A Lie Agreed Upon

A Lie Agreed Upon – David Milch’s Deadwood

The other day I mentioned that I was watching the David Milch created Luck.  While reading more interviews with Milch I came upon this fascinating article.  There is a mini-documntary here that you can watch about Milch’s Deadwood, one of the greatest shows of all time.  You can also read the script for the documentary below if you don’t feel like watching it.  It’s truly fascinating not only for the information about the show, but the ideas inherent in the show and therefore the documentary as well dealing with our country.  The title above has to do with the idea that history is a, “lie agreed upon.”  I found the following passage really interesting and a good sample of the kind of ideas inherent in the show and article:

He said, “An agreement that creates a community is an agreement upon an illusion, an agreement upon an intoxicant.  Our founding document jumps off from, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident,’ which to me means a frank agreement upon illusion – not that these are self-evident truths, but that we agree upon an illusion that these are fucking truths.”

Michael Mann and David Milch Interview

David Milch and Michael Mann Interview For Luck

Lately I’ve been diving back into the world of Michael Mann, culminating in his masterpiece Heat.  I want to comment on that film at some point, but I’m still collecting ideas, putting my thoughts together.  I have also been watching the show Luck, which was on HBO a couple years back.  It’s a show that centers around a racetrack and the personalities that surround are a part of that world.  Mann was a producer and director of the pilot.  The show was created by David Milch who is one of the most interesting minds and greatest writers in television.  Deadwood, a show he created, is one of the high-water marks of television for me.  It is as close to Shakespeare as we are likely to see in our time.  I think anyone that wants to understand our country should visit that show.  Anyway, while looking up information on Luck, I found this interview with both Milch and Mann.  It is short but fascinating.

The Process of True Detective Writer Nic Pizzolatto

Vanity Fair recently put out a long form article on True Detective writer and creator Nic Pizzolatto.   If you are interested in the show the article deals with his writing process and the background of how the show to be.  I found it interesting that unlike a lot of TV series there is no writers room, that he doesn’t seem to like writing by consensus, and that he wrote the entire first season by himself.  I was also happy to see that he is influenced by David Milch, whose series Deadwood, in my opinion, is the greatest TV series ever.

How Actors Memorize Their Lines

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As I’ve been reading Behan plays, I started to think about the challenge that actors must have learning dialog, especially if they are playing a large part in something.  The way that my mind works I have trouble remember song lyrics, especially to cover songs, so I can’t imagine the work that must go into learning the dialog for an entire play.  I also was thinking of the TV show Deadwood, where they often would get pages of dialog the day of a shoot, due to creator David Milch writing dialog often up until the very last minute.  (Deadwood is one of my favorite shows ever.  The dialog is really complex.  At times it is like Shakespeare with swearing.  Actor Ian McShane, in particular, would have to give whole speeches, soliloquies sometimes, that he had only gotten the morning of the shoot.)  So I decided to google what actors do, in hopes of learning tricks to make learning song lyrics easier for myself.  Out of the articles I read, I found the one that follows the most interesting, not only because it interviewed stage actors in Chicago, but also by total coincidence it talked about Deadwood and how those actors dealt with Milch’s writing style.  Here is the article:

How Actors Memorize Their Lines

W., House of Cards, Deadwood, and Reflections On the Illusions of Power

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The other night I watched Oliver Stone’s W. for the first time since it was in theaters, his film about George W. Bush.  There is that old saying that comedy is tragedy plus time.  The farther we drift from those years the more they seem like some kind of strange absurd comedy.  (And yes I am fully aware of the real tragedies that were part of those times.)  Like when you study the horrors of medieval times they almost appear like a Monty Python comedy.  I think people will look back on that point in our history with disbelief.  How did we knowingly choose to put a man like that in charge for two terms?  Why did we invade a country that posed no threat to us?  It was baffling then to many and even more so now.

If you lived through those years the movie might seem too light for what actually went on.  However, if you view it in a detached way, as someone looking back who didn’t live through them would, I think it emotionally reflects how those times will be viewed.

I’ve also, as stated, been watching House of Cards lately.  Given some of the problems with the third season, I still think it possesses interesting ideas.  Combined with watching W. is the idea that our leaders our just people, no different from us.  They may have better luck, family ties, or ambition, but at the end of the day they are humans.  It is only ritual and stage craft that gives them their power.  We are all part of a play.  The power they possess is only in direct accordance with how much power we believe that they have.  In the show Deadwood there is the idea that history is, “a lie agreed upon.”  There are rules and traditions that create the perception of order and therefore create order itself.  It is the belief in these fictitious sets of principles that holds it all together.

To close, I quote Twin Peaks:  “We live inside a dream.”

Peaky Blinders Review

Peaky Blinders Review

The above article is review of the Netflix show Peaky Blinders that I think is pretty much right on the money.  The article acknowledges that although there is really nothing new at the core of the show, the execution of everything, from the acting to the sets, succeed in making it worth watching.  There are some minor quibbles I have with the soundtrack at certain points, as stylized shots with modern songs playing glamorize the violence sometimes in ways that aren’t needed.  (It would be far better if the violence was always portrayed as horrific and brutal as it would fit the themes of the show better.  Most of the violence on this show is portrayed in a barbarous way, but occasionally it does dip into Guy Ritchie territory, which seems out of place.)  There are also moments of coincidence that can briefly take you out of the action as they expose the seems of the writing.  The article above compares the show to Deadwood, and I think that is a fair comparison thematically, although this show doesn’t even come close to matching the writing of Deadwood.  (Deadwood is the best show of modern times, with writing on par with the best of literature.)

However, these things aside, I do like Peaky Blinders.  It is an extremely entertaining show.  I do think the acting, the set design, the costumes, and the cinematography are top notch.  I do think, especially in the first season, that it has themes and ideas that takes it beyond mere entertainment.  The way that society perpetuates violence is interestingly addressed.  The violence that these working class men carry out is partially the result of the violence that they were forced carry out during the war.  The show seems to be saying that violence, once introduced to society, is a cancer that we are stuck with, long after the fighting of war is over.  The ruling class sends these men to do horrible things in the trenches, only to condemn them when they bring their new “skill set” home.

Anyway, I more than commenting on it myself I wanted to point you in the direction of the above article, because I do think the writer, despite a few minor quibbles, does a good job of conveying the merits of this show.  (I think Tom Hardy’s performance in Season 2 is one of hat season’s highlights.)  I myself will look forward to watching Season 3 whenever that comes out.

Addition:  I don’t exactly mean to criticize something by comparing it to Guy Ritchie.  Although there is no doubt that some of the things he has done are shite (Sherlock Holmes movies!), some of his early films are at least fun entertainment, that have their own style and energy.  I don’t mind things being just entertainment.  My point is that in this show, the more choreographed moments of violence do not fit the overall mood, and it takes me outside the world of the show, a world of which I find myself fully immersed in for the most part.  

the crunch

Too much
too little
or not enough

too fat
too thin
or nobody

laughter or
tears
or immaculate
non-concern

haters
lovers

armies running through streets of blood
waving winebottles
bayoneting and fucking virgins

or an old guy in a cheap room
with a photograph of Marilyn Monroe

many old guys in cheap rooms without
any photographs at all

many old women rubbing rosaries
when they’d prefer to be rubbing cocks

there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it in the slow movements of
the hands of a clock

there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it blinking in neon signs
in Vegas, in Baltimore, in Munich

there are people so tired
so strafed
so mutilated by love or no
love
that buying a bargain can of tuna
in a supermarket
is their greatest moment
their greatest victory

we don’t need new governments
new revolutions
we don’t need new men
new women
we don’t need new ways
wife-swaps
waterbeds
good Columbian
coke
water pipes
dildoes
rubbers with corkscrew stems
watches that give you the date

people are not good to each other
one on one.
Marx be damned
the sin is not the totality of certain systems.
Christianity be damned
the sin is not the killing of a God.

people are just not good to each other.

we are afraid
we think that hatred means strength
we think that New York City is the greatest
city in America.

what we need is less brilliance
what we need is less instruction

what we need are less poets
what we need are less Bukowskies
what we need are less Billy Grahams

what we need is more
beer
a typist
more finches
more green-eyed whores who don’t eat your heart
like a vitamin pill

we don’t think about the terror of one person
aching in one place

alone
untouched
unspoken to
watering a plant
being without a telephone that will never
ring
because there isn’t one.

more haters than lovers

slices of doom like taffeta

people are not good to each other
people are not good to each other
people are not good to each other

and the beads swing and the clouds cloud
and the dogs piss upon the roses
and the killer beheads the child like taking a bite
out of an ice cream cone
and the ocean comes in and out
in and out
under the direction of a senseless moon

and people are not good to each other.

By Charles Bukowski.  I used to read a lot of Bukowski the last few years I lived in Pennsylvania.  I wanted to post something of his here, so I started reading some of his poems tonight.  Even though I read many, I kept coming back to this one, which was actually the first one that I read.  The language is so visceral.  It’s beautiful and vulgar at the same time.  If you have ever watched the show Deadwood I believe you will understand that even vulgarity, taken far enough, used in the right way, with the right combination of words and meter, can become something truly beautiful.  At least I do…