Amazon Tag

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

I had offered to review the Amazon original series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel even before the show took home two Golden Globes earlier this week. I just wanted to spread the word about how fantastic this show is. I’m guessing those two awards—for Best Show and Best Actress in the “Television Series, Musical or Comedy” category—will do that far better than I can, but, hey, I’m going to make my case anyhow.

 

Set in 1950s Manhattan, the show tells the story of Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan), a devoted wife and mother who tends to the every need of her husband Joel, a salesman who aspires to be a stand-up comedian. When she’s not measuring her thighs (can’t gain too much weight, after all) or getting up before dawn to apply her makeup (can’t let the man see your real face, after all), she’s using her quick wit, effortless charm, and great cooking skills to get Joel a better time slot at the Gaslight comedy club or to convince the rabbi to join the family for Yom Kippur dinner.

 

Midge’s world suddenly turns upside down when, after a particularly bad set at the Gaslight, Joel announces that he’s leaving her. After a bit too much wine and a late-night subway ride, Midge finds herself at the club, on the stage, doing her own set. Surprise, surprise—she’s actually the funny one, and aspiring manager Susie Meyerson (Alex Borstein) is determined to make her a star.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

As one would hope, this show about stand-up comedy has plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino of Gilmore Girls fame, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has a similar penchant for snappy, fast-paced dialogue and delightfully quirky characters. But this show also has a sharper edge to it, both in its humor and tone, as it explores what it means to be a woman in the ’50s. Midge is finally free to figure out who she is, but are the people in her life ready to accept the real her? Is society?

 

Brosnahan shines as Midge from the get-go, but what I enjoyed the most was watching the supporting players—who are drawn with broad, almost stereotypical strokes in the pilot—gain form and substance in their own right. Tony Shalhoub is especially good (when isn’t he?) as Midge’s father, Abe. At the end of Season One, the one-woman show has evolved into a strong ensemble piece with only one real flaweight episodes just ain’t enough.

—Adrienne Maxwell

Adrienne Maxwell has been writing about the home theater industry for longer
than she’s willing to admit. She is currently the managing editor and video specialist
at HomeTheaterReview.com. Adrienne lives in Colorado, where she spends far too
much time looking at the Rockies and not nearly enough time being in them.

Algorithms My Ass

recommendation algorithms

I was going to write a super-positive, inspirational kind of post about how the man cave is dead and tech & entertainment have become gender-blind and all about the whole family, and we’ve all evolved to a point where the ultimate communal space has morphed from the kitchen to the media room, etc. etc. etc.—and then I took a quick break to check in on YouTube. And I realized YouTube doesn’t know shit about me. And Amazon doesn’t know shit about me. And Netflix doesn’t know shit about me.

 

Etc. Etc. Etc.

 

You read all this crap about how algorithms have figured us out, how they have us nailed, offering up all these dead-on recommendations so we don’t have to think about what we want to experience anymore. Really? Maybe that’s happened to you, but not to me. The odds of YouTube, Amazon, Netflix, or any other service (gotta love that word) recommending anything I actually care about are about as good as that infamous roomful of monkeys ever coughing up any Shakespeare.

recommendation algorithms

This isn’t some neo-Luddite rant. There’s good tech and there’s bad tech. But this love affair with having some anonymous digital Other anticipate our every whim strikes me as not just weird but deeply masochistic. I mean, shit, the next step after knowing what we want is actually becoming us, and who wants that? (Actually, I’m kind of sorry I said that because the answer is just about everybody. But do I really want to go there . . . )

 

Like I said, if you’ve found that any of this AI-for-the-masses stuff actually can read your mind and present you with an unerring stream of things you find satisfying, terrific. Enjoy. Then try to reclaim that missing part of your soul. But it’s just never happened for me. I can instead sense myself being pigeonholed, told who I’m supposed to be instead of who I am. I’m not talking about tilting at windmills—I’m talking about finding anything worth tilting at.

recommendation algorithms

I am not the person the services think I am. Which brings up a more fundamental issue. There’s no doubt people become addicted to tech. (Remember Crackberry?) But there’s absolutely nothing that says we have to become addicted to it. For the moment at least, tech is our tools, and we should treat it as tools and nothing more. The second it goes beyond that to becoming something imbued, something that knows us better than we know ourselves, the ultimate Good Mother, I really have to wonder what’s going on here. But, more importantly, I have to wonder if anybody, once swept up into the light, really cares.

—Michael Gaughn

Michael Gaughn—The Absolute Sound, The Perfect Vision, Wideband, Stereo Review,
Sound & Vision, marketing, product design, a couple TV shows, some commercials, and
now this.

The Man Who Killed The Movie Studios

Wonder Wheel Amazon Studios

Who would have thought Woody Allen, the most conservative of filmmakers (in the good sense of “conservative”), would be the guy leading the charge to kill the movie studios?

 

Amazon Studios is going to release Allen’s Wonder Wheel directly to theaters, bypassing the traditional distribution chain. Which means Amazon is going to become a movie studio. Which means the brick & mortar studios are dead.

 

Thank God. They won’t be missed.

 

The movement in this direction has been inevitable, and strong, and spurred largely by the legendary stupidity of the studios themselves. Like Chandler has a studio executive say in The Little Sister:

 

“The motion-picture business is the only business in the world in which you can
make all the mistakes there are and still make money.”

 

Reed Hastings (aka Netflix) was the first one to embrace the virtual-studio idea in a big way, ratcheting down disc distribution as quickly as he could and softly selling everybody on the many virtues of streaming. Then came Netflix’ original series—a phalanx of Trojan Horses meant to lead the way for them to become a studio as big as—and, there’s little reason to doubt, better than—any of the dying brick & mortar dinosaurs.

 

But Amazon (aka Jeff Bezos) seems to be making the savvier moves. Their content tends to be better, and they’ve positioned themselves to deliver the death blow.

 

It’s been a long time coming. The studios became little more than an extension of gaming years ago, churning out the equivalent of theme-park thrill rides, betting their audiences would never grow up. The studios have nothing to show us anymore—about how movies should be made, or what they should be.

 

The sad decline of Pixar is one of the strongest signs the studios are kaput. They released one brilliant, groundbreaking film after another in their early days, and made a kazillion bucks in the process. But a kazillion apparently isn’t enough in the brick & mortar world, so now they’ve become just one more purveyor of retreads.

 

Everybody’s sensing the new paradigm, but its reality hasn’t quite sunk in. Streaming—or, more broadly, bandwidth—changes everything.

 

Like all fat, overweening overlords of empire, the studios, production companies, and theater chains got way too cocky, thinking they’d be able to sustain their blind excess forever. But they’re already irrelevant. Most people would rather stream movies at home because they can watch better content on systems better than the local multiplex—and nobody can blame them.

 

So there’s no going back. The studios, theaters, and even the audiences don’t yet realize how big this is. But it does change everything. Finally. And forever.

—Michael Gaughn

Michael Gaughn—The Absolute Sound, The Perfect Vision, Wideband, Stereo Review,
Sound & 
Vision, marketing, product design, a couple TV shows, some commercials, and
now this.