It’s that time of year where SIFF is in town! Unlike last year I was pleased to find films I was interested in. Unfortunately, I have a heavy workload this quarter and I won’t have the time to attend these films. (alas, cruel fate!) Here are the ones I want to look at at a future time:
- Maurice: Released in 1987 and set in pre-WWI, England it tells the story of two college lads and their attraction to each other. When a friend is arrested for being gay they have to deal with hiding their affection and marrying wives. Pre-2000 period films of old tend to be lush and ornate, which is how they should be.
- Lady Macbeth: Based on the Russian novel it is about a young Kathrine who is given away to a wealthy man, bundled with land. Her marriage is miserable and unfulfilling, forced to stay indoors at all times. When her husband goes away on business she starts an affair with a handsome stranger. I first heard about this film because it is very diverse, which is unheard of in Victorian period pieces. The scenery is drab and bleak, so don’t expect any gilding or pomp here.
- The Suffering of Ninko: Fantasy story about, Ninko, a dedicated novice Buddist monk. There is only one problem: ladies find him irresistible. He struggles with his newfound desires and erotic hallucinations. It combines live action with animated scenes done is ukiyo-e style.
Overall the selection of fantasy and period films were small. It looks like public tastes have settled on gritty and hard hitting than the melodramatic. While I can see the annoyance with ostentatious extravagance it provides a good escape. Then again with the current political climate and housing market woes in the area, I can understand why people don’t want to see that.
With the writer’s strike looming on the horizon threatening to cut summer and fall viewing short I am reminded to make one of these. EDIT: Writer strike averted! Summer and fall programming has been saved.
First order of business: the glut of time traveling shows. Two I thought premiered last year premiered this spring. Production issues? Reshooting due to test audiences? Networks realizing that period pieces are more expensive than regular shows? I’m not sure. The first one, Making History, had its season cut in half and had some minor plot changes. Described as plot-heavy it appears to be doing okay in ratings. The second show, Time After Time, unfortunately, was canceled and pulled five episodes into the season. The third show Timeless is the only one that suceeded and will likely get a second season. A fourth series, Class, a spin-off from Dr. Who joins the frey on BBC America and will no doubt last for five seasons.
Now onto the shows:
- American Gods: Adaptation of a Neil Gaiman novel of the same name produced by Bryan Fuller and Michael Green with an all-star cast. (whew!) In a word where gods and mythological creatures exist due to everyone’s belief in them. As technology becomes popular belief in these gods wain. Norse god Odin, known as Mr. Wendsday, prepares for war with the new gods.
- Still-Star Crossed: We finally have an air date! May 29 you better believe I’m watching this live. I have waited too long for a diverse poc-lead historical drama that wasn’t about slaves or the Civil Rights movement to see this flop. While important stories to tell, Black people deserve to be seen in different historical contexts besides suffering and subservient.
- Feud: Bette and Joan: This follows the feud between Golden Age movie Stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford during the filming of their 1962 film. Written by Ryan Murphy of AHS fame we know this will be a historically accurate and compelling series.
- Anne: Based on the novel Anne of Green Gables it follows an orphan girl as she tries to fit in with her new life. The head writer is a Breaking Bad alum so I’m not expecting a fluffy lighthearted adaptation.
- Harlots (PG-13 trailer): Set in Gregorian London it follows a madame trying to keep her brothel afloat and the rivalry with another brothel. Yes, you read that correctly and yes, it is historically accurate. I never thought I’d see a historically accurate 1790’s series about prostitutes but Hulu delivered. Written by and from the point of view of women the show veers away from the male gaze and being voyeuristic. There also appears to be two named black characters who have multiple speaking roles. I’m sold.
Final thoughts: All of these series (except American Gods) have female leads which is unexpected. The spring preview overall has about 1/3 of the shows with female leads in various genres. I have no doubt the VOD series will do well but I hope the network shows succeed as well. No fantasy shows this time but the amount of historical pieces makes up for it.
As you’ve noticed I’ve barely updated this year. I have some posts drafted (but unfortunately might be outdated) and I have some posts planned. I want to blame it on my busy schedule but in actuality, I haven’t been feeling inspired.While sci-fi is going leaps and bounds with diversity fantasy refuses to make an effort. Simply, it’s difficult to be passionate about something if they refuse to acknowledge your existence beyond being a criminal or servant. Thankfully I have found some books that are inclusive and there are series like Still Star-Crossed coming out that have made me interested again. My fingers are crossed that these upcoming series will deliver and fill the gap where past historical and fantasy media have failed. Happy Winter Solstice everyone!
Happy fall solstice everyone! Last week’s premiere of AHS reminded me that the fall season is upon us. After a very dry summer season autumn has come to the rescue with lots of period pieces and some fantasy. Theme for fall: time-travel.
- American Horror Story 6: What is this season about? Nobody knows, not even after watching the first two episodes. Knowing this show period flashbacks are inevitable. (How well I can stomach any inevitable plantation scenes is another story) An inter-racial couple and a single black woman in rural NC, I am prepared to have my inner peace disturbed. I’ll be keeping the lights on for this season.
- Making History: Unpopular Dan from present day has a time-traveling dufflebag. After realising he might have screwed up the American Revolution he goes to his colleague for help, a history prof. Together they try to “set things right”. Looks like a lot of fun and will be funny. Not fond of “white lead black (comedic) sidekick” shows but from the trailer he doesn’t appear to be the standard stereotype and actually wears period clothing similar to everyone else. Reading the extended summary it sounds like Dan’s love interest gets to do things too (besides look pretty). Cautiously optimistic about this.
- Son of Zorn: First thought that this was either an [as] show or Fox. I’m not sure how I feel about this but it looks typical for a (half) animated Fox show. Pass.
- Still Star-Crossed: Diverse period piece and Shonda Rimes, I’m sold. I don’t need to know what it’s about I’m tuning in every week. 😛 Based on a novel this is an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet and what happens to their families after their deaths.
- Time After Time: A man who invents a time-travel machine believes his friend is Jack the Ripper, so he goes to the future to stop him. Not so sure about this one.
- Timeless: A trio goes throughout time to stop a criminal who keeps trying to alter major events. It appears them being chosen is due to more than mere coincidence. I appreciate the sole black man of the trio acknowledge that American history as a whole would be unsafe for him. He wasn’t featured in many scenes so who knows how much of a role he’ll play. On the fence about this one.
- Westworld: Based on the 1973 movie, people in the future can pay to pretend to be in the wild west. Full of androids and no formal authority, they can act out their desires with no consequence. It’ll explore what’s right and wrong, etc. An HBO series so violence and nudity will be plentiful.
- Midnight, Texas: From the creator of True Blood, this is set in a Texan town populated by supernatural folk (vampires, werewolves, etc) who try to keep outsiders away.
- Emerald City: Dark n edgy Wizard of Oz. Can’t find a trailer for this one so I can’t properly form an option.
I don’t know what inspired all these time travel shows or period pieces (the past couple seasons were light on both) so I am very excited to see these. I see all the major channels are trying to cash in and I just hope they are decent. Better yet, they last more than a season.
It’s that time of year again where SIFF is playing and I meticulously plan and budget which movies to see. Usually. Recent years’ selections have left me uninspired. This year is no different.
Overwhelmingly the period dramas are gritty or WWII-era with little in between. Aside from Love & Friendship there aren’t any pre-20th century films. Either public tastes have strayed away from over the top fare or the curators for SIFF passed over films like that. I’m assuming the latter, since many films I was looking forward to never showed up in past years (ex. La Belle et la Bête).
Of course, the one movie that is set in 1930’s Hollywood is a Woody Allen film (an automatic pass). I wish someone else was producing movies from that era because he is the last person I want to support. Overall the selection of period pieces this year is lack luster. None of the films from the other sections really grabbed my attention either, which is a shame since I look forward to SIFF every year. Fingers crossed that TV will fill in that gap.
The last time I updated was in August? Yikes! :O My New Year’s resolution is to post no less than once a month. I have some ideas on posts about representation, but I’m lacking materials to review. Every year I set a goal to read a certain amount of books by the end of each year. I am displeased to say that I was unable to meet this goal for this year. Mainly, the books I were finding were not doing the job.
Kingdom of Little Wounds: Set in 1500’s Scandinavia, it is about a royal seamstress and a maid as they try to figure out the disease that is killing everyone. According to the author, it’s a fairy tale about syphilis. This is a YA novel, mind you. The book is not sanitized and goes into the sometimes graphic depictions of daily life, including disease and sexual assault. No lush banquets or flowing gowns or star-crossed romance here.
It was an ok (and somewhat unsettling) read until I got to the introduction of an African maid named Midi Norte. For some inexplicable reason, despite everyone around her speaking normally she sounded like a mammy stereotype. Compared to The Miniaturist, which is set in the same region in the same period and also features an African servant, this book feels like it did not even bother trying. While Midi sounds like a character from a minstrel show (a 19th century invention) the servant in the Miniaturist is every bit as eloquent and well spoken as everyone else. After reading her intro chapter I returned the book. After reading reviews which talk about the graphic and unsettling scenes (including our two teen main characters getting sexually assaulted by adults) (repeatedly) I feel like I dodged a bullet.
Captive Prince #2: I know, I know, you’re probably wondering why I bothered in the first place when I gave the first book a lukewarm review. The first book was a quick read and I figured this would be the same. I only got halfway through before I stopped. The whole nature surrounding same sex couplings reeked of being juvenile. Maybe the whole taboo nature and crass language regarding sex appeals to some but it was groan-worthy at best. What is suppose to be titillating only left a bad taste in my mouth.
Daughter of the Blood: I was excited to read this, seeing many prominent novelists sing its praises. After one chapter I had to stop. Adulterous women, lecherous men assaulting servants, the “chosen one” being a pale blonde blue-eyed girl, they even named one of the few dark skinned characters “Saten de Diablo”. Really?? This book might have been groundbreaking in the late 90’s but nowadays it comes off as stale and terribly cliched.
Needless to say it’s easy to see where I lost motivation to find new books to read. It’s a new year and I’ve started myself off with Dorian Grey. I’m optimistic that I’ll find books that aren’t quite aggravating. My only requirement at this point is that if there are any poc that they’re not walking stereotypes or villains/barbaric/etc.
Filed under books, review
The fall season is about to start, so here is a list of upcoming period pieces:
- The Bastard Executioner: Described as “Sons of Anarchy in the Middle Ages”. I’ll have to see more before I can form an opinion.
- Wicked cities: Can the 80’s be considered period? Another detective series.
- American Horror Story, season 5: Here we go again! This season takes place in a hotel in the 30’s, which means beautiful period pieces and architecture abound. Unlike the rationed and pared down 40’s the 30’s was full of lovely gowns (for the wealthy, mind you). Everyone’s favorites will be back and even Lady Gaga will be there.
Final thoughts: More medical dramas, gritty reluctant white police officers/detectives, and movie reboots/spin offs than you can shake a stick at. Looks like I’ll have to see if there is anything from the summer season to look at. They would have finished or almost done so catching up shouldn’t be an issue.
- Another period: Parody of reality tv set in the early 20th century. Since its on Comedy Central I’m not going into this expecting BBC levels accuracy in the clothing or norms.
- Astronauts Wives Club – Set in the late 60’s, follows the wives of the astronauts that went into space and how they deal with their sudden fame.
- Deutschland 83 – Set in 1983 during the cold war, an East German spy is sent to West Germany to gather intel.
- Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell – Set during the Neapolianic wars and off the book, it follows the feud of two magicians. A BBC production so accuracy and restrained eloquent banter guaranteed.
- Tut – A miniseries about King Tut that has a poc playing King Tut himself? AND has a mainly poc cast, including actual black/African people?? Its sad that we’re shocked a movie set in Ancient Egypt doesn’t have white people playing the lead. Almost as sad that Spike tv of all channels managed to get the casting right. I don’t know if the series is accurate but with a mainly poc cast it has my vote.
Summer season looked far more promising, and since these series are done or finishing up I can have something to look at during the fall. Fall’s offerings are slim, so this should