cheap drama

October 29, 2014

This is the week I’m supposed to be doing all the stuff I was putting off until after MileHi Con (no more traveling this year!).  That’s not going as well as I’d hoped.  But — I got a really nice surprise last night because I had forgotten that I had tickets to go see Erasure at the Ogden.  Fortunately, I remembered, and went, and had a great time, because Andy Bell is a god.  He came out in sequined tails and top hat and opened with “Oh L’amour,” and I pretty much burst into tears, which makes me think I’ve been a little more stressed out than I realized.  Whew.  I danced for an hour and a half solid.  Nice, huh?

I caught up with last week’s episode of Arrow and it had a bunch of examples of why I like the show so much — most of them involving Ollie and Thea.  So Ollie flies to Corto Maltese to try to talk Thea into coming back home.  And it’s all very straightforward.  While another show might have tried to turn it into some big cat and mouse hunter-seeker thing, where Ollie has to spend the whole episode just looking for her, none of that happens.  He finds her working in a coffee shop, they hug, they sit and talk like adults.  It’s unexpected and it’s great.  Then, when Ollie apologizes for keeping secrets and that he wants to be open with her now, what is the first secret he reveals?  It’s not, “I’m the Arrow.” It’s that their father survived the wreck of the Gambit, but then killed himself so Ollie would have enough food.  It’s an awful story, it’s another bit of lore about their family, and it affects Thea.  Because now Thea is the one keeping secrets — that she’s been training with Malcolm Merlin — and that half the reason she’s doing what she’s doing is so she’ll have secrets of her own, and maybe that’s not a good thing after all.  It’s super clear that this brother and sister still love each other.

The reason I like these story beats is because they avoid low-hanging fruit.  They’re not obvious.  They don’t go for cheap drama — cheap drama would be Thea hating Ollie and them screaming and fighting.  But no, they sit and talk, and there’s a ton of stuff going on in subtext.  The guiding principle in scenes like this isn’t “Let’s get our conflict by having all our characters go after each others’ throats.”  These scenes are anchored on a premise that doesn’t change:  Ollie and Thea love each other, even when they hurt each other and keep secrets and screw up.  The drama comes from watching them try to work it out.

It’s refreshing and I’m really enjoying it.

We truly live in an age of riches, don’t we?  At least on TV.  I can’t keep up with it all, but here’s what I’m trying to keep up with.

Castle:  Well, that’s a strange little storyline they’ve picked up with the season cliffhanger.  I’m glad they’re pretty much ignoring it for now and going back to fun one-off episodes.  This may not be my favorite show anymore, but I’m still enjoying it and the characters, and it hasn’t actively pissed me off yet, and I’m starting to wonder when that’s going to happen.

Arrow:  Still love it, but they’re not giving us a break, are they?

The Flash:  It’s just so goofy and earnest I kind of love it.  One thing I’m really liking:  setting Barry up as this very young, naive hero with two mentor/father figures who know who and what he is, who are protective of him (for different reasons) and at odds with each other.  I’m liking that dynamic.  They’ve also nailed the look and attitude.  Sometimes, voice overs work.

Sleepy Hollow:  I’m just along for the giant WTF ride.

Agents of SHIELD:  Yeah, the standard for superhero TV seems to be “Just throw everything at the viewer all the time yay!” and that’s okay with me.  I’m loving Kyle MacLachlan’s character, and loving that he’s on the show at all.  Adrienne Palicki has given us a hint of what that Wonder Woman TV show that failed to launch a few years ago might have been like if the people making it had known what they were doing.  I’m really liking her (and not just because she was also Lady Jaye in the last GI Joe movie).  In an alternate world, the makers of Arrow worked on Wonder Woman instead.  And now I’m sad about the whole thing all over again.

Face Off:  Still watching, it’s always pleasant watching good art, but this season has been low key and kind of predictable.  I will love it if the former cake decorator wins.

What I’m not watching, not caught up on:

Doctor Who:  I keep telling myself I want to watch this, then keep not watching it.  I know I saw the first episode with the new Doctor.  I can’t actually remember anything about it.  Oh — dinosaurs, right?  I think what I remember about it is that I really want a show starring Madame Vastra and Jenny.

Justified:  Fifth season is spun up and ready to go. No spoilers!

Penny Dreadful:  This is out on DVD now, and it’s the one I really want to see.  Victorian Gothic, with literary references?  This should be called “Carrie, Here Is Your Show!”

 

more things I’ve watched

September 15, 2014

I finally finished the last season of Lexx.  This one dragged a bit, I think because there was a clear over-arcing storyline, but they kept digressing into one-off episodes — episodes that were hilarious, mind you, because they were parodies of things like Dracula and The Re-Animator and Survivor.  “ApocaLexx Now” left me bug-eyed, no pun intended. But these episodes did feel like a distraction.  Still — I love this show.  It felt like it was all leading up to this season, because we’ve previously spent three seasons exploring just how weird and crazy and messed up and awful various corners of the two universes are.  And then we get to Earth.  And it’s the worst of the bunch.  The craziest, most messed up, most incomprehensible off-the-rails planet they’ve been to yet.  The satire lands like a thousand pound anvil in a cartoon.  For all that, the last episode was absolutely perfect and made me cry.  Kai’s laugh?  Just perfect.

The Gold Diggers of 1933.  This is a famous movie musical that I run across every time I research the 1930’s or old Hollywood or anything like that.  It was an early film of Ginger Rogers — she sings the opening number, “We’re in the Money,” including a verse in pig latin.  Because Busby Berkeley, apparently.  Seriously, it’s worth watching any Busby Berkeley movie because the dance numbers are all pretty much insane. (One in this one features a 9 year old Billy Barty playing a trouble-making baby committing acts of sexual harassment through the whole thing.)

So when it popped up on TCM, I had to watch it.  The musical numbers are all kind of weird (I mentioned the harassing baby, yes?).  But the story?  The story was great.  I took notes, because I loved how it managed the characterization of the heroes and the antagonist.  This slice of the story, in a nutshell:  a Boston blue blood confronts one of our plucky showgirl heroines to inform her that she can’t marry his younger brother.  Trouble is, he’s got the wrong showgirl.  Plucky showgirl Carol tries to tell him that she isn’t Polly, the showgirl who’s in love with his brother.  But he won’t listen.  He interrupts.  He’s really quite terrible to her, going on and on about how awful and uncouth showgirls are.  So when Carol and another showgirl Trixie (this movie has a lot of showgirls) decide to have one over on the older brother, they pull out the stops. Carol pretends to be Polly, and she and Trixie really work over the guy and his lawyer, behaving just like the rude gold diggers he insists they are, as they try to get everything they can from them in exchange for not marrying the brother.  Meanwhile, Blue Blood thinks he’s conning them, luring Polly away from his brother.  But no, he’s the one being conned here, full stop.

So yeah, Carol and Trixie are being pretty terrible, but it’s okay and hilarious because a) the guy really, really, really deserves it, b) they tell everyone involved (like Polly and the younger brother) as soon as it’s happening and bring them in on the con, and c) Carol knows exactly when they’ve gone too far, even when Trixie keeps going.  The end result is our heroes looking smart and awesome and funny, and the antagonist totally earning his comeuppance.  And then of course everyone falls in love with everyone else and gets married.  But up to then the characterization as it’s tied to the plot is spot-on.

I like a lot of these old movies because they tend to be shorter and the plotting is often a lot tighter than we see in more current films.  This is one I’m going to remember.

 

Since I don’t really follow any of the TV shows that are running new episodes now (I’ve tried to watch True Blood but I just get really confused), it really has felt like the summer hiatus seasons of old, when you catch up on old things and watch videos — and also go outside and play instead of watching anything at all, which I’ve done quite a bit of.  Huzzah!

Rewatched:  Galaxy Quest, which holds up surprisingly well.  I’m not sure it needs the sequel everyone’s been talking about, but I’m suddenly curious as to what such a premise would turn into if the source show was, say, Battlestar Galactica.  As a recent meme I encountered says, Harry Potter fans would love to go to Hogwarts, Narnia fans would love to go to Narnia, and Hunger Games fans are all, “No thanks, we’re good.”

Brazil:  Holy crap, this movie is way, way more scary and upsetting than the last time I saw it, maybe 10 years ago.  The bureaucracy parody stuff was always spot on, but this time the terrorism thread really jumped out, and it was really. . accurate.  “And why do you think this terrorist scare has been going on for 13 years?”  “Bad sportsmanship!”  My groups of friends and I sat there gaping at the TV.  We are closer to that world than we ever have been.

Watched:  The Hollow Crown, or at least much of it.  This is a recent BBC miniseries of a set of Shakespeare’s Histories — Richard II, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 (See, guys, this whole sequel mania thing isn’t new!), and Henry V.  Jeremy Irons as Henry IV, Tom Hiddleston as Henry V.  SWOOOOOOOON.  I cannot stop swooning at this man.  When he comes on the scene wearing an oxblood red leather doublet, his gilded hair in waves, grinning.  Wow.  Plus, Shakespeare is just so damned sexy.  Really sexy.  I’m trying to figure it out, and it has something to do with him codifying modern English in way that no one had ever done before.  So many turns of phrase started with him — or he’s the one who wrote them down first, and cleverest.  For me, hearing Shakespeare done well is like hearing the source code for English zapping straight into my hindbrain.  So sexy.  (See, this is how I know that English was definitely the right major for me.)

Also, I didn’t realize how tall Hiddleston is until watching these.  In the Marvel movies he’s surrounded by all these very tall, very buff, superheroic dude-guys, and he looks like the short skinny nerd guy.  Turns out, he’s 6’2″ (I looked it up) and he’s half a head taller than everybody else in The Hollow Crown.   He looms.  It’s cool.

 

season finale season

May 23, 2014

I only have three to talk about — Game of Thrones is still a few episodes out, and I should just do a big ol’ GoT post.  And I’m behind on movies, because of all this traveling.  I probably won’t get to see X-Men: Days of Future Past until Monday, but I’m really looking forward to it.  And I’m planning on seeing Godzilla.  At some point, when I’m not running around like a chicken with my head off.  (Though the analyses that Godzilla is doing so much better at the box office than Pacific Rim because it has less plot and more dumb are making me sad.)

Anyway (spoilers ahead!):

Castle:  I’m so extremely, ridiculously happy they’ve finally wrapped up the whole conspiracy story with Kate’s mom’s murder and all the rest of it because that storyline had become a toll of doom for the episodes that covered it.  “Oh, the murder and that senator dude are here?  Must be season finale time.  Here comes the cliffhanger and characters being stupid!”  But they didn’t wrap the season up with that this time.  Hooray!  And seriously:  “Oh, Beckett, the clue to solve your mother’s murder was with you all along!  Now click your heels!”  That’s just funny.

The result of this quick little wrap up:  I immensely enjoyed all the wedding shenanigans of the finale.  And I am simultaneously intrigued and amused by the cliffhanger.

Arrow:  I haven’t been this excited about a TV show since the second season of Battlestar Galactica.  Any one of the last five episodes would have made a splendid season finale cliffhanger.  Too many “Holy shit!” moments to count.  But no, they gave us an actual season finale, with some stories tied up neatly, and others left hanging, some questions answered (Slade’s eyepatch, explained!), and others introduced.  Great, great stuff here.  This show is melodrama, for sure, but it’s very well written melodrama.  Both over the top and heartfelt.  And Felicity.  Oh, Felicity. I love her so much.

And the Flash preview:  OH. HELL. YES.  My summary:  Look, we’re a serious CW melodramatic show here.  Very serious.  Very, very serious–WOOOOHOOOOO SUPERPOWERS WOOOOOO!  Which is exactly what a comic book TV show ought to be.

Agents of SHIELD:  The show ultimately did the impossible:  it finally made me like Skye.  “Ward, you’re a Nazi!”  “What?!  No I’m not!”  “Yes, you are totally a Nazi, that’s page one of the Hydra book!”  (And that stark look on Ward’s face, where the true implications of his life come crashing down on him, because yes, he is a Nazi.)  It’s fascinating to me that Skye seems to be a much better character when she’s earnest and idealistic, than she was when she was scheming and conniving.  See, dark & gritty doesn’t always mean better.  Some bits of the Hollywood/comics world seem to slowly, slowly be realizing this.

Overall, this was probably my favorite episode of the whole season.  Lots of excitement, actual nail-biting, actual shouting at the screen.  Best Fury appearance ever, and the best banter ever.  “Hey, guys, I found it!”  The episode felt like it was written as if they didn’t know they were going to get renewed — it left some questions, but wasn’t a cliffhanger.  Much like the Arrow finale.  I think this is a fine, fine way to do a season finale.  I’m actually looking forward to next season.

And now, I’m off to enjoy this fine Memorial Day weekend.  Stay safe, y’all.  Excelsior.

Martha

May 21, 2014

In my thinking over the TV I’ve been watching, I realized I’d stopped watching Doctor Who — I never watched most of last season, and I don’t think I’m going to.  It happens sometimes, a favorite show becomes not-so-favorite — I stopped Battlestar Galactica around season 4 because it stopped making sense, The X-Files around season 6-7, because it lost its focus.  I was passionate about those shows, and it’s hard letting go, but sometimes there’s a point where a show becomes a chore rather than a pleasure, and then it’s time to stop.

I realized something else:  I think over the last three doctors, Martha may be my favorite companion.  Rose was the most fun to watch, Donna had a powerful story, but comparing them all together, I think Martha’s the best, because she’s the only one who maintains agency throughout her run.  She’s the only one who doesn’t get — and I don’t think this is too strong a word — violated by the Tardis or time vortex.  Rose absorbs the vortex, Donna becomes a conduit then gets her mind wipes, Amy gets knocked up, Rory gets killed how many times, Jack loses his mortality.  They’re all fundamentally altered, and in their big climactic stories, they’re victims — they become tools, they become weapons, and they become broken by their time with the Doctor.  By the end, they’re all taken away — sucked into other dimensions, memories wiped, lost in time.  The Doctor loses them, and they are helpless.

But not Martha.  All on her own, with no extra powers, with only her wits and a backpack, she goes out to single-handedly foment rebellion against the Master when the Doctor is incapacitated.

And then, she decides to leave.  All on her own, she makes the decision, and she just leaves.  She doesn’t get yanked through time and space, she doesn’t lose her home, her experience, her past, her place in time and space.  All the other companions of the last three doctors are victims. They sacrifice everything, they lose everything up to their lives — more offerings on the altar of the Doctor’s guilt.  But not Martha.

When you line up all the other companions, it becomes clear how special Martha really is, because she stays herself.

happy friday

May 16, 2014

I’m on the road this week, and blogging sporadically.  I went through my photo folders looking for something fun to post and found this:

coulson2

It’s Season Finale Season, isn’t it?  Castle, Arrow, Agents of SHIELD…  I’ll have to do a big round up post.  Remind me.  Oh — and I’ve been watching Game of Thrones and I really ought to say something about that, too.  Like, has there been a single episode that didn’t include at least one naked prostitute?  You know what I want to do now?  Write a story where the main character is a naked prostitute and she’s in charge of absolutely everything.  Like, giving orders and stuff.  Naked.  And people just, you know, obey.

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