TV Review – The Best of Seinfeld Part 4

The Invitations (Season 7, Episode 24)
Original airdate: May 16, 1996
Written by Larry David
Directed by Andy Ackerman

The four main characters of Seinfeld are not meant to be aspirational figures. They are almost warnings about how not to behave in society. Few episodes highlight that aspect as strongly as the finale of season seven. It’s not their ugliest moment, but it is capped off by the coldest reaction we have ever seen them have. This moment underscores how Seinfeld was not like other family-friendly sitcoms and emphasized Larry David’s edict of “no hugging, no learning.”

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TV Review – The Best of Seinfeld Part 2

The Pitch (Season 4, Episode 3)
Original airdate: September 16, 1992
Written by Larry David
Directed by Tom Cherones

There are few seasons of network sitcoms as wildly bold as Seinfeld Season 4. Because it’s become part of the cultural conversation, we don’t really notice it, but it was insane that this was even made. Larry David decided to make a season-long serialized story about the sitcom characters making a sitcom based on their lives. These days, meta-humor is a fairly common element in media, but in 1992, most audiences had never seen anything like this. One of the things I’ve noticed about rewatching these episodes is how often Jerry’s comedy routine was picked apart or made the butt of a joke. It all informs Curb Your Enthusiasm, which would be Larry David’s unbridled dissection of the entertainment industry and his continued examination of the minutiae of daily life.

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Comic Book Review – Superman/Batman: Generations Omnibus

Superman/Batman: Generations Omnibus (2021)
Reprints Superman/Batman: Generations #1-4, Superman/Batman: Generations 2 #1-4, Superman/Batman: Generations 3 #1-12
Written & Illustrated by John Byrne

Superman debuted in the pages of Action Comics #1 in the summer of 1938, with Batman following closely behind in Detective Comics #27 in the winter of 1939. In 1999, comics legend John Byrne decided to write and draw an Elseworlds series that asked what would the DC Universe look like if these characters and their supporting casts aged in real-time? Immediately, this opens a lot of new ideas and story avenues, and the first volume is one of my personal favorites in the Elseworlds series. It’s not the most incredible story ever told in the DC Multiverse, but it’s a very fun one. 

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TV Review – The Best of Seinfeld Part One

The Best of Seinfeld Part One

The Phone Message (Season 2, Episode 4)
Original airdate: February 13, 1991
Written by Larry David & Jerry Seinfeld
Directed by Tom Cherones

You’ve probably heard the story of Seinfeld’s creation before. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his friend Larry David co-developed the series for NBC. They focused on Seinfeld’s comedy routine, observations about mundane aspects of life and used it as a foundation for the sitcom. The result was a show that didn’t teach a heart-warming lesson in each episode or even have morally redeemable characters. It was a clear break from the direction the American sitcom was going in the 1970s and 80s. The result was that it became the highest-rated program of its day and had a tremendous influence on programming even today. It also has developed its fair share of people who dislike the series. They see it as grossly cynical & part of an out-dated mindset. They aren’t wrong, and revisiting it with a modern lens does illuminate problems I couldn’t see as a kid. However, I argue it is still a hilarious show and was just the sort of things a segment of the population needed who wasn’t interested in something like Full House or other family-oriented sitcoms.

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Movie Review – Bringing Out the Dead

Bringing Out the Dead (1999)
Written by Paul Schrader
Directed by Martin Scorsese

By the time the 20th century was winding down, it had been twenty-six years since Scorsese released Mean Streets. To finish out the century, the director re-teamed with his previous collaborator Paul Schrader to adapt a novel about a paramedic’s emotional & spiritual struggle on New York City streets. The result is not Scorsese’s best work, a strange aesthetic and characters that are very difficult to get a handle on. In an interview years later, Scorsese would admit that he was working out a lot of his own issues on the screen about his aging parents and his relationships with the people in the hospitals he was encountering. It’s clear something about this picture didn’t click as it was the only Scorsese film of the 1990s to receive zero Oscar nominations.

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Movie Review – Kundun

Kundun (1997)
Written by Melissa Matheson
Directed by Martin Scorsese

When I was eleven years old, I watched the Oscars and saw actor Richard Gere come out to give an award. Instead of going into the teleprompter text, he spent thirty seconds talking about China and its occupation of Tibet, imploring then Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping to move his soldiers out and allow Tibet to be free. I had no idea what he was talking about, but it certainly left an impression on me. All I knew about Tibet was that it was close to the Himalayas at the time. I certainly didn’t comprehend the history of Tibet and China. I also had no idea who the Dalai Lama was.

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Movie Review – Casino

Casino (1995)
Written by Martin Scorsese & Nicholas Pileggi
Directed by Martin Scorsese

After the success of Goodfellas, both with audiences and critics, it was reasonably sure Scorsese & author Nicholas Pileggi would collaborate again on something. Five years later, they told another true story of organized crime and its deleterious effects on people’s lives in Casino. Like Goodfellas, the movie focuses on an outsider to the Italian Cosa Nostra, a Jewish man with a remarkable ability to gamble and win big. Unlike Goodfellas, Casino feels more epic in scope. These people deal with amounts of money that are far beyond what Henry Hill ever got his hands on. The story is also more balanced with its three central cast members in a way that Goodfellas never really did.

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Movie Review – The Age of Innocence

The Age of Innocence (1993)
Written by Jay Cocks & Martin Scorsese
Directed by Martin Scorsese

New York City has played a central role in almost every Scorsese film. I think Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Cape Fear were the only movies at this point that didn’t take place in and around NYC. Mainstream perceptions about Scorsese probably think he’s most concerned with a specific NYC era, but I’ve found he’s interested in the city at all stages of its development. Other than Temptation, this is the film that had occurred the furthest in the past in the director’s filmography. The movie adapts Edith Wharton’s novel The Age of Innocence, set when New York City had a very prevalent aristocracy with its own subculture of ritual & performance in public. This creates tension between our characters’ relationships and their inner thoughts, and it’s on that tightrope the whole film rests.

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TV Review – The Best of Batman: The Animated Series Part 3

Shadow of the Bat (Season 1, Episodes 57 & 58)
Original airdates: September 13 & 14, 1993
Written by Brynne Stephens
Directed by Frank Paur

Shadow of the Bat does many things and feels like a movie boiled down into weekday afternoon animation. It’s the best modern presentation of Batgirl we’ve ever gotten outside of the comic book, and it really showed how poor she was brought into the films with Batman & Robin. What’s interesting here is how separate & independent Batgirl is from Batman & Robin, the characters. Her origins are born out of a story centered around her, and the established heroes play supporting roles in this two-parter, with Robin being the more prominent of the two, in my opinion.

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Movie Review – Cape Fear (1991)

Cape Fear (1991)
Written by Wesley Strick
Directed by Martin Scorsese

Cape Fear came to Martin Scorsese on a trade. Scorsese had been working on Schindler’s List after Steven Spielberg had walked away at first. Spielberg was offered Cape Fear but found the story too violent for his personal filmmaking style. In turn, he offered it to Scorsese, who realized he wasn’t the right fit for Schindler’s List. The result of this switch is that we got a gorgeous remake of the 1961 Cape Fear that leans heavily into the filmmaking territory of Alfred Hitchcock.

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