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True Detective Recap: Season 2, Episode 4, “Down Will Come”

Good and evil have often been described as two sides of the coin that is humanity, and “Down Will Come” certainly puts that theory into practice.

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True Detective Recap: Season 2, Episode 4, “Down Will Come”
Photo: HBO

Good and evil have often been described as two sides of the coin that is humanity, and “Down Will Come” certainly puts that theory into practice. As the title’s play on words suggests, evil things are all but guaranteed to fall upon us, as cyclical as the physical forces that bring dawn (or light) to each new day. Halfway through this week’s episode of True Detective, there’s a return to the very first shot of the season—a series of flags flapping on a parcel of land. This time, however, an EPA specialist is on hand to explain to Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) and Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) that the flags represent contaminated land. While the detectives don’t put it all together, it’s suggested to the viewer that Mayor Chessani (Ritchie Coster) has been deliberately polluting the water tables so as to force the families who once farmed on them to flip them to the various illicit organizations in Vinci who will then eventually rezone and resell the properties to the federal government.

Gravity is the villain here, pulling toxic elements into the watery veins of a once-arable (i.e. prosperous) area: If Caspere was murdered for his involvement in this scheme, that would explain both the chemicals used to blind him and the time he spent being tortured while suspended upside down. It might tie also to the eye-socket-shaped watermarks that Caspere’s partner, Frank (Vince Vaughn), is seeing everywhere, this time on a coffee table. It certainly has something to do with Frank’s shriveled avocado plants—just one more sign of the man’s impotence—or his own confession to his wife, Jordan (Kelly Reilly), that “There’s so many things for me to go about the wrong way I’m losing my fucking vision.” If this season’s about “the world we deserve,” then Frank is literally reaping what he sows. He can try to escape that dawn/down by traveling backward in time, reclaiming old businesses like his nightclub and forcing new, unfavorable terms on old clients. But just as gravity has claimed his crops (or the gravity of his situation has potentially shriveled his sperm), so, too, does gravity dictate that what goes up must eventually come down.

Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) is also learning that he can’t escape the specific gravity of his actions. After coming to blows with his former Black Mountain contractor and war-time lover, Miguel (Gabriel Luna), he wakes up hungover and half-naked in the man’s apartment, being offered waffles and a chance at other domestic bliss. As usual, he flees the scene, only to find paparazzi waiting outside his hotel, there to follow-up on his supposed sexual ties to a starlet (as well as his military past) and his motorcycle’s been stolen, which leaves him metaphorically and physically stranded. Ray tries to comfort him with a bottle of Smirnoff, but Paul’s inconsolable: “I just don’t know how to be,” he admits. Small wonder, then, that he attempts to refocus all of his energy on his ex-girlfriend, Emily (Adria Arjona), who tells him that she’s pregnant. “This is the best thing that could happen,” he tells her, suggesting marriage, but there’s a lengthy hesitation before he kisses her in celebration and looks uncomfortable sitting beside her in the diner’s booth. It’s the best thing for his career and image, but he’s learned nothing from Ray (or Frank): A child isn’t meant to be the piece of driftwood that keeps a floundering marriage or man afloat.

Finally, Ani finds herself caught up in the currents of powerful men, unable to escape their tidal influences. Ray attempts to warn her, growing increasingly sincere with each day of sobriety: The attorney general’s case against the mayor? “It’s a shakedown. You think this is about stopping Vinci from doing the same thing it’s been doing for a century?” A few people might care (Ani’s one of them, even if it’s only because being good at her job keeps her distracted from her failing life), but as the mayor’s daughter tells her, “There’s no rules, you see? That’s how it’s always been.” Ironic, then, that Ani’s own actions are what leave her so vulnerable to the mayor’s actions against her; her relationship with one of her underlings at the sheriff’s department is (rightly) a form of sexual misconduct, and she’s not being investigated because she’s a woman, but because she’s stepped on the wrong toes. This, coupled with her apparent gambling debts, are what lead her to take the sort of machismo bullshit action that she’s ordinarily so much against, leading a raid against a potential suspect, even though he doesn’t really fit the motive. A Mexican pimp is the perfect fall guy, but only to those who don’t realize that Caspere’s killer would’ve walked away with Frank’s five million—and would have no need to pawn the dead man’s watch.

Instead, Ray, Ani, and Paul are the only survivors of a major shootout at what turns out to be a meth lab. Instead of a controlled takedown of their only suspect, they’re left with a series of bodies in the streets—a mix of innocent victims who had been protesting poor conditions in the area and sub-machine-gun-wielding Mexican gang members who seemed more interested in making Ani look as bad as possible (by running up the body count) than in escaping. The episode closes with Ray on the ground, trembling with the ramifications of his actions; Ani, too, is shaken by her own near-death experience (her gun had run out of bullets) and perhaps the impact all of these innocent victims will have on her career. Only Paul is unfazed, which perhaps proves Ray correct: After the shit he’s seen overseas, nothing else can be as bad. But that’s not true. The horrible things are cyclical: Just as dawn is sure to come every day, so, too, are things bound to eventually go down.

For more True Detective recaps, click here.

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Awards

Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Adapted Screenplay

After walking back almost all of its bad decisions ahead of this year’s Oscars, there’s no way AMPAS isn’t going to do the right thing here.

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BlacKkKlansman
Photo: Focus Features

Eric and I have done a good job this year of only selectively stealing each other’s behind-the-scenes jokes. We have, though, not been polite about stepping on each other’s toes in other ways. Okay, maybe just Eric, who in his impeccable take on the original screenplay free-for-all detailed how the guilds this year have almost willfully gone out of their way to “not tip the Oscar race too clearly toward any one film.” Case in point: Can You Ever Forgive Me? winning the WGA’s adapted screenplay trophy over presumed Oscar frontrunner BlacKkKlansman. A glitch in the matrix? We think so. Eric and I are still in agreement that the race for best picture this year is pretty wide open, though maybe a little less so in the wake of what seemed like an easy win for the Spike Lee joint. Nevertheless, we all know that there’s no Oscar narrative more powerful than “it’s about goddamn time,” and it was so powerful this year that even the diversity-challenged BAFTAs got the memo, giving their adapted screenplay prize to Lee, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott. To bamboozle Lee at this point would, admittedly, be so very 2019, but given that it’s walked back almost all of its bad decisions ahead of this year’s Oscars, there’s no way AMPAS isn’t going to do the right thing.

Will Win: BlacKkKlansman

Could Win: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Should Win: BlacKkKlansman

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Awards

Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Original Screenplay

This season, Hollywood is invested in celebrating the films they love while dodging the cultural bullets coming at them from every angle.

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Green Book
Photo: Universal Pictures

You know, if it weren’t for the show’s producers effectively and repeatedly saying everything about the Academy Awards is terrible and needs to be changed, and the year’s top-tier contenders inadvertently confirming their claims, this would’ve been a comparatively fun and suspenseful Oscar season. None of us who follow the Academy Awards expect great films to win; we just hope the marathon of precursors don’t turn into a Groundhog Day-style rinse and repeat for the same film, ad nauseam.

On that score, mission accomplished. The guilds have been handing their awards out this season as though they met beforehand and assigned each voting body a different title from Oscar’s best picture list so as not to tip the Oscar race too clearly toward any one film. SAG? Black Panther. PGA? Green Book. DGA? Roma. ASC? Cold War. ACE? Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Even awards-season kryptonite A Star Is Born got an award for contemporary makeup from the MUAHS. (That’s the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild, not the sound Lady Gaga fans have been making ever since A Star Is Born’s teaser trailer dropped last year.)

Not to be outdone, the Writers Guild of America announced their winners last weekend, and not only did presumed adapted screenplay frontrunner BlacKkKlansman wind up stymied by Can You Ever Forgive Me?, but the original screenplay prize went to Eighth Grade, which wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar. Bo Burnham twisted the knife into AMPAS during his acceptance speech: “To the other nominees in the category, have fun at the Oscars, losers!” In both his sarcasm and his surprise, it’s safe to say he speaks on behalf of us all.

As is always the case, WGA’s narrow eligibility rules kept a presumed favorite, The Favourite, out of this crucial trial heat. But as the balloting period comes to a close, the question remains just how much enthusiasm or affection voters have for either of the two films with the most nominations (Roma being the other). As a recent “can’t we all just get along” appeal by Time’s Stephanie Zacharek illustrates, the thing Hollywood is most invested in this season involves bending over backward, Matrix-style, to celebrate the films they love and still dodge the cultural bullets coming at them from every angle.

Maybe it’s just tunnel vision from the cultural vacuum Oscar voters all-too-understandably would prefer to live in this year, but doesn’t it seem like The Favourite’s tastefully ribald peppering of posh-accented C-words would be no match for the steady litany of neo-Archie Bunkerisms spewing from Viggo Mortensen’s crooked mouth? Especially with First Reformed’s Paul Schrader siphoning votes from among the academy’s presumably more vanguard new recruits? We’ll fold our words in half and eat them whole if we’re wrong, but Oscar’s old guard, unlike John Wayne, is still alive and, well, pissed.

Will Win: Green Book

Could Win: The Favourite

Should Win: First Reformed

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Watch: Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir, Starring Honor Swinton Byrne and Tilda Swinton, Gets First Trailer

Joanna Hogg has been flying under the radar for some time, but that’s poised to change in a big way.

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A24
Photo: A24

British film director and screenwriter Joanna Hogg, whose impeccably crafted 2013 film Exhibition we praised on these pages for its “disarming mixture of the remarkable and the banal,” has been flying under the radar for the better part of her career. But that’s poised to change in a big way with the release of her latest film, The Souvenir, which won the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Prior to the film’s world premiere at the festival, A24 and Curzon Artificial Eye acquired its U.S. and U.K. distribution rights, respectively. Below is the official description of the film:

A shy but ambitious film student (Honor Swinton Byrne) begins to find her voice as an artist while navigating a turbulent courtship with a charismatic but untrustworthy man (Tom Burke). She defies her protective mother (Tilda Swinton) and concerned friends as she slips deeper and deeper into an intense, emotionally fraught relationship that comes dangerously close to destroying her dreams.

And below is the film’s first trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9Al2nC0vzY

A24 will release The Souvenir on May 17.

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