At the heart of Orphan Black is the question of what constitutes family, which becomes text rather than subtext as Alison juggles her drug dealing business, her school trustee election and her mother. Alison is the most interesting of the clones, and the main problem with the third season of Orphan Black is that she’s been separated from her sisters for so much of it. Alison’s journey in the first season was a really complex story about how what was going on with the clones and her marriage drove her to the breaking point, which led to her falling off the stage on the opening night of Blood Ties, consequently landing her in rehab. I like the suburbs storyline, and the rekindling of Alison and Donny’s marriage has been great for the show, but Alison’s off doing her own thing while Sarah and Cosima are trying to figure out what’s going on and break Helena out of the military compound. The Alison and Felix combination has always been great, and I’m glad we got to see her interact with Cosima this week. Since Sarah is our entry point to the show, I can’t remember seeing a conversation that was just between Alison and Cosima, and this was a great episode for Alison.
One of the films I most wanted to see last year but never had the chance to was Snowpiercer. Its limited release made it difficult, but now it’s available for streaming, so I watched it on Thursday. This film was strange, and messed up in places, but it was also great. For such a dark film (as my brother remarked), it had a somewhat hopeful if open-ended ending. Snowpiercer is set in 2031, seventeen years after humanity created an ice age; a substance that they manufactured to combat global warming worked too well, and all life on Earth is presumed to have been wiped out except for the passengers on the train Snowpiercer. On the Snowpiercer, the (wealthier) passengers worship Wilford (Ed Harris), who saved them from destruction, and the perpetual engine that he built to keep the Snowpiercer running. The Snowpiercer traverses the globe, taking a route that lasts a year, allowing the passengers to mark time. A class system emerges on the train, and the audience sees the film through the eyes of the tail end passengers, who are on the lowest rung, signified by their literal position on the Snowpiercer.
Nothing goes over my head. My reflexes are too fast, I would catch it.
There are so many things to love about Guardians of the Galaxy, last year’s hit summer blockbuster. One of them is Groot. Another is the complete literalism of many of the Galaxy’s inhabitants. Then there’s the music. Most importantly however, this movie cured me of my Bradley Cooper Issues. The first time I saw this film my issues with the very fine actor had nothing to do with Alias, but mainly his character in American Hustle. Then I saw Alias and Will Tippin was SO ANNOYING in the first season. I respect Bradley Cooper as an actor, it’s just the way he plays those whiny characters really gets to me. I was given permission to take over the television tonight because the outcome of the football match had been decided before it started. That meant that I could watch Guardians of the Galaxy for the third time. Bradley Cooper was great in American Sniper, but I would have liked it even more if he was nominated for an Academy Award for his work as Rocket the Raccoon.
“Am I just going to come home one day and Paige is going to tell me she knows who we are?”
The most beautiful thing about The Americans is that Elizabeth and Phillip become closer every week. Yes, they fight, but when they talk it’s intimate. It’s about their fears and their pasts and of course their children. On the spy front, The Americans has also been very smart about the fact that they don’t have one mission per week, they actually have a lot of operations going on at the same time: there’s Elizabeth’s AA sponsor Lisa who works for a defence contractor; The Afghan group at the CIA that Phillip is infiltrating using Kimmy; the South African spy Elizabeth is training; and of course there’s Martha, or as she will be forever known, Poor Martha, who has finally realised that her husband may not be what he seems.
I’m slightly annoyed at Netflix for two reasons, one of which isn’t Netflix’s fault. The first, legitimate reason is that the second season of Nashville isn’t on there yet. The second reason has nothing to do with Netflix, and it’s that I just assumed that because Nashville was a network drama that there would be 22 episodes in its first season, but in actuality there are only 21. I was really confused about the montage in the first season finale because I thought it was really strange that these things were happening in the season’s penultimate episode, so upon learning it was actually the finale those events made much more sense. These complaints have nothing to do with Nashville itself, which I absolutely loved, and watched far too quickly for my own good. As I wrote last week, it has Connie Britton, music, love triangles and my favourite thing, which is lots of kissing.
I’m not writing an introduction today, I’m jumping right into this review. I like the twist of this week’s episode of Community better when they did it on 30 Rock. There were some good aspects to examining the group’s dynamics and how they make everyone else’s lives about themselves, but it fell flat amongst the revelation that Garrett and Stacey are not first cousins, but not far from that either. The reason it worked on 30 Rock is that Liz and the guy she dated were distant enough relatives that they wouldn’t know each other. The reason it doesn’t work in “Wedding Videography” is because Garret’s grandmother and Stacey’s great aunt are the same person. Their parents would have been first cousins and therefore surely they had met as children. One of the things I don’t like about Community is the way secondary characters are treated, and because Garret’s hopeless, of course he’d end up accidentally marrying his cousin. Why couldn’t he just have a nice wedding day. Also surely you’d know that your grandmother’s name is Polly. Community is better than this – anyone who has seen the first two seasons knows it is – and this just felt like too much of a hackey sitcom plot for me to like this episode, despite its positives.
Now, back to the premise: Abed is filming Garret and Stacey’s wedding, and we see the gang before and during the wedding – they’re all the worst, so they interrupt the ceremony during the vows and Jeff comes to a realisation during his “Best Man” speech. It’s so Jeff Winger to appoint himself Best Man. I liked the scene with Frankie and Annie, as Frankie is telling Annie that she needs to stop helping people all the time because she likes to feel needed. It doesn’t make her happy. Then Frankie makes a joke about Jeff’s ego and Annie starts daydreaming. Later Frankie tells Abed and the camera that she wanted to tell Annie that she needs to get away from Jeff, which is after Jeff describes the group’s codependence. What I really respect about this season of Community is that when they added Frankie and Elroy, they had them react to the group’s history as any sane person would: “This is a study group? You two dated?” Frankie may enjoy spending time with these people, even if she doesn’t know how to do small talk, but she realises that the group dynamic is messed up.
Something that Community visits every once in a while is the idea that the study group aren’t actually good for each other. They’ve nearly disbanded more than once, and as much as I’ve complained about the show being too meta this season, I do like it when other characters point out how much they need to make everything about themselves, such as when Shirley gave birth, or Todd joined the study group for the terrarium assignment. Todd was great this week: “Am I God? I could be God.” There’s a reason that Todd was invited to celebrate the wedding and not Jeff Winger: he’s actually friends with Garret, whereas in the study group’s mind, they’re everyone’s best friends. They’re actually not, they’re just really self involved people. I liked the discussion they had at the end when Britta points out that she’s only the worst when she’s around the rest of them – they call her the worst so they can feel better about themselves. It’s a very Jeff Winger thing to do. As a self-appointed Britta fan, I’m glad she stands up for herself here, because I know she’s not the worst. I really enjoyed these moments of examining the group’s codependence and self-centredness, it’s too bad they had to ruin it with a hackneyed wedding subplot.
After a lacklustre season in 2013, MasterChef Australia experienced a culinary and commercial resurgence in 2014, even if its ratings were never as high as the peak of its first two seasons. After trying to build on the success of My Kitchen Rules failed, MasterChef took a ‘back to basics’ approach that improved the show. It also helped that last year’s contestants were some of the best I’d ever seen on the show. I turned 24 last year, and the top three contestants were all my age or younger, and they were fantastic. This year however, I find myself watching even less of MasterChef than I did two years ago. The contestants are fantastic (check out Reynold’s brilliant dessert from the first invention test) and there have been some team challenge disasters, but I’m not as invested in it as I have been previously.
I have two main problems with MasterChef this early in the season. The first is that there are way too many contestants. The brass want to make sure there are enough episodes to run for thirteen weeks, so there’s a Top 24, but the eliminations are bi-weekly on MasterChef, you need to be on your toes. It’s hard to get invested early in the season because it’s week 4, and I definitely don’t know anyone’s name outside the people who have established themselves as people to beat like Reynold and Georgia, or people who are responsible for getting other people eliminated like John (I’m so mad at John for what he did in the team challenge last week, if he gets immunity tomorrow, I’m going to be annoyed). The other problem is the achievability of the food. The draw of MasterChef is that these people are home cooks, and they just happen to be really good at cooking. I prefer The Great British Bake-Off because these home bakers are baking things I’m able to do myself (although this week’s team challenge is a bake off, and I’m looking forward to it). That being said, I love a pressure test.
The Pressure Test is the Monday night elimination challenge, in which the bottom three contestants from Sunday’s cook are given a very difficult recipe by a top chef to replicate. This is where the achievability part of it comes in (in the first two seasons I could make a dish from one of the recipes on the website at least), but I also don’t mind. I can take or leave Immunity challenges, but the Pressure Test is a thing of beauty. The first croquembouche episode was a thing of beauty, and has gone down in MasterChef history and made the croquembouche a household term. I had so many croquembouche birthday cakes when my friends turned 21. Tonight our contestants had to recreate a carrot cake, and it was a thing of beauty and I really wanted to eat it. The joy of MasterChef is watching amateur cooks successfully recreate these dishes, and despite not having the cream cheese icing (it was actually a foam, because this is a cooking show), Rose’s cake was perfect. If you want to check out this show, Monday is the best night to do it, because there is spectacular food and sometimes spectacular failure, and that’s when MasterChef is at its best.