‘House’ of Way-Ugly

July 21, 2013

kevin-spacey-in-house-of-cards_originalAnother weekend shot into the film void, this time it’s the much-talked-about ‘House of Cards,’ of which I witnessed the first half (of 13 episodes) yesterday on Netflix, and all at one sitting.
Of course, ‘Cards‘ is a Netflix original, thus the slimy slice of life is portrayed with a sense of ordinary horror generally not found outside a regular movie theater — ‘Breaking Bad,’ ‘Walking Dead,’ and maybe, ‘Dexter,’ not withstanding.
Blood, gore and guts — ‘House of Cards‘ also, but in this case, it’s just our entire political system that’s the villain. And Kevin Spacey is sitting in the cat bird’s seat.

Media seems to be expanding quickly as the normal route to the heart of the public has way-broadened, for good or bad.

(Illustration found here).

Cards‘ is a singular two-sided card, too.
In the very opening scene, we immediately know US Rep. Francis Underwood is way-psychopathic — a dog is hit by a car near his home, and the Congressman is first on the scene. The dog’s alive, but barely: There are two kinds of pain. The sort of pain that makes you strong, or useless pain. The sort of pain that’s only suffering. I have no patience for useless things.
He obviously strangles the dog.

Spacey has these sometimes way-unsettling asides, talking directly to me, sitting, watching on my laptop. He speaks like that right at the start — staring right at me in a voice natural and normal, as if the whole routine of putting a dog out of its misery on a urban DC street (and using his own bare hands) is just really no big deal. And the deed has to be done by somebody.
The use of this so-called technique, “breaking the fourth wall,” is where some character steps out of the fictional reality and into the viewer’s reality — speaking directly to the audience. Woody Allen used it a lot in ‘Annie Hall,’ but many of his movies used it a lot, and he already had sway on a particular audience, so the literary tack usually worked for me to great and funny effect.
Ian McKellen’s adaption of ‘Richard III,’ one of my most-favorite Shakespeare movies, also pulled off the trick really well, though, the Bard used it first.
And the trick is honesty. He can’t lie to the audience, and when he does, the visual sense shifts, as toward the end of ‘Richard‘ when he goes all internal and stops speaking to us — there’s no longer empathy for him, and we see him as he is, a freaking, violent, terrible asshole.

And Spacey’s Francis Underwood is brutally honest, too. Further on in corrupt time, one good example is when Underwood has to travel back to his home district to help settle some local shit involving the death of a 17-year-old girl who died in a car crash while texting (and another ‘Cards‘ technique I’ve never seen before, is the text messages between characters shown on screen — neat!).
The good Congresscritter climbs into the pulpit of the local church, the girl’s parents in the congregation, and delivers an emotional-bullshit pile of a sermon, nearly breaking down relating the death of his own father at the early age of 43 — and in one of those asides, right from the pulpit, Underwood tells me his daddy was a shithead-asshole and probably deserved to die at 43 — then back to the lying, crying bullshit, which got the congregation a-nodding their collective heads in righteous understanding.
Later, with the parents and the local pastor guy, Underwood swayed them again (the parents were going to sue the county/district because of road lighting, guard rails, etc, and Underwood’s main thrust was to halt the lawsuit, while at the same time, dump some nasty shit on a local political opponent).
He does both with gusto — Underwood turns aside to me, while holding hands in prayer with the parents and the preacher, and says with a slight-wry of a smile, that one thing these people down here really, really appreciate is a display of “humility” — once they see it, soon they’ll be eating out of your hand, or whatever other dumb-ass thing you want them to do.

None of the other characters have Underwood’s touch with the audience. Even his wife, Claire, played by Robin Wright, has to go about life in the usual acting mode by emoting via stares, double takes and dialogue. And without any redeeming asides, Claire comes across a cold-hearted bitch, maybe more crazy than her husband.
In fact, Claire is looking like she might be the real, thrusting power behind the Underwood.

And in a break-through last week for unconventional TV programming, ‘House of Cards,’ snagged nine Emmy nominations, including one for Best Drama Series — likewise, Spacey nominated for Best Actor in a drama, and Wright, Best Actress in a drama. This the first time stuff originating online was included in the major awards.
Media is changing the face of entertainment, and reality.
Via the LA Times:

The conclusion is inescapable: The old world is cracking apart.
And at least one familiar face thinks that’s a good thing.
“We will start to see, hopefully, more organizations and companies stepping up and saying, ‘We want to order more programs and get into the content game,'” said Kevin Spacey, who plays the vengeful Congressman Frank Underwood in “House of Cards.”
“For the industry, it’s great because it creates jobs for more writers and more directors and more actors.”

The shit has to done well, however, and ‘House of Cards‘ is indeed first rate.

And this media works. Watching movies on my laptop, to me, is near-about as good as a theater, and way-more intimate.
Not long ago, I watched ‘Lawrence of Arabia‘ on the laptop, and with the Full Screen effect, still amazing as the first time I saw it in a theater nearly 60 years ago.
This new media is astounding, but most-likely in the end will be way-bad for mankind — like just about everything else we’ve up with in all of history — but it’s still too early in the program to make a distinction.

Right now, I’ve some chores to accomplish before I dive back into ‘Cards‘ — and tomorrow’s freakin’ Monday! — but I feel the keys of the old Underwood vibrating in the ether.

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