setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


Here are a couple Doctor Who cosplayers I met on Friday, dressed as the Twelfth and Seventh Doctors. Apart from that there's not a whole lot of Doctor Who at Comic Con I can tell you about that you can't experience yourself by watching the full YouTube videos of both panels:





I took notes for the Classic Doctor panel figuring that one might not go online. Of course, it did. I am glad I managed to post a clip of Peter Davison, Sophie Aldred, and Colin Baker discussing the first female Doctor as early as it did, particularly with respect to Peter Davison who seems to be getting thrashed for having a past preference for a male Doctor despite expressing full support for Jodie Whittaker now. I kind of knew trouble was coming when, while Colin Baker was enthusiastically putting out tweet after tweet about how great it was to have a female Doctor, Peter Davison's first tweet on the subject was only one about how we should be encouraging to fans who are "uncertain about change." I'm sad to see now that Davison has deleted his Twitter account over the backlash he's faced. Though I think this may have been an overreaction on his part the rancour that has been aimed at him, even though he has more than once expressed his support for Whittaker, is disappointing and I can see how it might make him want to stay away from social media.

At the same time, the reason I do think Davison's initial tweet was a blunder was that it doesn't seem to reflect the nastiness with which people were reacting against Whittaker, posting flagrantly misogynist and sexist comments and commentaries. I have yet to see, apart from Davison himself, anyone expressing an articulation of "uncertainty" about a female Doctor that's truly respectful.

One of the problems I have with the vigorous efforts of so called Social Justice Warriors--I know many who self-describe that way, so I don't know if it's a pejorative anymore--is that there's a tendency in their publications to respond aggressively and dismissively to people for not knowing the definition of a term that's only current in Social Justice circles. For example, I saw an article recently that blasted an article in the New York Times that spoke in favour of cultural appropriation. The response to the article was to say that the author didn't understand that what he considered to be positive instances of cultural appropriation were in fact something called "cultural engagement". So I often see this seemingly unconscious, but aggressive and sometimes belligerent, conflation of an inevitable ignorance of niche or new definitions of terms with racism or sexism. It's no wonder when people are put off by what seems to be obnoxious pedantry.

I want to say this in preface because it seems Peter Davison is exhibiting the kind of misunderstanding that reflects white male privilege. He's not been forced to have the perspective of a woman and he evidently hasn't spent time trying to imagine what that perspective is like. Otherwise, he might be responding more like Colin Baker. Six remains my least favourite Doctor so it's somewhat awkward that I seem to be agreeing with him more in terms of social politics than with Davison--Colin Baker counters Davison's only really articulated argument so far, that it's a shame boys are losing a role model, by saying that there's no reason a woman can't be a role model for boys. Though I wonder if the realities of gender role barriers in English playgrounds support the viability of boys looking up to a woman.

Personally, I find the idea of not wanting the Doctor to be a woman to be difficult to imagine. Not just for statistical or political reasons but simply because I've always liked female protagonists and I like Doctor Who so it follows I should like a female Doctor Who. But since a young age I've been resistant to ideas of behaviour prescribed by gender so there's a whole lifetime of experience in trying to create oneself as a particular gender identity that I don't really have. People who have had that experience might support the idea of a female Doctor on an intellectual level but have to deal with residual feelings from that lifetime of experience.

In my first post about Whittaker, I casually referred to people who didn't like the idea as sexist, Davison's tweet made me wonder if this was the right tact for me to take. I think Davison failed to consider the issue fully but on the other hand I do agree with what I think is at the heart of what he's saying. The Doctor, after all, walked up to the Silurian and extended the hand of friendship. I'm not saying I feel the slightest sympathy with anyone expressing outright hostility to a female Doctor. But I find myself hesitant to express hostility myself when it might push away anyone for whom this upcoming season might be the thing that changes their minds about what--or who--women can be. This is the sense in which I think Davison advocated being "encouraging".

Someone has compiled a nice video of former Doctors reacting to the concept of a female Doctor:

setsuled: (Frog Leaf)


Here's Tyrion Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen from Sunday night's new Game of Thrones, arguably the two most prominent characters in the ensemble series, played by two actors who weren't at Comic Con. Which is fine, there's no reason anyone should have to face the heat and crowds if they don't want to, but I'd have been angry if I'd waited all night to get into Hall H for the Game of Thrones panel which didn't have much to compensate for not having any of the writers, directors, or most popular stars. Not to mention the whole thing, of course, ended up on YouTube anyway:



There are some cute, slightly awkward exchanges between Gwendoline Christie, who plays Brienne of Tarth, and moderator Kristian Nairn. But for me the highlight of the panel was Nathalie Emmanuel's blue lipstick.



Liam Cunningham was pretty funny, I'll say that. I am glad I didn't have to wait all night to see the panel--I didn't expect to get in, I was aiming for the Twin Peaks panel that immediately followed it, but it was a good thing I did get in because I heard later they didn't clear Hall H fast enough after the Game of Thrones panel to get everyone into the room for the beginning of the Twin Peaks panel. For some reason, all the most popular television series were scheduled for the same day in Hall H this year, beginning with Big Bang Theory followed by Fear the Walking Dead, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and Twin Peaks. I suppose the fact that a massive number of people left after the Walking Dead panel indicates that show is still more popular than Game of Thrones, though maybe it's just a reflection of the fact that more of the main cast was on hand for the Walking Dead panels. Certainly, Game of Thrones is a better show than Walking Dead at this point as Sunday's beautiful new episode, "Stormborn", written by Bryan Cogman, demonstrated, flawed though it was.

Spoilers after the screenshot



I feel like we ought to have seen Grey Worm's (Jacob Anderson) grey worm, or lack thereof, just to maintain Missandei's (Nathalie Emmanuel) POV and give us a visual idea of what they were dealing with. I would have liked there to be a little more awkwardness about the oral sex, too. Would Grey Worm really know what to do right away? Her explaining to him what to do would've been a nice way to develop the dynamics of this relationship but as it is it was a pretty scene.



I want to thank the show for finally putting Missandei and Melisandre (Carice van Houten) in a room together, hopefully now I'll stop getting their names mixed up.



It was nice to see Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) finally being given something to do in this episode, Daenerys' (Emilia Clarke) whole war strategy apparently coming from him, though Olenna (Diana Rigg) almost immediately undercuts him and the conclusion of the episode makes her seem pretty smart. It really feels like Tyrion's story ended when he killed his father and he's mostly been treading water ever since, which is fine--I'd rather he slip into a supporting role than for the writers to force a bigger story on him, but I do miss the dynamics he was part of in King's Landing.



To be fair to him, I don't think there's any way he could have predicted what happened at the end. A potentially better sex scene between Yara (Gemma Whelan) and Ellaria (Indira Varma) is interrupted when apparently Euron's (Pilou Asbaek) entire fleet, with flaming catapults, somehow got the drop on Yara's ship, presumably the flagship of her fleet.



What a pretty battle sequence. It's a little hard to follow the action once those embers are falling everywhere but that gives you some idea of how disorientating it would be for someone involved, the show here following its own lessons from "The Battle of the Bastards".

It's a little hard to accept what happened, though; there's not much about it that makes sense. So Euron promises to deliver a gift to Cersei (Lena Headey), apparently this was meant to be Ellaria. Why a gift from him is required I'm not sure since Cersei seemed quite open to an alliance. But he acquires this gift by wiping out the invading navy so he's basically done the job he was hoping to get by delivering this gift. And he did it by sailing his fleet into the middle of Yara's fleet with huge flames on his ships. These ships also continue firing on Yara's ship long after Euron and his men have boarded it.



That Euron is one lucky guy. I guess Theon (Alfie Allen) has some luck for once, too, as he seems to have survived the battle by jumping overboard. Presumably they're not that far out to sea?



Meanwhile, Arya (Maisie Williams) continues to fail at keeping a low profile but I loved her scene with the wolf pack and her reunion with her dire wolf. Most of the trademark Stark stupidity seemed to be at Winterfell where Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) and Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) were once again squabbling like children in front of their court.



I don't think Jon has once put forward an idea that most people in the room liked. Maybe it's a good thing he's leaving though Sansa hasn't exactly shown herself to be a great leader. Still, you can't do much worse than Jon who assaulted and threatened the very dangerous Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) for no reason and then let him live. With the enemies Jon let live last week, he's certainly living up to his reputation for knowing nothing. If he doesn't get himself killed for real this season I'll be very surprised.
setsuled: (Skull Tree)


One of the episodes most satisfyingly reminiscent of the first two seasons, last night's Twin Peaks, "There's Fire Where You're Going", also continued Lynch's discussion of the relationship between violence and children. It also showed how the forces for good are slow, misdirected, and mysterious, sometimes tragically so. I saw the episode on Friday at a screening at Comic Con--David Lynch had requested that no-one in the audience discuss the episode on social media until after it had aired and I was certainly willing to take direction from him. All the same, I'm glad I can talk about it now.



I'd caught the panel for Twin Peaks in Hall H on Friday afternoon, despite knowing most of it would likely end up on YouTube anyway, which it has:





My favourite moment is in around 20:10 in the second video where Everett McGill talks about Lynch's "sharp edge" after everyone else had been talking about how warm and comfortable the experience of working with Lynch is.

There are a couple things not in the videos, though. The panel was moderated by Damon Lindelof, the creator of The Leftovers and co-creator of Lost. It's unusual to see someone like Lindelof moderate a panel, which in itself speaks to the nature of Twin Peaks' influence, but to make it even clearer, Lindelof began with a speech in which he listed off the variety of great television shows, mentioning The X-Files, True Detective, The Sopranos, and Stranger Things among others, that wouldn't exist without Twin Peaks, concluding by saying that Lost would most certainly not have existed if not for Twin Peaks.

After this, a video David Lynch recorded for the panel was shown. It looked like it was filmed at the same time as his promos for the Japanese station, Wowow, that's airing Twin Peaks in Japan--Lynch sitting, talking to the camera with a black background. But this was much longer than the Wowow promo with Lynch pretending to do multiple takes of his Comic Con message, each time getting interrupted by something absurd--a man off camera jumping out of the window, someone evidently riding into the room on a horse. It was a funny video in an anachronistically corny way but also slightly disturbing. I'm glad I saw it.



When I found out that there was going to be a screening that night at 10pm of episode 11, two days before it aired, I wasn't sure I wanted to go. Did seeing it two days early really matter and did I really want to see it in a crowded room with uncontrolled potential distractions? Not to mention I had left my apartment at 7:30am and leaving Comic Con at 11pm meant I wouldn't get home until at least 1am. But I finally decided I wanted the experience of seeing an episode of the new series with an audience of fans reacting to it for the first time. Apparently David Lynch thought the same thing because we were informed that he was watching us watching the show. I suppose there hasn't been a screening for the show since Cannes and this would be Lynch's chance to gauge the reaction of a completely different kind of audience.



The screening started a few minutes late because some "talent", we were informed, were unable to get into the building. It being so late, a lot of doors were evidently locked. But finally we were surprised to see walking into the room Kimmy Robertson, Everett McGill, James Marshall, and Don Murray who plays Bushnell Mullins on the new series, Dougie's boss. Before they arrived, I found myself in agreement with someone I overheard sitting behind me who said he hoped people would avoid too much cheering or applause during the episode. But as it turned out, I felt really good when the audience broke out into applause when Don Murray appeared on screen, doing little push-ups on his desk. It must have felt good for him to hear that.



None of the surprise guests spoke except a woman whose name I didn't catch who told us that she had just face timed with Lynch, informing us that Lynch could see us, and saying that Lynch had instructed her to recite a poem and asked those of us who could to speak it along with her. I wish I'd had more memory left on my camera by that point to get more than this brief clip:



She started it quickly but many people in the room did catch up and start saying it along with her.

I felt sort of worried that people were going to laugh at the wrong moments during the screening and I hoped people wouldn't respond in a way that would disappoint Lynch. The screening was held in Room 6A, one of the larger rooms upstairs and I sat through several panels before it. Any asshole could've walked in but the Con crowd is generally pretty cool and civil to one another. That and the fact that it was held so late, I think, ensured that it was a screening blessedly free of distraction. "There's Fire Where You are Going" turned out to be a particularly good episode for the occasion, featuring as it did several crowd-pleasing moments.

Spoilers after the screenshot



The episode begins with a rather old fashioned scene of three little boys playing catch. One of them is older than the other two and seems to be using his higher rank responsibly, encouraging the other two, complementing a successful catch and saying it was okay when a catch was missed. When he ran out into the street to get the ball, worried sounds from people in the screening audience told me everyone was thinking he was going to get hit by a car. But instead we see Miriam (Sarah Jean Long) who has managed to survive her encounter with Richard and crawl away. The sweet pie lover from the RR now looks pretty horrific.



I guess she doesn't have a phone--this would explain why she chose to report Richard via letter and why she couldn't call for help. Why doesn't she have a phone? Why can't Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) wake up? The paths to safety and effectiveness are mysteriously blocked.



Except Dougie seems to be getting by on pure instinct. When Dougie's meet up with the Mitchum brothers concluded in the desert with Rodney (Robert Knepper) and Bradley (Jim Belushi) ecstatic over the 30 million dollar check, the audience applauded widely and it occurred to me how the episode was broken down into little stories and how masterfully Lynch orchestrates the telling of them with sound and editing. Dialogue, too, but I think what Twin Peaks is showing is how many aspects of cinematic storytelling are being neglected for the fact that the star of this modern age of television tends to be the writer. I can see this being related to the joy in experiencing Twin Peaks without the spoilers of trailers and synopses--audiences who are used to getting all the material via language might see little difference between getting the description of an episode plot from Wikipedia and actually experiencing the episode itself. Obviously I'm a great lover of writing but Twin Peaks is highlighting the other methods of storytelling.



The episode features two instances of guns being fired but failing to harm or kill--Becky (Amanda Seyfried) firing a gun into the apartment of Donna's sister, Gersten (Alicia Witt), and the little boy who finds a gun in his parents' car and fires off two shots. Where the first seasons of Twin Peaks began with the horror of a child murdered by an adult, Lynch is now writing for a world where the horror often comes from the fact that kids are murdering kids. Neither Becky or the little boy ought to have had access to a firearm, I think that much is clear.



The one point where I felt like the audience had an inappropriate reaction was when they laughed at this shot of the little boy. I think Lynch meant for it to be a little more disturbing though I think laughter is sometimes provoked by nervousness and fear. Lynch tellingly juxtaposes the kid with his father, both looking like hunters in their camoflage--or one could say woodsmen.

This sequence, beginning to end, is in itself a masterpiece. From where it starts in the diner to where it ends with the sick girl in the car, Lynch strings along surprising pieces of information with the instincts of a great orchestra conducter. I want to point out again how much mileage he gets from the briefest shots of Peggy Lipton.



This actress has become a genius at communicating with subtle facial expressions. I'd also be surprised if Dana Ashbrook doesn't get a lot of phone calls for cop roles after this.



We finally get filled in on the details of the new Briggs family dynamics and we see Shelly (Madchen Amick) has once again fallen for a bad boy, Red (Balthazar Getty), though he seems to be a lot worse than Bobby ever was. It was nice to see the brief look of sympathy Becky gives to Bobby, as was her sudden realisation that she'd very nearly killed her mother in one of the show's most effective stunt sequences.



Becky does love her parents and, like Shelly's love for Red, Becky's love for Steven (Caleb Landry Jones) seems misguided though one is given pause when one considers the same might have been said for Shelly's love for Bobby in the original series. Like those gunshots, things never seem to hit the mark.



And I can talk about all this and I still haven't mentioned Gordon's (David Lynch) encounter with the woodsmen and the death of William Hastings (Matthew Lillard). That was wonderfully done and I loved the compositions in the police station afterwards--I mean, jeez, look at this, where do you see anything like this in film or television?



Laura Dern is making Diane a strange and beautiful femme fatale.

And after all this greatness, the episode ends with a scene that might be the best of all, the Mitchum Brothers and Dougie dining on cherry pie and champagne with the piano tune that magically switches from heartbroken to mysterious and playful at just the right moments. I loved how Candie (Amy Shiels) seemed about to break into a song about the traffic on the strip.



Seeing her with Dougie, and their similarly spaced out personalities, made me feel more and more that, if the question this season is "Who is Laura Palmer," my money is on Candie.

Twitter Sonnet #1016

In future darkness dreams of pie await.
In space magicians long to see a play.
Between two worlds of dawn and night we ate.
In steady step with fire I assay.
In dough began the sign of coffee smoke.
In dreams the special box directs the heat.
Tobacco dragons saw the fated stroke.
Forensic cats ascend the hotter seat.
In turning skies the stairs descend on Earth.
In barrels ev'rywhere the shots'll miss.
Beneath enclosing air's encrusted worth.
A fighting bull awaits in quiet bliss.
The lights on asphalt crashed into the toad.
Electric stones begin to burn the road.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


Here's the last photo I took of Comic Con 2017. A few people were still lined up under those white tents for Hall H even though the last Hall H panel had ended already. It is a nice shaded spot, anyway. It was around 4:30pm--I don't usually leave so late on Sunday but I felt like lingering this year, I really didn't want it to end. Normally I know better than to leave so late because the trolleys that are already packed like sardines throughout the Con are packed at the end like the contents of two cans of sardines crammed into one. With the heat, it was exactly like the bus scene from the beginning of Stray Dog, and I mean exactly like that--sweating people trying to stand nonchalantly with their heads in strangers' armpits. It occurred to me I was wearing a linen sport coat almost exactly like Toshiro Mifune's and that my camera was in the same pocket as the one the pick-pocket takes his pistol from. I thought about how much it would suck to lose my camera to-day. I'd have lost this photo of me with Gigi Edgley, for example.



It was really nice to meet her. I told her how much I loved her performance in Farscape, how I liked the physical mannerisms she came up with for her character, Chiana, an alien woman belonging to a race called the Nebari. She talked to me about how she didn't want to play a human woman wearing alien makeup and so she came up with alien mannerisms.

If you haven't seen Farscape and you like fantasy or sci-fi or just good television or movies, you'd be doing yourself a big favour checking it out.



Edgley and I talked about how much influence Farscape has had on modern television and movies, most obviously on Guardians of the Galaxy, which resembles Farscape a lot more than the comic it's based on. Chiana is one of my favourite characters in the history of television due in no small part to Edgley's performance so it was nice to meet her.

To-morrow I'll start making longer, proper entries about the Con. If I don't sleep all day. I can feel all four days catching up with me.

setsuled: (Default)


I haven't been taking many cosplay photos this year. Too many sites are doing a more exhaustive job of catching every interesting and halfway interesting costume than I can. So far I've only stopped two people to ask if I could take their picture.



I loved this woman's hat. She told me the costume is normally meant to be a storm but she added the sharks because of Sharknado and Comic Con. I wonder at what occasions she dresses as just a storm.



I was surprised to see a Lum costume, and this woman was very surprised I recognised it.



She explained to me she had sewn the bikini bottom too but that her husband wouldn't let her wear it because it was too small in the back.

Yesterday was one of the longest days I've spent at the Con, leaving my apartment at 7:30am and not getting home until after 1:00am. But it was worth it. I'll have to wait til Monday to write more about it. To-day, more Con . . .

setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


This crab was on the rocks watching everything outside the Indigo Ballroom yesterday where it turned out there was a panel I wanted to see, a Doctor Who panel, which I'll be posting more about when I have time. For now, here's Peter Davison, Sophie Aldred, and Colin Baker responding to the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor:



Twitter Sonnet #1015

As minty buttons pop the cream of ice,
The grace of ploughing bows impressed a thaw,
Invoked a chasing ray to spark it twice,
The northern lights, a body's moving law.
Excessive spinach fell beside the ore,
The veins exposed in pick and shovel wrath,
Absorbing drops of sandwich, tea, and more,
Awash in chips and ale, its dinner bath.
An ogre's pants upset the drawing man
Beside the storm that brought to hats a fish
Unsuited sharks adorn the festive pan
Outside the pit of bats it was a dish.
The rocks outside uphold the chitin queue.
A coat can be a dress or nightgown, too.
setsuled: (Mouse Sailor)


This was outside Comic Con yesterday. I don't know what it's for but it seemed to say something about dedication.

Yesterday, Wednesday, was Preview Night, I generally just go in to pick up my bag and programme on Wednesday. In previous years I went in that day to pick up my badge but for the past couple years they've been mailing this out. I still had to follow a special route inside, though, because it looks like they're cracking down on people who try to take multiple bags and programmes--the security card system they use at the entrances now is also used at the bag pick up. So if you were planning to make a dress out of just this year's bag (as some do), good luck, it's kind of small this year.

It was more crowded than I'm used to seeing it on a Wednesday. I took a chance and got on the trolley closer to the Con than I normally do but there was still standing room only. I actually live relatively close to the Con but this counts for nothing if you don't actually live downtown. To give you an idea:



After that trolley station people are packed like sardines inside. Even going that far out I'm not guaranteed to get a seat.

There are no panels I want to see to-day so I'm going in relatively late. I plan to just roam the floor to-day. Entries here should be short until after the Con, though, when I'll give fuller Con reports.

Here are a few more pictures from yesterday:





setsuled: (Frog Leaf)


As difficult and strange as cultural change can be, it tends to manifest very close to home, if not in the home, as in the case of Yasujiro Ozu's 1950 film The Munekata Sisters (宗方姉妹). Two sisters, an older and a younger, have different personalities, one shaped more by pre-World War II Japan and the other shaped more by U.S. occupied Japan. Like Kurosawa, Ozu shows in his film that western conceptions of democracy and personal liberty were in many ways healthy new influences on the culture but, while this film isn't quite as eloquent as his better known films, Ozu does succeed in suggesting there are some things lost in such cultural changes because their value cannot be explained in simple logic.

Ozu makes it crystal clear which culture holds sway over which sister. The elder, Setsuko (Kinuyo Tanaka), always wears kimonos and is generally more reserved in her manners while Mariko (Hideko Takamine) always wears western style blouses and skirts. But as with cultural change in general, it's hard to see how much is due to Mariko's youthful rebelliousness and how much is due to Setsuko being set in her ways.



Certainly Mariko seems in many ways still a child. Her father, Ozu's usual face of tranquil wisdom, Chishu Ryu, chides her for her habit of sticking her tongue out.



Mariko's unsure herself if she's behaving properly and needs reassurance, despite her outward assertiveness, and she explains this is why she reads her sister's diary without her permission, to find out if the elder sister was like Mariko when she was her age. And Mariko is surprised to find Setsuko was in love at one time with a young man named Hiroshi (Ken Uehara) but their affair ended when Hiroshi left for France and Setsuko married Mimura (So Yamamura).



We find out that Mimura also read Setsuko's diary and that's why he's out of work and slowly drinking himself to death. Setsuko runs a bar and supports Mimura, just one of the reasons Mariko thinks she should divorce him. When Hiroshi comes back to town, Mariko makes it her personal mission to get Setsuko and Hiroshi back together.



Mariko has no doubts about her quest but it's hard to say how unhappy Setsuko really is since she has that reserved demeanour, seeming perfectly happy to do the household chores for Mimura, though she does stick up for herself when Mimura's drunk and says unreasonable things to her.

At the bottom of the basic philosophical struggle seems to be a conflict between whether it is better to assert oneself to attain happiness and achievements or whether one should take others into consideration and sacrifice for them--and this dichotomy doesn't always match up with the Japanese and Western dichotomy, sometimes one valuing sacrifice more than the other and vice versa. This makes things all the more confusing as Western ideals of sacrifice set off Japanese conceptions of self-denial.



Being young and championing a very firm point of view of right or wrong, however much she might be insecure secretly, Mariko doesn't understand why it's so hard for people to change their lives, why it's so hard for Setsuko to simply get a divorce and reunite with Hiroshi. One character has to explain to Mariko how difficult it must be for the kamikaze pilot who now works at the bar whose life was once about giving everything up for Japan but is now about just being a waiter.



A quote from Don Quixote with a jaunty Johnnie Walker statue at the bar become less and less funny the more they're shown and the more Mimura drinks and this seems a poignant symbol of the unforeseen consequences of dropping aspects of one culture into another.
setsuled: (Venia Chess)


Well, it's time once again to play the Game of Thrones. Sunday's premiere got season seven off to kind of a meek start. As usual for a first episode of the season, a lot of time was spent refreshing the viewer on the previous season but even for that it seemed like it waffled quite a bit.

Spoilers after the screenshot



The splashiest moment came at the beginning when David Bradley turned out to be Arya Stark, following up her turn as Titus Andronicus with a simpler mass poisoning. It was fun watching Arya's glee on David Bradley's face but Maisie Williams soon resumes Arya duties.



Once again I get the sense she would be the world's most inept assassin if she hadn't stolen magic powers. She doesn't even have a story ready when she's asked why she's going to King's Landing and her encounter with Ed Sheeran's band of Lannister soldiers seems to indicate this is the first time she's even thought about the fact that the common footsoldiers are just regular people unattached to the machinations of Lannister nobility. I guess that's the kind of thing she was supposed to be learning when she was posing as fish monger. But, no thanks, Arya wants the good grades without having to actually learn anything.

I always used to say the Starks were the dullest characters on the show except for Arya. But after her dramatic seaborne departure from Westeros a couple seasons ago she's done her best to take over the legacy of Stark dullness.



Meanwhile, Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Jon (Kit Harrington) are squabbling in front of a full council. Sansa wants to massacre the whole families of traitors, Jon wants to leave them in charge, no one suggests imprisoning them. I am still so on Team Cersei (Lena Headey).



I feel especially bad for her now that Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is constantly whining. When she says the Freys were untrustworthy allies, Jaime argues it's better to have untrustworthy allies than none, nevermind Cersei wasn't saying anything to the contrary. Then when Cersei brings in Urine (sorry, Euron) Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek), suddenly Jaime's complaining they're not good enough. You want to wait for a perfect ally now, Jaime? Can Cersei do anything right with you? Why not try being supportive?



My favourite section was Samwell (John Bradley) having to do menial chores in maester training. I've always said I wanted to see more of the mundane stuff in Westeros and here it is. I love how the food he serves is almost indistinguishable from the stuff in the chamber pots he collects. Of course, the plot doesn't make much sense--if Samwell can't look at the forbidden books, what's the harm in someone else looking up how to defeat the White Walkers, like Jim Broadbent's character, who says he believes Sam? It seems like a pretty artificial roadblock to draw things out. It is nice seeing Jim Broadbent. After Jonathan Pryce and Peter Vaughan I wonder if eventually every cast member from Brazil will appear on Game of Thrones. I'm looking forward to seeing Katherine Helmond, if that's the case.

Once again, the show has some amazing costumes and locations.

Twitter Sonnet #1014

The cherry fish in chambers parsed for rice
Upheld the pickle yard, contorted keys
Involved in island growth assort the mice
From small to smaller graces make the trees.
Domestic pop imports a soda can,
In quarters clamped to pin machines affirmed
In shining blue or red or metal tan,
Though some say copper, bronze, or gold's confirmed.
No fleece affronted fifty clicking claws
Impounded by the stalks of dreamy crabs
Collecting coin for church's certain law
Or buying frames to make the metal cabs.
The sounds of mallets make the hollow beat.
In storms, the lounge has grown the softest seat.
setsuled: (Skull Tree)


David Lynch's ability to blur the line between comedy and horror was on admirable and fascinating display last night on the new Twin Peaks. Moving to a meditation on abuse and disjointed affection, last night's episode, "Laura is the One", continued the show's exploration of the basic problem arising between innocent love and jaded selfishness.

Spoilers after the screenshot



More and more, I think Jerry Horne's (David Patrick Kelly) statements on his ongoing odyssey in the woods are reflections or distillations of the whole episode's themes. This time we see him frustrated that his phone is getting no signal and it prompts him to scream, "You can't fool me, I've been here before!" If we distil this moment to its basic meaning, we can see that it is repeated in different ways throughout the episode--Jerry, who's lost, doesn't have what he desperately needs, a phone signal, which would allow him to communicate his need for help. His response, prompted by his distress, is to make a display of strength along with a denial of the apparent reality, claiming false or irrelevant knowledge ("I've been here before"). There's the assumption that, because there was a signal there before, there ought to be one now, based on Jerry's feelings more than anything else.



Richard Horne (Eamon Farren) is lost in another kind of woods, guilty of killing a child, his display of strength is physical violence. He goes to his grandmother, Sylvia Horne (Jan D'Arcy), and when he doesn't receive the aid he did in the past, he shows strength and asserts a right to what she has. Then we see this pattern reflected again when Sylvia calls Ben (Richard Beymer) and she expects more money from him while he considers it unreasonable. This is similar to the situation with Frank Truman and his wife who seemed irrationally aggressive but our reactions to her are tempered when we find out what happened to their kid. So now we see Sylvia, who throughout the first two seasons barely had a presence except as a nag to Ben, has her own reasons for being emotionally distressed and aggressive. And who can blame her.



Poor Johnny Horne (Eric Rondell). That bear with the distinctly Lynchian replacement head is like an instrument of torture but is clearly meant to be some kind of therapeutic device.



Carl (Harry Dean Stanton) has his gentle love song interrupted by a mug thrown out of a trailer window by an abusive Steven (Caleb Landry Jones) who's screaming at a cowering Becky (Amanda Seyfried) about his needs. I guess he is as bad as Leo. He concludes by asserting "I know what you did." Again, a violent assertion of a perceived right based on possibly false or irrelevant knowledge.



My favourite thread in the episode was Candie's (Amy Shiels). Wow, was that strange and intriguing. It starts with a bit that seems like a repeat of Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) chasing a fly in the sheriff's station from the original series. Candie hunts the fly with a red handkerchief but, in what should be little more than a moment of broad slapstick, she smacks her gangster employer, Rodney Mitchum (Robert Knepper), in the face with a remote control.



It's funny except Candie is bizarrely devastated. Still crying about it later, she wonders, "How can you ever love me after what I did?", much to the confusion of both Rodney and his brother Bradley (Jim Belushi). Her reaction is out of proportion for several reasons, for one because no-one really believes she meant to cause him harm, and another because their relationship doesn't seem to have been on this emotional level. She's one of three girls who seem basically to be living ornaments or errand girls. The Mitchum brothers clearly don't seem ready for her to actually put emotional investment like this in her role, it's as though she's been bewitched by the superficial details. When she muddles a simple task later it's because she seems, like Dougie (Kyle MacLachlan), to have become a sleep walker. The episode's title, and the Log Lady's (Catherine Coulson) message near the end, refer to Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). But aside from a vision of a scene from Fire Walk with Me witnessed by Gordon Cole (David Lynch), we don't see any reference to Laura. Since Leland tasked Cooper with finding Laura, I've wondered if this meant Laura has become an inhabiting spirit like Bob or Mike. Could she have taken possession of Candie? Or maybe we're meant to be looking for her in the characters and thereby scrutinising them differently for that reason.



And where does Dougie fit into this? He has a visit with the doctor, in fact Doctor Phlox, of all people, from Star Trek: Enterprise, John Billingsley. The casting is odd for how not odd it is. We learned in the previous episode that people are used to Dougie having lingering effects from a car accident, so that explains why people haven't been more alarmed by his recent behaviour. It doesn't prevent him from bonding with Janey-E (Naomi Watts) on a physical level. So at least one couple is happy in this episode, though, again, it's a relationship based on a misunderstanding. I loved how Watts is lit in the sex scene:



Of course, I should point out I was right about Albert (Miguel Ferrer) and Constance (Jane Adams), who seem to be on the right track.

setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


It's Jodie Whittaker, aka the Thirteenth Doctor, seen here where I first saw her in the first season of Broadchurch. Her casting was announced to-day after the Wimbledon Men's Final (I thought it was funny they chose to do it after Wimbledon Men's Final) with this kind of cheesy video:



Here the young Doctor can be seen foraging and she has a lot of work to do laying up acorns for the winter. It's kind of like Planet Earth: Time Lord. Time Lady? I guess "Time Lady" is considered sexist but I'm not really clear on why.

I'm really happy to see a female Doctor. I look forward to seeing what happens in the next season and where new showrunner Chris Chibnall takes the series. I had varied reactions to his previous episodes of Doctor Who but I really liked the first season of Broadchurch, which he created and wrote every episode of. I don't see him approaching the heights of Steven Moffat or Russell T. Davis at their best but I'll be happy to be proved wrong.

I think Jodie Whittaker's a good actress and I look forward to see what she does. And yet . . .

Well, she's kind of normal. Theoretically, being a good actress means she can put in an appropriately weird performance for the Doctor. I don't know. It feels to me like another baby step--throughout the past few seasons, despite the impression you might get from the ravenous Moffat haters, the show has been seeded with little things to build up to a female Doctor, repeatedly confirming a Time Lord can change sex with a regeneration, changing the sex of the show's second most prominent Time Lord character, the Master, and finally the recent finale which is loaded with big hints about a more female future. Hopefully all this helped coax some of the more sexist fans into being a little less sexist and, to make a really optimistic statement, make the world a little less sexist generally. But there's something kind of default about Whittaker. I don't know, maybe it's too much to ask for the first female Doctor to have bug eyes, a big nose, and/or prominent teeth. Or someone like Michelle Gomez who has a wonderful, intense weirdness.

But I'll keep an open mind. I hope she at least gets a weird costume.

Tuber Tank

Jul. 15th, 2017 04:59 pm
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


It's hard to take the talking potatoes seriously. I listened to Heroes of Sontar last night, a 2011 Doctor Who audio play that features Sontarans, an alien warrior race first introduced in the Third Doctor era but which manifest on the show now only in the form of Strax, who's played for laughs. Heroes of Sontar's Sontarans are all portrayed as similarly buffoonish and I wonder if this was an influence on how Strax was portrayed on the show from then on. There's actually an explanation for the foolishness of the particular group of Sontarans in Heroes of Sontar, though, and I was able to laugh at them a little more than at Strax, who I always tended to resent for taking valuable time away from Vastra and Jenny. Heroes of Sontar is an all around decent story.

It features the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) with his optimum companion crew, Nyssa (Sarah Sutton), Tegan (Janet Fielding), and Turlough (Mark Strickson) and follows from a series of audio plays released the previous year in which the Doctor with Turlough and Tegan encounter Nyssa at a point after Nyssa's final serial on the television series, Terminus. Nyssa is much older, having led a full life on Terminus, apparently now the same age as Sarah Sutton at the time of recording the audio play, judging from the CD cover. One reason this setup is a good idea is that Nyssa left the TARDIS before Turlough's subplot with the Black Guardian concluded so any story set before her departure would have to work in that subplot somehow. There's also a hint in this episode, when Tegan teases Nyssa and the Doctor for sounding like an old married couple, that there's meant to be romantic chemistry between Nyssa and Five. Which is a vibe I get from the other audio plays where it's just the Doctor and Nyssa though I don't remember it ever being directly explored. Maybe it's a chemistry the writers noticed but didn't dare explore until they'd aged Nyssa up a bit, since her relationship with the Doctor began, when she met the Fourth Doctor, with more of a father/daughter feel. Or maybe Uncle/Niece. Despite Peter Davison having been so young in his tenure compared to other Doctors he may have had the smallest amount of sexual chemistry with his companions, I think mainly because he tended to have many companions at one time so it was harder to establish a one on one dynamic.

Also, the writing in Five's era is the worst in the show's history, aside from some stand out serials, which is one of the reasons it's so nice hearing him and his companions in some well written audio plays. Heroes of Sontar takes place on an abandoned planet covered with a strange moss, the remnants of a biological weapon. Writer Alan Barnes concocts some nice problems for the characters to solve or escape, splitting the group into pairs, the Doctor and Tegan dealing with one problem while Turlough and Nyssa find themselves battling a moss infection on Nyssa's hand and trying to overcome the infamy of Turlough's cowardice. As bad as the writing was in Five's era, Turlough has always been one of my favourite companions, I sort of wish the audio plays would allow him to actually exhibit more cowardice and treachery than just having the other characters talk about it. Tegan comes off as a little hardier in this story, which is nice, and I don't think it undercuts too much the nature of her departure in Resurrection of the Daleks.

Twitter Sonnet #1013

Electric wings from poisoned soil sprout.
In clouds, the gas conducts a system burn.
The charcoal tips of dreamless horns are out.
From crumpled pages tin has much to learn.
The egg that didn't disappear awaits.
In promised thoughts the brain advanced the team.
About the board a cable sends the mates.
For pawns aglow outside the port redeem.
And not too like saltines the snack was soft.
In crying words the crows turned over cups.
But wooden mills can bear the note aloft.
Inside you'll find a dozen eggy pups.
Apportioned rows of lizard shoes appear.
Along horizons green they're worn by deer.
setsuled: (Mouse Sailor)


I finished reading this last night, the autobiography of a 17th century seaman called Edward Coxere (pronounced "Coxery"). It has humour and tension but clearly comes from a time when the novel as an artform was still in its infancy. It has the free-roaming quality of a picaresque as Coxere simply reports one episode after another. It's filled with wonderful detail and incidental glimpses into how people talked and behaved. Coxere describes being sent to France in 1647 as a child in order to learn the language by being brought up in a French household. It's not long before he goes to sea. The book shows how fluid was the national loyalty of a seaman at the time as Coxere served on Dutch, French, Spanish, and English ships.

As I was at first with the Hollanders against the English I continued in this frigate in the wars against the Hollanders till about the peace. I had not been long in this ship but I was made coxswain: so that I served several masters in the wars between King and Parliament at sea. Next I served the Spaniards against the French, then the Hollanders against the English; then I was taken by the English out of a Dunkirker; and then I served the English against the Hollanders; and last I was taken by the Turks, where I was forced to serve then against English, French, Dutch, and Spaniards, and all Christendom.

In one of the more amusing anecdotes, he describes going home to England at last where everyone, including his mother, thought for certain he was Dutch.

My mother, spying of us, says to the other woman, 'Here come Master Dehase with a Fleming. It may be they may bring some news of Ned.' she little knowing I was he. The old man bid me say nothing, he being pleased at the conceit. When we came to my mother, she looked on me, but knew me not, but asked the old man if he could tell no news of her child, not thinking her child stood before her. The old man bid her patience; she should well hear. This was to her but the old tone, I suppose. I discerned the yearning bowels of a mother, yet notwithstanding I kept myself undiscovered awhile, till at last I made myself known with much joy and gladness.

Yes, there was a time when "yearning bowels of a mother" could be written without thoughts of other connotations.

Coxere also describes the period of time he spent as a slave, having been captured by the Turks. As bad as he makes it sound, even worse is his imprisonment in England after becoming a Quaker and refusing to swear oaths.

He describes the personalities of different shipmates, including a captain who's constantly trying to get drunk. Several times he describes having to rig sails and whole masts in disastrous battles or during storms. At one point he describes holing up in a gunroom and drinking wine during an attack.



The copy I found for a few dollars on Amazon is a lovely little 1946 edition marked "discard" from a school library in Montana. It includes a foldout map and Coxere's original illustrations.

setsuled: (Mouse Sailor)


The connexion between making money and survival, for you and your loved ones, as always been fertile ground for drama in stories set in the U.S. 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming dramatises the political struggle between a working class whose sense of morality has been warped by the money-making imperative and a new generation who is so accustomed to economic privilege that abdication of higher moral responsibility seems monstrous. Not all of the implications may have been intended but the film certainly has economic class in mind while presenting, in some ways, the best and most true to his comic roots Spider-Man brought to film: Tom Holland as an unmistakeably adolescent Peter Parker. In some ways, though, the character deviates quite a bit from his original comic book incarnation in order to make its argument on the economic landscape.

Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes, a.k.a. The Vulture, is the best villain to feature in an MCU film, largely because he's barely a villain. He's a salvage contractor who's muscled out of the job of picking up alien scrap from the first Avengers movie by the Department of Damage Control, a government department set up by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). This after he'd already spent money on the resources necessary to clean up the stuff so now he and his team have to get creative if they have any hope of bringing a paycheck home. This is the kind of problem Peter Parker would've been familiar with in his original Stan Lee and Steve Ditko incarnation--Peter was constantly worrying about bringing enough money home to support his aunt May and himself. And he certainly wasn't above using his new-found powers to make a buck--something we see in Sam Raimi's adaptation, though I don't remember seeing one of my favourite scenes from the comic, where our hero tries to cash a check made out to "Spider-Man".

No mention is made of May having serious financial woes in Homecoming and Peter seems to feel no pressure to make money. When Tony Stark mentions he can get Peter into a good school, the kid barely seems to notice. It's no wonder he seems to have no sympathy for the lengths Toomes goes to to support his family.

The fact that Peter isn't thoroughly irritating is one of the film's greatest achievements and it's accomplished with the same goal that makes the new Wonder Woman movie work so well--Peter really cares about helping people and he has what seems like a very honest humility.



He isn't a guy looking for a fight, he's a guy looking to help out, and if that involves fighting he's ready to do it. He's not above giving an old lady directions and he's deeply apologetic when he accidentally webs a guy trying to break into his own car. Like Wonder Woman, he's a welcome return to the original idea of Superman, the idea of a really powerful person who really is more interested in making life better for everyone than in stroking his own ego or getting revenge. Like Raimi's incarnation of the character, he's also really excited to be Spider-Man and do Spider-Man things, but he naturally sees this as something he doesn't keep to himself--when some guys on the street ask him to do a flip, he automatically does it. Later, when his friend tries to talk him into showing up as Spider-Man at a party to improve Peter Parker's reputation, he realises how stupid this is and seems like he would have avoided doing it if a crisis hadn't called him away anyway.

The character is also helped a lot by some lessons taken from Deadpool. In addition to giving the mask expressive eyes, the filmmakers also seem to have recognised that the character's awkwardness is a strength and here it makes even more sense when kid Spidey is a but a wisp of a lad.

I hope to whatever gods might be listening that no remake of Back to the Future goes forward but if someone were casting a new Marty McFly I could see Tom Holland being a very good fit. He has a real Michael J. Fox quality, handsome but with a sort of ungainly kittenishness. All this helps make the movie's underlying drama more interesting.

It's hard to believe this movie was wrapped before the election last year. Vulture almost seems like he's meant to be the working class Donald Trump voters while Peter is the Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama who failed to campaign for that working class demographic. On that note, the movie has an optimism in its conclusion I wish I could share in.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


Great crimes, tragedies, and suffering occur alongside the silly, mundane, and lovely. This can be difficult to illustrate in a film but Sadao Yamanaka accomplished it in his great 1936 film Kochiyama Soshun, one of the director's only three surviving films. The influence he exerted on Japan's better known great filmmakers can be seen in how Kochiyama Soshun starts out feeling like an Ozu film and ends feeling like Kurosawa.

Kochiyama Soshun was a real person, a well known figure in Japan from the early 19th century, Yamanaka's film is based on a kabuki play about his life. Played by Chojuro Kawarasaki, he comes across as a laid back, virtuous, and incredibly clever thief. We meet him playing shogi, a Japanese variant of chess, with a man who swindles people on the street by having them stake money on games. But Kochiyama outswindles the swindler, winning 50 ryo. Chess proves once again the universal shorthand for showing a character to be clever. Taking the money back to the gambling den he calls home with his wife, we see him telling her to grant every request for a loan that comes in, one of the ways we start meeting the diverse characters in what turns out to be a mostly ensemble film.

The standout is sixteen year old Setsuko Hara in one of her first films. She plays Onami, a sweet sake seller who's loved by everyone. She already conveys that uncanny, unaffected innocence and affectionate nature which made her one of the most popular actresses in Japan for decades. Her voice is a little higher pitched and she seems to speak a little more through her nose than she does later, maybe a sign of less confidence as a performer, but she's pretty adorable.

Onami's concerned about her younger brother, whom she seems to be acting as mother for. He spends his time at Kochiyama's gambling den and then he gets himself into real trouble when he runs off with a prostitute owned by the local yakuza boss. Onami, who we see is so shy she doesn't even want to enter the gambling den to look for her brother, suddenly finds herself faced with the idea she might need to sell herself to the yakuza as restitution.

A ronin named Kaneko (Kanemon Nakamura) has started working for the same gang though his sense of personal honour keeps him from feeling ashamed of disobeying an order, as when he goes to punish Kochiyama for winning the shogi scam but instead ends up becoming Kochiyama's drinking buddy.

Meanwhile, the film also gives us the story of an older samurai whose knife Hiro stole and then sold to an auctioneer. The film takes its time to follow a couple other guys competitively bidding on the item and then having them run into the samurai, who buys it back from the winner, though he seems convinced that it's fake. It's not perfectly clear he really thinks it's fake--it might be a bargaining tactic. This thread does end up becoming relevant in the end when several seemingly unrelated stories come together for an amazing and brutal fight sequence.

I'd been trying to track this movie down for years until a few nights ago when I found, as happens surprisingly often, the whole thing's been uploaded to YouTube. Check it out before some asshole decides he can claim to YouTube he somehow owns the copyright to this public domain 1936 film.



Twitter Sonnet #1012

The heart's in crossing lines of grey and gold.
Too fast the sandwich burns on greasy pans.
A tired stop removes the wheels of old.
The burning vales of Mars have many fans.
A car bereft of Flintstone feet was dead.
The circuit shadows drift around the room.
In longer gloves, a glory lies in bed.
Along the trails of rubber bats was doom.
Collections grew of variants to chess.
A hundred feathers tripped together first.
An idle bowl contains no worser cess.
Let drowsy monks and gamblers slake their thirst.
The brow became a hat when lines were pulled.
It's always hot when time and space are wooled.
setsuled: (Skull Tree)


It's harder to applaud a man's decision not to kill when the movie he's in so stacks the deck in favour of killing. In 1958's Rusty Knife (錆びたナイフ), former gangster Tachibana (Yujiro Ishihara) has to fight the urge to kill again even when he learns the yakuza syndicate who seem invulnerable to prosecution gang raped his girlfriend who then killed herself. With its bittersweet Masaru Sato theme song, the point of the film seems to be that ridiculous morality ties the hands of good men--not unlike American films like Death Wish or Russian films like Brat, its ostensibly anti-gangster message works out to be pro-gangster in real life. It's a bit silly but also ominous.



Tachibana's working as a bartender at the start of the movie. Police regularly stop by to try to get him to rat on his former associations but, despite having renounced the lifestyle, Tachibana is still bound by a code of honour. On one occasion, Keiko (Mie Kitahara), the daughter of a man who committed suicide under suspicious circumstances, overhears the cops asking Tachibana about his death.



Meanwhile, Tachibana's young friend, Makoto (Akira Kobayashi), is falling under the influence of the yakuza and takes hush money to party with a disreputable woman. Soon he's in hot water, too, and Tachibana blames himself. But after he killed the man whom he thought was solely responsible for his girlfriend's rape, Tachibana is afraid to take up his rusty knife, despite the fact that every time a gangster is arrested he's almost immediately released when witnesses are paid off or knocked off. Then Tachibana learns that his girlfriend was gang raped and it becomes even harder for him to resist the urge to kill. And, really, any viewer would want him to go on a killing spree at this point.



But it's good to remember how the movie is manipulating the audience. Tachibana was a former member of this gang and are we to believe he'd never heard of gangsters committing rape before? How feasible would it be to learn the identities of everyone guilty in a gang rape if the yakuza control so much of the information? The movie gives a bunch of two dimensional bad guys, how easy would it be to judge who deserves to die in real life? The film presents the idea that one man should be above the law because he's the only good man and the only one who can see clearly. The only way we know this is from how the film manipulates our perspective on the situation. It's films like this that led to later films by Seijun Suzuki and Takeshi Kitano that undermine the presumptions of the genre.



Rusty Knife is well shot with some really nice compositions of shadow. There are a few nice action sequences, including a good truck chase, and its Masaru Sato score is, as usual, great. It's also one of those movies from late 1950s, early 1960s Japan that heavily features the period's lovely, jazzy bar scene.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


Look at those colours and angles. Diane (Laura Dern) is a dragon on that couch.

Last night brought the most linear, logical episode of the new Twin Peaks season so far, but it was still wonderfully weird and refreshing.

Spoilers after the screenshot



Is it just me or did Constance (Jane Adams) and Albert (Miguel Ferrer) just fall for each other over Major Briggs' headless corpse? They seem like they'd be a good couple.

Don S. Davis, who played Major Briggs in the original series--and was forever typecast as a military man afterwards--died some years ago but he's still a big presence on the new series. The sequence of scenes where Bobby (Dana Ashbrook), Frank Truman (Robert Forster), and Hawk (Michael Horse) uncover the capsule that's been kept hidden by Betty Briggs (Charlotte Stewart) all this time was wonderful. Mostly a call back to the surprisingly tender moment from the première of season two between Bobby and the Major at the RR, the scenes in the new episode were both effectively sweet and engrossing as puzzle pieces falling into place.



Sound is playing a very prominent role so far on the new season. This episode features two examples of a strange hum, both in Briggs' capsule and the recurring mystery hum in the Great Northern.



I love these little scenes between Ben Horne (Richard Beymer) and Beverly (Ashley Judd). Beymer's mannerisms as Ben have always been strange and funny and the two actors play out these moments well as little pockets of tension. They're fascinating as a potential affair largely because the sound, Beymer's performance, and the knowledge of Beverly's home life make you wonder what else is going on beneath the surface. Ben Horne was always one of my favourite characters--he was funny, sweet, and scary, and sort of like a dangerous, unpredictable predator. At least until he thought he was Robert E. Lee in season two. I'm glad no-one's dwelling on that.



I wondered if we were going to see Johnny Horne (Eric Rondell) in this season. Apparently that's Ben's wife, Sylvia (Jan D'Arcy) with him though we don't get a good look. It suggests Ben's family life is still as dysfunctional and cold as ever, something where maybe he and Beverly might have a lot in common.



Poor Jerry Horne (David Patrick Kelly) continues his bad trip in the woods. He finds himself in an estranged relationship with his foot, which could be seen as a version of what Ben is going through, though it might also be, like his feeling that his car had been stolen a few episodes earlier, a reflection of Cooper's (Kyle MacLachlan) story, a man whose life is certainly not his own.



Mr. C arrives at the farm and things feel a bit Tarantino-ish for the presence of Tim Roth and Jennifer Jason Leigh. I hope we'll see more of them both. I love the unexplained pair of people motionless on the ground in the background--such a Lynchian detail.



One of Lynch's talents it's easy to forget about if you watch his movies over and over (like I do) is how good he is at crafting surprises that are strange but also just close enough to credible keep you in the reality. I really, really love the three big cops investigating Dougie's case. I love the one credited as "Smiley" Fusco (Eric Edelstein) whose laugh Lynch deploys with surgical precision. The cops are like classic, cynical noir detectives just tipped into the surreal. Even the sergeant who comes in to take the fingerprints--he's in such a good mood and he's got those weird, big gestures, but it's weird like real people are weird.



I wasn't familiar with Sky Ferrera before this but I loved her scene in the roadhouse where she talks about working fast food places and scratches the huge rash in her armpit. I was reminded of the idea Lynch and Isabella Rossellini had for Rossellini's character in Wild at Heart, that she should somehow be both ugly and beautiful at the same time and that the two qualities should be related to each other in a strange way. Ferrera's conversation with her friend (Karolina Wydra) was also like a deranged version of the conversation between Donna and Maddy in the season two première.

Last night's episode ended with a welcome second performance from Au Revoir Simone. This season of Twin Peaks may end up having one of the greatest soundtracks in the history of television.

setsuled: (Frog Leaf)


Let's just embrace synthesiser with lots of fuzz, let's not call it an 80s nostalgia thing, let's just have it because it's good. That's one of my main thoughts after finishing the first season of Stranger Things yesterday, a show I found to be uneven but with some very good qualities.

Spoilers after the screenshot



It really put me in the mood to watch Gremlins and E.T., among other things. I wish it had hewed a little closer to 80s style, actually. The monster design felt a bit modern, particularly its sounds which seemed to basically be the same velociraptor noises that've been used again and again since the first Jurassic Park movie. The colour tinting and the lighting started to feel more and more 21st century as the show went on, maybe just because I was getting used to the things that were distinctly 80s.

The imdb pages point out lots of anachronisms in their "goofs" pages, some of which I spotted myself, like how none of the Star Wars toys are from the early 80s. But for a lot of these things it's important to keep in mind the limited time and money the creators of the show had. Doing a period NetFlix series is ambitious, in some ways moreso because it's a period a lot of viewers actually experienced so it's harder to get away with things. However, one of the final scenes of the series has the kids playing Dungeons and Dragons again and seems to directly make the point that people should learn to appreciate a story instead of being caught up in the details, which is something I agree with, as much as I enjoy details.

There were some problems with the show I really can't excuse, like its tendency to end dramatic scenes with a jump cut that doesn't explain what happened in the interim. This is done both for action sequences and scenes with important character development. I'm not sure how fast the monster is but there are several shots of the thing just about to grab Will (Noah Schnapp) or Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and we never find out how they evaded the thing when we see them later. Then there are scenes like the first time Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) uses her powers in front of the kids, causing a door to slam shut, and it cuts away without showing us what the boys said to her.

Other times, I felt like the Duffer Brothers and the other writers were intentionally invoking some of the problems typical in 80s kids adventure screenplays in order to show how, as children, we watched these movies and made these problems meaningful in our automatic childhood interpretations. One of the key aspects of the show is in how it divides up the characters--everyone's basically investigating the same thing but no-one's communicating. There are many times in 80s films where it really would be reasonable for the kids to talk to the cops or an adult of some kind but that of course would spoil the basic fun of the thing. Stranger Things takes this and uses it to say something about human nature, how people isolate themselves and divide into factions when it's unnecessary or even counterproductive.

The story of Eleven is an interesting blend of 80s story devices. She's both Lisa from Weird Science and she's E.T. She's the fish out of water female character that makes the young boys feel safe interacting with a girl for once, allowing particularly shy boys to advance towards sexual maturity, and she's the alien who is really just as important to the adult world as the child world, unlike Dungeons and Dragons which the kids are often told just feels important.

Among all the 80s American film references, I thought Eleven floating in a tank while Matthew Modine looked on seemed like it came from Neon Genesis Evangelion and Gendo watching Rei in the LCL tank. Maybe it was really a reference to Luke Skywalker in a bacta tank but Elle's relationship with Modine's character was much more like Rei's relationship with Gendo, though the motives of Modine's character were never as fully developed. Anyway, I thought it was kind of funny, intentional or not, that Eleven looked kind of like Vincent D'Onofrio in Full Metal Jacket when she did her power glower. If only she'd called Modine "Joker".

I like that she's given more of her own story than the 80s fantasy girl tended to get. Her difficulty communicating makes the moments where she doesn't meet social expectations more effectively painful. One thing the makers of the show maybe didn't intend but I thought was interesting was the fact that Eleven and Will are never in the same dimension at the same time. Throughout the show I nursed a fantasy that Will and Eleven were alternate reality versions of each other. I felt pretty sure the show wasn't going that way but I liked thinking about the implications if it would. How would Mike (Finn Wolfhard) handle that? Holy shit, I just looked that name up, his last name is "Wolfhard"? And I thought "Wolf Blitzer" was over the top. Why didn't his parents just go all the way and call him "Dirk" or "Steel" or "Rage"?

Twitter Sonnet #1011

Immerse, eject, repeat the swimming song.
Engage, egregious box of rocket juke.
Elope, elliptic lily pad sarong.
Return, resplendent, thin, and diamond duke.
Eclipses climb to troubled times to wait.
Convening vapours rise and now collude.
A haunted council sets a guileless bait.
In moving woods the horses have accrued.
Awake, alight, in trees from eggs to roots.
Arise, afloat, suspicion's hollow ship.
Align, enlist, elicit arm to boots.
Asleep, assuage, uncertain word to lip.
An eyelid sky defends the tender beech.
A wounded rider's carried to a leech.
setsuled: (Frog Leaf)


Last night I read "Fairy Tale of Wood Street", one of the best Caitlin R. Kiernan stories I've read, featured in the new Sirenia Digest. The story of two lovers who go to see a movie, it's very simple on the surface but tells something much bigger with a kind of magical restraint. There's a sweetness to the understated rapport between the two protagonists, the narrator and her girlfriend, Hana, that culminates in a wonderfully sensual sympathy between a supernatural creature and a human, or the delicate nature of learning to live a life where perceptions are inevitably uncertain. It's also a much better hulda story than Thale.

Yesterday I also listened to a 2011 Sixth Doctor Doctor Who audioplay called "Industrial Evolution", an entertaining sci-fi perspective on the Industrial Revolution, featuring an alien robot who hates machines. The story starts with the POV of Thomas Brewster (John Pickard), a recurring audio play character--a Victorian urchin--whom the Doctor (Colin Baker) has set up with a job in a brass mill in the 19th century. The story complicates the usual narrative of exploitative industrial tycoons and desperate labour forces by introducing a secret alien. Not one of the greatest audio plays, but perfectly serviceable, especially since it feature's Six's best companion, Evelyn Smythe (Maggie Stables).
setsuled: (Mouse Sailor)


So you want a better life. Why not go to war? It'll very likely improve both you and your spouse, or at least that's the message in Alexander Korda's 1945 wartime propaganda film Perfect Strangers (Vacation from Marriage in the U.S.), a message all the more insidious for the fact that it's a pretty good movie with amazing performances from Robert Donat and Deborah Kerr.



The two basically play two roles each, and maybe a transitory third role. They start the movie off as a dull, miserable married couple, the Wilsons, Robert and Cathy. Robert is a meek, set in his ways bank employee, at one point contemptuously called an "old maid". Cathy is a stay at home wife who never wears makeup and seems to have a perpetual cold. Then Robert finds himself forced to join the navy and, while he's gone, Cathy joins the Wrens, the women's branch of the Royal Navy at the time.



Gradually, both are transformed and the actors carry it off brilliantly in their performances. Donat's body language becomes more relaxed and expansive--maybe going slightly too far later in the film when he's propped himself up against the fireplace while sitting.



Cathy, under the influence of her worldly new cohort, Dizzy (Glynis Johns), starts smoking and wearing makeup. Both separately start to think they could never go home to their stuffy spouses, each has as close to an extramarital affair as the censors would allow--Robert with a nurse who tells him about how her recently deceased husband went from being a boring clerk to an exciting world traveller whose memory she admires, Cathy with an intellectual in a scene Korda lifts almost wholesale from Powell and Pressburger's A Canterbury Tale.



When the Wilsons are rediscovering each other in the third act, both are surprised to find the other can now dance, prompting the reply from both, "One picks these things up." The message isn't terribly subtle--join the navy, get the sexual experience that will make you more appealing to the opposite sex. Yet I did find it charming and kind of insightful that both Robert and Cathy felt that they were suffering before because they thought the other needed them and it was this suffering that made each seem so helpless to the other. And Donat and Kerr sell it so well. Donat's best known roles were behind him at this point and this was near the start of Kerr's career so it's also an interesting overlap of two eras.



But I would rather the film had been about Deborah Kerr and Glynis Johns having adventures. My favourite scene in the movie is just the two of them on an overcrowded train, taking turns resting their heads in each other's laps.

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