Reality TV – A friendly breakdown

I am the proud follower of only one reality show: Project Runway. Back when I had cable, I used to watch The Next Food Network Star and Man vs. Wild -The later mostly due to my interest in Bear Grylls’ pectorals. But never with the same addictive commitment that I invest into PR.

I came up with three broad categories that should encompass all different kinds of reality television:

1- Drama, drama, and more drama
Think MTV. These are the kind of shows that have a very broad premise and no clear objective. Some examples are The Jersey Shore, Big Brother, The Real Housewives…. and unfortunately, so many others.

2- Contest and competition
Most of the reality shows that spark my interest fit here. These are the shows that deal with a very concrete goal, like winning money or gaining prestige. Both, Project Runway and The Next Food Network Star, fit here. There are many more such as American Idol, almost all of TNT’s reality shows, Survivor… You get the drill.

3- Entertaining and educational
Here we have shows with the main objective of educating audiences. The first reality show ever, An American Family, belongs here. I’m talking Animal Planet series with Gorillas smooching each other. Old school stuff. I would put  Man vs. Wild here, along with many other Discovery programs such as Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs.

You might be thinking: “Who cares? I don’t even watch television!” And to that I say, good for you. But with all the recent talk about how authentic “Silicon Valley” is going to be, I can’t help but wonder: who thinks that any of these shows are authentic anyway? Most importantly, does it matter? The audience does not care.

Silicon Valley  is going to be a program about the rich, geeky, hipster entrepreneurs on Northern California. I wonder if they are going to make them get wasted while they write code! Oh wait, that’s been done. You better get ready anyway, ’cause it’s gonna be a hit.

Take This Waltz – Film Review

Take This Waltz is a romantic dramedy starring Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen and Luke Kirby. I was hesitant to watch it based on the ambiguous name and uncreative poster. But, there was something that called my attention when I saw the trailer, so I decided to rent it through apple tv anyway.

The distributors advertised it with misleading materials for supposedly another easy-to-watch romantic comedy, but, I don’t think that was a good fit for this film. This drama had some consistent kind-of-funny moments but ultimately it didn’t make me  laugh out loud; the content was heavy, the cuts were long and the music was moody. I like moody, but in this case those stylistic choices created room for Margot to come across as too depressed and Daniel to read as a little too cool.

In one of the first scenes Margot is in the kitchen baking and we accompany her from a very intimate, low-angle perspective. The camera work is engaging throughout the film and it is successfully in tune with Margot’s perception of her community and her life. The over-stylized blues and oranges are clever -for about a minute- but they become too much when the set dressing and the heavy handed color correction meet. Sarah Polley decided to make her film stand out but she forgot an important sense of subtlety. In some cases, it came across as the product of an artist who was trying too hard.

A young couple has a seemingly happy marriage; the wife meets someone else and despite some efforts to control the attraction, they fall in love. Nothing new. But what I liked about this film is that it doesn’t romanticize the devastation that comes from a simple change of hearts. One of my favorite scenes is when Margot and her husband Lou are in the kitchen; he is cooking chicken while she is trying to seduce him, he asks her to leave him alone because he is busy. The scene is choreographed beautifully, everything about it is desperate and common. Margot’s approach is awkward and Lou’s response is hilarious. He tells her “I don’t know what you are talking about. I’m just making chicken”, “you are always making chicken” she says. Oh! the joys of subtext.

Michelle Williams allows herself to become Margot; she is a woman yet still a girl, she is insecure, confused, and to be honest, a completely hateable character. I found myself saying “who the hell wants to be this woman?”: nobody. Nobody wants to be Margot, yet, many of us can sympathize. Seth Rogen wasn’t in the film for very long but just like Michelle he allows Lou to be simple; he cooks, he writes, he is silly and he loves his wife. The end. For some, this could be considered poor character development, but, I dig it. I think it takes certain sensibility to appreciate the depth behind minimalist actions; Lou is real. Then there is Daniel, a character that was possibly already bad on the page but could have been improved through a stronger performance; he was flat. Daniel is handsome, a talented artist, an amazing lover… but, I don’t buy him. At the end of the film I was engaged wondering if Margot made the right decision or if Lou still loves her. But with Daniel…. well, I kind of don’t care.

I’m glad I saw this movie in the comfort of my own home, I was able to sink into the couch and connect with “the grass is always greener on the other side” syndrome. I was surprised to see that in Rotten Tomatoes the audience vote was in the underwhelming 60%, yet the critic’s vote was almost up in the 80%. I would’ve predicted that it would be the other way around, specially with the triple full frontal nudity. Oh, well!

To me, this films deserves three and a half stars (out of five).

imdb | rotten tomatoes