Archive for December, 2014

23
Dec
14

The End of The Affair?

Allison (Ruth Wilson) and Noah (Dominic West) on Showtime's The Affair

Allison (Ruth Wilson) and Noah (Dominic West) on Showtime’s The Affair

With half-interest, I watched my DVR’ed season finale of Showtime’s The Affair, which initially aired on Sunday night after a quiet but gripping Homeland season finale. The Affair explores the extramarital relationship between Noah (Dominic West), a schoolteacher and struggling writer, and Allison (Ruth Wilson), a working-class married waitress who is grieving the death of a child. Noah lives with his wife Helen (the always-great Maura Tierney) and their four children in gentrified Brooklyn. The family spends the summer with Helen’s wealthy family in Montauk, a vacation town on Long Island, where Allison has lived all her life. Half of each episode (usually the first half) shows the narrative from Noah’s point of view, while the episode’s other half explores Allison’s subjective experience.

I started watching The Affair because it had received glowing critical notices (West, Wilson, and the overall series have all been nominated for Golden Globes this year). And like Noah and Allison’s uncertain relationship to each other, I’ve had an ambiguous relationship with The Affair ever since. The acting is top-notch, the plot is intriguing, and the shifting-perspectives premise showed promise but has become more problematic with time. As the season progressed, I felt like I was waiting for some big plot twist or revelation to happen that never quite “surfaced” (to use the show’s overt water symbolism). Although I realized that The Affair’s slow-burn momentum was intentional and that the season had been progressively leading up to possible answers to an ongoing murder investigation, maybe I’d gotten so used to series like Homeland, American Horror Story, and 24 that kept you in a constant state of surprise at how clever/shocking/provocative/emotional they could get. So, I kept rationalizing why I should keep watching The Affair: “Something big is going to happen – I just know it.” “I’m already through the second season – might as well finish it.”

A part of me was hoping that The Affair’s season finale would, as with American Horror Story and True Detective, hit the refresh button and be an anthology; next season and each subsequent season could introduce a new couple embarking on a new affair. But with Sunday night’s cliffhanger of a final scene, it looks like we are going to be stuck with Noah and Allison for a while. I just don’t know if I’ll be giving them a second chance or looking for a clean break.

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17
Dec
14

How I Met Frank Langella

Frank Langella at the Virginia Film Festival

Frank Langella (right) at the Virginia Film Festival

This November marked my eleventh year serving as a volunteer usher at the Virginia Film Festival. Although I’ve enjoyed my time working for the festival, meeting other volunteers, and seeing some extraordinary films that I wouldn’t had otherwise seen, I had never met one of the festival’s special celebrity guests. This year was different.

My volunteer shift included a screening of Frost/Nixon, which explores the making of the 1977 television interviews between British television host David Frost and President Richard Nixon. In the film, Nixon is played by actor Frank Langella in an Oscar-nominated performance. I had seen Frost/Nixon when it was first released in 2008 and really enjoyed it.

The festival screening of Frost/Nixon would be followed by a question-and-answer session with Frank Langella. My venue manager asked if I would welcome Langella when he arrived and make sure he was comfortable until the Q&A started.

You never know what a famous person will be like when you meet him or her in real life. I had seen many Frank Langella films, for which he’s primarily known for playing villains, and had even read his memoir, Dropped Names, which is fun and kind of catty. So, I didn’t know what to expect from Langella in person.

When he entered the lobby with his friend and a festival driver, he was a tall, imposing figure in very elegant, casual clothes and what I call a “newsy” cap. He immediately approached me and shook my hand. He face took on a concerned look, as he looked me in the eyes, and he began to apologize. He thought he was running late, but that actually wasn’t the case at all.

As he settled in to await the film’s conclusion, he revealed himself to be a kind and gracious person, asking about the audience, the moderator, and the organization sponsoring the film (where I work).

During the Q&A itself, Langella was passionate, funny, and gracious toward the audience’s questions, especially the those of students.

Frank Langella in the 1979 film, Dracula

Frank Langella in the 1979 film, Dracula

About a week later, I caught Dracula, the 1979 film in which Langella plays the title character. Amidst the dated presentation (but cool production design), he brought a certain elegance and humanness to the character and to the movie as a whole.