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“KNUCKLEHEAD SMITH”

Chicago Tribune “Arts Critic,” Sid Smith, goes and jabs a bad page, leaking THE SOPRANOS, Season Six Premiere all over his recent column (“‘Sopranos’ hits high notes early“). Even worse, I’m knucklehead reader enough to have read it.

And, I like the recurring use of “dream-sequence” events in is Series — and the dramatic use of them — because they effect a far richer repeat-viewing of the Episodes-for-all-Seasons if not the original views themselves (but don’t go read Smith’s column just yet, wait until after Sunday night’s Season Six premiere Episode — Smith reduces the dream-sequence work in THE SOPRANOS to annoying wasted water while otherwise ruining the surprise of the Sixth Season starter). I’ve yet to read more debate about the THE SOPRANOS than I did as to the second dream-sequence from the two that appeared in Season Four’s Episode 50, “Calling All Cars” (the second dream-sequence in that Episode is the stone-mason-“no-speaka-di-Engelish” and the-figure-partially-descending-the-farmhouse-stairs sequence) — I continue to insist that it doesn’t matter who the figure was in that second dream (that one Episode, the figure-descending-the-stairs, but also in the other dream sequences, same insistence from me), but what does matter is who the character of Tony Soprano thinks it is, or same about the rest of the sequences; that is, Tony Soprano dreamed the figure and all the rest, and, so, what is important to the story is what the figure represents to the character of Tony Soprano, not what is defined by the viewer but what is perceived by the character of T.S., and, what his reactons to the figure are (fear, specifically, followed by the indication by Tony that he was in the process of confronting the figure by opening the squeaky front screendoor before him just before waking).

Near-unending debate has occured on the internet about who the figure descending the stairs was, to my frustration, as to Season Four’s “Calling All Cars,” while Season Five’s Episode, “The Test Dream” seems to have driven many bloggers and erstwhile commentors into a dart-tossing manic trance (however, not as to me, because I am quite fascinated by the use and content of the dream sequences in this Series).

So, this Sunday night, and then Monday and Wednesday nights following each week respectively, I’ll be glued to the one Series that has and is singlehandedly propping up HBO for another year and about which I have never been so grateful, now as in the past years: another Season — but, alas, the last — the Sixth Season, with twelve episodes and a bonus additional eight, of the immensely wellwritten THE SOPRANOS and James Gandolfini‘s remarkable, astute and bewildering characterization of Tony Soprano.

Update:
‘Sopranos’ final season packs a bada-bing
— Despite the landloping title, the article’s a good read, particularly as to insights about process and plans for the Series by THE SOPRANOS creator and writer, David Chase:

“…’I guess,’ Chase offers, ‘the question is: “Do we really believe that crime does not pay?” He shrugs. ‘That’s what we’re told. That’s what most gangster films have told us. Is there justice in the world?’

“So, whatever it is that Chase happens to believe, that might have some bearing on the Series grand conclusion?

“‘Yeah, I think so,’ he says, mulling it over. ‘I think so.'”

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4 C O M M E N T S

  1. epador says:

    I keep swearing I am gonna unsubscribe to HBO just as soon as (Rome is over, the last Sopranos episode, etc.) because the rest of the content is pretty sucky. Good thing I don’t read the newspapers and thanks for not spoiling it for me too;-)

  2. -S- says:

    That is the mirror-image of my view of HBO’s current state of being. While I’m finding their recent series, ROME, also worthwhile watching, it’s not — by a huge measure — as well-written as is THE SOPRANOS and I’m frustrated with the slow moving events, characters and bleak dialogue from ROME, while finding the production value and performances quite remarkable to the contrary.

    So, yes, I’m eager to see another Season of ROME but it does not have the staying power to keep me rapt beyond that, while THE SOPRANOS is truly televised series history. I would still like to see THE SOPRANOS also work as a feature film, yet not having seen these last twelve+eight Episodes of the Series, it just may be that the story is fully wrought afterward (although that would not disallow a feature film but it’s a case of if there’s more to be said and done with the characters, to my view, afterward or in parallel).

    I do know that the supporting characters in THE SOPRANOS work as well as they do but only as well as they do because of the full cast, but I also believe Series creator David Chase is smart enough not to pursue any feature film dissolution or watering-down of any of them in a feature film that won’t involve and involve well the full array of characters and that means the necessity of Tony Soprano (and James Gandolfini as continuing as Tony Soprano because replacing the actor in that role would be disasterous for the character, and I don’t care how well another actor could handle it, it would just ruin the believability of Tony Soprano as character that now exists with and because of Gandolfini as T.S.).

    Meaning, a feature film would only work as well as Gandolfini was available to maintain Tony Soprano and Tony Soprano was maintainable past this last Season. I know, like most viewers, the demise of Tony Soprano isn’t something that would be bearable but it’s, of course, the obvious conclusion to the story (maybe he’ll move to the Caribbean and “work” from there, given his curiosity and curious statements in past Season about the ‘old dons’ who were able to “move to Florida” and “work from there through other people” — although there is that sun thing for Tony and his skin problem, so perhaps that future storyline is now balanced out). My preference as to resolving the character would be that Tony Soprano gives it all up and away and becomes that lone stone mason who doesn’t speak the language of crime any longer, despite the implausibility of that — it’d be a rapt experience to see that possibility explored, however, to see Tony Soprano actually “get” those compass points of morality and moral choice.

    I agree, however, that HBO is deteriorated into nonsense and the nonsense of multi-cultural, moral equivalency that dilutes any truth to nothingness within almost all they’re now presenting, with the exception of THE SOPRANOS and ROME, to a certain degree that last Series. DEADWOOD has grabbed a lot of viewer loyalty but I find it too theatrical and non believable outside of regarding DEADWOOD as, literally and figuratively, Hell (perhaps that’s why current viewers are loyal to it, however); I’ve never found much to anything worth watching another Episode from DEADWOOD, is my point, so it’s never captured me as viewer or enthusiast, despite my western/rancher/rural legacy and familiarity (DEADWOOD defies the reality of human culture, however, by comparison and thus, no suspension of disbelief to my view and the Episodes of DW I’ve viewed have had me checking my watch with thoughts of other things I needed to do…).

    Unless HBO presents other-and-ongoing Series as remarkable as THE SOPRANOS, I can’t see maintaining the service, just as you’ve expressed. Their current spate of Series and “specials,” otherwise — where HBO says it’s headed (suggesting they may include advertising, which is the ultimate insult here because I already find SHOWTIME and STARZ use of promotions to lead their film presentations really, really annoying) is insulting to the dollars I spend to keep them connected.

  3. -S- says:

    Sorry to hear that you are sick, epador — hope you feel better soon (and can bed rest, or at least, stay home out of bed otherwise until you feel well — sometimes absence of daily grind stress is the best medicine over a few days, although staying in bed unless you’re really, really sick isn’t always the best thing to do but you know that already, ha).

    I DID watch “the silly polygamy series” (BIG LOVE) on HBO and although I thought it was (per the reviews) “well acted” (it was), it was also terrible. Just awful. Completely expected, formula addled — as if right out of a can — complete with rural encampment of expected polygamists living amidst dirt and decay and the Pack Leader Wife No. 1 greeting her visiting son and two of three wives with an exclamation about the fact that she ‘had not washed her hair, but so what’…I mean, honestly, it was TERRIBLE.

    I’m not going to watch it (BIG LOVE) again although I am keen on the lead actor’s work (Bill Paxton’s) but even though I like his work, generally, there he is in this bad role engaged in bad role playing…not so much the fault of the actors (why don’t they refuse to enact bad dialogue, I’ll never figure that out), but one of very, very bad dialogue, a bad script full of anticipated, formula normalities and crying children to add an effect of, I GUESS, “excitement” if not sheer anticipation that they’ll soon stop crying if they anticipate maintaining the few viewers they may have after this starting Episode.

    HBO is diluted, watered down, without THE SOPRANOS, despite my quirks with this new-last-Series Episode (MEMBERS ONLY) — I agree that the concluding scene in this recent Episode, of Tony Soprano passed out from possible catastrophic blood loss on his shooter Uncle’s kitchen floor, is a reasonably accurate representation of what HBO is about today.

    The BIGGEST PROBLEM (HBO in general, the other Series they’re now presenting, with the excepton of THE SOPRANOS and to a great degree, DEADWOOD, although I’m not at all fond of the latter, I still regard it as being well written) is bad writing. There are a lot of capable actors and a few intensely astute ones available, but the story premises and stories and dialogue wrought that we the audience then view is just terrible. Terrible. Some sort of pit of banality if not the pit itself.

    I found this new Episode (MEMBERS ONLY) of THE SOPRANOS somewhat dubious…despite my favorite director, Tim Van Patten, and writer, Terence Winter, being involved, the characters are presented as being somewhere we as audience now can’t follow (at least not without a lot of work). How’d the characters get there, wherever they are, how is it, for example, that intensely biting Carmela is now placid, amiable wife? And more similar to that that mostly creates lack of believability, not an issue of calendar-chronicity, but of maintaining believability of the characters. Or else, Carmela has just been refined as character to the now-point of being shown in full materialism and little concern otherwise (she “worries all.the.time” she says and from this recent Episode, my earlier Season’s impression of Carmela as materialist extraordinaire is now cemented as fact).

    Given that we’re now on the new-best-last with this Series, THE SOPRANOS, and we’re moreorless on a raft amidst non specificity (if this Episode is representational of the rest to come) (I hope it is not). That one scene from this recent Episode, of Johhny Sack in jail looking over the photos from someone’s “baby shower” while his wife visits…what was the entire point of showing us several prolonged moments of Sack staring at the unidentifiable-depictions photo and of the photo itself? And more…the character who took his life this series (by hanging) (“Gene Pontercorvo“), we’ve never seen more than a scene or two other than his profile or person standing in the background in the past, barely a moment with him fully on camera or even delivering dialogue (other than in Season Five at the “construction site” when he plastered a guy with a glass bottle), and now prolonged “family moments” with this guy? It’s an Episode that is unhinged from the past.

    Perhaps that is the point but it was disappointing. If the point is now that the Series (and all involved) are unhinged from the past, that there is now nothing that hooks into the past or even refers to it as to carry-forward, that’s bad if characters are now become someone new but onscreen with the same face, same name, same actor, yet now enacted so differently as to make no sense to past positions, it’s not only confusing, it’s diluting to believability. Or, perhaps the loss of Adriana in Season Five’s LONG TERM PARKING Episode was a loss that’s still rumbling as sadness throughout the Series, to my view, still affecting the Series in finality, a seriousness that drove the point home as never before that the heroism admired here is, in fact, from among murderers. It leaves me wondering if there ever could be a moral resolution to or by most of the lead characters in this Series, if there’s ever reconciliation enough to make the rest something that can be resigned to the past otherwise. The only resolution would be one of great faith and immense moral change accordingly and I wonder if those responsible for this Series could ever accomplish that.

    I think the only realistic aspect was Junior Soprano‘s dementia, most of all (“Cazza di, Malanga!”) Junior’s killing-shot attempt at nephew, Tony (who I don’t think was killed, unless the remaining Series is going to be flash-back or spirit-visitation from beyond) and missing teeth, which I found interesting as comment about Tony Soprano’s THE TEST DREAM dream-sequence from the Fifth Season.

    My one and only hunch about this Episode (MEMBERS ONLY) was that IF Tony Soprano was, in fact, mortally wounded by Uncle Junior, and died right there on Junior’s kitchen floor for lack of medical help, that what we saw in this Episode was the conclusion of the Series and that the rest will be flashback Episodes that lead up to last night’s Episode and T.S.’s demise — it might also explain why there was no preview of a next Episode at the conclusion of last night’s MEMBERS ONLY. Or, the shooting scene by Junior upon Tony could just be another of T.S.’s dream-sequences. More of why I end up watching one Episode of the THE SOPRANOS and then anticipating the next one — it’s great writing, great producing at work, this Series.

    Not disappointed in this Series (never have been, certainly am not now) but, still…wanted more. But, as to HBO, other than this Series, THE SOPRANOS, HBO is the new MTV — their other Series don’t measure up by a huge gap and it seems they are rebroadcasting formula more than anything. ROME is excellent in production value, as I’ve written before, but there again, the writing is very poor, scenes aren’t exciting newly explored, dialogue is very, very banal and for lasting, that’s a Series that surely needs to be saved by far better writers than what’s been done in that first year’s broadcast.

    I doubt there will ever be a match in overall impact to THE SOPRANOS, however. It’s benchmark material.

  4. epador says:

    Since I was thinking of turning it off, and I’m home sick, I decided to watch a spate of HBO tonight. I refuse to watch the silly polygamy series, however.

    Bill Maher was his usual smug self, Gloria S prefaced every remark with “Polls show” and there actually was time given to the other side. Still pretty nauseating.

    Real Sports was interesting. I have no interest in sports and would never have watched this. No surprise it won the 2006 Dupont-Columbia Award. Bryant G trying to look like and old time news anchor, and Frank DeFord toning down his accent just a bit with slightly interesting explorations of Danny Graves, Gallaudet Basketball, and an unabashed appeal to help Manute Bol. If I cared about sports in general, I might find this worth watching again. If the piece on Manute had been more objective, and less an appeal for him (I felt like it was some sort of mini Telethon for a few minutes there), I would have been more impressed.

    And somehow I had missed Spanglish, so I caught that too.

    Just a hash mark or two above so-so, with of all things, the sports show the highlight!

    Somehow the fadeout last scene of the newest Sopranos seems like a metaphor for HBO in general.