Monday, May 28, 2012

SKINS S2E3: Party On, Pain

I don’t know what kind of audience expectations Skins had when it first aired. It comes with this first-sentence Wikipedia vibe of like “the crazy party show with lots of kids fucking” which is weird because the kids almost never party and almost never fuck. Mostly, they undergo serious trauma. WOOOOO! YEAHHHH!

But that must have been the reputation Skins had, given the way it seems to so aggressively fight against it, week after week. This episode, for instance, traps us in Sid’s house for an extended period of time, following only the members of Sid's extended family, and when we finally do return to our old gang we’re seeing them dully, through the lens of Sid’s grief. (This show does a wonderful job of CONSTANTLY recalibrating your expectations and is a master class in tone.) And a party scene, featuring a cameo from a real band (Crystal Castles), which should be exactly the kind of scene you’d want were Skins the kind of show it is perceived to be, is not fun at all but actually where Sid finally breaks down, weeping hysterically in Tony’s arms while the incongruous music blares.
So yeah, this is a wonderful episode, the first one that I’ve found truly moving. We’re at Chez Sid for the first 30 minutes, without a break. His father’s father is visiting, and so Sid’s dad (Mark, played by Peter Capaldi) has convinced his estranged mother to return and pretend to be his wife for the sake of, well, not for the sake of pleasing his father; I guess for the sake of keeping the dude’s displeasure at a minimum. Because when you see what Sid’s family is like, you can really tell what an intergenerational victory Mark has scored by raising his son into a reasonably decent guy. There’s a bunch of animals—or, to paraphrase Mark: fucking Scottish cunts.

This is Capaldi’s show, and the actor weathers Mark’s victories and humiliations with a certain kind of gruff charm. The Sid/Mark relationship is one of the better son/father relationships I’ve seen, and it’s all the better for being articulated subtly. No Cat Stevens on the soundtrack here, in other words.

Sid is mostly a passive bystander to the drama between his elders, but also is fuming over the mistaken impression that Cassie’s cheating on him while away in Scotland. But all of that gets pushed aside when, the night after briefly reuniting with his wife and finally telling off his father, Mark dies.
Sid, alone in the house with his father's body, goes numb. He goes to class, doesn't talk to anyone, and barely notices that 1. someone has declared a fatwa on their college for their 9/11 play (ha ha ha) and 2. Angie has left the school, and Chris, for good. (More on all that later, maybe?) Tony finds Sid still sitting silently in the darkened classroom hours later, and takes him to a concert. Tony’s still in pretty bad shape physically and verbally (later there’s a wonderfully tension-breaking joke where Tony reacts to Mark’s dead body by saying “Ficking hell!” and Sid gently corrects him) but he seems to sense that everything is not all right with his friend. Sid wanders off in a daze, Tony finds him in the crowd, and Sid finally manages to tell someone what happened. And that’s where I totally lost it, you guys. It was an embarrassing show of human emotion and I am glad none of you were there to see it.

The coda to the episode is a goofy little O’Henry thing, where Sid and Cassie turn out to both be on trains going to see each other. I like that it pushes us even further afield from the dark, dusty house where we spent most of the episode—we’re there, we’re there, we’re there and then we slingshot away—but other than that it’s kind of silly. Unless we’re headed for a few episodes of “Sid’s adventures in Scotland!” That’d be OK. I <3 U, Sid.

So yeah, we're back to talking about Skins, okay? Did you guys watch this episode? What did you think?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Esquire's Profile Of Mireille Enos Is Some Next-Level Shit

Longtime readers of this blog are certainly aware that I hatelove Esquire Magazine's profiles of female celebrities. They're bizarre, pretentious, condescending, obsessive, and often go to such great lengths to avoid souding creepy that they become far creepier than one could have previously anticipated. Last summer I outlined the general formula for an Esquire Profile Of A Female, and when I did I conducted no research whatsoever, did not even go back and read a single old article, because I've read enough of these fucking things that I can create a reasonable facsimile in my sleep. And apparently, I am not alone in this skill. Last month Esquire's Tom Chiarella profiled The Killing's Mireille Enos, who basically wrote the (ridiculous) article herself. Let's start with the opening paragraph:

Her hair is loosely clipped in a chignon, that most delicate and mutable twist, so when she leans forward, when she lounges, when she reaches for an olive or fingers a pit from between her lips, placing the dead soldier on a paper napkin on the table between us, each time, Mireille Enos offers up a slightly different aspect of self.

So far, so Esquire-y. I swear to god those sentences are real and were really in a magazine. But hang on:

She purses her lips, then nods. "You've got to figure it out. I'm not saying anything about mystery, either. I'm just saying a woman should have to be considered from many angles."

So the author basically plaigarized the lede from his own subject--it isn't his observation, it's hers. About herself (This article doesn't cast a positive light on the writing at Esquire, but it doesn't exactly reflect well on Enos, either). From there, it hits all of the Esquire marks. Weird, incorrect but bold declarations about society ("Everyone's a Mormon these days"), references to her body veiled in descriptions of personality ("She's warming up out here on the patio, and it becomes clear that Mireille is a shin-bumping, knee-patting, olive-popping enthusiast"), pseudo-masculine biographical detail ("I'm a black belt in tae kwon do"). Then, as every celebrity profile draws to a close, there's the appraisal of career-state:

She is without complaint about her career, past, present, and future. But why would she protest? She locked up roles in major movies like World War Z  with Brad Pitt and The Gangster Squad* with Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, and Emma Stone, both out in the next year.

[*Photographic memory types will remember, and those keeping track of the way everything on this blog connects Kevin-Bacon-like back to everything else will like to know, that Ashley Greene auditioned for The Gangster Squad last year.]

She looks straight at you when she's talking about movie projects. You can't see the bun, though the cheekbones and the slender neck are a separate pleasure. This look she gives must be to convey calm, the sense that she's willing to live with the vagaries of fame and to work in the movie business without falling to pieces, or blaming someone else.

I think they just put this paste this paragraph into every female profile, just subbing in the bun for whatever other non-tit body part they decide to obsess over. Earlobe, pinkie toe. At the end Enos mentions helping her father fix cars, mostly by handing him wrenches. That's another Esquire trademark--ALWAYS MENTION HER FATHER--the Freudian implications of which I do not care to unpack. But in this case it is also Enos assuming control over the article again. Her bun falls apart--how symbolic!--and she confidently begins to put it back together.

She turns her head then, and it is clear that the hair has all gone to hell and the chignon is wilting. "This I can fix for sure," she says, nodding at a bobby pin on the table. "Just keep handing me the wrenches, will you?"

With actresses like these, who needs writers? Chiarella tries to take control again, closing out with this line: "Pin in hand, she reaches back and starts to assemble a new angle." Nice try, buddy, but she wrote that one too! I don't feel like Esquire should be allowed to go on after this. The students have become the teacher.