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NBooth   

The official cast for Ssn2 has been announced. No surprises.

 

Just announced, McAdams will play Ani Bezzerides, a Ventura County Sheriff’s detective whose uncompromising ethics put her at odds with others and the system she serves. Kitsch wills star as Paul Woodrugh, a war veteran and motorcycle officer for the California Highway Patrol, running from a difficult past and the sudden glare of a scandal that never happened. Finally, Reilly will play Jordan, Frank Semyon’s wife, a former D-list actress who is a full partner in his enterprises and ambitions.

 

 

I notice that they seem to really be emphasizing the ways in which these women are active characters--even the wife, "who is a full partner in his enterprises and ambitions." Direct response to the criticisms of Ssn1?

 

Meanwhile, the DVD of Ssn1 is currently $17 on Amazon. I bit the bullet and ordered it, so I guess it'll get a rewatch over Christmas Break.

Edited by NBooth

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NBooth   

The Quarterly Conversation: "Noir and Nihilism in True Detective"

 

Although Cohle concludes the series with his changed perspective that “the light’s winning,” the more general message is that the world remains unknowable, shadowed in horror. While many noir and neo-noir films end in death, for others a “happy ending” is not riding off into the sunset, but living to see another sunset­—seen in Welles’ Touch of Evil, Hitchcock’s Notorious, Polanski’sChinatown­ and Altman’s The Long Goodbye. For these protagonists, survival trumps happiness.
Cohle has accepted the option of choosing to live—choice is significant here, rather than the sense that life suddenly has meaning, it is more the suggestion that one instigates one’s own meaning—a decidedly existentialist perspective. In Jean Paul Sartre’s The Flies, Orestes proclaims, “On the far side of despair, life begins.” Perhaps it is this far side that the first chapter of True Detective closes.
Edited by NBooth

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NBooth   

Details on the second season:

 

 

HBO: Earlier last year, you said that this season was about ‘Bad men, hard women and the secret occult history of the U.S. transportation system.’ Is that still true?
 
It’s not, I’m afraid. There’s definitely bad men and hard women, but no secret occult history of the U.S. transportation system. That was a comment from very early in the process, and something I ended up discarding in favor of closer character work and a more grounded crime story. The complexity of the historical conspiracy first conceived detracted from the characters and their reality, I felt, and those characters are ultimately what have to shape the world and story. So I moved away from that.
 
 
HBO: Will this season share the gothic horror sensibilities of season one?
 
The gothic horror suggested by Louisiana’s coastal landscape didn’t feel appropriate in this place. These new landscapes have their own unique voice and their own unsettling qualities. While there’s nothing occult in this season, I think there’s a disconcerting psychology to this world, and its characters have other kinds of uncanny reality with which to contend.

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Matt Zoller Seitz, Vulture:
“.. ‘Am I supposed to solve this or not?’ says Detective Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) in True Detective when a superior asks him to get to the bottom of a disappearance in Vinci, California, a fictional community that is variously described as a ‘city of vice,’ ‘a city, supposedly,’ and ‘a co-dependency of interests.’ That last phrase might be an alternate title for the second season of Nic Pizzolatto’s HBO series, which chucks the original’s swampy Louisiana hellscape for Southern California’s noir panoramas: chemical refineries, interstate cloverleaves, sad little bungalows. But we need to emphasize the word might. It’s too early to sum up whatever this thing is, and critics with common sense should know better than to try. They thought they knew what the original True Detective was when the network sent out the first four episodes back in 2013, and as Pizzolatto told critic Alan Sepinwall after the finale, the recaps retrospectively seemed like “chapters of a book … being reviewed before the whole book has been revealed.” That first season turned out to be something unclassifiable — equal parts film noir, Chinatown-style corruption parable, serial-killer potboiler, 3-a.m.-in-the-dorm-room-with-bong-hits philosophical inquiry, and buddy-cop comedy. And it climaxed with a bloody, ridiculous, yet kind of awesome installment that presented its hero, Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle, as some kind of cornpone risen Christ. But we can hazard some educated guesses about this new season based on the dialogue and images, as well as on Pizzolatto’s own comments in interviews, which make him sound like a philosophy professor grappling with the purpose or meaninglessness of existence and concluding, as he told Sepinwall, that “as human beings, we are nothing but the stories we live and die by — so you’d better be careful what stories you tell yourself.”

... The result often plays like a cousin of The Wire as directed by Michael Mann — the kind of series that presents its broken, brooding heroes as if they were characters in an opera about the many different flavors of corruption, institutional and personal. It takes everything so seriously that you have to laugh at it a little bit, then admire it for being true to whatever it’s trying to be and not really giving a damn what you think of it. You’ll probably miss the humor of the first True Detective — the needling banter between Cohle and his partner, Woody Harrelson’s Marty Hart, that spawned a thousand memes and probably made the graphic violence and philosophical monologues palatable to a wide audience — but the brooding sourness of this one is fascinating in a different way, though it loses points for showing us a world that feels far more familiar than the one showcased in season one. When Ani, Ray, and Paul are drawn together as a unit, it takes a while to establish any kind of chemistry between them, because they’re all variations of the Mann-style, soul-sick badass.

... Season two of True Detective is a nasty treat for the eyes and ears. Every few minutes, there’s an image that’s as meaningful as it is lovely to look at: a wide shot of a seedy bar near a railroad track lit like an Edward Hopper painting; a low-angle pan across a stretch of elevated highway that makes it seem as though you’re an ant watching a python slither past; a helicopter shot of intersecting overpasses that visually establishes Southern California, and America, as a co-dependency of interests. Throughout, the synthesized score keeps rumbling and droning. We’re in the belly of some rough beast."


Stephen Marche, Esquire:
“... Based on the three episodes HBO sent to critics, the second season of True Detective is nearly as addictive as the first. (And like that one, it is created and written entirely by Nic Pizzolatto, though with a new cast, story, and directors.) It poses as a potboiler, but it's really an exercise in genre fused with existentialism. This time, instead of The King in Yellow, a copy of the Hagakure sits on a coffee table. It's the kind of show in which gangsters say things like Never do anything out of hunger. Not even eat. and crooked cops say things like We get the world we deserve.

Like Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson last year, the actors eat it up. Colin Farrell is the height (or depth) of loucheness with a moustache that deserves a screen credit in its own right. Vince Vaughn can almost keep up, as a criminal on the cusp of going legitimate. But the revelation is Rachel McAdams, as Ani Bezzerides, a female detective who thinks that the difference between men and women is that one gender can strangle the other to death—a refugee from a cult family who ends up arresting her sister in a webcam porn bust, a woman who drinks and gambles and has sex with men, it seems, mainly for the pleasure of throwing them away after. Her voice quakes with rage and anguish and fear and disgust and despair. In her ragged hatred of the world as it is, she is sexy as hell.

Around these performances swirls I guess what you could call a plot. A murder victim has his eyes burned out with acid and his genitals shot off. A land deal begins to fall apart and has to be rescued. Maybe it will all make sense in the end, but then again maybe not. The potential plot incoherence doesn't really matter. The great films noir have never really had much time for sensible plots anyway: During the making of The Big Sleep, William Faulkner and the other screenwriters couldn't figure out how one of the characters was killed. So they telegraphed Raymond Chandler, who had written the original book. Chandler tersely responded that he had no idea. Howard Hawks, the director of The Big Sleep, admitted, "I never could figure the story out." That same spirit applies here. The plot is mostly mood. There is no other show on television that is so exclusively about its own style.

Why is True Detective so addictive, then? Renowned media thinker Marshall McLuhan said that you don't read a newspaper, you step into it the way you would step into a warm bath—a metaphor that is entirely appropriate to True Detective. The show is an atmosphere that is equal parts apocalyptic dread, intellectual despair, and beautiful cynicism ...”

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The more negative:

 

Brian Lowry, Variety

 

Those expecting anything approaching the magic conjured by the original Matthew McConaughey-Woody Harrelson pairing should immediately temper their enthusiasm for "True Detective's" second season. Impeccably cast around its marquee stars, the new plot possesses the requisite noir-ish qualities, but feels like a by-the-numbers potboiler, punctuated by swooping aerial shots of L.A. courtesy of new director Justin Lin, whose intense close-ups bring to mind a Sergio Leone western. Although generally watchable, the inspiration that turned the first into an obsession for many seems to have drained out of writer Nic Pizzolatto's prose, at least three hours into this eight-episode run. Once the ball gets rolling, though, the new "Detective" feels increasingly mundane — in tone and style, a bit like a lesser Michael Mann movie stretched out in episodic form.

 

Tim Goodman, Hollywood Reporter

 

Too much of the first two episodes are spent letting us know just how damaged everyone is. Ray loves his kid, which might not be his kid, but he also isn’t afraid to drunkenly yell at his son and beat up the parents of other kids who are not nice to his own. Ani's sister looks to be doing porn in lieu of being an actress, which was what their mother was until she killed herself in 1978. Ani’s dad is a kind of self-help guru at a place that looks like it's a spoof of Don’s whereabouts in the last episode of "Mad Men," and Ani really hates him anyway, probably because Ani is short for Antigone, and her sister is named Athena. Dad's a hippie, remember? You probably get the point that "True Detective" is trying so hard here it hurts.

 

Ben Travers, Indiewire:

 

Pizzolatto's script doesn't do him any favors. Without being too spoiler-heavy — as most people reading this have likely already decided to watch at least the first few episodes — the new season is notably lacking in the colorful moments that helped make Season 1 so touching. Many attributed Marty and Rust's cop car diatribes to the actors' unmatched chemistry, but — as true as that last statement is — Pizzolatto seemed to know just when to drop in a joke to break up the drama. His Season 2 story allows for little to none of that, as it is much more tightly tied to its plot. 

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NBooth   

The AVClub:

 

Season one spiced up its mood with a pungent mix of buddy-cop comedy, surreal horror, and mystery. Season two is serious people doing serious things all the time. None of these characters have ever found anything funny in their lives, and none of them have anything interesting to offer one another (or us) beyond solving the case. When they’re exasperated with one another, they clench their teeth and shut up at the cost of so much drama. The first proper scene has Ray dropping his kid off at school, and it plays like Ray’s dying from a mortal wound he’s trying to keep secret. Vaughn has it the worst, though. He’s supposed to be a little philosophical, a little out there for a gangster, and he puts those quirks to use punctuating his meaningful pauses with wannabe David Milchisms like, “Am I diminished?”

The unmodulated tone bleeds into the investigation as well. By the end of the third episode, we get the impression that this murder connects to a few other crimes the heroes have ignored, but it’s hard to say how things are progressing. The cops and Frank are separately making headway, but Pizzolatto never endows any moments as landmarks in the case. And it’s almost half over.

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NBooth   

LARB: Kingmakers: True Detective and the HBO Brand by Michelle Chihara

 

All of the debates--is True Detective a sexist show, or a show about sexism? A plagiarized show, or an original postmodern show? — miss the crucial point. True Detective is a show about HBO shows. Certainly not a feminist show, and not a postmodern show about the nature of systems themselves, but a show specifically about the brand of HBO on cable TV. This is why no one can decide whether there’s any there there. The show is about itself, about cable TV at the moment of the unbundling of the cable pipe.

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NBooth   

Eh, I'll probably stick with it, but I can't say I really loved the premiere. The AV Club pointed out in the episode review (distinct from the review linked above) that this season looks like a mashup of SoCal stereotypes, and that's certainly how this episode played. On the other hand, it's beautifully shot in places and there was a Nick Cave song at the end.

 

Surprisingly, Vince Vaughn's character is the most interesting of the bunch.

Edited by NBooth

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NBooth   

If True Detective gave us more stuff like the final scene I would probably like this season a lot more. 

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NBooth   

If True Detective gave us more stuff like the final scene I would probably like this season a lot more. 

 

And the first scene of e3, which is Xerox Lynch, but since the show works by Xerox, I'll give it a pass. 

 

Also, huh. I figured the closeted gay character would be Semyon. I didn't see it being Woodrugh. (Though apparently there were bunches of not-at-all-subtle clues that I somehow missed, perhaps because this season hasn't encouraged me to pay close attention at all, meaning I'm often doing other things while watching).

Edited by NBooth

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Anders   

 

If True Detective gave us more stuff like the final scene I would probably like this season a lot more. 

 

And the first scene of e3, which is Xerox Lynch, but since the show works by Xerox, I'll give it a pass. 

 

Also, huh. I figured the closeted gay character would be Semyon. I didn't see it being Woodrugh. (Though apparently there were bunches of not-at-all-subtle clues that I somehow missed, perhaps because this season hasn't encouraged me to pay close attention at all, meaning I'm often doing other things while watching).

 

 

Yeah, it was telegraphed pretty loudly in the second episode. I'm enjoying this series so far, though not as much as the first for this very reason. Nothing surprising has happened yet. Everyone does what I expect them to do.

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NBooth   

So the second season has been--eh, not terrible but not necessarily essential. A passable way to spend an hour or so. I've loved some things about it--Vaughn being chief among them--but other stuff, like Woodrugh's character, never really gelled for me. I was, thus, prepared to write the season off as a fitfully-entertaining but ultimately disappointing followup to the quite enjoyable season 1.

 

I dunno, perhaps I still am. But last night's episode was solid and if the finale is more of the same it may force a re-consideration of everything that's come before (once the whole season's shape is visible). The stuff that worked for me worked even more--Vaughn is almost terrific, the score's flirtation with Herrmann and Badalamenti is quite good, etc. Even the stuff that didn't work was at least a bit more effective; Woodrugh's character arc is reduced to a plot device, but it leads into a genuinely exciting sequence, one that had me on edge even though I knew from reviews what was coming. 

 

It's not enough to make me love the season, but it is (at least) enough for me to think that, perhaps, it would be wise to look over the whole thing again once the final pieces are in place. 

 

The episode gets bonus points for having a slightly more subtle Lynch nod in the last few minutes.

Edited by NBooth

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M. Leary   

The show works best when it channels Mann (this last episode a clear riff on the first season of Miami Vice, down to the close cuts and background score of the final scenes, which are stupendous). I have a theory - which would be easily testable if I had the time - that the clearest mark of quality TV is the action sequence. You can very quickly tell the skill and craft levels involved when people start moving quickly or shooting guns at each other. True Detective is brilliant in this respect.

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NBooth   

This show will definitely benefit from binge-watching. That finale felt like it belonged to a much better show than weekly episodes have suggested.

Edited by NBooth

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M. Leary   

I liked the whole thing more than others did. I recoil from using terms like "novelistic" or "serial" for TV shows, because it so often feels like a category mistake. But it works here if one thinks of this season as a really well done contemporary LA crime noir fiction. Every element of the show fits the Michael Connelly/James Ellroy/T. J. Parker mold, down to the quasi-rogue cop protagonist, complicated political canvas, backgrounding of LA's dwindling resources, etc... I am okay with evaluating a lengthy work by the way its concluding mechanism tie everything together dramatically and formally - an element on which both seasons of TD have excelled. For neither is the complex series of moves in the last few episodes an afterthought or cover-up measure. They bear the brunt of the show's emotional momentum. 

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NBooth   

I liked the whole thing more than others did. I recoil from using terms like "novelistic" or "serial" for TV shows, because it so often feels like a category mistake. But it works here if one thinks of this season as a really well done contemporary LA crime noir fiction. Every element of the show fits the Michael Connelly/James Ellroy/T. J. Parker mold, down to the quasi-rogue cop protagonist, complicated political canvas, backgrounding of LA's dwindling resources, etc... I am okay with evaluating a lengthy work by the way its concluding mechanism tie everything together dramatically and formally - an element on which both seasons of TD have excelled. For neither is the complex series of moves in the last few episodes an afterthought or cover-up measure. They bear the brunt of the show's emotional momentum. 

 

That all makes sense to me, which is why I'm a little curious to go back and re-watch the series from the beginning. I've not hated the series, but my positive reaction has still been the positive side of lukewarm, rather than outright positive. I found the last couple of episodes satisfying enough to think that, perhaps, I was over-hasty in my initial response.

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M. Leary   

I would rather have had this TD bunch tackle Inherent Vice than P.T. Anderson. The ramshackle intro material and the way we grow interested over time in these thin, self-interested characters, despite our misgivings, all seems very successfully Pynchon to me (by way of Michael Mann).

Edited by M. Leary

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NBooth   

Funnily enough, I was just listening to the most recent Pynchon in Public podcast on The Crying of Lot 49 and it got me to thinking that this season's True Detective has a lot in common with Pynchon.

 

EDIT: On a related note, here's Edwin Turner riffing on this most recent season and bringing up Pynchon as well (though he prefers the Anderson movie):

 

The second season of True Detective can be read as a satire—on noir, on L.A. stories, on hardboiled pulp, on masculine anxieties. Yes: But it also plays as a satire on television itself, on viewer expectations even. Sincere satire never fully announces itself as such. This second season of True Detective is sincere satire.

[snip]

We can find similar sincere satire in True Detective season 2’s superior cousin, Paul Thomas Anderson’s film adaptation of Inherent Vice. There are plenty of plot convergences between these two, but the tonal overlap is more interesting to me.

Edited by NBooth

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M. Leary wrote:
: I would rather have had this TD bunch tackle Inherent Vice than P.T. Anderson.

 

That's funny... someone in my Twitter feed retweeted a comment earlier today to the effect that True Detective was going to be just like Inherent Vice in that people would start claiming you had to see it three times in order to "get" it.

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M. Leary   

 

Funnily enough, I was just listening to the most recent Pynchon in Public podcast on The Crying of Lot 49 and it got me to thinking that this season's True Detective has a lot in common with Pynchon.

 

EDIT: On a related note, here's Edwin Turner riffing on this most recent season and bringing up Pynchon as well (though he prefers the Anderson movie):

 

The second season of True Detective can be read as a satire—on noir, on L.A. stories, on hardboiled pulp, on masculine anxieties. Yes: But it also plays as a satire on television itself, on viewer expectations even. Sincere satire never fully announces itself as such. This second season of True Detective is sincere satire.

[snip]

We can find similar sincere satire in True Detective season 2’s superior cousin, Paul Thomas Anderson’s film adaptation of Inherent Vice. There are plenty of plot convergences between these two, but the tonal overlap is more interesting to me.

 

 

I can't get there on the idea that this season of TD is a satire. This has been said by smart people, so I may be missing something... But my spin on this is that all noir contains an implicit satire on masculine anxieties - especially given the roots of the genre in a post-war distrust of the Golden age of Hollywood and shifts in storytelling to apocalyptic forms of self-disclosure (which the detective genre captures better than any). It is a satire that is wry in some hands (Chandler, Ellroy, Godard) and just flat out dark in others (Melville, Highsmith). But it is redundant, I think, to call something a satire on noir when it is already noir.

 

M. Leary wrote:

: I would rather have had this TD bunch tackle Inherent Vice than P.T. Anderson.

 

That's funny... someone in my Twitter feed retweeted a comment earlier today to the effect that True Detective was going to be just like Inherent Vice in that people would start claiming you had to see it three times in order to "get" it.

 

It is obtuse. I had a hard time with it, and needed that Slate piece to fill in some details. But this readerly confusion is the very essence of noir, in that the reader/viewer actually feels as lost as the lead characters. Noir is always performative, which is why it remains such a lasting cultural force long after its institution in American and European moods of the 50s and 60s.

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But this readerly confusion is the very essence of noir, in that the reader/viewer actually feels as lost as the lead characters.

Indeed. When it comes to noir, confusing, labyrinthine plots are a feature, not a bug.

 

That said, while this conversation is definitely peaking my interest a bit (the names being dropped here are on my wavelength), I'm not sure I can muster enough willpower to soldier through it.

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