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The SIFFiest time of year!

Look at the time, it’s SIFF o’clock! Between graduating, crying over this year’s Met Gala theme, and general adulting it almost slipped my mind. For the sake of length I am not going to include anything past 1900 and be forewarned, some of these summaries have spoilers on the SIFF site. (spoiler warnings aren’t needed for film fests?)

Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil, Spain: In the 19th-century Basque countryside the stories of an orphaned girl looking for her doll’s head and a government official looking for missing gold payments intertwine in a blacksmith’s sinister workshop. Dark and moody, evokes the feelings of gothic literature.

Gaugain, France: Biopic about the post-impressionist painter Paul Gauguin. Stories about white Europeans discovering themselves in “primitive” countries are not my favorite and I don’t like the overt colonial tones in primitivism works so pass.

Giant, Spain: Based on a true story, it’s set in the early 19th century about a poor young man sent to fight in the first Carlist War. When he comes back he discovers his brother has become a giant, so he joins the circus as an attraction. Bleak and weary, I’m noticing a trend here.

Hagazussa, Germany: The Vvitch, 15th-century Austrian countryside edition! When a young girl’s mother passes away she leads a hard life leading to her having a child out of wedlock. After being ostracised by her village she befriends a mysterious woman who leads her down a nightmarish path. Again, I am a fool for thinking there would be enough color that I could actually see what’s happening on screen.

Mademoiselle Paradis, Germany: Rococo period piece based on the true story of blind pianist Maria Theresia von Paradis who was popular for her beautiful musical compositions. Her parents take her to see a physician who tries experimental procedures to restore her sight. The summary noted the attention to detail and costumes, which from the brief shots in the trailer look lush. The first film here that has more than earth tones and doesn’t look like it was shot on an overcast day. I’ll have to see more stills but it looks promising on that front.

The Bottomless Bag, Russia: A Russian tale inspired by the Japanese Rashamon. A lady-in-waiting in the Czar’s court tells a story set in the 13th century. While aesthetically poetic, the trailer seems too esoteric for me and the summary was equally vague. Pass!

The Sower, France: Set in the 1850’s, the coup d’état that dissolved the French National Assembly has men arrested and hundreds of women find themselves alone. Violette and a group of these other women move to the alps to start their lives anew. Since there are no men in the village they agree that the next man to pass by will be used to “repopulate” the village. One day a man appears and the close-knit village falls apart as Violette falls in love with him and tensions rise amongst the women.

Overall there are more period pieces and a good mix of pre- and post-20th century. The only diverse films are the Gaugain biopic and a movie about an Australian Aboriginal rancher. On the other hand, there aren’t any movies about slavery, poc suffering endlessly, and there is only one WWII movie. What I dislike the most about this batch is the unspoken ban against color and being able to see what’s happening on screen. None of these movies, or any others in the festival, have interested me enough to want to see them so hopefully, they’ll show up on Netflix eventually.


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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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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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SIFF 2016 roundup

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.

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Fall (and Summer) 2015 tv Roundup

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

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Winter 2014 movie roundup

I had planned on venturing out and seeing the Book of Life today, for it looks beautiful and needs as much support as it can get. Instead I am bundled up drinking tea, trying to stay warm in this awful 40 degree weather. In lieu of that I will be making a list of all the upcoming movies that are coming out this season! Lots of period dramas come out around this time so I am interested to see what Hollywood has brewing.

Disney’s Through the Woods: A+ cast, detailed costumes, charming writing, and songs. Looks like lots of fun and hopefully it’ll be enough to look past the tired depictions of the characters. (another blonde Rapunzel? how original)

Exodus: Gods and Kings: A biblical story which I have a feeling its going to be along the vein of Noah, which doesn’t leave me with much hope.

Big Eyes: Biographical film about the lovely Margaret Keane. Its going to be set in the 1950’s and possibly into the 70’s, where the big climax took place. Its going to be directed by Tim Burton which makes me think this will be more along the lines of Big Fish than Sweeney Todd. Amy Adams does period films well too so I am looking forward to this.

The Hobbit: Need I explain? 😛 A fantasy set in a European-inspired mythological land that defined the fantasy genre, its not to hard to imagine what to expect in terms of architecture and fashion.

Selma: Set in the 50’s about the Selma-to-Montgomery march, which included MLK Jr. Probably going to be a difficult and hard-hitting film to watch with some unpleasant scenes. Will be nominated for several Oscars probably win a hug portion.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb: Third film in the series, a fun family comedy about a guy who works at a museum where the exhibitions come to life. There is a mishmash of cultures and time periods, all which look fairly accurate. This movie also seems to do a slightly better job at ethnic casting than some other movies *coughexodeuschough*, which is nice. It also stars the late Robin Williams.

Unbroken: About WWII hero Louis “Louie” Zamperini. Unsure of the time period but it seems to be between the 40’s and 50’s. Not my cup of tea but sounds though-provoking and emotional.


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