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It was at least six or seven years ago Comic Con expanded beyond the capacity of the San Diego convention centre to accommodate, panels spilling over into all the ballrooms of all the hotels in the vicinity. But it was only this year I finally got around to seeing the Hilton Indigo Ballroom where there were two panels I wanted to see this year, the classic Doctor Who panel on Friday and the Expanse panel on Saturday.

And it looks like the Expanse panel isn't on YouTube yet so I can actually use some of the footage I took.

I mainly focused on writers Naren Shankar and Mark Fergus. In my experience, writers generally have the most interesting things to say on panels, but I couldn't resist getting some footage of Shohreh Aghdashloo as well.

I was a little sorry I missed getting a story Wes Chatham told about being stuck in a harness for some time during a stunt sequence because people had forgotten about him.

Despite the warnings about swearing written on the name cards, the panel previous to the Expanse, for another SyFy channel series called The Magicians, showed a complete lack of restraint with language.

I'd never heard of this show but judging from the crowd it has an extremely enthusiastic fanbase. Among them is moderator Chris Hardwick who seems to be regarded as the moderator of choice for any Comic Con panel. And he is pretty good--I've seen him moderate a lot of panels over the years and after being a bit too focused on himself early on he's really harnessed his talent for hosting to deliver consistently good work, generally finding just the right mix of staying out of the way of panellists and injecting humour and perspective when necessary. He said he'd begged to moderate The Magicians panel, calling it the new Buffy. The panel had a very good rapport so this was all enough to motivate me to check out the series for myself.

It's essentially Harry Potter with grad students. I enjoyed the first episode--I liked how quickly it moved, the references to Narnia were fun, and the use of magic as a metaphor for thinking outside a system was nice. But by the fourth episode I've found myself a bit tired of how whiny the characters are. I feel like this may be my age--it seems like whining is kind of a basic part of how millennials communicate because there's so much focus on nurturing one's own mental health. The fourth episode surprised me by featuring the standard plot of a main character waking up in a mental institution and being led to believe the reality in all the other episodes is his delusion. It seemed like record time for a show to go to a stock plot and, combining this with the whining, I don't feel especially motivated to continue watching it. The actors were pretty entertaining on the panel, though.

Even more entertaining was the panel for Gotham that preceded it, another show I haven't seen, though I have heard of it. My favourite part of the panel was the adorable Camren Bicondova, who plays Selena Kyle on the series, describing the filming of a scene that sounds similar to Selena's transformation in Batman Returns, where Selena is swarmed by cats while lying unconscious in the street. Bicondova described how all the cats but one were too afraid of the rain to actually perform so most of the cats eventually seen on screen were cgi, prompting Bicondova's co-star, Drew Powell, to remark, "Cats are pussies." Which I thought was pretty hilarious but there was a general offended "Oouuuu" from the audience in response. I don't know if it's because kids generally don't know "pussy" originally referred to cats or if they just considered it more important to be offended.

It was hard to get into the Indigo Ballroom that day, I think because Gotham and The Magicians were so popular. The room never filled up on the Thursday I saw the Classic Doctor Who panel, it was still too early for the click-bait attack campaign on Peter Davison to draw the torch and pitchfork mob. I saw panels for three shows I'd never heard of before the Doctor Who panel--Shadow Hunters, Z Nation, and a new Van Helsing series on SyFy that stars a female descendant of the famous vampire hunter, Vanessa Van Helsing, played by a lacklustre Kelly Overton, who was not present at the panel.

Rukiya Bernard, on the right above, plays a supporting character called Doc. Someone in the audience gushed to her about her performance which was the only part of the panel that made the show seem in any way interesting. This panel blurred with the similarly dull Z Nation panel.

Going to panels at the Hilton was nice, the lobby there being much more comfortable, with more comfortable seats, than the convention centre. There were shorter lines there for the bar and their cafeteria cart, too. Their system for getting people into the room was pretty disorganised, though, being the only line I've ever been in for Comic Con with a security bag check, which I suppose is a good idea, but with multiple bag check people it led to some confusion on Saturday when the line ended and dissolved in one spot and then everyone was supposed to line up again in a waiting area.
setsuled: (Frog Leaf)

Mahmad Firouzkoui is just too meek to overcome a streak of extraordinarily bad luck in 1977's The Report(گزارش). This doesn't stop him from beating his wife though from the tone of the film I think we're meant to think he should be forgiven for this, that he's well within his rights. The underlying misogyny of the film is part of its central idea of the injustice of a man being thoroughly emasculated at work and at home. It has some well constructed scenes and good performances--and one great performance.

Ironically, the best performance in the film comes from Shohreh Aghdashloo as Mahmad's wife, Azam. Her character is written entirely based on her effect on Mahmad--she constantly nags him about going out with his friends after work, she complains about taking care of their kid, she complains he doesn't make enough money. The script never gives us anything from her perspective but Aghdashloo through sheer brilliance in her performance actually does a lot to make up for it.

So a film that otherwise would have been a one sided pity party for a much put upon man works out to be much more provoking. Mahmad (Kurosh Afsharpanah) works as a tax collector. He's wrongly accused of embezzlement and is laid off during the investigation. He's frustrated but when he's confronted on the matter he tends to stammer and look at his feet.

When he goes home, it's to the constant nagging of Azam and their arguments become worse as it becomes clear they can no longer afford their home. The tension in these scenes comes across really well. The director, Abbas Kiarostami, uses long takes of the actors exchanging dialogue, giving it a stage play quality. The couple's young daughter, when she laughs or cries, is clearly not acting but her behaviour is always seamlessly incorporated in the scene.

I felt really bad for the kid because there are moments when the director must have intentionally made her cry. I guess there's no other way to get the scenes but it's one of those moments where I'm not sure people should go that far for art. I know I couldn't do it.

The film also has some very good compositions, especially near the end. The climactic episode, where Azam attempts suicide, hits a pinnacle of misogyny as we're clearly meant to feel worse for Mahmad than for Azam as he's faced with the nurses caring for her asking with passive reproach, "Did you beat her up?" The doctor at the clinic knows right away what happened because apparently the clinic receives women regularly who've overdosed on the kinds of pills Azam took, the implication being that Azam may have been only trying to get revenge on Mahmad.

Twitter Sonnet #997

Again the pair repair to coffins lined
And trimmed in cash and coin reclaimed in glass
Replete with empty stares like sleep resigned
Without the thought of rest the night to pass.
Into the light refracted white the prey,
A hunted hat, appearing just above
The hedge, a canny puppet clear as day
Desisted flight and turned to throw a glove.
A strike of acid dries the lemon through,
Deprives the battery of taste before
Electric eyes request to know just who
Could sew the path up to the only door.
The engines cull the vapour from the rock
Inside the face; a deftly hidden lock.


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