Tag Archives: HBO

10 Years Since We Said Goodbye To TV’s Ultimate “Family”

June 10th marks the ten year anniversary of the final episode of The Sopranos. The hit show from HBO broke every kind of mold and barrier ever laid out by television shows before it. The pilot was taped exactly 20 years ago despite the fact that the series didn’t air until two years later. The Sopranos changed things for everyone on the show and changed the way everyone watched television shows afterward.

The world that everyone was sucked into on that day in 1999 left an indelible mark on the entertainment industry. Mafia and gangster stories have been a hot topic since the invention of moving pictures. In one episode of the show, there is a discussion about the representation of Italian Americans and their relation to organized crime. One of the characters mentions that mafia and gangster pictures are considered American classics with the likes of films like The Godfather leading the way. This is a very true statement and what The Sopranos did was drive home the reality of that world with full force.

The Sopranos could easily make an argument for the most perfectly set up television drama in history. There are a small group of shows as perfectly cast as The Sopranos; I would include shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men where every actor was paired perfectly with their character. With those shows mentioned, it was The Sopranos that blazed a trail for shows to approach the line of what had been considered acceptable for audiences and take a giant leap over that line.

Leading the way was the shows “Boss” Tony Soprano and the engine behind that character was the brilliant James Gandolfini. Gandolfini IS and always will be Tony Soprano and this in no way should take away from his acting abilities or be looked down upon as a typecast. The fact is there is no one else who could portray that character and show his layers better than he did. It is a testament to his acting abilities and is the kind of legacy every actor wishes they could leave.

Every leading man needs his leading lady, and no one represents NY/NJ women from that life better than Edie Falco. The teaming of these two brought dynamic to the show that gave it yet another level to its depth. Their troubles and quarrels were so real that they could leave you chilled, but their deep love through all of it was unmistakable.

One other aspect of the show that leaked its way into everyday society was the aspect of therapy and dealing with depression. Even though the show debuted in 1999, the act of taking anti-depressants was still seen as taboo in many circles then. The show created a type of open dialogue about this topic and showed how someone who is seen as mentally and physically untouchable could even need help. Prozac went from the drug everyone knew but didn’t take to the drug Tony Soprano was on and not that big of a deal. That’s not to say that dealing with depression and its medication wouldn’t have become as acceptable as it is now WITHOUT the show, but it did begin a discussion in a way people were more comfortable with.

So it’s been ten years since the world said goodbye to Tony Soprano and his family and in a few days, it will have been four years since we said goodbye to James Gandolfini and all the moments and memories he gave us in his magnificent and all too short career. In this age of binge watching shows and new shows being dropped in full seasons, maybe next time you aren’t sure what to binge on next you go back and spend time with the family that changed it all.

James Gandolfini’s Film Career Remembered

48987-james-gandolfini-637x0-1Wednesday June 19, 2013 the entertainment and acting world lost a true giant when James Gandolfini succumbed to a massive heart attack and fell asleep in death. Gandolfini will forever be remembered as Tony Soprano on one of the greatest television shows of all time and his character may be one of the best as well. Tony was superbly written and thought out. The depth that went into the character could only be written so deep, Gandolfini brought it to a different level all together.

While being remembered as Tony Soprano is a phenomenal legacy to have, it is also a little bit sad that some people will never know what a terrific actor Gandolfini was. Tony Soprano is a key example of how great he really was but only looking at his other work shows how good he really was as Tony. I’ve decided to take a look at some of my favorite Gandolfini roles and some of his most diverse.

5. The Mexican (Winston Baldry)th-4

Winston is a hitman, true, and that is close to the Soprano character but Winston has a twist, he’s gay. He not only is gay, he has a conscience and doubts his way of life. He brought a humanity to the character that was desperately needed. It was the character that stood out and made the movie better than it was.

welcome_to_the_rileys01 4. Welcome To The Riley’s (Doug Riley)

Doug Riley is stuck in a 30 year marriage with a wife who has never gotten over the loss of their 15 year old daughter and while Doug has become numb to his life as well he begins to show signs of breaking out. On a business trip to New Orleans he unexpectedly get’s hooked up with a 16 year old prostitute and begins to help change her life. This character is so complex on the inside while being bland on the outside and near emotionless. He does a beautiful job letting his inner self come through a little bit at a time.

3. Zero Dark Thirty (C.I.A. Director)james-gandolfini-zero-dark-thirty

There isn’t much more opposite of the head of a mafia crime family than the head of the C.I.A. Therefore when he played the Director in the award winning film about the 10 year hunt for Osama Bin Laden his brief time on film had to make an impact. The few words he spoke resinated and gave credibility to different characters and where they stood and what empowered them. Usually when a bigger name actor is cast in a smaller role it is because the expertise is needed despite the size of the role. His expertise was just what that character and film needed and got.

allthekingsmen3 2. All The Kings Men (Tiny Duffy)

When I said that being C.I.A. Director was as opposite as you could get I meant it but playing a crooked southern politician in 1950’s Louisiana is just about as opposite as well. Tiny Duffy is a crooked man working with major politicians to help swing an election but when it doesn’t go their way he is forced to join the man trying to bring them down and he has all but become his lap dog. With a pretty decent southern accent he had the ability to play the character with the confidence of Tony Soprano until it was needed for him to be brought down to the low level and he filled those shoes just as well.

1. Cinema Verite (Craig Gilbert)cinema-verite-poster

Gandolfini returned to HBO for this film which did well at the Golden Globes and various festivals. Craig Gilbert was a true life person who was a television producer who is credited with creating what is now known as reality TV. He had the idea to follow a seemingly normal family and when the cameras come the normal goes away. He struggles with the morality of what he is doing and trying to keep his feelings for the wife and mother of the family, in check.

Gandolfini will be greatly missed and it is safe to assume now that a Sopranos movie is not going to happen. So as we reflect on his career and the things he did, remember these words from The Sopranos theme song: “ She said, you’re one in a million. You got to learn to shine.” Shine he did.

The Upside Of Anger Shows An Upside To Binder’s Body Of Work

6616-The-Upside-of-Anger--2005-After nearly 12 years of scattered work which did include a short lived series on HBO, entitled The Mind Of A Married Man, Mike Binder would return with his most acclaimed cast to date and most interesting and possibly challenging film yet.

The Upside Of Anger stars Kevin Costner as an alcoholic ex-baseball player turned radio DJ and Joan Allen the newly alcoholic scorned wife of a husband who has apparently left his family for a younger woman, leaving his wife to finish raising their four daughters. When Costner discovers Joan Allen’s situation, a reluctant kinship is formed between the two until the true cause of Joan Allen’s husband’s disappearance is discovered.

The story centers around a woman who just wants to be sad over her apparent situation and a man of fame who ultimately wants to be forgotten by everyone including himself at times. The other central character is that of the self medication choice the two have made and that despite being a perfect match for each other, they are also toxic for each other. As their lives unfold and they grow closer along with experiencing tragedy together they seem to help each other.

With fantastic performances from everyone, especially a young and lesser known Evan Rachel Wood as “Popeye” the youngest of the sisters as the story is really told through her eyes that appear to be wise beyond her years, The Upside Of Anger is probably the best title in that it truly explains the complexity of a life that they thought was complex enough already.

Binder was at the time concerned that Costner would not be interested in once again playing a baseball player. His fears were releaved when Costner told him if the script is right and he likes the material he doesn’t care what the character does for a living. Joan Allen was a natural choice for Terry Ann. The two had worked together on the film, The Contender with Jeff Bridges and she had hoped Binder would be able to write something for her in the future and a better part, she could not have gotten. ?????????????????`

It really is Binder’s finest film up to that point and is amongst his best over all. Despite the seriousness of it’s over subject matter, humor once again does not elude Binder’s script and film. It is his most polished film and most perfectly made. Binder appears in the movie as the womanizing Shep, Costner’s radio producer. Displaying the wit and underrated acting ability that landed him his series with HBO that unfortunately was cut short.

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