The West Wing remains my favorite of Aaron Sorkin’s creations on the big screen or small. It stands, especially in these times, as an idealistic vision of what government could and should be. It’s populated by wonderfully developed eccentric devoted public servants, each of which is so fully-realized and distinct from each other that they feel like old friends more than characters on the screen. This same treatment is extended to even minor characters and, in the show’s first two seasons, no minor character was as much fun as Mrs. Landingham (Kathryn Joosten), President Bartlet’s wonderfully cryptic and acerbic assistant, gatekeeper, and confidante.
In the show’s first Christmas episode, “In Excelsis Deo”, the show takes two characters, Mrs. Landingham and Richard Schiff’s Toby Ziegler, and has them deal with the ghosts of the Vietnam War while the rest of The White House prepares for Christmas festivities. The two stories come together in a stunningly powerful final scene for the episode: one of the best Christmas episodes in dramatic television.
Thanksgiving is Thursday. In the States, millions of Americans will be gathered around the dinner table with family and friends to stuff their faces, make memories, and remember in that even in these most rancorous times there is so much to be thankful for. I’m breaking my rule regarding only choosing one scene per season of a TV show as the “Two Cathedrals Rant” from the season finale of The West Wing’s second season was one of the first My Favorite Scene columns I wrote (click here for that). It’s a rule worth breaking, because episode eight “Shibboleth” is one of the best of the series and my favorite episode of any drama having to do with Thanksgiving. There’s actually a lot to choose from in this funny and heart-warming episode. I very nearly went with the White House Press Secretary’s drama over choosing the turkey that receives a Presidential Pardon every year. But in the end I settled for the President of the United States discovering the existence of the Butterball Turkey hotline and the comedy that ensues. Continue reading My Favorite Scene: The West Wing Season Two (2000) “The President and the Butterball Hotline”
We continue our countdown to Jurassic World, with a look at the second film in the Jurassic series: The Lost World. This was a sequel that was pretty much demanded, but there was no story for it. Michael Crichton wrote the novel as a kind of quasi-screenplay for Spielberg to operate from, but in doing so had to make a lot of retcon changes to his first novel (for example, Jeff Goldblum’s character dies in the first novel….which was awkwardly remedied). It borrowed sequences from the first novel, like the opening with the girl finding the compys, but it was more a muddled journey than a cohesive film. Then you had the dinos eating San Diego and it became a 1950’s monster movie. Plus, let’s just say Jeff Goldblum is great in small doses, not as a leading man.
There are cool parts to the film, several exciting set pieces, but the most visually striking thing about the film to me was when they’ve escaped the T-Rexes and run pell mell into this field of tall grass and you see an overhead shot of the raptors closing in on them as a pack from all these angles, but all you see are increasingly speedy furrows forming in the brush. It’s a brilliantly directed scene and had the whole movie been this good, maybe we’d have ended up with something as memorable as the original.