Monthly Archives: September 2011

9 Things I Love About “Sons of Anarchy”

So, I recently watched the whole run of FX’s Sons of Anarchy, and I’m kind of obsessed.  I started watching primarily because I like Charlie Hunnam (2002 Nicholas Nickleby anyone?), but I quickly got sucked into the story of SAMCRO and the people of Charming, CA.  Here are 9 reasons I love this show:

1. The beautiful credits sequence where the characters’ ink morphs into the titles. I couldn’t find a good clip of it on YouTube, but this is one of the final images:

2. Charlie Hunnam.  The man is gorgeous and a fantastic, sensitive actor who makes Jax’s frequent fits of conscience very convincing.

I mean, come on....

3. Three-dimensional female characters. Television has definitely outstripped film in creating ample, meaty roles for women, and this show is no exception.  I was worried that the show’s subject matter would make it male-centric and misogynistic, but boy was I wrong.  Gemma and Tara are two incredibly complex women who develop in new and surprising ways as the show goes on.  Neither of these women takes any shit from their men, and the powerful actresses definitely hold their own in a sea of testosterone.  Even the smaller female characters are well-developed.  The hospital administrator initially seems like a cartoonish nemesis for Tara, but we gradually learn more about her and her motivations and she becomes an intriguing, sympathetic character with her own story to be told.

4. Katey Sagal.  Her Golden Globe win (and the fact that she voices Leela on Futurama) made me want to watch the show in the first place, and it’s totally worth it.  As the matriarch of SAMCRO, Sagal owns the screen every scene she’s in.  Whether she’s worrying about her encroaching menopause or swaggering around barking orders at the men in leather, she is one of the emotional centers of the show and a force to be reckoned with onscreen.  Also, you’ve got to love a show that admits that a woman in her fifties can still be sexy.  In so much film and television, an older woman is considered asexual and has no capacity for desire at all – the portrayal of Gemma completely flouts that, making this show far more feminist than it would seem.

5. There’s a character named Half-Sack because one of his testicles was blown off in Iraq.  How can you not love that?

Did I mention he's also awkward and adorable?

6. Hey!  It’s Gerry Bertier from Remember the Titans!!

Remember the Titans

Sons of Anarchy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. A varied and honest approach to abortion.  Again, for a show about a biker gang, Sons of Anarchy displays some serious interest in portraying women’s issues honestly.  Both Tara and Lyla consider abortions for different reasons, and not once is it treated as an abomination or a crime.  I’m not going to spoil things by going into detail about their two cases, but suffice it to say that the show treats them both with subtlety and sensitivity.  In a era where even discussing abortion on television is a big deal (see: Friday Night Lights), this show’s decision to take the time to examine this choice in detail is significant.

8. Dudes in leather.  Why watch a show about a biker gang if you don’t like to watch people ride around in leather on Harleys?  The id strikes again.

SAMCRO rides

9. Jax and Tara.  This couple is simply lovely.  Their slow build over the course of the first season and subsequent dips and roadblocks never feel anything but real.  When Jax has his periodic fits of guilt and tries to push her away, Tara always fights back, and he in turn is never afraid to call her on her bullshit.  At this point in the show, they have a lovely little family, and I hope their relationship continues to develop in interesting ways.

Well, those are only a few of the reasons I love Sons of Anarchy!  I hope this gets new people to watch (seasons 1 and 2 are on Netflix).

Update: Douglas McGrath’s Nicholas Nickleby (2002), starring Charlie Hunnam, is now on Netflix Instant.  Definitely check it out if you haven’t seen it! It’s the first thing I ever saw him in, and he’s excellent.

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Warrior (2011)

Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton face off in "Warrior"

Generally, I’m reluctant to watch sports or boxing movies, as I find them formulaic and unsurprising.  I will admit to being a sucker for Remember the Titans (2000), and Dodgeball (2004) has a special place in my heart, but those are special cases.  I would have avoided Gavin O’Connor’s Warrior entirely had my friend not won two tickets to a free advance screening (obviously, this review is a few weeks late).  I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the film.

In its basic plot structure, Warrior avoids the primary trap of sports movies: we always know who will win and, more importantly, who we want to win.  In this film, we’re torn between Tommy (Tom Hardy) and Brendan (Joel Edgerton), since we follow their stories equally.  Brendan is fighting to pay off the mortgage on his house and support his daughter’s medical bills, while Tommy is planning to use the prize money to support his fellow Marine’s widowed wife and children.  O’Connor pays equal attention to both stories and draws significant pathos out of each of them in turn.  Outside their MMA endeavors, both brothers bear the weight of the family baggage; their father, Paddy, was an abusive drunk who drove Tommy and his mother to flee.  Brendan did not come with them, and for that reason Tommy has not spoken to him in years.

The scenes between Tommy and his father are rife with tension.  The film opens when Paddy comes home from an AA meeting and a drunk Tommy shows up on his doorstep.  When the two sit in the den to talk, everything Tommy says is meant to cut.  He slurs out insults and references to past abuse from under his hoodie, taking swigs from a paper bag in between stabs.  The pathos in the scene comes from watching Paddy take the abuse.  Nolte gives a wonderfully subtle performance in this film, his sad eyes and changes in facial expression registering every blow Tommy sends his way.  In the end, he knows he deserves it, and that just makes Tommy hit harder.

The contrasts between Tommy and Brendan in the ring are obvious.  Tommy is raw power, taking out opponents in one punch and storming out of the ring, unwilling to accept any commendation or make a show out of it.  The way Hardy strides around with his head down, showing those crazy back muscles only the most built men have, makes Tommy appear to be some sort of creature, a bull in human skin.  Brendan, on the other hand, is older and leaner, and he fights primarily with persistence and endurance.   The final showdown between the two brothers is brutal and gut-wrenching as their fighting styles clash and emotions run high.

Tom Hardy, who is growing in popularity after his turn in last year’s Inception and in anticipation of his turn in the upcoming Dark Knight Rises, gives a powerful performance as Tommy.  When he does speak, he uses slurred speech patterns that suggest Marlon Brando, creating the impression that Tommy is, in fact, Terry Malloy’s doppelganger.  Edgerton’s performance is quieter, as he plays the reserved family man who has convinced himself his issues are behind him.  Jennifer Morrison is the usual “fighter’s wife” character, complaining and begging her husband not to fight even though they have no other options.  I’m not generally a Morrison fan, but I liked her performance here, even if the character was incredibly cliche.

I have sensory-memory problems with O’Connor’s other sports film, Miracle (2004) – chalk it up to too many field hockey team viewings – but it is widely acknowledged as an excellent example of the genre.  O’Connor is clearly skilled at creating the breathless anticipation and heart-in-your-throat momentum of the sports movie, and it shows here.  The fight scenes are visceral and brutal, producing cheering and cringing in all the right places.  I didn’t expect to like Warrior, but it completely sucked me in, and its probing exploration of masculinity and its relationship to combat makes it surprisingly thought-provoking.

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