative pile is crap. The Defenders or Iron Fist or both was going to have to be crap. It’s the nature of the universe. It’s just basic physics.

Sometimes they have to sacrifice acting for fighting ability and sometimes they have to sacrifice fighting ability for acting chops. It’s rare when they sacrifice both for naturally curly hair.

So what Iron Fist did was it took one for the team. It used up all the negative space. It sucked up all the crap. And it lowered expectations for the team-up. Iron Fist is as relatively bad as all three of the other Marvel Netflix origin seasons are good… combined. It’s that bad. It’s so bad that The Defenders is going to be Earth-shattering by comparison. You can’t get worse than Iron Fist without losing subscribers. You also can’t make something that cheesy looking and not realize it. The sets are laughable. I thought I was watching old Star Trek reruns. They show the kid being beaten by monks in what’s supposed to be a monastery in a mystical city but they look like they’re in a re-purposed janitor’s closet. It’s bad.

Why does Iron Fist have an erection? Does anyone know? And why is he on a Star Trek planet?

It’s impressively bad. The dialogue is practically offensive. It’s so awful. They used to sneak out of the monastery to have donkey meat? Where is this donkey meat cart located? Or are they killing someone else’s donkey, eating a very small part of it and leaving the rest to rot? Unless he’s talking about sucking a donkey’s dick, it makes absolutely no sense. I can’t start talking about the show critically because I’m just going to get angry.

“No questions… yes, you have a question?”

But I’m still recommending that everyone watch Iron Fist. You’ll want to turn it off after episode three but don’t. And no it doesn’t get any better. It actually gets worse. There’s no humor. There’s no romance. And the so-called bad guys are totally right. Danny Rand is an awful person. As one guy puts it. He’s the worse Iron Fist ever. But… Oh my god. There’s a scene where Iron Fist is being chased through a crowd and to blend in he picks up a mask and puts it on his face. DOESN’T CHANGE HIS CLOTHES or his jacket or anything. He isn’t facing the guy chasing him… like as if that would matter anyway. But then he loses the guy because he doesn’t see him wearing that dumb mask. There is no way they couldn’t tell what they were making was garbage. There’s no way they couldn’t tell. It had to be made shitty on purpose.

“Yes we did just fly to China on a private jet and kidnap someone and take them back to America with us on that same private jet… why do you ask? Is that hard to do?”

So now I’m convinced that Iron Fist was made bad on purpose. And I want to thank the makers. They took a bullet for the team. Pour out a little for the dead on arrival Iron Fist. I mean it is monumentally awful. Truly, truly awful. But it can only serve to make The Defenders look incredible by comparison.

And lastly one pilot from Amazon…

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Pilot)

Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino

Starring Rachel Brosnahan, Tony Shalhoub, Marin Hinkle & Alex Borstein

“Women are smart and funny. Get over it.”  – Eric Cartman

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is about a 1950’s housewife who decides to become one of the first female stand-up comics. It is a fantastic period drama about comedy from the creator of Gilmore Girls. And it has that quick-witted Gilmore Girls style to the writing and the dialogue. But the best part is the marvelous Rachel Brosnahan in the title role.

“Who makes a toast at her own wedding? I do.”

Mrs. Maisel is the story of the most amazingly funny and smart and cute and remarkable woman. It is hard (really hard) not to fall in love with her. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is like Mad Men meets 30 Rock meets I don’t know Buffy? It’s the story of a pioneering female comedian in the late fifties. Maybe she’s Phyllis Diller. Maybe she’s Carol Burnett. Maybe she’s amazing.

“Yes my phone has a cord connecting it to the base. That’s how you know it’s the fifties and not the eighties or the nineties. Why do you ask? And where the hell is my microwave oven?”

She’s awesome. I love funny women and the show makes you fall in love with her almost immediately as she deals with the 50’s era and then accidentally discovers that she has a talent for making people laugh. It’s just a pilot right now but please check it out. It’s the best they have this season on Amazon. I watched them all. There’s not a lot of good there. And I hope The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel doesn’t get buried in that pile because it’s great even when compared to established shows. It’s just a thousand times better than the other pilots this season.

“Dear Diary. I can do so much better than this schmo. Love Midge. PS. I have half a mind to tell the driver to take me to Mel’s house. But it’s the fifties and he’s a negro.”

And I really really really want to see more of her… of it… I mean the show… of the show… okay I’m in love with the character. Bring her back. I have a thing for funny smart women (Fictional, Non-fictional). I always have. It’s a sickness. I find smart and funny women sexy as all hell.

Watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime Pilot Season… please.

So that’s what’s good.

Find these shows. Watch these shows. Love these shows as much as I do. And then you’ll be all caught up and ready for the return of Doctor Who, Game of Thrones and Dark Matter. Just to name a few.

“Om Mani Padme… um… um… I want to say Om again but that can’t be right.”

Man. When I was a kid there was like a handful of superhero shows and a few more space adventures and a couple of sword & sorcery shows, but they were mostly all crap.

You kids have it so much better than we did.

We had to watch crappy science fiction on TV all the time.

AND YOU NEVER THANKED US!!!

– Mel

Spared or Spoiled Movie Reviews: Captain Fantastic

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Captain Fantastic (Bleecker StreetUniversal Pictures)

captain-fantastic-poster

Written & Directed by Matt Ross

Starring Viggo MortensenFrank LangellaKathryn Hahn & Steve Zahn

Philosophical and intellectual plot holes in abundance but Captain Fantastic is still a pretty good film. No really it is.

Captain Fantastic is the story of a family that has lived for years off the grid. Self-sufficient. Healthy and happy. Until family tragedy (the mother’s mental illness and death) forces them to rejoin the world, begrudgingly and hysterically. This is a fish out of water family. Who clearly benefit from healthy living and minimized technological distractions. But the children have no experience with modern society and very few social skills while at the same time being capable, confident, and extremely intelligent. It is a great movie. And in between yelling at it for being wrong about so many things, I liked it… I guess.

Verdict: SPARED

captain-fantastic

The kids of Captain Fantastic are all amazing. (great actors and great characters) The idea is… interesting (I use that word a lot). The kids in this movie are all smarter than me (or is that smarter than I?). I really liked how bright the children are. I liked how well-trained they were for survival. But any well-rounded training would also include etiquette and social discourse. So I felt this was a tremendous plot hole. And any reading list would include books about human interaction (at least Dale Carnegie’s How to…). But the most egregious plot hole is that they call the mother a Buddhist throughout the film and yet her children know very little about Buddhist philosophy. I guess that part of the curriculum is forgotten.

captain-fantastic

The “hippie” movement is made fun of quite a lot. And becomes a running joke throughout the film. They make fun of the idea of celebrating Noam Chomsky’s birthday. (HOLES!!!) I did enjoy the joke about not making fun of fat people (Americans are a fat and sickly population and it’s not a joke). But the children are told that it’s okay to make fun of Christians. Then they pretend to be ultra-religious Christian home-schooled kids to scare off police who come snooping around their bus. That was genius. But if you’re strongly Christian you might find that as annoying as I found the fake Buddhism.

captain-fantastic-school-bus

Captain Fantastic is very good from a pure enjoyment stand point but the way it flings around political terms and claims of being morally superior is troubling. The mother was supposedly a Buddhist but never taught her kids not to steal. Not to mention that she was wealthy and didn’t have to steal. The mother was supposedly a Buddhist but in the first scene they kill a deer. I guess the mother was a pretend Buddhist like most of the 60’s hippie children of rich parents. Not interested enough to do the research.

captain-fantastic-2

Then there’s the nonsense about the mother’s mental disorder and her husband sending her to a facility away from her children and her natural food and her healthy lifestyle. Of course she died. And yes I’m saying 100% healthy living is better than all the antipsychotics that exist or will exist for helping to handle even the most serious mental afflictions. (I know this for a fact) There were so many of these social, economic, philosophical and political plot holes in their upbringing that it became annoying. I liked the ending though. It’s a good movie (really it is). Fantastic writing (everything but the philosophy stuff). Good performances from all the kids. Viggo Mortensen is great once again. It’s just the movie pretends to be smarter than it is.

captain-fantastic-movie

But of course, if they did things my way, there wouldn’t be a movie. The mother would still be alive. The kids would be capable of social discourse. They would grow their own food. Not kill animals for selfish reasons. And they surely would not have cut off Sweet Child O’ Mine before the change. That’s the best part of the song. What the hell, Matt?

captain-fantastic-2016

Captain Fantastic is a great film about family but a horrible film about philosophy. It’s like they had all of these heady ideas and in trying to find a balance with ignorance (that seems to be a running theme these days. Ignorance gets to have its say, in our schools, in our politics, and in our fucking movies) the film-makers poke fun or completely misinterpret simple ideas about compassion and healthy living.

You know you can entertain and still inform right?

captain-fantastic-cast

Captain Fantastic features a fantastic cast and a fantastic story and a fantastic premise, it just has a very tenuous grasp on its own philosophical concepts. But it’s still a delightful story with an excellent cast of fine young actors. So I liked it, I guess.

– Mel

Eight Songs That Make Me Happy

This is a public service announcement… with guitar.

When I suffered from depression music was always my escape. When I was little it was silly songs. There was this Flintstones album in the public library that I wore out. When I was a teenager it was angry songs. Rock, Metal, Punk. Gangsta Rap. By High School and University I was wallowing in depression with dark songs, moody songs, or just some good old blues. But we’re not going to wallow in it today. Not getting angry. Or being silly. We’re going straight to happy.

woo-hoo

“Woo hoo!!”

We do this meditation in the Buddhist traditions where we wish for people to be happy. We think about people we know being happy. How everyone, all over the world, wants to be free from suffering. And why everyone has a desire to be happy. And then we form the resolution in our minds that we are going to make them all happy with our thoughts, with our actions, with our wishes, with our words

And with our blogs.

Yes Buddha does mention blogs in the Sutras. You just have to find the right translation.

snoopy-happy-dance

January 20th, 2017 is fast approaching and we all know what that means. President Donald Tr… I still can’t say it. So it’s easy to let it get you down. But I say screw that.

These songs are my surefire depression busters. I’m calling it my eight-fold path to dancing in your underwear before the world burns.

It’s a temporary fix. But it’ll help you take your mind off of it.

So these eight songs (lyrics included) are designed to put the happy back where it belongs. In your feet. In your butt. And in your face. And none of them are by Pharrell.

happy-minions

“Yebey!!”

Here we go…

First up… Crooning with a smile.

Feeling Good by Michael Buble

“It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day. It’s a new life. It’s a new life for me…”

———————————-

Next… Some Attitude.

Troublemaker by Weezer

“I’m such a special guy.”

————————————-

And now a personal favorite… I love this guitar riff and this video and Morrissey’s dance moves alone make me very happy.

What Difference Does It Make by The Smith

All men have secrets and here is mine
So let it be known
For we have been through hell and high tide
I think I can rely on you…
And yet you start to recoil
Heavy words are so lightly thrown
But still I’d leap in front of a flying bullet for you

So, what difference does it make?
So, what difference does it make?
It makes none
But now you have gone
And you must be looking very old tonight

The devil will find work for idle hands to do
I stole and I lied, and why?
Because you asked me to!
But now you make me feel so ashamed
Because I’ve only got two hands
Well, I’m still fond of you, oh-ho-oh

So, what difference does it make?
Oh, what difference does it make?
Oh, it makes none
But now you have gone
And your prejudice won’t keep you warm tonight

Oh, the devil will find work for idle hands to do
I stole, and then I lied
Just because you asked me to
But now you know the truth about me
You won’t see me anymore
Well, I’m still fond of you, oh-ho-oh

But no more apologies
No more, no more apologies
Oh, I’m too tired
I’m so sick and tired
And I’m feeling very sick and ill today
But I’m still fond of you, oh-ho-oh

Oh, my sacred one…
Oh…

—————————————–

Now here’s a song about self -love and just being a good neighbor.

Satellite Mind by Metric

Hold it I’m about to drop off
Let me tell you my last thought
Drift into a deep fog
Lost where I forgot to hold it
I can feel you most when I’m alone

Coming home cause I want to
Hang out with a starlet
Stare out at the ceiling
Preview of a screening
Flashback of a feeling
Sixth sense of the call and
I heard you fuck through the wall
I heard you fuck

When I’m bored
I send vibrations
In your direction
From the satellite mind

I’m not suicidal
I just can’t get out of bed
I drift into a deep fog
Lost where I forgot to hold it
I can feel you when I’m alone
I can fell your ghost when I’m alone

Coming home cause I want to
Hang out with a starlet
Stare out at the ceiling
Preview of a screening
Flashback of a feeling
Sixth sense of the call and
I heard you fuck through the wall
I heard you fuck

When I’m bored
I send vibrations
In your direction
From the satellite mind

When your voice
Became vibrations
From the satellite mind

It sounded like mine

——————————————–

Next… A happy tune about getting everything you could ever want for just one dollar. (make sure to read the fine print)

Step Right Up by Tom Waits

“Only a dollar. Step right up.”

—————————————-

Next… Denial (but with an infectious melody)

Everything’s Just Wonderful by Lily Allen

“Oh well I guess I mustn’t grumble. I suppose that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.”

———————————————-

Next up.. a little more self-love (of the less erotic kind)

i (love myself) by Kendrick Lamar

“The world is a ghetto with big guns and picket signs. But it can do what it want, whenever it want, I don’t mind.”

————————————————

And lastly… The happiest bass-line in the world.

Feel Good Inc. by Gorillaz

City’s breaking down on a camel’s back.
They just have to go ’cause they don’t know whack
So all you fill the streets it’s appealing to see
You won’t get out the county, ’cause you’re bad and free
You’ve got a new horizon it’s ephemeral style.
A melancholy town where we never smile.
And all I want to hear is the message beep.
My dreams, they’ve got to kiss, because I don’t get sleep, no
Windmill, Windmill for the land.
Love forever hand in hand
Taking it all in on your stride
It is sticking, falling down
Love forever love is free
Let’s turn forever you and me
Windmill, windmill for the land
Is everybody in?

Laughing gas these hazmats, fast cats,
Lining them up like ass cracks,
Ladies, homies, at the track
Its my chocolate attack.
Shit, I’m stepping in the heart of this here
Care bear bumping in the heart of this here
Watch me as I gravitate
Hahahahahahaa.
Yo, we gonna go ghost town,
This motown,
With yo sound
You’re in the place
You gonna bite the dust
Can’t fight with us
With yo sound
You kill the INC.
So don’t stop, get it, get it
Until you’re cheddar header.
Yo, watch the way I navigate

Windmill, Windmill for the land.
Love forever hand in hand
Take it all in on your stride
It is sticking, falling down
Love forever love is free
Let’s turn forever you and me
Windmill, windmill for the land
Is everybody in?

Don’t stop, get it, get it
We are your captains in it
Steady, watch me navigate,
Ahahahahahhaa.
Don’t stop, get it, get it
We are your captains in it
Steady, watch me navigate

Hahahahaha


I love you guys.

Remember to smile even when you don’t feel like it because it will probably make someone else smile and then someone else… traveling from person to person and before you know it you’ll see your original smile on someone else’s face.

And then you’ll smile for real.

– Mel

Social Encounter X

Hey.

Hey?

Hey. I’m talking to you.
Excuse me!!!
What now?
How is this new person going to hate me?
How is this encounter with a total stranger going to go wrong?
How will I be misunderstood and hated forever?
Hey.
It’s just a word. I can ignore it.
It is my right as an American to not respond.
I have the right to remain silent.
It says so in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Excuse me. I know you can hear me.
I don’t want to know what happens next
How this new person will dislike me.
Find me incredibly annoying.
It’s too painful.
Excuse me?
How is this going to end?
How will they misinterpret my silence as a rejection and resent me
Resent me until I can’t stand to look at myself.
HOW WILL THIS RANDOM PERSON HURT ME TODAY?
Hey.
How will this next encounter hurt me?
Will they make me fall in love with them and then disappoint me horribly?
Or will they fall for me too hard, too fast and make me fear them. Fear their “love”???

You ever have an ex… yes I’m talking to you… You ever have an ex who uses every pause in a conversation to tell you how much they “love” you? Not a current. An ex. Well I have.

(in the middle of telling a joke or a story) “…And then the dog took this big dump on the grass.” (stops talking to drink because, you know, your throat gets dry)

“I LOVE YOU…. (long awkward pause) You don’t have to say it back.”

“Yeah yeah but I’m sort of in the middle of telling a joke about dog poop right now.”

“It’s okay. You don’t have to say it. (another pause and then a quick) loveyou!”
Heeeeeeeeyyyyyyyy!!!!!!
That’s not love. If you loved me I wouldn’t fear you, if you loved me.
That’s not love.
You wanna be with me.
You don’t want me to be with other people.
You want to fuck me.
I don’t know what that is
But
That’s not love.
Hey. I know for a fact that you can hear me.
Oh come on.
Now what.
Are they gonna flirt with me?
Make me feel attractive… wanted… sexy
Am I going to laugh?
Blush?

Or am I going to turn around and try to flirt with them
Only to find out that I’m standing on a scarf or something?
How is this human encounter going to ruin my self-esteem today?

How the hell will this random human interaction reshape my world view?
HOW WILL I OBSESS ABOUT THE MANY WAYS I WILL MIS-HANDLE THIS SOCIAL SITUATION UNTIL THE DAY I DIE OF EMBARRASSMENT AND… I DON’T KNOW… FOOD POISONING… RICKETS
Come on. I can tell you hear me. I know you can see me. What’s wrong with you?
Oh god. I have to say something. I have to say something. I have to say something. I have to say something.

(Turns head around and says sweetly) Yes?

(Long pause breathing harder and harder in anticipation and fear)

What. Whatdoyouwant? WHAT? WHAT? whaaat?

(Now crying) What?

(Pleading) whaaaaat.

(Wipes tears and straightens, composes self then turns head back around and says calmly) What is it?

 

No not you. I was trying to get THEIR attention.

– Mel

To All My Friends (Who’ve Wondered Where I’ve Been)

I know I haven’t been around much lately. Too much anger. Didn’t really want to get it on you. I have a tendency to spew hate when I’m angry. I hate it when the bad guys win… I’ve been experiencing a what-the-fuck few weeks. The American election was hacked and I’m surrounded on all sides by people waiting for their chance to say “I told you so.”

“I told you so.” Among the bodies of the dead.

“I told you so.” Brought to you by the makers of Pepsi and Xanax.

“I told you so.” Translated from the original Russian. (actually, little known fact, it was in German before it was in Russian)

I’ve reached a point in my life where more people are younger than me than older. I’m surrounded on all sides by the children of the damned. Social media misfits more concerned with likes and dislikes. Trolls without bridges. History books unopened. But mouths that will not stay shut.

chinese-farmer

I haven’t been around much lately because I know me. The thoughts racing through my head should not be shared with anyone. My doctor doesn’t want to know. My lawyer doesn’t want to know. The fake twitter accounts of Russian trolls, who successfully influence the tired liberals into hopelessness and fits of screaming, don’t want to know.

For one misguided instant I considered self-immolation as a form of protest. Nothing else, it seems, can penetrate the walls of the corporate pay-to-play media and so-called social media’s cavernous, echo-amplifying, bottomless pits of ego and frustration. Setting myself on fire in front of some monument to our fallen democracy seemed like a good idea at the time… for like, literally, a second. For like one scary second.

So I’ve been away.

And I apologize. I figure there’s like 25 or 30 people who read my blog. And I love you guys. And I’m going to post some good stuff. Life goes on no matter how dire. I know my friend Alex misses my movie reviews. New shows, some of the best stuff I’ve seen on TV, came and went. Anybody watch Atlanta? That was amazing. Donald Glover is knocking it out of the park on the daily. Speaking of which, my list of the best albums from this year includes more genres than you can shake your rump at. Who knew I’d like Trap Music. OMG I like Trap Music.

Music, Movies, TV, the third chapter of my novel… but politics, fucking politics, pissed me off to such an extent that I couldn’t write but scream. I couldn’t think but scream. I could not talk because all the screaming made me lose my voice.

So I went away. Started meditating again. Got back to temple. Working out. Stopped doing the few remaining vices I’d allowed myself over the past decade. Pizza, Beer, Porn, Masturbation. It’s about time I stopped living like a 13 year boy without adult supervision. I’m gonna be 50 next year. And the US president is going to be Donald J. Tr… I can’t even say it.

The pounds flew off since I stopped eating garbage. It’s amazing how much more money I have in my budget since I stopped drinking. And the energy. The sexual energy. The mental energy. The spiritual energy… it’s through the roof. And now being channeled into less selfish endeavors.

thats-great-maybe

Doing yoga everyday. Getting to the temple at least three times a week. Working on my compassion and my mindfulness and my body. I will require these things to make it through the next few weeks. Let alone the next few years of protests and civil (and uncivil) disobedience. Gotta build my stamina for all the marching and demonstrating. Because, as you know, Donald J. Tr… I still can’t say it.

I’ll never be able to say it.

What is the true nature of reality? We see things as we want them or don’t want them to be. Sometimes a fantasy. And sometimes as our worst fears realized. We label situations and phenomena as good or bad. As helpful or unhelpful. As progress and advancement or… as the… the nightmarish, back-sliding, hateful, racist hell-scape that I can’t seem to wake up from. Somebody please wake me up.

WAKE ME UP!!!

I meditate to find love for the seemingly unlovable. I meditate to find focus amidst the din of unchecked voices (un-fact-checked and un-verified). I meditate to find the me that can help and not just criticize. That can pull his weight and not just pull his dick. That can be a calm in the storm and not just more destruction and distraction.

Because it’s looking more and more like we’re going to have to violently overthrow the US government. And I don’t say that lightly. People are going to die. People are going to die because they’ve lost their healthcare and can’t afford their treatments. Because they’ve lost their government jobs as the agencies that protect us, from emotionless and compassion-less corporations, are shuttered one after another. People are going to die because they’ve lost their minds after too many deployments in some foreign distraction called another war. People are going to die.

thats-awful-maybe

And we can’t just sit around waiting for a miracle. Like that one time that one guy resigned from being pope because he realized he was too evil and stuff to be pope so he let the cool guy be pope. We can’t wait for that. We can’t wait for lightning to strike his ostentatiously disgusting jet plane as it floats on a cloud of ego or one of his fucking hotels to collapse under the weight of his hubris. We can’t wait for that. And we can’t sit around watching our neighbors die from treatable diseases or complications from dangerous pregnancies or malnutrition. Fucking malnutrition in the 21st century.

So yeah. We need to violently overthrow the US government… but with love. Out of compassion for our fellow human beings these people have to go… on both sides. I will not be governed by hate. And also I will not be governed by hate. So that really no one has to die for idiotic and preventable reasons.

We’ve been hacked. Our election. Our government. Hacked.

And respectfully, the only course of action, after you’ve been hacked, after they infiltrated your system, installed their malware, their trojans, their porn, the only course of action is to unplug the damn computer, and reinstall the operating system.

I went away.

But I’m back.

I’m going to see Rogue One tomorrow. So I’ll let you guys know how I like it. I’m going to post all my reviews and stuff over the holiday season. There’s a lot. You know I didn’t even realize it was the holidays. This is usually my least favorite time of year (except for the Doctor Who special). Because I’m alone and everything about this time is geared toward family and friends and stuff. But ever since I’ve rediscovered my faith, going to temple and Dharma classes and meditation, I don’t feel so alone.

I feel great actually. This is the best I’ve felt in a long time. The healthiest I’ve been mentally, spiritually and physically. The best.

And to think, I owe it all to the rigged, hacked, fraudulent and fucked up election of Donald J. Tr… you know what, I still can’t say it.

You guys thank him for me.

See ya tomorrow after Rogue One (unless I’m too hyped to post anything but OMG OMG OMG OMG then I’ll post on Saturday after Dharma class)

Now watch this 2 minute video.

– Mel