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Liv Tyler (#110 of 9)

The Leftovers Preview: Justin Theroux’s Hidden Package

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The Leftovers Preview: Justin Theroux’s Hidden Package
The Leftovers Preview: Justin Theroux’s Hidden Package

In his recap (to be posted here tomorrow at 11pm EST), Matt Brennan calls the cold opening of this Sunday’s episode of HBO’s The Leftovers “a disorienting change of pace.” And while I’m pretty sure he’s referring to both a previously unseen location and the understated, genial tone of characters we’ve otherwise come to know as edgy and combative, it was hard not to be distracted by the sight of Justin Theroux jogging commando on his way to retrieve a package hidden underneath a mailbox. And we’re not the only ones. Co-star Liv Tyler apparently also has trouble averting her eyes during Theroux’s jogging scenes.

The Leftovers Recap Season 1, Episode 8, "Cairo"

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The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 8, “Cairo”

HBO

The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 8, “Cairo”

“Cairo” begins with a song, climaxes with a poem, and concludes with a whisper, but it’s what each of these leaves unspoken that captures the testy relationship between faith and doubt at the heart of The Leftovers. As the opening montage augurs the coming collision between Patti Levin (Ann Dowd) and Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), suturing her arrangements for the Guilty Remnant’s next radical act to his preparations for dinner, the music we hear is excerpted from “I’ve Been ’Buked and I’ve Been Scorned,” an African-American spiritual. Left out when Patti closes the church door, however, are the lyrics that traditionally come next: “Ain’t goin’ to lay my ’ligion down,” the hymn resolves, “no, Lord.” “Cairo” is a dark night of the soul, but the power of conviction is omnipresent at its margins.

The Leftovers Recap Season 1, Episode 5, "Gladys"

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The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 5, “Gladys”

HBO

The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 5, “Gladys”

Three minutes into “Gladys,” the titular member of Guilty Remnant is dead. The episode’s central event, her brutal murder, is already in the past. And in the long unwinding that follows, as the emotional, social, and political consequences of that terrible act reverberate through Mapleton and beyond, the gulf between those who need to remember the Sudden Departure and those who wish to forget it grows ever larger. “Grace period is over,” Holy Wayne (Paterson Joseph) warned in the show’s pilot, and though he meant to suggest the transformative power of his own charismatic presence, tonight’s episode demonstrates the broader implications of his foreboding words. The chronological conceit of the series, picking up the thread of October 14th three years later, suddenly appears canny indeed. With “Gladys,” an enthralling portrait of what happens when the urge to move on collides with the persistence of grief, The Leftovers joins the ranks of television’s must-see dramas.

The Leftovers Recap Season 1, Episode 4, "B.J. and the A.C."

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The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 4, “B.J. and the A.C.”

HBO

The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 4, “B.J. and the A.C.”

If you, like me, were cautiously optimistic that “B.J. and the A.C.” would replicate the focused structure and rich characterization of last week’s “Two Boats and a Helicopter,” a celebration of sorts is in order. “B.J.,” eccentric and tersely expressive, may not yet signal a trend, but for the first time since The Leftovers premiered, I’m not simply enamored of its potential, I’m excited by its proficiency with an unorthodox brand of suburban drama, part Left Behind and part Leave It to Beaver.

The Leftovers Recap Season 1, Episode 2, "Penguin One, Us Zero"

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The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 2, “Penguin One, Us Zero”

HBO

The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 2, “Penguin One, Us Zero”

Troubled chief of police Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) first encounters the penguin of “Penguins One, Us Zero” during an exchange with the police department psychologist assigned to evaluate his fitness for duty. Garvey’s massacre of a pack of dogs (gone wild, local myth has it, after witnessing the Sudden Departure firsthand) has Mayor Lucy Warburton (Amanda Warren) and the chief’s colleagues on the force worried about his mental state, and Garvey’s unsubstantiated claim that an unnamed “mystery man” (Michael Gaston) joined him in the shooting does little to quell their doubts. Amid the combative atmosphere of the counseling session, the most jarring detail is the presence of a goofy, inflatable black bird with large blue eyes and toucan-esque splashes of color on its body. “I work with a lot of kids,” the shrink explains. “They use it for aggression.” As its title suggests, the second episode of The Leftovers teems with flashes of anger, but it’s the objects of frustration that end up winning out.

The Leftovers Recap Season 1, Episode 1, "Pilot"

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The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”

HBO

The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”

In the beginning, at least, The Leftovers sounds familiar. The clamorous white noise of modern living hangs in the air, keeping time for the passage of an ordinary autumn day: a crying infant, telephone conversations, the tumbling dryers of a suburban Laundromat. Indeed, what will eventually mark October 14th as the dividing line between “before” and “after” is a brief and surprising silence, the pause that precedes the uproar of alarms, screams, and collisions accompanying the “Sudden Departure.” Created by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta from the latter’s eponymous novel, the series imagines a world in which two percent of humankind has vanished, but the premiere evinces admirably little interest in an explanation. The questions The Leftovers poses are rather more prosaic. What does it mean to be awakened not by sound, but by its absence? Why do we wait until what we hold dear is gone to acknowledge what it meant to us in the first place? Where do our regrets go when “before” becomes “after”?

The Lord of the Rings: Moments Out of Time

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<em>The Lord of the Rings</em>: Moments Out of Time
<em>The Lord of the Rings</em>: Moments Out of Time

Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy has earned wide recognition as one of the most significant accomplishments in the modern age of cinema. The films translate J.R.R. Tolkien’s prose through popular filmmaking tropes and cutting-edge technology into a stunningly visceral travelogue of brotherhood, grief, sacrifice, and storytelling itself, enlivened by the panoramic vistas of New Zealand where they were shot. However, there’s a caveat to the retrospective glow that has steadily amassed around the trilogy since The Return of the King swept the Oscars in 2004. Perhaps due to the epic scope of the project, which forms an almost 10-hour opus when connected together, the long view of director Peter Jackson’s accomplishment deemphasizes the minutia tantamount to its success.

Therefore, as we await Jackson’s latest foray into Middle-earth with the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the time appears ripe for a fresh look at The Lord of the Rings films. However, rather than focusing on where and how the pieces fit into a broader mosaic of the trilogy, an inside-out approach to these movies would make for a more worthwhile account of their riches.

For this piece, I’ve appropriated the concept of Richard T. Jameson and Kathleen Murphy’s “Moments Out of Time” annual look-back at a given year’s cinematic offerings. My hope is to highlight individual moments, disconnected not just from the trilogy’s story, but also from the generally accepted account of its collective achievement. Thus, the “Moments Out of Time” concept applies beyond merely the format of highlighting specific excerpts from the movies. These moments—some of which are individual shots, others extended sequences—aren’t necessarily the best or most pivotal within a certain context for evaluating the films.

Each of the following 10 moments illustrates a slightly different shade of the films’ fluid realization of a complex visual, thematic, and emotional spectrum. They encompass moments large and small, every one offering a distinct flavor of Jackson’s interpretation of Middle-earth, and all magnifying the larger accomplishments of the trilogy as a whole. I’ve limited my list to 10, though dozens more could arguably have been featured.

Sundance Film Festival 2012: Filly Brown and Robot and Frank

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Sundance Film Festival 2012: <em>Filly Brown</em> and <em>Robot and Frank</em>
Sundance Film Festival 2012: <em>Filly Brown</em> and <em>Robot and Frank</em>

Filly Brown plays out like a caricature of every stereotypical Sundance drama about plucky young heroines who overcome great adversity just by sticking to their guns and never abandoning their dreams. Unfortunately, the filmmakers don’t know how to dramatize the travails of a supposedly talented Latina rapper—“supposedly” because the song that’s meant to prove she’s a talented and soulful performer has laughably obnoxious lyrics that boast how Maria “Filly Brown” Tonorio (newcomer Gina Rodriguez) is true to herself because she doesn’t have “fake tits” or that she’s so fierce that she practically has two clitorises and will even take on “anyone with two tits.” But these lyrics aren’t apparently all that Maria’s about; there’s also her naïve free-style verses about how Latinos working minimum-wage jobs in Los Angeles go unnoticed by rich white folks. Maria’s sophomoric calls for people to notice the guy that washes their cars is understandable; she is, after all, presented as a young, boastful star-in-the-making. But what’s not as defensible is the constant way that neophyte screenwriter and co-director Youssef Delara defines Maria’s world in broad and laughably klutzy terms.

SXSW 2011: Super, 13 Assassins, Last Days Here, The Beaver, Scenes from the Suburbs, and Natural Selection

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SXSW 2011: <em>Super</em>, <em>13 Assassins</em>, <em>Last Days Here</em>, <em>The Beaver</em>, <em>Scenes from the Suburbs</em>, and <em>Natural Selection</em>
SXSW 2011: <em>Super</em>, <em>13 Assassins</em>, <em>Last Days Here</em>, <em>The Beaver</em>, <em>Scenes from the Suburbs</em>, and <em>Natural Selection</em>

Trying to fit in, like, four or five screenings a day at South by Southwest—a task at which I mostly failed until, maybe, my last two days in Austin, Texas—inevitably took away valuable time to write about everything I saw at the festival that I found of interest, for well and ill. So while I managed to squeeze in time to write about some of my favorites (The City Dark, American Animal, and Bellflower, especially), consider this last dispatch (from me, anyway) a run-down, with brief commentary, of a few others I saw that I either loved, liked, or didn’t like but at least found interesting enough to say something about. Oh, and yeah, Natural Selection, the big SXSW narrative feature award winner.