Girls

The writing and producing team of Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow is brilliant. Dunham can provide for the real world dramatic back-and-forth of the characters and Apatow can provide for the off-the-wall hilarity which brings a typical dramatic scene to a whole other unexpected level. Season One of the HBO TV series “Girls” is basically like a new Lena Dunham film. I watched the episodes as they premiered on Sunday evenings last year, and then I watched them all over again in one long 10-hour marathon. Either way they’re bound to stay with you, affect you and peak your interest into what a second season would bring. And Season Two premieres this Sunday, January 13.

Girls TV Series

The set up for the series is simple and brilliant. It’s like a much more intelligent Sex and the City and for a much less Princess-syndrome-plagued audience. An audience not any less self-important and self-aware, but one whose just may be a little hipper, listens to Sleigh Bells, The Echo Friendly and prefers writing and art over college football and keg stands.

There’s even an ingenious referencing to Sex and the City by the most appropriate character for enjoying that kind of show on the series. She’s also the one who enjoys game shows, reality TV and is hyper-obsessed with perfection and losing her virginity. Let’s start with her – the least obvious of the cast of characters – and with the most befittingly bohemian uptight name: Soshanna. Soshanna’s still in college, lives with doll house decorations in her apartment and needs a serious wake-up call to life. She’s also the cousin of Jessa.

Jessa is your typical Urban Outfitters / Free People adorned Williamsburg hipster, although she has a little edge to her with the aloof-albeit-endearing foreign accent (which you have to even wonder if not unlike a Madonna-like play for attention, she puts on). She’s working in the most inappropriate job ever for someone as uninterested in personal responsibility as she is – an au pair for a well-off family with a too-busy-for-the-kids glamour industry mom and a shlubby, out of work musician dad who becomes more enamored with Jessa then his own children.

Then we get to the stars of show, Dunham herself (playing as Hannah) and her “best” friend and roommate Marnie. Marnie starts the whole series off on a downward trajectory which destroys the heart of a perfectly good boyfriend and finds her literally seething with hatred for her relationship with him because he’s “too nice” to her, and clearly because he sees beauty and perfection in her which she could never see in herself due to a plethora of hidden self-esteem issues which she’s dutifully masked throughout most of her life from everyone she knows – including the lowest self-esteemed of all – Hannah.

Marnie in GirlsMarnie’s the kind of girl I literally find myself hating now, because I’ve seen what someone as damaged as she is can do to a relationship, and I don’t think they can ever really change. She’s too pretty to realize she’s pretty and she’s too uptight and self-obsessed to ever want a man who doesn’t beat her down with his disinterest in her any waking hour except those in which he’s horny.

Hannah is the most well-developed character (and interestingly the only one whose parents we’re introduced to), and best of all she’s got the perfect boyfriend. On the outset, her boyfriend Adam is a perverted loser, but the beauty of the way this series unfolds is that you learn to not judge any characters by their initial affectations, and instead (like real people) give them a chance to get to know you. Adam is a unique, artistic guy who’s not afraid to stand up for himself and not afraid to tell Hannah what he wants, even if it frightens her. What’s cool about the series Girls is that Dunham is pleading to women her age out there to give guys like this a solid chance, because honestly you could write him off over the first few episodes, but by the middle of the season you’re kind of hooked. He keeps Hannah honest, doesn’t necessarily tell her what she wants to hear, but always tells her what he’s feeling (when she takes the time to become un-self-absorbed and actually ask him). They’re a good combination of emotional intelligence and creativity for each other and really, Dunham puts all the pressure on the character she’s playing to keep it together with Adam, because (like most self-absorbed and low-esteemed girls) she’s unsure about a good thing.

girls-hbo-adam-hannahSeason Two has some changes in store for Hannah and Adam though, as Hannah will obviously be freaked out by the realization that Adam is actually in love and committing to her. Dunham actually sums up the feelings her character has for Adam in an honest and perfect real life example from her past (via Vulture), depicting just how some girls can be when they’re not emotionally mature at all:

The thing is, I’ve been in so many situations where, like, the power balance just shifts and shifts and shifts — like, I remember when I was 16 and I had this boyfriend from camp and I liked him so much, and he did not like me that much. He was really cool; he was a rapper, but he was not that into me. But then I went back home, he went back home, I started calling him a little less, and he turned into this mixtape-sending, flower-wielding person. I went to Boston to visit my friend and saw him, and we all went to a thrift store together, and it was like his passion for me was so unbridled he shoved me into a coat rack and tried to kiss me. And I was like, “Get off of me!” I just had this feeling like, “Where were you before?” I felt revulsion, because when you’re not mature enough to handle being responsible for somebody else’s feelings, their need is disgusting. When you really love someone, and you’re adult enough to understand that life is a back-and-forth of sometimes you need and sometimes they need, then you find somebody else’s vulnerability beautiful, and you want to nurture it, and you want to keep it safe. But I feel like, until pretty recently in my life, somebody expressing any kind of desperation or any kind of vulnerability — it was like your parents showing you they have real feelings, it was like running into your teacher on the subway. It was awful, and so I think that for Hannah this switch with Adam, even though it’s everything she had dreamed of, was overwhelming, and suddenly he’s a real person and she’s scared, and there’s this feeling of somebody else is wanting her time and her energy, and she’s not about that.

All the characters in this series are perfectly crafted out of real-life, they’re perfectly flawed and ingeniously paired. It’s a risky series for someone like Dunham to reveal because of its level of personal reflection and commitment as both filmmaker and star playing a role in which she must reflect many of her own personal demons. It’s also a challenging series because initially it was hard for me to become so invested in it; the girls are just so utterly off-putting to begin with that I found it to be more socially un-redeeming than socially revealing, but it’s an important and intelligent (and funny!) examination on young women and men and their ability to process and maintain meaningful relationships in today’s technocratic and constantly evolving world. Stick with it through the first few episodes and I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised and glad you met these characters.

You Don’t Know Jack

Jack Kevorkian. Which ever side of his principles you find yourself on, there will still be something you can relate to in this made-for-HBO flick by Barry Levinson. Levinson has a number of comedy-drama biopics under his belt and he knows how to keep this one intriguing. Kevorkian alone is a pretty intriguing guy–let’s be honest, but Levinson’s addition of his comic-relief sidekick in the gregarious John Goodman is a smart touch. Kevorkian on his own accord (as he is at the end of the film), is just a somber man.


Levinson went little overboard with the whole “case-file” style of itemizing the death’s by number. I could have done without that prime-time TV post-production addition. This is really a film that’s all about story, the visuals are relatively uninspired and seem only as interesting as the scene needs them to be. The film is holding itself back from becoming a soapbox, and it’s really about the idea and purpose that Kevorkian found himself attracted to and to which he was ultimately devoted for the rest of his life.

Prison was a mere inconvenience for him and lawyers were of no use as he could see it, he had to be talked into the one he had on his side. I use “on his side” here loosely, as we come to find out that the attorney for Kevorkian through the initial stages of his “assisted suicide” self-made career, was actually less interested in Kevorkian’s cause as he was Kevorkian’s public image. The film feels less biographical and more narrative in its approach as we are thrown into the story at beginning watching Kevorkian as he peers helplessly into the hospital room in which his mother lies. She’s in solitude in the throws of the death-rattle and it becomes immediately apparent that this was personal for Kevorkian all along.

Pretty soon everyone who is close to Jack is either dead, dying or alienated. I believe he was a severely emotional man, one who was easily misunderstood due to his radical thoughts and unconventional view on life and death, and one who wasn’t able to express what he was feeling other than reaching out his hand as best he knew how. As with any great emotional investment in something, when it becomes threatened and has to be moderated, those emotionally involved can and will likely act or appear irrational. Kevorkian himself, grew a little irrational, believing that he was doing something that would take societal hold in a matter of years.

Al Pacino plays Kevorkian to a obsessive-compulsive, dictatorial, heart-warming tee and he and Levinson keep the of-late, overacting effervescence (and spit) to null. Despite the easily enhanceable likeness of Pacino to Kevorkian, it would seem their personas and styles would completely repel; however, Pacino here has made an easily disregarded man very much a man to be regarded. Quickly overshadowed and kept that way since the 90s, his cause is one to be considered for more debate, though it likely won’t see that for some time – if ever. Like many other things in Jack’s life, it appears his cause is doomed to die.

Ladies Love the Feel of the Wheel

From the amber hues to the low contrast to the cropped aspect ratio, this video from Flight of the Conchords has all the makings of the best 70s era TV money could buy. Jermaine is looking a little like a serial killer, but that can be overlooked.

Disappointment is setting in for me however, since HBO still has not announced the future (if there is one) of season two. I wait patiently with my season one DVD box set by my side though, while I comb through the cheapest flight deals to make it to at least one of their handful of live shows this summer:

5/14 – Chicago, IL @ Chicago Theatre
5/15 – Denver, CO @ Ellie Caulkins Opera House
5/16 – Columbus, OH @ Value City Arena
5/26 – George, WA
5/27 – San Francisco, CA @ Nob Hill Masonic Center
5/30 – Los Angeles, CA @ Orpheum Theater
7/12 – Redmond, WA

Carpool anyone?