Category Archives: TV and Film

Did you like Captain America? (Eff Yeah!)

Posted on April 7, 2014 by

Here’s a picture of me with the actor Cineplex hired to Cap it up outside the theater after Friday’s screening. He was pleasant and fun, and who doesn’t enjoy a superhero selfie?

Captain America Saves

Things I liked about the movie:

Steve: I am coming to like his character more and more. He may be the straightest straight-arrow since Constable Benton Fraser… in other words, catnip. What’s more, he’s pleasingly articulate. His funny lines are delivered with square-jawed conviction and good grammar.

Natasha: The only thing wrong with Black Widow in this movie was her hair, which looked as though evil fiends had dried and ironed it in a bid to lower her self-esteem. She’s delightfully deadly, and I loved seeing a glimmer of how very much she looks to Steve and Nick Fury to hold her onto a moral path as she continues to sponge some of that red out of her ledger.

Falcon! Just plain awesome. I am hoping Tony will build him some hardware one day soon.

Surprise! I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that hey, there are some big reveals at various points in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. One I saw coming, the other was beautifully played.

The movie has an excellent sense of who Steve is. It reaches back into his past, referencing the first film without burdening the movie with too much exposition. (Those reach-backs are especially handy if you found Captain America Primo rather forgettable.) I had a few quibbles with the plot, but it makes a reasonable amount of sense, as such things go. And I’m very curious to hear how the film’s events affect Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

In sum, I found it entertaining enough, and suspenseful enough. It may not be a staggering work of genius, but there’s nothing much wrong with it either. I had fun.

Did you?

What’s your favorite dumb TV show? More telewitterings.

Posted on March 12, 2014 by

imageOn February 27th I posted a general question to a bunch of social networks: What is the dumbest show you would happily rewatch in its entirety?

This came about as Kelly and I were contemplating rewatches of both Farscape and the live action The Tick. I said, as I have said before, that my candidate for ‘dumbest’ rewatchable would be Alias. My chief memory of watching Alias was frequently turning off the TV and having a discussion that boiled down to:

One of us: That was fun.
The Other: Yep.
1: Did any of that make sense to you?
2: Nope.

Anyway, the question spawned a lot of response, especially on Facebook. Many of the responses surprised me, and were a good reminder that dumb is one of those words that means a lot of different things to different people.

Some people mentioned shows I don’t think of as dumb: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Farscape (where you land on Farscape, I think, depends on your stance on Muppets) and Red Dwarf.

Others went for childhood nostalgia trips: Gilligan’s Island, Rocket Robin Hood, Lost in Space, The Monkees, Wild Wild West.

Another category was things I haven’t seen: Gilmore Girls, Married with Children, Full House.

The stuff I did think was dumb but likable included Stargate Atlantis, Xena, X-Files, Smallville. All of these are shows I began watching but didn’t finish out.

The Facebook discussion is here.

We have a tendency to be embarrassed by some portion of our TV viewing. I’ve heard people apologize for liking reality TV, or super-violent stuff, or slapstick comedy. The friend from university who mentioned Married with Children mentioned, regretfully, that it’s pretty sexist.

I think we tend to offer disclaimers when we know a show a) isn’t Shakespeare and b) isn’t something the person we’re talking to would much care for.

How do you define dumb TV?

Sunnydale is getting Empty on the #BuffyRewatch

Posted on March 11, 2014 by

slayerThis week’s Buffy essay is about “Empty Places,” a.k.a. The One Where They Kick Her Out of the House. Were the Slayettes and Scoobies wrong to do this? There’s a lively discussion unfolding here, in the comments thread.

This week I am actually writing the essay on “Chosen,” which will conclude the Buffy Rewatch. I may jump into another rewatch at some point, but I plan to take a few weeks off, maybe write a wrap-up post about rewatching Buffy, and then do some “That Was Awesome” columns for Tor. Don’t worry–whatever I’m up to, I’ll keep you posted.

Telewitterings: Hannibal, a.k.a. When Crafters Attack!

Posted on March 10, 2014 by

imageSeason Two of Hannibal has begun and I am so happy to have it back. It’s stylish, gory, well-cast, and, as a weird bonus, filmed around here. Kelly walks past the building that plays Hannibal’s home and office on her way to work–it tickles us every time we see it on screen.
But geography aside, the show is about things that are dear to my heart: art, arts communities, and artistic critique.
The always-interesting serial killers in Hannibal are demented and horrifying artists. Or possibly, artistes. Hannibal is, of course, making food of his victims. In S1, we see killers making use out of human remains, over and over again, either sculpting the corpses directly or staging crime scenes around them. One makes throw pillows out of leather and hair; another prepares strings for musical instruments using his victim’s guts. There are body collages and mushroom farms.
Will Graham’s oft-repeated line as he assumes their point of view: this is my design.
There is an intense aesthetic sensibility to this show that pervades Hannibal the character and spreads outward, from him, to every element of the show.
Other crime dramas, of course, have put significant effort into creating disturbingly pretty crime scenes. Even some murder-of-the-week shows, like Life, did this. But Life would have been the same show, more or less, if the set dressers hadn’t bothered to take the occasional pre-Raphaelite extra, dress her in angel wings and crumple her beautifully all over the hood of a car. In Hannibal, this improbable design sensibility is integral to nearly every murder.
There is a degree to which these people are scrapbookers on a homicidal materials-collecting spree.
Within this entirely bent community, this fantasy circle of destructive creative spirits, artistic dialogs take place. Will Graham functions as a sort of critic, trying to understand what the killers are working to achieve and communicate. Interestingly, he’s an instructor when we first see him. It’s an interesting riff on that old saw: “Those who can’t do, teach.”
Killers imitate each other on this show, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. They embroider on each other’s themes. When they get called out for plagiarism, heads can literally roll.
The process begins in the very first episode of S1. When Hannibal takes on the role of copycat killer to the Minnesota Shrike, he stages a crime scene whose explicit intent is to show Will the Shrike… by demonstrating all the things he isn’t. He creates a corpse-sculpture that is a reverse image of the Shrike’s work.
It is the beginning of Hannibal’s obsessive fascination with Will Graham. As the person who is both an expert in the field and who stands apart from its practitioners, it is Will whose understanding Hannibal craves. He wants to hear what Will thinks about his “work.” He wants to draw him into participating more actively. He wants to be seen, even though courting Will’s comprehension is an immense risk.
It is a strange and compelling portrayal of monster as aesthete, demon as artist. It’s gruesome and scary and weird, and I don’t know, yet, what the show will ultimately say about the practice of art. I am incredibly excited, though, to see where they go next.