Horror Movie Double Feature: Foreign Movie Edition

It fills me with sadness to say it’s Halloween weekend and my spooky movie viewing has been minimal, aside from American Horror Story. Usually, I look to Tim Burton’s dark lush movies, which are synonymous with Halloween. However it’s been over a year since he dropped the bombshell basically stating that he thinks the inclusion of poc in his movies is pandering. Being told by someone you genuinely enjoy that your existence is pc culture is upsetting at best. It also means I’m not supporting or watching his films anymore. I’m not a fan of gory horror films and prefer the moody goth aesthetic which leaves me with few options. Enter the Silenced and the House at the end of Time.

The first film I watched was The Silenced, set in 1930’s South Korea, follows Ju-ran (rename Shizuko) as she is sent to a sanitorium. While she receives her treatments for sickness she notices changes in herself and her fellow classmates gradually disappearing. There are scenes of blood and mild gore but they are brief and never gratuitous. These 13-16 year old girls are never sexualized or framed by the male gaze, not even in the sole dressing scene where they’re all in bloomers and chemises. I admit I don’t know much about this era so it was an interesting and insightful look.

The second film I watched was Venezuelan The House at the end of Time. After a woman is released from jail for murdering her husband and son the truth about that night starts to come to light. The movie switches between present day and the 80’s, slowly building up to the aforementioned night.t drags at some points but the plot is fantastic and the ending is well done. Usually I don’t stick around for films that drag on but this one is worth it for the ending alone.

I highly recommend both if you prefer buildup, atmosphere, and great cinematography to standard shock gore. Both are currently streaming on Netlifx.

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Lizzie Borden Chronicles (2015): Victorian Murder for the 21st Century

When we think of a show about a Victorian-era ax murderess several channels come to mind, such as A&E or FX. Surprisingly, I am talking about the 2015 Lifetime limited-series, the Lizzie Borden Chronicles. A continuation of a 2014 movie and set a year later in 1893 it follows the titular Lizzie Borden after she was acquitted of the murder or her father and stepmother. I was interested to see how a violent story would be adapted for a channel known for its romance and feel good shows. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite reach it’s potential.

While the outfits are not exact replicas of French fashion plates they are accurate and capture the essence of early 1890’s fashion.The s-shape silhouette, black mourning walking dresses, shirtwaists, and hatpins are all present. I liked how clothes were used to visually characterize Lizzie and her sister Emma. Lizzie is a fashionable woman with a taste for fine things while older Emma is frugal and reserved. This is represented visually with their clothes.

 

For example, Emma’s shirtwaist is plain with minimal pintucks down the middle. Contrasted with Lizzie who has lace detailing at the yoke and down the middle. Another example is their outing outfits. Lizzie’s is brightly patterned with lace and other details while Emma’s is navy and utilitarian. Even their umbrellas reflect this. The only discrepancy is the limp hairstyles and leg-of-mutton sleeves. These missing finer details could be because it’s on cable tv and not being backed by a channel like HBO.

Needless to say, it was a chore to get through the first episode. Perhaps it was the constant shakey cam that made it difficult to focus on anything (including text close-ups), or the constant angle changes in a single scene, or the inappropriate music choices including a song that mentioned Greyhound buses (shout out for being one of the most inappropriate song choices I’ve endured). These things distracted me far too much to engage me or form any solid opinions on the plot or acting. As much as I enjoy empowered period heroines I’m going to have to sit this one out.

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Harry Potter or how I Should Have Kept my Rose-Tinted Glasses on

Today is a very special day for the Harry Potter fandom. Today Harry’s son Scorpius is sent off to Hogwarts for his first year. Like most people my age, I love this series. This series was a huge part of my childhood; dressing up and going to the book releases, seeing the movies with friends, and talking about theories. It got me back into reading and sparked my creativity. It also helped me through some difficult times and gave me lots of good memories. With the release of the new movie, screenplay, and Pottermore website part of me wishes I could send a warning to 10 year old me and tell her she doesn’t want these.

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SIFF roundup 2017

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.

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Spring tv Roundup: Moments Before Disaster edition

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.

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Winter solstice update

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!

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Fall 2016 TV Roundup

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.

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