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Some thoughts on some of the things I've been seeing with my new Netflix membership:

  • Once Upon a Time in the West was worth seeing, but didn't live up to my expectations. Unsurprisingly, it seemed very similar in style to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (which I recently saw for the first time, after reading Michael Canfield's story "Once Upon a Time at the Learning Annex"); as with that movie (and the Godfather trilogy), I can see how Once Upon a Time in the West could've been a big deal at the time, but I didn't particularly enjoy it as a movie. Though it had its moments. And I continue to be fascinated by how much of history was driven by economic considerations.
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was also, I'm afraid, kinda disappointing to me; sorry to those of you who loved it. I suppose my expectations were probably too high, based on the high praise everyone gave it when it came out, the presence of Jim Carrey (I've liked almost everything of his I've seen, much to my surprise), and the fact that it was written by Charlie Kaufman. And overall I thought the movie was fine; just not spectacular. I think if I'd gone into it without knowing the premise, I'd have probably liked it more, but a ten-word summary of the premise covers about the first three-quarters of the movie. I figured out what was going on (in terms of chronology) about 20 minutes into the movie, and kept waiting for there to be something more going on; but mostly the middle just seemed repetitive to me. I may post more about this later.
  • I've really been enjoying The West Wing. (I'm about eight episodes into season 1.) The writing is sharp and funny, the acting good, the characters sympathetic but sharp-edged. It's often seems to me not quite as funny or as sharp as I think it's trying to be—but somewhere along the way, often near the end of an episode, something happens that makes each episode really work; the endings are often very moving. I'm trying to watch how they do it, 'cause I think it has something to do with the structure, but I haven't figured it out yet. Anyway, I'll continue watching this.

'kay, enough from me; off to work.


Yeah, I think Sunshine is better if you don't know anything. I truly enjoyed it and want to re-watch it, but I also saw it with a loved one, not knowing anything about it and was in an emotional state at the time [recent secondary breakup].

I've often thought that what makes the West Wing work so perfectly is theme--there's a usually a number of disparate threads in the episodes, but by the end of the show, it's obvious that they're paralelling each other, or micro/macrocasming or something else cool, and I just find it amazing to watch. There was a chess episode two seasons ago or more, and it was just amazing--Sam playing chess with the president ends up being parallel with a much larger picture, and I like, jolted to attention at that point. It's one of the few shows that I'd really like to go back through and watch all of it at some point. (well, up to the latest season which I heard wasn't nearly as good.)

_Once Upon a Time in the West_ has an importance in the canon of Westerns that is not immediately apparent from what is, at times, a slow and rather bizarre movie. I remember watching it as a kid and being mostly confused; later, I took a film class on Westerns, and by the time we got to this movie (it started with the old Lone Ranger radio plays and _The Great Train Robbery_ and ended with _Lonesome Dove_ and _Unforgiven_) it was like a life-changing event. It is, I think, Sergio Leone's chance to talk back to all the Westerns of the previous generation, and if you watch it in that context, it's amazing. The mere fact that Leone got Henry Fonda to play a villain, for one thing...

Anyway, however you view it, it still has one of the best moments ever, when Fonda's character shoots a snitch and says, "How can you trust a man who wears both a belt and suspenders? The man can't even trust his own pants."

I didn't like ETERNAL SUNSHINE nearly as much as everyone else I know. I thought it was too long and its theme too obvious.

I'm on season 2 of West Wing! Still enjoying it. Make sure you check out Sorkin's half-hour comedy series SPORTS NIGHT, too -- I like it even more because it rarely deals with politics. :-) You'll see a lot of the same character types, and even a lot of the same actors.

Ditto the recommendation for Sports Night, although I want to watch it with someone who doesn't care much about sports some time to see if it still works. (I think it would, but am not sure.)

Also, you should probably give upon West Wing after Sorkin leaves the show (after Season 3, as I recall), although others may disagree about that. The first two seasons are great though.

FWIW, I don't particularly like sports, but loved Sports Night.

Thanks for all the various comments.

Re Westerns: I have to keep reminding myself that there were multiple generations of Westerns, that Leone was responding to a tradition that already went back forty or fifty years. If I don't stop to think about it, I tend to lump them all together in the category of "Westerns made a long time ago." Kinda like my tendency to lump all 19th-century literature together without regard for chronology.

Re Sports Night: I saw one episode once (something to do with Hanukkah?), and though it did a similar bringing everything together at the end kind of thing, it didn't appeal to me nearly as much as West Wing. I could give it another try, but I think right now I don't need more TV series to watch (though I hadn't realized it only ran for two seasons; I was thinking it was still going). And for me, the political stuff in West Wing is part of the appeal, while the sports stuff in Sports Night is a drawback. (Though I realize that both are, in a sense, just backdrops to the character interaction.) But I'll keep it in mind.

I love Sports Night, and am at the very best lukewarm about sports. :-)

I hate sports, but loved Sports Night. I agree that Sorkin is what makes both Sports Night and The West Wing so wonderful, and WW definitely went downhill after he left (which was after season 4, not 3, btw).

I think the first seasons of both Sports Night and The West Wing are their best, although both continued to be worth watching for a while after that. I thought West Wing went into a decline even before Sorkin left.

I agree that Sorkin is very good at structuring individual episodes, but I think he's poor at longer arcs. Virtually none of the multi-episode plot threads in West Wing pay off, and I found that quite disappointing. For me, long plot arcs are one of TV's unique strengths.

As for Eternal Sunshine, I didn't like the particular way it mixed comedy and drama, but I recognize that it works for lots of people.

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