Friday, March 15, 2013

My Rough Show Notes To House Of Cards.

Kevin Spacey yesterday.
In the most recent Boxcutters we reviewed Kevin Spacey's House of Cards which was put on Netflix recently. Here's the brain dump I took into the studio. They are rough notes. That's why they're a bit long and discombobulated. Like a sausage. A pork loin, fennel and dubious analogy flavoured sausage. Let's see how it's made.

I love Kevin Spacey. 

This is his best role since playing the weedy boss’s assistant in my favorite movie/play Glengarry Glen Ross. But his character, Frank Underwood in House of Cards is his exact opposite. Or is he. Devious, assured, bitter, dark, cynical - he knows people like no other. Knows all the tricks to fuck you over with a smile so well that he can make you feel like he's doing the best for you. Or he can shit on your head. Slowly. You won't enjoy that ever. 

One of the great plot devices is Spacey's head to the side narration which did appear in the previous UK series but to say that was original then would be to ignore theatre’s tradition. All history’s great plays do that. It’s film and television who are behind. I mean, look at the Paperboy with Macy Gray’s strange narration.  What’s going on with that? I must stop thinking about this film.

The unreliable narrator is something that really interests me. Happens in the great novels too. And that’s what we have with Frank Underwood, so sure of himself we barrack for evil but the show goes somewhere else.

His style is high camp dead panning.


The bastard knock about rogue to school friends, man with a knife to enemies.

Everyone is his enemy.

Even you.

Even when he’s nice to you. That’s how he does it. He works out what you like and fondles that bit like Lori Singer on a cello. The crazed failure. The crazed success. The man borning himself again and again to lead. 


Then there’s his relationship with his wife played by Robin Wright. The most dangerous power couple since Pixie and Christopher Skase. I love watching these people. Lady Macbeth is too easy a  comparison. Both teeter everywhere around morality. I don’t really know of a comparison. There’s probably another Shakespeare but I’m not an English teacher.

To compare this Spacey version with the English one isn’t worth it either. This is a cover. An adaption. Things change. Do you read every book a movie’s adapted to? Do you have that time? Trust people. Trust the artist to make their own cover version. That’s what we pay them for.

David Fincher’s darkness is here. What does a director do after the facebook movie, which was sure directed by him, but does anyone ever get an idea through Sorkin these days? 

The wife, let’s go back to the wife. Claire Underwood. Some strange scenes about her morality. And then she’s just an awful person to work with. Those scenes made me shudder. I used to work in the not for profit places and I tell youse there’s some real nasty pasties around. Much like the other Rob, Robyn Butler’s lead character in The Librarians maybe. But maybe not. Butler’s aggression was cloaked. Wright’s Claire Underwood would slowly scratch out your eyes. And then be forlorn about your blindness for at least three more hours. Besides. Robyn Butler spells her name with a Y.

The journalist girl. Kate Mara as Zoe Barnes. Fabulous but sometimes a bit disturbing because she’s such a little girl. The sex scenes, look I don’t like sex scenes on TV, are awkward because of her littleness. Maybe that was the point they were making but I feel uncomfortable.

The way Frank plays the media. More realistic than the newsroom ever dreamed of being. It’s about feeding the chooks. Frank gives a journo a drop and then you see a montage of the drop turning into a story Chinese Whispers style across the news cycle. This seems right. I asked a journo I know about this and they seemed stunned by the scene. Scary real.

Though the dying newspaper thing and subsequent lets go and work somewhere new age modern contemporary where you can sit on a beanbag is already outdated.

I like where it’s going and I can’t wait to see the second series. Ends a bit abruptly and later eps struggle a little bit but that’s what happens when you try to keep things up like this over 13 episodes.

Oh talk about tired ideas. Alcoholics Anonymous. We’ve progressed since 1986. There are other ways to treat drug dependence. But in US drama there’s only one.

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