Chasing the Hill: Not Just Fake Politics

Review, Chasing the Hill

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

 

Emmy nominee Brent Roske, Creator and Executive Producer of the new internet TV show, “Chasing the Hill,” has done the impossible. He has created a show about politics during campaign season that not only didn’t have us shoving our heads in a wood chipper, it had us watching it a second time.

In “Chasing the Hill,” California Representative Kristina Ryan is attempting to win re-election for a third term. Normally, as a Democratic Party incumbent in southern California, her election would be a slam-dunk affair. Unfortunately for her campaign, she was recently involved in a nasty scandal and she is now behind in the polls. The pilot shows her campaign team as they do their best to overcome her recent scandal and get her re-elected.

Non-partisan interviews with actual elected officials are included before the episode and after the show in a segment called “Chasing Chasing the Hill.”

The cast includes Robin Weigert of “Deadwood” fame as well as “West Wing” alums Matthew Del Negro, Joshua Malina, and Melissa Fitzgerald.

Now for our individual comments.

Bayard:

I didn’t just enjoy “Chasing the Hill,” I enjoyed it even more the second time I watched it. The dialogue is clever and often humorous, and the acting is excellent. I almost felt like I was eavesdropping rather than watching a performance.

As a hard core moderate, the thing I appreciate most about “Chasing the Hill” is that it is a realistic political drama that is non-partisan. Although Rep. Ryan is a democrat, the show does not beat me about the head and shoulders with left-wing dogma. The pilot focuses on the behind-the-scenes action of politics and not on the politics themselves. In today’s election atmosphere of heightened partisanship, which is always detrimental to our country, it’s refreshing to see a show that so far makes every attempt to be politically objective.

Holmes:

I watched the pilot for “Chasing the Hill” twice this morning. I enjoyed it. So far, the characters are interesting enough to hold my attention. The filming and editing utilize the youthful production style of a docudrama, and at times they lend the feel of a documentary to the show. Also, the very sudden and pronounced delivery of some of the actors’ lines adds an interesting touch of 1890s stage production to the digital gestalt.

I enjoyed the non-traditional combination of editing, production, and directing styles for two reasons. For one thing, it was entertaining enough to justify my time. For another, I was happy to see an internet show that has thus far been well enough written, acted, and produced to survive in what remains a difficult internet market.

I am hoping that this show will be successful, and that more writers and producers will use the cost effective internet production method to highlight a wider variety of writers and ideas than what we find in more traditional TV fare.

The bottom line for me, though, is that I don’t regret spending my time and my $1.99 to watch it. Particularly during a campaign season, paying to watch a more interesting fake campaign in exchange for avoiding the plethora of nauseating political ads that plague the air waves made the price tag seem like a bargain.

If you have the time, go ahead and watch “Chasing the Hill.” I think there’s a good chance that you will enjoy it. If you are in a mood for serious commentary, you should also watch the “Chasing Chasing the Hill” segment that airs after the show.

The first season will have six episodes, which you can download at Chasing the Hill.

Together, Holmes and I give “Chasing the Hill” five stars. While it won’t make fake promises about world peace, your medical bills, or your outsourced job like a real political campaign does, this fake political campaign is real entertainment and absolutely worth your time and dime.

© 2012 Piper Bayard. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact us at the above links to request permission.

 

Bourne in Hell . . . Review of “The Bourne Legacy”

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

The Bourne Legacy is born from the trilogy of Matt Damon Bourne movies and is intended to give birth to a new flood of cash. After rogue agent Jason Bourne does his superspy tap dance across the CIA in the previous three movies, that agency decides to terminate operations coming from Treadstone, the top secret project creating ultimate warriors like Bourne. Terminating operations means murdering all of the people connected with them. One of these uber-soldiers, Aaron Cross (played by Jeremy Renner), manages to escape his execution and goes on the run with one of the doctors who helped create his super powers, Dr. Marta Shearing (played by Rachel Weisz).

We’ll tell you right up front that we didn’t like this overblown excuse for a movie, but that was definitely due to no fault of the actors. They did the best they could have done with this cinematic travesty. In fact, the acting was the only redeeming quality of the entire two miserable hours.

image from en.wikipedia.org

Now for our individual observations.

Bayard:

Understanding that this is fiction, I’m generally pretty charitable with movies. However, I do not give them license to be stupid. Shortly into this movie, I knew The Bourne Legacy crossed that IQ line when I cracked up laughing, thinking, “What? He’s got a rifle? Why didn’t he just shoot the damn ****** instead of dancing with them?”

It did not get better. In fact, about a half an hour in, I had to stop myself from moo-ing because The Bourne Legacy is what I call a Dairy Farm Movie. I understand that the movie business, like every other business, is in the business of making money. But movies, books, paintings, dance, etc. should give us something in exchange for that money, and that something should not be to treat us like cash cows to be milked.

As an author, I’ll say I found this story sorely lacking in structure. It has a beginning; it has a middle, a middle, and another middle, all of which consist of chase scenes punctuated by an occasional dramatic pause. In fact, if it’s true that visualizing a physical activity is almost as effective as doing the thing, I burned at least 5k calories watching these chase scenes. It finally got to the point that I thought I’d taken a wrong turn and ended up in The Terminator.

Unlike The Terminator, though, The Bourne Legacy has no actual end beyond a trite committee meeting held with people who would have already known about the project in the first place for it to exist at all. At no time do the “white hats” actually take charge of the situation and dominate the “black hats” to obtain satisfying resolution to the story problem.

Bottom line? I want those two hours of my life back, please. I could have been ironing my pantyhose or watching my dog catch flies.

Holmes:

This movie was Bourne in Hell, and then it got worse.

It’s rare for me to walk out on a movie, but if I hadn’t been there to review it, I would not have stayed. Generally, if I’m going to review a movie, I watch it at least twice so I can catch more detail and find more things to appreciate about it. I’m sorry, folks. I did my best but I can’t tolerate The Bourne Legacy a second time. All I can offer is my honest first impressions.

If a movie with a well-developed plot or great action is what you seek, then by all means spare yourself the agony of sitting through this one.  And if you’re hoping to see a Jason Bourne movie, it isn’t one of those, either. The producers saved themselves a bundle by only flashing a brief glimpse of Matt Damon’s photograph rather than hiring the actual actor.

As to plausibility of the movie concept, there isn’t one. I won’t claim that the CIA has never, ever killed anyone, but it is not their normal and customary practice to run around killing each other. No intelligence organization in a democratic society could sustain itself by routinely murdering its own employees or citizens. That was standard operating procedure for the Soviet Union, and you see how well that worked out for them.

Most of the “action” scenes are severely edited, resulting in a hint of action amidst abundant kinetic energy. It’s more like a stop-action animation film with bad editing. For example, one moment a woman is upright on a motorcycle, and the next she is falling off the side, clinging to a bus, but we never see how this happens. It is frenetic activity, but it is not fluid action.

This is, unfortunately, a money-saving trend in modern films. While they clearly saved a lot of cash by cheating on the action scenes in The Bourne Legacy with staccato film editing, it gave me annoyance rather than the tension and interest it was supposed to be creating.

And the plot?  Are the writers on strike again?

So far some critics have been upset by the lack of an “ending” to The Bourne Legacy. I’ll let them slide on the ending. If you never quite start the movie, why should you have to end it? Besides, in the case of The Bourne Legacy, my favorite thing about the movie is that it finally stopped when it did, though sooner would have been better.

At the “end” the non-action switches abruptly to a non-love scene. We are all better off not seeing that love scene. It would have no doubt amounted to something like “Fifty Shades of Bilge Grease” or “Last Tango in a Tropical Hell.” I want to personally thank the writer and producer for sparing me that agony.

On the positive side, if you haven’t seen this movie yet, it’s not to late to avoid the pain. If you have ten bucks that are burning a hole in your pocket and you are in dire need of some action, then use the cash to buy a pair of knitting needles and a skein of wool. Learning to knit would be a better bet for entertainment than paying to see The Bourne Legacy.

The Bourne Legacy will soon be coming to a theater near you! Warn your loved ones!

Rating:

The Bourne Legacy earns our first Dud Chinese-Manufactured Ammo* rating. We know better than to look for documentary style reality in movies, but this film did not bother to employ the many modern techniques available for producing a satisfying story or exciting action scenes. If you’re looking for action or for a movie, this isn’t either.

Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

*Our Movie Rating System:

  • Dud Chinese-manufactured ammo: Stay home and do housework. You’ll have more fun.
  • .22 rim fire:  Not worth the big screen, but ok to rent.
  • .380: Go to the matinée if someone else is paying.
  • .38 special: Worth paying for the matinée yourself.
  • .357 magnum: Okay to upgrade to prime time if you can stand the crowd.
  • .44 magnum: Must see this. Potentially life-altering event.

Piper Bayard is a recovering attorney with a university degree or two. She currently pens post-apocalyptic sci-fi and spy novels with Holmes when she isn’t shooting, SCUBA diving, or chauffeuring her children.

‘Jay Holmes’, is an intelligence veteran of the Cold War and remains an anonymous member of the intelligence community. Piper is the public face of their partnership.

You may contact them in blog comments, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Piper Bayard, or by email at BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

© 2012 Piper Bayard. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact us at the above links to request permission.

Bayard, Holmes, Movie, No Popcorn – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

By Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a movie based on Jean Le Carre’s novel by the same name. It’s the story of George Smiley and his efforts to root out a mole in MI-6 during the Cold War. Gary Oldman takes the lead with a heavy hitting cast including John Hurt and Colin Firth.

Bayard

Jean Le Carre is the pen name of David John Moore Cornwell. Cornwell worked for the British Intelligence Services MI-5 and MI-6 from 1952 until 1964, during the time the Cambridge Five were passing information from those agencies to the Soviets. (See Holmes on the Cambridge Forty in Archives.) Some sources say one of their leaders, Kim Philby, worked behind the scenes to have Cornwell dismissed from MI-6 and gave his name to the Soviets, ending Cornwell’s intelligence career.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is the novelisation of the hunt for the Cambridge spies, and the mole Smiley is searching for is based on Kim Philby. Let this be a reminder to all of you who know authors. Don’t mess with us or your dastardly deeds will be immortalized.

As a veteran of the Cold War, Holmes’ comments regarding the nature of this movie are far more erudite than my own so I will leave further analysis to him. However, this movie did have me asking him one question. Do top-level intelligence officers actually pause and stare meaningfully at each other that often during the course of their days?

His answer when he quit laughing? “They do sometimes get very quiet in meetings when they are thinking. In this movie, though, they were giving the audience time to think. It had to do with the complexity of the movie and not with intelligence procedures.”

Holmes

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is, in my view, one of the more realistic spy films that I have seen. If you’re in the mood for wild chase scenes, lots of beautiful, naked women, handsome hunks, and running gun fights, keep looking. This isn’t it. If, on the other hand, you want a realistic story about Cold War spooks, this is a movie well worth watching.

This is a spy movie but not an “action” movie. Much of the action that needs to take place is in the viewer’s mind. The viewer is given more than enough information to resolve all of the questions as long as the viewer stays engaged with the plot. This is not a movie to go to if your brain is tired and you need a laugh, graphic sex scenes or loud explosions.

If you intend to grope whomever you bring to the theater with you, go alone and grope them later. That tactic worked well for my wife and I. She went shopping, whereby she presumably temporarily avoided being groped by a dangerous man in a dark room, and I saw the movie while not allowing myself to be too distracted by any thoughts of groping. After giving fair warning to my young adult children that there would be no sex or wild shoot outs in the movie, they declined to see it. So I sat alone in the theater and, after politely asking* the elderly couple in the row in front of me to please stop their overt and not at all silent groping activity, I allowed myself to be carried back to rainy London nights during the Cold War.

Before I get on with the movie, let me take a moment to issue an important public service message. If you are between the ages of 18 and 40, please don’t embarrass me by making your groping activities too obvious while sitting near me. If you are over forty, I am even less inclined to tolerate your overt groping. If you lack the skills to grope your play partner properly and discreetly without annoying grumpy old cranks like me, then by all means stay at home and grope away as you please or until the Viagra runs out.

The movie (once you scare away any local gropers) is about the search for a mole in British MI-6 by George Smiley, a recently retired deputy director. The retired spy finds himself being asked by run-of-the-mill cowardly, sleazebag politicians to ferret out a possible mole without rocking any political boats. In a better world, the politicians would pretend for a moment that they were not slimy worms, and they would order a full and immediate investigation without concern for political fallout. Poor George Smiley lives in our world so he knows that probably won’t happen, and he agrees to take on the thankless task.

If you pay attention in this part of the movie, you will catch a brilliantly played split second when Smiley considers giving in to his emotions and throwing the politician from the high spot that they occupy at the meeting. You can read his mind and sympathize with him. From your seat in the theater, you’ll be wanting to smack these supercilious bastards.

Even though Smiley knows that he can more easily get the job done without them wasting more of the world’s oxygen supply, he relies on his well-honed self discipline, ignores their insults, and gets on with the task at hand. Which is as it should be because if we all give in to our darkest instincts, our world will soon look like Iraq does this week, and the whole reason for having an MI-6 is to keep that from happening. So future spooks who are reading this, remember . . . leave seemingly urgent questions of justice to God and the voters and concentrate on your work.

Smiley is handicapped by a lack of resources and by the need to keep his investigation quiet, but he and his capable assistants rely on their collective experience and sharp minds to get things done. Smiley uses every spook’s most important weapon to crack the case. His brain.

The movie was well cast, well acted, and well directed. The director skillfully used the dreary scenery and the music to portray the dread and depression that a George Smiley would feel in his circumstances. He has to contend with feelings of betrayal and trepidation at what a mole might mean for him and for his country without letting it all overwhelm him and render him useless. He has to ignore personal feelings and likes and dislikes to peer at a smoke-filled reality through multiple warped lenses to glimpse the truth.

The movie clearly and realistically portrays that dynamic, and the viewer can easily imagine himself in the same situation and can ask himself how he/she would deal with the same. Who do you have that can help? Who would you call first? Who would you avoid? How will you get to the files that you want without alarming anyone? Who can you trust?

As long as we remember what audience this movie is for, I can’t see any reason to offer any criticisms of this film. The plot holes were so minute as to make them meaningless. Don’t even look for them. Just enjoy the movie completely.

This movie won’t change your life unless it scares you off from seeking a job in intelligence, or you get arrested for overt public groping. But it will give you more insight into one aspect of the intelligence world and its complicated history. It’s a very good movie. Movies that can keep you awake without sex and explosions are rare so don’t miss this one. We give it a .44 magnum rating** and we’ll actually pay to go watch this movie again.

Have you read this book or seen this movie? Will you go to a movie without explosions?

*Piper’s Note: Someone pleeeeeease ask Holmes what constitutes “politely asking.”

**Our Movie Rating System:

  • Dud Chinese-manufactured ammo: Stay home and do housework. You’ll have more fun.
  • .22 rim fire:  Not worth the big screen, but ok to rent.
  • .380: Go to the matinée if someone else is paying.
  • .38 special: Worth paying for the matinée yourself.
  • .357 magnum: Okay to upgrade to prime time if you can stand the crowd.
  • .44 magnum: Must see this. Potentially life-altering event.

Bayard, Holmes, Movie, No Popcorn: The Ides of March

The Ides of March is a political drama about idealistic campaign staffer Stephen Meyers (played by Ryan Gosling) who loses his idealistic values the instant they are diametrically opposed to his own survival. The movie stars George Clooney as George Clooney, but in the movie he goes by the name Governor Mike Morris. It also stars Evan Rachel Wood, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Paul Giamatta.

Bayard:

This movie left me saying, “Where’s the beef?” Because it definitely has more bun than burger. Overall, it was a beautifully produced non-story about a guy who was a skumbag all along and just didn’t know it until he had his shallow dogma challenged by reality.

As an author, I felt this movie took far too long to get any real tension going. Then, once it did, it never delivered resolution. The twenty minutes of actual story line were imbedded in an hour and a half of drawn-out, mundane details, such as climbing staircases and delivering coffee.

The most accurate comparison I can think of is Taco Bell “taco meat,” which is alleged to be around 36% meat and 65% fillers.

Or maybe it’s better compared to an overpriced, “prize inside” box of cereal. Lots of anticipation with no payoff, so when the movie ended, I felt like I’d eaten a lot of cereal, only to be cheated out of the action figure at the bottom of the box.

Perhaps it’s all of this talk about food, or pseudo-food, but right now, I would advise that you spend your money on a decent meal rather than see this movie at the theater. That’s why I’m going to break with the critics and rate this as a .22 rim fire*. It doesn’t justify the big screen, but it would be ok to rent.

Once it comes out on DVD, if you need one of those kinds of movies that’s just an excuse to sit next to someone on a couch to get to know them better, this would be a good one. The boring beginning will give you lots of opportunity to casually get closer to each other without missing anything.

Holmes:

The very popular George Clooney does a good job of playing George Clooney.  His long years of practice in that role show in his performance.

This film was also directed and written by George. If you’re looking for hard hitting drama or sophisticated political intrigue in this film, you might be disappointed. It’s less about a political intrigue, and more about George’s sense of urgency in letting us know what his political views are. To avoid that disappointment, just have fun and view it the way you would view a neighbor’s long video of their toddlers playing with the garden hose.

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Paul Zara

If George Clooney is somewhat limited in what personalities he portrays as an actor, he can at least take pride in his production skills. George was skillful in his casting choices. Philip Seymour Hoffman was Clooney’s first excellent choice. In one of the critical roles, Philip was very convincing in his portrayal of experienced, no-nonsense campaign warrior, Paul Zara.

Ryan Gosling plays a cute little energetic political baby goose, Stephen Meyers. He fills the role very effectively.

Ryan Gosling as Stephen Meyers

Evan Rachel Wood did a nice job playing the careless young seductress, Molly Stearns, who is away from home and taking ownership of her exciting new hormones. I enjoyed that she was not made up to enter each scene as a perfect Goddess of Eroticism. She’s attractive, but she’s not airbrushed. One of the things I enjoyed in this film is that this sexually available young intern isn’t demonized as a political home wrecker. Whatever blue dresses she might have in her closet, George doesn’t blame her for them.

Evan Rachel Wood as Molly Stearns

The lighting, camera work, and editing were nicely done. I was happy to see George step away from standard procedures and make a few risky decisions with the camera work and lighting.

The music was very dramatic and well timed, but the sound work could have used a little improvement. I suppose that monotone mumbling is important for keeping political conversations private in campaigns, but those of us who didn’t write the script can’t follow it quite as easily as the writer/director.

I thank Mister Clooney for shunning the use of the usually aggravating  “queasy cam.” The dramatic music begged at least one car chase and two shoot outs, but George avoided those mistakes, as well.

While the production qualities were good, the story struck as not being quite developed. For me, it flowed like a college freshman’s weekly English paper. Professors don’t want to grade long, complex papers so the freshmen are stuck keeping it short and simple. In my opinion, this story failed to reach it’s potential. If a little more effort had gone into the writing, it could have been a great film.

George, the next time you and your pals are going to burn up a mountain of cash on producing a film, just contact us first, and we’ll be happy to hook you up with some great writers. With so much talent and production quality involved in a movie, you could easily produce a great film rather than a campaign speech.

The earliest reviews of this film were very high, but I am also going to break with the majority of critics by giving this film a .38 Special rating. You won’t kick yourself for going, but try to avoid paying full price. This would be a handy matinee because you would leave entertained, but not intellectually or emotionally drained. You would easily be able to return to work and do your job or finish those domestic chores.

George, if you think we’ve been unfair, you are free to submit a rebuttal.

Have you seen Ides of March? What did you think? What other movies would you like us to review?

Piper Bayard–The Pale Writer of the Apocalypse

Holmes–Student of Sex, C4, and Hollow Points

*Bayard & Holmes Movie Ratings (We prefer ammo. Thumbs are so yesterday.)

  • Dud Chinese-manufactured ammo: Stay home and do housework. You’ll have more fun.
  • .22 rim fire:  Not worth the big screen, but ok to rent.
  • .380: Go to the matinee if someone else is paying.
  • .38 special: Worth paying for the matinee yourself.
  • .357 magnum: Okay to upgrade to prime time if you can stand the crowd.
  • .44 magnum: Must see this. Life-altering event.