Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Luck - "Pilot": That's what Jim Beam is for

Dennis Farina as Gus Demitriou and Dustin Hoffman as Chester "Ace" Bernstein an episode of HBO's Luck ("Pilot").
It's difficult to judge a series like this based on the pilot, especially one written by David Milch. The gifted writer is famous for juggling multiple characters speaking ornate dialogue, and it can take awhile for it to click with an audience. We're dropped into the scene, with the expectation to become "track rats," with the racing terms and handicap lingo, by the end of the first episode. Michael Mann, responsible for the visuals, met the challenge with exquisite camera work. But it was an awful bumpy ride, as Mann and Milch recently divulged.
"[T]o not have preludes, not have contexts, to just parachute into these lives... The challenge is, how do you evoke that in ways that the viewer doesn't need Dramamine after 20 minutes?"
Michael Mann on David Milch's in media res script
Having two heavyweights notorious for their ego (three, when you toss Dustin Hoffman in the mix), a butting of heads is to be expected. In the end, cooler heads prevailed, but only after rules designating a division of labor were put into place. Milch has final say on scripts, but there are no on set rewrites, if Milch needs to change something, production shuts down. Mann demands time for both him and the actors (Hoffman, especially) to digest the scripts before shooting. As a result, Milch is not quite banned from the set, but rendered pointless and thus his presence there ceased to be.

In the trade, Michael Mann also has final say in the music, which could be good or bad, depending on your take. Having Massive Attack's "Splitting the Atom" as the them song feels a bit off, and there might be an over-reliance on Sigur Ros to sell a scene -- putting down the horse with the broken leg -- that didn't require a hard sell to garner watery eyes. I'm never one to look a gift Jonsi in the mouth, though and apparently the Icelandic artist and his Sigur Ros cohorts are all over the first season, so expect more "Hopelandic" to come.

Playlist: Luck - Episode 1.01 (Rhapsody) / Spotify
1. "Splitting the Atom" - Massive Attack (Luck theme song) [mp3]
2. "I'd Rather Go Blind" - Etta James [mp3]
3. "Me and the Devil" - Gil Scott-Heron [mp3]
4. "A Crimson Grail, Pt 1" - Rhys Chatham [mp3]
5. "A Crimson Grail, Pt 3" - Rhys Chatham [mp3]
6. "5 (álafoss)" - Sigur Ros [mp3]
7. "7 (dauõalagiõ)" - Sigur Ros [mp3]

Previously: Music from David Milch's previous series, John From Cincinatti

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