When it comes to most shows, the people who are in charge of directing individual episodes is pretty low on the priority list. Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of fantastic directors in the realm of television, and their impact on the industry has been undeniable. But, at the end of the day, TV is a writer’s medium, and the showrunners ultimately are the ones who have the most sway. So much so that, a lot of the time, the TV director can often just feel like a middle-man in getting the producer’s vision onscreen.
…But Game of Thrones is one of the exceptions to that rule. Over its six year run, the show has done an amazing job of utilizing its directors. Largely due to the way it is filmed, and the overall aesthetic of the series, director’s really have a chance to make their episodes stand out. While other series can get away with having any journeyman come in and just shoot things as written, the big budget, cinematic look of Game of Thrones truly takes skilled directors to make work. And even within the show itself, you can tell when a really good director is placed behind the camera.
For that reason, there are plenty of directors who have made a notable impression on the show over the years, from Alan Taylor to Michelle MacLaren. Maybe it’s because we generally obsess over Game of Thrones more than pretty much any other running series, but when the list of directors is announced for a given season, you better believe we all take note. After all, the people in charge of the episodes often set the tone for the season as a whole, and with such a wide bench of great directors to choose from, we’ve all been waiting with pretty baited breath at just who would be responsible for delivering the final chapters of this journey. And, today, we finally know.
Here’s who will direct the final six installments of Game of Thrones, via The Hollywood Reporter:
- First (and most exciting) is Miguel Sapochnik, who in my mind might just be the best director to ever work on Game of Thrones. The man directed “Hardhome,” “The Battle of The Bastards,” AND “The Winds of Winter.” He’s a real all-star, and his directing prowess is more than justified at this point.
- David Nutter is almost equally as prolific on the show, having directed a half dozen episodes of this series up to this point. From the closing episodes of Season 5 to “Mhysa,” Nutter has been a big influence on this show since its sophomore season. But by far his biggest claim to fame is the fact that he directed “The Rains of Castamere,” thus becoming the man who gave us the spectacular Red Wedding sequence. What more could he need to prove his bonafides?
- The final directing duo of Season 8 should be pretty familiar as well: creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. The pair don’t often direct episodes of the show (they have a lot more things to worry about, after all), but were the ones behind the camera on “Two Swords” and “Walk of Punishment.” Neither are exactly heavy hitting episodes of the show, but were pretty competent episodes. By far the two are the least exciting on the list but, hey, they spent a decade of their life on the thing. Seems fair to let them helm its final moments.
At this point, it’s unclear just how the directing schedule will work out, although considering that only six episodes remain, I would gander that each director will handle two episodes each. THR also confirms that Benioff and Weiss will be helming the final episode of the show, although that was to be assumed.
But, overall, I’m pretty pleased with the choices. Nutter and Sapochnik’s are both pros, and I’m happy they will get the chance to close out the show in style. Really, my only disappointment comes from who WON’T get an episode to direct. People like Neil Marshall and Michelle MacLaren would have been great to have come back one more time, and as unlikely as it would be simply due to the timing, seeing the name of Season 6 MVP Matt Shakman on this list would have been really cool. I mean, need I remind you what he delivered with his first time at bat?
Anyways, complaining about these directors is like looking a gift horse in the mouth and, at the end of the day, there were only so many slots to go around. The fact that the amount of directors who I would have been pleased to see helm the season is so long really only speaks to the fine roster of people the series has been able to amass in the past decade.
Game of Thrones’ final season does not yet have a premiere date, but is rumored to be set for sometime in 2019.
The 5 Best Moments of Stranger Things 2
From dances to demogorgons, here’s the best moments of Stranger Things 2.
When Stranger Things first premiered back in July of 2016 (oh my god it was only a year ago what time vortex am I currently occupying I swear to god what the hell), it did it with relative silence. Though the series had a cool trailer or two, there really wasn’t a lot of buzz for Stranger Things, nor did it boost a bunch of known talent behind the camera. Sure, it was nice to see Winona Ryder working again, and David Harbour was a great character actor just itching for a prime leading man role, but everybody else? From the creators to the main kids, they were all pretty big unknowns. But, of course, that has all changed in the months since.
A massive fandom has now formed around Stranger Things, with the show and its characters now serving as some of Netflix’s most beloved. It’s rare for ANYTHING even remotely new to gain such a strong following in a small amount of time but, if you ask me, Stranger Things really deserves it. Though not without its problems, the first season was an incredibly engrossing, always entertaining little genre pastiche. It could have easily just been an 80’s nostalgia circle jerk, but with some whip smart writing and an especially strong ensemble, Stranger Thing went from zero to cultural phenomenon.
Which made the anticipation for Stranger Things 2 far different than its predecessor. While the first season had the opportunity to really surprise us with the story it was telling, Stranger Things 2 does not. We know what this show is now, and generally, what it is setting out to do. But does that make the sequel any less exciting? For many, many properties, the answer is a clear yes. But, for the most part, Stranger Things 2 managed to avoid a lot of the pitfalls of sequelitis, delivering a second season that lives up to the quality of the first in many regards. It was far from perfect (as I’ll get to with a latter article), but it was still jam packed with great moments and excellent story developments. So with my 8 episode binge all wrapped up (twice, in fact!) let’s dive right in, shall we? Here are the five best moments of Stranger Things 2.
THIS IS YOUR WARNING: FULL SPOILERS FOR STRANGER THINGS 2 FOLLOW. DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE YET TO WATCH THE ENTIRE SEASON YET. BUT, IF YOU ARE ONE OF THE COOL KIDS THAT HAS…PROCEED!
Second, less important disclaimer: this list is arranged in chronological order, so I really have no “preference” on these moments. That being said…four is clearly the best, right?
1. Family Spat (Chapter 4: “Will the Wise”)
There’s certainly something to be said about the fact that the first “best” moment of Stranger Things 2 doesn’t arrive until about half way in. Don’t get me wrong: the first trio of episodes are good, and do the much needed legwork for setting up the season’s main storylines, but the series is certainly bottom heavy when it comes to its storytelling. Which makes a certain level of sense: the Duffer Brothers have not been shy about their approach to creating the show, always wanting to create an experience that resembled a long form movie more than anything else. And how many movies really have their best moments at the top of the first act? That’s where you establish the action, with the second and third act serving as the payoff.
But putting aside the fundamentals of cinematic storytelling, the first truly fantastic moment of Stranger Things 2 is the heated, volatile argument between Hopper and Eleven at the start of “Will the Wise.” Pairing these two together was one of the best decisions the writers made following the first season, and this scene is where it gets its first real payoff. Both David Harbour and Bobby Millie Brown are just so damn good (both together and apart), and are able to infuse their characters with so much passion through every single line. When they fight in “Will the Wise,” they REALLY fight, and you can’t help but feel bad for both of them.
Props especially have to be given out to Millie Brown, who performs Eleven with the perfect balance of emotionally scarred prisoner and petulant, pissed off pre-teen. The joy of arguments like this is that it’s hard to root for either party: you like both characters, and can understand entirely where both are coming from. That’s a sign of the strong writing at the center of the scene and, paired with the excellent writing, creates a father/daughter argument that actually FEELS real, and relatable. The fact that it also contains the “daughter” hurling out telekinetic attacks and exploding the things around her in rage just makes the moment all that more special.
2. Terry Ives’ Tale (Chapter 5: “Dig Dug”)
It takes a lot of skill for a series to be able to make a minor character’s story feel as compelling as the rest of the cast. But Stranger Things 2 was able to do that surprisingly well in “Dig Dug,” as Eleven delved deeper into her past and, for the first time, met her mother.
The audience of course had already done so back in season one and, from first impressions, it was clear that something tragic and terrible happened to Terry Ives. But seeing first hand the experience of having her baby ripped away from her, the subsequent attempt to get it back, and the horrifying procedure that followed it, hit far harder than it had any right to. But strong editing and an emotional score helped propel this sequence into something really powerful, and one of the most memorable moments of Season 2.
…And yeah, maybe the discovery made in said flashback sequence led to one of the worst things about the season but, hey, this article is about the positives, right? I’m sure we’ll all have time to bitch about Chicago Punk Eleven later. For now, lets move on to something far cooler…
3. The Demo-Dog Bus Attack (Chapter 6: “The Spy”)
Stranger Things 2 doesn’t have a ton of big action movie moments…at least not until “The Spy,” that is. Once Dustin’s new best friend/demogorgon pet friend grows into a full size menace, an actual monster threat is awakened and, like the demogorgon threat from last season, our resourceful kids spring into action to take the creature down. But the motley crew tasked with the hunt (Dustin, Lucas, new kid Max, and most delightfully Steve Harrington) are in for quite a shock when the single, medium sized “demo-dog” brings some friends along for the ride.
What follows is one of the best sequences in Stranger Things so far, a bus attack sequence that takes clear inspiration from some of the best sci-fi monster movies out there. Think of the velociraptor scenes in Jurassic Park, or even the ceiling sequence from Aliens. Or, hell, a similar bus scene in J.J. Abrams underappreciated Super 8, one which also put a bunch of 80’s inspired pre-teens in a chilling amount of danger.
But even with the influences pretty clear, this scene still manages to work fantastically on its own, with a wonderful atmosphere and actually surprising setup (the other demo dogs popping up from the fog actually got a jump from me.) It’s always hard for a TV series to make the main characters feel like they are actually in danger, what with the whole ongoing nature of the series and all, but the terror of this moment is felt from pretty much everyone involved. And even if it doesn’t show as much crazy visuals as some other big set-pieces later in the season, the Demo Dog bus attack still managed to feel more cinematic than any other moment in Stranger Things 2.
Having an accomplished blockbuster director in Andrew Stanton behind the camera for this episode certainly helped, I imagine. Sure, John Carter wasn’t good per say, but it was certainly cinematic! And with Stanton’s talents actually applied to a something worthwhile, he managed to deliver one hell of a moment here. Let’s hope its enough to get the man out of the live action dog house in the future. Not sure I really want “Finding Crush” or “Wall-E 2: Planting Crops n’ Shit.” Andrew Stanton is a good director, Hollywood! Let him do it!
Anyways, with that Stanton aside out of the way, let’s move onto the thing about this season that only really matters, and one of the driving factors that led Stranger Things 2 second half to be so damn satisfying.
4. Adventures in Babysitting with Steve Harrington (Chapter 9: “The Gate”)
If you asked me at the end of Stranger Things season one who my favorite character of the next season would be, I would never have uttered the name “Steve Harrington.” Don’t get me wrong–I liked the character a lot in the first season, and found his whole “crappy boyfriend in teen 80’s movie, thrown into a monster movie he wasn’t prepared for” to be quite entertaining. But at the end of the day, the character still seemed like he was just an obstacle standing between the Jonathan/Nancy pairing. A well performed, fun obstacle, but an obstacle nonetheless.
But with the show’s decision to break up Nancy and Steve so early into this season, the latter character was able to thrive in a mode I never expected him to be in: reluctant companion and protector of the main group of kids. It was a plot development made entirely on the basis of convenience (the ONLY reason Dustin even teamed up with the guy is that literally every other character was off doing their own subplots), but man did it end up being one of the best developments Stranger Things 2 could have possibly made.
Just seeing cocky Steve Harrington deal with a bunch of pre-teens is funny on the face of it, but THESE pre-teens in particular? Absolutely glorious. But as much as I’d like to just say “every moment with Steve” and call it a day here, I think I have to go with a more specific moment. And on that end, I’ll say the best “Steve as babysitter” scene is in the season finale, where Steve awakens from his post-fight stupor, in an unfamiliar car, surrounded by these brats who have made his past 24 hours a living hell. His subsequent freakout and vain attempts to convince these cocksure kids to stop trying to get involved in this Stephen King bullshit is absolutely glorious, and Joe Keery does an amazing job playing off the kids in this sequence. The fact that it’s only followed by him giving in and leading the charge into the tunnels (nail bat in toe) is only icing on the cake.
How the character can be reluctant comic relief, sympathetic role model, AND the epitome of a cool badass teen, is truly something. Steve Harrington is hands down the MVP of Stranger Things 2, and every moment he spends being baffled at how he got involved in this entire mess, but rolling along with it anyways, is television gold.
5. The Snow Ball (Chapter 9: “The Gate”)
Stranger Things, from the very beginning, was always a show serving a bunch of masters. At times, it was a fun throwback to 80’s Spielberg adventure stories. At other points, it was a John Carpenter tinged teen slasher film. Meanwhile, there was a whole Stephen King supernatural nightmare scape happening in the background. Hell, the show even had enough room to throw a little bit of X-Men action into the mix with the Eleven storyline! With so much at play, it’s a miracle the show never felt overwhelming, or the elements never felt at odds with each other. And the reason why is quite clear to me: like pretty much every other great TV show out there, at the end of the day, it was all about the characters.
In the midst of big supernatural threats and crazy horror action, it might be easy to forget that. But it says something that my favorite sequence of Stranger Things 2 isn’t the big action moments or the crazy sci-fi conspiracies — its seeing our main characters going to a dance. It was seeing them interact, and be awkward, and fail to ask their classmates on dances, and to just BE KIDS. At its very best, Stranger Things is Freaks and Geeks with monsters, which can make for a magnificent combination. And just like Freaks and Geeks, it uses its period trappings to not only invoke nostalgia in the viewer (even if you DIDN’T grow up in the time period), but also to perfectly create the mood of a scene–I mean, can you ever go wrong featuring Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time?” The answer is a clear no.
The Snow Ball segment of “The Gate” felt real in a way that most shows fail at, and the fact that Stranger Things can be both this sci-fi/horror hybrid AND an effective tribute to growing up speaks to the stellar work The Duffer Brothers, the other writers, and the great actors do in making us love these characters. Which is the key, really. Even when the story falters (and, on occasion in Stranger Things 2, it does), your sympathy for the characters never does. You want to see Mike and Dustin and Will and Lucas and Eleven and Joyce and Hopper and Max and Nancy and Jonathan and (especially) Steve be happy, and after a season of chaos and danger, scenes like the Snow Ball are the perfect pallet cleanser to end things on. Never forget, future TV writers: you can get very, very far on strong characters. And they rarely come stronger than they do in Stranger Things.
That does it for the main list but, real quick, let me squeak out a few honorable mentions:
Will Absorbs The Monster (Chapter 3: “The Pollywog”)– What a horrifying image, huh?
Dustin vs. the Demo-Dog (Chapter 5: “Dig Dug”)– Dustin is the best.
Steve and Dustin Talk Girls (Chapter 6: “The Spy”) — Addendum: Dustin AND STEVE are the best.
Bob Dies, Which Suuuuucks (Chapter 7: “The Mind Flayer”) — R.I.P. Bob. He made for a great new character, even if his red shirt status was pretty clear from the beginning. Still though…BETTER THAN BARB, RIGHT? #JusticeForBob
Eleven’s New Do — I’ll talk more about Eleven’s storyline in a latter article but…well, she got a sweet new look out of it, at least. I dug her Sigourney Weaver haircut too, though.
The Exorcism of Will Byers — This is just to say that, if it wasn’t for Steve, Noah Schnapp’s Will would take the cake as Stranger Thing 2’s best character. What a great performance from him this year. After seeing so little of the character in the first season, it’s good to know that Schnapp was a great little actor too.
That’s all for my best moments of Stranger Things 2 list, but check back soon for my take on the worst aspects of the season. That article will probably be less fun, but I need to write SOMETHING to put Billy in his place.
Seriously. Fuck. That. Guy.
Also published on Medium.
Netflix Cancels House of Cards As Kevin Spacey’s Professional Career Topples, Like Some Sort of Thin Cardboard Constructed Dwelling
Frank Underwood’s story will conclude just as Kevin Spacey’s career erodes.
There was a time, way back in the simpler days of 2013, where I really thought that House of Cards stood the chance of being one of the all time great TV dramas. It had everything it needed, really: a great showrunner in Beau Williamson, an amazing visual pallet crafted in its first two episodes by David Fincher, and one hell of a cast featuring landmark performances from Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly, Corey Stoll, and more. And with its first season turning out really great (and setting up Netflix as a major player in the world of television thereafter), my enthusiasm for the show was red hot.
It, unfortunately, didn’t last long, as the series took a major downturn in the second season. House of Cards went from a great prestige drama to schlocky, barely above soap opera level mess. And the fact that it only got worse in its third season nearly broke me. I thought I was back on board with the show in its surprisingly decent fourth season, but then another thing intervened that knocked me off the show entirely: real life.
Like many others, I could no longer watch House of Cards after 2016. My enjoyment of the show overall was already waning before the political shitshow of the past few years, but the 2016 election was the last straw. I could just no longer see the appeal or fun in watching a ridiculous, sometimes boring, always frustrating political drama, especially when there were already so many shows worth my time. And with seemingly no end in sight for the series, what was even the point? Watching Season 4 didn’t feel like a series approaching its endgame…it felt like one just spinning its wheels. And reading the plot summaries of what the fuck happened in the show’s fifth season, BOY do I not regret the decision to stop watching. But now word has arrived that the series is indeed ending, set to conclude with its sixth season next year. But I don’t plan on catching up or anything either…because, once again, real life has made this one quite complicated.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the allegations made about Kevin Spacey in the past 24 hours but, in case you haven’t, let me quickly summarize. Anthony Rapp, an actor currently appearing on Star Trek: Discovery, informed Buzzfeed that Kevin Spacey had acted sexually inappropriate towards him back when Rapp was just a 14 year old kid acting on Broadway. The encounter occurred during a party in which Spacey, very drunk, tried to force himself on Rapp. Rapp was able to escape from the encounter, but has reasonably been wary of interacting with Spacey since. And with the truth now coming to light for folks like Harvey Weinstein and James Toback, Rapp believed now was the time to speak of his experiences publicly.
Spacey has since responded to the accusation with quite the controversial statement, in which the actor both A) admitted to not remembering the incident at all and B) finally came out as a gay man. This is all very much a developing story and, unfortunately, I doubt that allegations about Spacey’s past behavior will end here.
But of course the question that must be asked in the context of this article is just how much Spacey’s current woes have impacted the development of House of Cards. According to Netflix, not as much as you think: the show was planned to end next year anyways, and the current season (filming right now) was written to be its last. But there’s a reason that Netflix decided to officially announce the end of the series TODAY: the traditional pattern of content creators separating themselves from their troubled collaborators has begun in earnest. That can very much be glistened from the joint statement released by Netflix and House of Cards production company Media Rights Capital:
“Media Rights Capital and Netflix are deeply troubled by last night’s news concerning Kevin Spacey. In response to last night’s revelations, executives from both of our companies arrived in Baltimore this afternoon to meet with our cast and crew to ensure that they continue to feel safe and supported. As previously scheduled, Kevin Spacey is not working on set at this time.”
Depending on what happens in the coming days, this will make production on House of Cards final season quite the complicated thing. Things can no longer be “business as usual” for Hollywood now when these allegations come out, and don’t get me wrong: that is certainly a good thing. As a huge fan of Kevin Spacey, knowing that he might have done some terrible things in the past certainly hurts. But ALSO as a huge fan of Kevin Spacey, I can’t quite say I am surprised. The man has tried to keep his personal life under wraps for decades, but enough floated in over the years that hearing something like this, to me, seemed inevitable. In fact, I can’t help but feel this is just the beginning of the floodgates opening here, just like it was for Weinstein and Cosby and Knowles and the many other scrumbags working in entertainment who got called out on their behavior by one, and were backed up by many.
So does it suck that all the people working on House of Cards have to deal with this now? Sure, kind of. But, on the other hand, it was House of Cards. I won’t cry for the show being forced to conclude now when, in reality, it should have done so years ago. But if the series feels stale and unwatchable now, I can only imagine how weird it will feel when Netflix (I imagine quietly) dumps the final season in 2018. House of Cards came into the world vibrant, exciting, and new. But it will be leaving it in a more embarrassing, irrelevant way than I could have possibly imagined.
Also published on Medium.
Today In Headlines That Sound Like April Fool’s Day Gags: Michael Bay is Producing A Live Action Dora The Explorer Movie
Can you say “notable IP with four quadrant brand recognition?”
You know that thing when something in real life can’t help but resemble a parody made not long ago? Like how this weekend’s Geostorm seemed like the type of movie that would have only existed in a moderately funny SNL skit? Or how any number of Tracy Jordan’s movies could also serve as latter day Tyler Perry movies? Nevermind the existence of the Trump Administration being an elaborate long con to make us all second guess Onion articles from real ones. Yes–truth can indeed be stranger than fiction.
And in that regard, we got one hell of a strange truth today: Michael “Transformers But Also The Rock, Let’s Not Forget That The Rock is Pretty Good” Bay is producing a live-action adaptation of Dora the Explorer. Yes, that Dora the Explorer. The Nickelodeon cartoon for preschoolers. Michael Bay. Preschoolers. Two things that certainly should not appear in a sentence together, and seems to indicate the type of project that this viral College Humor video about a live action Dora the Explorer made fun of over five years ago.
But as admittedly bizarre as the news might be at first glace, there’s a certain logic to it if you delve deep enough into the world of Hollywood studio politics. Because, as previously stated, Dora the Explorer IS a Nickelodeon property. And the owners of Nickelodeon are CBS/Viacom…who also own a little studio by the name of Paramount Pictures. Paramount has been Sony-ing it up lately in an effort to find a new hit franchise, and even created a label entitled “Paramount Players” to plow through Viacom-owned properties in search of potential cinematic hits. And their newest
victim property is apparently Dora the Explorer, the massive children’s cartoon that has been a pre-K TV staple for over 17 years.
Now what brings Michael Bay of all people into the mix? Well, if you haven’t noticed lately, Michael Bay has pretty much been Paramount’s savior in the last decade, giving the studio billions of dollars in profit with the Transformers series. This has given him and his production company, Platinum Dunes, a lot of clout at the company, and a first look deal on all projects that go through Paramount. And when he and his cohorts at Platinum Dunes heard what Paramount was planning, they decided they wanted in.
Now, why would they want that, exactly? Well, why did Paramount decide to develop a live action Dora the Explorer movie in the first place? Everyone believes/hopes that a marketable property will be enough to make a hit in the modern film climate. And though I would argue that is a foolhardy mantra (brand recognition sure didn’t help Warcraft, Battleship, and Ghostbusters), it’s the only strategy the studios got, and they are going to try and make it work however possible.
Now if you’ve really gotten this far and are somehow still curious about a live-action Dora the Explorer movie and what it could be, Deadline claims the current pitch finds Dora “as a teenager who moves to the city to live with her cousin Diego.” So your standard “fish-out-of-water” tale, as all these unessential live action remakes find themselves exploring. I guess if what your adapting doesn’t fit into the medium at all, it’s best to steer into that skid, huh?
If there’s any silver lining here, it’s the involvement of Nicolas Stoller, who will be penning the screenplay and potentially directing the film as well. Stoller is a very good writer/director, and has shown himself capable of writing funny kid flicks with stuff like Captain Underpants and the two new Muppet movies. And then he’ll go off and direct Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Neighbors, because you can be good at two different things, people.
So, yeah…if you’re the audience for a live action Dora the Explorer movie, having Stoller on board should be enough to quell the strangeness of Michael Bay also being involved. Then again, if you’re the audience for a live-action Dora the Explorer movie, you’re also non-existence, so your personal comfort level doesn’t really matter, does it?
Also published on Medium.
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