Category Archives: Louis C.K.

Movie Review: American Hustle

Here Comes the Sun(glasses). Image via TotalFilm

From the very beginning, “American Hustle” announces that it is only sort of based on true events.

Fitting, as this is an historical event so complex and bizarre that the whole truth simply could not do it justice. This is where movie truth steps in and offers a helping hand.

“American Hustle” constantly blurs the line between real and fake. In fact, the film opens with Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) giving himself the most passionate combover you’ll ever see. Irv’s life philosophy is to fake it until you make it. He kind of has to, as this is part of his job: Irv is a con man, and a very good one at that.

From there, “American Hustle” is like a much better version of “The Informant!” crossed with “Goodfellas” on crack. Once Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) enters the picture, the film is a manic mix of criss-crossing voiceovers and flashbacks. The two of them try to commit the perfect crime, yet they have trouble doing this, as they are not the perfect couple. That is exactly why it is easy to get attached to these people, but especially Irv, as he does not look like a slick member of the “Ocean’s 11″ crew. Rather, he resembles a schlubby Ron Burgundy knockoff.

The other characters are crime movie misfits as well. Set in 1978 during the ABSCAM Scandal, ambitious FBI Agent Richie Dimaso (Bradley Cooper), who tries to use Irv and Sydney to bring some powerful politicians down, is terrible at his job. Meanwhile, Irv’s manipulative wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) is all too aware of her husband’s misdeeds. The only character who actually acts like a real criminal is Sydney. Lesson learned: being able to fake a British accent is a very useful skill in the world of con artistry.

The difference between “American Hustle” and most heist films is that the twists here are actually surprising. Leave it to director David O. Russell, who has also added new spins to the war movie (“Three Kings”), the sports biopic (“The Fighter”), and the romantic comedy (“Silver Linings Playbook”) as well. Nobody manipulates form quite like he can.

While David O. Russell is a uniquely talented director he is also fortunate enough to be working with such interesting material. The characters here are so well fleshed out that they each deserve their own miniseries. Much of O. Russell’s work has been focused around people who call each other out on their BS. “American Hustle” is no exception (consider this elegant and stinging putdown: “she was a master at passive aggressive karate”).

O. Russell and co-writer Eric Singer have come up with some great one-liners here, but the cast truly brings the words to life in a way that, well, actors are supposed to. The fact that “American Hustle” was shut out of the SAG Awards is a travesty that should have ended awards season. Irv is one of the most interesting criminals in any movie in years. As Sydney says when she first meets him, Irv doesn’t look like much, but his confidence takes him a long way. He may be a professional liar, but he just wants people to accept him for who he is. Irv is the most authentic faker out there. There was no better choice to play him than Christian Bale, who lovingly portrays him while hiding behind a big paunch and a garish Star of David necklace.

What I would have done to be invited to this prom

While Bale probably could have done it all on his own (I’d like to think that one day he’ll get his own “Nutty Professor II: The Klumps”), he gets a lot of help from a fantastic array of supporting actors and actresses. While “Silver Linings Playbook” co-stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence don’t get much screen time together, they both get a lot of milage out of playing against type. As Richie, Cooper gives the sense that this guy is thinking at an ADD pace, and this is exactly what stops him from ever doing or saying the right thing. Meanwhile, Lawrence plays Rosalyn who has been holding her rage back for far too long and now she just can’t take it anymore. Perhaps she just watched “Network.” She would rather let a microwave explode than have to listen to her husband tell her how to properly cook something. It’s hard for anybody to get a word in when Rosalyn is around, which plays quite nicely with Lawrence’s outspoken public persona, and is a fitting personality trait for just about every loud New Yorker out there. When they are all together, the ensemble plays like a great band during their finest concert.

Hitchcock once said (and Roger Ebert has also cited in a review) that he enjoyed “playing the audience like a piano.” “American Hustle” enjoys doing the exact same thing, except this time it has dismantled the piano so much that the movie plays itself as much as it plays the audience. The film gets confusing and convoluted beyond belief at times, but then it backtracks and reverses until it ultimately reaches an immensely satisfying finale that asks the viewer to be skeptical of everything that just occurred. Finally, a movie that understands that history is much more interesting when you look at it from a completely different, or even wrong, perspective.

Once it ended, I felt like I could have sat through it once more. “American Hustle” is a smart summer movie wrapped in a December Oscar bait shell. Here is a film about a long con that is also one big long con.

Brain Farts From The Edge

  • I tried to keep as much plot detail out of this review as possible. While much of the story has been altered, the less you know about ABSCAM, the better. It is definitely worth a good Wikipedia search afterwards though.
  • Some things I would talk about after a second viewing/review of this film: Irv and Richie are dopplegangers; the idea of maintaining a certain physical appearance to shield parts of your personality that you don’t like; how people in the 1970s spent way too much time fixing their hair
  • I hope that the film’s likely success doesn’t create a sudden disco nostalgia craze. Please, everybody is still distracted by 90s nostalgia!
  • No matter how brief his appearance was, seeing Robert De Niro play a gangster again delighted me to no end. More of this and less “Last Vegas,” please.
  • Louis C.K. has had minor roles in two of my favorite films of the year from two of my favorite directors. Luckily, he gets a bit more screen time here than he did in “Blue Jasmine.” He plays hilariously timid so perfectly. He doesn’t seem like a typical FBI guy here. But then again, most of the government agents here are very against type.
  • Funny how the criminal is more sympathetic than the FBI agent here. Guys, anti-heroes are the greatest.
  • For some reason, I have expected Kyle Chandler to show up as “Authority Figure #000003″ in just about every Oscar prestige movie now. Couldn’t believe he wasn’t in this at all. Come on, somebody get Coach into comedy!
  • Jeremy Renner pulls off a good Elvis hairdo, and a convincing New Jersey accent to boot.
  • There are few things in this world funnier than the site of Bradley Cooper with curling irons in his hair.
  • A David O. Russell movie without any Led Zeppelin on the soundtrack. AND it’s set in 1978? What is the world coming to??!!
  • Speaking of music, there is a scene where Jennifer Lawrence sings along to a song. I will not spoil it any further, but I will say that it is a moment that her entire career has been leading to.
  • I really want to hear how that ice fishing story actually ends. But you know Richie, whatever sounds best in his head works for him.
  • “Don’t put metal in the science oven” is the most quotable line from any movie that has come out in 2013. Apologies to “I am the captain now” from “Captain Phllips” and “[audible Sandra Bullock yelling sounds]” from “Gravity.”
It’s okay, JLaw. You’re still America’s sweetheart.

Movie Review: Blue Jasmine

“Blue Jasmine” begins as Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) lays out the entire exposition of her life. It’s a little odd because she’s not talking to anyone. She’s not even talking to the camera. She’s just talking to herself, in hopes that some random passerby will accidentally be dragged into her delusional vanity.

Woody Allen has a drawer filled with hundreds of ideas in his room. I wouldn’t be surprised if he just handpicked one at random every year. However, this seemed like a nearly perfect time to release “Blue Jasmine.” It’s context is the Financial Crisis. It came out far enough away to not seem like a cheap, timely story but close enough to it where it is still relevant.

Despite this, “Blue Jasmine” is about people, not politics. After the imprisonment of her investment banker husband Hal (Alec Baldwin), a swindler akin to Bernie Madoff, Jasmine is thrown into the real world for the very first time. She trades a ritzy Manhattan apartment for a significantly smaller one in San Francisco with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins). And for the first time in her life, she finds herself looking for a job. While doing this, her anxieties and neuroses slowly begin to take hold of her.

As Jasmine, Cate Blanchett gives a wunderkind performance. It’s the kind of acting that breaks a lot of hearts and wins a lot of awards. Watching her here is like watching an emotionally unstable child: you never know when she’s going to snap. It is this part of her performance that ends up being so heartbreaking, because nobody knows less about what is going to happen to Jasmine than Jasmine herself. At a few points, she even partakes in the Kubrick Stare.

Blanchett is joined by an ensemble as good as any seen in a Woody Allen movie. As usual, Baldwin can be a menacing figure even when he’s being nice. As Ginger’s ex-husband Augie, Andrew Dice Clay provides some of the film’s most surprising moments of comic relief. No surprise, Louis C.K. is a standout here. Surprisingly, it’s for a much more serious role. As Ginger’s romantic fling, C.K. is sweet and vulnerable, displaying a very different persona than the one he presents to the world onstage.

 “Blue Jasmine” is one of the darkest films Woody Allen has ever made, and he’s made ones where people are murdered right in front of our faces. In “Blue Jasmine,” some of the most horrifying things are simply implied. “Blue Jasmine” reminded me of a similarly titled film, “Blue Velvet,” which pulled back the curtains on suburbia and exposed the darkness beneath. Similarly, “Blue Jasmine” pulls back the overly expensive curtains on the upper class and exposes the pain, shallowness, and phoniness. According to “Blue Jasmine,” materialism can actually drive a person insane.

Woody Allen has been well known throughout his career for writing excellent female characters. I believe it is partly because he seems to know women so well. But also, he puts little pieces of himself into all of his characters. Jasmine’s fears might just be a more elevated version of anything Alvy Singer was thinking about in “Annie Hall.”

There is an inherent sadness to many of the female characters in “Blue Jasmine.” While they are strong characters, they are also victims of circumstance and deceitful men. It’s as if they are in a sleepwalking mode of helplessness. And once both Jasmine and Ginger awaken for the first time, they both get sucked back in. Dependence is a deadly trap but for them, dependence equals comfort without question.

Woody Allen likes to make films that tell two stories at once that both reflect on one another. Whether it is “Crimes and Misdemeanors ” which tells two separate stories, one as a comedy and one as a drama, or “Blue Jasmine,” which reflects on two different characters similar mistakes in the past and present. Sometimes, it is hard to tell which story is which, because they blend so well together.

Through this film, Allen beautifully expresses the struggle of comfort versus happiness, and whether or not they can go hand-in-hand, or if they are mortal enemies. As the film moves along, Jasmine’s mental illness overtakes her. But the crazier she becomes, the more she seems to be able to see the truth. It’s like in “Silver Linings Playbook,” that those who best understand the world are those who are maybe a little bit crazy. At one point in the film, Jasmine says she got her name from the eponymous flower, which only comes to life in darkness. Woody Allen would probably make fun of me and call me a “pseudo-intellectual” for looking to far into that statement, but Jasmine definitely becomes enlightened as her life spirals further out of control.

Emmys 2013: What They Got Right

I want a poster of this in my room.

Louie! Louie! Louie! Louieeeeeee

Every year I want to say that it’s “The Year of Louis C.K.” Let’s just say that this decade belongs to him. The comedian with many jobs continues to break more ground: this year he picked up multiple nominations. He wasn’t just nominated for his show “Louie,” which had its best season yet, but also for his hosting of “Saturday Night Live,” and his new special “Oh My God.” While “Oh My God” wasn’t the best standup that the master has ever done (though it is still leagues above most of the other stuff out there today), Mr. C.K. earned every nomination that he got. It’s nice to see that one of the funniest, most talented, and hardest working people in the business today is finally getting his due. And with Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” coming to theaters next weekend, could the Oscars be next?

Veep Sweep

Armando Iannucci’s latest political satire got over any speed bump from season one for an incredibly smooth ride of a second season. This season, “Veep” displayed some of the sharpest writing on television as well as a brilliant performance from Julia Louis-Dreyfus and excellent work from the rest of the cast, including fellow nominees Anna Chlumsky and Tony Hale.

Breaking Bad

There are few things that I could say about “Breaking Bad” that hasn’t already been said over and over again. However, Vince Gilligan’s televised masterpiece deserves all the praise in the world. The first half of season five raised the dread. In a world of predictability, I can say that I have absolutely no idea how the hell this show is going to end. And I like that. “Breaking Bad” has only two more chances to win the Best Drama award. And I can confidently say that “Breaking Bad” will win the Best Drama award at least two times.

30 Rock’s Swan Song

Some great shows overstay their welcome. “30 Rock” realized that season seven would be their last and went out with an absolute bang. “30 Rock” has already won for Best Comedy three times so it wouldn’t be a big travesty if it lost. But like the show itself, which seemed to be saving some of its best lines (Liz Lemon answering her phone: “This is Lemon. Make lemonade.”) for the final season, the Emmys crammed in as many nominations as possible. Will Forte finally got a nomination for his turn as a Jenna Maroney impersonator, while Jenna Maroney herself, Jane Krakowski, has one last chance to walk home with a statuette. I’m not begging voters to give “30 Rock” another Emmy, but would it be so much to ask for one more win? For old times sake? After all, this is the show that changed the modern sitcom as we know it.

I dare you not to tear up at this.

Mandy Patinkin

To say “Homeland” hit some rough patches this season would be an understatement. As “Friday Night Lights” also proved, involving your teenage character in a hit-and-run murder plot never ever works. Even in an off episode, it was comforting to know that Mandy Patinkin would be there. As Saul, Patinkin always provided humor, warmth, and insight at all the right moments. Not to mention, he has a great Hebrew chant for every situation. Wait a minute, Patinkin has a big, white beard, and we can always rely on him for a joyful moment. Is he Jewish Santa Claus?

Bill Hader

This was Bill Hader’s last chance to get nominated for an Emmy for “Saturday Night Live.”* Luckily, voters delivered. Besides being a master impressionist, Hader also killed it with his original character. His most famous, Stefon (co-written by John Mulaney, one of my favorite comedians in the world), became an institution by the end of this season through an epic wedding send-off. Hader may have laughed through many of his sketches, but he always managed to make that the highlight. I think that will lead to great success for him in the future. I can think of another “SNL” alumni who laughed through most of his sketches, and he turned out just fine: Jimmy Fallon.

*But this may not be Hader’s last chance at the Emmys: he will be a full time writer for “South Park” next season.

Top 10: TV Shows of 2012

10. 30 Rock

“30 Rock” hit a bit of a rough patch at the beginning of 2012. However, it bounced back for its seventh and final season and has turned out some of its best episodes in years. Most notably, this season saw Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) finally tying the knot in a wedding that was both moving and wacky in a way that only “30 Rock” could deliver. “30 Rock” is one of the best heirs to the sitcoms of the 70s with its fearlessness in tackling race, political, and gender issues for huge laughs. In fact, it ended the ridiculous “are women funny?” debate with a monkey wearing a suit. No other show on TV can deliver so many jokes in such a short span of time. “30 Rock” might be winding down, but the many doors it opened for the flood of single-camera comedies that have emerged over the years will always be present.

9. Archer

“Archer” is far and away the best animated show on TV. A spy spoof that puts “Austin Powers” to shame, “Archer” proved that its spectacular first two seasons were just a warmup for how perfect season three would be. Few comedies currently on TV have plots as smart and intricate as “Archer” does, whether the bumbling heroes are trying to get rid of a dead body or fight villains in outer space. What makes “Archer” so unique is the neat little backstories it gives to all of its characters, which expanded in ever satisfying ways this season. For example, Archer’s constant literary references suggest someone much smarter than he acts. “Archer,” however, never has to hide its sophistication. It continues to be one of the sharpest satires currently on TV.

8. Homeland

I was a late convert to “Homeland,” and I am not ashamed to say that I caught up in less than one week. “Homeland” hit a bit of a rough patch this season. However, those who immediately jumped ship need to learn a thing or two about TV history, and that “Homeland” is in the same company as some pretty great shows that have had faulty seasons and then bounced back. Even in the implausibility, there has still been plenty to love about season two. The show made a pretty risky story move early on and then built it up to an interrogation scene that was one of the most finely acted and scripted in TV history. However, this season went through a few big bumps in the road. One was literal (a car accident that was worth it only for allowing actress Morgan Saylor to shine) while others were illogical (see: Skyping with a terrorist on a Blackberry). Yet, I was still compelled to watch “Homeland” from week to week, and discuss with every other fan I knew. Many other shows have gone through rough patches early on, and I have faith in where next season will take us.

7. Happy Endings

The funniest show currently airing on network TV (while another one is still in an overlong hiatus) is also the most underrated. “Happy Endings” took the concept of “twenty/thirty-something friends” in a big city to insane new heights throughout seasons two and three. It does self-referential better than most shows on TV, and it knows when to be over-the-top and when to be human. “Happy Endings” doesn’t just succeed in its endless mocking of sitcom tropes, but also how natural the ensemble feels together. Often, it just feels like a tight-knit improv group going crazy in whatever direction they desire. Plus, it has my favorite married couple on TV (Brad and Jane) and the most hilariously non-stereotypical gay character since “The Sarah Silverman Program.” In the vein of “30 Rock,” “Happy Endings” could probably cram more funny into five minutes than most shows ever could in an entire season.

I think it’s the pronunciation that sold me.

6. Game of Thrones

2012 was the year I got back into fantasy. “Game of Thrones” was one of the many shows this year that helped push the medium forward, as it pushed its own storytelling ambitions in new directions and away from its source material. It truly blurred the difference between film and television with the episode “Blackwater,” which contained a battle as epic as anything in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. What I always liked best about “Game of Thrones” is that even when it travels into the territory of dragons and the undead, it still remains incredibly grounded, as this story is much more of a political allegory than a battle of good versus evil. If “Game of Thrones” has proved anything to me, it’s that moral ambiguity is way more interesting than battles of absolute good against absolute evil. Without it, where the hell else would we get amazing characters like Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Cersei (Lena Headey) Lannister, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), and Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson)? Well, I think I know how everyone feels about Joffrey.

joffrey slap

View the top 5 after the jump

5. Girls

Amidst all of the controversy and unrighteous indignation, “Girls” had the most solid first season of any new show that debuted this year. Virtually overnight, Lena Dunham deservingly became a household name. “Girls” is a mixture of both the trademark edginess of HBO, and the trademark awkwardness of the Apatow brand. This show about Brooklynites in their early twenties treads a lot of new ground and says a lot more about this generation than most other works in any form of entertainment have. Yet, Dunham is too modest to try and become the voice of a generation (a fact that is mocked in the very first episode). “Girls” caught my attention in every episode for its cinematic audacity (scenes of pure dialogue that nearly hit the ten minute mark) and chaotic humor that might take multiple viewings to fully appreciate (“I’ll be your crack spirit guide”). Each episode opens with completely different theme music. In one year, Dunham created an indelible new world and filled it with lively and memorable characters. Many people criticized the show for its lack of diversity. I found this claim to be ridiculous, as it does not acknowledge the world these characters inhabit and it does not at all do justice to the substance of the show. With all of that out of the way, I think it’s easier to appreciate the nearly flawless first season of “Girls.”

4. Breaking Bad

What more can I (or everyone else) say about “Breaking Bad” that I haven’t said already? Probably not much, but I don’t mind reiterating. As it prepares its swan song, “Breaking Bad” has proved itself more brilliant than ever. I’m still waiting for Vince Gilligan to top the season four finale, but for now I can live with a train robbery and a meth-induced montage. “Breaking Bad” has always been excellent at keeping us at the edge of tragedy, and never letting us know when we are going to go off the cliff, and this past season was no exception. The first half of season five found Walter White on top of the world, with no worlds left to conquer. He had gone so far off the edge that at times, it was hard to tell whether or not he wanted to back away. All I know is that any barriers of safety for the audience that once existed have all evaporated. I have no idea where “Breaking Bad” is headed for its last few episodes. All I know is that it still has a lot of ground to cover, and it shows no signs of letting any of us down.

3. Mad Men

“Mad Men” now carries the honor of being one of few shows to peak during its fifth season. When most are winding down, “Mad Men” rediscovered its mojo in new, exciting, and profound ways. It all added up to the best drama of the year. The writers of “Mad Men” are like few others, and they went into the surreal this season, catching Don in the middle of an elaborate dream while Roger experienced an LSD-fueled reality. Supporting actors such as Christina Hendricks and Vincent Kartheiser gave beautifully nuanced performances. Meanwhile, Michael Ginsberg (Ben Feldman) was a welcome new addition to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. The ad executives faced unimaginable tragedy even in a season filled with dark humor (one of the best, yet saddest, gags involves a Jaguar that won’t start). Like the world around them, the characters of “Mad Men” have been allowed to change and evolve. Into its fifth season, “Mad Men” still continues down the dark abyss of American Dream, still exploring whether or not America really offers second chances.

2. Community

2012 has been a rough year for “Community.” It got put on hiatus multiple times, it was nearly cancelled, it lost one of its stars (Chevy Chase), and the mastermind behind it all (Dan Harmon) was fired in what can only be seen as a network and a studio out of touch with the times. Even with all of the trouble in the real world, “Community” is like the Dreamtorium: a place to escape from reality and into the mind of one very strange individual. In its season three, “Community” was darker and more inventive than ever. It put the Greendale Seven into a videogame, a heist movie, and an Ed Burns documentary. In each of those, it was a stunningly faithful homage that brought depth to its richly created characters. “Community” is special in that the weirder it gets, the less it forgets about its characters. “Community” might not be made for everyone, but if you are not ever won over by Dean Pelton’s man-crush on Jeff, Troy’s innocence, or Britta’s ability to ruin everything, then you have no heart. “Community” wants fans, but season three seemed to display a show that cared less about getting high Nielsen Ratings (which, with the Internet, will soon be irrelevant) and more about telling good stories. “Community” includes some of the most innovative storytelling that we’ll never see again on network television.

1. Louie

After much thought, I could put no other show in first place. “Louie” is not necessarily an “event” type show, but I found myself eager every Thursday night this summer to watch it live. I knew that every week would provide me with a totally unexpected episode. “Louie” is the most unpredictable show on TV, and with every episode, Louis C.K. manages to break down all sitcom conventions without being snarky or obnoxiously ironic. This season, he proved himself as a master of dramedic storytelling. He nailed the sentimentality of so many moments and steered them away from sappiness. Whether surreal or realistic, each episode felt like a short movie that could only be made with the raw inspiration of New York City. Yet, C.K. took his fictional character to new places this year. In a three part arc that included the best celebrity cameo I’ve ever seen on TV, Louie tried to host the Late Show. Another episode had him at a strip club with Robin Williams. And then another had him involved in a boat chase. The season finale, which brought him on a journey of self-discovery in China, reduced me to tears. Some might call “Louie” gloomy, but its message is so positive: life will never be easy or predictable, so we might as well roll with whatever is thrown at us. The feeling that people in the 70s first got when watching “All in the Family” and “Taxi” and the feeling that people got when first watching “Seinfeld” in the 90s, I got while watching “Louie.”

Not from the show, but this is one of my favorite bits from Louis C.K.

Honorary Mentions: Parks and Recreation, New Girl, Portlandia, Veep

Analog This: My 2012 Emmy Winners

I think everything that can be said about the many problems with last night’s Emmys has already been said. Instead of ranting about Jon Cryer and “Modern Family” ruining everything, I will just say that I am happy that Louis C.K. got rewarded both for changing standup comedy and pulling off perhaps the greatest fart joke ever and making it last for an entire episode.

Here are my winners for the best the year had to offer in television. Keep in mind that many of these people and shows weren’t even nominated for Emmys this year (after the jump):

Outstanding Comedy Series: “Girls”

Outstanding Drama Series: “Breaking Bad”

Outstanding Writing (Comedy): Chris McKenna, “Community” (Episode: “Remedial Chaos Theory”)

Outstanding Writing (Drama): Erin Levy, Matthew Weiner, “Mad Men” (Episode: “Far Away Places”)

Outstanding Actor (Comedy): Louis CK, “Louie”

Outstanding Actress (Comedy): Gillian Jacobs, “Community”

Outstanding Supporting Actor (Comedy): Nick Offerman, “Parks & Recreation”

Outstanding Supporting Actress (Comedy): Eliza Coupe, “Happy Endings”

Outstanding Actor (Drama): Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad”

Outstanding Actress (Drama): Lena Headey, “Game of Thrones”

Outstanding Supporting Actor (Drama): TIE: Giancarlo Esposito, “Breaking Bad”; John Slattery, “Mad Men”

Outstanding Supporting Actress (Drama): Christina Hendricks, “Mad Men”

Outstanding Directing (Comedy): Jay Chandrasekhar, “Community” (Episode: “The First Chang Dynasty”)

Outstanding Directing (Drama): TIE: Vince Gilligan, “Breaking Bad” (Episode: “Face Off”); Neil Marshall, “Game of Thrones” (Episode: “Blackwater”)

Outstanding Variety Series: “The Colbert Report”

And if I were to make this list a little bit longer: Jim Rash (“Community”), Donald Glover (“Community”), Danny Pudi (“Community), the rest of the cast of “Happy Endings,” Amy Poehler (“Parks & Rec”), Chris Pratt (“Parks & Rec”), Bob Odenkirk (“Breaking Bad”), “Archer,” “Bored to Death,” Allison Williams (“Girls”), “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (everything about the episode “Palestinian Chicken”), “Portlandia”

From “Game of Thrones” episode “Blackwater”

Analog This: A Blockbuster Summer for TV; Maybe Less so for Movies

No one can deny it at this point: there is something wrong at the movies. Tentpoles and remakes just won’t seem to go away. A good movie feels like a treat that is too good for its own good. There is good hope when something like “Moonrise Kingdom” can find an audience. However, when even Batman can’t deliver, there must be a problem. However, one place I couldn’t find a problem this summer was on television. While film has already broken down so many barriers, TV is just figuring out how to do the same thing.

This summer (well, it’s been a long time in the making), cable and basic cable networks have nailed the formula down and created an entertainment experience that can sometimes rival even a great film. Now that everyone has a DVR box and access to the internet, shows can carry long stories in ways they never could in the past. Here are the shows that created a Blockbuster summer for the likes of AMC, FX, and HBO, amongst others:

Action/Thriller: Breaking Bad (AMC)

I don’t know if there is much more that I could say about “Breaking Bad” that I haven’t said before, but I’ll give it a try. “Breaking Bad” is one of the best dramas of all time in any artistic format. It is like watching a never-ending tragedy unfold. However, that tragedy is peppered with breathless suspense, spurts of humor, and unforgettable characters. “Breaking Bad” is how the Coen Brothers would make a show if they ever adopted the format. It melds many genres together, perhaps hitting its most breathless strides when pulling off little heists, such as the great train robbery they pulled off last week. Even as one of their best characters (Gus) “left” the show, “Breaking Bad” recovered by giving more screen time to its very colorful side characters, including Mike and Saul. It has been said that this show is about a chemistry teacher turning into Scarface. However, I cannot tell whether or not this will end like “Scarface.” “Breaking Bad” is too good for that. And while I cannot wait to see how the fifth and final season will end, I wish it never would.

Best Episodes of the Season: Madrigal, Fifty-One, Dead Freight

Epic/Fantasy: Game of Thrones (HBO)

Television has now gotten into the adaptation business. “Game of Thrones” has secured itself a long run, as George R.R. Martin hasn’t even finished writing his “A Song of Ice and Fire” series of which this show is based. I have not read any of Martin’s books, but this show is all I need to be totally absorbed into the Westeros universe. “Game of Thrones” rewrote some of the basic rules of television when it killed off a key character in its first season. Now, it continues on its dark tone, as it is impossible to know who is safe and who isn’t. Season two saw Westeros expand, and some new fascinating characters were introduced, most prominently Theon Greyjoy. Meanwhile, old characters such as Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) were more evil than ever. In Westeros, that means they were more compelling, and more likely to have success. “Game of Thrones” continues to differentiate itself from all other entries in its genre through perpetual moral ambiguity. Every bad action can be somehow justified as right. Moral ambiguity is the root of good drama.

Best Episodes of the Season: Garden of Bones, A Man Without Honor, Blackwater

Arthouse/Awards Bait: Mad Men (AMC)

Here is yet another show that I may have said all that can be said about it. Yet, I cannot stop talking about it. This season’s was the best “Mad Men” has ever been. And this is a show that has won the Best Drama Emmy four years straight. Season five gave Don Draper (Jon Hamm) a new wife (Jessica Pare) and a new outlook on life. It took a trip on LSD, and then plunged into darker depths than it ever has before. Don Draper is a man who is too big for a movie, and “Mad Men” has been the perfect home for his development. “Mad Men” is an amazing character piece because it not only captures the period, but the people inhabiting it, the way it was meant to be.

Best Episodes of the Season: Signal 30, Far Away Places, At the Codfish Ball, Commissions and Fees

Only “Mad Men” could make a French song from the 1960s into a part of the current cultural lexicon.

Indie Fare: Girls (HBO)

This has actually been a fantastic summer for independent cinema, ranging from microbudget flicks (“Safety Not Guaranteed,” “Your Sister’s Sister”) to those that could connect to mainstream audiences (“Moonrise Kingdom”). A few months ago, if you were to tell me that one of my favorite shows on television would be a dramedy about the lives of four twenty-something girls trying to make it in New York, I would have scoffed, and then yelled at whatever “Sex and the City” rerun was currently playing on TBS.

But “Girls” managed to exceed all of my expectations. Lena Dunham, the show’s star and creator, crafted a world that is as welcoming as it is raw. It’s hard to be truly shocked by new content nowadays when all frontiers seemed to have been conquered, yet “Girls” continues to surprise in its explicitness, and its ability to find its voice and its realism in its most uncomfortable moments. Dunham is emerging as one of TV’s latest auteurs, with this very personal, semi-autobiographical series. True to its Mumblecore roots, “Girls” lingers long on scenes that could have ended long ago to great effect. The most memorable of these is a fight between two roommates which covers nearly eight minutes of screen time.

Executive Producer Judd Apatow said that he hopes “Girls” will teach men more about women. And it does just that, by not leaving its male characters to the side (Adam Driver, who plays Adam, became one of the show’s best characters). This season, Dunham also dared to answer a question that no one ever wanted to ask: what does Mrs. Weir look like naked?

Best Episodes of the Season: Hannah’s Diary, Welcome to Bushwick a.k.a. The Crackcident, Weirdos Need Girlfriends Too, She Did

Awkward Comedy: Veep (HBO)

Instead of remaking a British show for American audiences, HBO decided to steal a British mind instead (commence brain drain!). Armando Iannucci, creator of “The Thick of It” and “In the Loop” brought his hysterically uncomfortable and pessimistic view of politics from Parliament to the White House.

As Vice President Selena Meyer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus shows once again why she deserves to be known as one of television’s best actresses. She plays the exact opposite of the very popular Leslie Knope from “Parks & Rec”: she’s seen how the political machine works, crushing the ambition she once had. She is bolstered by a strong supporting cast, which includes Matt Walsh and Tony Hale (“Arrested Development”). It includes tough, stinging dialogue along with an edge of meanness that puts some of Sorkin’s walk-and-talks to shame. “Veep” nails it best in the little details. It never reveals Meyer’s political party, or the name of the president. Some of the funniest moments lie in the more mundane tasks of the vice president, such as highly publicized photo shoots. And yes, the words POTUS and FLOTUS are hilarious.

Best Episodes of the Season: Catherine, Nicknames, Baseball

Experimental: Louie (FX)

“Louie” is the kind of show that cannot be defined by just a few words. It’s star, writer, director, and editor is America’s best standup comic. Every episode is also a half hour long. However, calling it a comedy wouldn’t do it justice. “Louie” changes so much from episode to episode. One episode might involve a homeless guy being hit by a truck. The next episode could involve a boat chase. Or diarrhea in a bathtub. “Louie” has an element of surprise that has been absent from almost every movie coming to a theater near you. It’s ability to stray from formula so well makes Louis C.K. one of the most exciting filmmakers working today. The work he is doing on “Louie” reminds me of Woody Allen at his absolute best. But to simply compare him to Allen is unfair. C.K. is a unique and incomparable voice. This current season has carried on the gold standard he set up for himself in season two, and has yet to disappoint. This has been one of the most exciting shows I have ever seen without continuous story arcs. Because of “Louie,” every Thursday this summer was a highlight.

Best Episodes of the Season: Telling Jokes/Setup, Miami, Daddy’s Girlfriend (Parts 1 & 2), Barney/Never