Monday, February 22, 2016

Review: Mozart in the Jungle (Spoilers)

I finally caught up and finished watching both available seasons of "Mozart in the Jungle" on Amazon. Stupid me: I watched Season 2 first, and didn't realize until about 5 episodes in. At that point, I was too invested in the stories to stop, watch the pilot and Season 1 and catch up, so I finished out Season 2 first. The only reason this matters is that Season 1 was actually much better. I don't think the out of order-ness of it affected anything.

I have a couple of critiques, which I'm sure are shared by musicians everywhere. The first one is, these actors are some of the worst fakers at being musicians I have ever seen. The acting itself is fine, but put a cello or violin (or, god forbid, a flute or piccolo) in the hands of one of these people, and it's like they've lost control of their limbs. And Rodrigo's conducting is maniacal and totally a fantasy. Gael Garcia Marquez is fun and sexy to watch, but I'd like to see him find the downbeat for eight bars in a row. I understand that this is probably me being overly picky, but this show is about musicians. If the show was about doctors or (I don't know) NASCAR, they'd be expected to at least portray those professions with some aptitude. Speaking of NASCAR, Lola Kirke can't even fake driving that well. I think that cat from SNL looked more realistic at the wheel of a car. I wonder what Toonces could do with an oboe?

(It was totally ridiculous to show her cleaning that supposedly very expensive oboe with wet wipes. No one with any knowledge or or respect for an instrument would touch that thing with anything caustic or potentially damaging. And where is that oboe now? Why doesn't she actually play it?)

I do like the actor who plays the flutist "Union Bob," but I wish they'd focus, just once, on his playing. He seems like a sweet guy who doesn't deserve to lose attention to the backstabbing, drama whore-filled oboe section. I kind of hope that for Season 3, this show will shift (as did "Call the Midwife") the attention from the current main character - turn that spotlight anywhere else, at least temporarily. And how many more times can they make a stupid joke about his piccolo? Does every flutist have to be subjected to "one time at band camp" level jokes? Jason Schwartzman, you're a smart guy. You're better than that. Aren't you?

Another thing that bugs me is that if the NY Symphony is such a beloved and illustrious organization, why would anyone even consider hiring Hailey Rutledge to play in it? She demonstrates a love of music, and some talent, but she seems to need so much validation (and suffers so much when she doesn't get it). She's a hard worker, I guess, but hasn't shown any reasonable level of actually deserving the opportunities she's been given. Yeah, she plays with the "blood" (according to Rodrigo): but his taste in women (and instrumentalists) seems suspect at the very least. If this is the way to earning a spot in a major orchestra, I deserve to be considered for an audition with the LA Phil. Give me a few months to practice, and I'm sure I could be as good as she is! I might choose a mentor who is less crazy, however, but that just might be my age talking.

On the other hand, if they have any openings in HR, I'd be happy with that, too.

(I love Sharon, by the way. She's awful, but so likable at the same time. That actress doesn't get much to do but what she does, she does so, so well.)

My favorite character is Hailey's roommate, Lizzie. She definitely got the best line in the whole show - when Anna Maria stormed off stage at Rodrigo's debut, Lizzie yells out, "That crazy bitch just ruined my friend's debut!" Ridiculous but hysterical. As was Anna Maria - interesting, beautiful actress, but has something like this every happened, in modern times? I mean, over the top performances are fun to watch, but is there any attention being paid to reality? Obviously the character Anna Maria wouldn't care, but wouldn't anyone else? And then if Warren Boyd was such an amazing violinist - can the first chair violinist of any orchestra just pop off that solo, from memory, at the last minute like that? - why didn't Rodrigo just have him play it in the first place? It made no sense. And then, why was this never mentioned again? Warren Boyd is a genius! He at least did not deserve that silly storyline about trying to fake his own robbery!

Patrick heard me watching the show, and recognized Malcolm McDowell's voice without even looking at the screen of my iPad, which impressed me but maybe not anyone else. The (old) Maestro has gone through some dramatic changes during the two seasons, and though he's also an egomaniac, I kind of love him. His interactions with Wallace Shawn are great, and I adore both actors when they're onscreen together.

Saffron Burrows is one of the most believable actors playing a musician, and I think if the show focused on her (and maybe explained how she affords that totally awesome apartment) more, I might be less critical of the whole thing.

Bernadette Peters is gorgeous! I love seeing her on screen, and at 67 years old, she's a total goddess. I hope I look that good at 47 (because I sure didn't, at 37). Her speaking voice is enthralling, so I was so happy when they finally let her sing. I love the friendship that doesn't seem to be based on sex between her and Rodrigo. I like the way she talks to him: she knows he's a freak, but loves him for his (supposed) genius. I hope she works things out with Pavel. I liked seeing them together, and the way he reacted to her (possibly unintentional?) snobbery.

This is only the second show I've watched on Amazon Prime (the other was "Bosch, and I'm waiting for that thing to start again... and not very patiently, either), and my first on the iPad. I'm not sure what they call it (X-Ray?) but I love seeing the information on screen for the music playing or the actors. I wish there was even more content. It's very cool.

I'm thinking when Season 3 is underway, I'd like to test my abilities, and do some recapping of full episodes, so stick around. If and when that happens, it will be here, of course.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The news

I was listening to NPR on my drive to work this morning, and heard a brief story about the guys "occupying" that bird sanctuary in Oregon. I haven't been following this story very closely (I've heard the stories and seen headlines but I haven't read very much about it). I do wonder why these people seem to have gotten a pass - this story has unfolded over such a long length of time, and the point of it all still seems murky to me.

Anyway, I'm not prepared or qualified to discuss this, at all, but at the end of the story, and I will admit that I may have stopped listening very closely by this point, a man spoke up out of my radio and into my delighted ears. I had to write it down (fine; I had to ask Siri to write it down, which she did, with more perfection than she displays when I ask her to send a text message). It made me giggle. The guy speaking sounded a tiny bit like Elmer Fudd, a detail I don't add to make fun, but only so you too, might hear what I heard. Here it is, for your enjoyment.

"If you stand up against the government, the government will squish you."

Words to live by, kids.

(I think the repetition of the words "the government" got my attention. And then, "squish." It's such a great word. Squish you like a bug, my friends. Like a bug.)