Monday 14 May 2018

What Are the Odds: The Americans Edition

With three episodes remaining in final season of The Americans, it’s time to take a look ahead at who will and will not survive to see the 90s. Here are the odds for the remaining main players:

Philip -- I find it unlikely that at least one of Philip and Elizabeth will not make it and my money would be on Philip. He seems more likely to suffer emotionally than actually be killed off. Philip’s destined to be Michael Corleone on the opera house steps at the end of The Godfather, Part III.
- (odds of dying -- 3:1)
- (odds of more happy line dancing -- 100:1)
- (odds he torches the travel agency for the insurance money -- 4:1)

Elizabeth -- Anytime a character carries a cyanide pill around for half a season it will be used. But who exactly will use it? Probably not Elizabeth, but she has been on a path to give her life for her country since day one.
- (odds of dying -- 1.5:1)
- (odds she already has lung cancer -- even)

Paige -- I used to believe that the series would end with a time jump to present day to find Paige working for the FBI or CIA. Not anymore. Now that Stan has his suspicions, the whole family tree will be tainted. Paige is all-in and committed to the cause, even if she doesn’t fully understand what she’s been misled into. Plus, Paige’s death would cause the most emotional damage to the leads.
- (odds of dying -- 2:1)
- (odds of saying “bye” before walking away from a conversation -- 100:1)

Henry -- Last we saw him he was heading back to school. Logically, he wouldn’t be back until Christmas and the summit happens in early December. Unless he gets into a car accident or catches a random puck to the skull, he’s safe.
- (odds of dying -- 30:1)
- (odds he still has that picture of Stan's ex-wife -- 2:1)
- (chances he gets a tyco track from Philip for Christmas -- 0%)

Stan -- I’d bet Stan makes it. Still, he knows something is up across the street and one thing The Americans has taught us, if you get in The Jennings’ way, you end up dead.
- (odds of dying -- 5:1)
- (odds, if he dies, he gets chopped up -- 2:1)
- (chances he and Philip have one more racquetball game for old times' sake -- 2%)

Renee -- If Renne buys it, it will likely fall under the category of collateral damage. But there’s still the possibility that she is a spy working for some nation (Israel?) and meets her end in a standoff with Stan.
- (odds of dying -- 12:1)

Aderholt -- Nobody in the FBI is a safe bet to survive. The fact that we’ve been shown Aderholt’s wife a young child several times this season doesn’t bode well for him. 
- (odds of dying: 7:1)

Claudia -- If Claudia goes down, it’ll be as part of the cyanide brigade. Either that or high cholesterol due to all those olive oil shots.
- (odds of dying -- 20:1)

Oleg -- Everyone’s favorite GW foreign exchange student should be in the thick of things as Philip and Elizabeth collide with the FBI, Stan, and each other.
- (odds of dying -- 5:1)
- (odds of revolutionizing the Russian railway system -- 40:1)

Jackson -- Mr. Rififi himself. A relatively new piece on the board, but when you get caught in Elizabeth’s orbit, you don’t last long.
- (odds of dying -- even)

Erica -- It’s a matter of when, not if.
- (odds of dying: off the board)

Father Andrei -- One angle of Stan and Aderholt’s investigation involves tracking down Russian priests. This will lead to Father Andrei. Cyanide!
- (odds of dying -- 10:1)

Kimmy, Martha, and Pastor Tim -- We’re unlikely to see these characters again in any form.
- (odds of dying -- 100:1)

Monday 20 February 2017

Channel 807 Oscar Preview - 2017

Ryan and Elliott break down the Oscars. Who will win; who should win; and a possible dark horse looking to play spoiler.

Best Picture

Will win: La La Land
Should win: Lion
Dark horse: Arrival

Doubtful that Arrival would win, but how awesome would it be for a sci-fi flick to win Best Picture?

Will win: La La Land
Should win: Moonlight
Dark horse: Hidden Figures

Moonlight has a legit shot to win, but this will likely be La La Land’s night in many categories, proving once again that Hollywood loves movies about Hollywood.

Actor in a Leading Role

Will win: Casey Affleck
Should win: Casey Affleck 
Dark horse: Ryan Gosling

This is Affleck's category to lose, in spite of all the hype surrounding La La Land. Although I personally think Gosling should have been nominated for The Nice Guys...

Will win: Denzel Washington, Fences
Should win: Denzel Washington, Fences
Dark horse: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Affleck is not a true dark horse as many consider him the favorite, and Ryan Gosling could win amidst all the La La love, but Denzel should take it with his powerhouse performance in Fences. It truly was peak Denzel.

Actress in a Leading Role

Will win: Emma Stone, La La Land
Should win: Ruth Negga, Loving
Dark horse: Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Will win: Emma Stone, La La Land
Should win: Emma Stone, La La Land
Dark horse: Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Huppert won the Golden Globe and Portman could also win for Jackie but it should be La La Land again here with Emma Stone.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Will win: Viola Davis, Fences
Should win: Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea
Dark horse: Nicole Kidman, Lion

Will win: Viola Davis, Fences
Should win: Viola Davis, Fences
Dark horse: Naomie Harris, Moonlight

Viola Davis is my lock of the night. And she deserves it! 

Actor in a Supporting Role

Will win: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Should win: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Dark horse: Jeff Bridges, Hell of High Water

Will win: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Should win: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Dark horse: Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Animated Feature Film

Will win: Zootopia
Should win: Zootopia
Dark horse: Kubo and the Two Strings

No doubt that Zootopia was the best animated film this year, however Kubo was visually incredible and had a different subject matter than what is usually depicted in "kids' movies".

Will win: Zootopia
Should win: Moana
Dark horse: Kubo and the Two Strings


Will win: La La Land
Should win: Arrival
Dark horse: Arrival

Another sure-thing for La La although I personally don't think it deserving of this award at all. Bradford Young's work on Arrival was incredible and deserving of recognition.

Will win: La La Land
Should win: Arrival
Dark horse: Moonlight


Will win: Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Should win: Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Dark horse: Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

Chazelle will win because La La Land; Lonergan did a phenomenal job with Manchester and should win; I would love to see Villeneuve take home the statue, but even if he doesn't, his time is coming.

Will win: Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Should win: Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
Dark horse: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Should be another win for La La Land here, though I really think Jenkins has an honest chance to win for Moonlight. But I cannot stress enough how much Villeneuve deserves it.

Documentary (Feature)

Will win: O.J. Made in America
Should win: I Am Not Your Negro
Dark horse: 13th 

Will win: O.J.: Made in America
Should win: 13th
Dark horse: I Am Not Your Negro

The controversy as to whether Made in America should even be eligible may have turned some voters against it. If it does, 13th will win.

Film Editing

Will win: La La Land
Should win: Arrival 
Dark horse: Arrival 

This is another category they will give to La La just because. But it should go to Joe Walker (Arrival) for sure.

Will win: La La Land, Tom Cross
Should win: La La Land, Tom Cross
Dark horse: Arrival, Joe Walker

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Will win: Moonlight
Should win: Arrival
Dark horse: Arrival

Not likely that Arrival will win, but it should. It was inventive screenwriting and something a bit different from what is usually celebrated in this category.

Will win: Moonlight
Should win: Moonlight
Dark horse: Arrival

Writing (Original Screenplay)

Will win: La La Land
Should win: Manchester by the Sea
Dark horse: Hell or High Water

La La
 will win, but Manchester was a better written film by far. Hell or High Water could surprise here though.

Will win: Manchester by the Sea
Should win: The Lobster
Dark horse: Hell or High Water

The Lobster 
was remarkable and, I'm sad to say, has almost no chance of winning. I'm predicting this will be Manchester by the Sea's lone win. Hell or High Water is a great script, if you have the time and desire, I suggest reading it by following the link here.


Check out Ryan's reviews on his Facebook page (, or visit The Chronicle Journal website! You can email Ryan at, as well.   

Saturday 11 February 2017

It's Always Sunny in Vatican City: An Alternate Guide to Viewing The Young Pope

Whether we realize it or not, the very first thing a movie or television show does is teach us how to watch it. It lets the viewer know what lens that film or show should be viewed through. We rely partly on our previous viewing experiences and understandings of genre and tropes, whether actively or subconsciously. We seek to understand how to digest it in order to gain access. In other words, to answer the golden question, "What am I watching?" as quickly as possible.

From the surreal opening images of The Young Pope, we are at a loss to answer that question. It begins with the Pope crawling out from under a massive stack of babies before delivering his first homily in St. Peter’s square. It’s a Lynchian dream sequence within a dream sequence.

Throughout the pilot and subsequent episodes, The Young Pope goes through tonal shifts more often that Vader went through admirals in The Empire Strikes Back. It is, at times: a character study; a comedy; a serious drama about a Pope with abandonment issues (involving both his hippie parents and God); a study in extremism; a political drama; a surrealist, arthouse film; and an odd family drama to name a few.

But that shouldn’t be a real concern. Most great shows manage to be many things at once. The issue with The Young Pope, however, is it seems to only ever be one of these things at a time. It feels choppy. Uneven. It jumps from dark comedy to surrealist fantasy from one scene to another.

And this makes the show inaccessible to many who just want to answer that ‘What am I watching’ question. 

Well, for those of you struggling to find an entry point into The Young Pope, I'm here to offer an entirely unique way to watch the show that I can sum it up with one title card:

That’s right. If you want to watch The Young Pope, but struggle with how to "watch" it, I suggest you try watching the show as if the whole thing is simply a thought exercise that started with the question: “What if Dennis Reynolds became Pope?”

Can you not see Pius XIII’s rants coming out of Dennis’ mouth? Dressed in full papal costume, shouting from the balcony at St. Peter's square. Soaking up the adulation. Sure you can.

Can you identify which of the following quotes belongs to which character?

I know. I’m incredibly handsome, but please, let’s try to forget about that.”

“The thunder of my vengeance will echo through these corridors like the gust of a thousand winds!”

"I'm a handsome man."

"I prayed so hard I nearly shit my pants."

“I want to talk about faith. It's not about whether something is true, or based in fact or reality or the laws of physics or nature or even basic common sense. It's about whether or not we're dumb enough to believe in it that matters. Who the hell am I to say that there is no God? Who am I? Or to say that anybody's belief in the church doesn't make their life better? Maybe it does.”

"I know everything a powerful man needs to know about the people he works with."

Here are some visual clues:

I'm sexy and I know it. Now kiss the shoes:


Make it work:

And for those of you familiar with the D.E.N.N.I.S. system used by Dennis to seduce women. Pius XIII uses a similar system to re-engage and seduce the Catholic followers... the L.E.N.N.Y. system:

I give you Dennis Reynolds, The Young Pope:

Thursday 9 February 2017

Review: The Wonderfully Frantic Legion Premiere

Creating movies and television based on existing intellectual property is considered safe. This is why we’ve been flooded with IP content relentlessly for the better part of the past decade. But the further the IP exists apart from the core of the brand, the more freedom that’s given to play in the sandbox.

In the case of FX’s new show Legion, the core brand is The X-Men. And the one who gets to play in this sandbox of peripheral IP is Fargo showrunner Noah Hawley.

Snowy landscapes are a big part of the distinct visual and tonal mood Fargo. So, when Fargo ended its second season in December of 2015, there was not enough time for Hawley to write and shoot the third season before the end of that winter. Production on the third season would have to wait until the winter of 2016. (In fact, it started shooting in Alberta last month.) As a result, Hawley found himself with some time on his hands. 

In the interim, he chose to tackle Legion. Created in the mid-80s by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz, Legion is a lesser-known member of the considerable X-Men catalogue. How much this show is connected to the big screen X-Men incarnations is unknown. For that matter, how much the show will draw from the comics is also a mystery.

The pilot of Legion introduces us to David Haller (Dan Stevens) through a montage -- a normal, serene childhood that quickly gives way to emotionally disjointed and troubled teen years; all to the soundtrack of “Happy Jack” by The Who.

David is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and committed to a mental hospital. He’s haunted by his past (memories that we get in flashes, fragments) as well as the present (“the devil with the yellow eyes”).

But, David is not alone. Both his friend Lenny (Aubrey Plaza), and girlfriend (of sorts), Syd (Rachel Keller) spend time with David in the hospital. Syd is the first one to suggest to David that maybe he isn’t crazy. A bond is formed between them. Both Stevens and Keller are excellent and they share a few sweet moments like “holding hands” using a scarf (due to her aversion to being touched) and laying next to each other separated by a pillow.

Much of the first episode ping-pongs between past and present. Between mutable memories and whatever happens to be David’s current version of reality. But, despite the show’s schizophrenic nature, it feels unified. Grounded. And, oddly enough, it’s David who grounds the story.

We are unable to pin down anything about this world. The timeframe is not specified and faintly recognizable as somewhere in the 70s or 80s possibly. That makes David all the more foundational to the story. Perhaps because we can only see reality through his lens. Perhaps because David is the only thing in the story we know is real. Either way, he anchors us to the story.

To further that, Hawley plants us firmly in David’s POV. The immersion into David’s world is jarring, yet so vivid that we can’t help but imagine what it is like inside his head. What it’s like to live that life. We are David. And like David, we are left to sort out what is real and what is imagined.

David is the ultimate unreliable narrator: one that doesn’t even trust his own sense of reality.

But he does trust Syd. And when she tells him, “This is real.” David believes her. And that's good enough for me.

For now.