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PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2005 8:25 pm 
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I'm not sure if this is the right to put this, but I've been watching The Sopranos on DVD recently (I'm about halfway through season 3 right now) and what really strikes/interests me about the show is how cinematic it is. I don't just mean this in an aesthetic sense, but also in the sense of how The Sopranos has actually cinematic poetry and meaning behind it. When I started the show I was expecting it to be nothing more than a violent Mafia soap opera but found it to be so much more (in dealing with the issues of family, and especially Tony's issues of masculinity).

But what struck me most about watching the Sopranos is how it uses Television as a medium. It seems equivalent to a "cinematic novel" where it is painting with a much larger canvas. It struck me how television could be used as an artistic medium but rarely is because of the system it's trapped in. What do other people think about television as an artisitic medium and or how it could be used, or perhaps even just their comments/criticisms on The Sopranos in general. I'm not exactly sure I framed any sort of definitive question. But feel free to add any sort of comments if you like

The better HBO dramas (The Wire, Carnivale, Six Feet Under) also use the expanded possibilities to good advantage (insert past tense for the now-canceled Carnivale and ended SFU.)

Initially, Deadwood seemed to be on the same road, but it really stagnated in S2 andf it's starting to be more and more like the static and repetitive latter day NYPD Blue thanks to David Milch's overuse of his tropes (like the pseudo-Mamet dialogue which just blew up into an out of control mess this last season.)


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2005 8:41 pm 
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Television series are quite different structurally from movies because instead of resolution the idea is to keep threads running as long as possible and to make people keep wanting to follow them. Also, because the series itself is such a longterm project the structure of it cannot be planned out beforehand. One example of this fact is that, to some extent, the plot is dependent on the lives of the actors. A key cast member may want to leave the show to pursue other projects or even suddenly die as in the case of the woman who played Livia Soprano. However, none of the crucial characters can die, except for one or two main characters toward the end of each season. There is also a lack of cohesion in the conception of the series because there are numerous writers and directors doing the episodes. They work together in some key sense, of course, but each still leave their own imprint on their episodes. The result is that the plot is so rigidly circumscribed that the writers and directors cannot play around with it very freely and make it serve a larger purpose. Of course the show attempts to compensate for this by providing reasonably intelligent, thought-provoking content, which many viewers indeed demand. Sometimes it is far too obvious how hard the writers are trying to instill some kind of subtext in the show, for example the premise of including scenes from Tony's therapy session interspersed throughout the other scenes, which basically spell out the psychological content for the viewer, which then provides greater purchase to understand the importance of what happens next.
In my opinion, the filmmakers who achieve the most look beyond the mere plot in order to explore motifs or in some other way say something that goes beyond the elements of the story. For example, Hitchcock compared the story to the bowl of fruit that simply gives a painter something to work with. In the end, the purpose of the painting is more than to merely represent fruit. I'm not saying that a show like the Sopranos does not contain anything beyond the plot, drama, and stylistic elements. It does. However, it's necessary to keep people tuning in next week and to keep a kind of rhythm to it that is not disruptive to people. For the reasons I've discussed, the story is the main concern of the people creating the show, and the result is often a lack anything very substantial for the viewer to take away.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2005 10:18 am 
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There is not a thing about The Sopranos that I don't love. I was obsessed with the show for a long time. Visiting those characters every week was like visiting the neighborhood I grew up in.. my relatives, friends, neighbors, etc. The accent, the food, and everything. I pronounce "moozadel" for mozzarella, "prozhoot" for prosciutto, use the word like "pootsie" when describing anything, especially food, shitty. And all that drive my friends in Florida crazy. The Sopranos' pilot has Caramella packing a sfogliatelle (a rich clam-like pastry.. my favorite!) in her daughter's lunch bag and I smiled so much at that. When I was 10 years old, I was away at a summer camp in Nebraska.. my grandma sent me a tin of her sesame seed cookies and anise toasts and I ate them all because no one wanted it. Every kid thought I was going to get chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies.

Even though The Sopranos centers around Tony since he's the patriarch of the two families, I think it's more about the women. I find them more powerful than the men. Their mouths are the most dangerous weapon of them all.

I find it entirely refreshing to see women finally having a voice in anything related to mafia.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2005 6:55 pm 
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Michael wrote:
I find them more powerful than the men. Their mouths are the most dangerous weapon of them all. I find it entirely refreshing to see women finally having a voice in anything related to mafia.

This impression I cannot fathom. Throughout the series they're consistently in the role of whore or caretaker. Carmella talks back to Tony but in Season 5 she is frightened of him every time she sees him come in the house. She doesn't even have anything like equal legal rights as she pursues divorce because Tony's influence is so vastly greater. She's helpless, so she goes back to him for a price.
I was amazed to see a woman as an earner in the mafia early in the same season, but she is quickly put in her place. When threatened with violence, she retreats to her whore role, offering oral sex to the men if they show mercy. It's also clear how she's internalized the sexism of the world depicted in the series. For example, at a sit-down she's having with people high up in the family she hushes her boyfriend by saying, (paraphrasing) "Be quiet, men are talking." Her boyfriend is also a man, but it's clear that "men" means "important people."
It's all very clear who is in charge and wherein their power lies.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 07, 2005 12:18 am 
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Gregory, I totally understand what you're saying. Look at The Godfather, the women are secondary. Vito's wife is always placed in the background. Michael's wife Kay and Connie the Corleone daughter never really step in the same spotlight as the guys. Nearly 20 years later, the next greatest mafia film comes along - Goodfellas. Henry's wife Karen is a lot more strong and vibrant and fleshed out than the women in The Godfather. And now we have The Sopranos. The women finally step in the spotlight as fully as the guys but they just have different rules and weapons. I should have not said that they are more powerful.. what I really mean is that I'm awestruck by how rich and complex The Sopranos women are - Carmela, Dr. Melfi, Janice, Livia, etc - leaving me an impression that they are somehow more powerful. Not something that most would expect from mafia stuff.

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For example, at a sit-down she's having with people high up in the family she hushes her boyfriend by saying, (paraphrasing) "Be quiet, men are talking." Her boyfriend is also a man, but it's clear that "men" means "important people."
It's all very clear who is in charge and wherein their power lies.


Very true. That's what we call "respect". I don't always agree with that but I can absolutely understand why she does that ...it's a cultural thing.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 07, 2005 1:16 am 

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Anywho, one question I do have is, Is the rape of Dr. Melfi ever followed up on? I'm almost done with season 3 and it seems like that was really only dealt with in the one episode and then sort of brushed aside. It seemed like an odd thing to do that character and is it followed up in Season 4/5?


I'm not sure about this, I haven't watched season 5 yet and need to re-watch the others. But, many of the plot-lines in sopranos are just left. I'm not completely sure why they do this, but I think it is probably to give it some increased realism? Not everything in real life is tied up nicely (or not nicely).


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 07, 2005 2:17 am 
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Michael, I see better what you mean. One of the main reasons I continue to watch the show is because Carmella's character is so compelling and because Edie Falco takes her to such extraordinary heights.
--------
About Chase's plans for the series: When Season 4 began there were strong rumors that it would be the last. Now they're working on episodes that will air in 2007. Chase may have planned six seasons all along, but this wouldn't have been certain from the beginning. Anyway, nothing in the points I was making earlier disputed that Chase has some fixed ideas of what the overall structure of the series will be.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 07, 2005 8:25 am 
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Gregory wrote:
Michael, I see better what you mean. One of the main reasons I continue to watch the show is because Carmella's character is so compelling and because Edie Falco takes her to such extraordinary heights.


Oh yes. Absolutely!

SPOILERS

Another thing. What do you think of Christopher's girlfriend Adriana in the last two seasons? I never imagined that what she had to endure and its result left me devastated and depressed because I once loathed her character...annoying, whining, shallow.. but she somehow became more real and sympathetic in the last two seasons. I never imagined that I would miss her.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 07, 2005 10:06 am 
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She had a fantastic body.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 07, 2005 8:57 pm 
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For all that it succumbs to some of the weaknesses of all series television, and taking into account that any work created in dozens of different discrete sections by dozens of different people over a prolonged period is going to have its ups and downs, The Sopranos is a hell of an achievement, and I think it fully warrants being considered alongside the best American films of the last ten years (damning with faint praise, I know). And at least it's got a subtext to explain.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 13, 2006 10:24 am 
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Anyone watched last nights premiere? Simply stunning. This season is going to be the end of The Sopranos. I love how the premiere starts by reacquainting us with the characters through an extended "slide show" sequence set to "Seven Souls" - a steeped-in-the Egyptians, spoken-word piece by William Burroughs (yes, that Beat Generation icon) reading an excerpt from his novel The Western Lands to funk-jazz music. Exceptionally beautiful.

The finale season looks like it's going to be the most darkest.. filling up with more and more ghosts.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 13, 2006 12:37 pm 
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Yes, that opening was amazing. I was one of the only people in the room who knew that was Burroughs, or who cared, Everyone else thought it sucked. But I think it was another ballsy, perfect choice from the Sopranos creative team.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 13, 2006 3:41 pm 
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"the circle-jerk of life"


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 13, 2006 5:29 pm 
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"the circle-jerk of life"


That was a riot! :lol:


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 13, 2006 9:18 pm 
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My guess is that the series will end on a very tragic/bloody note. As if Peckinpah directed Hamlet.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 13, 2006 10:59 pm 
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My guess is that the series will end on a very tragic/bloody note. As if Peckinpah directed Hamlet.


I think so too.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 14, 2006 11:30 am 
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With Tony closing his eyes and drifting off into unconsciousness at the very end of the episode, I really hope we are not about to get subjected to a "dream" season, where nothing is for real and is just the imagination of a dying man. Somehow I think Chase & Co. could probably handle this better than other TV crews and he has displayed a pretty good hand at it in the past, but I just don't know if I would be able to handle the very last season of this show being "all just a dream" a la Bobby Ewing.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 8:10 am 
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Well I think episode 2 proved that is not what is gonna happen. Nasty wound tho.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 8:53 am 
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For a show I consider sort of a guilty pleasure, I was suprised to find myself almost in tears towards the end of the show when AJ talked to his father.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 4:16 pm 
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I should mention that I like the direction the season is going in, turning the violence that they sometimes have glamourized 180 degrees and seeing the results of such violence. That's really what I see with the Tony angle, I'm not sure many here would agree with it.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 5:11 pm 
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I disagree that they have glamorized the violence in the previous seasons. Pretty much all the violence has been portrayed in a way where you'd be hard pressed not to feel sorry for the victim. We have seen victims in pain, we've seen grieving mothers, we've seen perpetrator with guilt issues.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 5:22 pm 
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I agree with the Invunche about the "glamorization" of violence in the Sopranos. Do you have a theory of how it's going to end?


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 6:30 pm 
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I should recant the previous statement, because I've basically relied on hearsay about the show. Likely from people who can't see the leaves from the trees, or however that saying goes.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 9:40 pm 

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Yeah, I wouldn't consider the violence glamorous either. It seems very akin to Cronenberg's method in A History of Violence. One feels complicit because the violence is often committed by people we've grown to actually love--in this way, I think it might even be considered a larger demonstration of DC's objective with Violence.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 9:52 pm 
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I'd agree with that. Another good example is Unforgiven's duality of violence being a necessary evil, and just plain evil.

The point I originally wanted to make was that now David Chase & co. wants to look at the long-term effects of such violence portrayed in past episodes. I could be wrong and reading too much into it, but that was my initial impression after watching the 2nd show.


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